ESPN's college basketball coverage, which will include more than 1,500 games, will begin Friday, highlighted by the Armed Forces Classic between Georgetown and Oregon at 7 p.m. from Pyeongtaek, South Korea. Analyst Jay Bilas, who will call the game, conducted a conference call Monday. Here are a few excerpts:
How would you size up the Big 12 race?
“Kansas has to be considered the best team again. You win nine in a row, that's some pretty strong evidence you're going to have a chance to win it again. Bill Self has an NBA-size front line and really talented. His freshman class is within shouting distance of Kentucky's for talent, not quite as deep in talent but overall really, really terrific. Andrew Wiggins (6-foot-8 guard), I think everybody has heard, is the top prospect. I'm not sure he is ready to be the top player, but you give him a little bit of time and he is just going to continue to get better and better. I was really impressed with Wayne Selden (6-5 guard) when I was there. He's probably their hardest worker. And Joel Embiid (7-foot center), he's a No. 1 overall pick caliber talent. You just don't see guys with that size, agility, feet, hands and touch. I like their team a lot.
“Oklahoma State is very good. They don't have the front line that Kansas has. I think that's the difference. Markel Brown (6-3 wing) is one of the most underrated players in the country, and Marcus Smart (6-4 guard) is probably the most complete player at both ends of the floor. But having to go up against the front line of Kansas is going to be the real challenge, having to keep them off the glass, keep them out of the paint and defend them in the post is going to be really, really difficult.”
What's you impression of the Sooners?
“I like Oklahoma. They have really good guards. Keep everybody healthy, I think they are going to continue to get better. They are taking another step forward, but you have to have a complete crew to knock Kansas out of the top spot.”
How do you feel about the new hand-check rule that has upset some coaches?
“I was in favor it and have been advocating it for years. I think that our game has gotten away from us. We were in the same position now that the NBA was in the year 2000 or so where their game had turned into organized wrestling matches and that's what our game has been. It's been a long time coming. No disrespect to the supervisors or commissioners, but we have nobody in charge of this. And finally, we've had some movement where we can stop the organized fouling. And that's what it is. And many coaches have admitted this, they have been teaching fouling as strategy simply because the referees will not call it. All these things have been in the rule book, but now they are codified as rules. ... What this will do will bring back freedom of movement in the game. It's something we have to stick with.
“The next move is we've got to get contact off the ball where you can't hold cutters and shuck cutters. And we've got to reduce the shot clock because college basketball has the longest shot clock in the world. That's an embarrassment. There's no data that suggests that 35 seconds is the magic number to get off a really good shot against a really good defense. There's no excuse that women's college basketball is at 30 and the international game is at 24. ... If the Europeans can figure it off and the entire international community can squeeze a shot off in the 24 seconds, but we need 35, we should be embarrassed by that.”