The College Basketball season has just started, and whilst there is a long way to go till March there are already teams and players separating themselves (albeit on paper) from everyone else. Here is my preview of the top 4 most likely teams to win the NCAA Championship.
Duke Blue Devils – AP Poll Ranking: 1
It’s the Dukie’s title to lose this year. By far and away the best team to start a year, they return two of their top 3 players last year in Nolan Smith and potential lottery pick Kyle Singler. Some additions will be Kyle Irving (whom I have as a top 5 pick so I assuming Ash will write something about him) and Seth Curry, and yes, Seth Curry is Stephon Curry’s younger brother and is quite talented. The other player to watch out for is Mason Plumlee, the younger of the Plumlee brothers. A 6’10 athletic stud who plays the 4 or 5, he has a chance to dominate moving into a starting position alongside his brother Miles. No one in the land has as much firepower, experience, versatility or depth as the Duke Blue Devils. And lets not forget, they will be coached by the best coach in the game of Basketball.
Can the Blue Devils go back-to-back?
Michigan State Spartans – AP Poll Ranking: 2
The unanimous second best squad this year. Almost everyone returns to the Spartans squad after last years Final Four trip. Coached by the second best college basketball coach in the land Tom Izzo, the Spartans have no real first round talent, unless Senior Kalin Lucas has an unbelievable year. This squad is deep and athletic. Names to watch out for are Durrell Summers, and Delvin Roe. The big question for me on Michigan State is this: do they have a dominant player who can take over? Or is Tom Izzo and his Special Situations outlook too good?
Kansas State Wildcats: AP Poll Ranking: 3
I’ve already stated the best two coaches in the land of basketball, and whilst Frank Martin may not be number 3, he’s certainly my favourite to watch. Kansas State are led by point guard Jacob Pullen who is a late first to second round draft pick potentially next year, and ex-UConn big Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels return to make their front court very strong. This team is solid and will be disciplined and doesn’t have a lot of flash and penazz. This is exactly why they could be very dangerous to the two top ranked teams Duke and Michigan State.
Ohio State: AP Poll Ranking: 4
The Ohio State Buckeyes for me are the one team that I think can beat out Michigan State and Duke this season. But a lot if not most of that depends on 6’9 Freshman Jared Sullinger (see clip below). Sullinger fills in the need of some of the best Freshman post players to enter the program, Greg Oden, Kosta Koufos and Byron (BJ) Mullens. Your questions are valid, they aren’t great NBA players but they were solid to very good college ballers. Add in talented guards William Buford, David Lighty and Jon Diebler this team looks like have a very very good best four. The hole is a big one – who will run the point guard position? The Buckeyes got away with it last year with Evan Turner running the one, but since departing for NBA waters, they have a sub-standard replacement. That could be their biggest Achilles heel.
Pittsburgh (APR: 5) & Villanova (APR: 6): Two very tough teams with great guard play and great coaching. These teams both lack the go-to or gun player, and I question their front court stocks – however McGhee for Pittsburgh has potential and for Villanova, Yarou and Pena are very solid 4 and 5s.
North Carolina (APR- 8) & Syracuse (APR: 10): The UNC Tar Heels are probably the longest and most athletic team in college basketball and their potential is through the roof. But there are too many questions regarding guard player Harrison Barnes (will he be as good as advertised?) and can some of their players stand up. Syracuse is the same. Does their 2-3 zone win championships (I almost move that 2003 doesn’t really count as the player depth overall was really low) and can Kris Joseph replace Wesley Johnson as a star?
Kentucky (APR: 11): Considering you lose 5 players to the NBA in one season, and 4 of whom were freshman – its hard to see how they can make this list. However if Enes Kanter players (DeMarcus Cousins part II) and Brandon Knight can mature quickly like the last three freshman starting point guards Coach John Calipari has started (Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans and John Wall) they have a real shot. Though Liggins and Darius Miller both need to take the next step and Terrance Jones needs to have a great Freshman year.