Commentary

Forde Minutes: Look back, look forward

Originally Published: November 10, 2009
By Pat Forde | ESPN.com

Forty names, games, teams and minutiae making news in college basketball, preview edition (fightin' words sold separately in Lawrence):

Transition Game

It's been a long decade. If you need proof, look at how much has changed since November 1999.

Brown/Calipari
AP Photo/Dan LohHe's certainly in the spotlight now, but at the start of this decade, John Calipari was a Philadelphia 76ers assistant under Larry Brown.

John Calipari was in limbo between his failed NBA experiment in New Jersey and reinventing himself in Memphis.

Rick Pitino was in midflop in Boston.

Bill Self had a very talented team on his hands … in Tulsa.

Bob Knight was embarking on what would be his last season at Indiana, months before video of the coach massaging Neil Reed's neck came out and nearly a full year before IU student Kent Harvey asked the fateful question, "Hey, what's up, Knight?"

Steve Lavin was at UCLA, Ben Howland was at Pittsburgh and nobody had ever heard of Jamie Dixon.

Roy Williams, Gary Williams and Jim Boeheim were ringless. And hearing about it.

Mike Krzyzewski was toying with North Carolina and seemingly would forever.

Consider all that, and then remember that coaches are supposed to provide the continuity in a game populated with players looking to leave after a year or two on campus. Which only goes to show that college basketball has never been more impermanent than in the first decade of the 21st century.

Of The Minutes' top 10 college programs of all time, only two have the same coaches today that they had a decade ago. And almost all of them have had some serious peak-and-valley fluctuation. A look at the spin cycle for the big boys:

UCLA (1) -- Number of coaches: two (Lavin, Howland). High point: three straight Final Fours, 2006-08. Low point: a 10-19 season in 2002-03, Lavin's last year. Best player of the decade: Kevin Love.

North Carolina (2) -- Number of coaches: three (Bill Guthridge, Matt Doherty, Roy Williams). High point: national titles in 2005 and '09. Low point: a 20-loss season under Doherty in 2001-02. Best player of the decade: Tyler Hansbrough.

Kentucky (3) -- Number of coaches: three (Tubby Smith, Billy Gillispie, Calipari). High point: a 32-win season and undefeated SEC record in 2002-03. Low point: missing the NCAAs last season. Best player of the decade: Tayshaun Prince.

Kansas (4) -- Number of coaches: two (Williams, Self). High point: winning the 2008 national championship. Low point: consecutive NCAA first-round losses in 2005 (Bucknell) and '06 (Bradley). Best player of the decade: Nick Collison.

Indiana (5) -- Number of coaches: four (Knight, Mike Davis, Kelvin Sampson, Tom Crean). High point: reaching the 2002 national title game. Low point: probation under serial phone-dialer Sampson and subsequent 6-25 crater season. Best player of the decade: Jared Jeffries.

Duke (6) -- Number of coaches: one (Krzyzewski). High point: winning the 2001 national title. Low point: this past March, when the Blue Devils lost to a lower-seeded team for the sixth straight NCAA tournament -- this time, a 23-point beatdown from Villanova. Best player of the decade: Jason Williams.

Louisville (7) -- Number of coaches: two (Denny Crum, Pitino). High point: advancing to the 2005 Final Four as a No. 4 seed. Low point: a 19-loss season that forced out Crum in 2001. Best player of the decade: Terrence Williams.

Michigan State (8) -- Number of coaches: one (Tom Izzo). High point: winning the 2000 national championship behind "The Flintstones," led by Mateen Cleaves. Low point: going 8-8 in the Big Ten in 2006 and '07, the only seasons Sparty finished outside the league's top five this decade. Best player of the decade: Cleaves.

Oklahoma State (9) -- Number of coaches: three (Eddie Sutton, Sean Sutton, Travis Ford). High point: making the 2004 Final Four. Low point: having to push out both Suttons between 2006 and '08. Best player of the decade: Tony Allen.

Ohio State (10) -- Number of coaches: two (Jim O'Brien, Thad Matta). High point: NCAA runner-up finish in 2007. Low point: sitting out the '05 tourney because of violations that occurred on O'Brien's watch. Best player of the decade: Greg Oden.

[+] EnlargeUNC Title Team
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe Minutes ranks the 2005 North Carolina Tar Heels -- Roy Williams' first title team -- as its best champion of the decade.

A few other bests and worsts of the decade from The Minutes:

Best Champions (11): 1. North Carolina '05; 2. Florida '07; 3. North Carolina '09.

Worst Hires (12): 1. Kelvin Sampson at Indiana; 2. Billy Gillispie at Kentucky; 3. Matt Doherty at North Carolina.

Best Cinderella (13): George Mason '06.

Worst Scandal (14): Baylor murder, and the subsequent cheating cover-up orchestrated by Dave Bliss.

Best Title Game (15): Kansas 75, Memphis 68, OT, 2008.

Worst Title Game (16): North Carolina 89, Michigan State 72, 2009.

Best Conference (17): ACC (four national titles, eight Final Four appearances, 11 NCAA tournament No. 1 seeds).

Worst Player To Dominate A Final Four Game (18): Georgia Tech 7-footer Luke Schenscher put up 19 points and 12 rebounds as the Yellow Jackets upset Oklahoma State in 2004 to reach the national title game. Anyone heard of the big redhead since?

Best Team Not To Win A Title (19): Illinois '05, which went 37-2 and lost to North Carolina by five points in the championship game.

Worst Single Development (20): Kentucky became so bad that Ashley Judd cut back her Rupp Arena appearances.

On To The Here And Now

Five matchups you must see, or your life is a hollow, meaningless charade:

Kansas-Texas (21). When: Feb. 8, in Austin. Why: The Jayhawks are the preseason national title favorites, but some doubt they're even the best team in the Big 12. That's where the Longhorns enter the picture with freshman guard Avery Bradley.

Michigan State-Purdue (22). When: Feb. 9, in East Lansing; Feb. 27, in West Lafayette. Why: Those two games should decide the Big Ten title. Last time around, the Spartans won the regular season and the Boilermakers won the league tournament, and both start this season in the top 10.

Louisville-Kentucky (23). When: Jan. 2, in Lexington. Why: The feud is back to molten temperature with Calipari's arrival at UK. He and Pitino have had some memorable battles over the years, and should go at one another with maximum ferocity now that they're just 75 miles apart.

Duke-North Carolina (24). When: Feb. 10, in Chapel Hill; March 6, in Durham. Why: If you need to ask that, you haven't been paying attention over the past 20-plus years.

Villanova-West Virginia (25). When: Feb. 8, in Morgantown; March 6, in Philadelphia. Why: It might be a sartorial mismatch between Jay Wright and Bob Huggins, but the competition will be significantly closer on the court between the two heavy favorites to win the Big East.

Five fresh faces to flip over:

John Wall (26), Kentucky. The stat line from his lone exhibition game is enough to pique your interest: 27 points, nine assists, four rebounds, 10-of-14 shooting. To those who say the freshman point guard is Derrick Rose all over again, some say they're wrong -- he's better.

[+] EnlargeTiny Gallon
AP Photo/Bill WaughOU will no doubt miss Blake Griffin, but freshman Tiny Gallon will help fill the void in the middle.

Tiny Gallon (27), Oklahoma. The wide-body gets a chance for some of Blake Griffin's minutes and touches in the post this season. He had 10 points and nine rebounds in 23 minutes in the Sooners' opening exhibition game.

Derrick Favors (28), Georgia Tech. Signing the 6-foot-9 hometown star might have been the coup that kept Paul Hewitt employed another year. Now we'll see how Favors fares under that kind of burden. He held up under it just fine in Tech's exhibition game, racking up 15 points and nine rebounds.

Kenny Boynton (29), Florida. The Gators have fallen into an alarming talent shortfall, which means a talented freshman guard like Boynton will have an immediate opportunity to help reverse the program's two-year slide. Boynton appeared prepared to handle that assignment in Florida's first exhibition game, scoring 22 points, grabbing six rebounds and recording three steals.

Peyton Siva (30), Louisville. Pitino has a glut of experienced guards, but Siva has played well enough so far to demand immediate playing time. He produced 15 points, nine assists, seven steals (and, yes, nine turnovers) in two exhibition games while making the "SportsCenter" Top 10 Plays twice already.

Five coaches who need to get something done this season:

Paul Hewitt (31), Georgia Tech. When he needs it: all season long. Since taking Schenscher and the Yellow Jackets to the 2004 Final Four, Hewitt has made just two of five NCAA tournament fields and won just a single game there. Rock bottom -- Tech fans hope -- was the 2-14 2008-09 ACC season. This team certainly has the talent to make up for past program pratfalls -- but there is no time to waste.

One-fourth of the Big East (32). When they need it: early and often. The quartet on the clock includes Jerry Wainwright at DePaul, Fred Hill at Rutgers, Norm Roberts at St. John's and Mick Cronin at Cincinnati. The four have been at their schools for a combined 15 years and have zero NCAA tournament bids to show for it. (If you want a fifth name, it's not like anyone has been dazzled yet by Stan Heath at South Florida, either.)

Rick Barnes (33), Texas: When he needs it: April. Barnes has been a college head coach for 22 years and won 472 games -- just not many of them at season's end. In all that time, and with all the NBA talent he has coached, Barnes has made exactly one Final Four (2003). This seems like an excellent time to add another appearance on the season's last weekend.

Bill Carmody (34), Northwestern. When he needs it: all season long. At some point, even a basketball-indifferent school like this one has to care about advancing to the NCAA tournament, right? At least once? In school history? Especially since fellow egghead schools Duke, Stanford and Vanderbilt have made it look relatively easy to succeed in power conferences. This is Carmody's 10th year, so it's not like he hasn't been given every conceivable chance.

Leonard Hamilton (35), Florida State. When he needs it: March. The school is presumably too caught up in its ongoing football coaching melodrama to notice that Hamilton has just one NCAA appearance in seven seasons in Tallahassee -- and it came last season.

Five programs tasked with handling higher expectations:

[+] EnlargeMike Montgomery
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezMike Montgomery won several Pac-10 titles while at Stanford, but his current employer hasn't won one since the Dwight Eisenhower was President (1960).

California (36). The Golden Bears are picked by many to win the Pac-10. Last time they did so: 1960. To say they're dealing with unusual status is like saying "Octomom" is living an unusual life. Understatement of the year.

Michigan (37). The Wolverines went from missing the NCAAs for 10 straight seasons to making the field this past March to suddenly appearing in most preseason top 15s. John Beilein has brought a lot of programs along in short order, but the current Michigan players certainly are unaccustomed to such preseason billing. The students are hearing the hype, having increased their season tickets purchased from 480 last year to 2,534 this year.

West Virginia (38). See above. Bob Huggins has spent a pretty significant portion of his coaching career hanging around the top 10 -- but the Mountaineers have not. They now are considered a glam team in a glam league. Sophomore Devin Ebanks, as versatile as any player in the nation, must handle all his preseason pub maturely.

Dayton (39). The Atlantic-10 long has been the personal playground of the Xavier Musketeers. Now big-dog status has been transported up Interstate 75 and bestowed on the rival Flyers. Will they hold up while carrying an unaccustomed bull's-eye on their backs all season?

Butler (40). The Bulldogs are very familiar with having everyone shooting at them in the Horizon League -- but nobody is limiting the discussion of this Butler team to winning the conference. The question now is whether this team can deal with being considered a legitimate national power. The Minutes is helping heap the pressure on the Bulldogs by picking them to reach the Final Four in their hometown.

Point After

Speaking of Indy, The Minutes has a full travelogue of recommendations for when the Final Four arrives in that city in April. But you cannot go wrong with a pint at The Claddagh, a fine Irish pub downtown. From there, the opportunities for additional entertainment are limitless -- sort of like the possibilities for what may come during this 2009-10 season. Enjoy.

Pat Forde is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at ESPN4D@aol.com.