Gonzaga

I really don’t think they classify as a mid-Major program anymore. Heck, most high majors don’t have the collection of frontline talent and HEIGHT that the Zags have assembled. Credit Mark Few and his overseas recruiting and recruiting in general.

First high school preview

Detroit News on Pershing and their goal of repeating.

Nothing too earth-shattering. Keith Appling and Juwan Howard Jr. return. Pershing will play Romulus, Detroit Country Day, Saginaw Arthur Hill and Pontiac – apparently all in December.

Marathon

Going to try and watch most of these college games.

Game 1 – Cal State-Fullerton at UCLA

12:10 a.m. UCLA will have its hands full with CSF. They lost a ton of NBA talent and their team was decimated with injuries through the preseason. This is their first real game together with their starting 5 and major depth. They will stay in it in a classic Ben Howland-coached defensive struggle and thanks to superior talent. But Fullerton should be up -really up – for this shot at the retooling Bruins.

1:09 a.m. DRAGOVICH is going to have to score more than 0 points if UCLA wants to come back.

1:19 a.m. I don’t want to keep hating on UCLA, but these freshmen weren’t nearly as good as advertised last year. Unless they made quantum improvments … not a lot of backcourt depth there either, heck overall depth thanks to injuries.

1:44 a.m. CSF is picked in the middle of the Big West pack by everyone. While they are certainly up for this game, great effort all game on both ends, they really aren’t doing anything exceptional. It might be that much of an early season struggle for UCLA this year.

2:01 a.m. OT. Sounds about right. UCLA was patient and Jeremie Anderson got a very good look. But Streeter is CSF’s best guard and should have nailed those FT.

2:30 a.m. Finally, new game. These teams combined for 6 points in 5 minutes of the first OT. Very nice that St. Mary’s is up 20 after 10 minutes.

GAME 2 – San Diego State Aztecs at St. Mary’s – Steve Fisher baby! 174-140 career at SDSU isn’t bad at all really.

Game 3,4,5 – Didn’t miss much.

Game 6 – Clemson at Liberty – What did Liberty give up to get the Tigers in their building, a 10-for-1?

random thoughts during the games

Evan Turner drops 24 and 17 after his triple double, and then Manny Harris goes out and gets his own (only the second in Michigan history joining Gary Grant). I really enjoy watching Harris play basketball, but I’m biased because I saw him play so much in high school. That team has weapons this year, like the entire conference. Big Ten basketball is going to be a classic battle this year.

It was nice catching up with Mick McCabe and Tom Markowski at the Titans game this weekend. Both those guys do a great job in a tough time for newspapers. McCabe saw the undermanned UDM women – also decimated by injuries – give MSU all it could handle while Markowski watched UDM throttle Western but miss a ton of FTs down the stretch – much less closer than the final here.

Best Manny mixtape out there, with nice H.S. highlights.

Where are they now, Cal State Fullerton: This guy (Josh Akognon) caused quite the stir in Ann Arbor when Tommy Amaker wouldn’t offer. He’s still scoring at a pretty good clip overseas.

Stat of the day

Detroit is 6-4 all-time against PAC-10 teams! Of course we all remember the UCLA win in the tournament. But can Titan die hards remember the others? I think we’re going back a ways for those.

Here’s hoping they can make it win No. 7 late Wednesday night.

First night of college buckets

If people are all on Michigan this year, and they should be to some extent, why not Ohio State, which returns its starting lineup intact save for B.J. Mullens being replaced by 6-9 Kyle Madsen? Here’s thinking the Buckeyes will be even better than last year’s 10-8 conference mark, and definitely better than that flameout against Siena.

Evan Turner might be the league’s best player, and he certainly  showed that early with a nice 14-17-10 trip-dub in his first game. Andy Katz says OSU coaches think William Buford, an NBA talent, is ready to break out. David Lighty has been through the Big Ten wars, while Jon Diebler is deadly from range (6-9 from deep on Monday).

Loyola’s Mr. 6-4 do-it-all Jamar Ragland started on the wing for Alcorn State, and his stat line was indicative of a true freshman debut: 22 minutes, 5 points, 2-10 shooting, 4 rebounds, 5 turnovers, and 3 fouls. Better days ahead for Ragland in the SWAC – those who watched him at Five and Pinehurst know he has ability beyond the low-major level.

Murray State played Cal tight, which might show Detroit a thing or two about how to contain the Bears: check Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher hard on the perimeter. Randle dumped in 82 triples last year but attempted just one on Monday night. Christoper was a manageable 2-5. ESPNU’s one minute highlight clip showed both finishing circus drives at the basket, something I think coaches will live with given their shooting proficiency. This is definitely a top-5 backcourt in America. It will be interesting to see how they both respond with every team knowing that.

Isiah Thomas loses his debut … yawn. Hunt-and-jack of all trades Jeremy Allen is on the roster, but will sit this year due to the transfer rule. William Eddie is an assistant coach. So there are plenty of Detroit connections at FIU. Part of me will watch this saga just because Isiah Thomas is the worst executive in the history of sports. Part of me knows he can hustle, having already landed four-star post Dominique Ferguson and three-star point Phil Taylor for 2010. So we’ll see how that low-major stint works out.

In Monday’s only other game, Syracuse spanked Albany. Here’s thinking the Titans can take two of three of their New York trip if not sweep the whole thing. Don’t know too much about Syracuse yet other than they have tourney-caliber talent, are picked around the middle of the Big East pack, and DaShonte Riley got some garbage time burn (8 minutes, four points). Come to think of it, Boehim’s zone is a perfect fit to ease Riley into the college game. He can sit back and worry more about blocking shots and rebounding than running and chasing smaller, more athletic bigs.

This year / updates

Over the past year I’ve gotten some very positive feedback on the Web site and some suggestions too.  I should have time this season to at least get some brief updates posted to the site.

One thing I will be doing along with Detroit games is seeing more games around the state. I want to see firsthand this year how Detroit stacks up against, Saginaw, Flint, Kalamazoo/Battle Creek, Grand Rapids/West Michigan.

League roundup

Conference season is here, and that means meaningful basketball! Here’s an early rundown of all the important league races:

Detroit PSL

East

Finney (3-3, 1-2) is now on the outside looking in for the second playoff spot in the division. The absence of Isaiah Sykes has hurt more than expected. The Highlanders beat Saginaw with physical play inside and the 3-ball, but became overly reliant on triples and blew a big lead against Pershing. At least the Highlanders will have him back for some meaningful basketball – state playoff time – where it appears Finney is on track for Round 3 with Warren DeLaSalle. Guards Ed Brown and Ray Reeves Jr. have tried to carry the team in Sykes’ absence.

Pershing (3-0) and Southeastern (2-1) remain the favorites, even after Tuesday’s mistake-filled debacle that posed as a matchup between two top 5 teams in the state and the best in the city (if that was the city’s premier teams at their best – thankfully, it wasn’t – Detroit city hoops has fallen farther than even I could have imagined.

Osborn isn’t technically out of anything after starting 2-1 in the division as well. Davetom Odom was credited with a triple-double (24 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in Osborn’s win over Denby. Devontae Baldwin and Marco Page were the other standouts in that win.

Southeast

In a tight race, there are four teams, none among the top six in the city, that will battle for two spots. Ben Kelso and Central with Nkwane Young and Douglass have their teams at the top with 2-1 starts.

DeAngelo Hailey of Central is a pure scoring off-guard who is flying under the radar. Douglass has some frontcourt height and toughness with John Gaston and Dennis Hogan.

King and Northwestern both started 1-1 and both are right in the mix.

West

Cody coach Bryant Tipton, along with the rest of the Detroit basketball world, thought that this would be a breakout season for his program.

That still may be true, but the Comets will have to deal with Henry Ford and Renaissance in likely the league’s strongest division and most competitive division race.

One common thread: all three contenders have solid floor generals, each of whom has yet to commit to a college.

Seniors Demetrius Ford (Cody), Delano Collins (Renaissance) and DeMario Prince (Henry Ford) are all among the league’s top players. All three have been four-year mainstays and you’d be hard-pressed to take one over the others.

ESPN.com gave its evaluation of Collins, who is also considered a football prospect and has the best college potential of the three because of his size (Collins is 6-1; Prince is 5-8 while Ford is 5-10) and physicality:

Power type point who has great strength and the ability to bust inside and score even when getting harassed. Delano has good but not exceptional speed and his added weight gives him an effective low center of gravity. Delano likes to defend the entire 94 feet and enjoys bodying up on the opposing point guard. Plays hard the entire time and can also deliver to teammates while moving.

Ford is up at the top of the division (3-0 league start, edging Cody and Renaissance) because the Trojans added strength inside, adding 6-5 Matthew Hunter, a junior transfer from Consortium, to muscle inside with 6-7 senior Karriem Baker, who is considerably bulked up and playing the best basketball of his career.

If college scouts need to go shopping for the late signing period, the won’t be disappointed in the caliber of player in the PSL West.

Southwest

The breakout player of the year in the Detroit PSL has to be Crockett’s 6-foot-7 junior widebody Devon Long, who is scoring and rebounding with a reckless abandon, already posting two 20-20 games.

He has helped the Rockets to a 3-0 start in the division. Western and Chadsey sit in second with a 2-1 record.

Catholic League

U-D Jesuit got the upper hand in the division by winning its opener against Divine Child. DC’s Pat Biondi is a one-man press break and is easily one of the best athletes in the Detroit area. He didn’t look to score much against U-D but his importance handling the basketball can’t be underestimated. You won’t see his name on many basketball rankings because of his baseball commitment, but Biondi is right in the discussion with Ray McCallum, Jr. and Maurice Jones when it comes to ball-handling floor generals. He rarely turns the ball over, even against double and triple team full-court pressure, and makes his teammates better by finding the open man.

U-D played a strong second half and could be the league’s most dangerous team in transition. The key for the Cubs, because not every team will allow it to get out and run (Divine Child didn’t for most of the game), will be to execute consistently in the half court, especially inside, with the league’s best big man and tallest and deepest frontcourt and wings. That should allow the Cubs to play inside-out and free up some open looks for their sharpshooters.

Any team making it through the first full week of league play unscathed can feel a sense of accomplishment. Brother Rice finds out if its 5-1 start is for real on Tuesday at St. Mary’s. The Eaglets then play Friday at preseason favorite DeLaSalle, while Rice hosts U-D.

The level of talent is much higher than in recent years and the competitiveness of these early-season league games should reflect that.

More later, including Top Games …