College Basketball Eye Test Preseason Top 25

  1. North Carolina
  2. Kansas
  3. Wichita State
  4. Kentucky
  5. Gonzaga
  6. Maryland
  7. Duke
  8. Purdue
  9. San Diego State
  10. Virginia
  11. Oklahoma
  12. Wisconsin
  13. SMU
  14. Indiana
  15. Notre Dame
  16. UCLA
  17. Baylor
  18. Michigan State
  19. Florida State
  20. UConn
  21. Texas A&M
  22. Rhode Island
  23. Georgetown
  24. BYU
  25. Old Dominion


For the blue bloods, my eye test evaluation of offseason YouTube videos pins Skal Labissiere atop any of the Duke recruits.

Keeping in the ACC, I think the Louisville “scandal” won’t go away anytime soon. That won’t set a team back as much as losing Montrezl Harrell, Chris Jones, Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear. Meanwhile, Florida State returns a scary amount of its signature size. Not to mention, Xavier Rathan-Mayes could lead the nation in scoring here in his sophomore season. Notre Dame is also a better team than Louisville when I account for the talent, especially in the post, that it returns.

Don’t discount my entire list because I have Wichita State number three. Hear me out. Ron Baker foregoes the NBA to pursue a championship in his senior season. Running mate and fellow senior guard Fred Van Vleet makes Wichita State the best backcourt in the nation (and they may have been that last season). The Shockers also quietly add Kansas transfer Connor Frankamp, whose range can pose matchup nightmares if the Shockers choose to go three-guard-lineup. The big fella, Shaquille Morris, made strides last season as being a reliable post option.

Speaking of so-called “Mid-Majors,” Gonzaga stands firm in the top five because of the girth it returns.  The Bulldogs return Wiltjer, Sabonis and Karnowski down low.  Gonzaga also makes my top five of under-appreciated seasons from last year.  See the full list as part of my YouTube playlist previewing each team:

In the SEC, all the ink will be about LSU and whether its diaper dandies can out-match Kentucky. However, I am focusing on the most underrated point guard in the nation, Alex Caruso. Texas A&M returns scoring punch with Danuel House and I think it has enough dogs to scrap ahead of the Auburns and LSU’s in the league. (Let’s not discount that Florida will need at least a year adjustment minus Billy Donovan).

Yes, Arizona is left out of my top 25. TJ McConnell was the quarterback of this team for two years. That said, I will give new starting point guard Justin Simon all of the credit in the world if he can lead the Wildcats to a top 25 position.

I think AP voters might make the mistake of leaving Georgetown out of the top 25. We could be looking at the nation’s leading scorer in D’Vauntes Smith-Riviera and a surrounding cast worthy enough for that vote.  Plus, the Hoyas had a trip to Italy this offseason.  How could they not play well with an offseason Tuscan diet?

Oklahoma’s collapse last season still bothers me. The Sooners led by 10 for majority of the first half against Michigan State, but really struggled to score the ball late. However, I can’t deny a backcourt of Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins from my top 20. The Big 12’s disappearance from March Madness, in fact, still irks me. But I cannot keep veterans Perry Ellis and Frank Mason Jr. from the top 5 with KU, nor can I keep Baylor from the top 25 with Taurean Prince peaking late last season.

Outside: Utah and Xavier drop from my top 25 for the same reason: they each lose their floor general point guards (Delon Wright, Dee Davis respectively).

For the same reason, Northern Iowa won’t be making my top 25. Losing a leader like Seth Tuttle, I need to wait-and-see whether the Panthers can regroup. Plus, Louisville shellacked them in the tournament and that image is still in my mind.

Rhode Island cracks my top 25 as they showed flashes last season. E. C. Mattthews, the junior from Detroit, averaged 17 points per game last season. The Rams return a nucleus from last season and plays in a wide-open A-10 (with Shaaka leaving VCU). Look out for George Washington in this conference as well!

Old Dominion leap-frogs conference mate UAB to finish my top 25. Senior Trey Freeman is one of my favorite combo guards in the nation. He is silky smooth with his handle and jump shot. Watch for UAB and its returning roster of the squad that shocked Iowa State in the tourney last season.

Fine Matchups Follow First Four

NBA Jam Jayhawks

Do you start your Tuesday by watching Quinnipiac vs. LaSalle?  Are you planning your daily workout around LSU vs. UMass?  Today’s tip off marathon features a grand finale.  Kentucky plays Michigan St. followed by Kansas and Duke.  What’s even better is that these schools have committed a few years to rotate facing one another.  The new tradition is called the “First Four.”  Here are my picks for tonight’s featured games.  I am taking Duke giving 3 1/2, Michigan State  giving 2 1/2, and Florida getting 11 points from Wisconsin (I thought that was a misprint on http://www.vegasinsider.com).

You know how the Tournament Selection Committee picks bubble teams based on how they play against one another?  Well, a lot of those matchup actually happen in November.  Tis the season for out-of-conference tournaments.  Teams that excel can really boost their resume before the punishment of conference play come January and February.  Here are some great games on TV in November to keep an eye on.  They could double as bubble-busters before you fill out your bracket this March.

Tuesday, November 12th

*Florida at Wisconsin

Kansas @ DUKE
Kentucky @ Michigan St.

 

 

Thursday, November 21st – Florida St. @ VCU on ESPN U

 

 

 

*Don’t sleep on this Wisconsin Florida matchup.  Wisconsin debuted a convincing win against an athletic St. John’s team.  Florida welcomes one of the best high school recruits at a much-needed position.  Check out new point guard Kasey Hill.

 

 

This game features two of the most intimidating defenses in recent years.   Florida State’s fearsome defense led by coach Leonard Hamilton has taken a hiatus from the NCAA tourney.  I am looking for a bounce-back year after Hamilton has reshuffled the deck with some younger players.  I’m looking forward to seeing how VCU’s full court havoc defense stacks up to Florida State’s more traditional half-court ball pressure.  I predict VCU is too tough and covers the spread.

 

Monday, November 25th – Marquette at Arizona State

 

 

 

Monday, November 25th – Minnesota vs. Syracuse on ESPN2

Marquette loses Vander Blue while Arizona State gets a year of maturity with speedster point guard Jahii Carson.  I think Marquette will cover this spread, but this would be a huge resume boost for the Sun Devils if they can beat an Elite 8 team from last year.

 

I’m curious to see what Syracuse’s backcourt will look like this year after losing both Carter Williams and Triche.  Enter Andre Hollins.  The Minnesota Gophers shed a lot of baggage from last year’s team.  It will be interesting to see if both Hollins players declare this as their team with a statement win against the Orange.  My prediction is that they won’t, not this early at least.  Take Cuse against the spread.

 

 

 

Matt’s A.T.S. Forecast – First Friday

It’s the first Friday of college hoops.  This blog will show a log of how I do against the spread (A.T.S.).  Hence, Matt’s ATS is born.

Georgetown is giving three points, even though Oregon just suspended starting point guard Dominic Artis for selling apparel.  That would be my first Matty D Guarantee of the season, but I spend those very frugally.  Take Georgetown to the bank.

Wisconsin can go an entire half not scoring 15 points, so laying 5 1/2 is a difficult concept. However, I see their defense giving St. John’s difficulty.  Steve Lavin normally has a raw athletic bunch, so I’ll predict it takes them some weeks before figuring out how to play offense together.  The Wisconsin Badgers understanding defense will outweigh that athleticism.  Give that 5 1/2 and enjoy Jimmy Jackson’s kid play ball.

If you’ve read my blog, the next prediction is not a shocker.  I’m taking Colorado with the six points.  However, I think Baylor will be very good this season with the big man in his sophomore campaign.

Matts ATS – I will update this document throughout the season with my progress.

Teams My pick Final Score 1 if I won 1 if I lost
Colorado                           6
Baylor
Oregon
Georgetown -3
St. John’s
Wisconsin -5.5

Matt’s A.T.S. Forecast – First Friday

It’s the first Friday of college hoops.  This blog will show a log of how I do against the spread (A.T.S.).  Hence, Matt’s ATS is born.

Georgetown is giving three points, even though Oregon just suspended starting point guard Dominic Artis for selling apparel.  That would be my first Matty D Guarantee of the season, but I spend those very frugally.  Take Georgetown to the bank.

Wisconsin can go an entire half not scoring 15 points, so laying 5 1/2 is a difficult concept. However, I see their defense giving St. John’s difficulty.  Steve Lavin normally has a raw athletic bunch, so I’ll predict it takes them some weeks before figuring out how to play offense together.  The Wisconsin Badgers understanding defense will outweigh that athleticism.  Give that 5 1/2 and enjoy Jimmy Jackson’s kid play ball.

If you’ve read my blog, the next prediction is not a shocker.  I’m taking Colorado with the six points.  However, I think Baylor will be very good this season with the big man in his sophomore campaign.

Matts ATS – I will update this document throughout the season with my progress.

Teams My pick Final Score 1 if I won 1 if I lost
Colorado
Baylor 6
Oregon
Georgetown -3
St. John’s
Wisconsin -5.5

Sorry Sequel Squads

Do you remember Speed 2?  Neither do I.  Some sequels should never be made.  Maybe there’s just one actor remaining from the original, but Hollywood forces it on you anyways.  Enter Yogi Farrell on this year’s Indiana team.  The Hoosiers top my flab five of teams destined for a flat showing compared to the 2012-13 campaign:
1.     Indiana
2.     Oregon
3.     New Mexico
4.     Gonzaga
5.     Wichita St.
Oregon was one of the coolest stories last March.  They ran the table in the Pac 12 Championships, were insulted with a 12-seed, then corralled the Oklahoma State Cowboys.  They beat a great St. Louis squad before meeting their match in eventual champion Louisville.  They deserve all the credit in the world, which is what they’re getting with a AP Top 25 ranking pre-season.  However, again, they’ve lost the actors.  Emery, Kazemi and Singler are gone.  They added Mosier from UNLV, but have you checked what success he’s had tournament time with the “Running Rebels?”
I feel the same way about Wichita State.  I was totally drinking the kool-aid last season with the Shockers.  However, they’ve lost a starting point guard in Amstead, the most winningest Shocker in program history with Williams, and a grown man in Hall.  Players matter.

Touring Terre Haute

Touring Terre Haute

“Terre Haute, that’s where Larry Bird is from!” I feverishly snapped a picture out of the Budget Rental Truck as we flew by the isolated exit on an Indiana highway.  I could have told my girlfriend “LeBron James grew up here,” and she would not have batted an eye.  Luckily we needed to get gas.  I fact-checked myself.  Larry Bird is from French Lick, duh.  How could I forget that?


                Jake Odum is from Terre Haute.  Indiana State, Larry Bird’s alma mater, is also in Terra Haute, where Odum plays.  If you check out Bleacher Report’s top 22 point guards nationally, you won’t find Jake Odum.   But I’m giving the 6’4” senior some love right here.  With Creighton leaving the Missouri Valley Conference for greener pastures, the Sycamores have a real opportunity.  Odum is one of those guys who looks like he is playing in slow-motion, but already has the play diagnosed.  Over Odum’s career his conference has sent quality competitors to the big dance with Creighton, Wichita State and Northern Iowa.  All the while, he has put up nearly 450 assists.  Odum scored more in his junior campaign, averaging 13.6 points per game.  Look for he and backcourt mate Manny Arop to drop in on the national conversation come March.