Four teams will play tonight in the Coaches vs. Cancer tournament in Madison Square Garden. Syracuse, Cal, North Carolina and Ohio State. And there's four SBN blogs that decided to get together and try to get to know one another as we prepare to face off against two of the three. Below are some answers to questions I asked of California Golden Blogs (Cal), We Will Always Have Tempe (Ohio State) and Carolina March (North Carolina). You can also stop by their sites to see what kind of answers they got from myself and the others.
Avinash at California Golden Blogs gets us up to speed on the Bears:
Cal struggled out of the gate with Murray State but rebounded against Detroit. What did you learn about the Bears in those two games and can they live up to the lofty expectations of this season?
Well, we learned that when one of our better scorers has trouble shooting, Cal can struggle.
Jerome Randle, our point guard, is a key player on the team. When he is playing well, distributing to the other players and hitting his shots, we can be unbeatable. But when he is playing poor basketball and, sometimes, jacking up poor 3s, then Cal's offense gets stunted.
He shoots roughly 45% in his career from the field. Last year, he was hitting roughly 50% of his shots from the field. So far, in the first two games, Randle is hitting roughly 40% of his shots from the field. Everything goes through the PG. The QB of the court. He needs to play smart basketball and make much more than 40% of his shots for Cal to live up to those lofty expectations.
Syracuse is known to pull in a lot of fans when they play in Madison Square Garden, what kind of Cal contingent can we expect?
Well, I wouldn't expect a huge Cal crowd (even in Coach Montgomery's second season at Cal, the fanbase is still waking up to Cal Basketball after slumbering in mediocrity for most of this decade), but NYC does have one of Cal's largest alumni groups outside of California, and I expect those that do show up will make their presence known. I also expect that there will be a fairly strong contingent of fans on flights back to the Bay Area on late Friday night/early Saturday morning, as fans try to attend both this tournament, then turn around to attend the Big Game vs. Stanfurd (football) back in the Bay Area on Saturday.
Sam @ We Will Always Have Tempe gives us the Ohio State info:
As a Syracuse fan, I know what's it like to go far in the NCAA Tournament one year and then find yourself in the NIT the next. How did Ohio State fans cope with that and what are the expectations for this season?
Well, as a matter of clarification, we made the tourney last year, only to get gutpunched by Siena in the opening round. The year before we made the NIT after our championship appearance, and it was pretty brutal. We weren't expecting anything like what Oden-Conley lead us to, but we were expecting a little bit more from a rather talented roster that season. This season, expectations are modest, but high given the program's lackluster recent history. I actually did a poll a few weeks back, and the majority of my readers expected the Buckeyes to get to the Sweet Sixteen. We're a talented, veteran squad, but it's up in the air as to whether or not we're truly great.
This early-season tournament is a tough road. Is escaping with a 1-1 record acceptable for Ohio State? Is 0-2 even okay if the Buckeyes can learn from it?
I think that 0-2 would be a bit unsettling, as Thad Matta teams have not been known for responding well to adversity. While they'd almost assuredly rebound and get to twenty wins, an 0-2 start might make the faithful question their tourney aspirations. It may seem like an overreaction, but the Big Ten is universally seen as very strong this year. 1-1 is what I think most people are expecting, with UNC looming and few expecting any Big Ten squad, even their own, to top the Tar Heels.
T.H. at Carolina March talks TarHeels
Roy Williams...where is he ranked among active coaches? Does he make the discussion for Top 20 coaches all-time? Top 10?
Among active coaches? I have trouble thinking of a better one right now. Fastest coach to 500 wins, winningest coach in his first 15 seasons, two national championships in four years with two entirely different teams, a long tournament appearance streak, and rather impressive records against some other coaches. Comparing all coaches is incredibly difficult, with the changes in the game over the course of a century. I could see him slipping in to the bottom of the Top 10 by the end of his career.
Does the fact that Syracuse now boasts Greg Paulus among its student population some ammunition for North Carolina to want to beat SU if they play?
Nah. Paulus won't be on the court, and while seeing him getting sacked repeatedly was entertaining for a week or two, even that's gotten old. I don't hold any ill will towards Memphis for luring away Eliot Williams, and I don't begrudge Syracuse for continuing the education of Greg Paulus.