We here at RCT were fortunate enough to get to spend about 15 minutes with one Mr. Clark Kellogg. He is one of the lead college basketball analysts for CBS Sports, an NBA executive, a former NBA player, and played his college ball at Ohio State. PenHawk and I were able interview him on Tuesday afternoon (before the Champions Classic). The transcription is below, or you can stream the audio.
So, without further ado, I present to you the following. Enjoy!
(To stream the audio, Right click the link below, Open in new tab or window)
Clark Kellogg: Hello Dave and Mike, how are you guys?
Dave (Penhawk): Alright, how are you?
Clark Kellogg: Good, doing fine, thank you.
Dave (Penhawk): Good. So I guess we'll just jump right in here, we're with Rock Chalk Talk, a Kansas Jayhawk blog with SBNation. First question is just about the Capital One Cup; for those who aren't real familiar with it, if you could just kind of explain what it is, what you do, and how college basketball fits into it?
Clark Kellogg: Sure, will do. Well, I'm actually an advisory board member for the Capital One Cup, since its inception. This is year five of the race to the Capital One cup, and really it's the race to determine the best in college sports Division I programs. Those programs compete to earn points for the Capital One Cup based on top ten championship finishes in fall, winter, and spring sports. The winning men's and women's Division I program at the end of the spring sports season will receive the Capital One Cup trophy AND a combined $400,000 in student-athlete scholarships. My involvement, as I said, started with the inception as an advisory board member and it gives me an opportunity to join with others to not only admire, respect, acknowledge, and reward excellence on the playing fields but also support the educational and academic pursuits of student athletes. And that's where this to me is a win-win, it's the ultimate I think in bragging rights for a comprehensive award for excellence across a total of 39 men's and women's sports at the Division I level. Last year's winner was Notre Dame for the men's side and Florida on the women's side. 60 points is available to the men's national champion in basketball, so you can make a huge jump in the race for the Capital One Cup if you're one of those teams who is vying for a national championship.
Mike (mikeville): Very cool. We wanted to ask you about some of the preseason basketball tournaments, there's a lot of them in November and December, is there any one in particular that you're looking forward to see what happens the most?
Clark Kellogg: You know what? I'm looking forward... I watch them all. I've not analyzed all the ones that are upcoming in terms of the participants, but I do know we've got a pretty good one, it's not necessarily a tournament but it is an actual showcase taking place tonight in Indianapolis, with Kansas taking on Kentucky, and Duke and Michigan State going at it. The neutral court preseason pre-conference schedules/matchups always are appealing to me because it gives you a chance to discover teams as they face good opposition. A lot of times that doesn't always happen during the course of the pre-conference schedule. So I tend to gorge myself on all of them, whether I watch them live or DVR them and watch them later, but I usually watch them all because it gives me a good baseline evaluation of teams that maybe I haven't had a chance to get out and see practice yet. So I'm looking forward to all of them, I'm just glad that we're ramping up and starting college basketball now, because it gives me plenty to watch and discover about current players that I know of and players that are making their debuts at the college level.
Dave (Penhawk): Yeah, I think we're all excited it's finally here, especially for Kansas fans. We've got a lot of good freshman - we always have a lot of good freshman players in college basketball these days. Everyone knows about guys like Jahlil Okafor and Cliff Alexander. Are there any other freshmen who are on your watchlist or who may not be getting as much publicity that could make a difference this year?
Clark Kellogg: Yeah there are a couple. I mean, one, I'm here in Columbus, Ohio, and I'm a Buckeye grad, so I've had a chance to see the Buckeyes a little bit, and D'Angelo Russell, those who follow high school basketball and recruiting know that he's a pretty highly touted incoming freshman. But I've been very impressed with what I've seen of him. I think everybody that sees him going forward will enjoy watching this young man play - he's smooth, he's got good vision, good athleticism, plays with a nice pace. And then I'm looking forward to seeing the kid Stanley Johnson out at Arizona, whom I've heard an awful lot about him from people that I respect who have seen him. And looking forward to seeing his game. And those are the three guys - oh and Okafor, I've not seen Okafor play. I've read about him, I've heard about him, but I tend to like to allow highly touted players, unless I run into a situation where I get to watch a lot, I like to wait until they get to college. Because quite honestly, once they're gone from high school, what they did in high school won't have any real bearing on who they are and what they do in college, so I like to hit the reset button and watch them when them get to the big-time at the D1 level. So I'm looking forward to seeing Okafor get after it, and the kids at Kentucky, I'm looking forward to them as well. But my three main guys are Stanley Johnson, Okafor, and obviously I've seen D'Angelo Russell at this point, and I'll have some other guys as we get into December that I'll put the isolated camera on, too.
Mike (mikeville): Can you give us some of your thoughts on the AP preseason poll - was there anything in there that stood out to you or were there maybe some teams missing that you think ought to have been included?
Clark Kellogg: Well you know what, I don't actually - I try to avoid looking at the polls. I know that's gonna sound strange, but, I usually - the way I try to evaluate it, guys, I go back to the Sweet 16 from last year, and from my notes, look at which players - how many players - are returning from those teams, and then I'll look at the full tournament bracket - which teams didn't get to the Sweet 16 but were in the field and have returning guys coming back. And then I'll look at teams that maybe didn't make the tournament that I thought would have made noise had they gotten into the tournament, and what do they have returning? So I started with the Sweet 16, I mean Wisconsin and Kentucky were very easy for me to be convicted about in terms of their potential as top four, top five caliber teams right now. Arizona is the same way. Outside of that, you've got Virginia. UConn will be a little different. I like Iowa State's chances to be a top ten caliber team with the return of Georges Niang. And then some teams that I'm not sure where they might be ranked, but Harvard, Utah, VCU I think is ranked but I'm not sure. Texas was a team that I had highlighted. Kansas State was a team that I had highlighted as one worth keeping an eye on that might surprise on the positive side. And Wichita State, I think is ranked, and for good reason, but I'm not sure exactly where they're ranked. I'd be surprised if they weren't. But those were some teams that I had highlighted in my notebook to take a closer look at as we get started here in this season. And I'll watch everybody as we have these preconference tournaments and then get into December and I'll have a better evaluation of some of those teams that might be surprises and teams that may not be as good as they might be ranked. So I like to wait until mid-December to try to zero in on trying to rank teams after about 6-7 games.
Dave (Penhawk): You mentioned a few Big 12 teams in there. Kansas has the streak at 10 conference titles going here. Do you see Kansas as the favorite again, and who do you see as their biggest threat in the Big 12?
Clark Kellogg: I would think Kansas would be the favorite. One, because they - not because they - not necessarily because they've won ten in a row which is just ridiculous, I mean, that's a remarkable feat. I know some of those may have been shared, but nonetheless, to be at the top of your league for ten years in a row - I think Gonzaga has been somewhere close to that, but it's still special. So I would start with them and then Texas to me appears to be a team that could be - offer some headwind to an 11th title for Kansas. I think Iowa State, as I mentioned. Oklahoma is an interesting team. They've got some offensive firepower, extremely well-coached; I think they can be in the mix as well. Kansas State, under Bruce Weber, I thought had a pretty good year last year and should be pretty good again this year. But yeah, I would think Kansas would be - if you made me pick a favorite I would go with the Jayhawks, and then those other teams to be right there trying to disrupt the apple cart.
Mike (mikeville): Most fans, I think, recognize that Kentucky is pretty loaded this year. Who do you think Kentucky's biggest challenger might be in a potential championship game?
Clark Kellogg: Well, it's the things that are always a challenge: chemistry, cohesiveness, injury. I mean, those are the things that typically can disrupt you. And the fact that they're experimenting with a different way of playing. I mean, John seems to be committed to trying the platoon system which I don't think we've seen at the highest levels to be successful, but that doesn't mean it can't be. So I think chemistry. And obviously everybody has to stay healthy, so I won't use that but the chemistry - being able to sacrifice and stay committed and having the young guys adjust to the demands of not only playing Division I college basketball, but playing Division I college basketball at Kentucky, which is really unique. Similar to what you face at Kansas with the expectation, the history, the scrutiny, the attention, all of that, is stuff that young players have to adjust to. And you never know how they're going to handle it, not to mention juggling the demands of school, and travel, and the intensity of practices and film study and preparation. A lot of times we take all of that stuff for granted, but for new guys, young guys, even if they are extremely talented, it can sometimes be a little more than they can handle effectively. So, that's part of what we enjoy about watching how this thing plays out from start to finish.
Dave (Penhawk): Everyone recognizes how good Kentucky is and that they're likely to be in the mix at the end of the year. Are there any "dark horse" Final Four candidates you see that maybe people aren't giving enough attention to?
Clark Kellogg: I don't know if I would say "dark horse" Final Four but I certainly would raise your antenna on a couple of teams just to kind of keep an eye on as we get started with the college basketball season. San Diego State is a team that I think is gonna be pretty good. I really like what I've heard and seen of Utah from a year ago. I think that team has a chance to perhaps make an appearance in the tournament and be a factor. You know about some of the heavyweights; we've talked about Kansas and Kentucky and Duke. Wisconsin clearly is in that mix as well, one of the top teams in my mind with the chance to get to Indianapolis. And if you're looking for a team that's maybe not Final Four capable but really good - make a decent tournament run - I would turn your attention to Harvard. This is a team that has won a couple of tournament games in the last few seasons, and has a really good nucleus of those guys who have experienced that back again. I think Tommy Amaker has a team that can do more than win just one game in the tournament this season.
Mike (mikeville): We mentioned Wichita State a little while ago. Do you see Wichita State sticking around for a while, or do you see them more kind of like as a - you know how Butler made the two national title games, and then we haven't heard much from Butler for the last year or two - how do you look at Wichita State?
Clark Kellogg: You know, with the leadership there of Gregg Marshall and his staff, and it all comes down to the players you get. You need leadership on the sideline, clearly, you have to, I mean, all coaches will tell you, you need to have really good players to have championship caliber teams. I think they're going to continue. Wichita State has a really rich basketball history, Gregg Marshall has built on that and has had outstanding recent success. I don't think it's going away. I think it's here to stay. Does that mean Final Fours? I think they're gonna be a player on the national scene for a while, I really do. I just, I think he'll get really good players, coach them up, and develop them. And in basketball, you don't have to be at the, in the power conferences or at the perennial power places to have success. And I think Wichita State will be one of those kind of programs.
Mike (mikeville): Hey Dave, I don't mean to cut you off, I think we only have time for about one more question, and I wanted to make sure to ask Clark, what was it like playing HORSE or POTUS with President Obama a few years ago? Did you let him win?
Clark Kellogg: ::Laughter:: Well, I didn't let him win, I actually let him up, and then he took advantage of that and won by one letter in our game of POTUS. But it was a great experience, a phenomenal experience, a great memory for me - just because we're the same age, from the same era, have a real passion for the game of basketball. And he's extremely knowledgeable. Basketball gave me an opportunity of a lifetime. I mean, I would have never envisioned being that close to a sitting president of the United States and to have a rapport around something that we share in common, basketball, and a love for the game. So, it's really a high water mark for me from a personal and professional experience standpoint, there's no doubt about it. I got it well-chronicled with photos and DVDs of that experience, so it's not going anywhere.
Dave (Penhawk): Alright, well, I think that's about all the time we had with you. So, I appreciate your time and appreciate you answering our questions for us.
Clark Kellogg: Yeah, my pleasure, and if we get a chance during the course of the college hoops season, reach out to me again, I'd be glad to hang out with you guys.
Mike (mikeville): We'd appreciate that very much, yeah. That'd be awesome.
Clark Kellogg: Yeah, OK. Alright guys, take care, enjoy your evening.
Mike (mikeville): Thanks Clark.
We are very grateful to have had this opportunity to once again speak with Clark Kellogg (click HERE for the first interview last February). Hopefully will we get more opportunities more frequently in the future.
Let us know what you guys think. And if you have any questions for us to save for Clark in the future, there's no time like the present!