Today, ESPN-The Magazine’s College Basketball Preview was released with images of Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins and Xavier Henry, of the Kansas Jayhawks, seemingly floating through air. The weightless image of the Jayhawk trio is supposed to embody the feeling that this college basketball season is wide open, or up in the air, as the so-called experts call it.
However, the weightless image could better represent the fact that their preview holds absolutely zero weight.
Before you get to the preseason rankings, flip four pages past. You will see an article entitled, “State of Insanity”. The short article, by Louisville’s Pat Forde, briefly discusses the often chaotic events of this basketball’s off-season in Kentucky. The firing of Billy Gillispie, the hiring of John Calipari and finally Rick Pitino’s whole Karen Sypher situation.
So, the writers at ESPN apparently are aware that both UK and UofL will, in fact, be participating in the 2009-2010 college basketball season.
Now, flip back to the preseason rankings. There sits the University of Kentucky at no. 4, behind only Kansas, Texas and Michigan State. A year after missing the NCAA tournament for the first time in a lifetime, Calipari has rejuvenated Wildcat Nation with one of the strongest recruiting classes in college basketball history.
This Kentucky team has so much talent that the writers at ESPN pointed them out, “Think your favorite college ballers have it all figured out? Trust us, there’s always something lurking to undo even the most talented team. (Hear that Kentucky?)”.
Filling out the rest of ESPN’s Top 10 is Villanova, North Carolina, Purdue, Oklahoma, Butler and California.
They then close out the Top 16 (West Virginia, Duke, Washington, Missouri, Ohio State, UConn) before they get into the rest of the 64.
If you are a Louisville fan, or a fan of basketball in general, you start thumbing through the rankings and you are stunned to not see Louisville in the Top 25. To steal a phrase from the ESPN staff themselves, do their writers have it all figured out?
Sure, the defending Big East champs lost three starters from a year ago, but they return over 55-percent of their scoring from a team that went into the NCAA Tournament as the overall number-one seed.
Despite ESPN-The Magazine’s thoughts, the Louisville Cardinals are clearly a consensus preseason Top 25 selection. They sit at no. 19 in the AP Top 25 and no. 23 in ESPN’s very own ESPN/USA Today poll.
In most publications they are predicted to finish either fourth or fifth in the Big East, behind only ‘Nova, WVU, UConn and maybe Georgetown.
The fifth best team in the Big East, according to ESPN-The Magazine is Syracuse at no. 46, just behind San Diego State and in front of Clemson.
San Diego State lost to Baylor last year in the N.I.T. semifinals and added Kawhi Leonard, who was no. 56 on ESPNU’s Top 100, but are they better than Louisville? Clemson lost both of their three-point specialists in K.C. Rivers, to graduation, and Terrence Oglesby, to Italy.
Continue thumbing, and you will see Indiana at no. 52. The Hoosiers? No disrespect to Tom Crean, because I really feel that he will turn the program around, but we are talking about a team that lost 24 of 30 games last year and won only one game in conference play. Sure, they bring in Jeremiah Rivers, a Georgetown transfer, and a good recruiting class, but can you seriously rank them ahead of a team coming off of an Elite Eight appearance with pieces returning?
Scroll all the way to the bottom and surely you will find Louisville. No. 60 La Salle, No. 61 Utep, No. 62 Arkansas, No. 63 Utah State, and No. 64 Marquette. A Marquette team that just lost Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews to graduation, closes out their Top 64.
Weightless. Completely and utterly weightless.
And yes, I know this was a mistake. I know there is no conceivable way that they honestly believe Louisville not to be a Top 20, Top 25, Top 40 or even a Top 64 team. But, this is inexcusable.
The writers, the editors, everyone with ESPN-The Magazine completely dropped the ball on this one. If only that ball would have floated in air, much like Aldrich, Collins and Henry are doing on their front page. Then maybe someone at ESPN-The Magazine would have caught this blunder.