BOZICH | Monday Muse: Scouting Chris Mack, Brian Bowen, Jaire Alexander, Brendan McKay

By Rick Bozich

WDRB Sports

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Only 26 days until the first college football game of the 2018 season — if you consider Duquesne vs. UMass or Prairie View vs. Rice as college football games to DVR.

Nick Saban is not so sure. If Saban is not sure about continuing the trend of FBS programs squashing FCS programs, the rest of us should pay attention.

What about you?

Do you think Power Five programs should eliminate games like Indiana State vs. Louisville or Murray State vs. Kentucky?

The debate will escalate, and without games on the calendar for 26 days, it’s timely material for the Monday Muse.

1. Mandatory FBS Schedule Upgrade

Winning another national championship will not change Saban’s coaching legacy. Six (five at Alabama and one at LSU), seven or eight rings, what difference will it make?

The man has secured his place on college football’s coaching Mt. Rushmore.

But Saban appears to be about more than chasing rings. His latest push is scheduling (sort of, as I’ll explain).

Saban said that he believes it is time for FBS programs to stop scheduling FCS programs as well as for Power Five conference teams to stop scheduling teams from outside the Power Five umbrella.

Perhaps Saban has seen the non-conference schedules of the programs that finished last season ranked in the AP Top 25 and blushed.

Eight Top 25 teams will play FCS programs opening weekend, headlined by must-sees like Austin Peay at Georgia and Furman at Clemson. As the season unfolds, 15 of the Top 25 are booked against FCS opponents.

I agree with Saban.

Making every Power Five team schedule only Power Five opponents would juice the regular season and balance the strength of schedule questions that exist with some leagues playing eight conference games while others schedule nine.

But … first things first.

Saban could lead on this without a directive from his conference office. When you notice Alabama is booked against a pair of teams from the Sun Belt Conference (Arkansas State and Louisiana), it’s difficult to make Saban the Poster Coach for Tougher Scheduling.

2. Watford over Smith For Final Four

Jerry Smith always dreamed of playing in the Final Four at the University of Louisville. It should have been more than a dream.

Smith played for the 2009 Louisville team that was the overall top seed in the NCAA Tournament, the team that ripped Arizona in the Sweet Sixteen and then forgot how to guard the pick and roll. Smith, Edgar Sosa, Terrence Williams, Earl Clark and friends were upset by Michigan State in the Elite Eight in Indianapolis.

“I can still see Goran Suton hitting those three-pointers,” Smith said.

Yep. Suton scored 19. Won the Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest Regional.

This weekend Smith planned to compete in another Final Four — of the The Basketball Tournament, the winner-take-all, single elimination, 72-team event with a $2 million prize to the winners (and handshakes for the losers).

Smith’s TBT team, Team Challenge ALS, was the top seed in its regional but they failed to advance to the Final Four, losing to a seven-seed, Eberlein Drive. Smith played off the bench, making a single three-point shot in 14 minutes.

Another former local player, Christian Watford of Indiana, advanced to the Final Four. Watford had six points in 13 minutes as Eberlein Drive earned a spot against three-time champion Overseas Elite at Morgan State Thursday night in Baltimore.

The other TBT Final Four game will feature names you’ll recognize — Travis Diener of Marquette and Jimmer Fredette of BYU. The Golden Eagles, a group of former Marquette stars, meet Team Fredette.

Smith said that he expects Overseas Elite to four-peat. "I guess they will win their next two by 15-plus," Smith said by text message. "They are all pros in good leagues. Most of these teams have three, maybe four guys. They have 10."

3. 2019 Final Four Odds

Wondering which teams are favored to win the 2019 college basketball national championship?

The same programs that are always favored to win — Mike Krzyzewski State and John Calipari U.

The Westlake sports book in Las Vegas has released its odds for next season. Loyola (Chicago) and Cinderellas everywhere got snubbed. (The link.)

The list:

Duke: 5-1

Kentucky 5-1

Gonzaga: 7-1

Kansas: 7-1

Nevada: 12-1

North Carolina: 18-1

Michigan State: 20-1

Virginia: 20-1

Oregon: 20-1

Tennessee: 25-1

Michigan: 30-1

Villanova: 30-1

UCLA: 30-1

West Virginia: 30-1

Auburn: 40-1

Indiana: 40-1

Florida: 40-1

Wichita State: 40-1

Purdue: 50-1

Syracuse: 50-1

Texas Tech: 60-1

Florida State: 60-1

Virginia Tech: 60-1

Kansas State: 80-1

Cincinnati: 80-1

Ohio State: 80-1

Miami: 80-1

N.C. State: 80-1

Texas: 80-1

Everybody else is 100-1. Not a bad price for USC, Mississippi State, Western Kentucky or Wisconsin.

4. Calipari vs. Penny

Will Penny Hardaway do what Josh Pastner and Tubby Smith could not do at Memphis?

Recruit and win the way Calipari won with the Tigers?

Stay tuned. Hardaway pushed Smith to the job at High Point after the season because Penny showed he could collect 5-star talent with his AAU and high school teams.

Now Hardaway must prove he can do it when it counts — for five months of a one-and-done college basketball career.

Center James Wiseman is the DeAndre Ayton, Karl-Anthony Towns, DeMarcus Cousins of the 2019 prep recruiting class — and he played for Hardaway in AAU as well as during his senior high school season.

 Some coaches would be intimidated trying to overcome that connection. Not Calipari. Kentucky joined six other schools and Memphis on the list of schools Wiseman said he will consider.

But the wise guys say this is a two-coach wrestling match between Calipari and Penny — unless Penny gets Little Penny to assist.

5. Duke vs. Kentucky Part II

If the 2019 national title is not enough for Duke and Kentucky to fuss over, let’s add a tiebreaker.

Which superpower is most likely to sign the top player in the Class of 2023?

That is LeBron James Jr., who will start his eighth grade season in suburban Los Angeles this year and allegedly dunked at an AAU tournament.

Eighth grade, 11th grade, first grade, nothing stops the recruiting gurus from their important work.

According to TheSpun.com, an unnamed sports book in Las Vegas listed odds on where James’ son will play college basketball.

The leader is Duke, trailed by Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina and UCLA. But I’d like to see odds on Mike Krzyzewski being on the job in 2023 when he’ll be 76. Maybe that will be his victory lap.

6.  Greatest Kentucky Basketball Wins

Mark Story of the Herald-Leader in Lexington regularly finds intriguing topics during the quiet times of June and July. Story delivered again this summer.

How?

Story ranked the Top 50 Wins In Kentucky Basketball history. That would be a tough list to cut to 150, but Story created a good conversation.

 I will not spoil the list without encouraging you to click on Story’s work. But my top three would be these games:

3.  Kentucky 94, Duke 88, 1978 national championship — the Goose Givens game.

2. Kentucky 86, Duke, 1998 Elite Eight — the Scott Padgett/Wayne Turner game.

1. Kentucky 92, Indiana 90, 1975 Elite Eight — the Scott May game.

7. Mike Davis, Part IV

The last coach to guide Indiana to the NCAA Final Four was not Archie Miller, Tom Crean, Dan Dakich or Kelvin Sampson.

It was Mike Davis, who lost the 2002 title game to Maryland and then lost his job in Bloomington four seasons later.

Davis, 57, bounced from UAB to Texas Southern, where he built a reputation for playing every non-conference game on the road and taking his team to four NCAA Tournaments.

Somebody was paying attention. Detroit hired Davis after the season with the idea of turning Detroit into the next Butler, the most powerful program in the Horizon League.

 Davis told Andy Katz of NCAA.com that he’s ready for the challenge —and that his struggles at IU prepared him for the task.

8. Lamar Jackson, Part I

Lamar Jackson will make his pro debut Thursday at 8 p.m. in Canton, Ohio when the Baltimore Ravens play the Chicago Bears at the Hall of Fame exhibition game.

Look for Ravens’ starter Joe Flacco to play the first series or two before handing off to Jackson (pat on the back optional).

Prepare for a flood of stories about Jackson and how he is adjusting to the pro game, how the Ravens will utilize his talents and how he and Flacco are bonding.

Terez Paylor of Yahoo Sports wrote this one.

 9. The Lei of the Heisman Land

Central Florida lost its coach to Nebraska, but UCF has not lost its edge. No Scott Frost, but plenty of ambition.

The early Heisman Hype for 2018 begins with Alabama running back Damien Harris, Bryce Love of Stanford and Will Grier of West Virginia.

Don’t forget UCF quarterback MacKenzie Milton, who has roots in Hawaii.

 You know what that means — leis for everybody. UCF has mailed out black leis to Heisman voters to push the candidacy of their guy, who threw for 4,000 yards and 37 touchdowns as UCF won the national title last season (don’t tell Saban and Alabama).

Better check my mail.

10. Anthony Davis Speaks — On Paying College Players, Cousins, Randle

LeBron James can’t play forever. James Harden does not play defense. Steph Curry has bad ankles.

The title of Best Player in the NBA will swing to former Kentucky star Anthony Davis soon, especially if the Pelicans surround him with more shooters so New Orleans can make a deeper playoff run.

Davis sat for an interview with Angel Diaz of complex.com and had  interesting takes on new teammate Julius Randle, former teammate DeMarcus Cousins and the unrelenting debate about paying college athletes.

Davis is excited Randle will join him to provide frontcourt muscle. The move by Cousins to the Warriors makes him the enemy.

Don’t expect Davis to pound the drum about paying players. Here is part of what he said on that topic:

“I’m neutral. I’m not in college anymore.”

Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.

Sports Reporter