College basketball is literally just under a month away, as we will have games on NOVEMBER 5TH. It just keeps getting earlier year after year and THIS GUY they call the BIG MAN isn’t mad about that… I have my Top 25… so i thought i’d share my personal thoughts on who the best 10 teams in the country are as we head into the new season.
10th- Texas Tech: I think Chris Beard is a top 5 coach in the country, his ability to win quickly has been unbelievable and this may be his greatest coaching achievement yet. A master recruiter welcomes in the best class they’ve seen in Lubbock in awhile. 5-star guard Jahmius Ramsey headlines a group that will see big time minutes right away as the Red Raiders did lose a ton from the team that gallantly ran all the way to the National title game. Davide Moretti is back and the sharpshooter is key. They also went out and grabbed a pair of grad transfers in TJ Holyfield and Chris Clarke. We know the defense will be a rock as well. It always is. I just hated to see Deshawn Corprew transfer, he has a junkyard dog mentality of the bench that every team loves, but with the infusion of new recruits, and with Beard at the helm they will be right there in March.
9th- Kentucky: Another season, another great roster for John Calipari. First off, I like the continued move of Cal by bringing in a grad transfer to stabilize a young team. He did it last year with Reid Travis and now welcomes in Nate Sestina, a Bucknell transfer who can do it all. Ashton Hagans also returns to stabilize and be the veteran voice in a back court with a ton of young talent. Tyrese Maxey is terrific scorer who will fit in nicely with Hagans. My concern with UK are the bigs… I like EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards, I don’t love them. To me they are the factors on if UK is a Sweet 16 team or a Final 4 team. They missed out on a big recruit in N’Faly Dante and almost settled on Montgomery and Richards. I get the feeling that might be the chip on the shoulder they need to be great. They have a ton of talent, but a few more questions than normal. A guy that could be an x factor? Roselle NJ recruit Kahlil Whitney, his defensive upside could be coveted.
8th- Memphis: This could be a bit high for the Tigers, but I believe in Penny and his ultra talented recruiting class. This is the first time I can remember basically an all freshman class under anyone other than Coach K or Cal. I love hires like Penny… he knows these kids, what they like and don’t like and he knows how to lead them. I think he’s the perfect guy to lead it. Memphis first of all welcomes the most sought after big in the country in James Wiseman. I saw Wiseman at Memphis East and what a talent he is. He also oddly enough speaks Mandarin. Smart kid. Also anchoring what could be the best 3,4,5 in the country is DJ Jeffries and Precious Achiuwa. In there off season summer trip to Bahamas, Penny was quoted as saying Jeffries was “unstoppable. Rebounded well, ran the floor well, averaged a double double.” The big question is who will run point for the young Tigers? My money is on Damion Baugh. He’s not ranked like the others but hes a tough kid who can handle the ball, will force turnovers, is a high riser and above all can rebound. Nothing better than a guard who rebounds. Penny compared him to Rajon Rondo, exactly what this Tigers team needs. This Memphis is UBER TALENTED. Penny is the man to lead the charge. I’m putting a lot of belief in him and this is the one that could completely go the other way with cohesion and chemistry problems, but i have belief in the young Tigers.
7th- Duke: All the Zion hoopla in college basketball is mercifully over… Thank god. Now we focus on a Duke team that might just be more effective long term than last year’s team. PG Tre Jones decided to stay and i think that will be big, another year smarter and more comfortable in Jones and he’s perfect to compliment a great class coming in. The big name is the big guy down low in Vernon Carey, who like Zion looks more like a linebacker than a bball player. Jack White and Javin Delaurier are both veterans and played great basketball towards the end of the season will help Carey also. New recruit and prized sharpshooter Matthew Hurt might be the x factor though, hes the stretch 4 Duke needs to be efficient. He’s also a fantastic defender and much lighter than Carey and can handle some of the best player in the country on that end. They are freakishly deep and scary coming into the season. My big question is will Tre Jones be able to be the guy that’s the rock of this team? He really will be the conductor of everything. That question will be the ultimate decider on this team winning a national title, but its Duke and they need to be in here. All the hype like last year might not be there but that could prove helpful. My opinion….. Duke gets to the Final 4.
6th- Gonzaga: I’m sure your reading this and saying, did you see how many players Gonzaga lost last year? Of course I did but again as i’ve said time and time again, ill go with coaching and feel of a program. Mark Few has it. He constantly delivers a top product and with Killian Tillie returning, there’s no way i’m not putting the Bulldogs in the top 10. Talk about transfers, this team is now a destination for top mid major and power 5 players alike. The big talk in Spokane this year was who would replace Josh Perkins at PG, the answer was Ryan Woolridge, a guy who I loved at North Texas, his slasher mentality and ability to defend at a high level will be huge. Few also grabbed TX A&M guard Admon Gilder, a sharpshooter that has won and can provide stability to a back court that needs it. Tillie and Petrusev down low are a scary duo and will be one of the best in the country. They also welcome bigs Oumar Bello and Pavel Zakharov. As usual the Zags are very culturally diverse. Just need Killian Tillie healthy, its been a shame how over the last few year Gonzaga’s big’s have struggled with that. I really like the depth they have as well. A name to remember? Joel Ajayi. All i’m gonna say is NBA scouts are salivating after what they saw over the summer.
5th- North Carolina: What a wealth of riches and talent for Roy Williams! Not only do you return Sterling Manley and Garrison Brooks, but you welcome in the best guard in the country in Cole Anthony to run the show at PG. Williams also welcomes in a transfer group that will solidify scoring and leadership that every great team needs. They grab Justin Pierce who averaged 15ppg last year at William and Mary and Christian Keeling, a do it all guard who led Charleston Southern in scoring at almost 20 a game. I’m gonna say it now, this might be the most dominating offensive team on paper in the country. They have scoring everywhere and with transition god Cole Anthony running the show, its quite the embarrassment of riches. Watching them in transition will be a masterfully orchestrated basketball ballet. The question will come defensively, where they may have some trouble. Who is the lock down defender and can you defend late in March? As usual though with UNC, they will rebound, score and go quick. So listen up OVER bettors, this team could be fun.
4th- Florida: There was always something missing from the 2018/2019 Gators despite the run at the end of the season. They didn’t have that go to guy to get a bucket or dominate an opposing team. I think they have it in the coveted Kerry Blackshear, who I might add was the most prized possession this year in the transfer market. Not only does Blackshear stabilize a front court thats been mired in injuries the last couple years but Blackshear could be the best big they’ve had since the days of Horford and Noah. Mike White was able to land him and now Blackshear along with guard Andrew Nembhard figure to be a great guard/big combo. White also had quite the recruiting class in adding the best SF in the country in Scottie Lewis and a 5 star PG in Tre Mann. They also welcome back depth pieces on the wing and in the front court in Keyontae Johnson and Gorjok Gak. This is as good a roster you can find in the country. they have a great mix that seems to fit together really well. For the first time in a long time White finally has his guys and the sky is the limit… Final 4 or higher or bust for the Gators. I already a 20/1 ticket in the pocket.
3rd- Kansas: I’m aware of the allegations made about the program. We will see where it goes. Let me discuss though the potential of this team. Injuries led the discussion last year in Lawrence, as star big man Udoka Azubuike was injured for most of the year and the Jayhawks never had much cohesion. This year is a bounce back year and man are they talented. Azubuike is the best big in the country and he will be anchored by Devon Dotson, Marcus Garrett, Mitch Lightfoot and Ochai Agbaji who are all back as well. The big story was also the commit of Iowa wing player Isaiah Moss to Lawrence also. Moss a knockdown shooter and player who compliments a team with visions of a national title. Self just wins, and they field always terrific teams. Last year surely was a year where they were down, not this year though because they are as good as anyone in the nation. It will be fascinating to see how Self uses Azubuike, a guy that can’t shoot and is more traditional a post up player at the rim. I’ll put money on him passing the test.
2nd- Louisville: There might not be a team in the country that was able to return talent like Louisville can this coming season. Jordan Nwora, Steven Enoch, Dwayne Sutton and Ryan McMahon all return and that’s good news for Cardinal fans. Chris Mack has quickly returned them to prominence again after the Pitino mess and this team was my EARLY pick to win it all. I love teams that are able to retain top tier talent for a season to remember and I think Louisville does just that. Not only do they return that group but they added a key piece in Lamarr Kimble. Kimble is a Philly kid who I saw in HS at Neumann Goretti in South Philly. He is a diminutive scorer who had some bad luck injuries at St Joes, but I think by March, he’s a household name. He’s a quick Philly guard that’s always the smartest player on the floor. There isn’t a ton to not like about the Cardinal, they are a strong group with a lot of cohesiveness you really don’t wanna see in March. They aren’t really flash but they are smart and just beat you. My x factor is glue guy Dwayne Sutton. He started all 34 games last year and was the straw that stirred them, we all need a Sutton on a good team. He rebounds and posts double doubles and has been pretty solid from 3.
1st- Michigan State: The Spartans are the consensus number one team in the country and you won’t get much argument from me. They possess the best player in the country in Cassius Winston and are full of talent everywhere on the court. First, they also are experienced. Aaron Henry, Joshua Langford and Xavier Tillman are all back and the duo of PG/big in Winston and Tillman will be a joy to watch all year. One of the more underrated transfer grabs was Joey Hauser from Marquette. Hauser is a knockdown shooter that shot 42.5 percent last year and can fill a Matt McQuaid type role for the Spartans. And… oh wait there’s more they also landed top 35 guard Rocket Watts to their incoming class and added some depth in do it all SF Malik Hall. Michigan State does pretty much everything well. They rebound, dont turn it over, can shoot and just beat you every way possible. They are some of the best in the country at NOT beating themselves. They are the lead dog to me and the favorites to cut down the nets in April..
As you can see I am buzzing and can’t wait for the season to start… Follow me on Twitter @jeffnadu as I will begin my betting and conference previews as the season approaches.