emember that time your boy Hook correctly predicted the NCAA Men’s Basketball Champion in November? Or should I say times? Because it happened again. I dropped the knowledge that Duke, not Kentucky, would win the Championship in my 2014-2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Preview last November. I whiffed on UConn the previous year (everyone did), but was also correct before the season began in 2012-2013, and 2011-2012. I even predicted the Kemba Walker UConn National Championship, Duke’s Championship, UNC’s win, and a near correct prediction in 2007-2008 (I had D Rose and Memphis winning it all) in the pre-TSB days. Keep reading for the inside scoop on this year’s crop:
|AP Top 25|
|1||North Carolina (35)||0-0||1,566|
- Others receiving votes: Oregon 116, SMU 112, West Virginia 84, Texas A&M 72, Cincinnati 63, Miami (FL) 48, Louisville 46, Georgetown 23, NC State 19, Texas 18, Florida State 18, Rhode Island 17, Dayton 12, Xavier 12, Providence 10, Iowa 6, BYU 5, Valparaiso 5, Boise State 4, Old Dominion 3, San Diego State 2, UCLA 2, Oklahoma State 2, Yale 1, UC Irvine 1, Iona 1, Central Michigan 1
- Dropped from rankings: Northern Iowa 11, Louisville 17, SMU 18, West Virginia 20, Arkansas 21, Georgetown 22, VCU 25
[courtesy of ESPN.com]
Teams Ranked Too High:
#1 UNC, #2 Kentucky, #4 Kansas, #6 Virginia, #8 Oklahoma, #12 Arizona, #17 Wisconsin
The Tar Heels will be #1 for five games until they get waxed by #3 Maryland on December 1st. You can’t turn on a segment of NCAA Men’s Basketball coverage without “analysts” gushing about their 4 returning starters and 9 of their top 10 scorers from last season’s Sweet 16 squad. Only problem is they barely made it out of the first round (beat Harvard by 2) and that 1 player they no longer have, JP Tokoto, was their best defensive (if not overall) player. Every other team in the top 5 reloaded with top 10 ESPN100 talent. UNC’s best recruit? #84 Kenny Williams. The guys they have on the roster are enough to make it to the Elite 8. Not the Final Four. Moving on. When was the last time you saw this happen and the team the following season were ranked #2 overall?
I like the pieces Kentucky has leftover. Alex Poythress is back for his Senior year, and will have a major impact if (that’s a major if) he can stay healthy. Tyler Ulis will be their best player this season, and should log major minutes at the point. Incoming prize recruit Skal Labissiere is extremely raw, and is miles behind the #1 ranked freshman Ben Simmons (LSU), but will be a force to be reckoned with on defense. They’re the 4th or 5th best team right now, not 1st or 2nd. As for #4 Kansas, I feel they’re ranked about 2 spots too high. The BIG 12 is stronger than usual, and while they have many cake-walk opponents sprinkled into their schedule, I see this team losing at least 7 games this season. I tabbed UVA as the front-runners to win it all before Justin Anderson dipped for the NBA. He’s a huge loss, and the Cavaliers won’t make it to the Final Four. The Sooners’ Buddy Hield is awesome, but he can’t do it all himself. They’re a top 10 team off the bat, but not #8 overall. Arizona lost 4 of their best players in Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jerfferson, Brandon Ashley, and TJ McConnell. I barely have this team on my radar yet alone #12th overall. And I feel like the AP is throwing Badgers fans a bone ranking Wisconsin #17th. With Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker in the NBA, this team will be out of the polls completely by January.
Teams Ranked Too Low:
#3 Maryland, #5 Duke, #7 Iowa State, #10 Wichita State, #13 Michigan State, #21 LSU
Love, love, love the Terps this year. Melo Trimble is a stud, and star recruit Diamond Stone gives them the inside presence necessary to go deep in the NCAA Tournament this season. The previously mentioned Dec 1st date with UNC is must-see TV, as is their in-conference match-ups with MSU and Indiana. They’re my #1 overall team to start the 2015-2016 season. #5 Duke lost a lot of talent to the NBA, but reloaded with 4 top 25 players. Brandon Ingram is a superstar, and diaper dandies Chase Jeter, Derryck Thornton, and Luke Kennard compliment returning players Grayson Allen, Matt Jones, Amile Jefferson, and Marshall Plumlee very well. They’re a top 3 team right now. As for #7 Iowa State, they’d be #4 if Fred Hoiberg wasn’t coaching the Bulls. Georges Niang hung around for a fourth year after a disappointing 2015 tournament for a reason. And what does it take for Wichita State to get some love? Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet are back again, and you can count on the Shockers flirting with an undefeated regular season again. Sparty lost Travis Trice, but Denzel Valentine will put this team on his back to another deep tournament run. LSU has the best recruit since Anthony Davis in Ben Simmons, who can have a Carmelo Anthony-like effect this season. If there’s a team ranked outside the top 20 who can win it all this season, it’s LSU.
UNC, Kentucky, Maryland, Duke, Iowa State, Oklahoma, Wichita State, Villanova, Michigan State, Cal, LSU
In last year’s article I wrote:
It’s insane that no one is talking about Karl Towns Jr yet.
Kid went on to be the #1 overall NBA draft pick. I’m surprised no college or NBA team has reached out to me to scout for them by now. I feel the same way about Brandon Ingram this year.
Long and athletic, Ingram will provide plenty of #SCTop10 highlights this season. They’re tabbing Ben Simmons as the #1 overall NBA draft pick next year, but don’t be surprised if Ingram surpasses him by the end of the season. I’m this close to saying Duke repeats, but I just can’t pull the trigger. White I mentioned UNC is ranked too high, you still can’t count out a deep team like the Tar Heels. If PG Marcus Paige reverts to sophomore season Marcus Paige instead of the regression we saw last year, they’ll make some noise. Kentucky will go as far as Tyler Ulis takes them. If he can ball out while logging major minutes, Coach Cal has another Final Four to put on his resume. Keeping with the PG theme, Melo Trimble is the best of the bunch. He’s fearless, and his injury is the only reason Maryland was knocked out of the NCAA Tournament last season. Just look at him ball:
The Cyclones’ Georges Niang is one of the best players in the country. I just hope losing Hoiberg to the NBA doesn’t ruin this team’s shot at a national title. Oklahoma, Wichita State, Villanova, and Michigan State are all reliant on the star power of their returning players. Cal and LSU are the exact opposites. Sleep on Cal’s diaper dandies Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb at your own risk:
And then there’s Ben Simmons, Antonio Blakeney, and Brandon Sampson headed to LSU. If Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey had stuck around, we’d be talking top 5 for this squad. But Ben Simmons might put the team on his back. He’s must-see TV anytime he takes the court:
Kansas, Virginia, Arizona, Utah, Wisconsin
Kansas landed prized recruits Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg, but they lost Kelly Oubre JR and Cliff Alexander. If Diallo and Bragg can play alongside Frank Mason III, Wayne Selden JR, and Perry Ellis, I may be eating my words come March. Virginia is a solid team, one of the best “team first” squads in the country, but they also lost their best player Justin Anderson to the NBA. Malcolm Brogdon isn’t enough to get the Cavaliers to the Final Four. I expect Arizona to fall off the face of the earth this season, tumbling down and out of the rankings after they take L’s vs unranked opponents early in the season. Utah lost Delon Wright and have 0 ESPN100 recruits. I’m sure there are more than 15 teams better than this squad.
Melo Trimble, Maryland
Denzel Valentine, MSU
Ben Simmons, LSU
Brandon Ingram, Duke
Georges Niang, Iowa State
Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
Buddy Hield, Oklahoma
Jaylen Brown, Cal
Damian Jones, Vanderbilt
Player of the Year:
Ben Simmons, LSU
Hedging my bet of Brandon Ingram being the best Freshman this year, Ben Simmons is a safe choice for National POY. If there were no age restrictions, he’d be in the NBA right now, likely on the Lakers instead of D’Angelo Russell. He is a complete player and will be a household name very, very soon.
Final Four Predictions:
Kentucky, Maryland, Duke, LSU
National Championship Game: Maryland vs Duke
NCAA 2015 Champion:
LSU is 85/1 right now in Vegas. I might put a stack on that for shits and giggles. They’re not going to be that low for long. Kentucky is 8/1, Duke 17/2, and Maryland 9/1. These teams are all very close, and worth betting on as well. I give Maryland the edge over Duke. Barely. There’s a good chance if I write a midseason update I’ll be changing my pick to Duke. Only time will tell.