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Chat: John Gasaway (Basketball)

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Monday January 07, 2008 1:00 PM ET chat session with John Gasaway (Basketball).

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John Gasaway is one of the top contributors to Basketball Prospectus.

John Gasaway (Basketball): Yo, hoops nation! Herr Gasaway here, pleased as all get out to kick off this very special Election Year Edition of the BP chat. In keeping with the calendar Iíve been doing a series of hoops town hall meetings, listening to your concerns, and articulating a vision of where I want to take college hoops in the 21st century. Youíve told me you want change and, by Godfrey, Iím the candidate who can deliver it! Let me tell you more: picture me right now trying to look natural as I hold a mike and stroll back and forth in front of a bunch of hay bales upon which are perched an oddly symmetric tableau of bored older people. Also, I believe itís de rigueur to state at the top here that Iím streaming The Current (Minnesota Public Radio) and at the moment the dedicated professionals there are playing some Jayhawks. (How a propos!) Now, let me hear it. Whatís on your mind?...

elcubano (The Town): Although off to a great start this year in which fans of the team couldn't ask for anything more( they are a small liberal arts college); Are the Saint Mary's Gaels an inside-offensive presence away from being a real contender? What can they do to stop having to seemingly rely so much on outside shooting and spectacular plays from Patrick Mills?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Two months ago whoíd have thought weíd be discussing what St. Maryís needs to do to become a real contender? Are they perimeter-oriented? Of course! But letís wrap our heads around this paradox: 6-11 big man Omar Samhan actually plays a larger role in this offense than any other single player. And, like many perimeter-oriented teams, the Gaels actually shoot better (vs. the respective averages) on their twos than on their threes. Mills is indeed a great story and his free throw shooting (84 percent) suggests weíve yet to see the best of his three-point shooting (33 percent).

Duany (Bloomington): So St. Mary's gets clobbered by Texas... no shame in that, but with conference play now starting, and the WCC being so weak, isn't the strength of the Gaels going to be an unknown come tourney time? Also, assuming both Gonzaga and St. Mary's do well in conference play, what are the chances the WCC is a 2-bid league? I just don't see it.

John Gasaway (Basketball): Well, letís name names. In the WCC this season, Loyola Marymount, Portland, and USF appear to be on-track for really bad seasons. Even so, you might be overstating the weakness of the league just a tad. Pepperdine has an ugly W-L record but part of that is having played Memphis, BYU, and Oregon. San Diegoís also under .500 but they did win at Kentucky, which, on paper, wasnít much of an upset. (I canít believe I just typed that.) And Santa Claraís at least respectable. Result: as of this morning the conference as a whole ranks 11th in RPI. Thatís not great but itís not catastrophic, either. (Conference USA, for example, is 12th.) The WCC can get two teams in if St. Maryís does its part and if the upsets in other conference tournaments are held to a reasonable number.

Bread (NV): Do you think Jessie Evans will be back to coach The Dons (University of San Francisco) next year?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Zounds, itís the all-WCC edition BP chat! Will Evans be back? I have no idea. That is such a strange situation. For those just tuning in: Evans was granted a leave of absence and hasnít resigned, so, at least on paper, heís still the head coach and Eddie Suttonís the interim coach. A longtime assistant under Lute Olson at Arizona, Evans has coached three full seasons on the Hilltop and the Dons were a respectable 8-6 in-conference last year. So while this yearís been tough itís not like the programís been off-the-charts bad. Wait and see.

colin (a2): Man, I miss my daily dose of the Wonk. In the spirit of your former residence, can you tell me what you think of Beilein's first year on the job and if there's hope for the team? I liked the hire and still do, but was expecting to get beat by fewer directional schools. And losing to Amaker at Harvard? Eeesh. They don't appear to do much well, though I can't say I've been able to make myself pay too close attention. Thoughts?

John Gasaway (Basketball): The Wonkís still doing things (almost) daily, theyíre just spread around and appearing under this John Gasaway guyís name. Anyway, thanks for the pining. Now, Beileinís demonstrably a great coach so thereís always hope. That being said, heís done it in the past with unbelievable ball control and a lot of threes. This year he finds himself with a roster thatís short on perimeter threats and that commits a more normal number of turnovers. I will say this: losing by 16 at home to Wisconsin or by seven at Purdue are both much more encouraging than losing by 11 at Harvard. Manny Harris gobbles up a prodigious number of possessions in that offense and heís struggled from the field. His best play is to get fouled--heís an 81 percent FT shooter.

charlesf (nyc): How much of an improvement will Oden mean to the Blazers next year...will they be an elite team, or still below the Spurs, Suns, etc.

John Gasaway (Basketball): You know, I'm supposed to defer on these questions because, strictly speaking, I don't "do" the NBA. But, as chance would have it, I watched Greg Oden very closely last year and I have to say I've been disturbed by pre- and (especially) post-microfracture talk saying he's not going to do as well as his draft position would suggest. It's true it's not the pattern for 20-year-old seven-footers to come in and make an immediate impact in their rookie season. He will need some time. But to say he won't amount to much flies in the face of everything we saw last year from a guy who played most of his games with one working wrist: namely, a rare combination of dominant defensive rebounding along with dominant shot-blocking. Surround him with quality players and watch the good things happen.

Dan (CT): Which conference do you think has the best roster of head coaches? Can any others match the Big East's list (Pitino, Calhoun, Boeheim, Huggins, Crean, Wright, JT3 etc). Which of the following BE coaches seems most likely to take his program to the next level?: Heath, Gonzalez, Cronin, Roberts, Nixon, Welsh?

John Gasaway (Basketball): The Big East is definitely the snooty country club on the hill when it comes to coaches. As far as taking their team to the next level, I won't name a most-likely-to-succeed but I will issue a pre-emptive rationalization: Stan Heath arguably faces the largest obstacles of any of the young Turks you name. Speaking of USF....

jmurph79 (DC): What are the pro prospects for Kentrell Gransberry (South Florida)? He's big and is a great rebounder- chance at the 2nd round, or even higher? Thanks.

John Gasaway (Basketball): Gransberry's a rebounding specialist and within his specialty heís superb. He was the best offensive rebounder in the nation last year, getting to 20 percent of opponentsí misses when he was on the floor. Heís also a beast on the defensive glass. But heís ďonlyĒ 6-9. If he had one more arrow in his quiver(blocks, say) a team might take a chance.

Dan (CT): John, who's got the early edge for Big East newcomer of the year? DaJuan Blair? Green or Flynn? Austin Freeman?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Shaping up to be a great contest, no doubt. Personally I'd go with Blair, by a nose over Flynn. Freeman will clearly be a phenomental player (his shooting's been spectacular) but his role's much different in that his coach has the luxury of playing him only half the time. Only thing about Blair: can he continue to impress on an injury-ravaged team?

nghunter (Brooklyn): Hi, John. Have you noticed the emergence of Damion James of the Longhorns from useful extra player last year to dominant force this year? OVer the last ten games he is averaging 16+ points, 12+ rebounds, nearly 2 blocks and nearly assists along with a steal and is 10-18 from three point range.

John Gasaway (Basketball): You forgot one more bullet point: James might have one of the best height-to-results ratios in the nation when it comes to rebounding. He's listed at just 6-7 but he's been getting to about 26 percent (!) of opponents' misses during his minutes. Unreal.

Dick (Green Bay): Is Tony Bennett the best coach in America?.. WSU undefeated and top 5 in the nation - are you joking me? Tell me there's no chance he stays in Pullman after this year? I think we need to make Free Tony shirts, I got $10 on it. Make it happen.

John Gasaway (Basketball): John Wooden is the best coach in America. As far as whippersnappers born six decades later than the Wizard, though, Bennett ainít bad. One thing to bear in mind here: Washington State is actually playing about as well as they reasonably could have been expected to play this season. Last year was more of a surprise and a lot of credit went to Bennett, rightfully, for Xís and Oís. This year I think a lot of credit should go to him as a program-builder. Will he stay in Pullman? The Big Ten had a few vacancies after last year and my understanding is that Michigan in particular made a strong run at him, to no avail. Must be something about eastern Washington. Mark Fewís been in Spokane a lot longer than people thought he would be. The Few, the proud!

tfierst (MN): Does Tubby Smith give the Gophers any chance of ever competing for a Big Ten title?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Of course. Steve Alford had Iowa competing for a Big Ten title down to the wire in 2006. And ten years ago who would have believed that Wisconsin would be one of the most consistently successful programs in the Big Ten in the 21st century? Tubby will try to start keeping the Cole Aldriches of the world closer to their Mall of America-area roots.

Victor Page (Turkmenistan Basketball League): Best 7'0"+ pro prospect: DeAndre Jordan, Hasheem Thabeet, Roy Hibbert, Brook Lopez?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Wow, a lot of apples and oranges in that group. Jim Calhoun hopes Thabeet can follow Hibbert's trajectory but right now the UConn big man is still defense-only. (Great defense, of course.) Hibbert's the finished product in this group, relatively speaking, but given the next level's obsession with youth you'll be hearing a lot more about Jordan than you have up to now. He has burgeoning skills on both sides of the ball. (It bears repeating: Jordan, playing a medium-sized role in his team's offense, has made 78 percent of his twos. Eep.)

lemppi (Ankeny, IA): Do you think the Drake Bulldogs 11-1 start is a mirage or will they have the legs to stay in the Valley Conference's hunt? Thanks.

John Gasaway (Basketball): Hey, who cares if it's a mirage, right? The fact is the strange implosion in Carbondale this year has left something of a power vacuum at the top of the Valley. The difference in Drake this year is defense: opponents are coughing the ball up. Adam Emmenecker, Josh Young, and Leonard Houston are all getting steals.

Jason (Connecticut.... ): John thanks for the chat. I'm so pleased that you guys partnered with BP, now I get in-depth analysis on my two favorite sports. As a proud Badger, I'm wondering about the near future of the program and how it ranks in the Big Ten. I know the staff considers State and Indiana the current favorites, but how about a year out?

John Gasaway (Basketball): Don't look past this year yet. Remember your Badgers don't have to play at Michigan State this season. And Bo Ryan has one of the best defenses in the nation, allowing a little more than 0.8 points per possession. Wisconsin isn't going to blow too many tournament-quality teams off the court but they are very tough to score on.

John Gasaway (Basketball): Well, that brings us up to a tidy 75 minutes. Guess we should wrap this up. Until next time: keep your eyes on the rim and your nose over your toes. Later.


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