College Basketball: 7 Most Overrated Teams Looking Ahead to 2012-13
It’s never too early to start thinking about the next college basketball season.
With nothing to do but wait while NBA teams rest their stars in preparation for the playoffs and watch replays of “One Shining Moment” daily (or is that just me?), why not take a stab at analyzing next year’s college basketball season?
Some pre-pre-pre-pre-season polls have already been released, and sports lovers across the country are voicing their opinions as well.
But of course, not everyone is correct. And it’s my job to set them straight. (There’s an off-chance that I’ll get some things wrong here too, but don’t hold it against me. What else are we supposed to do with our time?)
The Kentucky Wildcats just proved that there is no discounting teams with a lot of young players. But that one upperclassmen leader does seem to be a must.
So who makes the cut? Who will fail to live up to the hype?
Let’s take a look.
Note: 2012-13 rankings, when listed, are taken from ESPN’s Top 25 Poll.
Don’t get me wrong: I believe the Indiana Hoosiers are back among college basketball’s elite. I’m just not sure the team should be ranked No. 1 in the country…yet.
Indiana had a great season in 2011-12 and returns Cody Zeller and Christian Watford from a team that exceeded all expectations.
But in the Big Ten Conference alone, the Hoosiers have to contend with the Michigan State Spartans and Tom Izzo, the Ohio State Buckeyes and everyone except Jared Sullinger and a hungry Minnesota Golden Gophers team.
Indiana ended the regular season ranked 16th overall. Of course the team should jump up a few spots, but all the way to No. 1 seems like a bit of a stretch to me.
The Hoosiers embrace team basketball and continue to attract good recruits, but the team still must prove that it has improved in the offseason.
Indiana also had the element of surprise working in their favor last season. Very few teams expected them to be as good as they were, giving Indiana the advantage.
I am certainly not ruling out the possibility that the Hoosiers will be ranked No. 1 at some point next season; I simply think that the team should have to play its way there rather than be given everything before the season even starts.
Quincy Acy was the most important part of the Baylor Bears team last season. He always seemed to score when his team needed it most and was by far the most consistent player on Baylor’s roster.
Replacing his leadership will not be a piece of cake for Scott Drew’s team. The same goes for his reliability.
Combine that with Perry Jones III’s departure, and Baylor has a void inside. Jones never fully lived up to his potential, but when he was on, he was almost unstoppable.
Yes, the team has a great recruiting class headlined by center Isaiah Austin, but every player coming in for the Bears needs to polish his game.
Pierre Jackson, Quincy Miller and Brady Heslip will provide some veteran leadership to the team, but it still remains to be seen whether or not the three can have the same impact as Acy and Jones, especially without either player on the floor.
Given Baylor’s inconsistencies last season, it is reasonable to wonder how these upperclassmen will respond to incoming freshman and how the team will react if it suffers a few early-season losses.
By the end of the season, the freshman will be rounding into form, and if they are performing as advertised, Baylor will be peaking at just the right time. But expect a few bumps in the road at first.
Shabazz Muhammad is a great player. The UCLA Bruins have the No. 1 recruiting class in the country.
But did you see UCLA last year? Even a little bit?
The team opened the season with two straight losses to the Loyola Marymount Lions and the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders.
Yep, you read that right.
To top it off, the season was marred in scandal for coach Ben Howland and the program as former players spoke out about how Howland had no control of the locker room and was unable to develop his players.
So until I see the Bruins actually take the floor with their highly touted recruiting class and play a few games, I remain unconvinced.
Keep in mind, UCLA did play with the Wear twins and Joshua Smith last season. And that did not get them far. To a 19-14 record and a slew of embarrassing defeats, to be exact.
The team is also adding North Carolina transfer Larry Drew II, a player famous for bringing down an entire roster of top-tier talent.
Maybe Howland has brought all of the pieces together, but after last season’s utter disappointment, I think it’s best not to jump the gun on this one.
NC State Wolfpack
Don’t get me wrong—I love the North Carolina State Wolfpack. The team did everything I asked of them in my bracket, finished the season playing at a surprisingly high level and returns just about everyone for next season.
But Top 10? For a team that finished the regular season unranked? That certainly seems to be pushing it.
C.J. Leslie’s decision to return to school for his junior year was huge for the Wolfpack, as was recruiting Rodney Purvis.
But like the Indiana Hoosiers, I still think NC State must prove itself. With perennial ACC favorites Duke Blue Devils and North Carolina Tar Heels reloaded for 2012-13, the Wolfpack will have their work cut out for them.
I’d say ranking NC State around No. 13 overall is solid placement, reflects the impressive season-ending performance and gives the team room to move up.
The ACC will be no cakewalk this year, and the Wolfpack have come out of nowhere to have a target on their backs. Can the team play with that kind of pressure? No one knows.
NC State should be recognized as a legitimately good team this coming season, but gifting them a Top 10 ranking is just a little too much for my liking.
Yes, the Kentucky Wildcats did win the 2012 national championship. (“One Shining Moment,” anyone? …Anyone?)
But then the team promptly lost its entire starting six (Darius Miller played starters minutes and was a senior leader on the team—he counts) and something like 98 percent of its scoring to the NBA.
So why on earth are they ranked in the Top Three nationally?
Sure, they have another stellar recruiting class. But what many do not realize about John Calipari’s past three Kentucky Wildcats teams is that there was actually a pretty good mix of old and young making up the roster.
There were always veteran players like Miller, Terrence Jones, DeAndre Liggins, Josh Harrellson and Patrick Patterson. The freshman were admittedly great, but there was always someone older to make sure they stayed in line.
This year? Absolutely not.
Kyle Wiltjer still looks like he’s 16, so I think the leadership role will have to wait a few years. Twany Beckham did not play enough last season to warrant any kind of leadership responsibilities and, well, that’s about it.
So yes, Kentucky has some very talented freshman coming in. But will these freshmen accept the concept of team basketball without any upperclassmen to sell them on it?
Trey Burke, Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Mitch McGary. What’s not to like about the 2012-13 Michigan Wolverines?
Well, for one, there is the loss of sharpshooter and senior Zach Novak. Then, there is the matter of Evan Smotrycz, Michigan’s second-leading rebounder, deciding to transfer.
And lastly, there is the disturbing memory of the Wolverines’ first-round NCAA tournament upset loss to the Ohio Bobcats.
Michigan has a lot of talent, don’t get me wrong, but the team did have some disappointing losses last season to the Arkansas Razorbacks and Iowa Hawkeyes.
Who is to say that won’t happen again?
Putting the Wolverines in the Top 10 after the inconsistencies the team showed last season is a bit too high.
Michigan needs to show that it has that one special player that can take over games when the rest of the team is struggling. Burke showed flashes of it last season, and if he can build on his freshman campaign, the Wolverines could be great.
If not, it might be another short postseason for Michigan.
Who is Alex Len? That is the question that Maryland Terrapins fans will be asking incessantly for the entire offseason.
Is he the undiscovered gem who dropped 12 points and 11 rebounds in a narrow loss to the North Carolina State Wolfpack? Or is he the unpolished kid who failed to record double-digit points or rebounds in his final 10 games (including going scoreless twice)?
If it is the latter, Maryland fans could be in for a long season. But if it is the former, the Terps might find themselves in the ACC mix.
Maryland does not have an outstanding recruiting class and will have to rely in a large part on the players who led the Terps to a 17-15 record and 6-10 mark in the ACC.
Until the team can find some balance in their scoring—only two players averaged over 10 points per game—and stop relying on Terrell Stoglin to do everything, Maryland will not get far.
Mark Turgeon did an admirable job in his first year at the helm, but the question now is whether or not he can keep his team improving.