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:
3. New Mexico
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.
“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.
I placed this bet last Thanksgiving
I like to start my season by finding some underdog teams that will soon become the darlings of the nation. Last year around Thanksgiving I put $10 bucks on Wichita State at 150/1. That was part of my “starting lineup.” I take $100 bucks. I identify teams I love from last year with enough remaining pieces. I spread the $100 dollars among as many teams to win at least $1,000 if I get lucky and pick the champion. Last March I had many options to hedge my bet when Wichita State was in the final four. Here’s this year’s “Starting Lineup:”
$30 Oklahoma St. 35/1 = $1,050
$25 VCU 40/1 = $1,000
$17 UCONN 60/1 = $1,020
$14 St. Louis 75/1 = $1,050
$14 Colorado 75/1 = 1,050
Sorry KU fans, but Oklahoma State tops this list. Marcus Smart is just a winner. The Cowboys are slightly undersized, but I’m still shocked to see 35/1 odds at the beginning of the season for them to win a championship. I think those odds will look more like 15/1 come March.
Shaka Smart and VCU only get better this year. I expect New Yorker Melvin Johnson to play a bigger role. VCU is known for havoc on defense, but I think this is the year guys like Johnson get involved in a more diverse scoring attack.
Something special was happening with Kevin Ollie’s UConn Huskies last year. I expect his team to continue responding to his coaching style with his sophomore campaign.
I went hard wagering behind St. Louis last March. They ran into a red-hot Oregon team in the tournament and were out the first weekend. I still expect Jett, Loe and Evans to come back with a vengeance this season.
Finally, Colorado can really ball. I compare Spencer Dinwittie to Victor Oladipo last season. He is a great defender who no one is talking about heading into this season. However, I think he has lottery pick talent. Xavier Johnson and Askia Booker also made progress scoring last season. I hope to see you in Vegas come March looking good to win a thousand bucks and more.