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September 5, 2006

Mailbag: McRoberts must step up at Duke

One of the most impressive streaks in college basketball is Duke's nine consecutive trips to the Sweet 16. To reach No. 10 they will be counting heavily on sophomore power forward Josh McRoberts.

McRoberts, a former five-star recruit, played understudy to star Shelden Williams last season, focusing mainly on rebounding and defense. But with Williams gone to the NBA, McRoberts will be asked to emerge as a major scoring threat. He'll also be charged with guarding the opposing team's top post player.

Is McRoberts ready? Can he handle that big of a jump in roles?

Arkansas is another program expecting a lot out of its young players. After reaching the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six years, Razorbacks fans are wondering if the program is primed to return to its glory days of the 1990s.

Also, what can we expect from Seton Hall and its new coach Bobby Gonzalez?

All those questions are tackled in this week's mailbag.

Andrew's Mailbag
I am wondering how you think Josh McRoberts will do this year. With the departure of J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams, McRoberts will be the main scoring option. How do you think he will handle this role?
Chris from Indianapolis

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I'm not so sure McRoberts will be their main scoring threat.

Freshman guard Gerald Henderson is good enough to come in and make this his team. The five-star recruit has been impressing in pick-up games and is very tough to handle one-on-one. Even in the worse case scenario, he's going to be a double-digit scorer.

Still, this will be a breakout year for McRoberts. You'll get to see a lot more of his versatility - his ability to step out and hit long jumpers and an array of old-school post moves.

Don't expect a first-team All-ACC season out of Duke's big man just yet. He has immense potential, but is still probably another year or two from hitting his stride. Getting into foul trouble could be what holds him back this season.

Now that Stan Heath has led Arkansas back to the NCAA Tournament, do you think he can ever get them back to the elite status where they compete for a national championship again and do you they'll be back in the NCAA Tournament this season?
Jeremy Valdez from Moses Lake, Ark.

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I'm afraid I'm going to have to reply with "No" on these two.

It took Heath four seasons to get the Hogs back to the Big Dance and now he's staring at another rebuilding project, albeit not as vast as the one he originally faced.

First-round pick Ronnie Brewer, double-digit scorer Jonathan Modica and the SEC's 2005-06 Sixth Man of the Year, Eric Ferguson, are all gone. They combined for 58 percent of the team's scoring last season.

Heath has done his best job recruiting so far signing four-star guard Patrick Beverly was one of the biggest pick-ups of the late period but with the SEC looking so daunting, just landing an invite to the NIT will be a worthy goal.

As far as the long term, the days of the Hogs reaching the Final Four won't be returning anytime soon. These days, you need to be a great recruiter to consistently land in the national title hunt (i.e., North Carolina's Roy Williams, Connecticut's Jim Calhoun, Michigan State's Tom Izzo, etc.). While Heath is improving in that area, he simply isn't on that level and I can't see him getting there.

Will Seton Hall make any noise in the always tough and deep Big East this season?
Alex from New York City

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Not unless you count a mild upset or two. New coach Bobby Gonzalez did a great job recruiting, but he inherited a rebuilding project.

The Pirates lost their two best players. Point guard Donald Copeland and power forward Kelly Whitney combined for more than 40 percent of their scoring.

Whitney will be particularly tough to replace. He averaged more than twice as many rebounds as any returning player and provided an inside presence that is almost necessary to win in the Big East.

The Pirates will be dangerous because they have one of the league's deepest backcourts with the return of guards Jamar Nutter (12.1 ppg) and Paul Gause (6.2 ppg). The addition of freshman guards Eugene Harvey and Larry Davis, who were each ranked among the nation's top 100 prospects, will also help the Pirates' depth.

Seton Hall fans should be putting most of their postseason hopes on the 2007-08 season when Auburn transfer Joey Cameron will be eligible - along with the next crop of recruits that Gonzalez assembles.

This season, the most important goal is developing Harvey. He is their point guard of the future. They need him to start to assert himself as a leader and get prepared to handle a big role in his sophomore year.

Andrew Skwara is the national college basketball writer for Rivals.com. Click here to send him a question or comment for his Mailbag.



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