It’s December and after the first month of College Basketball, you’re starting to see the contenders from the pretenders early and often. College hoops is a funny sport. Since there’s a tournament unlike football, it’s easy for a random team to get hot at the right time, and make a run to the final four (looks at Wichita State last year, Butler and VCU in 2011) , but mostly, you can tell who’s good enough to win a national title, or who’s just flat out average. I don’t really care what the Coaches and AP poll say. These are my rankings and I’m ranking the top 10 teams from here until March. If you aren’t with it, that’s unfortunate. Now let’s begin.
In the actual poll, Duke is ranked 10th, and that’s about right. I don’t think Duke is “great” this year. A lot of flaws, and they were exposed in the last 10 minutes of the Arizona game. First off, Jabari Parker is a pro’s pro. He’s probably the best college basketball player in the country (Marcus Smart and Julius Randle are gonna have a talk with me about this), and can do it all, except for play defense on the interior. Rodney Hood is a good player. Great scorer, and athletic. But after that……… where’s Duke going to get their 3rd scorer? Matter of fact, who’s gonna play on the interior? Duke not having a true center will haunt them later on down the road. Do I think they can get away with this small lineup? Yes, I do because even though I’m a “Duke Hater” by default, Coach K is a genius. If Duke can find a third scorer, a center, and a better PG (Quinn Cook lol), they’ll win the ACC. Until then….. struggle is on deck.
9. Oklahoma State
If Oklahoma State would have beaten Memphis for the 2nd time in two weeks, they’d be really high on this list even though they blow a lot of big leads in games(all weekend in Orlando, OK state blew a 23 pt lead, a 14 pt lead, and a 10 pt lead). Marcus Smart is the best guard in the country. There’s no debate about this. Even though he struggled on Sunday night, he carries the load for that team and clearly, when he’s off his game, OK State doesn’t have a guy who can balance it out. Markel Brown shot 4-13 just like smart, and it’s clearly obvious that the two guards will carry Ok State through the season, which isn’t a problem to have. We’ll have to wait and see if LeBryan Nash actually plays well and can get more than 6 shots a game.
When you think of Kansas this year, what do you think of? Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins came in as the second coming of Lebron James. What has Wiggins done this year? I mean, he’s averaged 14 pts a game and 5 rebounds a game. In his 3rd game of the season against Jabari Parker, he had 20 and 10. But still, I’m expecting more from him. Against Villanova, a game Kansas lost, he shot 3-8 and only had 10 pts. The next game against UTEP? 2-9, 6 pts. I know, I know. I still think Wiggins is gonna be a lot better as the season ends but…….. KU needs his scoring. This is easily the best talent Bill Self has had at Kansas. The question is, how fast will this team grow up for him?
7. Wichita State
I woke up on Sunday morning at 11 am, and missed church (sorry God, won’t happen again). I turned the channel around and got tired of watching football and sat and watched Wichita State vs Saint Louis. I can name only one player on Wichita State (Cleanthony Early), but I like this team. Early is a small ball 5 at the college game, but what he lacks in size, he plays hard on defense. This was a final four team last year, and I believe they lost just a couple of guys from it so experience is there. There’s a guard named Ron Baker. America, I’d watch out for him. He’s good.
The Wisconsin Badgers are 8-0. *rubs eyes* Wisconsin averages 76.8 pts a game so far this season. *rubs eyes again* I guess the rule changes have worked out? Bo Ryan is constantly one of the best coaches in the country who NOBODY talks about. Wisconsin doesn’t have that one guy, the one star that gets talked about on a regular basis and they get it done as a team. Sam Dekker will probably get all of their headlines, but they’ve been aided by getting their point guard back from the ACL tear in Josh Gasser. They aren’t flashy, but they’ll beat teams.
Syracuse played in Maui and I came away impressed with their freshman PG (Ennis), and my favorite college basketball player this season for obvious reasons, Trevor Cooney. Watching the Cuse, it’s easy to fall in love with them this year. For the first time in ages, they actually left New York early on and played good, tough teams. We know how good Cj Fair is but the one guy who changes the game up for Syracuse is Jerami Grant. He’s their 6th man, but he plays starter’s minutes and provides energy, and athleticism which means of course, he’ll be a top 15 pick in June (The Dion Waiters effect). I think this Syracuse team is for real, but it’s a long season and we know how #Boeheim is.
I feel like panic is gonna set in with the BBN and I’ll have them hating me. I have to admit, I’ve watched UK play twice. Once against Michigan State, and for fun sake, I watched them against Cleveland State to see why that game was close. I made this assessment: Julius Randle is a monster, and probably James Young is their 2nd best player on offense. It’s early but I’m not sure about their guard play. For some reason, I don’t know if I trust the Harrison twins yet. They are young and still developing but, I don’t know if I can trust them against a team with great guard play. It’s still early though, and I’m sure they’ll be fine.
3. Ohio State
Aaron Craft. Aaron Craft. Aaron Craft. Aaron Craft. Aaron Craft. Everybody hates Aaron Craft. I love Aaron Craft because he’s dope. He’ll never play in the NBA. Dude will be a doctor, most likely. But you know what? He’s still the best on ball defender in the country, even with the new rules. I watched Ohio State play Marquette on a Saturday morning, and even though Ohio State can’t score well, they held Marquette to 39 pts in Milwaukee. They don’t have a true center, and lost their go-to-scorer in DeShaun Thomas. But guess what? Right now, they’re scoring by committee and balancing it out. Plus with Craft being the floor general, O-H-I-O is not just good in football.
2. Michigan State
I told someone earlier a couple of weeks ago that Michigan State was 1 with an asterisk next to it. It wasn’t like I doubt Tom Izzo or Michigan State, I just, I didn’t feel comfortable with them being Kentucky, who was preseason #1 (Kentucky shouldn’t have been, hence why I had an asterisk next to Sparty). The funny thing about Michigan State is that Keith Appling is playing like an All-American. It’s crazy that it took him 4 years to get it. Gary Harris is a top 10 pick. Adreian Payne has improved his game, and Branden Dawson is actually better than I thought. The problem with Michigan State is that they don’t have a 4 man unless they go small and Dawson plays it. Do I think Michigan State is great? Yes. Do they have a hole in their lineup? Yes, yes they do. Stay tuned with them.
I told my cousin Elijah that you can make a case for Arizona being the best team in the country right now. I’ll make that case. The last 10 minutes of the Duke game, they completely dominated Duke and it started on the defensive end (Arizona is the best defensive team in the country. No questions asked). It’s crazy how Aaron Gordon is the most talented player on their team, but he doesn’t have to be relied on to score 25 a game. His style of play blends in with what Sean Miller has going on in Tuscon. Nick Johnson is the go-to-guy on offense, and when they need a big play, they look to him. Tj McConnell replaced Mark #HeroBallLyons, and the fact that they have a point guard, ay yi yi. Brandan Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski provide the inside punch, not to mention Hollis-Jefferson, and the shooter, York off the bench. It’s still December, but given their wins at San Diego State (who just won the Wooden Classic beating Creighton and Marquette), and in MSG against Duke, it’s simple enough that they are #1 to me until proven otherwise.
See you next week.