College Basketball: The Season Ahead
by Matt Hundley | University of Missouri
Just because the start of the NBA regular season has been canceled due to the lockout doesn’t mean there isn’t relevant basketball to be played in America. The start of the college basketball season is closely approaching, and college students everywhere are anticipating the start of their schools season. Exhibition games are already underway, with the real start of the regular season next Monday. Other teams start their seasons throughout the week next week, but a majority of teams kick off their true regular season next Friday. This basketball will be the best quality that fans across America will be getting this year, so get prepared for the start of the college season. There is a consensus top 25 teams in the college basketball game for this season, so let’s break them down in four tiers.
The top tier of teams consists of this season’s national title contenders. This year it looks like there are six teams that stand out over all others to be legitimate contenders for the national title. No one would be surprised to see North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State, Connecticut, Syracuse, or Duke cut down the nets at the end of the year. After these six teams, there is a major drop-off in quality, so look for four of these six to be the number one seeds come March and one of the six to add a national title to their trophy case.
Tier two in the college basketball community consists of six more teams that could threaten to make a Final Four. These six teams all return top talent from last season and have the veteran leadership that it takes to play deep into March. Vanderbilt, Florida, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Memphis, and Baylor may not be the most talented teams in the nation, but they are well put together programs that could make a surprise title run.
Our next tier of teams consists of eight teams that will no doubt have solid seasons this year. Each of these eight teams takes a step down in quality from the first twelve, but there is no way you won’t be hearing their names come tournament time. While it wouldn’t be a stretch to predict any of these teams to make a deep tournament run, it would be a little bit of a surprise to see them not hit any bumps at some point in the season. Kansas, Xavier, Wisconsin, Arizona, UCLA, Michigan, Alabama, and Texas A&M are all great teams, but are missing something to make them a serious national title contender.
Finally, Tier four consists of the final five teams to crack this pre-season’s top 25. These five teams are really good, but can be very shaky in stretches throughout the season. Just like the tier before, there is no doubt they will make the tournament, but don’t be surprised if any of these five teams get in by a thread. Cincinnati, Marquette, Gonzaga, California, and Missouri all have question marks surrounding their teams, but they belong in the top 25 and could work their way into the conversation of elite teams.
The 25 teams listed above are the strongest that college basketball has to offer. They were the same 25 teams to make it into the rankings in both the AP and the coach’s poll, so there is a consensus on which teams are the best. The college basketball season is a long one and anything can happen in March; you just have to get there first. We have our favorites now at the beginning of season, but tune in to games now; each school has the same odds of making the NCAA tournament. You don’t need the NBA season when you have the much more exciting college basketball season to watch as it starts back up next week.Matt Hundley is a NGJ Sports Correspondent and a student at the University of Missouri. He is interested in pursuing a sports journalism career.