I have no big beef with the rankings…they seem pretty reasonable to me at this stage. What becomes obvious in looking at these teams is how wide open this season should be, though.
UNC – They seem to have pretty much everything you want…experienced point guard, size, athleticism, depth. Yet, since the 2009 title team, Ol’Roy seems to have lost his touch a bit. This is at least the third time since then that UNC has entered a season either as the favorite or one of the top few teams given a chance to win a title. Will this group be different?
Kentucky – Lots of talent per usual but not nearly the depth (especially inside) that they’ve had. I think Ulis is really good and Murray could be spectacular but I do wonder how those three guards (those guys and Briscoe) fit together with one ball, since they’re all essentially guys who need the rock. That said, Cal’s done a remarkable job at getting guys to play unselfishly, so maybe it won’t be a problem. I just don’t see quite the same level of overall talent they’ve had the last couple of years.
Maryland – Maybe more “talent” top to bottom than anyone else in the country, but so many new faces to work in…and no Dez Wells to lead. If they put it all together, they might be the favorite but there’s a lot of transitioning to do.
Kansas – Do they have Diallo this year? Open question at the moment. He’s the kind of guy who could be a difference maker for them, not because he’s an Okafor or Towns level talent but because he’s the kind of blue collar worker they could really use inside. That plus seemingly eternal point guard questions (strange, given how many years Kansas just seemed to roll quality guys at that spot out there) make this pick at least a little bit dicey.
Duke – Good class but not at the level of last year’s group it would seem. I also think they’re going to miss that second point guard they had in Cook more than some think. Sean Obi is the guy I look at as a key…he could give them some of that post grit they lost in Okafor, though he’s nowhere near that kind of offensive player.
Virginia – Same question we always have with these guys…you don’t question the defense or the toughness but can they score enough to win in the Tournament. In the last two years, they were unfortunate to draw an MSU team which could match their grit but had a little more horsepower to work with. Thing is, once you get out of the first weekend, you’re eventually going to run into teams like that.
Iowa State – Lots of talent, a great point guard and a versatile forward but a new coach raises questions. Hoiberg was able to blend teams filled with short termers together very well, but can they keep things rolling with a new regime?
Oklahoma – Man, I don’t know…nice team but I just have a hard time seeing this group as a real national title contender. Hield gives them a legit go-to guy but who’s there to help him?
Gonzaga – Might have the best frontcourt in the country (certainly one of the biggest) but those guards played a LOT of basketball for them for four years running…not sure that I buy that the transition in the backcourt is seamless.
Wichita State – Here, it’s the flipside. Can’t argue with the Shockers’ backcourt but do they have enough inside to really contend for the whole thing?