BOZICH | Monday Muse: Derby Class upgrade; Early college football rankings
The Derby Classic has upgraded its talent, Archie Miller has reportedly settled on his staff at IU and ESPN has its victory projections for U of L, UK, IU and WKU football.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The Masters, the road to the Kentucky Derby, the opening of the Major League Baseball season, the end of the NBA and NHL regular seasons, prime time for college football spring games.
So many topics to consider for the Monday Muse.
I know one thing about this market. I can never go wrong starting with college basketball, especially in a week that will conclude with the Derby Classic Saturday night at Freedom Hall.
1. Best Derby Classic Since …
Time for a hat tip for Keith Conrad, one of many Derby Festival representatives who have worked overtime to keep the Derby Classic in the game against formidable competition from the McDonald's all-American and Jordan Brand games, which have considerably more resources.
Interest and attendance should climb for the 2017 game. It will take time and commitment to start filling Freedom Hall again, but the crowd has every reason to move closer to 10,000 this year.
The game will be televised on WDRB and FS2, giving the players national exposure. Louisville, Kentucky, Indiana and Western Kentucky fans all have recruits to watch -- and at least one prospect (guard Mark Smith of Edwardsville, Ill.) has started the week considering Kentucky.
Credit Conrad with recruiting the best lineup of players in years.
According to the rankings at Scout.com, the Derby Classic will feature 14 guys considered Top 100 recruits nationally, including eight Top 50 players and two Top 25 guys -- Louisville forward Malik Williams and Kris Wilkes, who is bound for UCLA.
How do those rankings compare to 2016?
You be the judge. The 2016 game featured 11 Top 100 Scout prospects, but only four ranked in the Top 50 and one Top 25 guy.
2. Archie Miller's Prime-Time Staff
Indiana coach Archie Miller said last week that he would not announce his assistant coaching staff until the paperwork was complete on every member, but Jeff Goodman of ESPN shared the names of Miller's top three assistants. There is a John Calipari-flavor to the group.
According to Goodman, Miller has settled on former Drexel and UMass head coach Bruiser Flint and UCLA assistant Ed Schilling. Both worked for Calipari. Goodman said the third assistant will follow Miller from Dayton. That's Tom Ostrom, who also has connections with Billy Donovan from Florida and John Pelphrey at Arkansas.
Archie Miller's staff at Indiana will be Bruiser Flint, Tom Ostrom (Dayton) and Ed Schilling (UCLA), source told ESPN. Bill Comar as DOBO.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) April 9, 2017
The most intriguing name is Schilling because of his connections to high school and AAU basketball in Indiana.
A former Indiana all-star from Lebanon, Schilling won two state titles with former IU guard Yogi Ferrell at Park Tudor High School in Indianapolis. Schilling has coached at every level -- high school, college and the NBA.
He also ran a skills academy in Indianapolis that gave him grass roots credibility across the state. In an interview with the Orange County Register four years ago, Schilling said that he has worked with more than 60 guys who have played professional basketball, including Mike Conley Jr., Greg Oden, Jeff Teague and Gordon Heyward.
With three Top 100 in-state prospects in the prep class of 2018, Schilling should help Miller establish his "Inside-Out" recruiting strategy.
3. College Football's Most Overrated Team
You have to love the folks at ESPN.com. We're more than four months from the first games of the 2017 college football season, and they're already prepared with their list of the Most Overrated Teams.
How would they know?
They compared the numbers from the opening Football Power Index to the way-too-early rankings they posted after the 2016 season. I assume that would make these the Way-Too-Early Most Overrated rankings, right?
Anyway, here is your winner -- Oklahoma State.
Where do the local programs rank in the way-too-early FPI numbers?
I thought you'd ask. (The link.)
Louisville -- projected to win 8.8 games, ranked 14th nationally, one spot behind Georgia, one ahead of Florida.
Kentucky -- projected to win 6.7 games, ranked 34th nationally, one spot behind Mississippi State, one ahead of North Carolina.
Indiana -- projected to win 5.9 games, ranked 61st nationally, one spot behind Houston, one ahead of San Diego State.
Western Kentucky -- projected to win 8.0 games, ranked 80th nationally, one spot behind Wyoming, one ahead of Miami (Ohio).
4. Looking ahead to Clemson and Florida State
Clemson and Florida State remain the teams U of L must climb over in the ACC Atlantic Division. In 2017, the Cards host Clemson on Sept. 16 and visit the Seminoles Oct. 21.
At Clemson, the early storyline is replacing quarterback Deshaun Watson. At FSU, Jimbo Fisher is looking for the next Dalvin Cook.
How is the process unfolding?
Not so well at Clemson.
Surprisingly well at FSU.
At Clemson, Dabo Swinney said junior Kelly Bryant would be his starting quarterback if the Tigers played Saturday. Hmm. Bryant suffered a finger injury during the Tigers' last scrimmage and completed 4 of 13 passes for 43 yards with an interception. (The link.) Those are not Deshaun Watson numbers.
Florida State fans have more reason to be excited. Cam Stout, a 5-star recruit who enrolled at FSU out high school in January, looked ready for prime time in FSU's spring game. Credit Stout with 10 carries for 87 yards and two receptions for another 15 yards. (The link.)
5. Spring Game Squabbles
I believe we can all agree that football is a dangerous sport. The place to take the most risky and unprotected hits is during games. Injuries can happen in practice but hitting has become more restricted.
What no coach wants is cheap shots during scrimmages, especially in the spring.
Sorry, Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs ended their Maroon and White scrimmage early Saturday. Defensive back Johnathan Abram leveled halfback Bennie Braswell with a shoulder after Braswell was exposed on a misplayed pitch out.
Braswell required additional attention after the play. The scrimmage ended early. The locker room had to be a joyous place.
6. Beware of Ponzi Schemes
Billy Packer has disappeared from the college basketball dialogue since he signed off at CBS in 2008. Packer, who turned 77 in February, has stayed out of the headlines after he was replaced by Clark Kellogg.
Packer's quiet time ended last week with this disturbing story that he and Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall were included in a group of investors who lost more than $20 million in a fraudulent Ponzi scheme operated by a Charlotte man who committed suicide last year.
According to this report, Packer lost about $1.3 million while Marshall's hit was only $200,000.
7. Toasted Grasshoppers, Anyone?
I don't consider myself hopelessly Old School, but when I visit a Major League Baseball park I usually stick with the basics -- peanuts, hot dogs, Cracker Jack, nachos. I have sampled the local Polish sausage or clam chowder or IPA.
I'll need to marinate on that one before my next trip to Seattle. They say things are different in the Pacific Northwest. The Mariners are intent on proving it. One vendor at Safeco Field has added toasted Chapulines to its menu. For $4 you can sample the grasshoppers, served by a Mexican restaurant.
When I'm in Seattle, I'll stick with Starbucks.
8. Tracking Kyle Funkhouser
Of the University of Louisville baseball players selected in the 2016 MLB Free Agent Draft, closer Zack Burdi is considered closest to being major-league ready. Burdi was one of the final spring training cuts by the Chicago White Sox. He began this season as the closer for the Class AAA Charlotte Knights.
Keep an eye on Kyle Funkhouser.
After a disappointing finish to the 2015 season and an inconsistent senior season last spring, Funkhouser slipped to the fourth round of the 2016 Draft, when he was selected by Detroit.
Funkhouser, who turned 23 in March, started the 2017 season at the Tigers' Class A West Michigan affiliate in Comstock Park, Mich. If he continues to pitch as he did in his first game, Funkhouser won't be in the Midwest League long.
Flashing a 97 mph fastball, Funkhouser rolled through five innings by striking out nine, allowing one single and walking one batter in a dominant performance.
Funkhouser told MLive.com that he has no regrets about not signing with the Dodgers as a first round pick in 2015, even though he lost money by returning to U of L last season. Why? He earned his degree in marketing.
"Getting the degree was really important, important to my family, but the whole process just really didn't feel right," Funkhouser told MLive.com.
And, in hindsight?
"I feel really good and I'm in a much better place mentally," he said. "I think it all worked out."
9. Poll Results I
Has the NCAA been soft during its investigation of academic fraud at the University of North Carolina?
Yes 95. 2 percent.
No 4.8 percent.
10. Poll Results II
Will Louisville guard Donovan Mitchell return to the Cardinals for his junior season or remain in the 2017 NBA Draft?
Yes 59.2 percent.
No 40.8 percent.
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