'Bag: Rivalries, lockout woes, fantasy hoops

Every week, 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 email me or send me your entries via Twitter. Per the usual, let's begin with a video question -- this one about the players who wish they'd have stayed in college hoops and avoided this lockout mess for a year.

Drew from Denver writes: Eamonn, Bobby loves Sue but Sue loves John. In my observation, this seems to sum up the rivalry situation in the state of Kansas. Missouri and Kansas love to hate one another; either team's fan boys will agree. But ask a K-State alum and you'll hear that Kansas is their rival! Two questions for you: (1) Does the definition of "rival" allow for polygamous relationships? (2) If Mizzou parts with the Big 12, is K-State (having given KU more than it can handle in the recent past in football and basketball) poised to be KU's rebound-rival?

Eamonn Brennan: Drew, I don't think there's any question that rivalries allow for polygamous relationships. For example, take the Kentucky-Louisville-Indiana-Purdue quadrumvirate. Yes, I just used the word quadrumvirate in a Hoopsbag. You're welcome.

Do Kentucky fans hate Indiana fans? It seems that way. And Indiana fans hate Kentucky fans? Sure. But Indiana is not Kentucky's main "rival," right? That's Louisville. And UK is not IU's main rival. That's Purdue. See what I mean? In college sports, you can certainly have more than one rival -- each rivalry may mean something different to the fan bases, and to different sects within those fan bases, but the games are still rivalries all the same. (For example: I have a feeling that Indiana fans from New Albany hate Kentucky much more than Indiana fans from the Chicago suburbs. Familiarity, contempt, you know the drill.)

Anyway, K-State is already one of KU's rivals. If Missouri takes the SEC cash and ditches Kansas -- and Kansas actually follows through on Bill Self's threat and bids farewell to one of the oldest and best rivalries in college sports -- then Kansas State will surely move into the pole position. Something important will be lost in the transition, but that's just the way it goes, I guess. Sigh.

Mike in Binghamton, N.Y., writes: I'm truly enjoying your out of conference schedule breakdown for college basketball. It's very handy for me personally as I'm in a fantasy league where we draft Division-1 teams for strictly # of wins in the regular season. Your article has led me to be pretty high on Creighton in the late rounds. Any other off the radar teams you think could win 27+ games this regular season? Any help you might have is appreciated. Thanks in advance and keep up the good work.

Brennan: First things first: I assumed someone somewhere played college hoops fantasy basketball, but I admit I've never encountered such a person. And I also always assumed fantasy college basketball would be played the same way NBA fantasy (or NFL, or NHL, or golf, or whatever) is played: With a strategically selected group of players. The entry to collegiate fantasy would be much higher -- there are so many more players, I'm not sure how you'd regulate, govern and organize all those statistics. Thus, I assumed no one even bothered.

In other words, my mind is a little bit blown.

I would love to answer your question about the win totals, but I think everyone can find every bit of information they need to make their own educated decisions on the nonconference schedule primers you mentioned. That sounds like a cop-out, but I promise it's not. (OK, OK: I think Belmont is an obvious candidate, even with a toughened schedule; basically any good mid-major team that is significantly better than its conference is someone you should target.) Mostly I'm flabbergasted by how awesome this "fantasy" college basketball could be. I want in.

I'm going to open this up to the readers (leave comments in this post, or send them to me via email or Twitter): Do you play college fantasy hoops? If so, what rules do you use? Is it a team-oriented competition like Mike's? Or do you actually draft players? If so, do you limit it to high-major conferences? How many "jelly beans" do you wager?* No fantasy-system is too arcane; no detail is unworthy of sharing. For one, this could be the wave of the future. Second, if this lockout thing keeps getting worse, it might be the fantasy addict's only winter hope. Let's respond accordingly, huh?

*Jelly beans concept trademarked by Matthew Berry and Nate Ravitz of the Fantasy Focus podcast. Love those guys.

Brandyn in Bloomington, Ind., writes: With the NBA's season in question, will ESPN be broadcasting more college basketball games? Will there be a WAC Wednesday or MAC Monday to make up for the missing programming?

Brennan: Speaking of the lockout, right? Unfortunately I don't control programming decisions. If only! We'd have college basketball on the air 24/7. There would be a separate network dedicated to broadcasting classic college basketball games, similar to what NBATV has done all offseason. (Which has been amazing, by the way.) I'd greenlight a block of programming for every single Jimmer Fredette make in his BYU career. That's 838 makes, in case you were wondering. It could play on a loop.

Wait, what was this question about? Oh, more college hoops in lieu of NBA basketball? To be honest, I doubt it. I don't know, but I doubt it. That's way above my pay grade. But I like where your head's at.

Adam in San Francisco writes: Who emerges as the dominant program on the West Coast? There appears to be a return of the traditional powers. I'm not talking feel goods like St. Mary's and San Diego State and Gonzaga. Who is it going to be -- outside of AZ and UCLA? Is UW able to jump that hurdle and be good on the court as they are on paper?

Brennan: You shouldn't be so quick to dismiss Saint Mary's, SDSU and Gonzaga as "feel goods." I can only assume you're doing that because they aren't power-six major programs, but as we've seen in recent years, that doesn't matter. San Diego State was a buzzsaw last season, SMC is growing and Gonzaga is one of the most consistent winners we have in all of college hoops. I'm not sure why they couldn't be the next "West Coast power," as it were. In lots of ways, for the past three or four years, they have been.

As far as your question goes, though, I think Washington is an excellent candidate. With the exception of Arizona under Sean Miller, no coach in the West has recruited as well as Lorenzo Romar in recent seasons. He just lost his most talented player, the heart and soul of last season's team (Isaiah Thomas), and I'm not so sure this season's squad -- with star freshman Tony Wroten Jr. in the fold -- won't be better than last season's. I'm not sure if the Huskies have a leap to make, or if they're already there; those terms are always vague and abstract. But I do know that Romar has built a consistent winner through top-tier recruiting, and as UCLA and Arizona fortify down south, Washington isn't going to go anywhere.

Rick in Connecticut writes: Will Maalik Wayns emerge as a Big East POY candidate this year?

Brennan: I think there are a couple of reasons for optimism. One, Wayns is going to get a have a ton of touches in Villanova's offense this season. He's not just the de facto point guard anymore; he may have to shoulder some significant portion of the scoring load, and sometimes that's the perfect recipe (quick ballhandling point guard with scoring touch becomes go-to scoring guard) for a breakout, POY-type season. (See Walker, Kemba.)

The question is whether Wayns can improve his scoring enough to carry that aspect of Villanova's offense. He hasn't been a great shooter in his Wildcats career, and he even regressed a bit as a sophomore. (Last season, his effective field goal percentage was 44.5 percent, down from his freshman mark of 48.3 percent). And it's fair to assume that without Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes, Wayns will become the focus of every defense he plays.

The conditions aren't overwhelmingly favorable. I think the talent is there, though, and that's probably the most important part.

Justin Powell in Columbus, Ohio, writes: What are your thoughts on Ohio State potentially playing a lot of minutes with two "point guards" on the floor together, with Aaron Craft sliding over to the two to make some room for Shannon Scott? I think that could be a dynamic (albeit small) backcourt if Craft proves he's a capable shooter.

Brennan: I think this is just one of many aces Ohio State coach Thad Matta can keep up his sleeve. I think the Buckeyes will be best served by playing as big as possible, with Craft at the point, William Buford at the 2, Deshaun Thomas at the 3, Jared Sullinger at the 4 and freshman Amir Williams at center. That's a big lineup but one that can run the floor and score in a variety of ways. It may not be quite as dynamic as last season's team, and the defensive end of the floor may be a struggle at times, but boy, is that a talented group.

That said, there will be times when a) Matta will need to go smaller for matchups or b) will simply want to play Scott, a McDonald's All-American and No. 2-ranked point guard in the 2011 class, because he's (probably) going to be really good. In that case, I like the style you propose. I don't think it's something Matta would use all that frequently, because Craft really isn't a shooting guard. But if you need to (or can afford to) go small, I think it helps to keep your best perimeter defender in the game, regardless of who plays "point guard" and who doesn't. Those are flexible categories anyway.

Ryan in Iowa City writes: Greetings from Iowa. What do you think is a realistic finish for the Hawkeyes this year? Some people around here think that the big dance may be an option but I just don't see that happening, well not yet anyway. I would like to think a near .500 record would be the way to go with an NIT berth. We know what "White Magic" can do but is the NCAA tourney a stretch at this point? Can Fran really bring the kids that far already? I, and the rest of Iowa City, are very excited for Iowa basketball again and the dreams of Carver-Hawkeye arena being full again happen daily.

Brennan: Do not fear, young Ryan, for I bring you tidings of good news: The NCAA tournament isn't completely out of the question this season.

Now, before everyone in Iowa City sends me Whitey's Ice Cream in dry-ice containers (actually, wait, please do that, I'll send you my address in Chicago), that doesn't mean I think it's going to happen. Just that it could. Maybe. Matt Gatens can play. Melsahn Basabe is a beast on the low block (he had a field day with most of the Big Ten's frontcourts last season) and I shudder to think of what he would have done to the MAAC if he had gone to play for McCaffery at Siena instead. These Hawks need to improve in a variety of areas, but they don't travel outside the state of Iowa in their nonconference schedule. If they can head into Big Ten play with one or two losses, all it takes is a decent league performance and they'll be getting some bubble looks.

Again, I do not think this is going to happen. The chances are pretty small. But I guess I'm ... telling you there's a chance!

Jeremy N. from West Lafayette, Ind., writes: Mr. Brennan, I couldn't help but notice you left Purdue out of the two theoretical 16-team "super-conference". I can understand why (although it pains me greatly to admit) you include rival IU, but even Illinois makes the cut instead of Purdue? We are the only Big Ten team who has a winning record against every other Big Ten schools, as well at the records for most Big Ten championships. Finally, our basketball program future has never looked brighter than with Matt Painter at the helm. Please help me understand the logic behind leaving Purdue out of the conversation?

Brennan: I got a lot of response about the 16-team superconference thing in the glorious return of Hoopsbag, and almost all of it was from angry Purdue fans. This is one of the more polite emails, which is why I selected it; you don't want to see some of the others. Actually, you probably do. But this is a family website.

Anyway, guys, contrary to what you may think, I did not leave Purdue off the list because I "hate" the program, or because I went to Indiana and am thus "showing yer true colors." Nothing like that. I actually don't hate Purdue. At all. I think the program's history is admirable; I think Painter is one of the best coaches in college hoops; I think the Paint Crew is downright frightening in Mackey Arena. Great, great program.

I didn't include Purdue in the superconference thing for the same reason I didn't include Butler. One of the conditions of the answer was that we would take into consideration things like market, geography and fan interest, and I thought it made more sense to get one team from Indiana -- thereby securing the Indianapolis market, much of the state itself, and large swaths of fans in Chicago and Louisville -- to go along with the large number of fans from Illinois (and Chicago in particular) that root for the Illini every year. Does Purdue belong in those leagues? Oh yes. But for the purposes of my little thought experiment, someone had to get cut. It wasn't personal. It was business.

I hope Purdue fans can forgive me. We've always been on good terms. I'd hate to see a goofy answer in an October mailbag jeopardize that now.

To mend the fence, here's a greeting card I found after approximately three seconds of Googling. It says everything for me.

Now, about getting those Iowa fans to send me some Whitey's ...