The WDRB College Basketball Notebook is gearing up for the start of basketball season in a big way. Among the items you can look for in the coming days from WDRB and WDRB.com is an extensive survey of national sports media to come up with the best five players from the Big Three teams. We also asked basketball voices from Vitale to Feinstein who among Rick Pitino, John Calipari and Tom Crean they'd pick to coach the squad, and more than 40 took up the challenge.
The sports staff also is working on a half-hour college basketball preview television show, featuring one-one-interviews with all three coaches: Rick Bozich speaking with Crean, Eric Crawford with Pitino and WDRB sports director Tom Lane with Calipari.
Also, watch for features on all three and more in-depth features on the teams -- as well as hoops coverage home and away -- at WDRB.com.
Enough sales pitch. Let's tip off the 'Book . . .
PITINO ON FUTURE: "THE LAKERS AREN'T WALKING THROUGH THAT DOOR"
After Tom Jurich made a point of trying to get Rick Pitino to commit publicly to a five-year contract extension during his 15th anniversary news conference last week, Pitino was asked about that possibility on Saturday.
"They're all talk, they never make me an offer," Pitino quipped. "I think it's a PR stunt, I really do. Make believe they're offering and then don't. No, I'm only kidding. We'll probably come up with something. They know I'm not going anywhere. The Lakers aren't walking through that door. The Miami Heat aren't walking through that door."
PITINO SAYS HARRELL IS FINE AFTER PRACTICE SPILL
For a guy who, as Pitino will tell you, dropped into his lap, it's already difficult to imagine this University of Louisville basketball team without freshman Montrezl Harrell. He took a hard spill trying to finish on a dunk during the team's third public Red-White scrimmage on Saturday, and left the game with what looked like some kind of discomfort in his back.
Harrell stretched quite a bit on the bench, then was taken into the tunnel where trainers were working on stretching him out and having him run.
After the scrimmage, however, Pitino seemed unconcerned.
"Players always get hurt when they miss the shot," he said. "When it goes in, they never get in, especially freshmen."
Of the scrimmage itself, Pitino said his team has made quite a bit of offensive progress in the past two weeks, even though it isn't running the offense it expects to show in the season opener against Manhattan.
"I thought it was the best we've looked offensively," Pitino said after Saturday's scrimmage. "I thought Peyton (Siva) and Russ (Smith) were terrific at distributing the basketball. I liked the pace of the game. I love the high outlets and pace and looking up the court. I'd like to see that every, single play."
NOT ALL 'FRESHMAN ISSUES' ARE GLAMOROUS FOR CALIPARI
A year ago, you didn't hear much talk about dealing with "freshman issues" from John Calipari. He's already signaling that this year's group of newcomers, while very talented, is taking a bit more intensive effort on not only fundamentals but physical conditioning.
"We haven't figured it out yet," he said after Wednesday's Blue-White game. "I'm trying to get guys to play a certain way and they're trying. But it's the first time we've -- we've scrimmaged this year 12 minutes. We have so much to do to create habits, we really haven't been able to scrimmage, and it kind of showed, but I'm not worried about it. It was a lesson and there will be some stuff I'll be able to show them to make a point of what we're trying to do."
". . . But what happens with young kids, they stop playing all the time. The game's going on, and one time I looked over and Alex (Poythress) is grabbing his shorts. The ball's in play. The ball is in play. And that's just, freshmen. So we have a lot of freshman issues right now that we're going to have to deal with, but that's part of what happens when you lose your entire team."
CREAN READY TO USE BENCH -- FOR PRODUCTION AND MOTIVATION
The only problem that Indiana coach Tom Crean has not had to deal with during his four-plus seasons in Bloomington has been great expectations. Even last season, when the Hoosiers crashed the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, IU was picked to finish in the bottom half of the Big Ten in several publications.
Those were the days, my friend, and many people thought they would never end. They have. Indiana was the pick to win the league at Big Ten media day, and the Hoosiers were voted No. 1 in the pre-season USA Today coaches' poll and Associated Press writers' poll.
Motivation is one of Crean's strengths, and he told The ‘Book that he has already settled on his strategy to deal with all the praise his program has been receiving.
"I think we're in a position where if the human elements kicks in and we start to feel pretty good about ourselves and we start to have a guy or two that might think they're above and beyond this, I think we have enough competition here where that will get shook up pretty quick," Crean said. "That's one of the keys.
"After going through everything that we've gone through here and having so many short benches, it's really, really important that we have deep team. We want to play that way, but at the same time you want to be in a situation where if this guy's not playing well and this guy's mind is not where it needs to be, you don't have to wait for him.
"Championship level programs don't wait for anybody. They just keep moving forward. That's exactly where we want to be."
WHO DOES KENTUCKY HAVE TO BEAT FOR ANDREW WIGGINS?
This is how much love Andrew Wiggins gets from the recruiting world: He was ranked the top player in the Class of 2014, but now that he's reclassifying to the 2013 class many believe he will rocket past Jabari Parker and Julius Randle and be ranked the best player in that class, too.
Wiggins is 6 feet 7, a slashing forward who plays at Huntington (W.Va.) Prep. His father is Mitchell Wiggins, who played at Florida State and then averaged 10 points per game over six seasons in the NBA, where he played with Rodney McCray on the Houston Rockets.
Speculation has been that Wiggins will attend either Florida State or Kentucky, but Mitchell Wiggins has encouraged other coaches to look at his talented son.
The word in the recruiting grapevine is that Syracuse is making a major push on Wiggins and that North Carolina coach Roy Williams also plans to get involved. And don't forget Kansas. Bill Self has never ducked a good recruiting scrum.
Hold on. Duke and Ohio State are also in the discussion. Game on.
COACH K LIKES ONE-AND-DONES ABOUT AS MUCH AS HE LIKES TAR HEELS
Mike Krzyzewski has coached several one-and-done players during his three-decade run at Duke. Austin Rivers did the one-and-done thing with the Blue Devils last winter. Nobody was surprised when Rivers said goodbye after his freshman season. Coach K knows the way the world works.
But that doesn't mean Coach K likes the rule. He doesn't. Like many coaches, including John Calipari at Kentucky, Krzyzewski would like to see the situation changed by the NBA and its Players Association because they're the ones making the rules.
Coach K talked about the rule and its impact on the college game during an interview with Colin Cowherd of ESPN radio. The ‘Book routinely changes the channel whenever Cowherd turns on his microphone. But we'll credit him with asking a reasonable question.
"I think if you're going to stay in the business, you better be comfortable with it (the one-and-done rule) because that's the environment," Krzyzewski said. "The thing about college basketball is the decision's made above us — not by the NCAA, but by the NBA and the Player's Union — it really determines the environment for college basketball in that regard.
"I don't see that changing. "I think the one and done has been really good for the NBA. I'm not sure it's been as good for the Player's Union, but it's been good for the NBA because they get to market a high school talent for at least a year. You put him in that NCAA marketing machine that we have, Final Four, NCAA Tournament, throughout the year in college basketball and then they get a chance to see a youngster's performance, so there are less mistakes made in the draft as a result of it and much, much more marketing.
"Overall I think it hurts our game, the college game, a little bit because it kind of ruins, or can hurt, the relationship we have. You know we are all members of academic institutions and it kind of throws the academic side of it down because you're not there for a total education, you're there for six or seven months.
"I would like to see kids still be able to go out of high school and then if they didn't go straight out of high school, then at least stay two years, which would validate their existence in an NCAA academic institution. And then if they could go earlier, you know I've had a few guys that I have coached with the national team — Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James — they came out of high school and didn't go to college and … I think they're doing pretty well the last time I checked."
DAKICH: BIG EAST REALIGNMENT -- ODD, WEIRD, STRANGE
Former Indiana player and coach Dan Dakich is a rising star as college basketball analyst at ESPN. He draws more top-level assignments every season because Dakich is insightful and opinionated.
Listeners to his popular mid-day radio show in Indianapolis are aware of that. The ‘Book is a big, big fan of Dakich – and not just because he grew up in Gary, Indiana.
Dakich is not just a Big Ten guy. He follows all the leagues. And in an interview with Bob Wolfley of the Journal-Sentinel newspaper in Milwaukee, Dakich said several things that The ‘Book also believes. His sense of college basketball geography and tradition has been turned upside down by Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame leaving the Big East for the ACC.
"I think it's terrible for the Big East, I do," Dakich said. "I was a guy who grew up watching Pearl Washington (of Syracuse) take on Georgetown. I just thought those were the rivalries that made college basketball on television.
"But anyone who has been around college sports, whether it's football or basketball, understands that you have to go and make a deal for the best of your institution. But it certainly will be odd. It certainly, in Notre Dame's case, is probably a good fit. Everybody wanted them to go to the Big Ten. That wasn't going to happen. So now they have as good a fit as any, I guess.
"In Syracuse's case, it was just weird. Point blank weird. It's one thing to watch Jim Boeheim coach against Mike Krzyzewski, but it's another thing to think this might be for the league championship. Syracuse has meant so much to the Big East. It's just the way that it's always been. That will be odd."
MIKE DAVIS MAKING ANOTHER COACHING STOP
Mike Davis is getting his third crack to coach a Division I basketball program, but his career remains locked in reverse. Davis signed a four-year contract to coach Texas Southern, a historically black university located in Houston that competes in the SWAC.
Davis is the guy who replaced Bob Knight at Indiana in 2000 and led the Hoosiers to the NCAA Final Four in his second season. That was the highlight of his time in Bloomington, although Davis got himself in trouble with Hoosiers' fan base at the Final Four by using a press conference prior to the national championship game to say that his goal was to coach in the NBA.
Davis was dismissed four years later. He landed the job at UAB, where he also coached six seasons.
Now it's on to Texas Southern, which finished 15-18 last year and was ranked 287th in the nation in the Pomeroy ratings. There's work to do. Texas Southern plays Northwestern, Michigan State, Colorado, San Diego State, Houston and Kansas State – and starts this season on NCAA probation.
Alexander Wolff is a superb writer for Sports Illustrated who was the magazine's leading voice on college basketball for more than a decade. He still follows the college game closely and has an excellent sense of the game's history.
Last week, Wolff gave his list of the 14 most influential teams in college basketball history. Here are his top five:
1. UCLA, 1964 –popularized pressure defense, launched the UCLA dynasty, put the West Coast on the map, highlighted the importance of role players, showed the importance of controlling tempo.
2 and 3. Michigan State and Indiana State 1979 – city vs. country, Magic vs. Bird, sent the Final Four TV ratings through the roof and accelerated the expansion of the bracket.
4. Texas Western 1966 – toppled Kentucky's all-white team with the first all-black starting five. African-American players could no longer be ignored.
5. North Carolina State 1974 – ended the UCLA dynasty, riding the dynamic athleticism of David Thompson's sky-walking Converse sneakers.