Wednesday, November 7, 2007

College Basketball 2007 - My Preseason Top 25

Seeing as it's been almost a month since I have made a post, and I've overcome the departure of Joe Torre and the outcome of the World Series, which as a Yankee fan I refuse to truly acknowledge, I've decided to go back to what this blog started with - College Basketball, my true love. One thing I want to note, which Andy Katz pointed out in an article on ESPN today, is that their is no face of College Basketball this year. No Joakim Noah's, JJ Redick's, or Emeka Okafor's. No Greg Oden's, Kevin Durant's, or Carmelo Anthony's. No Uconn's or Duke's or North Carolina's loaded with first round draft picks.

And I love it. Of course, you have your four or five favorites, but everything else is so wide open. Can OJ Mayo do what Melo did with Syracuse in 2004? Are Washington State, Oregon, and Texas A&M for real? What about Davidson, Gonzaga and Southern Illinois? Will Duke and Uconn return to elite status?

Now that's out of the way, here is how I feel the top 25 teams in basketball should be ranked:

Tier 1

1.) Memphis
Biggest Pluses: Elite Eight team last year gets the nod at the top spot because this team didn't lose anyone and brings in possibly the best freshman in the country in Derrick Rose. One of the deepest teams in the country (last year 9 guys averaged over 10 minutes a game) plays right into the aggressive, uptempo style of John Calipari. Adding Derrick Rose to the likes of Chris Douglas-Roberts, Jeremy Hunt, and Antonio Anderson gives Memphis one of, if not the best backcourt in the country. With Joey Dorsey and Robert Dozier providing a more than adequate interior presence, I think Memphis is the team to beat this year.

Biggest Questions: With the addition of a guy like Derrick Rose, will there be enough shots to go around, and will established guys like Willie Kemp, Douglas-Roberts, and Hunt be willing to sacrifice shots and playing time to the rookie? Will Memphis be ready after playing the soft Conference USA schedule (although they do have early season non-conference games against Georgetown, Arizona, and USC and at Cincinati and Coaches Vs. Cancer)?

2.) North Carolina
Biggest Pluses: Despite losing Reyshawn Terry and Brandon Wright, UNC is still loaded. I love Tyler Hansbrough's game. He's a bulldog - always playing as hard a possible. Real throw back guy, reminds me of a Mark Madsen with talent. Ty Lawson is the quickest player end-to-end in the country, which allows UNC to run all day. The loss of Wright hurts, but look for Deon Thompson, one of the best players you've never heard of, to have a breakout year. Sophomore Wayne Ellington is another guy who could become a star this year in the backcourt, while Marcus Ginyard, Danny Green, Bobby Frasor, and Quentin Thomas are all solid players who should provide quality minutes. Another very deep team.

Biggest Questions: Brandon Wright got so many easy dunks last year by outrunning opponent's big guys. Can the bigs this year fill that void?

3.) UCLA
Biggest Pluses: The Bruins have a loaded front court this year. Luc Mbah a Moute, Lorenzo Mata (who doubles has the ugliest player in the country), and Alfred Aboya combined with the addition of freshman sensation Kevin Love gives UCLA a very deep, very talented front court. Darren Collinson is the best point guard in the country, a great playmaker on both ends of the floor. Josh Shipp is very solid as a slasher, but lost his jump shot in conference play last year (21% from 3 in conference). Look for Shipp to step into the void left by Aaron Afflalo's graduation. Chace Stanback, high school teammate of Josh Shipp, looks to be another solid recruit for Ben Howland.

Biggest Questions: Young and thin at the guard and wing spots behind Shipp and Collison, although with Ben Howland's grind it out, Big East-style of play, depth is not as important as it is for a team like North Carolina. Will Josh Shipp turn into the go-to guy everyone thought he would be coming out of high school?

4.) Kansas
Biggest Pluses: Although losing Julian Wright to the draft hurts, the Jayhawks still return a very talented and balanced team. Brandon Rush is as talented as anyone in the country on the wing, but very inconsistent. He can shoot, defend, and get to the rim, but needs to shed his tendency to defer to teammates and become the go-to-guy. Darrell Arthur should turn into one of the dominant centers in the Big 12 after averaging almost 10 ppg off the bench as a freshman, and look for senior Darnell Jackson, high school teammate to Shelden Williams, to have a big year stepping into the minutes vacated by Wright. Put those three together with Sasha Kaun and McDonalds All-American Cole Aldrich and your looking at a formidable front line. Mario Chalmers is one of the Big 12's best point guards and playmakers, and Russell Robinson is a more-than-capable backup. The wild card on this team is Sherron Collins. Collins, a former McDonalds All-American out of Chicago's Crane High (Will Bynum), is an explosive scoring guard, but had troubles with his weight as a freshman. If he's in shape, he's a force off the bench.

Biggest Questions:
Will Brandon Rush become a star, or will he follow the path of brothers JaRon and Kareem? Is Sherron Collins in shape? They have centers, but can Darnell Jackson turn into an upper-echelon power forward?

5.) Georgetown
Biggest Pluses: John Thompson III brings back alot of talent, depth and versatility this year, which plays right into his Princeton-style offense. Roy Hibbert is very effective on the block with a variety of jump hooks and drop step moves. Great combo of power and finesse, and his improved jump shot makes him into an all-american. Thompson is also very good at getting him into a position on the court where all he needs to do is hold a seal and finish. The rest of their team is very versatile. DaJuan Summers and Patrick Ewing Jr. are both long and athletic, have a jump shot, and can play anywhere from the off-guard to center. Jonathon Wallace and Jesse Sapp are both solid playmakers who can find assists as well as finish. Deep bench with freshman Chris Wright and Austin Freeman and sophomores Jeremiah Rivers and Macklin.
Biggest Questions:
Alot of role players on this team. With the loss of Jeff Green, who is going to take the big shot for them? Will Hibbert become more athletic, or still the slowest guy in the Big East? More responsibility on the guards to run the offense smoothly without Jeff Green in there.

Tier 2

6.) Tennessee
Chris Lofton is as good a scorer as there is in the country. JaJuan Summers is one of the most underrated guards in the country. Loaded freshman class last year (Wayne Chism, Duke Crews, Ramar Smith) can only get better.

7.) Louisville
Typical Rick Pitino squad. Lots of athletes, aggressive defense, hit the boards. Terrence Williams is a great playmaker on the wing - can score and find assists. Edgar Sosa and Derrick Caracter are both primed for big sophomore years.

8.) Indiana
DJ White is as good on the block as anyone in the Big Ten. Armon Bassett and A.J. Ratliff are both great shooters, and should provide some experience and leadership for a young, promising crop of freshman - headlined by Eric Gordon.

9.) Marquette
Great backcourt led by Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, Jerel McNeal and super-sub David Cubillan. Ousemane Barro is underrated as a center, especially defensively, and Dan Fitzgerald and Lazar Hayward anchor a perimeter-oriented frontline.

10.) Michigan State
This team lives and dies with Drew Neitzel, maybe the most clutch shooter in the country. Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton the best of the rest of the returners. As Usual, Tom Izzo brings in a deep and talented recruiting class, headlined by scoring guard Chris Allen.

Best of the Rest

11.) Washington State - Can Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver keep this team winning in a loaded Pac-10.
12.) USC - Lost alot to the draft, but bring in OJ Mayo.
13.) Oregon - Losing Aaron Brooks hurts, but Tajuan Porter and Malik Hairston should keep them competitive.
14.) Gonzaga - Seaosn hinges on effectiveness of Josh Heytvelt upon his return from suspension.
15.) Duke - Kyle Singler leads another strong Coach K recruiting class.
16.) Texas - Won't be the same team without Kevin Durant, but look for a huge year out of DJ Augustin, given he stays in shape.
17.) Arizona - When will Lute Olson return? Another talented team, but can they avoid underachieving like so many recent Wildcat teams?
18.) Pittsburgh - Atypical Pitt team - guard heavy. Still going to be tough to play against.
19.) Southern Illinois - Chris Lowery has built a great program at SIU. Look for them to defend their way to another MVC title.
20.) Davidson - Tough non-conference schedule early will test Stephen Curry and the Wildcats.
21.) Villanova - Scottie Reynolds is the real deal, but there isn't much else on the Nova roster.
22.) Texas A&M - No Billy Gillespie and no Acie Law this year, but there is still alot of talent on their roster.
23.) Ohio State - Losing three first-rounders hurts, but Kosta Koufos is for real, and Jamar Butler and David Lighty are both underrated players.
24.) Kansas State - Michael Beasley could be this year's Kevin Durant.
25.) Connecticut - Had to put my Huskies in there.

No comments: