January 23, 2014

Norman Arey: The ranks, they are a-changin'

Where are you Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, Bobby Knight, Roy Williams, John Thompson, even John Calipari? Men’s college basketball today is being ruled by folks named Miller, Boeheim, Izzo, Motta, Ryan and Marshall.

Who are these people?

That’s just the point. A group of basically strangers have infiltrated the rank and file of the Who’s Who in college roundball. Certainly Michigan State’s Tom Izzo and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim have earned their spurs, but what about these other guys?

They’re basically a bunch of yankees and midwesterners who couldn’t spell basketball when Dean Smith was ruling and Mike Krzyzewski was starting out.

I’ll admit to being prejudiced because I’m from North Carolina, where they produce some outstanding basketball. It’s true that the state isn’t too much into football, but I grew up with the greatest rivalry in basketball at my doorstep: Duke versus North Carolina.

But check out The Associated Press’ Top 25 poll this week. There has been a huge upheaval. No longer does the Atlantic Coast Conference own the patent on great play. In fact, the top 10 teams include only one Southern team — if you consider Florida to be Southern, which I don’t. Where are Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, Louisville, Vanderbilt, or even UCLA, for goodness sakes?

This week’s top five are Arizona, Syracuse, Michigan State, Wichita State and Villanova. How did this happen?

For starters, the one-and-done players are ruining both college and professional basketball. The good ones leave after one year and enter the NBA, not having a clue on how the game is played. The individual players aren’t willing to put in the time on their basics and thus rely on showy dunks and behind-the-back passes and aren’t willing to work on their 15-foot jump shots and passing.

Two weeks ago, Duke was beaten by Clemson and North Carolina lost to Syracuse, and the combination of Duke and North Carolina losing in the same week seldom happened in the past. In fact, the two schools were a combined 1-6 in the ACC at one point this season, and that is new territory.

A survey showed that the best states for producing basketball talent are Ohio, Kansas, Iowa, Kentucky, California, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. North Carolina came in only eighth. I’m not saying all of this won’t get straightened out by the time the world’s greatest sporting event takes place (March Madness, AKA the NCAA tournament), but these are indeed, strange waters in which we navigate.

QUICK HITS: Perhaps a tad excessive, but Missouri’s Dorial Green-Beckham, an All-Southeastern Conference receiver, was arrested with more than a pound of marijuana in his possession. ... A couple of darkhorse Heisman contenders next season might be Duke quarterback Anthony Boone and Missouri’s Maty Mauk. ... Welcome to Texas, Charlie Strong. The former Louisville coach, who is African-American, took over the head coaching duties at Texas after Mack Brown was allowed to retire. A T-shirt showed up in some of the merchandise outlets proclaiming “Black Is The New Brown.” ... Georgia Tech starting quarterback Vad Lee has transferred to James Madison and will be eligible to play this fall. ... An item at said two things were established this past college football season: the spread offense is here to stay and Michigan State reminded us that good defense can be sexy. ... After much argument over whether football teams with 6-6 regular season records should be allowed to play in bowl games, the 6-6 teams combined for a 5-2 bowl record. They came to play. ... Once highly-touted quarterback recruit Kiehl Frazier has left Auburn and transferred to Ouachita Baptist in Arkansas. ... Duke’s David Cutcliffe was chosen Coach of the Year by the American Football Coaches Association. ... Former Georgia Tech tight end Ken Whisenhunt was named head coach of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. ... There were six new teams in The AP’s men’s college basketball poll this week. ... Former Florida quarterback Tyler Murphy, who graduated last week with football eligibility remaining, will transfer and be eligible to play immediately at Boston College.

• And finally, just for fun, let’s take a look at the way-too-early preseason college football rankings for 2014.

I won’t bore you with the entire 25-team list, but some of the more interesting ones are Duke at No. 24, Texas A&M at No. 22, Ole Miss at No. 19, Missouri at No. 17, Clemson at No. 16, Georgia at No. 14, South Carolina at No. 12, LSU at No. 10, Auburn at No. 6, Alabama at No. 2 and Florida State in the top spot.

Norman Arey is an award-winning journalist whose column appears in The Daily Citizen on Thursday and Saturday. You can write to him at

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