OK it’s just about that time. Baseball is finito, ESPN is in full on “NFL ALL DAY EVERYDAY UNTIL IT HURTS!!!” mode, and it’s getting effing cold in the Northeast. That can only mean one thing…National Novel Writing Month college basketball is about to finally tip-off. We’re not that into the whole preseason prediction crap–we’ll leave that to the talking heads. But even so we must post something. So we will stick to a quick top ten, as we finally get this blog rolling.
#10 OKLAHOMA SOONERS
When Sophomore Blake Griffin announced in April that he was giving up his Lottery Pick status, millions of dollars and stripper groupies to return to trifling Norman, Oklahoma, you better believe coach Jeff Capel was pleased. Chances are however, the rest of Sooner Country said, “cool” and resumed their insatiable anticipation for the upcoming spring football game.
It’s pretty simple with this team: As (Blake) Griffin goes, so go the Sooners. He’s a preseason All-American, which is well deserved. We should note that his older brother Taylor is on this team, but serves as a bench reserve and doesn’t garner any attention from the NBA.
In addition to BLAKE GRIFFIN, there’s a few other guys to keep an eye on. Tony Crocker will have to continue his 3-point prowess-as he shot over 40 percent from 3 last season. He will look to spot up with passes from freshman Willie Warren, a Top 25 recruit making the transition to point guard.
OU will participate in the NIT Season Tip Off, with potential noteworthy match-ups against Davidson and Purdue. Other than that it’s a pretty easy non-conference schedule, although we’re full of glee for that December 10th match-up against the Maine Black Bears. WHOOOO!!!
#9 NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH
GODY!!! OK we just wanted to say that once. The Irish look good this year, and return Big East Player of the year Luke Harangody. That red head can play.
The Irish are set up for a very entertaining season, with one of their best teams on paper and toughest schedules in recent memory. They will get lei’d out in Hawaii and participate in the Maui Invitational, with potential match-ups against Texas and UNC.
We’re expecting a 30 win season from this team, but keep this stretch of games in mind…from January 12th to February 12th their schedule is as follows: @ Louisville, @ Syracuse, UCONN, Marquette, @ Pitt, @ Cincinnati, @ UCLA, and home to Louisville… Good Luck Leprechaun.
In addition to luck and Harangody, the Irish will always be in games with Kyle McAlarney stroking it from deep—he shot 44 percent from 3 last season. They also have Tory Jackson, the “Tito” to McAlarney’s “Michael,” as he led the Big East in assists last year. That reference probably resonated with our fathers, but none of our other readers.
There will be depth issues as the bench lacks a real sparkplug who can score, but a good, top-heavy team here that will certainly be battled-tested come March.
#8 UCLA BRUINS
If college basketball powerhouse programs were like little girls, they would all be whispering into each other’s ears talking about how UCLA has been to three straight final fours, but won NO NATIONAL TITLES!!! HAHAHA!
So this year, as The Buffalo Bills look to reach their fourth straight Super Bowl UCLA looks to reach the Final Four for the fourth consecutive season, Ben Howland will have to find a way to maximize effort. The Bruins return All-American Darren Collison and have an explosive freshman in Jrue Holiday. But with the losses of Kevin Love, Russell Westbrook and that really handsome boy Lorenzo Mata-Real, depth will certainly be an issue. If you don’t believe us, James Keefe is expected to start at power forward—over the past two years, he’s only managed 1.9 points per game.
Yes, the Pac-10 will be down this year so UCLA will still be the class of the conference. But getting to Detroit will be tough, as well as keeping those little girls from laughing.
#7 PURDUE BOILERMAKERS
If you’re looking for a trendy pick to follow this season jump on the Boilermaker bandwagon, a team that’s got a ton of energy and depth.
All five starters return, and seven of their top eight scorers, to a team bounced by Xavier in the 2nd round of the 2008 tournament. We saw these guys in person last year, and were very impressed with their backcourt—something that’s imperative to success in college basketball.
Coach Matt Painter has supplanted ESPN weirdo Steve Lavin, and New Mexico Head Coach Steve Alford as the “Coolest Guy In College Basketball With Slicked Back Hair.” Although few other competitors really come to mind.
Anyways, getting back to that backcourt, they have guards a plenty and a point guard by committee comprised of E’Twaun Moore (all around stud), Keaton Grant (voted by teammates last year as team MVP), and Chris Kramer (reigning Big 10 defensive player of the year).
There’s also Robbie Hummel. A 6’ 8” guy who can shoot lights out, even though he looks like a 3rd grader shooting with both hands.
Yes there’s a lot of talent here and a lot of guys who can handle the ball, making them a team you don’t want to press. However, the Boilermakers will need to do better on the boards this season. They virtually broke even in rebounding margin, so that will have to be improved if they want to close out games. If they can gel and figure out each other’s roles, there could be great success! in West Lafayette.
#6 PITTSBURGH PANTHERS
We’re not descendants of Nostradamus, but we’re nearly certain that despite Pitt’s high level of talent, they will win at least 20 games, reach the Big East Tournament final, then struggle in the NCAA Tournament. They’ve accomplished the first two feats seven times this decade but have never even played in a regional final. They’ve got the make-up to finally break down that wall this season but some players will have to take on, and perform well, in larger roles. The backcourt now falls on the shoulders of Levance Fields. He is a typical, tough Panthers point guard plucked from the NY/NJ area. Now he will have to run the show with Ronald Ramon no longer around.
Dejaun Blair will be an absolute horse down low. He’s a rebounding machine that loves attention and loves to compete.
Expect him and Tyrell Biggs to take lesser opponents lunch money throughout the season.
The bulk of the scoring will come from Sam Young, a versatile senior who is the 2nd highest returning scorer in the conference. Pittsburgh will be fun to watch, probably even more then their intra-city professional counterparts Steelers and Penguins. I purposely didn’t include the Pirates because they’re more like semi-pro, but even that is being generous.