Before you know it, the college basketball season will be upon us. I’m as excited as I ever have been. There are a lot of question marks I can’t wait to have answered such as will Louisville repeat as national champs? Or will Kentucky’s freshmen class help guide the Wildcats back to the promise land? It’s not just about the teams. It’s also about the individual stars. Players such as Creighton’s Doug McDermott have been putting up big-time numbers the past few years. McDermott came back for his senior season and should become a 3-time All-American.
The Big-10 was clearly the top conference in 2012-2013. But they suffered some key losses. Michigan lost Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. to the NBA. Indiana lost Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo. Teams such as Iowa and Illinois will have to step it up this year if the conference will remain on top. And speaking of the Big-10, one of the greatest Big-10 players of all-time is now the head coach at UCLA – Steve Alford. Coach Alford somehow managed to parlay being one of the worst NCAA Tournament coaches of all-time into one of the most coveted college basketball jobs in the country. Good for him, bad for UCLA fans.
I have put together my top 25 for 2013-2014. But, like every year, there are going to be some surprises and disappointments. Last years biggest disappointment was Kentucky. They went from winning the national championship to losing in the first round of the NIT, all in a matter of one season. The most surprising team was Miami. The Hurricanes came out of nowhere to win the ACC. Don’t think for one second they aren’t capable of duplicating that success. So who will be this year’s surprises and disappointments? I don’t own a crystal ball so I can’t answer that. What I can do is give you my preseason top 25 poll…
The Top 15…
1.Louisville Cardinals – They’re deeper and more talented than last year. Oh, and they’re the defending champs. Russ Smith is a Naismith Award candidate and the BMOC in Louisville.
2.Michigan State Spartans – Tom Izzo just keeps on winning. Sparty returns the majority of their scoring from last season. Adreian Payne is a force to reckon with down low.
3.Arizona Wildcats – Arizona was a pleasant surprise last year and adds superstar freshman Aaron Gordon to the mix.
4.Kentucky Wildcats – After a disappointing year (understatement), Kentucky will get back into contention. John Calipari brought in yet another recruiting class of future NBA Lottery picks.
5.Kansas Jayhawks – The late signing of Andrew Wiggins – the top recruit in the country – makes Kansas an immediate national title contender.
6.Duke Blue Devils – As long as Coach K is in Durham, Duke will be a contender. Freshman Jabari Parker is the player to watch for the Dukies.
7.Florida Gators – Billy Donovan, despite winning 2 national titles, doesn’t get the credit he deserves. Gators will get back to the Elite 8…for the third straight season.
8.Iowa Hawkeyes – The Hawkeyes are set to contend in the Big-10. They return 4 starters and their top 5 scorers. Look out for freshman guard Peter Jok.
9.Michigan Wolverines – If Mitch McGary continues to improve like he did in the NCAA Tournament last year, Michigan will have a shot in the Big-10.
10.Oklahoma State Cowboys – Marcus Smart is the best player returning in the Big-12. He’s one of the top guards in the country and Okie State has some depth too.
11.Gonzaga Bulldogs – No Kelly Olynyk down low? No problem! Sam Dower can take over games. Gonzaga keeps on doing what they always do – win a bunch of games in the regular season and collapse in the NCAA Tournament.
12.New Mexico Lobos – Steve Alford bolted for New Mexico but he leaves behind a very talented roster.
13.Wichita State – With Creighton no longer in the Missouri Valley, Wichita State might be unbeaten in conference play.
14.Oregon Ducks – UNLV transfer Mike Moser is the key to the Ducks success this year. He’s the big man Oregon so desperately needed.
15.Colorado Buffaloes – Colorado basketball is as good as its ever been thanks to the experienced play of Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker.