Feb 4, 2013, 8:00 PM EDT
A hearty welcome to those of you just now joining the rest of us in following college basketball now that football season has ended. We’ll be running a series of posts to get all you football fans caught up on the season at-large. To read through them all, click here.
Out of any season in recent memory, there are more contenders this season than there have been in recent years. There does not appear to be a great team as of now — although Florida is doing everything they can to convince us otherwise — as opposed to a handful of really good teams that have the pieces to win six straight games in the tournament but a fatal flaw that could leave them exposed in the right matchup.
Here are the nation’s five leading contenders and pretenders:
Contender: Florida Gators
We wrote on the Gators earlier today, so I won’t go into too much detail here. The long and short of it is that Florida is as tough defensively as any team we’ve seen in the last decade, and they can just as effective playing man, going zone or throwing on a press, That’s a nightmare to prepare for, especially when they have an offensive attack that rivals Michigan and Indiana.
Pretender: Arizona Wildcats
Arizona is 19-2 on the season and carries with it a No. 7 national ranking. They are a good basketball team that could end up winning the Pac-12. But that gaudy record is the result of some lucky breaks: Nick Johnson’s game-saving block against San Diego State, Sabatino Chen’s game-winner that was incorrectly waved off, Florida playing like a high school JV team in the final minute. There is nothing about the roster makeup of the Wildcats that scares a championship-caliber team.
Contender: Indiana Hoosiers
The Hoosiers have arguably the most talented player in the country on their roster in Cody Zeller, and he isn’t even the MVP of this team. Victor Oladipo is. That’s how good Indiana is. They are still scoring like they did last season, only now they have a defense that ranks in the top 20 and one of the best on-ball defenders in the country in Oladipo.
Pretender: Duke Blue Devils
Duke is currently sitting at No. 4 in the country, but that has as much to do with what they did at the start of the season — rolling through the Battle 4 Atlantis, where they beat Louisville, VCU and Minnesota — than what they have done recently — which includes a 27 point loss to Miami. Duke is missing Ryan Kelly, who is a key piece on both sides of the ball. Duke will be a pretender until he’s back in the lineup.
Contender: Michigan Wolverines
John Beilein’s club is the most potent offensive attack in the country and led by the most dangerous point guard in the country in Trey Burke. The Wolverines have a typical John Beilein-esque roster makeup in terms of their versatility, but instead of having guys like Zak Novak and Stu Douglass on the wings, they have NBA prospects in Tim Hardaway Jr., Nik Stauskas and Glenn Robinson III.
Pretender: Kansas Jayhawks
Ugh. It kills me to say this because I picked Kansas to win the title this year, but I just think they have too many concerns offensively. They don’t have a point guard, as Bill Self made quite clear. Their star player can’t create on his own. They don’t have a viable low-post scoring threat. As good as Kansas is defensively, I just see them having issues scoring against good teams.
Contender: Louisville Cardinals
Louisville was the No. 1 team in the country and a popular pick as the best team in college hoops as recently a two weeks ago. But then they went out and lost three games — by a total of 13 points — and dropped to 12th in the country. Three close losses changes that much about how a team is viewed? Louisville’s pressure is unmatched, and as long as they avoid extended droughts offensively, they’ll be fine.
Pretender: Ohio State Buckeyes
Deshaun Thomas may be the best scorer in the country. Aaron Craft may be the best defender in the country. Beyond that, there’s a lot of ‘meh’ when you look at Ohio State’s roster. Craft is too often forced into the role of secondary scorer, and that’s not how you want him to play. No interior scoring presence hurts as well.
Contender: Michigan State Spartans
Typical Tom Izzo. Sparty is big, they are tough and they are physical. They rebound the ball and they defend. Most importantly, they have a pair of guards in Keith Appling and Gary Harris that are a threat to go for 20 on any given night.When Tom Izzo has a good team, you don’t want to get caught betting against him.
Pretender: Gonzaga Bulldogs
This one hurts, too. I really like this Gonzaga team. They are as good as they have been since Adam Morrison was stache-ing it up in Spokane. They have a pair of big men that are an awful lot of fun to watch in Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris. Kevin Pangos is as good of a shooter as you are going to find. They just don’t defend well enough — especially when Olynyk is on the floor as the same time as Pangos and David Stockton — to stop good teams with elite guards.
Sep 14, 2014, 11:59 PM EDT
Of Wyoming’s five 2015 verbal commitments, three have come from Florida natives.
Sep 14, 2014, 10:08 PM EDT
The Tabor Academy forward picked Fordham over offers from Duquesne, Quinnipiac and Saint Joseph’s.
Sep 14, 2014, 8:47 PM EDT
With Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks both being seniors, this is an important addition for the Broncos.
Sep 14, 2014, 7:50 PM EDT
The Roselle Catholic (New Jersey) product is expected pick from Rhode Island, Seton Hall and South Carolina.
Sep 14, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT
Playing with an all-star team this summer helped the Arkansas transfer shake off the rust accumulated during his season on the sidelines.
Sep 14, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Before this season Johnathan Loyd hadn’t played football since high school, and on Saturday he scored his first college touchdown.
Sep 14, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Dunk City is using platelet-enriched plasma injections to help heal its athletes.
Sep 14, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT
DePaul picked up its first 2015 pledge on Sunday.
Sep 14, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT
Houston picked up a commitment from a junior college forward.
Sep 14, 2014, 12:03 PM EDT
Arizona added a four-star big man to its three five-star perimeter threats.
Sep 14, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT
Allen Iverson made a rare trip back to Georgetown’s campus and shared some cool moments with former coach John Thompson.
Sep 14, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
A three-star stretch forward is down to two Big Ten schools.
Sep 14, 2014, 9:05 AM EDT
A summer mixtape of 2015 point guard Jawun Evans.
Sep 13, 2014, 10:59 PM EDT
The 6-foot-10 power forward grew up a UConn fan, and his commitment came as no surprise.
Sep 13, 2014, 9:50 PM EDT
After going through a difficult senior season at the high school level, Daniel Hamilton’s move to UConn has been a beneficial one thus far.
Sep 13, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
“I will miss him ’til the day I die.”
Sep 13, 2014, 6:33 PM EDT
Kansas State landed a commitment from a 6-foot-10 Texan on Saturday.
Sep 13, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT
Boston College has reeled in its third commitment in less than a week.
Sep 13, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT
Lots of high-level plays in this mixtape.
Sep 13, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT
An Arizona State commit is in trouble for allegedly shoplifting some DVDs.
- Arizona lands four-star center to potential No. 1 recruiting class in 2015 2
- Allen Iverson, Georgetown legends return to campus for new John Thompson practice facility 2
- In-state power forward verbally commits to UConn 0
- Former Indiana guard A.J. Guyton writes an open letter to Bob Knight 6
- College Basketball Talk’s Recruiting Roundup 0
- Born without a right hand, Omar Ndiaye looking for his chance 0
- Illinois starting point guard suffers season-ending knee injury 1
- Former Indiana guard A.J. Guyton writes an open letter to Bob Knight (6)
- Four-star power forward becomes Indiana’s first 2015 commitment (3)
- Arizona State commit arrested for allegedly shoplifting less than $20 in DVDs from Walmart (3)
- Report: Providence legend Marvin ‘Bad News’ Barnes passes away (2)
- Villanova lands commitment from five-star point guard Jalen Brunson (2)