Here's our Q&A with the Buckeyes big man as he returns for his sophomore year
Jared Sullinger’s decision to return to Ohio State ensured the Buckeyes another shot at getting to the Final Four. Thad Matta hadn’t had much luck keeping big men around Columbus for more than one year — witness Greg Oden, Kosta Koufos and B.J. Mullens.
How far will John Calipari and Kentucky basketball go in 2011?
Though John Calipari’s office overlooks the court at the Kentucky Wildcats' basketball practice facility, he’s not allowed to watch what happens there in the summer. Apparently, he was missing out on quite a show. “I asked about the pickup games, and somebody said, ‘Ooh. Kind of like a couple years ago,’” Calipari says. “So it’s good.”
“We sat down and had a good talk, and realized that the only reason we even made it this far, was that we had each other. It started with her father passing away, and then the divorce, and the arthritis, and then the Alzheimer’s, and each of those things, I don’t know how anyone could go through them alone. So we figured out that as much as we wanted to be Superman and Wonder Woman, and take care of things alone, we needed each other.”
Tyler Summitt, son of legendary Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt, after his mother was diagnosed with early onset dementia.
"He was one of the greatest Rebels ever and one of the best players we have ever had. He was such a great person. Everybody loved him and he loved everybody. He was such a gentle person and such a caring guy. I am all shook up over it. I think the world of him and am just really shocked."
Former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, in a statement released by the university, on the passing of Rebel great Armen Gilliam.
"It's a terrible day for the '83 team, a terrible day. He's just a positive, a warm spirit. On the court, he never smiled. He was a competitor. He was tough and all that. Off the court. He was a gentle giant. Man, he came with that bubbly smile."
Former NC State guard Dereck Whittenburg on his teammate Lorenzo Charles from the 1983 National Champions. Charles was tragically killed on Monday when a bus he was driving crashed.
Athlon Editors pick a surprise team in college hoops
Name a team from a Big Six power conference that you believe could surprise in 2011-12.
Mitch Light: I believe California will emerge as the biggest threat to Arizona in the new-look Pac-12. Mike Montgomery’s club welcomes back its top three scorers, led by the underrated backcourt of veteran leader Jorge Gutierrez and sophomore sharpshooter Allen Crabbe. Cal lost four double-digit scorers from the 2009 club that won the Pac-10 crown, yet Montgomery still had his team competitive in the league last season; the Bears tied for fourth with a 10–8 mark and advanced to the second round of the NIT. In two years, Montgomery is 23–13 in league games. The guy is a proven winner, and he figures to have the ’11-12 Golden Bears back in the NCAA Tournament after a one-year hiatus.
Nathan Rush: Former George Mason giant killer Jim Larranaga takes over a Miami roster that has all of the pieces in place for a “Cinderella” run in the ACC. The New York City backcourt of junior point guard Durand Scott (13.6 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.1 apg) and senior Villanova transfer Malcolm Grant (14.8 ppg, 42.3 3PT%) gives the U a solid, veteran foundation to build on. Ever-improving 300-pound junior center Reggie Johnson (11.9 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 59.1 FG%) should be hitting his prime. If enigmatic highlight-reel high-jumper DeQuan Jones can finally rise to the occasion for his senior year or another wing steps up to replace departed sixth-year senior Adrian Thomas, then the Heat won’t be the only team making noise on the hardwood in South Florida.
Patrick Snow: I think a surprise team on the national scene for the 2011-12 campaign is Cincinnati. While much of the Big East preseason talk will revolve around Syracuse, Louisville, Pittsburgh and defending national champion UConn, Mick Cronin’s squad returns its top four scorers from a 26–9 team. The Bearcats won 11 conference games a year ago and finally bought in to Cronin’s defensive style. They should have a solid nucleus with those top four players — Yancy Gates, Dion Dixon, Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright — and newcomer Shaquille Thomas could provide some added scoring punch. It took five years for Cronin to get the UC program back to a top level, and he should have a quality team that will make some noise during the upcoming season.
Athlon Editors debate the most questionable offseason coaching move.
What was the most questionable hire of the offseason?
Patrick Snow: I thought this offseason’s most curious hire was Frank Haith at Missouri. Athletic director Mike Alden was very ambitious in his pursuit of Purdue’s Matt Painter after Mike Anderson left for Arkansas. But after Painter turned down Mizzou, Alden seemed to settle immediately on Haith instead of interviewing other qualified candidates. Haith never had a winning ACC record and went 43–69 in league games during seven seasons at Miami. While he did inherit a below-average program from Perry Clark, Haith only took the Hurricanes to the NCAA Tournament once in his tenure at the U. It’s easy to understand the early struggles in Coral Gables, and things looked to be turning around in Haith’s fourth season when the Canes won 23 games and made the NCAA Tournament. However, over the next three seasons, Miami went just 17–31 in league play and made two NITs. While he may wind up recruiting well at Missouri, you have to believe the Tigers could have hired a coach with a better track record.
Mitch Light: I will go with Brian Gregory at Georgia Tech. A former Tom Izzo assistant at Michigan State, Gregory has an outstanding reputation among college coaches, but his record at Dayton — a school that should win at a high level in the A-10 — isn’t overly impressive. He went to the NCAA Tournament only two times in eight seasons and had a league record of 48–48 over his final six seasons. If you are Georgia Tech, a school that colossally underachieved under Paul Hewitt, do you really want a coach who underachieved at his previous stop? For a more under-the-radar choice, I will go with Rod Barnes, who was hired by Cal State Bakersfield after being let go at Georgia State. Barnes went 44–79 in four years at GSU with a mark of 24–48 in the Colonial. Prior to that, Barnes had an eight-year run at Ole Miss, his alma mater. His overall record was a solid 141–109, but he had a losing record in each of his final four seasons and was 28 games under .500 in the SEC.
Braden Gall: I find the Frank Haith-Jim Larranaga-Paul Hewitt merry-go-round very curious. I think Missouri will be good in the short term, but Haith doesn’t strike me as the man to lead the recently reenergized Tigers program into the future long term — no matter how good they might be in 2011-12. Miami is a tough gig and bringing in an elder statesman like Larranaga — who is no doubt a fine coach — won’t exactly fire up a fanbase that is notorious for its lack of support. The U seemed like a job for a young, brash, fiery recruiter rather than a grizzled vet.
Which offseason coaching hire do you like the most?
Patrick Snow: I think the slam dunk hire of this offseason was Mike Anderson at Arkansas. He obviously knows the school and culture in Fayetteville after 17 seasons as an assistant under Nolan Richardson, but Anderson has also proved himself as a head coach. The new Arkansas boss was 200–98 in nine seasons at UAB and Missouri, with six NCAA Tournament appearances. And just as important as his coaching record, Anderson brings an identity back to Hog basketball for the first time since Richardson’s departure. He was the key assistant during Arkansas’ amazing run in the early-to-mid ‘90s, when the Razorbacks went to three Finals Fours and won it all in 1994. The fans will love his excellent recruiting prowess and “Fastest 40 Minutes of Basketball” style of play. After a year of installing his system and bringing in players to fit it, expect Mike Anderson to put Arkansas back on the national map.
Nathan Rush: Billy Gillispie is a perfect fit at Texas Tech. Sure, Gillispie’s act didn’t go over well during his two years at Kentucky — where he went 40–27 overall, 20–12 in the SEC, lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament and went to the NIT before getting the axe. But prior to being burned by the spotlight in Lexington, Billy Clyde turned a 6–24 UTEP team into a 24–8 WAC champion during two years in El Paso and was a two-time Big 12 Coach of the Year in three seasons at Texas A&M — where he went 70–26 overall, 31–17 in the Big 12 and made the NCAA Tournament twice, including a Sweet 16 run in 2007. Gillispie is a native Texan with a proven track record in the Lone Star State. The Red Raiders were savvy to buy BCG stock at its lowest point; the hire will pay off sooner rather than later in Lubbock.
Mitch Light: I’m going off the radar a bit with Ron Hunter, the new head coach at Georgia State. Hunter only made the NCAA Tournament once during his time at IUPUI — losing as a No. 16 seed to Kentucky in 2003 — but his teams were consistently among the best in the Summit League. The Jaguars were 106–56 in their 10 seasons in the Summit, with only one losing record — 6–8 in ’01-02, their first year in the league. Hunter is very charismatic, and he will do his best to promote the Georgia State program in the city of Atlanta. The Panthers have struggled to compete in the ever-improving CAA, but that should change with Hunter in charge.