College basketball preseason top 25: 10-6

It is the end of October so that means college basketball is right around the corner. What teams should be looked at as the best of the best? This is the fourth installment in the top 25 rundown. For teams 15-11, click here.

10. USC Trojans

College basketball preseason top 25

Bennie Boatwright (Photo by draftexpress.com)

Andy Enfield has built a team that constantly improves year to year at USC. Last season they made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before getting knocked out. With NBA-level talent returning to L.A., the Trojans should be able to take another step forward this season.

Bennie Boatwright is one such player that could have gone pro after last season. Boatwright can do a little big of everything at 6’10” tall, from stretching the floor to getting to the basket. The other NBA-level talent who decided to stay a Trojan for another year is Chimezie Metu. Metu plays above the rim with his dunks and blocks. He also specializes in rebounds. With these two in the game together, there may not be too many better frontcourts in the country. Nick Rakocevic got some playing time last year and will come off the bench once again. For more depth USC will need some other players to fill in.

Jordan McLaughin is back to run the offense at the point. He sets up his teammates well and can also score on his own. He is the Trojans’ best three point shooter out of players who normally shoot them. Elijah Stewart is back for his senior season as well and provides a good athlete and a decent, yet inconsistent shooter. There will be plenty of players vying for whatever minutes are left over. Shaqquan Aaron, Jonah Matthews and De’Anthony Melton all return after playing over 20 minutes per game last season. Joining the backcourt is Charles O’Bannon Jr. and Jordan Usher as freshman. Former Duke point guard Derryck Thornton also joins the team and will be a good player off of the bench.

The Trojans have grown each year and didn’t lose any key pieces from last year’s team. Sweet 16 should be the expectation, but the Trojans can do even better than that if they live up to their potential.

9. North Carolina Tar heels

College basketball preseason top 25

Joel Berry (Photo by ncaa.com)

The reigning national champions should be competitive yet again. Roy Williams put together a good recruiting class and has enough returning talent to make another run in March.

The frontcourt will need the most work to make this team successful. Luke Maye returns after being a hero in the NCAA Tournament against Kentucky. He can rebound and shoot well, but needs to defend better. Garrison Brooks, a freshman, is regarded as a solid inside player that will likely start for UNC. Outside of these two the Tar Heels have other freshman who need time to get better. Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley both have potential and will need to fill key minutes for UNC.

Joel Berry II is back for his senior season, which is the main reason why UNC is ranked this highly. He can shoot, drive and dish to teammates extremely well. He will need to be a leader on this young Tar Heel team. Unfortunately he is out for about a month after losing in a video game to Theo Pinson. Pinson is back to provide great defense and athleticism, but should rely on getting to the basket on offense. Kenny Williams and Seventh Woods return and will need to play well in Berry’s absence. Cameron Johnson transfers in from Pitt and will shoot lights out. Jalek Felton, Raymond Felton’s nephew, will also join the fold this season.

The Tar Heels have a lot to prove without Berry in the first month of the season, but it could help the development of the other players who need to step up. With Berry UNC can play with anybody.

8. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

College basketball preseason top 25

Bonzie Colson (Photo by indystar.com)

Notre Dame did lose Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachum, but have had to deal with losing key players before and they still produce. Mike Brey has a lot of talent coming back, including one of college basketball’s best players. If his players can improve year to year like they usually do, Notre Dame will be one of the best teams in basketball.

Bonzie Colson is a double-double machine, who is one of the best in basketball despite his size of 6’5″. He attacks the glass with ferocity to get rebounds and has clever moves to get his shot up over taller defenders. Colson can even step out and knock down shots from the perimeter, making him a tough matchup. The Fighting Irish run a four out, one in system, so Colson will eat up a lot of minutes on the inside. To give him breathers, Elijah Burns, Martinas Geben, John Mooney and Austin Torres will have to fight among themselves for the minutes.

Matt Farrell was one of the most improved players in the country last season and runs the Fighting Irish offense perfectly. He is a threat to score, but feeds the post and shooters well. With him and Colson as a one-two punch the Fighting Irish are sitting pretty. In addition to those two, Rex Pflueger can knock down perimeter shots and defend well. T.J. Gibbs, whose brothers starred in college basketball, will also be asked to step up. Gibbs is the best athlete on the perimeter for Notre Dame. Nickola Djogo and D.J. Harvey, who are both freshman, are going to need to take up some minutes and be productive.

If Farrell and Colson can get some support, this team is capable of going deep into March Madness.

7. Wichita State Shockers

College basketball preseason top 25

Markis McDuffie (Photo by draftexpress.com)

Wichita State is joining the American Athletic Conference this year to see an increase in competition. The Shockers are the best team in the conference and have all of the key parts from a young team that made the second round of the NCAA Tournament back for another year.

Shaq Morris is productive down low and effective when he is on the court. He is the Shockers’ best post player. Markis McDuffie thought about going to the NBA, but returned for his junior season. McDufie does a lot for the Shockers, from being the leading scorer to defending well to being the leading rebounder on the team. He is a star and will improve again this season. Darral Willis Jr., Rauno Nurger and Zach Brown all return after logging at least 10 minutes per game last season. They are good role players that will complement the stars on the team.

Landry Shamet proved to be a good point guard in his freshman season and will be even better once he returns from foot surgery. He has great length for defending and can knock down three point shots. Another three point shooter returns in Connor Frankamp. Frankamp is a three point specialist who knocked down 44% of his three point shots last season. Austin Reeves is the only backup who logged more than 10 minutes per game from the guard position last season. He, C.J. Keyser and JUCO transfer Samajae Haynes-Jones are going to need to step up to provide good depth.

The Shockers are in store for a big season. Not only should they win their new conference, but they should also be competitors on the national level.

6. West Virginia Mountaineers

College basketball preseason top 25

Jevon Carter (Photo by zimbio.com)

West Virginia made the Sweet 16 last season and have a few key players that should be able to lead them beyond this mark this season. Bob Huggins is a Hall of Fame coach who can lean on his returning players to make it far in the NCAA Tournament this year, and maybe beat out Kansas in the Big 12.

Esa Ahmad is a good wing player that can shoot and has great length, which is perfect for West Virginia’s press. He averaged 11.3 points per game last season and should see an expanded scoring role. Sagaba Konate is in store for an increased role, but he will be more of an inside presence focused on rebounding and blocking shots. The offense will come, but with a main focus on those two traits, it will fit West Virginia nicely. Lamont West got significant playing time as a freshman and can shoot from the perimeter, but needs to help in the rebounding department more. Maciej Bender saw less minutes than West, but is a similar player. Wes Harris is a JUCO transfer that will make his way into the rotation early with his athleticism.

The two stars of the team are Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles. The seniors lead one of, if not the best backcourts in the country. Carter runs the point, scores and plays stifling defense. He is the leading returning scorer with 13.5 points per game. Daxter Miles has averaged just 8.5 points throughout his career at West Virginia, but has a bigger impact than that. He is very athletic and is also a great defender in West Virginia’s press. Depth is a question, but James Bolden, D’Angelo Hunter or Brandon Knapper should be able to step in for the few minutes that Miles and Carter leave behind.

West Virginia lost five players who averaged at least four points a game, but return some stars who will be aided by newcomers. Their press will once again be strong and the Mountaineers are looking at a great chance to make an elite eight.

 

For teams 5-1, click here.

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The Luck of the Irish: Bonzie Colson is Coming Back

Notre Dame fans can rejoice in their unending luck. Bonzie Colson is coming back to South Bend for his senior year, and this is bigger news than you think.

Colson had an outstanding junior year. He shot 52.6 percent from the field and 43.3 percent from 3-point land. Colson also averaged almost seven field goals per game, so I think it’s safe to say he was a big factor for the Irish. He will be next year too.

Notre Dame could clinch the ACC

College basketball fans have expected Duke or North Carolina to take the ACC over the last few years. These top two teams have strong recruiting classes, great programs and legendary coaches. Notre Dame is starting to come into this conversation and Colson will have a big part in this for the 2017-18 season.

Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame (Photo Courtesy of si.com)

Colson has made significant jumps each year at Notre Dame. He averaged 5.6 points in 12.1 minutes per game in his freshman season. Next year he went up to 11.1 points in 25.3 minutes per game. This past season he really broke out, averaging 17.8 points in 32.1 minutes per game, as well as 10.1 rebounds.

He will be expected to play big minutes as a senior. His improvement over the summer will be paramount to the team’s success. He and Matt Farrell will be leading the Irish against some very good ACC teams.

However, Joel Berry II, Theo Pinson and Tony Bradley of UNC have all declared for the draft. Duke is also losing Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard, Harry Giles and Frank Jackson to the draft. Both top-contending teams will be very young next year, and Notre Dame has the opportunity to grab and ACC title with their experience coming back.

You lose some, you gain some

It is important to note that Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem have graduated. These two seniors accounted for a lot of minutes on Notre Dame’s squad this past year and combined for 27.6 points per game.

Matt Farrell will be returning as a senior and hopefully improves his stats from this year. He averaged 14.1 points and 2.5 turnovers in 34.4 minutes per game. Farrell will have to finish around the rim consistently and be more cognizant of turnovers if he is to truly impact his team next year. The Irish also have Temple Gibbs, Nikola Djogo, Austin Torres and John Mooney coming back.

Notre Dame has bonzie colson returning

Matt Farrell of Notre Dame (Photo Courtesy of sportingnews.com)

More importantly, they are bringing in D.J. Harvey Jr., who is ranked 50th in ESPN’s top 100 recruits. He’s a 6-foot-6, 205 pound small forward that will have a direct impact his freshman year. He is a hard-working player, and it helps that Notre Dame lost Vasturia and Beachem. This will give him greater opportunity to learn and earn minutes right away. Colson will be able to guide Harvey and hopefully pull together all of these players for a successful year.

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NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Tournament Time: Who You Should Cheer For

As Dick Vitale would say, “It’s tournament time baby!” I don’t know who is more excited, the fans or the players. Even if your team didn’t make it to the dance, there is still a lot to cheer for.

I know the term bandwagon fan carries a lot of negative connotation, however for bragging rights, you want to be cheering for the right teams. Now fair warning, these might not be the teams that have the best statistics or record. Half of the battle is figuring out how the bracket is set up, which has a large impact on how teams do rather if it is admitted or not. Here are the teams to root for if yours didn’t make the cut.

The underdog: Middle Tennessee State

The beauty of tournament time is that anyone can win on any given day. Pay attention to the season statistics but also expect the unexpected when the final buzzer sounds.

Middle Tennessee State is that Cinderella team that could get out of the first round and surprise us all. The Blue Raiders are 20-1 in its last 21 games and they only have three underclassmen. So if they want it to happen, this is the year to do it.

Their team is ranked in the top 50 for overall defensive efficiency. All four of their losses this season have been relatively close and they only allow 63.3 points per game (ranked 21st). Let’s not forget MTSU beat Michigan State last year and could very well do the same to Minnesota.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Root For

Giddy Potts of Middle Tennessee State (DNJ.com)

Giddy Potts is leading the charge for his talented squad. Potts is averaging 15.8 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. What makes him special is his work effort and ability to score at all three levels consistently.

He was named MVP for their conference tournament after putting up 30 points against Marshall. Potts is the guy who will hit contested threes, but burn his opponent with a quick first step if they close out too hard.

Potts may be getting buckets, but he isn’t out on an island. He has the help of JaCorey Williams who is shooting 54.1 percent from the field right now.

Reggie Upshaw and Tyrik Dixon are also contributing large minutes and statistics for the Blue Raiders.

After beating Minnesota, the Blue Raiders will take on either Butler or Winthrop. Butler is a good tournament team and known for upsets in the past, but Middle Tennessee State has proven to be a tough team.

Keep an eye on notre dame

The Irish have proven to be a wholesome team over the duration of this season. They are coming off a close loss to Duke which should propel them throughout the tournament.

The key to success for Notre Dame is sharing the ball. They are 37th in the nation for assists, averaging 16 per game. They have strength at all positions and when they share the ball, they can’t be stopped.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Bonzie Colson of Notre Dame (Photo Credit to Zimbio.com)

If Bonzie Colson is having a game for himself, Notre Dame is just as good as any team in nation. Duke may have won the ACC tournament but Colson put up 29 points and pulled down nine rebounds in a stellar performance.

Colson isn’t putting on a one man show though. Matt Ferrell is a special point guard dishing out 5.5 assists per game and shooting 41.3 percent from behind the arc.

The Irish are killer from behind the arc because of Ferrell and a few other key players. Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem are shooting over 36 percent from three-point range. This will be tough to guard for their opponents.

The Irish often are over looked when it comes to tournament time. Last year they made it to the Elite 8 and lost to UNC. This year they have a better record coming out of regular season play and more experience.

Arizona deserves a lot more respect than they’re getting

All of the talk regarding the PAC-12 has been about UCLA mostly because of Lonzo Ball and his father’s interesting comments. Most recently LaVar Ball said he could’ve beaten Michael Jordan in his hay day and his son is better than Steph Curry. One could see why the press would jump on that. UCLA is also ranked 78th in adjusted defensive efficiency according to pre tourney data (kenpom.com) which is a weakness for sure.

However the real team to watch from the PAC-12 is Arizona. They just won the conference tournament, and beat Oregon and UCLA to do so. They likely won’t see any true competition until the Sweet Sixteen if they play to the best of their ability.

Right now it’s the combination of Lauri Markkanen and Allonzo Trier that are making offense flow for the Wildcats. Markkanen is a freshman with the skills to play inside and out. Trier is basically doing it all from scoring and rebounding to distributing the ball. Both guys are shooting over 40% from behind the arc.

The team itself is highly efficient from three point and on offense in general. Their top five player of Allonzo Trier, Lauri Markkanen, Rawie Alkins, Dusan Ristic and Kadeem Allen are all shooting over 37% from three-point land. They are also all over 44% from the field. Not only that, they also allow only 65.4 points per game on the defensive end.

The west is a tough region but the Wildcats have the personnel to do some damage.

Iowa state could go far in the midwest

Lots of people are saying that Kansas has a cake walk to the National Championship game. Everyone seems to forget that Iowa State has gone 10-2 in its last 12 games including a road win against Kansas.

They beat Miami early on in the regular season. They only lost to Baylor by two early on, then beat them by three in late February. The Cyclones also beat Kansas in overtime in early February as previously mentioned. To sum up, they have the heart and the gumption to beat some high caliber competition.

NCAA Tournament Teams to Cheer For

Monte Morris flexes on the baseline after a big play (Photo Credits to YouTube)

The team itself is comprised of a bunch of guys who put up good numbers. They aren’t anything out of the ordinary, they just get the job done. Monte Morris leads the team with 16.3 points per game but the next few guys are all putting up anywhere from 12-16 points on average.

After a win over Nevada, they will likely see a very good Purdue team.

When it comes down to it, all the statistics in the world can only tell so much. March is the month of madness for a reason.

 

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