College Basketball Preview

Can Kentucky rebound?


College basketball teams are almost as impossible to predict as its tournament. Every year the power house teams have highly ranked freshman coming in. You cannot judge a team by the strength of its recruiting class. It is impossible to tell how good they are going to be. For example, 2 years ago Kentucky took in the top-ranked recruiting class. That class included Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Marquis Teague. That team would go on to win the NCAA tournament. A year later, Kentucky took home the 2nd rated recruiting class. They picked up “sure-fire one-and-dones” Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, and Alex Poythress. It didn’t work out as well. The wildcats would miss the tournament completely last year. These teams with elite freshman are a crap-shoot. They can have the talent to win it all–like 2011 Kentucky—but they can also be inexperienced and lack chemistry—like 2012 Kentucky.


Louisville beat Michigan in the final game last year. That topped off a pretty good year for college basketball. There was no dominant team last year. There should be quite a few dominant teams this year.  Here is my preseason top 10:

  1. Louisville

–          Key losses: PG Peyton Siva, C Gorgi Dieng,

–          Key returners: SF Luke Hancock, PF Montrez Harrell, F Wayne Blackshear, F Shane Behanon

–          Preview: The defending champs are back in the top spot. They lost Dieng and Siva, but that shouldn’t affect the champs too much. They just have a roster full of talent. Behannon, suspended for the first couple games, will be back sooner rather than later. Same with Kevin Ware, who suffered that horrid broken leg in the tournament last year, is already practicing. Behannon, Blackshear, Harrel, among others are going to dominate the pain for the Cardinals. They know how to win and March. It is an insult to the defending champs that arch-rival UK is the pre-season number one team. The Cardinal are coming off a championship season and back-to-back final fours. UK missed the tournament the year before and do not have anybody in the rotation that has even played in the NCAA tournament. Rick Petino and the ‘Ville will come out with something to prove.

2. The Ohio State

–          Key losses: F Deshaun Thomas, PF/C Evan Ravenal

–          Key returners: PG Aaron Craft, SF LaQuinton Ross, G Shannon Scott

–          Preview: Ohio State is tremendously underrated. Aaron Craft is back for what seems like his tenth year in Columbus. DeShaun Thomas left early for the draft, but that doesn’t mean the Buckeyes won’t be good this year. They have a future superstar in the making in LaQuinton Ross. Ross burst on to the scene in the NCAA tournament as he hit the game-winning three over Arizona in the elite eight. Ross reminds me of Kevin Durant while at Texas. The combo of Craft and Ross will be dynamic for the buckeyes. Marc Loving is a recruit everybody is excited about in Columbus. He should make an impact. This season depends on the play of starting center Amir Williams. He has immense talent, but struggles against the elite teams. If he can step-up the Buckeyes have a legit shot at a title. Especially with all the upper classman leadership they have this year.

3. Kansas

–          Key losses: SG Ben McLemore , C Jeff Withey, F Kevin Young, F Travis Releford, G Elijah johnson

–          Key returners:

–          Key additions: SG Andrew Wiggins, SF Wayne Seldon

–          Preview:  This Kansas team is ranked this high because they have the best player in the country. Andrew Wiggins has been tagged as the next LeBron James. He is generating the most hype since LeBron tried to enter the draft after his junior year in high school. While teams are tanking for Wiggins in the NBA already, Kansas gets to enjoy Wiggins for this year. Wiggins is not the only elite player on Kansas, though. Wayne Seldon is another freshman that could be a top 5 pick. Seldon can do it all. Bill Self has had trouble in the tournament in recent years, but he certainly has the best player in the country. The big men for Kansas are pretty good as well. Memphis transfer Tarik Black should provide a ton of energy inside. Perry Ellis has a high ceiling if he could learn not to travel. Joel Emiid , another Frosh, was an elite center recruit. He’ll be able to prived some strong defense inside. Kansas will be tough to beat if Wiggins can live up to the hype.

4. Michigan State

–          Key losses: C Derrick Nix

–          Key returners: G Gary Harris, PF Adrian Payne

–          Preview: Losing Derrick Nix will hurt the Spartans inside game, but Adrian Payne should continue his progress on the offensive end. Payne is not the only NBA prospect playing for the Spartans. Combo guard Gary Harris could have been a lottery pick had he come out last year.  Harris spear heads a backcourt that includes speedy point guard Keith Appling. Appling should provide senior leadership that is needed to win in March. Branden Dawson is just another weapon the Spartans have. Dawson can do it all on the offensive end. His injury last year probably cost MSU a real chance at a March run. I can never count out Mr. March Tom Izzo. Izzo will have his experienced team ready by March.

5. Duke

–          Key losses: G Seth Curry, PF Mason Plumlee, F Ryan Kelly

–          Key returners:

–          Preview: Before Andrew Wiggins reclassified from the 2014 class to the 2013 class Jabari Parker was considered as the next elite baller in the country. He and fellow frosh Matt Jones have all the talent to take Duke to March glory. But, it’s the upper classmen that could be the difference. Junior point guard Quin Cook is one of the great college basketball players in the game. He may not be an elite pro-prospect, but he excels in Coach K’s system. The loss of Mason Plumlee is going to hurt inside, but another Plumlee could grow into another solid player for Duke. Marshall Plumlee is 7-feet tall and skilled. That should help Parker and Cook on the defensive end. Talented sophomore Amile Jefferson didn’t play much as a freshman, but he has the talent of a super-star. Watch for him to break out this year.

6. Kentucky

–          Key losses: G Archie Goodwin, C Nerlens Noel, F Kyle Wiltjer

–          Key returners: C Willie Cauley-Stien, F Alex Poythress,

–          Preview: Kentucky has the best on paper roster of all time. They have the best recruiting class of all time, too. Julius Randle could also be a top 3 pick. The Harrison twins were both top 5 recruits. Plus, they have the top rated center, Dakari Johnson, and the second rated small forward in James Young. Not only do they have talented freshman but they have talented returning players, too. Willie Cauley-Stein is back, but he cannot make a free throw to save his life. Everybody knows a team is going to be good when a player has to go to the NBA because wouldn’t get any playing time at UK. That is exactly what happened to Archie Goodwin. It would not surprise me if the Wildcats went undefeated, but there are some serious questions about Kentucky. When they won it all two years ago, they had 2 of the top 3 picks. They also had Terrance Jones and Patrick Patterson who had been to a final four already. They had some upper classman that have been there before. This year they do not have that. It’s tough to like a team without any upper classman in the rotation. Talent-wise they are number one.

7. Syracuse

–          Key losses: G Brandon Trische, PG Michael Carter-Williams, SF James Southerland,

–          Key returners:

–          Preview: Syracuse lost some talent from last year. Michael Carter-Williams and Brandon Trische will not be in the backcourt this year. However, Syracuse always finds a way to reload. They just get star players out of nowhere. From Carter-Williams to Dion Waiters, Johnny Flynn, Wesley Johnson among others. This year DeJuan Coleman looks to be a breakout candidate in the front court. C.J. Fair should be able to build on a solid season this year. Fair will be the go-to-guy this year, so the season will depend somewhat on his development. The Orange are also extremely excited about freshman guard Tyler Ennis from Canada. He could be the next guy Syracuse pulls out of nowhere. Rakeem Christmas needs to be more physical inside if the ‘Cuse want to get to the final four.

8. Arizona

–          Key losses: F Solomon Hill, G Mark Lyons

–          Key returners : Kaleb Tarczwski, Brandon Ashley

–          Preview: I’m not sure there is a more talented frontcourt than Arizona’s. Aaron Gordon is being talked about as the next Blake Griffin—except better. He is freakishly athletic and can score on the inside. Sophomore forward Brandon Ashley is another talented forward. He has the potential to be a lottery pick. In between those two talented forwards is the most important piece to the puzzle. That is 7-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski. He was the number three overall recruit in the 2012 recruiting class. He can block shots and rebounds well. Scout love his skill set in the middle. All three members of that front court could be lottery picks. Arizona is going to be tough to beat.

9. Uconn

–          Key losses: none

–          Key returners: G Ryan Boatwright, PG Shabazz Napier

–          Preview: After a tournament ban last year, Uconn looks to be a top 10 team this year. Senior Shabazz Napier is back for his senior season. He is one of the best pure point guards in the entire country. Ryan Boatwright is also back. Boatwright is one of the most dynamic scorers in the country as well. That backcourt will win them a lot of games. Omar Calhoun showed his ability as a freshman, but now it is time to step up and be a key piece to this team. If Calhoun can put a good season together look for the Huskies to be in the top 10 as March rolls around.

10. Michigan

–          Key losses: PG Trey Burke, SG Tim Hardaway Jr.

–          Key returners:  Nik Stauskas, Mitch McGary, Glen Robinson Jr.

–          Preview: Michigan made a deep run in the Tournament last year. Mitch McGary had a coming out party. He had an awesome NCAA tournament. This year their two best scorers, Burke and Hardaway Jr., will both be gone. They will need talented returners McGary and Robinson III to step up on the offensive side of the ball. Spike Albrecht and Nik Stauskas are both deadly from long range. They can really shoot the rock. Expect Michigan to live and die by the three this year.


This will be a great year in college basketball. There are multiple elite teams, and there is more talent this year than ever. The Final Four is almost impossible to pick at the beginning of the year. Its College Basketball so expect the unexpected.