Skip to content

Contenders and Pretenders

Feb 4, 2013, 8:00 PM EDT

Kenny Boynton

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.

Latest Posts
  1. Wyoming adds another Florida product to its 2015 recruiting class

    Sep 14, 2014, 11:59 PM EDT

    Wyoming v UNLV Getty Images

    Of Wyoming’s five 2015 verbal commitments, three have come from Florida natives.

  2. 6-foot-8 power forward verbally commits to Fordham

    Sep 14, 2014, 10:08 PM EDT

    Tom Pecora Tom Pecora

    The Tabor Academy forward picked Fordham over offers from Duquesne, Quinnipiac and Saint Joseph’s.

  3. Boise State successfully keeps three-star guard home

    Sep 14, 2014, 8:47 PM EDT

    Leon Rice AP

    With Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks both being seniors, this is an important addition for the Broncos.

  4. Three-star power forward to announce college choice Friday

    Sep 14, 2014, 7:50 PM EDT

    Scott Stuart/Rivals Scott Stuart/Rivals

    The Roselle Catholic (New Jersey) product is expected pick from Rhode Island, Seton Hall and South Carolina.

  5. Summer exhibitions provided Kansas big man with needed playing time

    Sep 14, 2014, 6:15 PM EDT

    Hunter Mickelson, Andrew Young AP

    Playing with an all-star team this summer helped the Arkansas transfer shake off the rust accumulated during his season on the sidelines.

  6. Former Oregon point guard scored his first college touchdown Saturday

    Sep 14, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT

    Johnathan Loyd Johnathan Loyd

    Before this season Johnathan Loyd hadn’t played football since high school, and on Saturday he scored his first college touchdown.

  7. Florida Gulf Coast using unique on-campus medical practices used by Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady

    Sep 14, 2014, 3:15 PM EDT

    Florida Gulf Coast Eagles Bernard Thompson celebrates the Eagles win over the Georgetown Hoyas in their second round NCAA tournament game in Philadelphia Reuters

    Dunk City is using platelet-enriched plasma injections to help heal its athletes.

  8. DePaul gets commitment from three-star 2015 power forward

    Sep 14, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    (Under Armour) (Under Armour)

    DePaul picked up its first 2015 pledge on Sunday.

  9. Houston lands commitment from junior college forward

    Sep 14, 2014, 1:00 PM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznpwexmja4zju3njzknzg5mziznzyxotuyytg3otu5yjzj AP

    Houston picked up a commitment from a junior college forward.

  10. Arizona lands four-star center to potential No. 1 recruiting class in 2015

    Sep 14, 2014, 12:03 PM EDT

    (Kelly Kline/Under Armour) (Kelly Kline/Under Armour)

    Arizona added a four-star big man to its three five-star perimeter threats.

  11. Allen Iverson, Georgetown legends return to campus for new John Thompson practice facility

    Sep 14, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    John Thompson

    Allen Iverson made a rare trip back to Georgetown’s campus and shared some cool moments with former coach John Thompson.

  12. Three-star forward down to two Big Ten schools

    Sep 14, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT

    (Nike) (Nike)

    A three-star stretch forward is down to two Big Ten schools.

  13. Mixtape of 2015 point guard Jawun Evans (VIDEO)

    Sep 14, 2014, 9:05 AM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armor Kelly Kline/Under Armor

    A summer mixtape of 2015 point guard Jawun Evans.

  14. In-state power forward verbally commits to UConn

    Sep 13, 2014, 10:59 PM EDT

    Kevin Ollie Kevin Ollie

    The 6-foot-10 power forward grew up a UConn fan, and his commitment came as no surprise.

  15. Move east a breath of fresh air for UConn freshman

    Sep 13, 2014, 9:50 PM EDT

    hamilton AP

    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.

  16. Kansas State adds size with fourth 2015 commitment

    Sep 13, 2014, 6:33 PM EDT

    Bruce Weber AP

    Kansas State landed a commitment from a 6-foot-10 Texan on Saturday.

  17. Boston College lands third verbal commitment in less than a week

    Sep 13, 2014, 5:00 PM EDT

    Jon Lopez/Nike Jon Lopez/Nike

    Boston College has reeled in its third commitment in less than a week.

  18. Arizona State commit arrested for allegedly shoplifting less than $20 in DVDs from Walmart

    Sep 13, 2014, 1:45 PM EDT

    jordan washington

    An Arizona State commit is in trouble for allegedly shoplifting some DVDs.