ESPN College Basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla joined Vin Parise on his Media Timeout podcast to talk everything going on in college basketball as the season starts heating up.
College basketball fans will be familiar with Fraschilla from his head coaching career at Manhattan, St. John's and New Mexico, as well as his work as a college basketball analyst for ESPN over the past 12 years. Fraschilla led his teams to a record of 175-100; at the time he ranked as the 34th winningest active coach in men’s college basketball. His teams earned eight post-season appearances in nine years, including three NCAA Tournaments (1993, 1995 and 1998).
Since Fraschilla has been exclusively covering the Big 12 this year for ESPN, he jumped right into a discussion about the classic triple overtime ame between Oklahoma vs Kansas which pitted the #1 team in the Coaches' poll (OU) vs the #1 team in the AP poll (KU). Fraschilla was able to provide some unique insight into the Big 12 and their style of play.
One aspect of the game that's been improved this season is a result of some of the NCAA rule changes and how many of the top 25 programs have relied on upperclassmen to raise the overall level of play across conferences and attain their spots in the polls. Even a traditional power like North Carolina has relied on a roster loaded with juniors and seniors, headlined by Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson.
In fact, with the obvious exception of LSU super-freshman Ben Simmons, most of the frontrunners for Naismith College Player of the Year Award are upperclassmen, notably Providence College's Kris Dunn, Oklahoma's Buddy Hield and Michigan State's Denzel Valentine who are hot on the heels of Simmons.
Fraschilla provides his views on to discuss what life is like as a broadcaster, and gives some great insights & advice from what he learned during his coaching tenure that he's been able to apply to his TV career. TV was always coach's 'Plan B', and the relationships and knowledge he gained as a coach helped to make his transition just a bit easier.
Kris Dunn is on of several upperclassmen eyeing Player of the Year honors
Finally, Vin and coach talk Rhode Island hoops; Providence College and the University of Rhode Island. Local fans may remember that Fraschilla is one of the few to have been an assistant for the Friars (under Rick Barnes) and the Rams (under Jack Kraft & Claude English). He knows the area (loves the Coast Guard House), understands the PC/URI rivalry, and has witnessed first hand some of the changes that have taken place at the school and conference level.
Looking specifically at the Big East Conference, it feels like it's "at the infancy stage of being a great conference over the next decade." Continuing their early success after rebuilding and looking forward to improvement from programs like St. John's will allow the Big East to continue to earn its place at the table with the traditional Big 5 power conferences.
When the topic of the Friars came up he talks about the changes on campus, the "shocking improvement of Ben Bentil", how Ed Cooley's been a perfect fit in Friartown, and obviously the impact Dunn has made on this team. As for the Rams, the discussion turns to how Dan Hurley's team has overcome injuries to help URI jump out to a 2-0 start in Atlantic 10 play.
Finally, find out why the Saint Mary's Gaels are Fraschilla's sleeper team this year.