Friday, March 16, 2018

What is Georgia getting in Tom Crean?

Tom Crean
AP Images
The Georgia Bulldogs have found their replacement for Mark Fox. Thursday night, the university announced that it had hired Tom Crean to lead its basketball program.
What is Georgia getting in Crean? What's the local reaction? What does he need to do on the recruiting front and what's National Basketball Analyst Eric Bossi's take on the hiring?


During a head coaching career that included a total of 18 years as head coach at Marquette and Indiana, Crean posted a 356-231 record. He has reached the NCAA Tournament nine times, made the Final Four at Marquette in 2003 an reached the Sweet Sixteen three times during his nine years at Indiana.
Though he only finished below .500 one of his nine years at Marquette, Crean's teams at Indiana were under .500 on five occasions. Crean won one Conference USA regular season title at Marquette and two at Indiana.
During his nine seasons at Indiana, Crean landed a total of 22 Rivals150 players and included in that bunch were four five-star prospects.


Some of the top local coaches from the state of Georgia gave their reactions to Crean's hire to
Discovery High School head coach Cory Cason: “Hopefully coach Crean can come into Athens and push the program over the hump. I think coach Fox and his staff really laid a great foundation for the program. He’s got some good returning pieces especially in the front line and I know we are looking to see the Dawgs back in the NCAA Tournament soon. The ability to consistently recruit the Atlanta area will be a huge factor in his success.
Georgia Stars 17U head coach Chris Richards: “He’s got experience getting high level players and has had a lot of success in the tournament. It’s a good move for Georgia.”
Norcross head coach Jesse McMillan: “Whatever direction UGA goes with the new coach, my biggest concern would be the hiring of someone with little to no connections to our state. I believe all Georgia prep coaches want our in-state colleges and universities to be successful. Unfortunately, this cannot happen without genuine connections. The previous UGA staff was really starting to create those relationships as seen with the recent commitments from top Georgia players, but it took almost a decade to do so. I’m afraid that history will repeat itself without a well-thought out hire. Keeping Jonas Hayes would help. That would definitely bring some continuity.”
Rory Welsh at Langston Hughes HS: "Has a ton of high-level experience with Indiana and Marquette. Proved he can win games in the NCAA tourney. But, obviously he's a Midwest guy, will be interesting to see how he assimilates to recruiting in the South."


6'9" 235 LBS PF
Georgia currently has two prospects signed in the 2018 class in four-star power forward 
 and three-star small forward  . As long as Crean makes an effort to keep them, it’s likely both will stick around. In the past month, Georgia lost both highly ranked 2019 commitments as five-star point   backed out followed by four-star small forward   earlier this week.
Crean will have one scholarship available heading into his new gig. Rumors have swirled for a while that Hagans could move up to the 2018 class, so he immediately becomes Crean’s biggest target in the short term. If he’s on campus next season, he changes Georgia’s whole roster immediately. Beyond that there's not a lot left in the class of 2018. Crean will likely at least inquire about five-star power 
 but Montgomery is already pretty far down the road with national powers like DukeKentucky and North Carolina among others. Three-star point guard   recently backed out of his commitment to Memphis following Tubby Smith’s dismissal and could be an option as could three-star combo guard   if he opts out of his Middle Tennessee State letter of intent with Kermit Davis heading to Ole Miss.
In the 2019 class, there are quite a few players for Crean to immediately get involved with. Four-star wings 
 and  are all talented wings located within 100 miles of Georgia’s campus.   and   are point guards ranked in the Rivals150 located just down highway 316 in Gwinnett County. There are also under the radar prospects like   and   who could pop up on Georgia’s radar just in the state alone. If the Bulldogs are able to reel Hagans back in, five-star wing   is a prospect Georgia’s previous staff made a lot of progress with as he’s close friends with Hagans and a former Game Elite teammate.
It should also be noted that five-star forward 
's brother,  , played for Crean at Indiana.


Tom Crean has proven that he is able to get things done at a high level. At the same time, things started to get ugly towards the end of his tenure at Indiana.
My main questions are regarding on the court performance and local recruiting. Those are the two areas that Georgia most wanted to improve because mediocre was no longer going to be good enough. 
However, during nine years at Indiana - one of the nation's premier jobs - Crean posted almost the exact same overall records (166-135, 71-91) that Fox (163-133, 77-79) did during his nine years at Georgia. In Crean's defense, he inherited a huge mess that included NCAA issues and he did make three Sweet Sixteens along with winning the Big Ten twice. The best Fox did at Georgia was tie for second in the SEC and he failed to win a single game in his two NCAA Tournament appearances. From a standpoint of winning league titles and wining games in the NCAA Tournament, Crean is clearly a big upgrade.
Given his start at Marquette and the ability he's shown to develop players like 
and   from three-star prospects into first round picks, I do not doubt that Crean can coach and maximize talent. The issue is going to be getting enough talent, particularly locally.

Prior to leaving Indiana, a big disconnect was developing between Crean and the local talent. Of the 38 four-star prospects to play in the state of Indiana while Crean was coach, he landed only seven of them and that includes 2012 when he landed four. After landing the four in 2012, Crean only landed one of 23 four-star or better prospects from the state of Indiana - five-star 
 in 2014 - between 2013 and his final 2017 season.
I do think that a year off like Crean had can do wonders. Hopefully he's been able to re-evaluate how he does things and most of all how he builds local relationships for recruiting. In order to succeed at Georgia it's going to be imperative that he recruits locally better than he did while at Indiana. If he can put together a staff that can help keep home some local talent while still recruiting nationally like he has proven he can do, then Crean could very well be the guy to turn Georgia into the program many nationally think the Bulldogs could be.

Monday, March 12, 2018

"TeamHollyHoops": 'Zona will cut down the nets!

March Madness Baby!!!  Basketball’s best time of the year…..way more fun to watch college kids party than the NBA’s 7 game set-piece (although that has it’s own fun as well).

So who am I taking and why?  Let’s go through the brackets:


South Region
Who doesn’t love Virginia – high IQ in the classroom on the court….overall the tournament’s top-seed.  Kentucky’s Diaper Dandy’s finally started to jell towards the end of the year.  Davidson is everyone’s darling including super-alumni Steph Curry.  Cincinnati has the muscle and the meanness.  But c’mon, nothing would cause the NCAA more misery than the Wildcats from Arizona advancing to the Final Four.  They were undervalued in their seeding in my opinion.  Deandre Ayton could be the #1 pick right ahead of Marvin Bagley.

My Final Four Pick:          

West Region
Nothing struck my fancy here except North Carolina is a 2 seed with 10 losses.  Xavier is the #1 seed but Gonzaga and Michigan are the hottest teams form this region entering the tournament.  Great Final Four story last year, but not the same line-up for Mark Few’s Gonzaga squad.  Michigan has the better fight song, and their Big Ten tournament win over rival Sparty is more impressive.  Hail to the Victors!

Team Holly’s West Region Champ:  

East Region
Will I ever pick a one seed?  Villanova under Jay Wright has been arguably the best program in the country the last 4 years.  I like Purdue’s size, and I’m crushin’ on fellow Atlanta superstar Colin Sexton…..but this region doesn’t match up with ’Nova.  Philly’s best heads to San Antonio.

Holly’s Hot Take:              

Midwest Region
Did Jay Bilas say the South was the toughest region???  No way Jay!  Sparty, the Dookies, Kansas, and an assortment of 20+ winning teams from Power 5 conferences…….everyone loved Michigan State at the beginning of the year, and Izzo usually gets his guys to perform well in the tournament.  But Coach K has a free path to the Sweet 16, that will galvanize his young players to meet the moment (Coach Izzo does have better hair, sorry Coach K).  Cameron Indoor’s Finest will advance to the Final Four!

Holly’s “I love the men from Duke” pick:                

So, who cuts down the nets in San Antonio?

Arizona is too strong for Michigan, and Duke has too much talent for Villanova to hold off.  In the finals, it will be Arizona vs. Duke, with a match made in NBA front-office heaven.  Who wins the title?  ‘Zona, with too much Ayton, knocks off the Devils 72-66.  We get to watch the NCAA staff squirm as the trophy is handed to Sean Miller…..FBI agents will remain on the sideline for now.  😊


"March Madness: The Bracket is Here!!!"

"March Madness is Here!!!"

By Myron Medcalf.  ESPN Reprint
I've heard it all in the years I've written my annual bold predictions. These critiques often follow calls for my resignation and subsequent retirement from sports journalism.
North Carolina fans still point to the infamous "UNC won't last the first weekend" prediction in 2016. Well, the Tar Heels reached the national title game that year.
But ... I'm still here!
I'm not deterred. And I won't waste time explaining the intent of a piece called bold predictions. Let's just get to it.
Adjust your brackets accordingly. Here are this season's bold predictions for the NCAA tournament:
Duke's Grayson Allen (3) reacts during the ACC Tournament vs. North Carolina Andres Kudacki/AP Photo
The entire ACC will watch the Final Four from home
No league in America matched the ACC's nine-bid haul on Selection Sunday. But the paths for the league's top contenders -- North Carolina, Virginia and Duke -- to reach the Final Four come with complications. Virginia's path to San Antonio will probably demand a win over Arizona or Kentucky -- a pair of squads with unique frontcourts and big wings capable of playing the inside-outside attack needed to beat Tony Bennett's team -- in the Sweet 16. Tennessee or Cincinnati would probably await the Cavaliers in the Elite Eight if they pass those tests. This is a loaded region for the No. 1 overall seed. Michigan State, Rhode Island, Oklahoma, Kansas and Auburn could all block Duke, a team that lost two games to a North Carolina squad that shot below 34 percent from the 3-point line, from reaching the last stage of the NCAA tournament.
North Carolina entered the ACC tournament title game against Virginia with a chance to contend for a top seed. But one of the Tar Heels' most blatant weaknesses in league play was their porous perimeter defense and mediocre shooting from the 3-point line. The West Region features potent shooters from Xavier, Missouri, Gonzaga, Houston and Michigan. No other squads in the league boast the tools necessary to reach the Final Four. So grab a couch, ACC. After winning two of the past three national titles, you'll watch the action in San Antonio from home this year.
Yes, Arizona to the Final Four
Significant elements of this Arizona team's production point to a first-round loss to Buffalo (58.8 percent mark inside the arc in conference play) more than a deep run. Teams in the 70s on's adjusted defensive efficiency rankings don't reach the Final Four. Defensive problems are the greatest indicators of a team's ability, or lack thereof, to win a title.
But no opponent has registered more than 1.00 point per possession against the Wildcats during their current five-game win streak. They're capable of swarming teams.
If they can play solid defense in the NCAA tournament, Deandre Ayton will handle the rest. The 7-foot-1, 260-pound prospect is averaging 20.3 PPG, 11.5 RPG and 1.9 BPG. He has made 82 percent of his shots at the rim this season, per Against man-to-man defenses, he has made 58.9 percent of his shots, placing him in the 97th percentile, per Synergy Sports.
I think Virginia is playing the best defense we've seen in years. I think Kentucky is hot and dangerous right now. I think Tennessee and Cincinnati are both impressive contenders Arizona might have to face to escape the South Region.
But nothing -- absolutely nothing -- seems too difficult for Ayton to overcome with the support of an Arizona team that's arguably the most perplexing matchup in the field.
That's why I believe Sean Miller's run won't end until he captures his first trip to the Final Four.
Davidson KO's Kentucky in the first round
If Kentucky were playing any other 12-seed in the opening round, I would pick the Wildcats to win by 20. Right now, Kentucky is capable of dominating any team that allows John Calipari's squad to dictate the flow of the game.
They're not a great 3-point-shooting team, but they ruin you with their size, explosiveness and skill. They're relentless now.
But Florida disrupted everything Kentucky attempted to do when the Gators limited their turnovers and made 41 percent of their 3-point attempts in a win on March 3, the Wildcats' second loss of the year to the Gators.
Davidson has averaged 10 made 3-pointers in its past four games, a 4-0 stretch that includes two wins over Rhode Island and another over St. Bonaventure, a pair of NCAA tournament teams. Peyton Aldridge leads a group of seven players -- from 6-foot-2 to 6-foot-11 -- who've made at least 39 percent of their 3-pointers this season.
Yeah, Davidson's best chance to beat Kentucky involves turning the game into a shootout and shredding this talented group from beyond the arc.
They're capable of doing just that.
Gonzaga loses in the national title game ... again
Gonzaga lost Zach Collins, a first-round pick in last summer's NBA draft, and veteran big man Przemek Karnowski. But the Bulldogs are more versatile now with the development of Rui HachimuraJohnathan WilliamsJosh Perkins and Zach Norvell. They're ranked within the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. This balanced roster can handle anything in the West Region, including Xavier, Ohio State, North Carolina and Michigan.
They're equipped to reach the national championship game for the second consecutive season. Sorry, Bulldogs. That's where you'll lose to ...
Michigan State will end the Big Ten's drought and win its first national title since 2000
The field is stacked in every region, but the Midwest seems surmountable for a team like Michigan State. Kansas, the top seed in the region, might not have a healthy Udoka Azubuike. Even if the Jayhawks do have their big man available and ready, Michigan State has the highest ceiling in the region for any team not named Duke. But the Blue Devils didn't play this version of the Spartans at the Champions Classic in November.
Jaren Jackson Jr., a 6-foot-11 forward who has made 40 percent of his 3-pointers this season and who recently won Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors, will become a household name this week. Miles Bridges has strengthened his already lofty draft stock in his sophomore season.
The Spartans have depth. They have a savvy guard named Cassius Winston. They have Tom Izzo. And they've lost one game since Jan. 13.
The Big Ten's 18-year national title drought -- Michigan State last won it in 2000 -- will come to an end this season in San Antonio, as Michigan State stands atop the dais in San Antonio.
Virginia will hold its first two opponents to under 80 points combined
North Carolina's top-five offense failed to reach 50 points in a Jan. 6 loss to Virginia. It's not crazy to predict UMBC and the Creighton-Kansas State winner won't collect 80 points combined against the Cavaliers, the greatest defensive collective of the advanced stats era, in the opening weekend.
New Mexico State will reach the Sweet 16
The Aggies boast wins over Davidson and Miami. They're ranked among the top 20 teams in adjusted defensive efficiency and top 10 in 3-point defense. With Zach Lofton (19.8 PPG), they'll attack Clemson and Auburn at the rim. Clemson (Donte Grantham), NMSU's opening-round opponent, and Auburn (Anfernee McLemore), a probable second-round opponent, are each missing one of their biggest pieces in the paint. They haven't been the same teams without those contributors. New Mexico State will expose those vulnerabilities and advance to the second weekend.
The SEC won't send a team to the second weekend of the tournament
Let's walk through this: Davidson over Kentucky (see above). New Mexico State over Auburn in the second round (see above). The Loyola-Chicago team (40 percent from the 3-point line) that Tennessee will see in the second round has played above the expectations attached to its seed and will shock the world with a win over the Vols. Ed Cooley's Providence team just defeated Villanova, Xavier, Creighton and Marquette within the past month and can handle an oft-undisciplined Texas A&M squad in the first round. Alabama got hot in the SEC tournament, but Justin Robinson and Virginia Tech will hound Collin Sextonand win. Florida can hit the 3-ball, but scoring inside has been the challenge with this undersized squad. The Gators could go cold against the St. Bonaventure-UCLA winner in the First Four. In the second round, Michael Porter Jr. and Missouri will fall to a Xavier team that's one of the nation's most talented and scrappiest squads. And Purdue will dominate Arkansas, a team that has lost multiple games by double digits this season, in the second round with its size in the post and its ability to hit 3-pointers.
The double-digit seed will win every 6-11 matchup in the first round
Mark it down. Loyola-Chicago will contest shots around the rim and play an efficient game to beat Miami in the opening round. Remember, this is a Loyola-Chicago team that went to Florida and won, a squad with a defense ranked within the top 30 on San Diego State just held a top-10 offense at Nevada under 75 points twice in a six-day stretch. Brian Dutcher's squad ain't afraid of Houston. TCU hasn't won a game since Feb. 27. And its staying power will demand a win over Syracuse's maddening defense or an Arizona State squad that put up 102 points in a win over Xavier. I'll pick the double-digit seed here. Same with an unreliable Florida team against St. Bonaventure or UCLA. The inconsistency of Florida, a team with losses to Vanderbilt and South Carolina and its struggles to diversify its offense in tough times, spells trouble.
Trae Young will drop 40 points and 10 assists on Duke in a second-round loss
Oklahoma's collapse down the stretch nearly cost the Sooners a trip to the NCAA tournament. Many national pundits have criticized the selection committee for assigning this reeling Oklahoma squad a 10-seed.
But the Sooners have dismissed more imposing teams (Kansas, Wichita State, Texas Tech) than the Rhode Island squad they'll face on a neutral court this week. They'll push the pace and expose Rhode Island's limited playmaking ability. And that win will propel Oklahoma into a second-round matchup against Duke -- just a coincidence, since the committee ignores TV-friendly pairings and only focuses on performance.
Young is a competitor. He knows he's lost the mojo he enjoyed earlier this season. But this is Young's last collegiate stretch and another chance to finish his brief career with a redemptive finale. Young will author a memorable 40-point, 10-assist effort in a loss to Duke that will eliminate Oklahoma but confirm Young's gifts and talents, a rare skill set that carried an 11-win team a season ago to the NCAA tournament.