Wednesday, November 7, 2012

DWG College Hoops Preview: Teams #6-1

Well here we are kids.  The last six teams.  I'm kind of impressed with myself that I actually wrote up all 68 teams.  You're impressed too, right?  Yeah, you are.  I can tell.

Anyway, Jay Bilas published his top 68 teams as well, and as you'd guess we have some differences.  We both have the same top 2, but only Michigan also makes both our top 5s.  Eight of my top 10 are also in his top 10, but the two teams he has that high that I don't ranked as #s 17 and 22 for me.  There were 15 teams Bilas ranked that I didn't, with his best two that didn't make my cut being West Virginia (34) and Butler (44).  Of the 15 teams I had that Bilas didn't rank, the best were St. Mary's (34) and Valpo (36).   Some of the biggest difference in teams we have ranked are Drexel (me 29, him 66), BYU (me 30, him 50), Iowa State (me 63, him 39), Alabama (me 60, him 32), Pitt (me 56, him 23), Tennessee (me 45, him 22), and Michigan State (me 22, him 7). 

Wasn't that an interesting paragraph?  Whatever.  I hate you.  Just read these and be done with it already.

6.  UCLA Bruins.  This lofty ranking assumes things get figured out with super star freshman Shabazz Muhammad's eligibility, but even without him they'd have a shot at being a top 10 team.  They're loaded with talent all over the place, partially thanks to the #1 recruiting class this year according to ESPN including Tony Parker, the #7 rated center and #26 overall who should either push Josh Smith to be what he was touted to be or just straight up replace him.  Other than Muhammad's eligibility the biggest question facing UCLA this year is if a team with National Championship aspirations can really count on Larry Drew as their only real point guard.  You may remember Drew as the guy who quit in the middle of the season at UNC after Kendall Marshall won the starting PG job and whose mom went nuts on Tar Heel message boards.  The fact is that Drew was a terrible shooter and not much of a play-maker for being such a horrendous shooter (like the shooting of Ed Cota with the playmaking ability of Kris Humphries).  If he's improved (and Muhammad is eligible) these guys are absolutely a Final Four team.  Otherwise, they're probably just very good.  It's probably nice to have a "downside" to your season that would likely still be a top 4 seed in March.  Stupid power program jerks.

5.  Syracuse Orange. Scoop Jardine is gone, but that's ok because it's time for Michael Carter-Williams to become a star PG.  Fab Melo is gone, but that's ok because Rakeem Christmas might end up being better than than him anyway.  And Dion Waiters is gone but that's also ok because C.J. Fair is about to explode.  An excellent mix of returning talent (Brandon Triche is back as well for I think his 8th year) and newcomers (DaJuan Coleman is the 14th overall player and 6th best incoming center according to ESPN) should have the Orange back in Final Four contention.  There are questions, mainly because Carter-Williams is going from 10 minutes per game to running the show and he didn't exactly look great last season, but he should be game for the job considering he was a top 27 recruit last year and is an awesome 6-6 which is always awesome in a PG.  And if he's not the man, they have Triche who can slide in and take over.  Syracuse should contend for the Big East title, and it sucks that this will be the last time since they're going to the ACC.  That's just wrong.  Syracuse in the ACC?  That'd be like finding Super Sioux Fan in the library.

4.  Michigan Wolverines.  If Michigan's freshmen are as good as advertised this ranking is right.  Obviously they're loaded at guard with Trey Burke being one of the top point guards in the country and Tim Hardaway a scoring machine when he's on, but the front court is weak if you're only counting returning players (foul machine Jordan Morgan and coming back from a foot injury Jon Horford and that's it).  Both SF Glenn Robinson and PF Mitch McGary are top 30 guys according to ESPN, and if all goes according to plan both will end up starting.  Speaking of top recruits, in case you're wondering Michigan already has three top 100 guys (#s 24, 35, and 99) on board for season after this one and ESPN rates them as having the 7th best class in the country.  Indiana is #12.  Illinois #24 and Purdue #25.  Michigan State and Iowa (along with Indiana, Michigan, and Purdue) were in the top 25 for this about to begin season.  The last time the Gophers made the list was 2009 and two of the three guys who signed ended up transferring out.  I'm not exactly inspired here.

3.  NC State Wolfpack.  Talk about a quick turnaround.  Just two years ago NC State went 15-16 and won just 5 ACC games.  Then they fired Sid Lowe and hired Mark Gottfried, went to the Sweet 16, and are ranked 6th in both polls to start this season.  This season they have three new recruits coming in ranked in ESPN's Top 100 and already have two more on the line for 2013.  They're also among the final few teams still in the running for the #1 PF and #3 Center for next year.  As for this year's team it's basically the same team that made the Sweet 16 last year, but with three McDonald's All-Americans added to it, one of whom (Rodney Purvis) is either the best or second best freshman coming into the ACC this year.  They've also got two guys (Lorenzo Brown and C.J. Leslie) who could win ACC Player of the Year and could be first round draft picks next year.  Now THIS is what you hope happens when you hire a new coach with a good pedigree, even though Gottfried's pedigree prior to NC State wasn't nearly as impressive as Tubby Smith's before coming to Minnesota.  What?  I'm just sayin'. 

2.  Indiana Hoosiers.  When I first heard the Hoosiers were considered the favorite to win the National Title I was all like, "Dude, what?  Get out of here, nerd" but then you start reading about all the other teams out there and you realize yeah, it's pretty legit.  If you had to pick one player to build a team around Cody Zeller would likely be your top pick as a legitimately skilled and polished center who can play on both ends, and with Christian Watford next to him that's probably the best 1-2 forward punch in the Big 10 if not the country.  And holy cow on Victor Oladipo the dude went from a raw athlete to a polished offensive player in one off season.  Pretty much the only weakness you can find with Indiana is at point guard if you don't like Jordan Hulls - which I do not - but they remedied that by signing Yogi Ferrell, who ESPN ranks as the third best PG in the class.  Crazy how quickly Tom Crean turned this program back around, which is great because I've always said the Big Ten needs even more perennial powerhouse programs to make sure the Gophers don't ever rise too high.

1.  Louisville Cardinals.  I may be biased because I love Rick Pitino even more than that chick he did on the table does, but there are a lot of reasons to love this team this year.  First, you know they're going to have a dominating defense.  They have that monster (Gorgui Dieng) in the paint erasing shots all over the place and plenty of athletes to run Pitino's press and he's always had great defensive half-court teams.  The only real question is if they'll be able to score enough, especially with Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith are gone and those were the only two reliable outside shooters on the team.  I'm betting they can, which pretty much means I'm betting on Peyton Siva to finally "get it."  I actually have no idea why, because looking at his stats he's basically been a horrific shooter and turnover machine from day 1, and even after he supposedly "got it" at the end of last season his numbers didn't really change much.  Maybe you had to see it to believe it, but I'm buying in.  There's an incredible amount of talent assembled at Louisville this year and Siva is basically going to be the difference between another Final Four and possible Championship and a lackluster season.  Come on dude, don't make me look stupid.  I do that enough on my own (see:  my football predictions). 

Teams #68-60
Teams #59-53
Teams #52-47 
Teams #46-39 
Teams #38-34 
Teams #33-26 
Teams #25-20 
Team #19 (GOPHERS) 
Teams #18-12 
Teams #11-7

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