I’ll preface this by saying that I have seen the end of Dan LeBatard’s TV Show maybe 10 times. For those who don’t watch it, the show always ends with a question about something on television that night and whether LeBatard, Bomani Jones and LeBatard’s dad “Papi” are intrigued by it. Typically they talk about a game or two, and then something ridiculous on TV, like every show on TruTV. Regardless of the game or amazingly idiotic show, Papi is ALWAYS intrigued by it and then goes on a hilarious and barely understandable 20-second rant about why he is intrigued.
Instead of channeling my inner Papi and being intrigued about all 351 Division 1-A teams, I’ll stick to the five teams that caught my eye when taking a look at the Preseason Top 25.
Maryland – Preseason Rank (#3), Last Year (28-7, 4 seed)
FEAR THE TURTLE! Let’s start with the fact that Melo Trimble is fantastic, and probably is the best point guard in the country. Yet, they have a lot of unknowns to be this highly ranked. Jake Layman is talented and can shoot, but there was a stretch of multiple games in the second half of last year where he simply disappeared. Other than Trimble and Layman, they don’t have much returning from last year. Damonte Dodd and Jared Nickens aren’t terrible, but who they are gaining is the main reason for their lofty ranking.
They bring in top recruit, Diamond Stone, who is a mountain of a man and will be a match-up nightmare in the Big 14 (more on this in the future). The transfers, Robert Carter (Georgia Tech) and Rasheed Sulaimon (Duke…BOOOOOOOOOOOO), need to be difference makers for this team to be in the National Title hunt.
Since ND plays GT twice a year, I should remember a guy who averaged 11 and 8 two years ago as a frosh. Maybe because he played for GT, or possibly due to my five concussions, I completely drew a blank. Evaluation of the two ND/GT box scores reveal that Carter missed one game against the Irish due to injury (missed a total of 10 games) and then took advantage of one of the worst defensive post players in the history of college basketball (Garrick Sherman) to the tune of 19 points and 10 rebounds in 24 minutes.
Regarding Sulaimon, his numbers have declined each of the last three years. I don’t really feel like talking about him anymore, but the Terps will need his freshman year production if they are going to have any shot at living up to these expectations. I urge you to go read this story about Sulaimon and Maryland’s title aspirations.
California – Preseason Rank (#14), Last Year (18-15, missed tourney)
Si, Si, I am very intrigued about Cuonzo Martin’s Golden Bears. They return three very solid perimeter players in Ty Wallace, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews. Wallace is a do-it-all guard, whose major weakness is that he wears a shirt under his jersey. Mathews can really shoot it (44% from 3 last year) and Bird does everything pretty well. From what I have read, the two freshman they have are going to be studs. Jaylen Brown will remind you a ton of Justise Winslow, and Ivan Rabb is a 6’11 freak athlete with some handle and a jumper. I’ll be watching them very closely.
Check out these highlights from a HS game involving Rabb and consensus #1 prospect, Ben Simmons (more on him below). Rabb is #23 in Blue, and specifically watch the clip from 1:10 – 1:30.
Indiana – Preseason Rank (#15), Last Year (20-14, 10 seed)
This is partially for my uncle and some of our good buddies who bleed Crimson and Cream, and also because at first glance I was not sure how IU could be ranked #15. Obviously, everything starts for the Hoosiers with Yogi. I love the guy. He’s tough, he can shoot, and he plays the game fearlessly. The Hoosiers also return a dynamic scorer in James Blackmon, Jr. and an explosive rim-attacker in Troy Williams. That’s a pretty damn good trio, and they have solid role players in Robert Johnson, Collin Hartman, Nick Zeisloft and Michigan transfer, Max Bielfeldt.
Most importantly, they added a highly-regarded big man in Thomas Bryant. When IU underclassman bigs perform well under Tom Crean (see Cody Zeller) the Hoosiers are successful. When they don’t (see Hanner Mosquera-Perea), IU struggles. It seems that in the last couple years, every IU big man (Hanner, Holt, Davis) has made a few too many trips to Big Red Liquors and Kilroy Sports, and Bryant has already been disciplined for a booze-related offense before stepping foot in Assembly Hall. We’ll see.
LSU – Preseason Rank (#21), Last Year (22-11, 9 seed)
Yes, I understand that they have the #1 recruit in the country in Ben Simmons, who in my 4 minutes of research has been compared to Tracy McGrady, Magic Johnson and LeBron. Yes, I also get that they have some quality perimeter talent returning and two other McDonald’s All-Americans.
They also still have Johnny Jones. I was able to witness, in person, LSU choke away a 14 point lead to NC State in the last nine minutes of their 1st round tournament game. While his team was crumbling, all Coach Jones could do was stand there with his arms crossed or hands in his pockets, taking each Wolfpack punch like Rocky Balboa in Round 1 against Drago. They missed their last 12 shots, with each play they ran looking like it was drawn up by a father coaching his son’s 7-8 year old team. LSU had two dominant college post players last year in Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, and underachieved…big time. I just don’t see how it is going to be any different this year with Jones still in charge.
Michigan – Preseason Rank (#25), Last Year (16-16, missed tourney)
This is probably my biggest sleeper pick this year. John Beilein is an exceptional coach, but let’s give you a reminder why Michigan sucked last year. Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton, Jr. got hurt. Kameron Chatman, their top recruit, wasn’t ready for college hoops (who knows if he is this year either). Now, let’s fill you in on why Michigan is going to be good. 1) Caris LeVert is a legit scorer and WILL challenge Melo Trimble for Big 14 POY. 2) They have a bunch of guys who can flat out shoot it. LeVert, Irvin, Walton, Albrecht, Dawkins all shot the three better than 35%. AND, according to the next NCAA president, Jay Bilas, Duncan Robinson is a frosh that can really chuck it as well.
Hold me to this one: the Wolverines are at least a Sweet 16 team this year.