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Arizona basketball: Clark Kellogg dishes on the Wildcats and college hoops

We caught up with CBS analyst and Indiana Pacers VP of Player Relations Clark Kellogg to talk Arizona basketball and the wide-angle perspective of the young college hoops season.


CBS basketball analyst and former Ohio State Buckeye Clark Kellogg is an adviser for the Capital One Cup, which is given to schools who garner the most points in 39 sports for national titles and top-10 finishes over the fall, winter and spring sports period. Men's and women's winners receive a check for $400,000 that will go toward academic scholarships. Check out the Capital One Cup's Facebook page or Twitter account for more.

Kevin Zimmerman: You guys didn't have anything like (the Capital One Cup) when you were going to school, did you?

Clark Kellogg: No, we didn't. It's kind of neat to be a part of it, not only to shine a light on on-field performances but also being able to support the educational pursuits of the educational pursuits.

KZ: You're an Ohio State guy. What do you see between Sean Miller, who is obviously a Thad Matta product, and Matta ... any similarities and differences between the two coaches and schemes?

CK: I don't necessarily zero in their particular schemes. I like the fact they communicate very well and directly with their players. They're firm and demanding, yet caring. I think all really good coaches at the college level have to do that with their personalities. They recruit very well and then look to develop that talent into a cohesive group. And because they communicate so well and they have a clear idea of what their standards are - and they don't really compromise on that - I see them both proponents of tough-minded basketball, free-wheeling basketball to a degree and then unselfishness at both ends of the floor. I think those are really pillars they both share. I'm not sure if Sean got all that from Thad or if it was part of their time together - nonetheless, that's what I see when I watch those two coaches.

KZ: You mention the freedom. I don't know how much you get to see Arizona in the regular season, but it seems like when they hit the postseason they're always playing with a little more of that free-wheeling style. Can you talk about that a little more and what, I guess, Miller's system does as far as when they hit the postseason, he's not really coaching a whole lot and as far as calling plays but (instead) doing the motion and all that?

CK: I think part of it is, the philosophy that a lot of coaches have that what I've seen and with Thad and Sean, they want to have their teams playing the best basketball of the season late. You do that by continuing to anchor yourself with your philosophy and your fundamentals, managing your practice time as the grind of the season wears on, and then being able to really know what your team's identity is and what its capabilities are.

As players embrace and handle more, I think they earn more freedom. I think that's part of it. I think in tournament play, especially when you have the type of talent Arizona has and Ohio State has, coaches realize it's more about the Jimmy and Joes than the Xs and Os, so they give their players a little more latitude, which in many ways players have earned through the course of a season. I don't know if it's a conscious releasing of the reins as much as it is a natural progression of a team developing during the course of the season and the coach having some confidence of who his team is at this time.

KZ: I don't know if you've seen Arizona much this season.

CK: I got a quick glimpse of the Rhode Island game. I'll zero in more as we get closer to conference play. I like what I see. I like the young fella, York, really like what he's showed. And Aaron Gordon is terrific. Everything about him, just in the little bit I saw, the demeanor, the athleticism, the skill level, all look to be at an elite level. I'm looking forward to digging in. Not only am I going to go after some turkey and cornish hen at Thanksgiving, but I'm going to start burying myself into this roundball stuff, too.

We're going to have gourmet meals soon here in college basketball.

KZ: In their tournament right now, Arizona obviously has Drexel next, everyone is of course looking forward to the potential Duke matchup.

CK: Well I hope the coaches and players and looking forward to Drexel.

KZ: Since we're not them, can you talk about Duke a little bit and how they're playing. Jabari Parker has obviously been the key. What are they doing with him - seems like he's playing a lot of 5 and the power forward spot.

CK: Duke is terrific in terms of what they showed offensively. I think they're top-15 in scoring the ball right now. Jabari Parker is a terrific talent. I saw highlights and I saw the game against Kansas. He's the real deal. This kid can do everything. He's athletic enough to make plays above the rim, he can shoot it, he can put it on the floor, he can pass, he can block shots. When you've got a player like that at that size, the most important thing is you have him on the floor. I don't think you have to worry about what position he's playing.

But Duke, in the last few years, hasn't been quite as good defensively as they have been in some of the championship years. That to me will probably be where I'll put my focus in watching Duke. Are they getting better defensively, especially containing the dribble. Can they do that at a high level?

KZ: If you wanted to create tiers and how many teams are Final Four-worthy and who's top-10.

CK: It's a little early but I'll give it a shot. I'll start with Michigan State because I know them the best, and I like their blend of talent and experience. And sometimes experience can overcome young talent. I certainly would start with Michigan State but I would not separate them by much from any of the teams in the top six or seven. Louisville I think you've got to put in there even though they're adjusting to not having (Peyton) Siva and Gorgui Dieng. They still have high-quality players and a number of key guys that have championship rings. You can never discount that.

So I would start with Michigan State and Louisville perhaps in a group of two. And then I would go with another group of six or seven hovering there. Kansas, Duke, Arizona, Michigan ... Syracuse. And I would throw some of those non-power conference teams in another tier - VCU, Creighton, Witchita State, I would put them in the mix as well. And UConn is kind of off the path, wasn't eligible for the tournament last year, but has tremendous guards, really good, young promising coach in Kevin Ollie. And then my Buckeyes, you can never discount them the way Thad has them playing at the end of the season.

But I would go Michigan State and Louisville, I would draw a line under those two.

I've give you a couple teams if you just want to watch entertaining basketball: Brigham Young and Iowa State. They just played yesterday, and it was a two-point game, and I can't wait to get that thing downloaded on my computer. Those teams play the game the way the game is supposed to be played. They space the floor, they attack, they share the ball, and man they are fun, fun to watch. I would say make that a point on TV to watch if you get a chance.

KZ: What's next for you as far as your schedule and your work?

CK: I'm actually focused on my Vice President of Player Relations role with the Pacers right now. We'll ramp up college hoops at CBS December 7th, although I won't get out and call games until later in the month. We start our coverage the first weekend of December. After that we'll pick up speed until its fast and furious as we role into the tournament.

KZ: I guess I didn't think to ask you about that (Pacers) role, but how's Solomon Hill looking?

CK: Solomon's doing fine. Really solid young man, love having him a part of our group. Off to a really solid start. Had a good summer, getting some good minutes -- some spot minutes in a reserve role -- and handles himself as well as you'd want a rookie to handle himself. The guys love having him around. He has a well-rounded game and a mature game that fits in beautifully with our Pacers team.