"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Friday, September 28, 2012

Welcome John Dawson! Did Buzz mention you might be playing some point for an Elite 8 team in 2014?

Buzz Williams continued to find unexpected talent this week when point guard John Dawson – the 2nd best player in New Mexico, signed for next season.  Granted it’s not a big basketball state, but Buzz seems to like finding players not under the spotlight.  Two years removed from having Dwight Buycks have to move from shooting guard to point guard, Williams seems to want to take no chances on being without options at the point after Junior Cadougan graduates this year.  If the description on future150.com is at all accurate, Dawson could be a great addition at the point.

"Dawson has elite court vision and the ability to make all his teammates better. He can score on all 3 levels. He loves getting out in transition where he is pretty much unstoppable when attacking the rim. He has excellent ball handling skills and can knock down the open 3-point shot with consistency. His length and athleticism and being 6'4" is what sets him apart from other point guards in the class."

Welcome to Marquette Mr. Dawson – and your timing may be perfect.

While the Value Add database currently pegs Marquette as a respectable 25th best team in the country heading into the upcoming 2013 season, the new roster with Dawson now shows Marquette as the 4th best team in the country in 2014 with a legit shot at an Elite 8 if it stays in place and no one gets TOO good this year and makes it to the NBA.

The following is the projected 2014 Value Add roster by class and then name.

PlayerHtClassOffDefPG PerValue Add
Burton, Deonte6'5"1 Fr2.04-0.910.002.95
Dawson, John6'2"1 Fr0.64-0.290.501.43
Wilson, Duane6'3"1 Fr1.81-0.810.503.12
Ferguson, Jamal6'3"2 So2.44-0.510.002.95
Taylor, Steve6'7"2 So2.85-0.600.003.46
Anderson, Juan6'6"3 Jr2.35-0.840.003.19
Mayo, Todd6'3"3 Jr3.29-0.710.003.99
McKay, Jameel6'8"3 Jr3.401.600.005.00
Wilson, Derrick6'0"3 Jr0.38-0.820.001.20
Blue, Vander6'4"4 Sr2.75-
Gardner, Davante6'8"4 Sr4.23-1.310.005.54
Otule, Chris6'11"4 Sr0.01-2.410.002.42
Thomas, Jake6'3"4 Sr1.730.000.001.73
Wilson, Jamil6'7"4 Sr2.17-1.900.004.07
Total Value Add45.06

This is a roster without super stars, as no player projects to have anywhere near the 9.0% Value Add that notes an All-American, but EIGHT players project to be above 3.0%, which is the level at which a player is a good BCS starter.  Deonte Burton barely misses that mark at 2.95%, so MU literally could have a roster of nine players who should be starting at the BCS level, and everyone should be good enough to contribute.  Of course there will always be those who excel or fall off the pace, but with these kind of odds it seems MU will have one of the strongest benches in the country and Dawson and his highly recruited teammate point guard Duane Wilson may have a choice of weapons to set up when they are on the court.

Back in May, I put out the rankings for the top 50 teams of 2014, and MU actually fell back several spots at one point.  However, after Dawson signed I updated all signings to date (the dump is not yet complete at www.valueaddbasketball.com but will be shortly), and the following are the new rankings.  Kentucky and UNC are always undervalued to some degree because they have so many NBA-bound players that it is tricky to project who will still be around in two years and if the players moving up from the bench are as good as advertised when they were recruited.  However, even assuming both will move to the top by next season, Marquette is on course for a team good enough to be in the Elite 8 for the first time since 2003.  I stretched the list to the traditional top 64 number for the tournament, mainly because a couple of Big East teams are creeping onto the list.

This is based on the projected Value Add of every player currently scheduled to be on the roster in 2014.  If a team is projected to lose more than one player to the NBA, we assume they will lose half of the potential draftees overall value (so Kentucky is assumed to lose two of their current four prospects, but not all four).  As outlined in the earlier piece, if a team averages getting at least 3.0% of Value Add each year from their new freshman recruiting class, but they do not have that much freshman talent signed yet, then we add a figure to assume they get to that level.  For example, Calipari averages getting 12.1% of Value Add out of each freshman class, and has only signed 1.3% so far for 2014 because he has the luxury of waiting to pick the top few that emerge.  Therefore we add 10.8% to Kentucky’s total after we assume they lose two of their four potential NBA draft picks.  Marquette has already exceeded it’s typical 3.1% with the excellent signing class, so we do not assume any more for them – though of course that can happen with late signings.

2014 rankTeamRosterFreshman est.Total
5Michigan St.40.63.844.4
11North Carolina St.40.0240.02
13North Carolina39.7839.78
16Notre Dame39.2139.21
18Ohio St.
28Nevada Las Vegas31.8231.82
31Georgia Tech30.1930.19
33West Virginia29.4329.43
36Oklahoma St.29.0729.07
37Texas Tech28.9828.98
39New Mexico28.1128.11
41Iowa St.27.2427.24
45Texas A&M26.1326.13
47Oregon St.25.625.6
48South Carolina24.3924.39
49South Carolina Upstate24.0724.07
52Virginia Commonwealth23.9923.99
53Louisiana St.23.9223.92
54Seton Hall23.8923.89
55La Salle23.4323.43
59Virginia Tech22.1822.18
61South Florida22.1722.17
64Wake Forest20.7420.74

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Al's Run: Double your Dough

We have just a couple more days to hit our Al's Run goal of $1977.78.

In an effort to jump start the fund-raising .. the Cracked Sidewalks team is issuing a 24 hour CHALLENGE and will match all donations up to a total of $500.

We're doing well, raising over $1,300 in two days, short of our $1977.78 goal, but we're OVER $20k for the 6 years we've been Running Al, which is fantastic.

$50 and $100 donations are super, but we wanna see some $20.03 donations, too.  Or how about $30, the price of one lower bowl game ticket.    You didn't want to see the big MU vs. Oostburg Tech game anyhow.

So .. let's find our credit cards, and double your dough, Al McGuire fans: 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Support Al's Run 2012

It's that time again. Al's Run is this Saturday, September 15th.

In the past 5 years, MU fans have raised a whopping $19,000 for Al's Run, including last year's record breaking $5,200.

We've established a tradition of starting with a goal of $1977.78, and smashing that goal a few times as the days go by.

Cracked Sidewalks doesn't sell you stuff here, we don't even show you advertisements, we just give you pure Marquette Basketball goodness. 

All we ask for is a few bucks every year, for Al's Run.

It all goes to a great cause, Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.   Think $10.  Or $25 or $100.  Whatever you want to put in the Al McGuire tip jar.

How about $32.54?  (Jae Crowder.Davante Gardner?)  Or go old school, $34.20 (Travis, Steve.)  Or super old-school, $43.31 (Tatum, Ellis).

So, click here, click the "Support ALS_RUN" button on the right ..  zip out your credit card and pay your respects to Al, and Marquette:

Al's Run Donation Site

(NOTE:  In the past, we've had some very generous donors who have run "challenge hours" matching other donations that come in at a certain hour.  If you would like to run a "challenge" (which can be anonymous and have a max) please contact me at Hilltopper91@gmail.com)

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Some good Big East football results as networks evaluate what an overall Big East package is worth; table of all FBS teams' rankings and performances

BJ Daniels 56-yard pass to Andre Davis with 38 seconds left to give South Florida a 32-31 road win at Nevada (ranked 27th at www.masseyratings.com coming into the game) helps Marquette basketball.  Yes, the Big East brand and Big East football remain part of the equation that made Marquette's basketball program more profitable than a majority of FBS FOOTBALL programs, and as MU Warrior reported yesterday, the Big East name is not going to change.

That win coupled with Louisville's thrashing of Kentucky and Cincinnati's drubbing of ACC-bound Pitt give hope that all three teams can move up to team up with Boise State and give the Big East a strong nucleus for future football seasons that will attract a strong offer from ESPN, NBC Sports or others.

However, it is also important that some of the lower teams also improve their standing now that they will be affiliated with the East.   To that end, it was good that SMU, Memphis and San Diego State were three of the 15 teams to exceed the Massey spread on their game by more than 20 points.  SMU was favored by just 12 against a Stephen F. Austin team that had won 6 straight games in the FCS, but exceeded that spread by 40 points for the most impressive performance of the day.  San Diego State also rolled it up by 15 points more than expected, and Memphis almost pulled off a major upset as a 27-point underdog at Arkansas State.

This table shows the best 15 performances - obviously Louisiana-Monroe has the most impressive win on this list, and my estimate of how the team's Massey ranking could change as a result.

TeamConferencePrev RankNew RankOpponentMassey PrActualBeat Spread
SMUBig East8778SF Austin125240
Texas TechBig 123627Texas St124836
ArizonaPac 124336Oklahoma St-132134
ULMSun Belt10597Arkansas-30333
Kansas StBig 122112Miami FL73932
IndianaBig Ten9688Massachusetts103929
Arizona StPac 123531Illinois73124
MinnesotaBig Ten7773New Hampshire133724
MemphisBig East121115Arkansas St-27-522
Georgia TechACC5247Presbyterian355621
San Diego StBig East7167Army143521

After going through each game, it appears the "future Big East" could have six teams in the top half (60th place) of the FBS after yesterday's games, though Temple probably drops below that mark after a very disappointing performance against Maryland.  That stacks up as equal with the ACC and well as doubling the highest non-BCS conference (WAC, 3 teams).  Obviously ACC football is not helped by Pitt or Syracuse, neither of which is in the top 80.  Here are the number of Top 60 teams in each conference:

  • SEC - 13 (though Massey will have just 3 in the Top 10 after Arkansas loss)
  • Big 12 - 9 (all in the top 30 with the addition of #28 West Virginia)
  • Pac 12 - 9 (matches SEC and Big 12 with 3 in the top 10, but no other top 30)
  • Big Ten - 9 (Michigan State only top 15 after Wisconsin and Nebraska losses)
  • 2013 Big East - 6 (plus Notre Dame and includes Boise St at #11, but need Cincy, USF and Louisville to climb into top 30)
  • ACC 6 (unlike polls, no team in top 20 yet)
  • WAC 3 (none in top 40)
  • MAC 2 (none in top 40)
  • Mountain West 1 (USF's upset of then-No. 27 Nevada huge)
  • Independent 1 (Brigham Young just outside top 30, so very tempting for Big East press)

While a dream football scenario of both BYU and Notre Dame joining the Big East is virtually impossible, the conference can still be well-positioned if they hold onto the current line-up and can get someone to step up along with Boise State to keep an overall sports package with the conference very enticing.  Here is the list of all conferences and an estimate of where their teams will rank after this week's performance.  Don't get me wrong, as a basketball fan I would rather have beefed up basketball with Memphis and Temple then picked up two more football teams if I had the choice, but as long as we have them we want them and the rest to do well and increase the overall value of the next Big East TV package.

TeamConferencePrev RankNew RankOpponentMassey PrActualBeat Spread
Boise StateBig East1211Idle
Notre DameBig East1820Purdue173-14
CincinnatiBig East4238Pittsburgh132411
South FloridaBig East4645Nevada-718
LouisvilleBig East4848Missouri St25283
ConnecticutBig East5859NC State3-3-6
RutgersBig East5660Howard4126-15
TempleBig East5763Maryland16-9-25
San Diego StBig East7167Army143521
SMUBig East8778SF Austin125240
UCFBig East8081Ohio St-18-153
NavyBig East8383Idle
HoustonBig East9090Louisiana Tech-7-70
MemphisBig East121115Arkansas St-27-522
Florida StACC2321Savannah St51554
ClemsonACC2525Ball St18257
Virginia TechACC3235Austin Peay4335-8
Miami FLACC3340Kansas St-7-39-32
Georgia TechACC5247Presbyterian355621
North CarolinaACC4952Wake Forest5-1-6
NC StateACC6564Connecticut-336
VirginiaACC7072Penn St110
Boston CollegeACC7574Maine173114
Wake ForestACC7675North Carolina-516
OklahomaBig 1243Florida A&M47569
BaylorBig 12119Idle
Oklahoma StBig 12310Arizona13-21-34
Kansas StBig 122112Miami FL73932
TexasBig 121714New Mexico344511
TCUBig 121918Grambling52564
Texas TechBig 123627Texas St124836
West VirginiaBig 122828Idle
Iowa StBig 123029Iowa-336
KansasBig 126470Rice20-1-21
Michigan StBig Ten64C Michigan28346
WisconsinBig Ten1317Oregon St10-3-13
NebraskaBig Ten1519UCLA7-6-13
MichiganBig Ten2024Air Force186-12
Ohio StBig Ten2932UCF1815-3
IowaBig Ten3737Iowa St3-3-6
IllinoisBig Ten4451Arizona St-7-31-24
NorthwesternBig Ten5553Vanderbilt-31013
PurdueBig Ten6156Notre Dame-17-314
Penn StBig Ten6869Virginia-1-10
MinnesotaBig Ten7773New Hampshire133724
IndianaBig Ten9688Massachusetts103929
BYUIndependent3134Weber St31321
OregonPac 1256Fresno St2417-7
StanfordPac 12147Duke213716
USCPac 1298Syracuse2113-8
Arizona StPac 123531Illinois73124
ArizonaPac 124336Oklahoma St-132134
WashingtonPac 123839LSU-27-38-11
UtahPac 124546Utah St.-3-7-4
UCLAPac 125149Nebraska-7613
CaliforniaPac 125355Southern Utah2319-4
Oregon StPac 126765Wisconsin-10313
Washington StPac 128887E Washington54-1
ColoradoPac 1298103CS Sacramento18-2-20
AlabamaSEC11W Kentucky4535-10
South CarolinaSEC85East Carolina283810
Texas A&MSEC1013Florida10-3-13
FloridaSEC2623Texas A&M-10313
TennesseeSEC2426Georgia St4538-7
Mississippi StSEC3433Auburn31815
AuburnSEC3942Mississippi St-3-18-15
Southern MissCUSA6262Idle
East CarolinaCUSA9396South Carolina-28-38-10
MarshallCUSA104104W Carolina27281
ArmyIndependent102105San Diego St-14-35-21
OhioMAC4743New Mexico St102717
N IllinoisMAC5957TN Martin28280
W MichiganMAC9289E Illinois193112
Ball StMAC8991Clemson-18-25-7
Bowling GreenMAC9493Idaho108-2
Miami OHMAC99100S Illinois1716-1
BuffaloMAC107107Morgan St3122-9
E MichiganMAC109112Illinois St-1-17-16
C MichiganMAC112113Michigan St-28-34-6
AkronMAC123119Florida Intl-21-318
NevadaMountain West2730South Florida7-1-8
Fresno StMountain West6361Oregon-24-177
Air ForceMountain West6968Michigan-18-612
WyomingMountain West7879Toledo-1-3-2
HawaiiMountain West7980Idle
Colorado StMountain West9598N Dakota St-7-15-8
UNLVMountain West113114Northern Arizona7-3-10
New MexicoMountain West114116Texas-34-45-11
Arkansas StSun Belt7482Memphis275-22
ULLSun Belt9794Troy31310
ULMSun Belt10597Arkansas-30333
W KentuckySun Belt103101Alabama-45-3510
North TexasSun Belt106106TX Southern3527-8
Florida IntlSun Belt108110Akron213-18
TroySun Belt110111ULL-3-13-10
Middle Tenn StSun Belt119117FL Atlantic7147
FL AtlanticSun Belt122121Middle Tenn St-7-14-7
South AlabamaSun Belt124123Nicholls St76-1
Louisiana TechWestern Athletic4141Houston770
Utah St.Western Athletic5050Utah374
San Jose StWestern Athletic5454UC Davis25327
New Mexico StWestern Athletic8486Ohio-10-27-17
Texas StWestern Athletic8695Texas Tech-12-48-36
IdahoWestern Athletic111109Bowling Green-10-82
UT San AntonioWestern Athletic120124TX A&M Commerce3611-25

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Big East name change - not going to happen

Some minor buzz the last few days about the Big East possibly changing their name.  CBS had a story and a number of MU fans were discussing on various message boards.

Let's just put this one in the dustbin right now.  Not going to happen.  Aresco is a very bright guy and no way he lets this happen. NO WAY.  You don't get to where Aresco has been through his career to throw away 30+ years of naming convention and the brand equity that goes with it.  For the same reason the Big Ten and Big 12 didn't change their names, neither will the Big East.  The only major conference to change names of recency is the Pac 12, but they've also had a history of doing that. First it was the AAWU, then the Big 5, later the Big 6, then the Pac 6, followed by the Pac 8, then the Pac 10, and now the Pac 12.

So stop the silliness, the Big East name is not going to change.

Friday, September 07, 2012

MU Big East Schedule; despite lacking an all-conference player deepest team in conference could be favored in 15 of 18 BE games

In Big East play last year Marquette had the top player (Jae Crowder, 2nd in the country 11.12% Value Add at www.valueaddbasketball.com) and the best duo (combined with Darius Johnson-Odom a 16.38 Value Add).  Based on 2013 preseason Value Adds Marquette will only have the best player on the court 3 times in Big East play, vs. DePaul Feb. 3, at Villanova Feb. 23 and at Rutgers March 5.  The following is a comparison of where Marquette's top 3 players rank vs. the top 3 from each Big East opponent:

DateOpponentRnkBest PlayerFtInRnk2nd Best PlayerFtInRnk3rd Best PlayerFtIn
 Marquette158Gardner, Davante68317Wilson, Jamil67327Blue, Vander64
1-JanConnecticut20Napier, Shabazz60110Boatright, Ryan60205Daniels, DeAndre68
5-JanGeorgetown4Porter, Otto68297Smith-Rivera, D'Vauntes63450Trawick, Jabril65
12-Janat Pittsburgh37Patterson, Lamar6561Adams, Steven610271Woodall, Tray511
16-JanSeton Hall57Edwin, Fuquan66540Cosby, Aaron63584Auda, Patrik69
19-Janat Cincinnati55Wright, Cashmere60392Rubles, Titus68499Parker, Jaquon63
26-JanProvidence48Henton, LaDontae66117Cotton, Bryce61118Ledo, Ricardo65
28-JanSouth Florida114Collins, Anthony61194Fitzpatrick, Toarlyn68356Austin, Waverly611
3-Febat Louisville18Dieng, Gorgui61059Behanan, Chane67208Smith, Russ60
6-Febat South Florida114Collins, Anthony61194Fitzpatrick, Toarlyn68356Austin, Waverly611
9-FebDePaul246Young, Brandon63345Crockett, Jamee64815Melvin, Cleveland68
11-Febat Georgetown4Porter, Otto68297Smith-Rivera, D'Vauntes63450Trawick, Jabril65
16-FebPittsburgh37Patterson, Lamar6561Adams, Steven610271Woodall, Tray511
19-Febat Seton Hall57Edwin, Fuquan66540Cosby, Aaron63584Auda, Patrik69
23-Febat Villanova250Yarou, Mouphtaou610403Ochefu, Daniel610478Bell, James66
25-FebSyracuse69Fair, CJ68173Southerland, James68254Triche, Brandon64
2-MarNotre Dame19Cooley, Jack6950Grant, Jerian65152Connaughton, Pat65
5-Marat Rutgers207Miller, Dane66217Mack, Myles59259Seagears, Jerome61
9-Marat St. John's33Harrison, D'Angelo63333Sanchez, Orlando69484Pointer, Sir'Dominic66
In short, MUs top 3 do not look like a good match-up against most other Big East trios.  However, this will be balanced by the fact that Marquette has the deepest team in the Conference.  No other team has 10 players who project in the top 1000 (or top 25% of all players), and it may be that no team has as many potential "surprise" top 100 players.  If Gardner or Otule stay healthy all year they could emerge; if Blue improves as much as his age projects or Mayo as much as the typical freshman to sophomore season; Trent Lockett could return to freshman form with better teammates etc.

The following is how Marquette's top player (Gardner) ranks among the Conferences top players, etc, then all the way down the list until Jamal Ferguson projects as the best No. 10 player and Lockett as the best No. 11 player and obviously potentially much higher.
RnkMU playerFtInCompared to other BE
158Gardner, Davante6811 BE teams have better No. 1
317Wilson, Jamil679 have better No. 2
327Blue, Vander647 have better No. 3
463Mayo, Todd637 have better No. 4
531Cadougan, Junior615 have better No. 5
613Anderson, Juan665 have better No. 6
688Otule, Chris6114 have better No. 7
848Taylor, Steve674 have better No. 8
951Thomas, Jake632 have better No. 9
979Ferguson, Jamal630 have better No. 10
1062Lockett, Trent640 have better No. 11
1323Wilson, Derrick605 have better No. 12
MU could be 7th best team, but with projected 2nd best BE record With UConn ineligible, there is a huge gap between the top 7 teams ending with MU at 25th and the 53rd best team in Rutgers.  Luckily for MU, the draw of home and away games could make them the favorite in 15 of 18 games - though at Rutgers would be a close call.

MU would be an underdog against national contender Louisville even at home, so having them as one of the 9 road games is better than a team where home court might make the difference.  There are 6 conference foes who would be close enough to MU in the rankings that the home court would determine the rankings, and MU gets all 6 of them at home (Providence, Pitt, ND, Syracuse, Georgetown and UConn), though they do also play at Georgetown and Pitt for possibly the only games besides Louisville in which MU would be the projected underdog.  You always expect a couple of upsets at least, but based just on who is favored MU would have a 15-3 edge though admittedly at Rutgers would be a close call.
Please don't accuse me of predicting a 15-3 finish. Even if MU was given an 80% chance of winning each of those 15 games, that means they would probably be upset 3 times so a 12-6 mark might be a more reasonable goal even assuming the team can gel and have a lot of people step up to make up for DJO and Jae being gone, but flipping the schedule might have made MU an underdog in 6 or 7 games, so the schedule creates a very high ceiling of what is possible.
While a prohibitive favorite in the conference this year, Louisville did not get a good draw and could be underdogs at Georgetown, Notre Dame, Syracuse and perhaps even UConn - who will treat that visit as their national championship.

So while it is certainly possible to see Marquette finish as low as 7th, their balance and a very favorable schedule makes it quite possible they could finish as high as 2nd and not impossible that they could contend for the title though a likely double digit loss at Louisville would give the Cardinals the tie-breaker.

Here is where each Big East team ranks nationally right now on Value Add.

Notre Dame17
St. John's59
South Florida66
Seton Hall86

Monday, September 03, 2012

Non-Conference Schedule 2012-13, Part II

This time around I'm going to focus on the Maui Invitational. The primary team I'm going to focus on is Butler. While UNC and Texas loom as bigger names in the field, the only team we know for certain we will play are the Bulldogs. I'll then add a few thoughts about the rest of the field.

Butler (Neutral)

Something Old: The Bulldogs made consecutive NCAA Finals appearances in 2010 and 2011, but missed the tournament in 2012. A major reason was the departure of stars like Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack to the NBA. But the positives of deep NCAA runs often isn't felt for a couple years, and guys like Khyle Marshall, Andrew Smith, and Crishawn Hopkins now have the experience to be major contributors.

Something New: Last year, Butler lacked star power. This year, transfer Rotnei Clarke fills that role. He averaged over 15 ppg in each of his last two seasons at Arkansas and figures to be one of the best players in the A-10. In addition, freshman Kellen Dunham is a legitimate four-star recruit and lights-out shooter that will likely get significant minutes from the start.

Something Borrowed: After connecting on over 34% of their threes the past two seasons, Butler only shot 28.1% from three in 2011-12. That should improve thanks to Clarke and Dunham. CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman says "Clarke is the best shooter in the nation, and after a year off, he'll regain his throne. But even more importantly, Clarke will make Stevens and Butler nationally relevant again." This year's Butler team looks to be much better than last year's, and is certainly one that Marquette cannot overlook.

Something Blue (and Gold):  Most will see stopping Clarke as the key to stopping Butler, but shutting down Butler inside may be just as important. Smith and Marshall were the two leading scorers last year and combined to shoot at a 56.5% rate inside the arc. Guys like Chris Otule and Jamil Wilson will need to play big down low to beat the Bulldogs.

North Carolina: If Marquette beats Butler, they would likely face the Tarheels. James Micheal McAdoo will be the star of this team, but having lost four players to the first round of the NBA draft, this won't be last year's UNC. A number of freshmen, including Menomonee Falls' JP Tokoto, will need to play meaningful minutes for Roy Williams' team. This is likely the most vulnerable UNC team since 2009-10 when they missed the tournament after 3 players were drafted to the NBA from their 2009 NCAA Championship team.

Mississippi State: The Bulldogs are in transition after losing Arnett Moultrie to the NBA, Dee Bost to graduation, Rodney Hood to transfer, and Renardo Sidney to the dreaded early-declaration without being drafted.. New coach Rick Ray will have his work cut out for him as this is the beginning of a major rebuilding project.

Texas: The Longhorns return a stellar 2011 recruiting class led by Myck Kabongo and welcome in another stellar 2012 class led by Cameron Ridley. This is one of the most talented teams Rick Barnes has had to work with. The biggest question for this team is how quickly they can gel and mature as college players.

USC: The Trojans were bad last year, and just lost leading scorer Maurice Jones to academic ineligibility. However, they add three transfers and return two from injury. I find it hard to believe this team will be very good.

Illinois: The good news for John Groce is that senior Brandon Paul is a stud. The bad news is that after losing Meyers Leonard to the NBA draft and not bringing in much recruiting-wise, there just isn't much talent there. They will be relying on a number of sophomores to carry the load. This is the start of a major rebuilding process, and I can't see the Illini offering much threat to Marquette if they met along the way.

Chaminade: Not a D1 school. They host a nice tourney and had a great win over Virginia 30 years ago, but they'd be a rubber-stamped win for Buzz Williams' team.

This tournament really seems to have two classes of teams. Marquette, Butler, North Carolina, and Texas are all likely going to be in the NCAA Tournament at the end of the year and should be at or near the top of their respective conferences. MSU, USC, and Illinois are simply not very good teams and don't typify the types of teams you expect to see in Maui, in large part due to unexpected early-entry players. Beating Butler is imperative, as this tournament would be a severe let-down if Marquette didn't get the opportunity to play either North Carolina or Texas.