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.
Jul 23, 2014, 11:19 AM EDT
Blakeney is now on the radar of programs like Kentucky and Louisville.
Jul 23, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Iowa State repainted their court.
Jul 22, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT
The College of Charleston Board of Trustees meets on Wednesday.
Jul 22, 2014, 9:30 PM EDT
The transfer forward will miss the first nine games of the season.
Jul 22, 2014, 8:00 PM EDT
Seven minutes of highlights from this past weekend’s Nike Peach Jam.
Jul 22, 2014, 7:15 PM EDT
But they aren’t yet eligible for the NCAA tournament. Click to see why.
Jul 22, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT
Isaiah Austin is returning to Baylor. Once he gets his degree, he’ll have a job with the NBA.
Jul 22, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT
Imagine 6-foot-8, 235-pound Harrell in a helmet and shoulder pads.
Jul 22, 2014, 3:16 PM EDT
The second installment of our weekly awards.
Jul 22, 2014, 1:42 PM EDT
He’ll be out for two months.
Jul 22, 2014, 1:04 PM EDT
Josh Jackson, Jaylen Brown, Diamond Stone, and more.
Jul 22, 2014, 11:44 AM EDT
Niang, who has dropped some 25 pounds since the end of the season, is looking to have an even greater impact as the Cyclones work to account for the losses of Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane.
Jul 22, 2014, 10:53 AM EDT
Can you say seven figures?
Jul 22, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
Is this the best high school mixtape since Seventh Woods?
Jul 21, 2014, 11:43 PM EDT
DePaul redshirt freshman forward DeJuan Marrero will play his sophomore season at Chipola.
Malik Newman, Ivan Rabb, Jayson Tatum, Malik Monk among 33 members battling for USA U17 roster spots this week
Jul 21, 2014, 10:00 PM EDT
The USA U17 tryouts have a lot of big names and it will also be important for the last week of the July live evaluation period.
Jul 21, 2014, 9:00 PM EDT
Isaiah Briscoe helped lead the New Jersey Playaz to a title at Peach Jam.
Jul 21, 2014, 7:45 PM EDT
Bruce Brown was a promising two-sport athlete, but gave up football to focus on basketball.
Jul 21, 2014, 6:10 PM EDT
Walker is the second commitment for the Cardinal this spring.
Jul 21, 2014, 4:45 PM EDT
Seven additional thoughts on Nike’s Peach Jam, including Ben Simmons’ one weakness, Malik Monk and how college coaches look at parents
- Top 15 recruit Antonio Blakeney has made the ‘jump’ — literally — to elite status 0
- July Live Period Week Two Superlatives 0
- Seven Takeaways from the Under Armour Finals 0
- Iowa State’s Georges Niang carries extra motivation – and less weight – into 2014-15 0
- Emmanuel Mudiay to China makes him even more of a case-study 0
- Four-star Class of 2016 guard Bruce Brown gave up football to focus on basketball 0
- Seven (more) Takeaways from Nike’s Peach Jam 0
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- Indiana’s summer workouts look intense (VIDEO) (4)
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