Each Wednesday, your humble college basketball hoops blogger (er, me) will respond to your questions, comments and nonsensical rants in this here Hoopsbag. To submit a query, visit this page by clicking the link under my name in the upper right-hand corner of the blog. You can also e-mail me or send me your entries via Twitter. Per the usual, let's begin with a video.
Jack from Durham writes: Just for fun: Say we're putting on a college basketball All-Star game, East vs. West. What are your starting lineups?
Eamonn Brennan: Now this is a great question. For the sake of organization (and because things might get a little lopsided otherwise) let's go ahead and lump the Big 12 in with the more prototypical West Coast conferences (Pac-10, Mountain West, et al.). The Big Ten will stay in the east. With that caveat aside, ladies and gentlemen, I now present the starting lineups (and reserves!) for your hastily assembled college basketball All-Star teams!
Guard: Kemba Walker, UConn
Guard: Nolan Smith, Duke
Forward: Terrence Jones, Kentucky
Forward: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue
Center: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
Guard: Jimmer Fredette, BYU
Guard: Jordan Hamilton, Texas
Forward: Derrick Williams, Arizona
Forward: Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State
Center: Marcus Morris, Kansas
Here's my question: Does that East team beat the Cleveland Cavaliers? I think it just might. The West would certainly give LeBron's tortured former franchise a game, too.
Anyway, as you can see, I tried to minimize exclusions by building out seven reserve spots. There still might be some deserving individual players left off the list; I tended to weigh these picks based on team success the same way NBA fans tend to vote for players having good seasons on good teams. Still, taken as a whole, I think this is a pretty representative sample of the players that have shined thus far this season. Got an example of a player I missed? Hit me up in the mailbag (or in the comments) and we can hammer out the details, blog-style.
Matt from Augusta, Ga., writes: Which of the top four (Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, Syracuse) do you see losing first?
Brennan: Well, it's not Duke. That much I know for sure. According to Pomeroy's projections, the Blue Devils have a better than 85 percent chance of winning 13 of their last 16 games, and they're heavily favored in pretty much every game the rest of the way. Ohio State's next three games are easy (at Michigan, versus Iowa and Penn State at home) before the Buckeyes travel to Champaign for a big one on Jan. 22. After home games with Iowa State and Nebraska this week, Kansas travels to Baylor Monday. And Syracuse plays St. John's in the Garden Wednesday night, versus Cincinnati at home Saturday, and then at Pittsburgh Monday.
Ending a three-games-in-five-days stretch with a road game is tough regardless of opponent. It's brutal when that opponent is Pittsburgh. In other words, I'll take Syracuse.
Ann from Seattle writes: If you could watch only one regular season game in person the rest of the year, which one would it be?
Suzanne from Provo, Utah writes: Eamonn, I'm actually the Event Manager at BYU's Marriott Center. What we're all wondering here is why you haven't booked a ticket out to Provo for our January 26 game v. SDSU. You could see your man-crush Jimmer in person in an epic battle. 22,700 strong will be in the house. You could also bring your roommate, Paul, but only if he promises to do his own dishes. I'll even give you some complimentary earplugs. :)
Brennan: Ah, the perfect case of one question answering another. I'm not sure BYU-SDSU in Provo is the single best game of the rest of the season, and I'd really like to take in a big game (versus Texas or Missouri, preferably) at Allen Fieldhouse. I've never been. It's a crime, really.
But yeah, seeing one game in person, if I had to choose, Cougars-Aztecs would be pretty tough to beat. Unfortunately, since my blog brother from another mother Diamond covers the West Coast hoops scene like smog covers L.A. (West Coast humor?), I'm afraid he'd be the one to get the nod. The big jerk.
Oh, and speaking of crimes, Paul never does the dishes. But he does do all the bills.
Jephri from Seattle writes: After Tuesday night's performance, can you think of another player more deserving of the POY award than Jimmer Fredette?
Brennan: It's getting pretty tough, isn't it? That said, I'm not sure Fredette is leaps and bounds above the rest of the field. Jared Sullinger continues to be a beast. Nolan Smith has been making a solid case for the nation's best team even without Kyrie Irving in the lineup. Terrence Jones hasn't gone anywhere. JaJuan Johnson and Jon Leuer remain two of the best, most efficient and most unheralded (relative to their ability) players in the country. And there's this guy named Kemba Walker at Connecticut. He's pretty good, too.
Is Fredette more deserving than any of them? It depends who you ask. But he's certainly near, or at, the top of my list.
Cameron from Galesburg, Ill., writes: How bout a little Ivy League? Harvard looks like legit, and like they'll get to dance this year for the first time ever. 50 Simpsons writers, like 8 presidents and no tournament bids. Some schools' priorities, right? I'm convinced the Ivy League will come down to the last game of the season with Princeton at Harvard. Do you have a pick there?
Brennan: Harvard has been the class of the Ivy League thus far, and when I took a look at the conference's Pomeroy stats, I expected them to be miles ahead of the rest of the league. But Princeton really isn't all that far behind. Given each team's schedule, I think Cameron's right, and if you want to talk about underrated college basketball viewing experiences, how about a Princeton-Harvard game with the Ivy League title and an NCAA tournament berth on the line? I can only hope the Winklevii would be in attendance, wittily debating whether they should boo the Tigers because they're "men of Harvard." (By the way, Harvard is exactly like the Social Network, right? No? What? Well that's disappointing.)
Kevin Wiley in West Lafayette, Ind., writes: A single loss against a team that is pretty decent in Wisconsin-Milwaukee really means nothing for long-time Butler followers such as myself. Check out Butlers stength of schedule, and their fine showing beating WSU in Hawaii. They turned around in just a few days and beat a fine Valpo team, then happened to hit this stumbling block. Ask anybody at the end of this season if they would want to play Butler in the first round of the NCAA tourney. Quit being a day trader. The Bulldogs are too well coached and way too smart.
Brennan: This question came in before Butler's big win over Cleveland State this weekend; that alone makes one feel more optimistic about the Bulldogs' chances of continuing their reign in the Horizon League and getting back to the NCAA tournament this season. That said, Kevin, your beloved Bulldogs don't play much defense. Defense was what got Butler to the national title game last season. This was never a good offense, even with an NBA player like Gordon Hayward running off screens; no, the Bulldogs always defended, and they're not doing that this year. Until Brad Stevens gets these Bulldogs to play something resembling the defense they displayed during last year's title -- and I'm not saying it won't happen -- then I'm going to stay short on Butler. (How's that for day trader lingo?)
Abe Warren from Missouri writes: Can you please explain the hype over Perry Jones? I just saw Chad Ford has Jones as the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. Seriously? He has never had a dominating season. Not even his senior year of high school. And his freshman year at Baylor has been good for a freshman (12 points, seven boards) but No. 1 overall? Does anyone really think he can hang with the likes of Love, Griffin, and Stoudemire? If he goes No. 1, I'm predicting the biggest draft bust in NBA history.
Brennan: Three points:
1. I agree. Jones has been pretty good so far this season for Baylor, but he hasn't been dominant in the same way as Jared Sullinger or Terrence Jones or Kyrie Irving (before Irving's injury, of course). That's irrefutable.
2. Frankly, what we think doesn't matter. NBA scouts don't like Jones because he's been so productive. NBA scouts like Jones because he's 6-foot-10 with a feathery jump shot and innate ballhandling ability. NBA scouts draft productive players who aren't especially imposing or athletic begrudgingly, because NBA scouts don't like to hit doubles. They like to hit home runs. Jones, if he pans out, could be a home run. And that's why he's the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Production doesn't have much to do with it.
3. That said, if I'm an NBA scout and I have the No. 1 overall pick, I'm looking for a guy that can help me today. Not in two years or three or four. Today. I want Derrick Rose. I want John Wall. I want Kevin Durant. To me, Jones is the kind of guy that will need at least a year or two to develop in the NBA; he has to get much stronger, much more muscular, and more more refined to approach NBA stardom in the near future. Does that mean he'll be a bust? Not necessarily. But how patient do NBA general managers really want to be?
Brad from Ft. Worth, Texas, writes: Regarding the question from Tuesday's chat about the best rivalry game not currently on the schedule: Notre Dame vs. Purdue would have to be near the top of the list, given the success of the two programs and their proximity to one another. Fortunately, they are scheduled to play one another in 2012 at the 2nd Crossroads Classic (which all four schools should continue to participate in beyond the next two years, IMHO).
Brennan: Ooh, that's a good one. I couldn't think of any that currently exist that aren't on the schedule, but if you start getting creative with proximity, there are probably five more of these we could dream up. Leave yours in the comments or the mailbag, friends.