Each week I'll talk about the sport I love, college basketball:
•It is great to get rid of cupcake city games, bargain basement goodies that teams play to get easy W's. I love the fact the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the Big 12-Pac-10 Hardwood Series and the Big East against the SEC, even in a limited format, exist. Now there is a new match-up in store. The Missouri Valley Conference and the Mountain West Conference announced an agreement in principle to the formation of an annual Mountain West/Missouri Valley Challenge for men's basketball. All members of both leagues will participate in the Challenge, which will feature head-to-head competition between nine Mountain West and nine Missouri Valley teams on an annual basis. Specific details regarding the Challenge will be released at a later date. Officials from both conferences are working towards a four-year commitment that could begin as early as November 2009. It will be fun to see the likes of Creighton and Southern Illinois meeting the UNLVs of the world.
•Arizona's recruiting took a hit when Lute Olson decided to retire. A Pac-10 rival gained a valuable player following the news. 6-3 guard Abdul Gaddy decided to go to Washington after de-committing to Arizona. That is a big pickup for Lorenzo Romar and the Huskies. Arizona took another hit when top 50 recruit, center Jeff Withey, decided to transfer too.
•Last year at this time, DeMarcus Nelson was preparing for his final season at Duke. He had an up-and-down season with the Blue Devils, ending his career with a disappointing loss to West Virginia in the second round of the big dance. Then Nelson went through the NBA draft without hearing his name called. When the NBA season began, who was the starting point guard for the Golden State Warriors – DeMarcus Nelson. Give the young man some credit for hard work and determination.
•Injuries continue to influence teams before we even tip-off the season. At Cincinnati, freshman Cashmere Wright was lost for the campaign following a torn knee ligament. Wright was expected to play the point while Deonta Vaughn moved to shooting guard. It is a major blow for coach Mick Cronin, who lost a potential starter in forward Mike Williams due to injury last season. Williams should be a factor this season.
•Georgia Tech senior guard D'Andre Bell will also miss the season. He was scheduled for surgery to help with spinal stenosis, a congenital problem. A defensive dynamo, Bell hopes to come back and compete next season.
•When the ESPN/USA Today preseason poll came out, it was not surprising that North Carolina was No. 1 and that four Big East teams made the top 10. What was intriguing was over a third of the teams in this preseason poll were unranked at the end of last season. That shows you can turn things around very quickly in college basketball.
•Dave Odom's college basketball coaching career may be over, but he is back working. Odom was hired by his alma mater, Guilford College, as a special adviser to the school's president. His role includes working with current student-athletes as well as fundraising for the institution.
•During the preseason, a number of freshmen get the opportunity to impress their coaches by shining in intersquad games. At Missouri, diaper dandy Marcus Denmon opened some eyes by scoring 36 points, leading his team in a 110-84 victory in the annual Black & Gold Game. Mike Anderson must be happy to have a newcomer available to put up some big-time numbers early on.
•I talk about accountability too often. Another casualty of bad judgment came at Central Michigan. Senior center Marcus Van was dismissed following a violation of team rules. He was the team's top returning rebounder. Athletes have to understand they have a responsibility, yet there are too many stories of suspensions and dismissals.