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October 19, 2009
There Will Be Book
The Essential Major-Conference Preview

by John Gasaway

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Yes! There will be a book!

There, that felt good. Over the past couple months I’ve been asked many times whether there would be a follow-up to last year’s first-ever College Basketball Prospectus. The answer was “yes” all along, and I even let that slip on a couple of occasions. But before making the official announcement I wanted to get every last duck in a row. That time has now come. So….

Arriving early next month: The Basketball Prospectus 2010 Major-Conference Preview. It will be available online both as a PDF and as a print-to-order book, exactly like the just-published Pro Basketball Prospectus 2009-10.

Having done a book last year, Ken Pomeroy and I heard a good deal about what people liked and didn’t like. First and foremost people liked that the book had information and analysis that you can't find anywhere else. A Prospectus preview will tell you which players are back and which new arrivals are expected to star, of course, but we’re too curious to just parrot rosters and recruiting rankings at you. Last year’s book had answers to questions that we’d been asking each other. Why did Duke suffer back-to-back first-weekend NCAA tournament exits? Why should Kentucky fans have expected a step back in advance of last year? What was the difference between a Kansas team that won the national championship in 2008 and one that lost in the Elite Eight in 2007? It was all in there.

Maybe just as important, though, readers apparently warmed to a book that didn’t speak in preview-ese, that vague and diffuse yet putatively cheery language where every player’s above-average and every struggling team’s just one key player away from turning the corner. Hey, it’s just a game, right? If someone’s better at that game than someone else, we’re honest about it. Speaking only as a reader, I find it fatiguing to read too many pages of preview-ese. We think honesty wears better.

On the other hand, people didn’t love that we couldn’t cover all 344 D-I teams. So this year…we still didn’t. But we decided to make our major-conference focus sharper and more thorough. We believe this is quite simply the best preview you can get anywhere for the 73 teams in the ACC, Big 12, Big East, Big Ten, Pac-10, and SEC. I can brag like that because I didn’t write them all. I had the most informed and perceptive help imaginable, in the form of the aforementioned Ken Pomeroy and a new contributor that we were delighted to include this time around, Dan Hanner.

If you’re a savvy fan of college hoops, you’re already acquainted with the keen analysis that Dan posts at Yet Another Basketball Blog. Dan previewed the Big East, Ken took the Pac-10, and I wrote up previews for the ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, and SEC.

One more thing readers liked last year were the essays at the front of the book. We have some more of those goodies for you this year. Behold!

  • Yours truly on the actual relationship between a team’s level of experience and their performance. Every year some teams come into the season with “everyone back.” But how important is that, really? I looked at 272 team-seasons between 2006 and 2009 trying to figure that one out. One tip while you’re waiting: Virginia will be better than you think this year.
  • Ken on the true importance of DeJuan Blair to Pitt last year. I must tell you I thought I had already tackled this issue in the most hyper-specific and dauntingly technical headline possible. Ken apparently thought otherwise. Whatever.
  • Reprising his smash hit success in last year’s book: Kevin Pelton on which college players are in reality the best NBA prospects. I know you hear a lot of blather from hoops pundits on this precise topic, but when Pelton and Doolittle speak, Daryl Morey listens.
  • Bradford Doolittle on the importance and limits of coaching: Just how far beyond his team’s expected performance can a good coach take his team in the NCAA tournament?
  • John Perrotto on the teams that Ken, Dan, and I didn’t get to. Perrotto boldy went where the three of us did not. So can you.
  • Will Carroll on the hardwood and the damage done. In the old days youngsters rotated their sports as the calendar rolled by. Now many of the top hoops prospects play nothing but basketball 12 months a year. What does that do to their lower extemities? Will’s the expert, but I have to tell you that in the course of previewing 47 major-conference teams I found myself typing the words “broken bone in his left foot” an awful lot.
  • A Foreword by a Very Special Guest. Doolittle and Pelton thought they were so cool because they grabbed off Daryl Morey to write theirs. Well, all I can say right now it that our guy’s taller. So there.

Basically we’ve tried to put together the most informative book you can buy about the 2009-10 college basketball season. If you want original and detailed analysis on the likes of Kansas, Kentucky, Washington, Cal, Tennessee, Michigan State, Purdue, Villanova, Connecticut, and Texas, or, for that matter, DePaul, Georgia, Iowa, Colorado, or NC State, this is the book for you.

I’ll leave you with a free sample. Let’s take a look at a guy who didn’t make first- or even second-team all-conference. Meet Jeffery Taylor, a player who worked out very well for Kevin Stallings at Vanderbilt last year:

Having arrived on campus as a freshman last year with a minimum of buzz from evaluators of recruits, Taylor has to qualify as a wonderful surprise for Stallings. (In defense of the evaluators, it was probably easy to lose track of a player who made his way to Nashville via Norrkoping, Sweden, and Hobbs, New Mexico.) The per-game numbers are a little deceiving because the coach rotates his frontcourt, including Taylor, so liberally. As a result Taylor appears to the world at large as merely a 12-point-a-game third option for an 8-8 team. (Yawn.) The world at large should look closer: Taylor’s a beast on the offensive glass who makes 55 percent of his twos while playing a huge role in the offense, albeit while averaging a mere 26 minutes per game. (Stallings is an old Missouri Valley hand who doles out playing time for his frontcourt the way Dana Altman does at Creighton for the whole team. In both cases the minutes are limited not by foul trouble or by a desire to rotate in fresh legs on an up-tempo team, but simply by coach prerogative within a preset pattern.) Yes, Taylor needs to either give up the threes or start making them, but he’s still pretty clearly on a trajectory to “emerge” here sooner rather than later.

I realize that the readers of this site are an uncommonly hoops-savvy group, but I’ll wager that a substantial minority of you have never even heard of Jeffery Taylor. And yet this is the analytical TLC he gets from us.

You should see what we did for John Wall. Available early next month.

Follow John on Twitter: @johngasaway.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.

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Top 10 Prospects (10/19)
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Outliers (10/22)

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