Mark Titus’s College Basketball Mailbag, Part 2

Jamie Squire/Getty Images Wiggins Embiid

Check out Part 1, here.

Hit us with your NBA draft big board right now.
— Peter J.

Excluding Dante Exum, because you’re out of your mind if you think I’m following guys who don’t play college basketball, here’s how I’d draft them today.

1. Joel Embiid
2. Jabari Parker
3. Aaron Craft (Just kidding.)
3. Andrew Wiggins
4. Marcus Smart
5. Julius Randle
6. Aaron Gordon
7-100. Nobody cares anyway

In The Book of Basketball Simmons loosely places the odds of the world getting another Hakeem Olajuwon around kajillionpilliongazillionfrazillionfriggallionmillion to one. But isn’t Joel Embiid’s life story strikingly similar to Hakeem’s? So wouldn’t it be smart to bet a dollar with those odds and hope for the best?
— Evan B.

Of course it would. I mean, it’s crazy to say with any confidence that Embiid will come close to having a career like Olajuwon’s, but if ever there were a 19-year-old who looked like a carbon copy of 19-year-old Olajuwon, it’s Embiid. I get the feeling that a lot of people watched the Kansas-Duke game at the start of the season saw that Kansas had a few losses after that game, and have now just assumed that Wiggins was overrated and that his supporting cast isn’t much to speak of. But whether or not the rest of the country has been watching, Embiid seems to get significantly better every time he sets foot on a court. Like Olajuwon, he’s a physical marvel — 7-foot, 250 pounds — yet he moves like a point guard. He’s got incredible instincts and a great jump shot for someone who has only played basketball for three years, and he’s already got the Dream Shake in his arsenal. So yes, place that bet. Worst-case scenario, you’re out a dollar. Best case, you’re a kajillionpilliongazillionfrazillionfriggallionmillionaire.

Is this going to be the tightest Player of the Year race ever? Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Jabari Parker, and Shabazz Napier are all seriously in the mix.
— Danny H.

It’s certainly shaping up that way. Right now I could see any of those four winning, along with Doug McDermott, Russ Smith, C.J. Fair, and Marcus Paige. And it wouldn’t surprise me if Wiggins, Adreian Payne, Chaz Williams, T.J. Warren, or Kyle Anderson came on strong during conference play. As far as I’m concerned, the only POY awards that matter are the Naismith, Wooden, and AP awards. Only twice in the last 20 years have these three not been unanimous, with the most recent instance coming in 2003, when David West was named AP POY and T.J. Ford won the Naismith and Wooden. Never have there been three different winners in the same year. History says that in the next few months, one guy will distance himself from the rest of the pack and all this talk will be pointless. But I think this season could be different, and there’s an excellent chance that we’ll see multiple winners for the first time in more than a decade. Even three different winners feels like a very real possibility.

Is there a potential Victor Oladipo out there this year — a returning player who wasn’t on anyone’s radar at the beginning of the season who then climbs into the lottery? Bonus points if they unseat a teammate in the POY discussion.
— Keegan M.

He’s not on Oladipo’s level, but Oklahoma State’s Markel Brown immediately comes to mind. He won’t be a lottery pick and he probably won’t sniff the first round, but his name should start jetting up mock draft boards if it hasn’t already. He’s undersize and he’s a senior (so he’s not fresh out of the womb like NBA scouts prefer), but he more than makes up for those drawbacks with his consistently great performances for a team that’s been in the top 10 all season. The reason why he’s my pick for this year’s Oladipo, though, is that he might be the main reason why Smart doesn’t win the POY awards. Just look at these stat lines and guess which belongs to Smart and which to Brown:

Player A: 16.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.9 steals, 1.2 blocks, 1.1 TOs, 51-42-79 shooting splits

Player B: 18.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.8 steals, 0.7 blocks, 3.0 TOs, 46-32-69 shooting splits

The steals give it away that Smart is Player B. But if you just look at the offensive numbers, Brown is arguably having a better year. Again, nobody is going to suggest that Brown is better than Smart or that Brown should be a lottery pick, but it’s worth noting that Brown is good enough to be the best player on a lot of teams and he’s having a monster season as Smart gets all the headlines.

Where do you think the A-10 ranks among conferences? I’m starting to think they should be taken more seriously. How many A-10 teams can get into the NCAA tournament?
— Ross K.

My power rankings of the best conferences in college basketball right now in terms of overall depth:

1. Big 12
2. Big Ten
3. Big East
4. ACC
5. Pac-12
6. A-10
7. SEC
8. American (I’m officially throwing in the towel on calling it the Battery)
9. ??????
33. Whatever conference Grambling State competes in

The SEC and American have more substance up top than the A-10, but I expect the A-10 to be more competitive and to get more teams into the NCAA tournament. UMass, St. Louis, and VCU are locks to make the Big Dance; Dayton and George Washington should be in, too, and Richmond could definitely play its way to a bid. A couple of things to remember here, though: There’s still a ton of basketball left to be played, and I’m pretty terrible when it comes to bracketology.

Can you hear that? It’s the sound of the #BUZZOUT movement, lost and misguided, stomping and splashing in the baby pool, needing your fearless leadership. The “Twitter account, the #BuzzOut hashtag, the radio show takeover, the ads in the Greensboro News & Record, the billboard, and best of all” that you referenced were all dandy, but no one has stepped up for the SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL KICKSTARTER!
We need you, Mark. Be the leader that Winston-Salem may not deserve, but clearly needs.
— Justin H.

I feel so bad for Wake Forest fans. The #BuzzOut movement was gaining traction, but then the Demon Deacons started out 10-3. If the last three seasons weren’t enough for Jeff Bzdelik to get fired, there’s no telling what a 103 non-conference record is going to do. If Wake Forest beats the Tar Heels on Sunday, Ron Wellman will probably do all he can to make Bzdelik governor of North Carolina. Wake Forest fans are caught in that weird place that Dallas Cowboys fans know all too well: You don’t know if you should cheer for your team to win, because then the coach will get credit and hold on to his job longer, or if you should root for them to nosedive so changes will have to be made. As it stands, Bzdelik appears to be good enough to keep his job but not good enough for Winston-Salem to have any kind of hope, and the #BuzzOut movement is losing steam.

The holiday season is a joyful time for so many of us, but as you celebrate with your loved ones, please remember that there are some people out there who aren’t as privileged as the rest. For them, the holidays are a cruel reminder that what they truly want is unattainable. So if it’s not too much to ask, please say a little prayer for these Wake Forest fans. Maybe even look up a random Winston-Salem address and send a card that says you’re thinking about them. Any little bit helps.

Speaking of basketball fans in North Carolina, let’s check in on how things are going over in Chapel Hill.

Why, James Michael McAdoo? WHY???
— Matt O.

Don’t bother sending Tar Heel fans cards. Just send alcohol. Lots of alcohol.

As someone who graced the floor of Value City Arena, what are your feelings on corporate naming rights for college athletics facilities? As a lifelong Hoosier, I am extremely disappointed with the announcement of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. I don’t find it to be terribly philanthropic to require your unpronounceable name to be added to the building.
— Tyler T.

Look, Assembly Hall desperately needed a face-lift. Having seen a game in just about every iconic arena other than Cameron Indoor, the only atmosphere I’ve seen that can compete with Assembly Hall is Phog Allen Fieldhouse. At the same time, Assembly Hall might rank dead last on my list of arenas that provide an enjoyable experience. The bathrooms and concession stands are inadequate, the steps are unfathomably steep, and sitting in the top rows of the lower section is one of the most claustrophobic things you could ever do. If IU isn’t playing a ranked team or if you’re not ripping pulls from a bottle of Jack in the parking lot before you walk in, chances are you will notice how uncomfortable you are at some point during the game. So in that regard, Cindy Simon Skjodt can’t be thanked enough and should get anything she wants at Indiana … except for her name on Assembly Hall. I’m fine with Ohio State playing in Value City Arena, NC State playing in PNC Arena, DePaul playing in Allstate Arena, etc. It’s a necessary evil in today’s sports world. But there are some meccas of college basketball that shouldn’t be messed with, and Assembly Hall is one of them. If Indiana wanted to play that game, fine. But do what Louisville did and just start from scratch. KFC Yum! Center is cheesy, but ultimately not that big of a deal. KFC Yum! Freedom Hall would have been blasphemy. I know everyone will still just call it Assembly Hall, but I don’t want the outside to read anything other than “Assembly Hall,” just like I don’t want Michigan Stadium to read “Marshall Mathers Michigan Stadium” and I don’t want Notre Dame Stadium to be “Regis Philbin Notre Dame Stadium.” Hell, I even would have opposed Indiana changing the name of the place to “Bob Knight Assembly Hall,” and I would probably kiss Knight’s unwashed feet if given the chance.

To sum it up: I’m not angry at anyone in particular and I think Skjodt should get nothing but praise from Hoosier Nation. But at the same time, the situation sucks and I can’t help but wish for Indiana to have chosen anything else on campus to name after her.

I’m a high school basketball coach, and when our staff scouts teams we often have a discussion that revolves around which player would fit most seamlessly into a girl’s game. By that I mean the way that they run, shoot, and carry themselves reminds us of the style of women’s basketball. What men’s college player fits this?
— Dan M.

This doesn’t really answer your question, but it’s at least semi-related: Thanks to the links I’m about to provide, you’ll notice every time you watch Kansas for the rest of the season that Andrew Wiggins puts his hands on his hips in a unique way.

What is your take on Carleton University from Ottawa, which not only has won nine of the last 11 Canadian national titles, but beat Wisconsin 95-82 in an exhibition game this year and lost to Syracuse by four in OT after blowing a 15-point lead with 10 to go. The Ravens, who crush Canadian teams, also beat Towson and TCU by 26 each, and lost at Cincinnati, 77-63. Should they open a satellite campus in Ohio and petition to join the NCAA, or would they be way over their heads?
— Greg K.

This email makes up 100 percent of my knowledge of Canadian college basketball. I blame Jonah Keri for not keeping me up to speed. Anyway, I was going to write a snarky response about how irrelevant Canadian basketball is to me, but this actually got me thinking: How far are we from a superstar Canadian staying in Canada to play college ball? Exhibition games don’t mean much, but if what you say is true and Carleton could be a solid NCAA team, might it be possible for a Canadian one-and-done guy like Wiggins to stay home for college?

Since 1950, Jim Zoet is the only Canadian to play college basketball in Canada and then play in the NBA, but even he spent his first three years at Kent State, and he only scored two career points in the league. With that, a Wiggins/Anthony Bennett/Tristan Thompson/Cory Joseph staying in Canada for college would be a big deal. The prevailing thought is that a prospect needs to play against the best competition to get better and improve his draft stock, but what if that’s overblown? Would Wiggins really be significantly worse in June if he played for Carleton instead of Kansas? Even if he were drafted 10th instead of first because of his college choice, if he lived up to the hype he’d make just as much NBA money in the long run. Before long, a Canadian kid is going to want to go to college close to home, where he can try to average 40 points a game, put the school on the map, and become a Canadian basketball legend, right? I don’t exactly know why, but now I really want to see this happen. Fingers crossed Justin Jackson does it in 2016.

I grew up in the suburbs of Philly. Both of my parents attended Villanova and we’ve had season tickets since I can remember. I’ve been a die-hard Nova fan since I was about 12. Because Nova is so close to home, and because I wanted to attend an awesome party school, I chose to attend THE Pennsylvania State University. However, I continued my Nova fandom. I’ll root for PSU, but Nova is still no. 1 in my heart. Is this OK? I can’t force myself into rooting for PSU over Nova. I just wanna know if this is some kind of violation.
— Kevin R.

I remember addressing something similar in a mailbag last year, but this is always an interesting dilemma so I’ll tackle it again here. Here’s my stance: Alma mater trumps everything else. You can watch more Villanova games than Penn State games, cheer louder for Nova, and cry harder when Nova loses. But if Villanova and Penn State play each other, the only acceptable excuse for cheering against your alma mater is that you want the coach/athletic director fired. I mean, how many times have you thrown up after eating too much ice cream at Villanova’s creamery? How many dongs have you seen flopping around on Villanova’s Mifflin Road during finals week? How many times did you get baked on Villanova’s campus, get a couple of boxes of Grilled Stickies, and play Mario Kart until the sun came up? I’m guessing the answer is zero. You poured a ton of blood, sweat, tears, vomit, and money into Penn State. It’s part of you now. Embrace everything the school stands for, even if it includes mediocre basketball and Stanley Pringle wanking in the library. Have as many backup teams as you want, but don’t turn your back on the institution that provided you with so much.

But what I do I know? Do what you want. I’m just some schlub who gets paid to sit on the couch with no pants on and watch college basketball as I shove Doritos into my mouth.

My vertical is measured in millimeters, but I once threw an alley-oop off the backboard to a teammate in high school. What is your best “dunk story”?
— Chris M.

You mean what’s my best dunk story other than the time I had two assists in less than a minute and each of them led to dunks? Because my best dunk story is the time I had two assists in less than a minute and each of them led to dunks.

Thanks again to everyone who wrote in. Enjoy the holidays. See you in 2014.

Filed Under: College Basketball, Mark Titus

Mark Titus is the founder and author of the blog Club Trillion. His book, Don’t Put Me In, Coach, chronicles his career as a walk-on benchwarmer for the Ohio State basketball team and is on sale now.

Archive @ clubtrillion