College basketball mailbag: Coaching hot Seats, All Stars


welcome to Sports Illustrated college hoops weekly mailbag with Kevin Sweeney. Here, Kevin will respond to questions submitted via Twitter and email on a variety of topics in the sport. Do you have a question that you would like to answer in a future mailbag? Send it to @CBB_Central on Twitter or Kevin.Sweeney@si.com (Questions about men’s or women’s basketball are welcome!). Without further ado, let’s move on to your questions, which have been edited slightly for grammar and clarity …

Jacob asks (via DMs): If college basketball had a vote from All-Star Game fans like the NBA, who would be the top five to get votes?

This question comes at the right time, as the NBA has just announced the first returns of his All-Star vote. As always, part of this is a popularity contest and part of the best players. There are two players who feel like lockups not only because of their game, but also because they play for teams with massive (and active internet) fan bases: Kofi Cockburn of Illinois and Oscar. Tshiebwe from Kentucky. Every imposing big man has got monstrous numbers for their respective teams, with Tshiebwe leading the country in rebounds and Cockburn averaging over 22 points and 11 rebounds per game for the Illini.

Cockburn is third nationally in goals (22.5 points per game) and rebounds (12.5 points per game).

This leaves three places. It has to go to Johnny Davis of Wisconsin, who deserves the honors of National Player of the Year after his outburst against Purdue on Monday. And with the two remaining spots, Gonzaga’s Drew Timme and Ochai Agbaji both come from huge fan bases and have had huge seasons. The biggest snub in the matter is probably Ohio State’s EJ Liddell, but we’ll call him vote-getter # 6, a clear All-Star who doesn’t make the imaginary Twitter graphic.

Drew asks: coaches in the hot seat who need to get the most out of their conference?

Well I would say any coach in the hot seat needs to make the most of the conference if they are to keep their job. But I think there are a few in particular whose work depends on what they can do in conference.

Chris Mack in Louisville is probably the biggest name on this list. Mack was, on paper, the perfect hire to bring Louisville through the post-Pitino era. But since a breakout in year 2 cut short by the pandemic, the results have been disappointing. The Cardinals missed the NCAA tournament in 2021 and got off to a bad start this season, with non-conference losses to Furman, Western Kentucky and DePaul. Add to that the potential NCAA violations, bad PR from this summer’s extortion case against former aide Dino Gaudio and a new incoming AD, and it’s absolutely the win-now mode for Mack. That said, winning games in the ACC isn’t the toughest job right now, and Louisville is off to a 4-0 start in the league. It would be hard to pass Mack if the Cardinals were posting large numbers in their ACC win column.

Another name that I’m going to be launching in a win-now fashion is Chris Collins at Northwestern. Collins has an NCAA tournament-caliber roster that he’s had plenty of time to develop over the years, and with senior star Pete Nance playing his final season at Evanston, it’s now or never for Collins to bring back. the Wildcats at the big dance. A poor home loss to Penn State that featured a double-digit second-half lead was a bad sign for the Cats’ NCAA tournament prospects, especially given how sluggish NU’s non-conference schedule was. And like Mack, the DA who hired Collins at Northwestern is no longer at Evanston.

Valpo hoop fan asks: Who do you think has the best or most promising “training tree” to develop coaches as assistants and become future head coaches?

This question took me a while, and I decided there was no easy way to compile who really has the best coaching tree. That said, Rick Pitino’s tree (and the branches that grew from Pitino’s branches) is the one that strikes me the most. From NBA coaches like Billy Donovan, Dwane Casey, Mark Jackson, Frank Vogel and Brett Brown to college coaches like Mick Cronin, Tubby Smith, Kevin Willard, Mark Pope, Kevin Keatts… and the list goes on. And think of all the trainers that each of these trainers has developed, all from the Pitino tree. It’s a huge network in sport.

I think another name is worth mentioning here that doesn’t have nearly the same range of coaches Pitino has is Rick Barnes. Barnes has helped his assistants secure outstanding mid-major jobs in recent years, such as Kim English at George Mason, Rob Lanier at Georgia State, and Desmond Oliver at ETSU. His older older assistants like Frank Haith, Fran Fraschilla and Herb Sendek have all had solid careers.

Patrick asks: Is Miami real or is it a mirage?

I guess it’s a question of how we define “for real”. I’ll say this: I left Miami for dead on Thanksgiving when the Hurricanes were spanked by a Dayton team that had just lost to UMass Lowell, Lipscomb and Austin Peay. It was premature. Miami, for its faults, are a really dynamic attacking team… and Dayton is not as bad as it looked in the first two weeks of the season. We’ve seen it play out for Miami since that game: The Canes have won all but one of their games since, with the only loss coming to a great Alabama team. In the process, they got off to a 4-0 ACC start and opened the door for a potential NCAA tournament entry.

Miami's Isaiah Wong dribbles

Isaiah Wong (right) is having another solid season for the Hurricanes.

Miami is really very good up front. The backcourt trio of Isaiah Wong, Kameron McGusty and Charlie Moore can score with anyone in the country, and the Canes as a whole are shooting 44.5% from beyond the arc in four games of ACC. But Miami’s defense remains one of the most porous on the big-majors landscape, and all four conference wins have come at home. I don’t see the Canes continuing like this.

Having said that, someone in the ACC has to win about 13 conference games and go dancing. Can Miami be that team? Yes, I think it is possible. Put the rods on the bubble if the season ended today.

Andy asks: What’s your favorite press moment from this season so far?

It’s hard to pick a particular moment, in part because I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the best games of the year. I was on the field for the epic Illinois-Arizona duel in Champaign, in the gym when Johnny Davis lost 37 to Purdue, saw a No.1-to-No.2 showdown between Gonzaga and UCLA and even more.

For me, what I liked the most about being back on the road watching games this year was sitting near (or behind) a team bench and playing. ‘hear the coaches, well, the coach! It’s something that you can’t get on TV at all. I was probably 15 feet from Tommy Lloyd when he took his biggest test as a head coach at Champaign and got to see how he was addressing his players and staff at those key moments. . I saw the Chaminade coaching staff begging their team that they could stay with Oregon if they were just running. But of the benches I’ve sat within earshot this season, my favorite nearby was Houston. It might not be air-safe, but I would pay anything for the cassettes of an uncensored Kelvin Sampson on the mic for 40 minutes. The way he demands excellence from his players is special to watch and explains how they have done so well. Having said that, watch him turn to his assistants and bark “We can’t do anything right!” As they led 31-13 against Butler at the Maui Invitational, it was really hilarious.

I watch college basketball pretty much every day. I think when you watch so many balls you really enjoy the things that you can’t see on TV when you are at the gym. And those indoor caucus moments are definitely eligible.

More college basketball coverage:

• Resetting the favorites of the conference title
• The best and worst college hoops so far
• Auburn climbs into the Top 25 AP men


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