Big League Clew is back with the 2nd half of his preview of the pre-season top 25 college basketball teams.
So after briefly breaking down the majority of the top 25 (11-25 to be exact), I will be now be previewing the top 10 teams in the country based on the ESPN/USA Today polls. Rather than briefly going over teams like I did in the last post, I will be going into a little bit more detail with the Top 10. So let us continue with the awesomeness that is college basketball!!!!
10. Florida Gators
Last Season: 29-8 (13-3 in the SEC East)
Although the Gators are ranked #10 in the pre-season top 25, this could very well be a rebuilding year for the program. They have lost three members of their front court from last year. Don’t tell Coach Billy Donovan that though, as he has gone on record saying that he feels good about his team because of a deep and talented backcourt ,which many are saying is one of the best in the nation. Florida returns starting PG Erving Walker (senior, Led SEC in assists last year) and SG Kenny Boynton (junior, 14.2ppg, 82% FT). The rest of the team is up in the air. They do get add a junior transfer from Rutgers at Guard in Mike Rosario (16.7ppg at Rutgers), and a McDonald’s freshman All-American Guard in Bradley Beal. This team will need to figure out their front court situation soon, and they need someone to step up and dominate the boards if they look to be national title contenders again.
Early non-conference games: 11/15 @ #3 Ohio State, 12/2 @ #5 Syracuse, 12/7 vs. #16 Arizona
Who to watch: G Erving Walker (14.6ppg, 3.4apg), F Chandler Parsons (11.3ppg, 3,8apg, 7.8rpg)
9. Memphis Tigers
Last Season: 25-10 (10-6 in C-USA)
As many of you know, often, when recruits play basketball for Memphis Tigers, they tend to be one and done deals. They stay for one season and then leave for the NBA. For once, however, the Tigers return all five starters from last season. The third youngest team in the country in 2010, the Tigers were loaded with freshmen last year, but still won 13 games decided by five points or less. A year later, the team is still very young, but head coach John Paster (the youngest coach in college basketball) is doing what he can to maximize the entire roster’s full potential, rather than just utilizing players with individual talents. If the players are willing to work with this philosophy, they will more than likely have reduced playing time but, in the long run, Memphis should be able to make a C-USA title run, as well as a deep NCAA Tournament run.
Early non-conference games: 11/21 vs. #18 Michigan, 12/17 @ #8 Louisville, 12/22 @ Georgetown
Who to watch: G Will Barton (12.3ppg, 4.9rpg), G Joe Jackson (9.9ppg, 3.1apg), F Tarik Black (9.1ppg, 1.6bpg, 5.0, rpg)
8. Louisville Cardinals
Last Season: 25-10 (12-6 in the Big East)
Another deep team, the Cardinals have been picked to finish 3rd in the Big East behind #5 Syracuse and #4 Connecticut. The one negative about this team is that, unlike some of the previous Rick Pitino squads, they are not high scoring and do not have a number one star. However, they have a very deep backcourt that is capable of providing enough necessary offense. As I said before, Louisville has arguably the least star power of any of the top 10 teams. They have a lot of solid players, however, and this squad will be very hard to beat. They could even make another run to the final four this year.
Early non conference games: 11/19 @ Butler, 12/7 vs. #7 Vanderbilt, 12/17 @ #9 Memphis
Who to watch: F Luke Hancock (10.9ppg, 4.3apg, 4.2rpg), G/F Kyle Kuric (10.8ppg, 45% from 3 point range), G Chris Smith (9.4ppg, 4.6rpg,2.5apg)
7. Vanderbilt Commodores
Last Season: 23-11 (9-7 in SEC East)
Another case of “wait, they have a men’s hoops team?” Although they were not as convincingly dominant as Alabama or Florida last year, Vandy looks to be a team on the rise for the 2011-2012 season. The Commodores are a veteran bunch that would still be looked at as contenders in the SEC even if C Festus Ezeli were to be out for an entire year, and not just the first six games like he is. This is a good shooting club from beyond the arc and should be coach Kevin Stallings’ best yet! Vandy can flat out shoot the ball, as they shot 45.8% overall, 37% from three-point land and 74% from the free throw line. Can they get out of their NCAA tourney funk and make a deep push this year? Only time will tell.
Early non conference games: 11/28 vs. #14 Xavier, 12/28 @ #22 Marquette
Who to watch: G John Jenkins (19.5ppg, 3.0rpg, 89% FT), F Taylor Jeffery (14.7ppg, 5.5rpg, 2.4apg), G Brad Tinsley (10.6ppg, 4.6apg, 3.7rpg)
6. Duke Blue Devils
Last Season: 32-5 (13-3 in the ACC)
After, another monster season for Duke in 2010, the Blue Devils are loaded again for another strong season, and no one should be surprised about this at all. This is a very deep and dangerous team that is led by senior Miles Plumlee, highly touted freshman Austin Rivers and junior Seth Curry, who many on the team to be consider the (Three) point man, see what I did there? Also, I forgot to mention that Coach Krzyzewski will be closing in on the coveted 903 wins record currently held by former Indiana and Texas Tech head coach Bobby Knight. I see another deep NCAA run for Duke this year, as much as I hate them.
Early non conference games: 11/15 vs. Michigan State , 11/29 @ #3 Ohio State
Who to watch: Their whole team! Not joking!!!!
5. Syracuse Orange
Last Season: 27-8 (12-6 in the Big East)
After yet another disappointing early exit in the NCAA tourney at the hands of Marquette last season, the Syracuse Orange are heavily favored to make yet another deep run this year, as they return all but one of their starters from last year. The Orange are deep and talented and filled with players who can score. They might not have the dynamic front-man that the 2003 squad featured in Carmelo Anthony, but there is no shortage of weapons for Coach Jim Boeheim to rely on at any given moment. The major question will be how the group is going to defend the glass with the loss of Senior Rick Jackson, who was the Big East defensive player of the year last year. They will have time to figure things out before they head into the thick of Big East Play in January as Syracuse often has a few tune up games to open the year, but they will have some interesting match ups as well.
Early non conference games: 10/2 vs. #8 Florida, 12/17 @ N.C. State
Who to watch: F Kris Joseph (pre-season top 50, 14.3ppg, 5.2rpg) G Scoop Jardine (pre-season top 50, 12.5ppg, 5.9apg), G Brandon Triche (11.1ppg, 2.9apg, 84%FT), F C.J. Fair (6.4ppg, 3.8rpg)
4. Connecticut Huskies
Last Season: 32-9 (9-9 in the Big East; 2010-2011 National Champions)
As UCONN limped into the big east tournament with Kemba Walker & Co last year, no one thought in their wildest dreams that they would go on an eleven game run and win not only the Big East Tournament, but the NCAA tourney as well!! Despite Kemba walker leaving for the draft, the Huskies return four starters and seven players who saw significant playing time during their championship run. They also have three highly regarded freshmen coming in, including 6’10” Andre Drummond. Coach Jim Calhoun even believes this team has more talent than the 2010-11 team. So the question begs to be asked…will the Huskies repeat this year? Probably not, but they will be contenders, and probably stay that way for the next few years.
Early non conference games: 12/22 vs. Fairfield. They don’t really play anyone early in the year
Who to watch: G/F Jeremy Lamb (11.1ppg, 4.5rpg), F/C Alex Oriakhi (9.6ppg, 8.7rpg, 1.6 blocks per game)
3. Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Season: 34-3 (16-2 in the Big Ten)
OSU is picked to win the Big Ten for the 2nd year in a row, and they have the talent to back that up. Everyone, and I mean everyone, should be looking out for All American C Jared Sullinger. There is also versatile G William Buford, the lone senior and a former Big Ten freshman of the year, All-Big Ten performer and (by the way) he has a chance at breaking the school’s career scoring record. I am pretty sure we will be talking about this team for the entire year. We will see how they stack up early on, as they have some big games at the beginning of the season. They could even be a Number 1 team at some point this year.
Early non conference games: 11/15 vs. #8 Florida, 11/29 vs. #6 Duke Nov. 29th, 12/10 @ #13 Kansas
Who to watch: F Jared Sullinger (17.2ppg, 10.2rpg), G William Buford (14.4ppg, 2.9apg, 84%FT)
2. Kentucky Wildcats
Last Season: 29-9 (10-6 in the SEC east)
Kentucky is seemingly a revolving door of freshman 5-star players at the Point Guard position. This season Marquis Teague is ready to take over for the role Brandon Knight had last season and John Wall the year before him. Knight and Teague were both one-and-one players, entering their names in the NBA draft after guiding the Wildcats to the NCAA Final Four and Elite Eight respectively. Now lets see if Teague will be able to get them to a national championship before he dashes to the NBA, or stay in college since the lockout is going on. The Wildcats are a freshman-dominated group with as many as three first-year players in the starting rotation, but John Calipari does have a couple of key veterans returning in G Darius Miller and F Terrance Jones, so we will see how this team does. Will they be competing for a national championship, or will they be looking for another point guard come next off-season? Maybe both?
Early non conference games: 11/15 vs. #13 Kansas, 12/3 vs. #1 North Carolina, 12/10 @ Indiana
Who to watch: G (NC State transfer) Ryan Harrow (9.3ppg, 3.3apg), G Marquis Teague (5 star recruit), F Terrance Jones (15.7ppg, 8.8rpg, 1.9 bpg)
1. North Carolina Tar Heels
Last Season: 29-8 (14-2 in the ACC)
UNC has been Picked #1 in the country and most likely to finish the 2011 season as the NCAA champions, but it is a long season and stranger things have happened. One thing to consider for UNC is that the season will be considered a failure if they don’t win a national title (kind of like when the New York Yankees don’t win the World Series). Needless to say, expectations are high at North Carolina. They were voted the ACC favorite and, by the way, they return five returning starters from last season’s 29 win team that lost to Kentucky in the regional finals. With players like Harrison Barnes, who could be ACC player of the year, Tyler Zeller and John Henson, point guard Kendall Marshall, and their solid shooting guard Dexter Strickland on the roster, their goal should remain the same: win!!
Early non conference games: 11/11 vs. Michigan State, 11/30 vs. #14 Wisconsin, 12/3 @ #1 North Carolina
Who to watch: As previously mentioned above… basically their entire starting five.
There you have it folks, hope you enjoyed this segment from Clew. Come back next week College Football Rivalry Trophy Series!!
Florida image courtesy of: Photo by Maxwell Kruger, US Presswire
Memphis image courtesy of: http://www.ncaabbs.com, user JCraft
Louisville image courtesy of: Jim O’Connor/US Presswire
Vanderbilt image courtesy of: http://www.vucommodores.com
Duke image courtesy of: http://newshopper.sulekha.com
Syracuse image courtesy of: http://picasaweb.google.com
UCONN image courtesy of: http://www.yourhoustonnews.com
Ohio State image courtesy of: http://www.thesullingerzone.com
Wildcats image courtesy of: AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain
UNC image courtesy of: http://www.thesportssession.net
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