College Basketball Preview

Since polls mean essentially nothing in College Basketball, I’m going to be very brief. These are my Top Ten teams for the 2007-2008 season, and the ones I expect to battle for a trip to the Final Four. You won’t see the Kentucky Wildcats on this list, because they lost to Gardner-Webb last night. Hee Hee! What’s better than that? I’m simply giddy over it! I digress…..

#10: USC: Remember that athletic team that nearly ran North Carolina out the gym in last year’s NCAA tournament before faltering late? The Trojans will be for real this year, behind returning standout 6-9 sophomore Taj Gibson. Expect freshman O.J. Mayo to make an immediate impact and for sophomore point guard Daniel Hackett to step things up.

#9: Michigan State: The Spartans lost am exhibition game last week, but I won’t hold that against them quite yet as it doesn’t count towards their actual resume and I can’t imagine they were going full till. Senior guard Drew Neitzel might be the best player in the Big Ten and will lead a young but athletic squad. Junior forward Marquise Gray should provide some power on the inside, while sophomore Raymar Morgan adds speed and athleticism.

#8: Indiana: Hooray! I can’t remember the last time my Hoosiers were a legitimate Top Ten team. But this year they most certainly are, led by senior center D.J. White who will be back to full strength and fully poised for a huge year. Freshman Eric Gordon figures to be a major scoring factor, while sophomore Armon Bassett should emerge as one of the Big Ten’s premier point guards. The Hoosiers add a nice supporting cast of freshman talent and return sharp-shooting starters A.J. Ratliff and Lance Stemler.

#7: Louisville: This is a team that really got hot towards the end of last season, and nearly knocked off a very tough Texas A&M team on St. Patrick’s Day. Senior center David Padgett spearheads a solid, speedy group with talented starters returning. Sophomore point guard Edgar Sosa was a major factor in last year’s tourney, while senior forward Juan Palacios provides strength and versatility.

#6: Georgetown: Jeff Green’s early departure keeps the Hoyas from being a preseason top three team, but they still have tons of talent, led by the nation’s best center in 7-2 Roy Hibbert. Two more starters from last year’s Final Four team return in senior point guard Jonathon Wallace and sophomore forward DeJuan Summers, while the athletic Patrick Ewing Jr. figures to provide some fireworks this season. The Hoyas will again be athletic and defensive-minded, and have a lot of experience under their belts.

#5: Tennessee: I still can’t shake off how good the Vols looked in the first half of last year’s NCAA tournament loss to Ohio State in the Sweet 16. They were probably the most athletic team I saw all last season, but that performance showed what they were really capable of. Senior shooting guard Chris Lofton returns as a bonafide Player of the Year candidate, while point guard JaJuan Smith returns as well off a season in which he averaged 15.2 points per game. Tennessee shows more depth and experience behind forwards Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism and guard Ramar Smith.

#4: Memphis: The Tigers return four starters from last year’s Elite Eight squad and have the firepower to demonstrate their athleticism at terrifying levels. Junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts will lead this deep squad, and the Tigers will have plenty of scoring options behind returning starters such as senior Joey Dorsey, junior forward Robert Dozier, and sophomore point guard Willie Kemp. Freshman guard Derrick Rose adds more depth and athleticism and should be one of the country’s most dominating new forces.

#3: UCLA: I have to admit that the Bruins surprised me last year when they topped Kansas to earn a trip to the Final Four. They’ve lost their leader and best player in Arron Afflalo, but the poise and teamwork they showed in that game went a long way with me. They’ll still have strong backcourt play behind junior point guard Darron Collison and returning starter Josh Shipp. Dynamic small forward Luc Richard Mbah a Moute returns to the starting lineup as well, and freshman center Kevin Love was touted as the top recruit of the season. The Bruins look well-rounded and extremely solid once again.

#2: Kansas: The Jayhawks breathed a sigh of relief when star junior shooting guard Brandon Rush decided to return to school. His return solidifies the nation’s deepest and most talented backcourt complete with senior point guard Russell Robinson and sharpshooters Mario Chalmers and Sherron Collins. Kansas has returning starters in the frontcourt in junior power forward Darrell Arthur and senior center Sausha Kahn, and appear to have the depth to move forward on last year’s finish. The departure of leading scorer Julian Wright is the only thing keeping the Jayhawks from being my #1 team, but the return of four experienced starters should put them right in the mix.

#1: North Carolina: The Tarheels basically had a trip to the Final Four in hand last season before completely breaking down and blowing a ten point lead late in the regional final. Junior power forward Tyler Hansborough returns as the consensus preseason player of the year, and has strong support from speedy sophomore guards Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington, who started all of last season and made huge scoring contributions as freshmen. The ‘Heels will need to find some depth behind that ferocious threesome, and will look toward junior swingmen Marcus Ginyard and Danny Green to take steps forward.

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