Friday, October 13, 2006

College Basketball Preseason Top 25

Deuce’s Preseason Top 25

So, if you’ve finagled your way to this site, you must be a lover of either all things basketball related AND/OR fantasy football. You might also be a lover of threesomes (two women of course), man-scaping, the White Castle “suitcase” and midget leapfrog, however you won’t find that here…at least not yet! I, Deuce, am bringing to you our site’s first, and very own, College Basketball Pre-season Top 25. I just had to do it; ESPN, Sports Illustrated, CBS and all of the major leaders in sports media produce their very own pre-season Top 25 so I figured what the hell. Take it for what it’s worth, but I bring the perspective of a simple man who orders the DirecTV sports package just to watch Midnight Madness on ESPNU (October 13th)! Without further ado:

1. Florida
The defending national champs return their entire starting lineup consisting of 4 potential pro’s lead by Milli Vanilli impersonator, Joakim Noah. As long as they can handle the pressure and the challenge of facing everyone else’s A game, I see them back in the hunt for another championship. A so-so recruiting class that should contribute in spurts, however, there are no gaps to be filled with this starting five. The Gators feature and up-tempo style combined with harassing full court defensive pressure and the willingness to share the rock – bottle that up and coach Eddie Munster’s got something sweeter than Yoo-hoo!

2. North Carolina
They have the best low-post power player on the college level in Tyler “Psycho T” Hansbrough, and all returning key cogs from last year’s team minus David Noel. Add to the mix one of the best, if not the best, recruiting class in the country and the Tar Heel’s should be the cream of the crop in the ACC if not the entire NCAA. The freshman class offers 3 highly touted McDonald’s All-American’s in addition to 3 four-star recruits; the only issue foreseeable is cohesiveness and ball distribution although our little Roy toy had little problem meshing the ego’s on his championship team from two years ago.

3. Arizona
The Wildcats have been an underachieving bunch since Miles Simon and Mike Bibby left campus some years ago and last year was no different. They continue to successfully recruit All-Americans from around the country yet team unity has never been quite right. Four starters return from last year as well sophomore guard Jawann McClellan who had to watch from the sidelines last year as he was academically ineligible (shocker!). Hot shot recruit Chase Budinger, who should start immediately on the wing, will remind everyone of the good ole days of Sean Elliot. Now thinking about it, he may turn out to be the biggest bust of the 2006 class; the kids got red hair!!! Tell me, who was the last great basketball to sport red hair????

4. Ohio State
Greg Oden, Greg Oden, Greg Oden. Is he really the best center to arrive on any campus since Shaq? I’m not so sure considering much of his high school competition featured no one on the roster taller than six foot seven inches, but I guess time will tell. The rest of the freshman class is not so bad either included two other burger babies. Oh yeah, majority of the starters come back from last years Big Ten title team. Has anyone ever seen Greg Oden, someone has definitely tampered with his birth certificate, I mean he looks like a lab experiment.

5. LSU
Last year, the country was introduced to Glen Davis and LSU basketball. LSU landed in the Final Four last year after steamrolling Duke and Texas. Though they lost eventual first round pick Tyrus Thomas, and streaky bomber Darryl Mitchell, Glen Davis should prove to have too much girth for opponents. They lost a tense recruiting battle with Kansas over Darrell “Slim Shady” Arthur who would’ve complimented nicely with Davis. LSU should be able to leverage there tournament experience from last year and they will need to as ball handling and outside shooting are questionable.

6. Kansas
Kansas is the hardest team to read every year, bar-none. On paper, they are always star-studded (no different this year), yet when tourney time comes, they bow out in the Sweet Sixteen. Their top eight players each have the ability to earn player of the year honors with Brandon Rush and Julian Wright leading the way (both were voted by the coaches as preseason co-players of the year). Juniors Russell Robinson and Sasha Kaun provide veteran leadership and they’ll need it to prevent ego’s from getting in the way. I would love to pick the Jayhawks to make it to the Final Four, but to me it’s like kissing your 2nd cousin; at the time it might feel pretty good, but a few minutes later you remember that incest isn’t the best!

7. Georgetown
The Hoyas staple used to be hard-nosed, grind it out defense with a high-low, dump it into the post offense. Today, the defense is similar, but the new Princeton offense implemented by JT3 is reminiscent of Jimmy Chipwood’s Hickory Hoosiers. 7-2 Center Roy Hibbert and Mr. Versatility Jeff Green man the frontcourt, and look out for the “Big Ticket,” Vernon Macklin (he’s the class of 2006’s version of Donnell Harvey circa 1999). If the Hoyas can clean up their ball handling and outside shooting, they’ll not only conquer the Big East, but they’ll be dancin’ in March!

So you might be thinking that eight is a little too low for a team that lost to the Gators in the championship game last year. I’m thinking that they’re just not that strong. They lost the leadership of Jordan Farmar and replaced him with the game experienced, but the over-anxious Darren Collison; not sure if he can game manage this team yet. Josh Shipp returns from knee injury which should take the scoring pressure off of Aaron Afflalo. And, don’t forget “The Prince”, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. His coming out party was the NCAA Tournament and he will be called upon to do a little bit of everything to help UCLA get back to the Final Four.

9. Wisconsin
The always successful, yet always overlooked, Badgers will once again make noise in the Big Ten and will shake up many a office pool as well. This team doesn’t posses nationally known players, accept of course for potential Big Ten player of the year Alando Tucker, but Bo Ryan’s boys certainly don’t mind leaving flesh tracks on the court diving after lose balls. Chris Rock look-alike Kammron Taylor provides experience at the point, but other than inside/outside threat Brian Butch, the bench is quite scarce; their best post-player off the bench, Greg Stiemsma is one pork-chop shy of a mixed grill.

10. Texas A&M
Most of America doesn’t know the names Joe Jones and Acie Law, but this critical inside outside combo helped to beat the likes of Texas and Oklahoma State last year, and would’ve been in the Sweet Sixteen had it not been for LSU’s last second buzzer beater by Darryl Mitchell. This team is for real and will pose a significant threat in the Big 12.

11. Alabama
Although Chuck Davis was denied a 6th year of eligibility, Alabama will be lead by the best pure point guard in the country, Ronald Steele, and potential first round selection, forward Jermareo Davidson. Sophomore Richard Hendrix adds significant beef up front, but the Tide will be searching for additional scoring options. They will go as far as the quick footed Steele can take them.

12. Duke
Josh McRoberts is ready to take the reigns as the next Duke star now that he will no longer play second fiddle to J.J. Redick and Sheldon Williams. If his back holds up and star recruit Lance Thomas can take some pressure off, McRoberts should challenge Tyler Hansbrough for ACC player of the year honors. He’ll be supported by playmaker Greg Paulus, the oft injured junior DeMarcus Nelson and a solid recruiting class. Points outside of the paint will be hard to come by and experience and leadership will be an issue.

13. Pitt
Not sure why I have them ranked so high, but each year I seem to be in awe of Pitt. Of course I picked Pitt to upset their way to the Final Four, but Patrick O’Bryant of Davidson deuced all over Aaron Gray (who’s extremely over-rated). They lost their fearless leader, Karl Krauser, which may actually be a blessing considering he was their point guard and took 100-plus more shots then the next Panther player. If Aaron Gray can continue to post double-doubles and successfullynpass out of double teams, this group of under the radar players, lead by off guard Ronald Ramon, should remain competitive in the Big East.

14. Marquette
The second best point guard in the country, Dominique James, and off-guard Jerel McNeal form a formidable backcourt, however Marquette does not possess any post presence. With Steve Novak now shooting bombs for the Houston Rockets, they’ll also be looking for someone who can consistently shoot the three. Tom Crean’s teams are always scrappy and find ways to win, this year should be no different.

15. Boston College
The Eagles were a tough play in their first year of ACC competition with a record of 12 wins (2 against UNC) and 5 losses. With the graduation of all ACC selection Craig Smith, Jared Dudley will be the sole leader of the Eagles with his veteran experience and gritty hustle. Shot blocker extraordinaire Sean Williams will anchor the defense while Sean Marshall and scoring machine Tyrese Rice will add offensive depth. The bench remains thin and they lack a true point guard.

16. Texas
Hook’em Horns! Seven of the twelve scholarship players are freshman! Throw away all of the 2005 statistics because not one starter returns from last years team. They’re only ranked this high because of the potential that these newbies possess lead by 6-9 freshman guard, forward, center Kevin Durant. He’s been tabbed the Big 12 Freshman of the Year and figures to be a lottery selection in the next NBA draft. Freshman D.J. Augustin will likely man the point and former Oklahoma commit, Damion James will likely do the dirty work inside. Obviously experience is a major issue, however this may be Rick Barnes’ most fun team to coach.

17. Louisville
Louisville suffered through some heavy growing pains last year with injuries to three of their top players, forward Juan Palacios, center David Padgett and guard Brandon Jenkins. The lone bright spot on the team was the inspired play of then freshman, Terrence Williams whose athleticism is unparallel. This year, everyone returns healthy and coach Rick Pitino brought in several impact freshman lead by the versatile, 6-9 wing Earl Clark and forward Derrick Caracter. Now, it’s been widely known that Caracter hasn’t been able pass up the fried chicken at the buffet line, but if he gets his weight down, he’ll be quite a complement to David Padgett. Look for the Cardinals to bounce back and do some damage in the Big East.

18. Connecticut
UCONN’s NBA-like roster of a year ago is in fact playing in the pro’s, making this year’s team one of coach Jim Calhoun’s youngest in his 30 years of coaching. The key to this year’s success lies on the shoulders of resident convict, A.J. Price. I know, I know, I should give him a break after he suffered from a blood clot in his brain, but come on…stealing laptops and trying to pawn them for money? Aside from that, he’s being touted as the next Marcus Williams and has the skill and poise to manage this team. Undersized, but overachieving forward Jeff Adrien and freshman Curtis Kelly will provide the muscle in the middle. 7-3 freshman freak, Hasheem Thabeet, should man the middle as long as he’s eligible. The wings are unproven at this time and the bench remains to be seen.

19. Memphis
Athletic freak Rodney Carney and super freshman Shawne Williams are hooping it up in the NBA while the dented can, Darius Washington suffers in the NBDL. Memphis is left with a very young but very skilled and athletic lineup. Sophomores Antonio Anderson, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Robert Dozier should provide enough of an offensive threat while junior forward, Joey Dorsey is a beast in the paint. Highly regarding freshman Willie kemp will start at the point from day one. Memphis will need to share the ball, force the tempo and have someone assume the leadership role for them to succeed.

20. Gonzaga
You can tell there’s a lot to overcome with the loss of Adam Morrison when the front page of Gonzaga’s basketball website is featuring Morrison’s NBA debut. However, sharp shooting Derek Raivio and guard Jeremy Pargo will pick up SOME of the scoring slack. Don’t forget they also lost double-double machine J.P. Batista which leaves an unmet void in the middle; they could slip from the top 20 if they don’t find a third and fourth option on offense.

21. Southern Illinois
We never know the names of the players, but we certainly know the name…Salukis. Historically the Salukis have been the dominant force in the Missouri Valley Conference, but with the rise of other mid-majors, they will be a big target come the regular season. With all relevant players returning, Southern Illinois will make a strong case for a tournament bid even without winning their conference tournament.

22. Tennessee
Not sure if the Vols deserved a two seed in last years tournament, but they did prove to be a major player in the SEC throughout the season. Leadership is in question with the lose of C.J. Watson, however sharpshooter Chris Lofton should assume that role. Dane Bradshaw is the type of hustle player that you hate to play against, but love to have on your team. Forward Duke Crews anchors a great freshman class and they will need to be great with the recent suspension of forward Major Wingate. The season might be full of uncertainty and Bruce Pearl might be sweatin’ it out, and I tell ya, this guy sweats more than George Bush in a room full of Athiests!

23. Kentucky
An interesting mix of players who have yet to live up to their potential. Former Micky D’s All-American Joe Crawford should be piling up the points but has had trouble adjusting to team ball. The loss of Rajon Rondo and Patrick Sparks leaves a leadership and backcourt void. Then there is the enigma, the Vice President of Lazy…Randolph Morris. Touted as a potential first round pick as a high school senior, he has never quite lived up to the hype and has struggled on and off the court. Because of Tubby Smith and because Kentucky is Kentucky, they get the courtesy of being named to the top 25.

24. Illinois
Coach Bruce Weber has some returning talent, but Illinois will certainly miss the leadership and enthusiasm of Dee Brown as well as the inside consistency of James Augustine. These losses cause major voids as the returning players haven’t had the opportunity to be go-to guys. This season may indicate just how good a coach Bruce Weber really is.

25. Hofstra
They sport a great backcourt trio, similar to a poor mans version of last years Villanova squad. I won’t bother naming any of their players since you’ve never heard of them, but I tell you this; have pride in the Pride as they’ll be playing with a chip on their shoulder having been low-balled by the selection committee last year. Inside presence will be a problem as they rely too much on their backcourt.

Honorable Mention (in no particular order):

Syracuse: Last year the Orange Men needed another improbable Big East tournament run to make the big dance and I think year will be much harder. They’ll look to freshman defender-extraordinaire Paul Harris to lead the way.
Kansas St: The new thugs of college basketball and its no surprise with a coach who’s old team wore that badge. They steal a committed recruit from Bobby Lutz and sign a former Cincinnatti recruit accused of rape, some things don’t change when it comes to Bob Huggins.
Maryland: 4 returning starters and a couple of descent freshman will keep Maryland competitive, but can they win enough ACC games for an at-large NCAA bid? I’m thinking it’ll be the 4th year in a row the Terps will be on Spring Break.
Washington: Solid recruiting class lead by super frosh Spencer Hawes but where’s the leadership with the loss of Brandon Roy?
Georgia Tech: Two young studs lead by incoming frosh Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton paired up with streaky shooter Anthony Morrow should win some, but will they tail off come February? This is too bad because I love Paul Hewitt’s 1986 porno mustache!
Florida State: Lead by do-everything forward Al Thornton, Florida State will make its presence known in the ACC, however the point guard position is a bit shady with shoot first, shoot second, pass third Auburn transfer Toney Douglas. By the way, I love Jenn Sterger.
Virginia: A phenomenal back duo lead by Sean Singletary and J.R. Reynolds that have the talent to make some noise in the ACC. Would love to see Singletary get the bigs involved more often to create an inside presence.
DePaul: All conference USA player Sammy Mejia and the rest of the starting five is back for more in 2006. Consistency is an issue although they have a great opportunity to wreak havoc in a very poor league. Also, who doesn’t want to see more of Jerry Wainwright face? I know I do! He’s a cross between Eddie Sutton, Marge Schott and Droopy the Dog!
Virginia Tech: Lead by their versatile power forward, Coleman Collins, Virginia Tech has enough in their arsenal to be a favorite sleeper candidate in the ACC. Consistency and a need for scoring will be an issue. Anyone else see the resemblance between coach Seth Greenberg and the actor that plays Sue Richards father in Crocodile Dundee?
Nevada: Lead by 47 year old Nick Fazekas (feels like he’s been in school forever!), Nevada should again coast through the WAC and expect another NCAA birth. They posses some descent skill in addition to Fazekas so Nevada may surprise some teams.
George Washington: If you hate coach Carl Elliot, raise your hand (mine is high in the air). Stop jumping up and down and violently flailing your arms on the sideline already! This isn’t dancing with the stars, this is college basketball and remember, YOU’RE IN THE ATLANTIC 10, what you accomplish does not matter!
California: Leon Powe is now a Celtic (nothing like an undersized power forward!) so Cal is left with no go to guy. DeVon Harden has enough talent to get to the league but does he have enough to lead the Bears to the post-season. The brothers Wilkes offer help offensively but I doubt they can fill it up like papa Jamaal used to do it!
Michigan State: H to the Izzo always has a strong team come tournament time due to brutal regular season schedules, but will this group of youngsters be too wounded come March?
Xavier: ATLANTIC 10, enough said!
Air Force: LOL! Coaches last name is Bzdelik!
Oregon: Too many ego’s and a lack of inside presence hurt the lame Ducks
Iowa: Iowa backwards is Awoi which means absolutely nothing, similar to what their season will amount to
Michigan: Hasn’t been good since the days of the Fab Five and like their football counterparts, they always find ways to implode


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