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College Basketball

Getting Warmed Up For The Madness

by Trevor Freeman

College basketball is heating up and thanks to the San Francisco 49ers I have had plenty of time to take in the action.  In fact, due to Mike Nolan’s ineptitude and the fact that he coaches these games like an overmatched 17-year old college freshman worried about making a move on anything with a set of breasts…..I have been watching plenty of college basketball since late October.  Instead of doing my usual preseason Top 25, I decided to hold it back until the preseason ended and conference play began.  Our look starts in Southern California with a team that is long on talent but short on chemistry.  
25.  USC

Not since “Star Wars, The Phantom Menace” has a debut been as uninspiring as O.J. Mayo’s.  Now, I am not saying he isn’t good, because he is a solid collegiate player.  I’m just saying this guy isn’t the Kobe Bryant/LeBron James he was hyped up as.  In fact, if I were O.J. Mayo I would consider suing David Stern for putting in the age limit and probably costing him millions of dollars in both his rookie contract and shoe endorsements (on the premise that guys who go in the late lottery usually do not score the hundred million dollar deals).  

24.  Gonzaga

I am not selling on the Zags being down this season despite the shellacking they took in Seattle against Tennessee.  This team still beat Connecticut at Storrs, St. Joseph’s at Hawk Hill, Utah, Georgia and Virginia Tech.  Gonzaga will be a factor come tournament time, I promise you that.  Jeremy Pargo, Matt Bouldin and Matt Bouldin’s mop give the Zags a big-time backcourt.  Austin Daye is the real deal as well.  If I were to rank all of the players in college basketball strictly on potential, Daye would be second behind Michael Beasley.  Everytime I look at Austin Daye, I see greatness.  When Daye comes up in conversation, I feel like the old scouts in “Moneyball” trying to convince people to ignore the statistics and just look at the player.  I honestly believe Austin Daye is about fifteen pounds of muscle away from being the most dominant force in college basketball.  

23.  Stanford

Brook Lopez is the man to watch on this team as he could easily be a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.  Lopez is a long player who has a variety of polished post moves.  He reminds me of a poor man’s Kevin McHale.  The key to the Cardinal’s success are their guards and especially Anthony Goods.  When Goods is going, the Cardinal are a very tough team to beat.

22.  Wisconsin

It would not surprise me if Bo Ryan has the Badgers at the top of the Big Ten standings come March.  I love their frontcourt with Brian Butch, Marcus Landry and Greg Steimsma and their backcourt is not terrible as Trevon Hughes, Joe Krabbenhoft and Michael Flowers can all play.  Wisconsin is the plain, kind of cute girl that shows up at the bar wearing jeans and a loose fitting T-shirt with the medium to sizable ta-tas.  At first glance, you are not quite sure if she is the one you want to take home but after six to seven beers you’re telling her that you just completed your first year of medical school and that you wanted to become a doctor because helping people in pain is your lifelong dream.

(Since we just discussed a Big Ten team, I need to bring up what Tubby Smith is doing at Minnesota.  Nothing would make me happier than to flip on March Madness and see Tubby Smith leading a resurgent Minnesota into the Sweet Sixteen.  The man can flat out coach as is evident by the way he has turned around a dormant Golden Gopher program.  On the flip side, I laugh at Kentucky and their fans for what is going on with their season.  Their fans deserve it for running a coach out of town who won a National Title, made three Elite Eights and qualified for the Dance every season he was in charge.  I love the fact that while they had turkey for Thanksgiving they will be having crow for dinner in March.)

21.  Mississippi

I am including them because they are undefeated so there is no way I can leave them out.  That being said their nonconference schedule may or may not have included several schools for the blind.

20.  Pittsburgh  

Some may rank the Panthers higher and that is fine.  I cannot rank them any higher than twentieth after catching their game against Dayton.  The Flyers absolutely prisonraped Pittsburgh in that game.  Between that and them losing Mike Cook, I think the Panthers are a team that may slide the longer this season goes.

(Random note #1, Sierra Nevada has come out with a “Celebration Ale” that is quite simply the greatest beer I have drank since the last time I drank a Yuengling.  This beer is so good that it sucked me into getting wasted last Tuesday and Wednesday when I had no intention of boozing.  Do yourselves a favor and pick some up.  I promise that you will not be disappointed.)  

19.  Butler

When they cast “Hoosiers Part II”, A.J. Graves better be playing the role of Jimmy Chitwood Jr.  This guy just looks like an Indiana basketball player.  How he got away from IU is beyond me.  Graves will be leading a frisky Bulldog team back into the Dance.  He gets some help in the backcourt from Mike Green who can also stroke the triple.

18.  Villanova

If the NCAA Tournament was decided by a two on two game out on the Blacktop, there is no way Villanova would lose.  Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher are filthy.  They may turn out to be a better backcourt than the Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Mike Nardi and Kyle Lowry foursome.

17.  Rhode Island

The Rams boast a tremendous inside-outside tandem in Will Daniels and Jimmy Baron Jr.  Daniels is an absolute load down low.  He’s one of those slightly undersized post guys that has a variety of moves.  Baron Jr. can really stroke it from downtown and plays like a poor man’s J.J. Redick.

16.  St. Mary’s    

The Gaels are going to make a deep run in this year’s NCAA Tournament and it will not be a case of a mid-major team catching lightning in a bottle.  In Omar Samhan and Diamon Simpson, St. Mary’s has two players that will be collecting NBA paychecks in a couple of years.  Patty Mills is nasty and belongs on the list of top ten freshmen in the country.

15.  Vanderbilt

The Commodores are 15-0 so they have to be somewhere in the top fifteen.  That being said their best nonconference opponent was probably UMass.  I can’t be sure if this team is the real deal until I watch them play Tennessee.

14.  Texas

It was during the Texas-Michigan State game that my friend had an idea that Natural Light needs to implement.  As we were pounding the “Natty” he wondered why Natural Light wouldn’t come up with a marketing slogan that went, “Don’t play Beer Pong without it.”  Brilliant.  How many people play “Beirut” in college with Natural Light as the beer of choice?  Why wouldn’t the “Natty” just make this designation official in an advertisement?

Just as a note, D.J. Augustin has been putting the worst NCAA Tournament game I have seen a point guard play in years behind him quickly.  Augustin is playing like a dark horse candidate for the Wooden Award.

13.  Texas A&M

Do you think Billy Gillespie wishes he was back in College Station right now?  Oh and what are the odds that Mark Turgeon moves onto Kansas in the same offseason that Billy Gillespie gets the ziggy from Kentucky?  I’m officially installing it at 7-1.

(Random note #2.  I stumbled upon a Showtime fight on Saturday night and watched somebody named Paulie Malignaggi fight.  I thought the guy was nothing special.  The next day, I pick up the paper and read that he not only called out Ricky Hatton but demanded they fight in America.  This would roughly be the equivalent of me demanding a blow job from Jessica Biel in six months at my apartment.  Uh…….Paulie.  Last I checked, Ricky Hatton had beaten Kostya Tzuyu and Jose Luis Castillo and was coming off his first ever loss to the best pound for pound fighter on Earth (a fighter whom he staggered in the first round).  Let’s not get carried away….you beat some chump on Showtime.)

12.  Marquette

This is a team primed to make a deep tournament run as the Golden Eagles have three guards who can handle the ball and a point guard in Dominic James who can break anybody down off the dribble and get his own shot.  I love this team.  Tom Crean is the best basketball coach that nobody talks about.

11.  Indiana

D.J. White is looking better than ever in his tenth season of college basketball.  The senior is averaging a double-double now for the Hoosiers who are rapidly emerging as the team to beat in the Big Ten.  Eric Gordon’s debut at the collegiate level has been everything we expected.  He reminds me a lot of “Boom Dizzle” (aka Baron Davis).  Kelvin Sampson looks like he will have the Hoosiers in the national title mix earlier than anyone expected.  

10.  Dayton

Brian Roberts is easily the best player nobody has heard of.  Roberts is one of those guards who does a little bit of everything.  There is no doubt in my mind that he will end up getting drafted in the second round by the San Antonio Spurs and then blossom into being a solid role player.

The guy on the Flyers to really keep an eye on is freshman Chris Wright.  He might be the best dunker in all of college basketball.  This kid brings it and he brings it with ferocity.

9.  Michigan State

This team will go as far as Drew Neitzel and Raymar Morgan can carry it.  The two of them are both All-American caliber players who can dominate a game.  That being said, I watched the UCLA game and the Spartans didn’t feel like they had the depth and athleticism that a top team like UCLA possesses.  The Bruins dominated them in the second half.

8.  Tennessee

The most fun team to watch in college basketball.  I guarantee the Volunteers play in the game that has Gus Johnson foaming at the mouth at the NCAA Tournament.  Bruce Pearl’s squad presses and traps the entire ballgame and they force a track meet.  Tennessee rotates in twelve players and all of them are athletic enough to keep the pace frenetic.  

7.  Washington State  

Derrick Low is simply my favorite college basketball player.  He reminds me a lot of Dan Dickau.  Fearless, a deadly shooter, great hair and a super playmaker.  He is joined by Kyle Weaver and Taylor Rochestie in the most underrated backcourt in the entire country.  The Cougars are undefeated and it is because of this trio.  Do not bet against this team in the NCAA Tournament as they have the guard play to make a deep run.

6.  Kansas

I would not bet a dollar that Kansas gets out of the second round.  For the umpteenth consecutive year, Kansas is the big-name team that you want to avoid at all costs in your tournament brackets.

5.  Cobra Kai

A couple months ago, I read an article in ESPN the Magazine about how Duke and Coach K’s legacy are dying.  Smooth move to whoever wrote that.  You officially “mushed” it for all of us.  The Blue Devils seem to be playing with a chip on their shoulder and might be more dangerous than ever.  

4.  UCLA

A team with absolutely no weaknesses.  The Bruins have quality experience in Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (now that is quite a handful to write down), Lorenzo Mata and Alfred Aboya.  Then the Bruins have youngsters who are surefire NBA prospects in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love.  As long as the Bruins avoid injuries, they will win the Pac 10, earn the top seed out West and make it to the Final Four.

3.  Georgetown

I love this team.  You have experience all over the court.  The Hoyas share the ball and play the game as precisely as you will ever see.  I will be picking them to win the tournament in one of my brackets.  For two years, I have been screaming about the virtues of Big Roy Hibbert and I in fact predicted that he would outplay Oden in the Final Four (check my archives if you don’t believe me).  I think come tournament time you will see the Hoyas utilize their biggest weapon more and he will rise to the occasion.  Hibbert is your classic “Moneyball” player.  People overlook his efficient production and say he lacks athleticism.  Last I checked guys who are 7’2″ with soft hands, exceptional post moves and a great feel for passing the ball generally make it.  Hibbert could be the American version of Arvydas Sabonis.

2.  Memphis

The Lindsay Lohan of college basketball.  They strike a great pose right now, but you are just waiting for it to fall apart.  Memphis has three of the best players in college hoops in Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey.  That being said, this is the team in the top four that I think is most likely to get tripped up by a school like Marquette in the Elite Eight.

1.  North Carolina

Quite simply the Tar Heels are the deepest and most talented team in the country.  Tyler Hansbrough is the front-runner for the John Wooden Award and Ty Lawson is Ray Felton all over again.  

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to contact me at [email protected]  

One reply on “Getting Warmed Up For The Madness”

March madness Look at my team Tennessee, great comments on em.They are very fun to watch and are going to be very dangerous in the tournament.I hope to see them play someone like NC or UCLA along the way,to prove they are worthy.They already knocked out Memphis in the regular season .We’ll see what happens!

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