Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson flips off the crowd at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. after the Rebels were defeated by La Salle in the second round. Henderson is a very talented scoring guard, but needs to work on his maturity next season. Either way all eyes will be on him next season and not just the SEC crowd.Tags: Marshall Henderson, Ole Miss
#14 Missouri) This team could be a huge surprise from nowhere, or a huge bust and fall off. The least likely thing that could happen is for them to stay right around where they are now all season. Coach Haith has already proven what he’s capable of when the right guys are put together. At least this year he is working with players he knows. Although they were bounced early by Norfolk State last season, don’t forget a lot of people had this team reaching the final four. Even though it’s almost a completely new roster, they could give Kentucky and Florida some real problems in the SEC if they start clicking early. Size shouldn’t be an issue this season with the new transfers combining up with the return of possibly their best player, Lawrence Bowers, who missed all last season due to injury. This team is ranked as low as they are because the majority of the players have never played together before. Don’t count this team out. They will find some time in the top 10 if they get their chemistry down. If they have half of the chemistry as last year’s team, they could beat anybody.
NR Minnesota) There is some serious competition in the Big Ten. With Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana ahead of you, nothing is going to be easy. Minnesota is sitting in a great spot, right behind them and right outside the ranking. Similar to Cincinnati, a higher ranked team slipping would help this team the most, but they have what it takes to move up themselves. This team will get beat, but they won’t get blown out by anybody. They’re going to be able to match up well with the majority of the teams they play. The return of Julian Welch, Rodney Williams Jr., Trevor Mbakwe and the Hollins is a huge plus for this team. Coach Smith knows the opportunities he has with these guys. Watch them cause problems for some high ranked teams this season, and see where they turn up at the end of the season.
#16 Baylor) Baylor could be one of those teams that is forgotten, until you notice they’re climbing up into the top 10. This team was crazy athletic last year. Although they lost some of it, they still have remaining talent on top of the upbringing of their next class of stars. With Pierre Jackson leading this team and the sniper Brady Heslip shooting the lights out, these guys could be just as dangerous as last year. Young guns like Taurean Prince and Isaiah Austin are going to quickly fit right in. Austin makes up for some serious size lost from the departure of Perry Jones and Quincy Acy. He brings the necessities of a true center to this team. It’s not crazy to say they will repeat another great season and contend for the top of the Big 12.
#24 Cincinnati) Watch this team creep up the rankings this year. They could easily be undefeated or a one loss team going into 2013. Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright leading this team will be trouble for everyone they face this season. It’s likely this team’s reputation will feed off of higher ranked teams losing and dropping out of way. The ever growing Big East will have its share of schools to make a big push in March. Don’t be surprised if Cincinnati is one of them.
#11 North Carolina) I never thought I’d say that North Carolina is underrated, but when they are sitting outside the top 10 I can’t help it. This team as of now can run with anybody. Prepare for James Michael McAdoo to explode this year. It’s his team to run this season. Although freshman Marcus Paige is being put in a high pressure situation running point right away, he will become a huge asset for this team. Youth is the only factor for this team, but they have the pieces to overcome it sooner rather than later. The ACC could get crazy down the stretch. Duke and South Carolina State will bring some serious brawling to the court. Beating each other up in the regular season could be the best thing for a young team going into tournament time. This team has a possibility of dipping into the top five going into it.
#3 Kentucky) This team is not the same Kentucky team as last year, obviously. That team was a freak of nature and you don’t get that caliber of talent, chemistry and youth very often in any sport, let alone back to back seasons for the same team. The kids coach Calipari has now were some of the best high school players in the country. With that being said, that’s exactly what they still are. This team has virtually no college basketball experience. There will be teams all season that will expose any weakness these young kids have. This team is highly talented and athletic, but doesn’t have a “star” that has been there and done that, who they can count on in tight situations. Instead they are going to have to put that weight on some poor freshman’s shoulders. Imagine the pressure that is on these 18 year old kids. Their school just won a title and they weren’t part of it, but the students and community both expect them to win it all again. No way can this team be close to what they were last year, and no way should I or anyone else take this team seriously as the third best team in the country. If Maryland can make them earn every last point, so will every other team they will face this season. Good luck with that Kentucky.
#15 Creighton) The school of fundamental basketball. As much as I’d love to say that this team is the 16th best team in the country, I just can’t do it. First reason, every team in the country knows how to beat Creighton; stop Doug McDermott. Last year he shredded defenses. This year, teams are going to do everything in their power to shut him down. If they succeed, they will win. Second reason, they are in too small of a conference. You can’t climb the rankings as a mid-major school very quickly. I don’t think the NCAA is going to be very patient with a school from the Missouri Valley Conference if they lose any games. Their situation is similar to TCU and Boise State a few years ago; if they lose, it’s goodbye season. No pressure right?
#25 San Diego State) This team is going to look good throughout points of their season. But, when teams like Air Force, Santa Barbara and Point Loma are in your schedule, you’re going to look good. If they drop a game to one of their weaker opponents, it’s going to kill their rankings. On top of being expected to beat all the nobody schools day in and day out, they are going to have to beat descent teams to prove they belong in the top 25. Getting shut down to a level of looking lost and confused in your first game of the season is not a good sign. Yes it was to #9 Syracuse, but welcome to the top 25. You have to at least compete at this level. Don’t expect San Diego State to run the table to teams. They will skim by at best.
#6 North Carolina State) I have to see a lot of games and a lot of greatness before I start believing that North Carolina State is the 6th best team in the country. They will be good, don’t get me wrong. They will get a great seed in March. I’m just not on board with them being a number 2 seed or better. Good luck with your schedule Wolfpack fans. Show me you can beat Michigan, Duke and North Carolina and I will personally apologize for doubting you.
#18 UNLV) There are too many things that could go wrong for them this season. They have some big hype to live up to, compared to what they have been in recent years. There will be some very easy games that are expected to be blowouts for the Rebels. At the same time, there are plenty of tough teams that are sprinkled into their schedule. Teams like San Diego State and North Carolina are going to be pretty tough challenges. It’s going to be easy for this team with high expectations to look passed a few easy games to concentrate on the much bigger and more important ones. Expect one of those “easy win” teams to catch them off guard.Tags: Creighton, Kentucky, NC State, San Diego State, UNLV