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Columnists | Message Board  | Monday Mailbag Archive

By Joel Welser

December 12th, 2005


College Basketball: Monday Mailbag


Each Monday, CHN college basketball expert Joel Welser opens up his mailbag to answer fan questions.  One question is chosen each week to be answered by a few college assistant or head coaches.  At the end, Joel also includes some timely college basketball tidbits.  If you'd like to ask Joel a question or if you'd like to read past editions, check out the Monday Mailbag archive.


Coaches Question


What is your opinion on the recent eruption of conference expansion?  Is having a 16 team conference where everybody doesnít even play each other a good thing for college basketball?


From Neil,

New York


Coach Matt Painter Ė Purdue Head Coach

Since it's so new, time will tell if it's good or not. One thing we know is that you don't have a true conference champion. In a traditional 10-team league, everyone plays each other and you get a better idea of who is the real champion. With so many teams in one league it's impossible to have a balanced schedule for everyone. You'll always have a debate about who is the best. Maybe that's a good thing. Time will tell.



I was wondering your thoughts on UMass. I know this year they have been OK, but do you think in the next few years that Travis Ford can turn the program around and maybe generate as much interest in it like in the Calipari era? They have a young team and a lot of good transfers that will be eligible next season. Also do you think that Rashaun Freeman is an NBA prospect?


From Dave,  



They are in the upper half of the A10 this year, but turnovers continue to be a problem and they will be for the rest of the season.  Freshman Chris Lowe will get better, but the options are too slim in the backcourt, especially for Coach Fordís style of play.  The Minutemen do have a young team and they will have much higher expectations next year and the years to come. 


I doubt UMass can generate as much interest as they did during the Calipari era.  That has less to do with Travis Ford than it does with UConnís dominance of the area, for the time being at least.  UMass wonít be the lead sports story in New England for quite a while.  That doesnít mean they wonít be a good team, but that does mean the Minutemen will have a very difficult time landing the elite recruits in the area.  Another issue is the conference affiliation.  The A-10 doesnít stack up with the Big East as far as national exposure goes.  In a few years when the Big East will inevitably split up, UMass could end up joining the non-football Big Easters in a new conference, which would increase its national exposure.  I called my connections in Connecticut and we decided that the non-football Big East conference should grab former Yankee Conference members UMass, Richmond and Rhode Island and use that moniker for the new conference.  Itíd be a better conference than the A-10 with Villanova, Seton Hall, St. Johnís, Marquette and Georgetown leading the way.  But that is nothing but speculation, fueled by my personal thoughts on a 16 team conference.


I asked CHN draft expert Shawn Siegel about his thoughts on Rashaun Freeman.  "The disappointing thing about Freeman is that his production has remained the same since his freshman year, and he doesn't appear to have improved that much.  Offensively, he doesn't have terribly impressive range, and defensively he doesn't block shots.  The thing that would best give him a chance to sneak into the late 2nd round is if UMass would make the Big Dance so he got some national publicity."



What do you think about my Hoosiers this year?  What about once D.J. White is healthy and playing?


From Kyle,



I like the Hoosiers this year.  Iíll finally understand where IU fans are coming from if Mike Davis doesnít win this season.  The talent level is way too high not to make the NCAAs.  The big win came on Saturday against Kentucky, which will most likely be a less impressive win as the season goes on.  A three game road trip starting tonight in Charlotte should create three more wins for the Hoosiers.  If not, pundits will start to complain about IU not being able to win on the road.  The Hoosiers will give the 49ers some payback and shouldnít have many problems against Butler and at a depleted Ball State squad.  And then the fun begins in the brutal Big Ten schedule. 


D.J. White was dressed on Saturday and is expected to play Monday against Charlotte.  If the Hoosiers missed White half as much as they ended up missing A.J. Ratliff, the rest of the Big Ten should be worried.  White, alongside of Marco Killingsworth, will provide a frontcourt combination that is second to none in the Big Ten.  Nobody else in the conference has scorers under the basket as prolific as those two. 


Have a question?  Email Joel at  Weíll post and answer as many as possible.  Please include your first name and home state and put Monday Mailbag in the email title. 


Joelís Thoughts of the Week


I was almost ready to give Arizona State some credit for winning their first four games of the year.  None of the victories were impressive, but they were wins.  However, a loss to Utah Valley State puts the Sun Devils right where we expected, at the very bottom of the conference.


ESPNís ďPride of the ProgramĒ is neat and all, but after every single one I try to figure out who is coming up next.   It always ends with me checking the index in my Blue Book and losing five bucks to people who know that Coppin State comes between Connecticut and Cornell.


Old Dominion was the obvious preseason choice to win the CAA, but things didnít go well this week.  After a slim 54-53 win at home to George Mason, the Monarchs got annihilated at Drexel.  The offense isnít clicking, as was shown by ODUs ten point first half effort on Saturday and the team cohesion seems to be lacking, which is quite odd for a veteran squad. 


Iíve gone way too long without talking about Washington State and Dick Bennett.  We are in year three of the three year plan.  Iím not exactly sure what the plan is, but if it is to finish in the top half of the conference, the Cougars might be able to pull it off.  Washington State will be tested early with three of their first four conference games coming against teams currently ranked in the top 25.  If Robbie Cowgill and company lose all three of those, it will be tough to pull back towards the top. 


Did the first football-less Saturday (I donít count DII or DIII) seem long to anybody else?  The Tivo was working overtime, since I watched 20 games in one dayÖactually I went well, well into Sunday morning catching the games I missed during the day.  And it helps with games like Michigan and South Florida where fast forwarding through the second half is a smart idea.  The important part is that we are now officially in the thick of basketball season, where every Saturday you can watch hoops from noon to midnight nonstop. 


Six Degrees

Seattle University over Michigan State?  Absolutely.  Division II Seattle beat Portland, who beat Oregon State, who beat UNLV, who beat Hawaii, who beat Michigan State.  The Redhawks started the season 5-0, thanks in large part to senior guard Bernard Seals, before losing their last two games to CSU Monterey Bay and Sonoma State.  The Spartans on the other hand, have won six in a row after their epic loss at the hands of Gonzaga. 


Check back each week for Joel Wesler's Monday Mailbag, and email your question to


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