Hello. Sam here. Say, this being a basketball site for a magazine that covers all levels of basketball, shouldn’t we be talking more about college ball? Ben Collins is our college columnist, but he has to go away for a little while until the heat dies down, so now what are we to do?

In steps commenter H to the izzo. Some people say they watch the NBA, but not college? Izzo, well… yes, this is about the NCAA season so far. Take it away!

By Alan Ryan a.k.a. H to the izzo

With conference play in full swing and March approaching fast, now seems like a better time than any to do some mid season reflection.

Anyone with a pair of ears and ESPN will know that the main attraction of college basketball this year has been the outstanding depth and ridiculous talent of this years rookie class. ESPN has been accused of over-hyping in the past (understatement?) but this hype machine may well be justified. It’s even easy to say that this is one of the best freshman classes of all-time and that’s without using hyperbole. If I were to venture into hyperbole I would say that this freshman class is the best thing to happen to the world since oxygen.

There are so many young guys holding it down it’s impossible to mention them all. There are the obvious guys to mention who were expected to stand out,like your O.J Mayo’s, your Mike Beasley’s and your Derrick Rose’s, along with them also have guys like DeJuan Blair (Pitt), Andrew Ogilvy (Vanderbilt) and Chris Warren (Miss) all contributing greatly to ranked teams. Again there are way too many to mention but this class is deep to say the least. Many of them are not only merely impressing by showing their game but are also being team leaders. It’s clear that Kevin Durant and Greg Oden have a lot to do with this. Just about every interview with a freshman I’ve read or seen this season has mentioned something in the vein of: “Seeing the way Durant and Oden played and lead their teams last year made me think I could do it too.” And people said one and done’s were a bad thing. Freshmen looking up to the Durant/Oden model also suggests that they will make the NBA jump as soon as they can, not that anyone is surprised with that.

THE CONTENDERS:

North Carolina 15-0

Things are looking good for fans down Chapel Hill direction. They’ve been pretty flawless so far. Everybody is doing everything right. Tyler Hansbrough is finishing plays after being pretty much tackled every play and making it look easy. He’s even showing some athleticism. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one unaware he could do this or this. You’d find it hard to find a player smoother than Wayne Ellington anywhere. His game in one word:effortless. Tywon Lawson really helps this team to be what it is. I mean is there a better transition game in the country? The team does seem to be gelling but haven’t really been tested yet. Their biggest test so far has been against Clemson in which they unconvincingly managed a two point win. The ACC will be their barometer; if they put a good conference record together, I can see them winning the whole thing. But, as of now I’m unconvinced.

Memphis 13-0

The most entertaining team in basketball this year by far. They pretty much have everything you need for an eye pleasing fan-favorite. They have the insanely athletic pass first point guard Derrick Rose. The solid as-a-rock do everything swingman in Chris Douglas Roberts. An immovable object inside in Joey Dorsey, some more than capable role playing bigs (Dozier and Taggart). John Calipari is spoiled for choice when it comes to guard rotation, Antonio Anderson, Willie Kemp and Doneal Mack are all capable of delivering big performances. Their unique playing style (which was apparently developed by a JuCo coach-that guy must be pissed for sharing) makes them awkward to guard especially with their ability to play the inside and outside game with equal deftness. Their only downfall may be the ease of their conference schedule. They may become complacent by the time March comes around.

Kansas 15-0

Talented team, maybe the most talented team in the country. Great players, ruthlessly efficient. Can they win the Championship? Sure,why not? Technically everyone has the chance of winning and they’re in a better position than most. Will they win the Championship? No! This is just my opinion but I’m very underwhelmed by this team for some reason, well it’s wrong to say “for some reason” because I know the exact reason I have reservations about the team. I question coach Bill Self’s ability to…well, coach. Sure he’s really good at convincing really good players to play for his program thus creating a really good team, on paper that is. But as long as Self wastes most of his valuable timeouts in the first half Kansas won’t win a Championship. He seems to be unable to properly motivate his team, and motivation is a pretty big component of a winning team. But with players like Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins and Brandon Rush they may be able to do it on there own. Unlikely, but possible.

UCLA 15-1

15 and 1 without getting into much of a rhythm, sign of a pretty good team. Haven’t been challenged much, with a non-conference schedule against mediocre teams albeit they did record two impressive wins against Michigan State and Stanford, a two point loss to an underrated Texas team being the only blemish on their record. Kevin Love came in and is leading the offense like he was expected to, putting up 16 and 10. The reason for the Bruins lack of rhythm would have to be the loss of Darren Collison early in the season. Widely touted by many (and me) as the best point guard in the country before the start of the season. Despite some impressive games since his return he hasn’t been consistent and he holds the key to UCLA’s chances of winning a chip’.

NAMES YOU SHOULD REMEMBER:

Charron Fisher (Niagara)
6’4” built like a brick wall, leading the nation in scoring with 27.4 ppg and an impressive 9.5 rebounds a game. Since his team is leading the MAAC, you will more than likely be seeing him lighting up the scoring column in the tourney. If you’re one of those “I’ve always known about him” guys like I am, you will be well advised to remember his name.

Damion James (Texas)
Texas’ missing link between a successful last season and the possible mediocrity that this one COULD have been. You’ve heard all about D.J Augustine (who is pretty great,by the way) and AJ Abrams being the reason behind Texas performing better than last year but without this guy they wouldn’t be having the season they are having. He’s a 6’7” work-horse with a penchant for grabbing rebounds he has no right to grab. Currently pulling down almost 11 a game while scoring 13ppg. Still only a sophomore, if he continues to develop you may see him in the NBA one day.

PLAYERS YOU’RE ALLOWED TO FORGET

Hasheem Thabeet (Connecticut)
Okay, so we will be seeing him in the NBA whether we like it or not. We’ll be seeing him in the NBA until the rookie contract expires anyway. He will be drafted as a project by the ghost of Billy King. Sure, he has potential and plenty of it. Who wouldn’t be tempted by a 7’3”er with solid footwork? But being 7’3” and averaging 8 rebounds in college doesn’t cut it. Has anyone even told him how tall he is? Seriously does he know? Either he has the inner-drive of a weak 7 year old or he just doesn’t care much. Either way, I wouldn’t hold out much hope for him.

Brian Zoubek (Duke)
I know what you’re asking: “Were we supposed to remember him in the first place?” But seriously how does a player like this get a scholarship with a major program? He even got a SLAM Punks piece. Was his high school competition that bad? Now I may be a picky coach, but I require a player I’m recruiting and signing to be able to walk. I really don’t know what else to say, just terrible.

SPARE A THOUGHT FOR…

-PITTSBURGH
Just a few short weeks ago they were unbeaten, preparing for a fight for the Championship and just after beating Duke with an overtime buzzer-beater. Does life get any better? Now, two injuries to key players-Mike Cook who’s put for the season (which sadly ends his collegiate career) and LeVance Fields who’s out in the foreseeable future and two losses make Pitt appear to be on the downslope without a chance of winning anything.

-Rick Majerus
20 points. Really?! You get 40 minutes in a game and your team manages to score 20 points? Come on Rick. You have to imagine that there will be some mad comfort eating going on in the Majerus household, possibly of players. God knows they deserve it and are small enough.

DELICIOUS IRONY.
Dick Vitale’s recent throat surgery, I know I shouldn’t joke about it but is there a more appropriate injury?