Big League Clew kicks off our week with part 1 of his College Basketball Top 25 preview!
As you know folks, the NCAA committee has officially released their pre-season top 25 for men’s college basketball. Now I’ve said to many of my friends and co-workers over at Jobu’s Rum HQ that the pre-season college basketball rankings mean nothing because of many reasons. First of all, it’s too early in the season to know which teams are going to contend for the National title. Some teams are ranked because they made it deep in the NCAA tournament and deserved to be ranked, and of course there is the unpredictability of college basketball, where any team can upset anyone on any given day (yes I am referring to any given Sunday). Alright enough of this. I am going to break the rankings down anyways, because otherwise I would have nothing to talk about. So over the next few days get your self situated and prepared for the awesomeness that is college basketball!!
25. Missouri Tigers
Last season: 23-11 (8-8 in Big 12)
The main factor for the Tigers this season is their depth chart. Despite the loss of 6’8″ senior Laurence Bowers (11.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg) to a pickup basketball injury (torn ACL), they do return four players that averaged double figures last season, so they won’t be short on offense.
24. California Golden Bears
Last season: 18-15 (10-8 in Pac-10)
The Golden Bears boast the deepest team in the Pac-12. They are led by senior G Jorge Gutiérrez (14.5ppg, 4.5apg, 1.6stl), who is considered the heart and soul of this team and should contend for Pac-12 POTY. You also can’t forget 6’6″ swingman Allen Crabbe (Pac-10 Freshman of the Year), who averaged 16.4 ppg in Pac-10 play last season. Go Bears!
23. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Last season: 25-10 (11-3 in the West Coast Conference)
Despite a tough loss to St. Mary’s in the WCC finals last year, Gonzaga is favored to win the West Coast Conference. Led by senior Gs Steven Gray (13.8ppg, 3.9apg, 3.8rpg), and 7’0″ C Robert Sacre (12.5ppg, 6.2rpg), the Bulldogs will make another push for the conference title.
22. Cincinnati Bearcats
Last Season: 26-9 (11-7 in the Big East)
Last year, critics and writers said the Bearcats would never compete in the nation’s top basketball conference. My, how things have changed. Cinci boasted a 26-9 record and a NCAA tourney bid. This year, the Bearcats return four top scorers, including 6’9″ F Yancy Gates (11.9ppg & 6.9rpg). Can they build off of last years success?
21. Marquette Golden Eagles
Last Season: 22-15 (9-9 in the Big East)
After upsetting #3 seed Syracuse in the 2nd round of the NCAA tourney last year, MU was ousted by #2 seed North Carolina. Beware of senior G Darius Johnson-Odom (1st team preseason All-Big East), as he averaged 17.2 ppg in league play last year. Overall this team should be contenders thanks to the NBA lockout allowing players like Wes Matthews, Steve Novak and Lazar Hayward to return to school.
20. UCLA Bruins
Last Season: 23-11 (13-5 in the Pac-10)
From what I’ve read, the Bruins drank plenty of milk this off season and are going to be big bunch of boys. Will this be enough to help them secure a Pac-12 title? With a plethora of tall players, they are led by 6’10” 315 lb sophomore C Joshua Smith (10.9ppg, 6.3rpg) and 6’8″ junior F Reeves Nelson (13.9ppg, 9.1rpg). Oh and you can’t forget that they picked up UNC transfers David and Travis Wear. Better start practicing your 3-point jump shot.
19. Texas A&M Aggies
Last Season: 24-9 (10-6 in Big 12)
A&M has recorded seven consecutive 20-win seasons, along with a 60-game home court win streak in non-conference games. They were also ranked as the number 1 team in this year’s pre-season Big 12 conference poll. Keep an eye out for F Khris Middleton (14.4 ppg and 5.2rpg last season) who was the team’s top scorer in most of their games last season.
18. Michigan Wolverines
Last Season: 21-14 (9-9 in the Big 10)
Overall this is a very young team, but with tons of experience. 9 of 16 players on the Michigan roster are either freshmen or sophomores. Look out for sophomore G Tim Hardaway, Jr. (13.9ppg) and senior G/F Zack Novak (8.9ppg and 5.8rpg), as they will be key in the Wolverines quest for obtaining a winning record in Big Ten play for the first time since coach John Beilein took over.
17. Alabama Crimson Tide
Last Season: 25-12 (12-4 in SEC West)
OK..Alabama has a basketball team? And won the SEC West?? Only a few people (Alabama Alums) would predict an SEC title this year for the Crimson Tide, but with forwards JaMychal Green (15.5ppg, 7.5rpg, 2.1blks) and Tony Mitchell (15.2ppg, 7.1rpg), and freshman PG Trevor Releford (11.0ppg, 3.4apg) running the offense, ‘Bama might make a push for the SEC title & a NCAA tourney bid.
16. Arizona Wildcats
Last Season: 30-8 (14-4 in the Pac-10)
Coming off a 30 win season and going deep into the NCAA tourney, the Wildcats look to compete for the Pac-12 title again this year. These cats are versatile, as coach Sean Miller has recruited four top-notch freshmen to help them compete. This year’s Wildcats team looks completely different this year. They will be a more complete team compared to last year’s version, which relied heavily on Derrick Williams.
15. Xavier Musketeers
Last Season: 24-8 (15-1 in Atlantic-10)
If I told you that Xavier would go 15-1 in the A-10 last season with only 8 players under scholarship, many of you would have called me nuts! Xavier was almost a unanimous choice to repeat as Atlantic 10 Conference champs this year. They have a lot of players selected to preseason all-A-10, specifically Tu Holloway (1st team), Mark Lyons and Kenny Frease (2nd team) and freshman Dezmine Wells and Justin Martin (all-rookie selections).
14. Wisconsin Badgers
Last Season: 25-9 (13-5 in Big Ten)
Even though Wisconsin has lost several key senior leaders from a team who won 25 games, they do return PG Jordan Taylor who was among 50 players on the preseason list for the Wooden Award. Taylor averaged 18.1ppg, 4.7apg and 4.1 rpg in 2010. Yet the biggest challenge for him will be how he performs since his surgeries this off season & his increased role as a senior.
13. Kansas Jayhawks
Last Season: 35-3 (14-2 in the Big 12)
So let me get this straight? Even with average talent on their team this year, AND losing key players due to ineligibility from NCAA sanctions, the Jayhawks are still favored to win the Big 12 title? Give me a break!
12. Baylor Bears
Last Season: 18-13 (7-9 in the Big 12)
Okay… again, this does not make any sense. The Bears had a losing record in the Big-12 last year and yet they are ranked 12 in the pre-season poll? Well, they actually did get a ton of talent in recruiting this offseason, including a few solid junior college transfers, so they might actually be able to contend for the conference title. Lets see what they can do.
11. Pittsburgh Panthers
Last Season: 28-6 (15-3 in the Big East)
Despite losing in a heartbreaking upset to Butler in the NCAA tourney, Pitt is still a favorite to win it all this year. The Panthers are led by G Ashton Gibbs (16.8ppg, 88.9 FT%, 2.8apg), who is considered by many to be the Big East’s top player. Gibbs was named the conference’s preseason POTY and has been nominated by both the Naismith and Wooden committees.
Sacre image courtesy of: The Associated Press
UCLA image courtesy of: AP Photo/Danny Moloshok
Xavier image courtesy of: Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE
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