I dropped my yearly NCAA Men’s Basketball preview in November, and I usually drop an update in January but I’ve admittedly been slacking. Check out the latest rankings and who I think has a shot to cut down the net in April.
|AP Top 25|
- Others receiving votes: Iowa 38, Providence 26, Texas 25, Stephen F. Austin 22, Cincinnati 21, Murray St 20, Indiana 13, Rhode Island 12, Georgetown 9, Texas A&M 7, Temple 6, Old Dominion 3, Ole Miss 3, San Diego St 2, Harvard 2, Xavier 2, Valparaiso 1
- Dropped from rankings: Georgetown 24, Texas 25
Teams Ranked Too High:
#6 Villanova, #8 Kansas, #9 Louisville, #11 Utah, #13 Northern Iowa, #19 Maryland, #20 VCU
Least East is a joke. A once proud power conference is now a shell of its former self, leaving a myriad of teams to vie for a title that doesn’t mean much on the national college basketball scene. Villanova may get a 2 seed in the tournament, but they’ll be the first 2 seed to fall. Kansas is peaking at the right time of the year, and Kelly Oubre Jr is finally showing flashes of what made him a highly rated recruit, but the Jayhawks are an 8th ranked team with the talent of a 15th ranked team. I don’t like what’s going on in Louisville right now. Harrell was stripped of his captaincy a few weeks ago, and this team does not have what it takes to get past the Sweet 16. Utah is so overrated it’s not even funny. There are unranked teams with more talent (cough Texas cough cough). Northern Iowa is one of the best teams in the MVC, but I can’t take any team that loses to the Evansville Purple Aces seriously. Maryland has 1 quality win all year (MSU is not a quality team this year, they don’t count) and has the biggest red arrow next to their ranking in all of NCAA Men’s Basketball. And VCU is struggling in Atlantic 10 play when a conference schedule couldn’t be any easier.
Teams Ranked Too Low:
#5 Wisconsin, #10 Notre Dame, #23 Ohio State
Wisconsin and Duke should swap ranks. I know Duke beat Virginia and avenged their loss to Notre Dame a week later, but Wisconsin didn’t lose a game and deserves that #4 spot. Notre Dame just got waxed by Duke at Cameron Indoor, but they also beat the Blue Devils, a feat that seemed near impossible the first couple of months of the season until Duke lost back to back games to begin conference play. As for Ohio State, D’Angelo Russell might be the best PG in the country, and although they lost by 2 at Purdue the other day they are a very dangerous B1G team.
Kentucky, Virginia, Gonzaga, Duke, Wisconsin, Arizona, Iowa State
In my preview, I had 11 teams listed as contenders. This list has shrunk considerably after 3 months of play. I firmly believe that the NCAA Champion will be one of the 7 teams listed above, and Iowa State is only on there because they are one of the few teams with the ability to knock off the juggernaut Kentucky. The Wildcats lost Alex Poythress for the season and it hasn’t mattered at all. They keep toying around with inferior opponents (they were losing to miserable Florida at halftime) but continue to mud-stomp any decent foe. They’ll be the #1 overall seed going into the NCAA Tournament and if they get past the 2nd round (the real 2nd round, not the round of 64, I’m saying the 2nd game they play) you can pretty much pencil them in for the Final Four. Virginia is no joke. People were sleeping on them going into the season but they have a lot of talent. As of right now, I think Gonzaga is the 2nd best team in the country. They’d be perfect if they didn’t fall to Arizona in OT, and I expect them to finally get to the Elite 8 this year. Duke sent veteran Junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon packing for pouting when he wasn’t in the game, and they seem to be hitting their stride since his departure (Jones and Allen have gobbled up his minutes). I think they have the size and athleticism to knock off Kentucky in the Final Four should they meet. Wisconsin is going to the Final Four. I don’t see a situation where this doesn’t play out. And Arizona has so much size and talent they should be playing better than they have been in recent weeks.
Villanova, Kansas, Louisville, Notre Dame, Utah, North Carolina
Villanova is not a very good basketball team. Kansas will weasel their way to the Sweet 16, maybe even the Elite 8, and then get blown out by 20 against a superior squad. Louisville has early round exit written all over them, as Harrell is pretty much counting his NBA dollars already. Notre Dame is the epitome of “live by the 3, die by the 3″, and can beat anyone in the nation on a hot night. It’s just not possible to stay hot enough to win the NCAA Championship, no matter how good Jerian Grant is (hint, he’s really, really good)
Utah will lose in the round of 64, and North Carolina’s veteran players have not improved at all from last season to this year. It’s as if Roy Williams just rolls the balls out at practice for a couple of hours and then gets vertigo during games.
D’Angelo Russell, Ohio State
Jerian Grant, Notre Dame
Justin Anderson, Virginia
Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Ron Baker, Wichita St
Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga
Delon Wright, Utah
Stanley Johnson, Arizona
Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
Player of the Year:
Jahlil Okafor, Duke
The Duke freshman center is the best player in college basketball. He’s going to change the fortune of whatever NBA franchise is lucky enough to get the #1 overall draft pick (please be the Knicks). Frank Kaminsky from Wisconsin is a close 2nd, but there is no single player that means more to his team than Jahlil Okafor.
Final Four Predictions:
Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke, Gonzaga
National Championship Game: Wisconsin vs Duke
NCAA 2015 Champion:
Kentucky is the overwhelming favorite. I want to put the Wildcats logo here but I just can’t. Their tendency to let mediocre teams stay in games through the first half (and sometimes into overtime) leads me to believe that their first loss of the year will come in the NCAA tournament, at the hands of the team they eliminated last year in Wisconsin. Duke is a very difficult matchup for Wisconsin, and I think Coach K is set up for another NCAA Championship.