Conn shocked the world last season when they cut down the nets in AT&T stadium. The place was absolutely jam-packed with Kentucky fans, but it didn’t matter as Shabazz Napier became a two-time NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion. No one saw that coming. Not even me.
For the past few years, I’ve been dropping knowledge about the NCAA Men’s Basketball season before any of the games have been played in my yearly preseason preview. The first USA Today’s Coaches polls is out:
|USA Today Coaches Poll|
|17||San Diego St||31-5||251|
- Others receiving votes: Stanford 47, Harvard 47, Kansas St 37, Pittsburgh 36, Utah 26, Memphis 25, Minnesota 18, UCLA 15, New Mexico 11, Oregon 9, Louisiana Tech 8, Colorado 8, Arkansas 8, Dayton 6, Providence 5, Notre Dame 5, Georgetown 4, Massachusetts 4, Illinois 4, UTEP 4, Florida St 3, Baylor 2, George Washington 1, Toledo 1, Saint Mary’s 1, Miami (FL) 1
- Dropped from rankings: UCLA 15, Baylor 18, Dayton 18, Creighton 20, Cincinnati 22, Tennessee 23, Stanford 24, Saint Louis 25
[polls courtesy of ESPN]
Teams Ranked Too High:
#1 Kentucky, #6 UNC, #7 Florida, #10 Texas, #14 Iowa State, #16 VCU, #25 Iowa
Just like last year, I think it’s too early to crown Kentucky as the 2015 National Champions. They have yet another awesome recruiting class (although not the top ranked), and return a few starters/role players from last season, but losing James Young and Julius Randle to the NBA is going to sting. The Harrison twins are, and have been, overrated, and incoming Freshman Trey Lyles is good, but he’s not Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins, or John Wall good like Calipari’s recruits have been over the past few years. This team will likely snag a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but it won’t be the #1 overall. Am I the only NCAA
analyst blogger with an opinion who has been reading the news about all of the pending NCAA investigations in Chapel Hill? When it comes down to it, these athletes are just kids, and kids are easily distracted. This will be a disappointing season for the Tar Heels. Aside from Marcus Paige, I trust no one on this squad. Florida lost Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather and Will Yeguete. That’s 42.8 points per game that are straight up gone, and not easily replaced. Gators fans are banking on Chris Walker being a star, but I’m afraid that probably won’t happen until 5 years from now in the NBA (the kid is an elite leaper with great size). As long as Texas has the same coach that got bounced from the NCAA Tournament in the 2nd round with a team that consisted of Kevin Durant, DJ Augustin, AJ Abrams, and Damion James by the USC Trojans featuring Swaggy P and Taj Gibson (seriously, that’s all that team had, and they dominated the Longhorns 87-68), I’ll have little to no faith in them. Iowa State lost their 2 best players from last year in Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane (awesome movie villain name by the way), and should find themselves unranked after they get waxed by Arkansas on December 4th and Iowa on December 12th. If this is the same VCU team who lost to Stephen F. Austin in their first game of the 2014 NCAA Tourney last year (I picked that one in all my brackets), don’t expect much from the rams in 2015. And after losing Devyn Marble to the NBA, Iowa simply shouldn’t be ranked (the AP top 25 got it right).
Teams Ranked Too Low:
#4 Wisconsin, #8 Virginia, #9 Louisville, #13 Gonzaga, #19 Oklahoma, #22 SMU, #24 Syracuse
Out of the gate, I think Wisconsin should be the #1 ranked team, and Bo Ryan given an honorary diploma from Hogwarts for working his magic with a team seemingly put together from the reject pile of college basketball recruiting. No one can guard Frank Kaminsky, and I expect him to be B1G player of the year. Virginia isn’t getting much love for the noise they made last season, and I don’t quite understand it. As for Louisville, have the coaches not seen nor heard of Montrezl Harrell? He could very easily average a double-double this season in points and rebounds. I think this is the best Gonzaga team ever. Even better than the #1 overall seed that got bounced by Wichita State a couple of years ago. The Oklahoma Sooners are just a very solid team from top to bottom, and should be ranked around 15th overall. SMU was the biggest snub by the tourney committee last year, and I expect them to come back with a vengeance. At times last year, Syracuse looked like the best team in the country. For some reason NCAA teams can’t figure out how to score against the zone defense until about the 3rd round of the Tournament, and last time I checked Jim Boeheim (who I met at the Final Four last year) is a creature of habit. Expect the Orange to rise up the rankings quickly.
Kentucky, Arizona, Wisconsin, Duke, Kansas, Virginia, Louisville, Wichita State, Gonzaga, UConn, Oklahoma
Kentucky is loaded, so they’re going to be in the picture yet again. It’s insane that no one is talking about Karl Towns Jr yet.
In the case of #2 Arizona, they likely would have won it all last year had Brandon Ashley never gotten hurt. I truly believe that. Ashley is back, and they’ve added NBA level talent in Freshman Stanley Johnson who will make you forget all about Aaron Gordon’s departure. Point guard play is their only question mark, and I think TJ McConnell can rise to the occasion. Wisconsin has almost all of the same unguardable lanky white guys back this season (4 returning starters), and the rest of the B1G seemed to forget all about basketball this season. Pencil them in for a 1 seed. Duke has the #1 Freshman recruit Jahlil Okafor suiting up for the Blue Devils this season, and the more I watch him the more I’m reminded of a young Tim Duncan. To add to their #1 ranked recruiting class, they nabbed the top PG prospect in Tyus Jones, although after watching a few mixtapes he seems more like Greg Paulus than Kyrie Irving (as a Duke fan, I hope I’m wrong). Freshman Justise Winslow should contribute right away, and #21 overall recruit Grayson Allen may barely see any playing time this year, although after watching this video I hope he plays:
It’s scary to think that they will likely be better than last year’s Duke squad after losing their top 2 scorers in Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood to the NBA, but I guarantee they will be, and they won’t lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament again. As for Kansas, the Jayhawks found incredible replacements for Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins in man-child Cliff Alexander and uber-athletic Kelly Oubre. Alexander might end up being the 2nd best freshman frontcourt player behind Duke’s Okafor. Just look at this beast:
Kansas is projected to have 3 players selected in the top 10 of next year’s NBA draft (Oubre, Selden, and Alexander). That’s 2 more than any other team. Add Perry Ellis and a cardboard cutout and you’ve got an Elite 8 lock. Virginia won the ACC tournament last season, yet everyone’s sleeping on them again this year. I don’t think the losses of Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell will affect them too much, but maybe I’m wrong. Louisville has a sure-fire 1st team All-American in Montrezl Harrell, who will be on the receiving end of many an alley-oop from stud guard Terry Rozier, not to mention Wayne Blackshear is still around (seriously… shouldn’t this guy have graduated already?). The Cardinals are poised to make another run at the title. Wichita State should flirt with another undefeated regular season, and Gonzaga may have its best team ever. UConn pretty much only lost Shabazz Napier, so I’m not making the mistake of counting them out this year. And I implore you, do not sleep on the Oklahoma Sooners this season. Joe Lunardi has them penciled in as a 6 seed in his way-too-early Bracketology, and Joe Lunardi is wrong. They have 4 seed talent, and even National Champion capability. I love what that guy does, but Lunardi only gave UConn a 0.6% chance to win the tournament last season on March 18th! (in comparison, I thought they had at least a 2.4% chance, enough so that I put some money on them that cashed).
UNC, Florida, Texas, Iowa State, San Diego State
If the North Carolina Tar Heels even sniff the Final Four, I’ll be red-faced, embarrassed, and outright shocked. A lot of people have put Marcus Paige on their All-America teams, and Seth Greenberg has even gone as far as to name him his pre-season choice for Player of the Year. More like FOH. Paige can score, and he has a lot of swagger, but this team will fail. I’m calling it. Florida’s season depends on Chris Walker being a stud. He’s just not. I loved him as a late-season addition last year, but he’s not Neo in the Gator Matrix. As for Texas, does anyone have any confidence in a team whose best player is a Freshman who looks like this?:
Like I said earlier, Iowa State has just lost too much leadership to compete all season, and I’m just tired of San Diego State playing a cake schedule, winning 28+ games, then getting bounced early in the tournament. It’s going to happen again.
Fred Van Vleet, Wichita State
Tyler Haws, BYU
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
Marcus Paige, UNC
Caris LeVert, Michigan
Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
Stanley Johnson, Arizona
Cliff Alexander, Kansas
Player of the Year:
Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
I’m just fucking with you. That goofy looking 7 footer will be an All-American, but my Player of the Year seriously is
Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
He has the ability to dominate games inside the paint on both sides of the court. He’ll average less than 2 blocks per game, but those blocked balls will go into the 15th row and knock the popcorn out of the hand of some Cardinals alumni and change the momentum of the game. Harrell should be on an NBA team right now. He came back to college one more year to showcase his talents, and I expect him to do just that.
Final Four Predictions:
Kentucky, Arizona, Duke, Gonzaga
National Championship Game: Arizona vs Duke
NCAA 2015 Champion:
Duke Blue Devils
I have a feeling that I’m wrong about Tyus Jones, and that he’s going to be a much better player than I anticipate. Duke gets lucky to be on Gonzaga’s side of the Final Four bracket, while Kentucky and Arizona beat each other up to the point where the winner is too gassed to take the ‘ship. I think the Duke Blue Devils utilize everyone in that #1 ranked recruiting class all the way to the top.