ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla is in for a fun three days. He will broadcast the season's first Bedlam men's basketball game with Jon Sciambi at 2 p.m. Saturday from Norman on ESPN2 and get to see his son James, an OU reserve guard. He then will make his return to ESPN's “Big Monday” as the replacement for Bob Knight at 8 p.m. Monday, calling Baylor at Kansas with Brent Musburger and reporter Holly Rowe. In a telephone conversation, Fraschilla discussed Bedlam and “Big Monday.”
What are some of the keys to Bedlam?
I'm excited that for the first time in maybe five years, Bedlam is not only a great rivalry but also a very important conference game early in the season. Both teams are very similar. They are built around their defense. They are basically vanilla, old-school, hard-nosed teams. Oklahoma State's offense was probably a little more advanced early in the year. But I have seen decided improvement from the Sooners in the last two weeks as far as being able to score a little easier. What's interesting about this game is you're going to have four freshman starters and another couple of freshmen that are key reserves for both teams. These two teams are one of four or five that will be competing for the remaining NCAA bids beyond what Kansas is likely to have.
Has Lon Kruger turned the OU program around?
Yes. Everybody knows the way Lon Kruger builds a program: Slow and steady wins the race. He's methodical. He knows the kind of players he wants in his program, who he can coach, who he can develop. This is not necessarily a top 15 team, but anybody who has been following the progress from Day 1 can see that Lon has put his stamp on this team. In fact, we're going to do something on the broadcast Saturday as Mr. (Henry) Iba's name always comes up when you get to Big 12 play. Not only is Mr. Iba's name invoked in such an important way by Oklahoma State fans, but most people who remember the old Big Eight know that Lon played for Jack Hartman (at Kansas State), who is basically a direct descendant on the coaching tree of Mr. Iba. When you see the type of team that Lon has with the really good defense, trying to take care of the ball better and better, it's kind of interesting that Mr. Iba's stamp on basketball in the Great Plains never goes away.
What's your impression of Travis Ford's program?
He has done a very, very good job. First of all, they are better defensive than I would have imagined. They are a very underrated defensive team nationally. They have one of my favorite players in the country in Marcus Smart. You throw all the statistics out the window with Marcus; he could care less. All he cares about is how he helps his team win games. Anybody who has been around him or has had the luxury of coaching him knows he's unlike what the stereotype of the great high school/AAU hotshot recruit is. He's from a different era. He does everything in his power to make his teammates on the floor better. I call him a basketball connector because he connects his strengths to his teammates' strengths and makes them better in the process.
Are you excited about working with Musburger on “Big Monday”?
Unfortunately he will have to go from Kirk Herbstreit to me, but I will try to make it work. Being with Brent is like being with Johnny Unitas or Mickey Mantle. I'm glad to be back in the (Monday night) lineup with lots of friends in the Big 12.