The 2014-15 college basketball season is ready to tip-off and we’ve got you covered with our top 25 preview. We’ve also included 6 other teams to watch from major and mid-major conferences and our Sweet 16, Elite 8, Final Four, and championship predictions. We hope you enjoy!
1. Kentucky: Kentucky is by far the most loaded team in college basketball. 8 players who will likely be NBA draft picks return from last year’s runner up. Add in this year’s talented freshman class and Kentucky has 9 H.S. All-Americans on roster. To put it into perspective, Kentucky’s bench would be a top 25 team. Twin So. guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison are back. Andrew looks more comfortable leading the offense and Aaron’s shooting was one of the keys to last year’s tournament run. Down low no team in the country can match the Wildcats. Veteran forwards Alex Poythress (Jr.) and Marcus Lee (So.) are high energy players. Jr. C Willie Cauley-Stein and So. C. Dakari Johnson give Kentucky two talented 7 ft centers. Another (almost) 7 footer, Freshman F Karl-Anthony Towns, looks to be the best of the freshman class and is likely a future top NBA draft pick. Kentucky are the clear favorites to win it all this season and are talented/deep enough to put together an undefeated season.
2. Wisconsin: The Badgers return seven key players from a team that barely lost to Kentucky in the Final Four last season. Wisconsin could be better both offensively and defensively this year, which should really scare people. Sr. F/C. Frank Kaminsky was the breakout star last season leading the team in rebounding and scoring and is a national player of the year candidate this season. Jr. F Sam Dekker had a great summer and is in the best shape of his career which should finally have him reach his All-American potential and he should battle Kaminsky for conference player of the year honors. The player to watch out this year is So. F. Nigel Hayes who was their best player off the bench last season as a freshman and this year he should be in for a star role. Senior guards Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson make up a solid veteran backcourt. Wisconsin is a very well-rounded team that is not only heavy favorites to win the Big Ten, but is one of the favorites to win it all this season.
3. Arizona: Arizona was the best in the Pac-12 last season, and they should win it again easily this year. Two NBA players are gone, but leading the way now are forwards Brandon Ashley (Jr.) and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (So.). Ashley is a scoring PF and Hollis-Jefferson is an energetic player, both are NBA prospects. Jr. C Kaleb Tarczewski is a 7-footer who has steadily improved at Arizona and should be in for his best season yet. Freshman G/F Stanley Johnson ranks as on of the top recruits in the history of the school and should provide an immediate impact. Johnson may be the top freshman offensively in all of college basketball this season. Arizona was one of the best defensive teams in the country last season, and will also be this year as well. The Wildcats on paper are better than last year’s Elite 8 team, which makes them a legit national championship contender this season.
4. Duke: The Blue Devils were bounced in the 1st round by Mercer last season and while this year also features a young core, things seem different. Sr. G. Quinn Cook will provide veteran leadership as the team’s primary ball handler. The key to the Blue Devils this year is the nation’s top recruiting class that features four freshmen capable of playing right away. G Tyus Jones playing next to cook could be the conference’s best guard duo. F Justise Winslow is a talented forward who will fit nicely on the wing. Athletic guard Grayson Allen should compete for minutes with solid veteran Jr. Rasheed Sulaimon. But the key will be F/C Jahlil Okafor. Okafor has the size and game to be one of college’s best players and likely Duke’s next one and done guy. Okafor has the dominant post game Duke was sorely missing last season and he is the real deal. Yes the young core must mature together and that could take some time, but by tourney time, Duke will be a national championship contender.
5. North Carolina: The Tar Heels have a rising star, solid role players, and a strong freshman class to make fans forget about last season. The rising star is Jr. G Marcus Paige who will be up for conference and All-American honors. Paige was the key to UNC’s midseason surge last season and should be even better this year. He can play point or off the ball. Jr. F Brice Johnson and So. F Kennedy Meeks look like they will take a step forward this season, something the Heels need to be true contenders. Johnson is the better low-post scorer, while Meeks is the better passer/rebounder. Jr. F J.P Tokoto is one of the country’s best athletes and the team’s best defender. Fr. G/F Theo Pinson can score and is a play maker. Fr. G/F Justin Jackson is a strong outside shooter, an area where UNC needs an immediate impact. UNC and coach Roy Willaims has more flexibility this season and the Heels have the depth to be a legitimate Final Four contender, something they haven’t be to since 2009.
6. Kansas: Gone are two top draft picks (Embiid & Wiggins) but the Jayhawks are still the favorite in the Big 12. One reason why is Jr. F Perry Ellis, and it’s his time to shine. Ellis went unnoticed by some at times last season but his versatile game should make him one of the country’s best players this season. So. G Wayne Selden never really asserted himself on offense last season, but he was once projected as a top NBA draft pick & should get himself on track this season. Kansas has a nice freshman class that will provide an immediate impact. G Kelly Oubre was a top-10 recruit a NBA prospect who can shoot the three and attack the basket. F Cliff Alexander was a top-5 recruit who is a bruising presence inside. G Devonte Graham could wind up providing the consistent point guard play Kansas need. G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk has been called by NBA scouts as the best European born player since Ricky Rubio. Ellis, Selden, and a talented freshman class should have Kansas win their 11th straight Big 12 title & be contenders in March.
7. Wichita St: Wichita St may be without NBA draft pick Cleanthony Early, but this team is still loaded and should look more like 2013’s Final Four year than last year’s team. Jr. G Fred VanVleet, the team’s leader, will be the conference’s best player and is an All-American candidate. Jr. G. Ron Baker is also an all-conference player and a good outside shooter. Sr. G. Tekele Cotton is the team and conference’s best defender and an underrated shooter. That trio of guards will compete for accolades and is as good as any in the country. Sr. F. Darius Carter will be asked to shoulder a larger role this season which is only his 2nd at the Division 1 level. If Carter can improve his jumper he could become a double-digit scoring option down low. The Shockers, led by their outstanding guards, are the best in the Missouri Valley and with a decent non-conference schedule they should be tested to make another strong NCAA tourney run.
8. Virginia: Last year was great for the Cavaliers; they won their 1st ACC tournament since 1976 & went further in the NCAA tournament than any other ACC team, losing to Michigan State in the Sweet 16.Virginia returns 7 of their top 9 players from last season. Jr. G Justin Anderson was the ACC’s 6th man of the year last season and will have a bigger role this year. Jr. G Malcolm Brogdon is a versatile guard and was the team’s MVP last season as he continue to improve his game. Jr. F/C Mike Tobey must be the new rim protector down low and he has shown flashes of being a really good low post scorer. Freshman F Isaiah Wilkins was high school player of the year in Georgia and is the stepson of NBA hall of famer Dominique Wilkins. Nobody on Virginia will likely have huge numbers as the Cavs play a very slow tempo/not exciting type of game, but it works for this program. While I don’t know think they’ll reach 30 wins again this season, they will still be a very good tourney team this season.
9. Villanova: The Wildcats are the clear favorites to win the Big East this season. A big reason why is Sr. F JayVaughn Pinkston who is an all-conference type of player who can dominate a game. Another big reason is Sr. G Darrun Hillard who is the conference’s most underrated player and a candidate for Big East player of the year. Hillard started out as an outside shooter who has continued to develop the rest of his offensive game. Jr. G Ryan Arcidiacono compliments Hillard well and helps form one of the best backcourts in the country. The Cats will miss James Bell but So. G/F Josh Hart will have a chance to replace him. Hart showed flashes late in the season last year which shows he’s capable of doing so and could be one of the country’s best sophomores. People are excited about the improvement of Jr. C Daniel Ochefu who gives the Cats a true center. Nova should cruise to the league title this season and with a few improvements over last year the pieces are there for a deep run this March.
10. Iowa St: The Cyclones lost in the Sweet 16 to UConn last season, but were without F Georges Niang who was injured during the tournament. Niang, a junior, is an All-American and all conference player of the year candidate yet is somehow still a bit underrated. Sr. F Dustin Houge busted onto the scene during the tourney last year & hopes to build off that performance. Iowa St as always has an influx of transfers who will be important to the team’s success this season. Two Jr. forwards Jameel McKay (Marquette) and Abdel Nader (Northern Illinois) should make their presence felt right away. Transfer Sr. G Bryce Dejean-Jones (UNLV/USC) is a natural scorer who will be one of the team’s top offensive options right away. So G. Marcus Morris handled the ball well as a freshman last year and should again this year. Coach Fred Hoiberg is one of the league’s best and Iowa St can challenge Kansas for the Big 12 this season. Look out for Iowa St this March.
11. Louisville: The Cardinals coming off a Sweet 16 appearance are now entering their 1st season in the ACC. Jr. F Montrezl Harrell decided to turn down the NBA because he wants to be recognized as one of the country’s top 10 players. Harrell is a physical force who has the talent to make that happen. Sr. G/F Wayne Blacksheer, the remaining starter from the 2013 national championship team, must take a step forward offensively. F.C Mangok Mathiang could be the next Gorgui Dieng for the Cardinals if he continues to improve. So. G Terry Rozier was solid off the bench last season while Sr. G Chris Jones must become more of a leader. Freshman F/C Chinanu Onuako, whose brother played at Syracuse, is the most physical ready freshman. Freshman G/F Shaqquan Aaron is already being compared to Cardinal great Fransisco Garcia but Louisville is waiting to hear from the NCAA on his eligbility. Louisville will be a strong defensive team, but if they want to be a true ACC contender and have a strong tournament run they must have a few players take the next step offensively.
12. Texas: The Longhorns are again a program on the rise thanks to a combination of depth and talent. So.G Isaiah Taylor surprisingly emerged as a freshman point guard who could break down opponent’s defenses and should only get better in his second year. Sr. F Jonathan Holmes was last year’s leading scorer and he can play inside and out. Jr. C Cameron Ridley is one of the conference’s best defensive players. That trio will vie for all-conference honors. Jr. G Javan Felix is one of the team’s best leaders and decision makers and is also the team’s top outside shooter. A lot of excitement surrounds Fr. F Myles Turner who could follow LaMarcus Aldridge and Tristan Thompson in becoming the next great Texas big man. Turner is a proven shot blocker who has post moves over both shoulders and can shoot the three if left open. After a few down seasons, Texas is again a true contender on the national basketball scene.
13. VCU: The Rams are another team who are the clear favorites in their conference, the Atlantic 10. Sr. G/F Treveon Graham is the star of the team and the conference. Graham will likely become VCU’s all-time leading scorer by the season’s end. Sr. G Briante Weber has been one of the country’s best in terms of steals and he adjusted well to playing PG last season. So.F Mo Allie-Cox has to replace lost production on the frontcourt. Cox is a muscled rim protector who jumps higher than opponents think and he should continue to improve his limited offensive game. VCU’s top rated recruiting class is led by two freshmen who could make immediate impacts. G/F Terry Larrier was a top 50 recruit and G Justin Williams already has a commanding floor general presence. VCU under Coach Shaka Smart has established itself as a talented, deep and unrelenting team that’s capable of a strong March performance.
14. Florida: Gone are 4 key senior starters from last year’s Final Four team and this Gator squad should look real different. Last year’s squad was a defensive minded more methodical offensive team, but this year’s will likely be more up-tempo. They will rebuild around Jr. G. Michael Frazier II who is one of the conference’s best shooters. Talented rebounding Jr. F Dorian Finney-Smith should also see an increase in production this year. Sr. F Jon Horford, a transfer from Michigan and younger brother of Gators legend/NBA star Al will look to fill one of the roles of the departed seniors. So. G Kasey Hill needs to improve his outside shooting and defense and dynamic freshman Chris Chiozza could eat into his minutes if he struggle. I’m not as high as some are on Florida this season, but they should again be a tournament team and could make some noise if they are gelling together by the end of the season.
15. Michigan St: The Spartans are always strong under Coach Tom Izzo and this season should be no different even though they have lost three stars from last year’s Elite 8 team. MSU will need Sr. G/F Brandon Dawson to play as well as he did in the post-season last year. Dawson is a strong athlete looking to improve his shooting to improve his draft stock. Jr. G Denzel Valentine is a unique player who has triple-double potential if he can put it all together this season. Sr. G Travis Trice will now take over at point guard and should be in for a career season. Jr. G Bryn Forbes, a transfer from Cleveland State, gives the Spartan offense and shooting an immediate boost. MSU will need to be healthy this season and get increased production from their players now in starring roles, but I’ve learned to never bet against Izzo and Sparty.
16. Gonzaga: Surprise, Surprise but the Bulldogs are the best team in the WCC this year and on paper this is one of, if not the best rosters Mark Few has had while head coach. Jr. C Przemek Karnowski has continued to develop his game & is an all-conference player. Sr. guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr have been starting together since their freshman year and both are solid scorers and 3-point shooters. Jr. F Kyle Wiltjer a transfer from Kentucky is a skilled big man who can spread the floor. Another transfer, Sr. G Byron Wesley, led USC in scoring and rebounding last season and will have a big impact on both ends of the floor. Freshman F Domantas Sabonis, son of hall of famer Arvydas, is another skill forward who should see an impact as a freshman. Gonzaga will make their 17th straight trip to the NCAA tournament and they have the potential to make their stay there longer than the past 5 seasons where they’ve been 2 and out. Gonzaga should be considered a final four contender.
17. San Diego St: This is the season Aztecs fans have been looking forward to as SDST is the cream of the Mountain West and should be in for a nice season after surprisingly making the Sweet 16 last year. Yes their top 2 players are gone from that team, but plenty of talent remains as they are one of the deepest in the country. Jr. F Winston Shepard is the conference’s best player. Shepard is an athletic player who was 2nd on the team in scoring last year and will be even better this year. Sr. F Dwayne Polee was the MWC’s 6th man of the year last season and he poses a matchup issue for many teams. So. F Matt Shrigley provided solid 3-point shooting as a freshman and should again this year. Jr. F Angelo Chol, a transfer from Arizona, was a valuable reserve for the Wildcats and could be in for a bigger role with the Aztecs. SDST will be one of the best defensive teams in the country again this season. They will also make the tourney for a 6th straight season and legendary coach Fisher has his eye on a spot beyond the Sweet 16 this year.
18. Nebraska: The Huskers ended their NCAA tournament drought last season, and this year they’re looking for more. Everything starts and ends with Jr. F Terran Petteway who will soon be Nebraska’s first NBA draft pick in a long time. Petteway can get to the rim and is dangerous in transition, but he must continue to improve his perimeter shooting & turnover issues. Jr. G Shavon Shields has a game very similar to Petteway and is part of a deadly Huskers 1-2 punch on the wing. 5th year Sr. transfer from Georgetown Moses Abraham has a 7’4 wingspan and is a physical veteran presence that Nebraska lacked last season. So. G Tai Webster must be improved from his freshman season or talened freshman Tarin Smith could take the job away from him. Nebraska should be a tourney team again this season and with a star like Petteway they could make some noise this March.
19. Michigan: The Wolverines are rebuilding again since three players from last year’s Elite 8 team decided to enter the NBA draft. Jr. G Caris LeVert is MU’s leading scorer and he has the ability to be an all-conference/lottery pick type of player. So.G Derrick Walton is a true point guard who must increase his scoring, but he is capable of doing so. 6 of MU’s 12 scholarship players are true freshman. So. G/F Zak Irvin is a talented shooter who needs to improve his rebounding and versatility. G/F Kameron Chatman is most likely to make an immediate impact as he has the highest skill-set of the bunch right now. Redshirt F. Mark Donnal is an inside-outside forward who should see major minuts as well this season. Michigan is one of the youngest teams in the country but coach Beilein’s system has proven to be resilient and they have the talent to be a tourney team again this year.
20. Ohio St: The Buckeyes disappointed last season by losing to Dayton in the first round of the tournament, but should be in for a bounce back season this year. Sr. G Shannon Scott isn’t the defensive player Aaron Craft was, but Scott should be much better offensively as he takes over at point guard. Sr. F Sam Thompson is the team’s leading returning scorer and he’s a dynamic athletic and great defender. Freshman G. D’Angelo Russell should be very good right away and could wind up being OSU’s best player by the end of the season, he’s got that much potential. Sr. C Anthony Lee, a transfer from Temple, is solid on the boards and should be a solid option right away down low for the Buckeyes. The Big Ten is jumbled outside of Wisconsin, but Ohio St should be better than they were last season.
21. Oklahoma: The Sooners return for starters from last year’s team that finished 2nd in the Big 12 and made the NCAA tournament. Jr. G Buddy Hield emerged as a sophomore last year and his breakout season was the key to last year’s tournament appearance. Hield should be even better this season as he continues to become one of college basketball’s best players. So. Jordan Woodard took over the point guard position as a freshman and he too should improve in his 2nd season. Jr. G Isaiah Cousins has improved his production each season. Jr. F Ryan Spangler is a solid power forward who led the Big 12 in rebounding, but he does need some help down low. Oklahoma is still waiting to hear from the NCAA about the eligibility of Sr. F TaShawn Thomas (Houston). If Thomas is made eligible, he could be the key to Oklahoma taking the next step as a team. After being one and done in the NCAA tournament for 2 seasons in a row, Oklahoma should now have higher expectations such as winning a game or two.
22. Stanford: The Cardinal made a surprise trip to the Sweet 16 last year and they hope to build off of that for this season. Gone are NBA draft picks Josh Huestis and Dwight Powell, which means Sr. G Chasson Randle will lead the offense. Randle is one of the more underrated scorers in the country and his offensive game is complete. Sr. G/F Anthony Brown alongside Randle help gives the Cardinal the conference’s most experienced backcourt. Sr. C Stefan Nastic hopes to build of a strong late-season surge last year. Nastic is an efficient player who just needs to stay out of foul trouble (he fouled out 9 times last season). Freshman PF Reid Travis was a H.S. All-American last season and should become an immediate force down low especially playing alongside Nastic. Stanford must replace to key players but still has a nice core that should return them to the NCAA tournament again.
23. SMU: Even with star freshman recruit Emmanuel Mudiay playing in China due to eligibility issues, Coach Larry Brown’s mustangs are a team on the rise. Jr. G Nic Moore could be the AAC player of the year this season and is a talented true point guard. Jr. F Markus Kennedy is also an all-conference type of player and one of the more underrated players in the conference. Sr. F Justin Martin, a transfer from Xavier, was one of X’s best players and will make an immediate impact. Another transfer Sr. F Jordan Tolbert played 3 seasons at Texas Tech, starting a bunch of games and will also make an immediate impact. SMU, who lost in the NIT championship game, were absolutely a tourney snub last season. This season however the Mustangs will be back in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1993.
24. Harvard: The Crimson have three talented starters back from a team that won a game in the NCAA tournament last year and are looking for their 4th straight tourney trip. They are led by veteran guards Wesley Saunders (Sr.) and Siyani Chambers (Jr) who are among the best in terms of guard duos in the country. Saunders was the conference’s player of the year last year and should be again this year. Chambers is a point guard who does everything you want from the position. Sr. F. Steve Moundou-Missi is the other returning starter and the team’s lead rebounder. Freshman F Chris Egi is an athletic kid from Canada who had offers from Florida and UConn, so he could contribute right away. Harvard has actually won a game in the past two NCAAA tournaments and this year they could be even better and are a sleeper Sweet 16/Elite 8 team.
25. Arkansas: The Razorbacks, once a proud basketball program, are seeking their first trip to the tournament since 2008. Expectations are high as the team returns 6 of their top scorers from a team who made the NIT and beat Kentucky in the regular season last year. It all starts with So. F. Bobby Portis, who is an underrated player nationally who is capable of all-conference accolades. Jr. G Michael Qualls is an incredible and exciting dunker who must improve his shooting & defense. West Virginia transfer Jr. F Keaton Miles is a versatile player who fits the system well. Sr. G. Kyle Madden led the team in scoring and should benefit from two talented freshman guards who have arrived, Anton Beard and Jabril Durham. Portis was outstanding as a freshman and is a superstar in the making. I think Arkansas is a program on the rise, and will return to the tourney this year.
6 Other big conference schools to watch:
UConn: The defending champion Huskies are an interesting team that lost a lot from last year’s title team but still has a lot of potential talent. One of the keys for the Huskies will be Sr. G Ryan Boatright who needs to become the leading man that Shabazz Napier was. Transfer So. G Rodney Purvis played well as a freshman at NC St & should be an explosive player at UConn. The other key for the Huskies will be their big men. So. C Amida Brimah is an NBA prospect who can block shots but must improve his offense and freshman F Daniel Hamilton is highly touted and has the potential to be a special player but he must make an impact right away. UConn won’t repeat or be as good as last season, but they’ll still be an NCAA tournament team you won’t want to play.
Syracuse: This is coach Jim Boeheim’s biggest challenges in a long time as the Orange have lost 3 important starters (and NBA draft picks) from last year. Freshman G Kaleb Joseph is the team’s 4th starting PG in the past 4 seasons. He’s athletic but must show he can handle himself as well as the others did. Jr. G Trevor Cooney’s outside shooting is fantastic, but the Orange must find other people to rely on this season. Sr. F Rakeem Christmas really must emerge as a solid scoring option down low if the Orange want to be successful this season. Coach Boeheim has made the tournament in 32 of his 39 seasons and while this year it could be tough, I’ve learned to not bet against ‘Cuse.
Utah: Utah is a trendy pick this year as they are a program that has continued to trend upward the past three seasons and this year they could be one of the Pac-12 top teams. Sr. G Delon Wright is a stat filler and future NBA draft pick. Wright is one of the most underrated perimeter players in the country. Redshirt Freshman F Kyle Kuzma will be counted on right away. Kuzma could create matchup issues as he has nice low-post moves and can handle the ball well. Jr. F Jordan Loveridge led the team in rebounding last season and has more help down low this year. The Utes managed to win 21 games last season despite not being good at the end of games and some bad luck, but if their end of game management and luck improves this season, they should be in the NCAA tournament.
Miami: The Hurricanes should be factors in the ACC this year thanks to two key transfers. Jr. G Sheldon McClellan was a standout at Texas who can get to the basket. Jr. G Angel Rodriguez was also a standout as a point guard at Kansas State. Rodriguez was an all-big 12 player and is a tough floor leader who can also play defense. Jr. C Tonye Jekiri is a defensive minded player who should have a few more chances on offense now around the basket thanks to the new playmaking guards. Fr. G Ja’Quan Newton is a top national high school prospect from Neumann-Goretti in Philadelphia and is a huge recruit from the school. Miami could surprise some people especially with a coach as good as Jim Larranaga, who managed to win 17 games last year with a team that wasn’t nearly as good.
Georgetown: The Hoyas should quickly make fans forget about last year’s disappointing season in which they only won 18 games and finished below .500 in the Big East. One reason why is Jr. G D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera who should be the Big East player of the year this season. Smith-Rivera is one of the best guards in the country but he’s not all this team has. Two talented freshman forwards, Isaac Copeland and Paul White are bot versatile big men who should provide immediate impacts. Sr. C Josh Smith is a big (both size and potential) question mark. Smith, who also played at UCLA, has seen his college career plagued by conditioning and academic issues. Smith is nearly unstoppable when he gets the ball on the block and this is last chance at redemption. The Big East is wide open outside of Villanova, but Georgetown has the most potential of all the other teams and should be in for a really nice bounce-back season & NCAA tournament appearance.
Colorado: The Buffs not only are seeking their 4th straight NCAA tournament appearance but are still looking to take the next step as a program which includes contending for a Pac-12 title and winning in the NCAA tournament. Most of the team returns from last season included a talented trio that will lead the way. Jr. F Josh Scott is the best of the bunch and is a well-rounded and efficient player. Sr. G Askia Booker is a talented decision-maker who can make things happen on the floor but needs to become a little less frenetic. And Jr. G/F Xavier Johnson is another two way player on the wing. Colorado should be back in the tourney and is truly a program on the brink of taking that next step.
6 other small conference schools to watch for:
Dayton: The Flyers may only return 2 starters from last year’s team that advanced to the Elite 8, but they should still be in the mix again this season. Sr. G Jordan Sibert and Jr. G/F Dyshawn Pierre are a solid perimeter duo that should be the catalyst of the Flyers this season. Freshman G Darrell Davis actually turned down Michigan St to play at Dayton and he should make an immediate impact. Dayton’s coach turned down bigger offers from other schools because he likes what he sees at the school, and they should make a return trip to the NCAA tournament this year.
Louisiana Tech: Bulldogs head coach turned down interest from Tennessee to stay at a program that returns four starters from a team that tied a school record for wins last season (29). Jr. G Alex Hamilton was the team’s leading scorer last season and should be again this season. He will battle Sr. G Kenneth “Speedy” Smith, the conference’s best defender, for conference player of the year this season. Sr. F Michale Kyser is back after leading the team in rebounding and blocks last season. The Bulldogs should win Conference USA, the only question is will they be tested enough during the regular season to win an NCAA tournament game?
Northern Iowa: The Panthers bring back all five starters from last season led by all-conference Sr. F Seth Tuttle. This team loves to shoot the three & returns 91% of its scoring (and rebounding) from last season. This UNI’s best team since the 2010 team that beat Kansas & UNLV in the NCAA tournament. Look for the Panthers to challenge Wichita St in the Missouri Valley which should have two teams in the tourney this year.
Georgia State: GSU was undefeated at home last season & should be even better this season. Jr. G R.J. Hunter is the returning conference POY & a future NBA draft pick. Sr. G Ryan Harrow (who previously played at Kentucky & NC State) and Louisville transfer G Kevin Ware (yes the guy who broke his leg) help form one of the country’s best and most underrated back courts. Just remember we told you that the Panthers could bust some bracket this March!
BYU: Sr. G Tyler Haws is one of the best scorers in the country and he can really shoot from anywhere on the floor. Jr. G Kyle Collinsworth tore his ACL in March but looks healthy again. He led the team in rebounding, assists and steals and was their second-leading scorer before the injury last season. Transfers F Jamal Aytes (UNLV) and G Chase Fischer (Wake Forrest) are key. Fischer can play right away, Aytes in December. Haws can lead this team but the addition of a healthy Collinsworth and the two transfers could make the Cougars a scary team this season.
Toledo: The Rockets return six of their top seven players from a team that tied for first in the MAC during the regular season last year. Sr. G Julius Brown is the conference’s best player and was the team’s leading scorer last season. Talented Sr. G/F combo player Justin Drummond is also back as well. Toledo’s high scoring offense should get them into the NCAA tourney for the first time in 35 seasons!
Sweet 16 prediction: Kentucky, Arizona, Wisconsin, Duke, North Carolina, Wichita St, Kansas, Villanova, VCU, Iowa St, Harvard, Gonzaga, Texas, Virginia, Michigan St, San Diego St
Elite 8 prediction: Kentucky, Arizona, Wisconsin, Duke, Harvard, Wichita St, Iowa St, Villanova
Final Four prediction: Kentucky, Wisconsin, Arizona, Duke
National Championship Prediction: Kentucky over Wisconsin. Sure a few other teams (Wisconsin, Arizona, Duke) have a chance, but there is no reason to get cute with this prediction. Kentucky is the clear favorite to win it all this year, and I think they will.
All-American team: Marcus Paige. Guard UNC
Fred VanVleet. Guard Wichita St
Georges Niang. Forward Iowa St
Frank Kaminsky. Forward/Center Wisconsin
Jahlil Okafor. Forward/Center Duke
Player of the Year: Frank Kaminsky. Wisconsin
© 2014, JustinBurkhardt. All rights reserved.