After one week, many people are claiming Duke as National Champions, capable of beating the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA. And Kentucky is overrated with a blowout loss to the Blue Devils and squeaking by Southern Illinois. In other words, we tend to jump to conclusions. People make assumptions about a team’s outlook or tournament hopes after one game. Keep in mind, it’s a long season. Throughout this college basketball season, we’ll keep an eye on certain trends we are either buying or selling:
Buy: RJ Barrett is Duke’s Best Player
While it’s understandable to be in awe of Zion Williamson, fellow freshman R.J. Barrett is actually the better player. Sure, he doesn’t possess the same size and intimidation factor as Zion, but Barrett is more NBA ready. The freshman has put up 56 points through two games, the most under Coach K. His passing ability and tremendous size for a guard (6’7″ with a 6’10” wingspan) is what has people around the NBA saying Barrett will be the top pick in the NBA Draft. As much athleticism and energy Zion brings to the court, Duke will go as far as Barrett takes them
Sell: The Pac-12 Will Send Five Teams to the NCAA Tournament
The Pac-12 conference is considered a weaker conference in recent memory. Arizona is going through a major rebuilding year this season, replacing their five leading scorers from last year. USC can’t defend and rely too heavily on Bennie Boatright. Not to mention, for UCLA, Steve Alford will struggle to take the Bruins dancing with such an inexperienced team that lacks a true leader. It’s early, but Oregon looks like the only team capable of making it past the second round come March and should win the conference regular season by multiple games. The Pac-12 hasn’t had more than five teams make the Big Dance in three years. Arizona was the last team from the conference to win it all in 1997.
Buy: Kentucky is the Third Best Team in the SEC
It’s smart not to make many assumptions about Calipari’s teams too early since his freshmen tend to come together in March. But there are some contenders in the SEC season in Auburn and Tennessee. Bruce Pearl and the Tigers blew out #25 Washington by 22, putting the conference on notice. Tennessee looks like a serious Final Four threat after Loyola and Sister Jean left a bad taste in their mouths last season. LSU and Mississippi State are much improved from a year ago too and should be in the mix on Selection Sunday. Kentucky will obviously make the tournament and could make a run, but right now, they’re the third best team in their conference.
Sell: Duke Could Beat an NBA team
Just like Alabama wouldn’t beat the Buffalo Bills, the Cleveland Cavaliers would demolish the Duke Blue Devils. It’s honestly silly, for several different reasons. Yes, Duke is amazing and will most likely be the best team on the floor no matter who they play…in college. But every player on the Cleveland Cavs is a professional. Every player on Duke is a college student. The difference in play is important to note, as well. The defenses NBA teams run are much more complex, not to mention every member of the team is a grown man looking to expose every weakness you possess. The idea of Williamson and the Duke Blue Devils actually matching up with the NBA’s worst team would be fun, but people can’t possibly think they’d have a chance. According to Jeff Sherman of Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, Duke would be a 22.5-point underdog to the Cleveland Cavaliers.