Feb 4, 2013, 8:00 PM EST
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.
Dec 8, 2013, 5:27 PM EST
Just days after surviving a tough test at city rival San Diego, No. 24 San Diego State played arguably its worst half of the season against Washington on Sunday afternoon. While the Aztecs aren’t a team chock full of prolific shooters, they do have multiple athletes capable of finding quality looks both at the rim…
Dec 8, 2013, 3:30 PM EST
UCLA ended up losing its first game of the season, at the hands of undefeated Missouri, 80-71, on Saturday afternoon in Columbia. But did you see the dunk freshman guard Zach LaVine had toward the end of the first half? A Missouri player slipped near halfcourt, as the intended pass went flying by him. LaVine…
Dec 8, 2013, 2:15 PM EST
Michigan leading scorer Nik Stauskas rolled his ankle in the second half of the Wolverines’ 63-61 loss to Charlotte in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off championship game on Nov. 24. That ankle kept him out in a blowout win against Coppin State, and thanks to the defensive performances of Tyler Thornton and Matt Jones, Stauskas scored…
Dec 8, 2013, 1:05 PM EST
With 3.8 second left, Saint Louis forward Dwayne Evans tossed his inbounds pass to Rob Loe, who drove to the bucket, but his lefty layup was blocked. The Valparaiso defense had its heads turned, allowing Mike McCall Jr. to slip past on the box out, and tipped in the game-winner as the Billikens escaped with…
Dec 8, 2013, 11:50 AM EST
Assembly Hall in Bloomington, Ind. opened in 1971 and holds five national championship banners as well as serving as a winter home for 17,472 Hoosier fans each season. It’s one of the most iconic venues in all of college basketball, but the university is looking to improve the condition of its longtime arena, according to…
Dec 8, 2013, 11:00 AM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 13 Oregon vs. Ole Miss, 5 p.m. (ESPNU) Marshall Henderson and the Rebels welcome the No. 13 Ducks into Oxford for an evening showdown between SEC and Pac-12 programs. Ole Miss won a pair of games in Brooklyn at the Barclays Center Classic to end November, but on Thursday suffered…
Dec 8, 2013, 10:06 AM EST
Last week, the Dayton Flyers made a surprise run in the Maui Invitational, defeating Gonzaga, outplaying Baylor before the Bears rallied late in the game to advance to the finals, and then concluding their trip in Hawaii with a win over Cal. The Flyers were picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic 10, but the…
Dec 8, 2013, 2:16 AM EST
GAME OF THE NIGHT: Colorado 75, No. 6 Kansas 72 Yup, that was awesome. We already wrote two columns off of this game. My take on Kansas is here. Raphielle Johnson wrote on Colorado here. THE OTHER GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 17 Iowa State 91, Northern Iowa 82 OT We should just assume that…
Dec 7, 2013, 10:01 PM EST
Just one week ago Jay Wright’s Villanova Wildcats wrapped up a Battle 4 Atlantis crown that few people expected them to win. After taking care of USC the Wildcats beat Kansas and Iowa, resulting in their first ranking in more than two seasons. For a program that relies on so many young players, how Villanova…
Dec 7, 2013, 8:38 PM EST
With No. 1 Michigan State suffering a surprising home loss to North Carolina on Wednesday night, there were many Arizona fans who looked towards Saturday’s contest against UNLV with excitement. The renewal of a series that delivered some great moments during the time when Jerry Tarkanian and Lute Olson roamed the sidelines was something folks…
Dec 7, 2013, 7:39 PM EST
With guard Keifer Sykes and big man Alec Brown leading the way, Brian Wardle’s Green Bay Phoenix are expected to contend for the Horizon League title this season. That fact meant that Tony Bennett’s return to his alma mater wasn’t going to be an easy one, with his Virginia Cavaliers looking to rebound from their…
Dec 7, 2013, 6:59 PM EST
Turns out that the sprained ankle he suffered in Monday’s loss at No. 12 UConn won’t result in any missed game time for Florida senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin, as he’s returned to practice and will play on Tuesday night against No. 6 Kansas. That’s important news for the Gators, who faced the possibility of…
Dec 7, 2013, 6:30 PM EST
Dear Kansas fans: Do not start freaking out just yet. I know what happened on Saturday. I saw Colorado’s Askia Booker hit that buzzer-beating, euro-stepping three to beat the No. 6 Jayhawks, 75-72. I saw the bench mob him at half court and Jimmy Dykes ask him questions on ESPN in the postgame that made…
Dec 7, 2013, 5:33 PM EST
After No. 6 Kansas scored the first seven points of the game, it would be difficult to blame any Colorado fans who managed to utter the words, “here we go again.” In last season’s meeting in Lawrence the Buffaloes were blitzed right out of the gates, and the end result was a 90-54 defeat that…
Dec 7, 2013, 5:07 PM EST
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – The game had been over for nearly 20 minutes, though, UMass senior point guard Chaz Williams clearly was not done dishing out the assists. He was the last to be seated at the postgame press conference, as he ventured over towards the table of Poland Spring water bottles, grabbed three extra ones…
Dec 7, 2013, 5:00 PM EST
Wisconsin was able to outlast in-state rival Marquette 70-64 on Saturday at the packed Kohl Center because they have more firepower. Although the No. 8 Badgers (10-0) and Golden Eagles (5-4) differ in the standings by a few games, they can both really defend and limit opportunities for their opponents to get good looks, but…
Dec 7, 2013, 3:15 PM EST
Missouri basketball may not have been in the limelight for very long on Saturday before the football team faces Auburn for the SEC Championship, but the basketball Tigers took care of business and had an impressive second half in their 80-71 win over No. 18 UCLA. Both Missouri and UCLA were undefeated entering the game…
Dec 7, 2013, 2:20 PM EST
Yesterday, news broke that Stanford guard Aaron Bright dislocated his right shoulder and will miss the rest of the season. It’s a big blow for the Cardinals, who are dealing with a lack of perimeter depth as it is and have been forced to use a bigger lineup. But here’s the kicker for Bright: he’s…
Dec 7, 2013, 11:30 AM EST
The Wisconsin Badgers and head coach Bo Ryan announced on Saturday morning that redshirt sophomore guard George Marshall has opted to transfer. The announcement of Marshall’s transfer was released on the Wisconsin athletics website this morning. “George came and talked to me and he informed me that he wanted to pursue his options of playing…
Dec 7, 2013, 11:00 AM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 18 UCLA at Missouri (12:30 p.m., CBS) A matchup of 8-0 teams headlines Saturday’s improved slate of college basketball games thanks to the end of the college football regular season. The Bruins are 8-0 under new coach Steve Alford and have yet to face an opponent the caliber of Mizzou…
- Kansas lost, but Jayhawk fans should be happy after the Colorado game 2
- Colorado needs game-winner to serve as a catalyst for Askia Booker (VIDEO) 0
- Turnovers, rebounding woes plague No. 3 Kentucky again 3
- CBT Weekly Roundtable: Figuring out the ACC 0
- Weekend Preview: Kentucky-Baylor, a trio of in-state rivalry games 3
- No. 1 Michigan State’s loss to North Carolina: Injuries, or sign of a bigger issue? (5)
- Report: Delta bumps entire flight to get Florida to UConn (3)
- Weekend Preview: Kentucky-Baylor, a trio of in-state rivalry games (3)
- Turnovers, rebounding woes plague No. 3 Kentucky again (3)
- College Basketball Talk’s latest top 25 rankings (2)