By now, you must have noticed the assortment of college basketball preview publications decorating the magazine racks. There is plenty of variety there for the average college hoops fan to soak up everything there is to know about the top teams, the top players, upcoming schedules and everything in between. But if you only have enough money to buy one of these publications, which one would it be? Well, I've analyzed each magazine for content and style (mostly content, though) and put together this short review that should help in the decision process.
Athlon ($5.99), Grade: B+
This one generally hits the newsstands earlier than everyone else's, and this year was no exception. Even though some of the information is a little outdated due to the early release (i.e., Jason Parker still on Kentucky's roster), the team profiles are very detailed, as are the rosters, which include players' jersey numbers - something that can be useful while watching the games. I've never been crazy about they're projections of the NCAA Tournament, but the features are entertaining. This year, they even had a little blurb about the popular college drinking game in which you must imbibe every time Dick Vitale mentions anything about Duke basketball during a game between two other teams. The only thing this magazine is really missing is a listing of team schedules. Nevertheless, it's the best purchase among the early releases.
Lindy's ($5.99), Grade: B-
Another early release, this magazine is an upgrade from what Lindy's has released in the past. The conference pages are more informative, as are some of the features, like the focus on the Big 12. I also liked the listing of early games to watch, which spotlights some of the best non-conference matches in the early months. The problem with this publication is that the team profiles are still lacking, and if a team isn't in the top 25, they'll be lucky to get a good paragraph or two. It does have team schedules listed in the back, as well as a recruiting feature by Van Coleman, but this magazine is still behind Athlon's in overall information.
Street & Smith's ($6.99), Grade: D-
I was really disappointed with this year's publication. First of all, the cover for the greater North Carolina region features NC State's Julius Hodge with the headline "The Pack is Back", yet the magazine projects the Wolfpack as the #7 team in the ACC. Huh? Also, it is evident that Street & Smith's writers don't do a whole lot of research. For example, they mentioned Mike Bell playing for NC State this year, even though he transferred out of the program before the summer even started. There are no rosters in the team profiles, just a few paragraphs, and the whole layout is unimaginative. The only saving grace was it's new feature, "Whatever Happened ToÂ " which covers the exploits of past McDonald's All-Americans. It also has a decent junior college report, a high school Top 25 and team schedules, but it still lacks in overall quality. This is the best they can do for $6.99? Don't bother pulling out the wallet for this one.
Basketball News ($4.99), Grade: D+
This one clearly isn't up to par with the rest. It is printed on cheaper paper and half of the content is in black and white. Of course it does have more up-to-date information, schedules, etc., than the others because of its later release, but their team previews are less detailed than Street & Smith's. The feature on the coaching family trees is interesting, but the rest of the publication leaves you wanting. The only reason I gave this one a higher grade than Street & Smith's was that it costs $2 less.
The Sporting News ($6.99), Grade: A-
If you can hold out for one preview magazine, this is it. It has an easy to follow format informative articles, detailed team previews with current rosters and schedules, excellent features, recruiting profiles from the top analysts and just about everything else you could want in a preview publication. TSN may have cut down on the length of some of their team pages, but all of its info is also up-to-date because of a later release. It's an excellent value worth holding onto all year 'round. Buy it!
Note: For more detailed information on ACC basketball, I recommend the ACC Handbook ($5.99), another must-have for area fans.