IF THE TAR HEELS DON'T WIN IT ALL THIS YEAR, WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT ROY WILLIAMS' LEGACY?
Logic: We don't want to start off on a negative foot, but UNC has almost everyone coming back. Williams is undeniably one of the best college coaches of the past two decades, but—there's always a but—he has ONE ring, from the '05 Heels. What will you think of him if he doesn't close the deal with this bunch?
"Well, considering this is Williams's 21st season and it took Dean Smith 21 years to win a national title, I'm guessing Tobacco Road knuckleheads will say "he's no Dean Smith," which is a little like saying Andy Roddick is no John McEnroe. There will be a lot of chatter, but really, it's hot air." - MICHAEL LITOS, AUTHOR OF CINDERELLA: A SEASON INSIDE THE MID-MAJORS
"Tar Heels fans don't seem to think Williams lives up to Smith's standard, but the only thing Smith had that Williams doesn't have is blind luck. Smith's two titles were clinched when someone on the opposition inexplicably passed to the wrong team (Fred Brown for Georgetown, 1982) and inexplicably called a timeout when he had none left (Chris Webber for Michigan, 1993). If those things don't happen, Smith isn't half the legend he is today, and yet he had no control over those events whatsoever." - MATT MEYERS, CONTRIBUTOR TO ESPN THE MAGAZINE
"Failure to win a championship with a great team is forgivable, I think—there are too many ways the ball can bounce when it comes down to elite teams. Failure to return to the Final Four at all might be a serious downer, though. As a Kansas alum who now lives in ACC country, I have seen a lot of Roy, and I think his legacy is this: amazing recruiter, masterful motivator, but maybe not an elite strategist." - ERIC ANGEVINE, CO-EDITOR / STRONGMAN OF STORMING THE FLOOR
"If his team collapses in the tournament again, it's pretty safe to say Williams isn't a big game coach." - JAMESON FLEMING, CONTRIBUTOR TO STORMING THE FLOOR
"If Roy fails to win with the Tar Heels this season, he should be the laughing stock of college basketball—at least until the 2010 tournament when his revamped Heels likely win it. I say that as nicely as possible because I have all the respect in the world for Roy. But, seriously, everyone should point and laugh at him if he cannot bring home a title. If he loses, Roy's legacy would be that he was the Chicago Cubs of college basketball coaches—he could put a great team together, have it play out a strong regular season but ultimately falter in the postseason in dramatic fashion." - MATT MATTUCCI, WGN RADIO PRODUCER
"I think what he does with this talented Tar Heel team will basically determine whether or not history will remember Roy as one of college basketball all-time great coaches (along with lines of Dean Smith, Coach K), or one of college basketball's better coaches that should have won much more than one NCAA title with the talent he coached." - MARCO ANSKIS, FOUNDER OF STORMING THE FLOOR
WHO IS YOUR BREAKOUT PLAYER, TEAM AND CONFERENCE FOR THIS SEASON?
Logic: Can you find the Stephen Curry BEFORE he becomes Stephen Curry?
"My breakout player doesn't go to a small school, but he's still overlooked. I think Florida's Nick Calathes will make a few midseason magazine covers. He's so much a Billy Donovan guy that he is starting to look like his head coach a little. He's 6'6" with a guard's handle, great passing chops, and a do-everything mentality. He wasn't a great shooter as a freshman, so he'll need to add that to his arsenal to live up to my high praise." - ANGEVINE
"My breakout team is Baylor. The four incredible guards, Curtis Jerrells, Henry Dugat, Tweety Carter, and LaceDarius Dunn will be one of the best backcourts in the country. Add in stud forward Kevin Rogers and you get a team that can really score. If they play any semblance of defense, they could easily make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament." - JAMESON FLEMING
"The Valley was "down" last year, which is a nice way of saying they stunk. The Valley will be back with multiple bids this year." - LITOS
"Does Arizona State count? I know they beat Arizona twice last season, but they want to prove they should've gotten that Tourney berth last year. And hell, when was the last time you actually watched one of their games? If someone east of the Mississippi actually searches for their scores on the ESPN scroll this year, I'm counting it as a breakthrough. If that doesn't work for you, Rutgers. The Big East is clotted with Final Four potential but I think Fred Hill's team has the talent to play spoiler to one conference team." - ESPN THE MAGAZINE WRITER ELENA BERGERON
"Selfishly, I'm hoping the breakout player is a healthy Jodie Meeks. Damion James and Devan Downey come to mind as well but I don't think South Carolina is going to be good enough for Downey to matter. James will be a beast for Texas." - CHRIS RICHARDSON FROM INTENTIONAL FOUL
IF YOU WERE RUNNING A NATIONAL MAGAZINE (UH) AND HAD TO PICK A THEME FOR THE PREVIEW ISSUE, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
Logic: Sometimes we like to hear other ideas, ya know?
"Tom Petty's lawyers may suddenly start buying vacation property, but "Into the Great Wide Open" stands out for me. The beauty of the game is that you never really know who or what will happen next." - LITOS
"I'd put Curry on the cover. The fearless tweener has captured the fancy of basketball fanatics. Maybe I'd mix it with the "big is back" notion and have a shooters vs. big men theme. This is why nobody asks me to design national magazine covers, by the way." - ANGEVINE
"I'm going to kill two birds with one stone here, with an idea that is timely and topical…Beasts of the Big East. I'm throwing Thabeet, Harangody, Terrance Williams, DuJuan Blair on the cover in creppy monster-like Halloween costumes. And no, I'm not suggesting this because I think that Haragody could go for Frankenstein's body double with some monster face paint. Nope, not at all." - ANSKIS
"I would get a primarily irrelevant musical group—like say, hypothetically, AC/DC or Bon Jovi—and I would have them write a song that served as the theme for the 2008 season. Then, I would strategically play that song every five minutes when college basketball was being shown. Because people would recognize it as a symbol for the great season." - WILL BRINSON, BRAHSOME.COM
"Something with the coaching carousel - "Clean Slate" maybe. Tom Crean was obviously big news. But Trent Johnson, Travis Ford, Johnny Dawkins and Mike Montgomery were all some pretty big (and surprising) coaching changes as well." - MATTUCCI
"I would run a "Beasts of the East" theme. With the Big East going to be so good and the emergence of UNC as the title favorite, the East coast is a haven for college basketball this year. Add in a pretty strong ACC, America's favorite Cinderella, Davidson, and a down year for the PAC-10, and the East is the superior region in the country for College Basketball." - JAMESON FLEMING
WHO IS YOUR FINAL FOUR AND NATIONAL CHAMPION?
Logic: This is a fairly standard preview question, we'd imagine.
"North Carolina will be a regional champ for the reasons everybody knows. Oklahoma will benefit from the return of beast Blake Griffin and the arrival of McDonald's All-American Willie Warren. Louisville has a solid core of size and experience, and add big freshman Samardo Samuels—if they can survive the brutal Big East, they'll make the final weekend. And, believe it or not, I think this is the year Gonzaga breaks through, with Pargo scoring and dishing to the big bodies Mark Few has brought to Spokane." - ANGEVINE
"North Carolina: You're not going to find me trying to be cool and pick a sleeper champion, you'd have to be damn fool to bet against the Heels' returning talent." - ANSKIS
"North Carolina, Connecticut, Texas, and I'll say Notre Dame. I'll go with the legacy pick and say North Carolina wins it." - LITOS
"North Carolina wins the title easily. UNC is the most talented team in the country as it returns the majority of its Final Four roster from a year ago. UConn and Notre Dame will also make the Final Four behind the bigs of Hasheem Thabeet and Luke Harangody. Gonzaga will finally make it to the Final Four." - JAMESON FLEMING
"I'm going to go with Wake Forest to win it all. Crazy, I know. How-EVA, I was going to put $100 on them in Vegas but spent all my money on, um, other things. Carolina will also make it, as will UCLA (they always do) and, um, let's see, Tennessee. Davidson will be a huge disappointment this season (relatively speaking)." - BRINSON
"Louisville, Memphis, UConn and Kentucky. The last one is a complete homer pick. Out of all that, I'm going with UConn. No one in that group can stop Thabeet." - RICHARDSON
" 1) North Carolina 2) Pittsburgh 3) UConn 4) Notre Dame. Can you tell I'm enamored with the Big East? Any team that finished .500 or better in the league should get an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. But ultimately, North Carolina should win it. It returns last year's player of the year, an excellent guard tandem, and some solid role players. Then again, the Heels won't intimidate anyone from the Big East." - BOB MCCLELLAN, BASKETBALL EDITOR OF RIVALS.COM
IF YOU HAD TO EQUATE YOUR NATIONAL TITLE PICK TO A CHARACTER ON THE SIMPSONS, WHO YOU GOT AND WHY?
Logic: Because if you don't love The Simpsons, are you legitimately a human?
"Mr Burns - Just as Mr. Burns has the power to do as he pleases in Springfield, the Heels have enough talent to do as they please with the competition this season. I'd also have 'Zaga as Duff Man - after years of high expectations, it's going to be nothing but a party when the Zags get to Detroit. Duff Man! - ANSKIS
"I'm going with Ralph Wiggum, because the more completely oblivious the Tar Heels are to the world around them and the pressure on them the better their chances for success." - MCCLELLAN
"There's a little Tar Heel in every bit of Maggie. She doesn't say anything but makes a statement; the pacifier and constant sucking represents their fans; when rolling she trips and falls a lot over herself; her arms are always open to say—look at me!, especially when she's getting the least attention. You like her even though you wouldn't really admit it." - LITOS
"My champion is Marquette. And to me, they're just like Mr. Burns. Why? Because they're old. Seriously, Jerel McNeal is still there? Isn't he like 65? I swear he was recruited by Al McGuire. Did the NCAA start giving unlimited eligibility and I wasn't informed?" - MEYERS
"Roy Williams is Marge, Matt Doherty is Bart, and Bill Guthridge is quiet Maggie. I guess that means Dean Smith is the brainy Lisa and Larry Brown is Homer." - ANGEVINE
"Bleeding Gums Murphy. I always loved the dude that taught Lisa to play sax for his ridiculous name and the fact that he spent all his money on Faberge eggs, thus leaving him too poor for dental care. So I'll stretch the metaphor to say that UConn's current squad has been through plenty blues-worthy tragedies (AJ Price alone could ghostwrite a mean tune for Keb Mo). This being a cartoon reference, the bluesman might actually have a shot at a happy ending." - BERGERON
"I would compare North Carolina to Nelson. They are the ultimate bully this year and will give everyone fits." - JAMESON FLEMING
"If UConn does win it, I'd compare them to Patty and Selma Bouvier. This has to do with the quality of Calhoun's raspy voice being close to Marge's sisters. It also has to do with the fact no one outside of Conneticut seems to like the Huskies, same as Patty and Selma. I mean, how many UConn fans do you run into on a regular basis?" - RICHARDSON