Ugly Truth About Every Top 25 Team
The college basketball offseason is a time for fans and analysts alike to reflect on the season that was and prepare for the season to come.
During these roughly seven-and-a-half months, we have the time to nit-pick and scrutinize each Top 25 team for minor flaws or problems.
Sometimes these aren't problems that can be swept under the rug. Sometimes they get ugly.
From huge questions to minor discrepancies, this is the potentially ugly truth for every team in the preseason Top 25.
25. Minnesota: Their Backcourt Is Iffy
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Minnesota got a huge boost when they learned that Trevor Mbakwe was granted an additional year of eligibility, but that doesn't make up for their mediocre backcourt that's charged with the task of getting him the ball.
Julian Welch and Austin Hollins both return as upperclassmen, but they didn't exactly blow anyone away last season.
The two combined for five assists per game, and both players seemed more like combo-guards than true point or shooting guards.
While it's nice to have two players split the responsibilities at times (i.e. the Harrison twins in the recruiting class of 2013), this combination doesn't have the talent for it to work.
24. Gonzaga: They're Way Too Small
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Gonzaga has a lot of perimeter threats thanks to returning their all-freshman backcourt of Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. and explosive wing Elias Harris.
However, the team is missing the inside presence that seven-footer Robert Sacre brought to the team.
While the team brings in 7'1" giant Przemek Karnowski from Poland, he won't be making much of an impact this year with his 280-pound body that seems a bit out of shape. He has a lot of potential in the future but will likely have to wait a few years to develop.
The responsibility of taking over for Sacre will be given to 6'9" Sam Dower. While Dower is a good player, he will have to explode on the scene after averaging just 8.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game last season. I don't see him truly replacing Sacre, which means Gonzaga will be in trouble inside.
23. Creighton: Their Defense Isn't Nearly as Good as Their Offense
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Creighton had arguably the nation's best offenses last season, leading the nation in field goal percentage while finishing second and seventh in assists and points per game respectively.
Unfortunately, their defense couldn't stop a runny nose, giving up 69.7 points per game, which tied for 244th in the country. Ouch.
Opponents lit the Bluejays up, shooting 44.1 percent from the field, which was tied for 221st in the nation.
A little more focus and effort on the defensive end could go a long way for a team that has Doug McDermott, who should be the nation's leading scorer after the two players ahead of him (Reggie Hamilton and Damian Lillard) left college.
22. Notre Dame: They're One of the Streakiest Teams in the Country
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With Scott Martin coming back after being given a sixth year of eligibility, he joins a talented team that already has Jack Cooley, Jerian Grant and great recruiting class.
Unfortunately, that doesn't mean anything.
The Fighting Irish are incredible streaky. Last season they topped unbeaten Syracuse, which sparked a nine-game conference winning streak, but they also lost to Georgia, Maryland, Rutgers and St. John's.
The team didn't find any consistency last season, and with a very similar team returning, there's a good chance that a few bad losses could lead to a poor seeding and another first-round loss in the NCAA tournament like last season.
21. Cincinnati: They're Too Dependent on Guards
Last year, Cincinnati relied heavily on big man Yancy Gates to keep them competitive inside. The team lacked a good inside presence, but he helped anchor them.
However, with Gates gone this year the team will need guards Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright and Jaquon Parker to play even bigger roles.
The team is again without a good frontcourt, but this season they don't even have a talented big man like Gates inside. While Justin Jackson and Kelvin Gaines will do their best, neither was exactly impressive last season, and Gaines played less than 10 minutes per game.
This team is going to be guard-centric, and that could lead to a lot of trouble.
20. Wisconsin: They Lack a Go-to Scorer
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Wisconsin's stingy defense always gives them a chance to win, but they need to score some points too.
Last season, the Badgers could just let point guard Jordan Taylor lift them to victories, draining threes and penetrating for enough points to scrape out a victory.
During the NCAA tournament he knocked down eight huge threes against Vanderbilt and Syracuse, and seemingly all eight came when it mattered most. Who can do that this year?
While the team returns Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren and brings in recruit Sam Dekker, they don't have a guy like Taylor to run the offense and make huge shots.
19. Marquette: Who Will Replace Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom?
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Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder did almost everything for Marquette last season, but neither will be part of the Golden Eagles' team next season.
Losing a total of 35.8 points, 11.9 points and 4.8 assists per game hurts, and the team faces the question of who will replace them.
Davante Gardner, Vander Blue, Todd Mayo, Jamil Wilson, Junior Cadougan and recruit Steve Taylor all must elevate their game to new heights if the team is to stay elite, and that won't be easy.
18. Michigan State: They Don't Have Much of an Inside Presence
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Michigan State has a lot of perimeter threats with guards Keith Appling, Branden Dawson, Brandon Wood and elite freshman Gary Harris making up a terrific backcourt.
However, they can't control the paint.
Even with center Derrick Nix being reinstated and fellow center Adriean Payne inside, the team can't play both at once, as UConn showed us that two centers can't mesh well.
The team could also rely on incoming recruits Kenny Kaminski and Matt Costello to play power forward, but Kaminski is an outside player, and Costello struggles against bigger players.
Sure, the team has a few big men, but they are a guard-heavy team and could struggle inside.
17. Syracuse: The Orange Lost a Lot of Talent
When I say Syracuse lost a lot of talent, I mean a lot.
Not only did seniors Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph leave, but the team also lost sophomores Fab Melo and Dion Waiters. The team lost a total of seven players, including three of their best in Jardine, Melo and Waiters.
The team still has some good players like Brandon Triche and C.J. Fair and a pair of talented recruits in DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant, but after losing so much talent, it would be foolish to expect Syracuse to do anywhere close to as well as they did last year.
16. San Diego State: They're Crazy Small
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San Diego State has one of the best backcourts in college basketball thanks mainly to Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley, but they might also be the smallest team on this list.
While Franklin grabbed an impressive 7.9 rebounds per game last year and small forward Winston Shepard is a freak of an athlete, the team lacks true big men, losing two of their four forwards from last year and adding only one power forward.
The tallest returning player is only 6'8", and the tallest player on the team will be incoming freshman Skylar Spencer.
This team is freakishly small, and it'll be difficult to knock off powerhouse teams with their "big men."
15. North Carolina: They Lack Great Scoring
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After losing their top three scorers and four of their top five, North Carolina looks to recover from heavy losses to the NBA this season.
With an incredible recruiting class that includes Kendall Marshall's replacement at point guard, Marcus Paige, the team is still very talented. However, they don't exactly have a lot of great scorers.
James Michael McAdoo is ready to explode onto the scene, but after this budding star, the team has a pass-first point guard in Paige, a defensive specialist at shooting guard in Dexter Strickland and a young frontcourt.
While I think P.J. Hairston could emerge as a great scorer, he has a lot of competition for playing time this year. The team is going to be very good, but they don't have a lot of good scorers.
14. Ohio State: Deshaun Thomas Doesn't Have Any Help
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After losing Jared Sullinger and William Buford, most of Ohio State's offense has disappeared. Deshaun Thomas is left to take over as a star, but he'll need help on the offensive end.
While Aaron Craft is one of the top point guards in the country, he isn't a great scorer.
After Thomas' 15.9 points per game last year, the next closest returning players are Craft (8.8) and Lenzelle Smith Jr. (6.8).
This team doesn't have many scorers, and unless recruit Amedeo Della Valle turns out to be a stud, the team will have a low-scoring offense.
13. Duke: They Lack an Inside Presence
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Miles Plumlee's graduation leaves Mason Plumlee as Duke's only true big man for this year.
While Ryan Kelly returns and Marshall Plumlee comes off a red-shirt season, neither are true big men, as Kelly loves to play on the perimeter, and Plumlee is still a bit skinny.
The addition of elite recruit Amile Jefferson helps, but he is still a long, athletic power forward who plays like a wing.
Duke still needs another true big man to complement Mason, but it looks like they will have to play without one for now.
12. Baylor: Their Frontcourt Isn't Nearly as Good as Last Year's
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Last year's Baylor frontcourt was arguably the best in the country. Having Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy and Quincy Miller on the same frontline gave the Bears a huge advantage inside.
Unfortunately, all three went pro after the season, with Jones III and Miller leaving early. That leaves Baylor without a total of 36.1 points, 19.9 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game from last season.
While the additions of 2012 recruit Isaiah Austin and Ricardo Gathers help, and with Cory Jefferson potentially taking over a starting role, the team isn't quite as good as last year.
Austin is an athletic seven-footer, and Gathers a powerfully-built forward, and while they make up for two losses, I can't see Jefferson replacing Acy or Miller effectively. This year's team will need to rely more on their guards.
11. Kansas: They Don't Have a True Star
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Last year, Kansas had Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor. Before that it was the Morris twins.
Bill Self's crew seemingly has a new star or pair of stars every year, but this year's team doesn't have a pure-bred star.
The Jayhawks are going to have to rely heavily on big man Jeff Withey this year, but I can't see him having a big enough impact on the offensive end to be considered a true star. While he is incredible on the defensive end, he isn't exactly an intimidating presence on the offensive end.
This year's team will need to have a good team effort instead of star power, but that could hurt them down the road.
10. Florida: Their Frontcourt Is Still Shaky
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With Patric Young returning to Florida and the development of Erik Murphy and Will Yeguete coming along nicely, Florida actually has a decent frontcourt for once to complement their backcourt.
Unfortunately, the team is still a bit shaky in the big man department, as just Young and Murphy have proved that they can play well. The question is Yeguete, who could struggle next season after averaging just 4.4 points per game last season.
This frontcourt is better than last year's, but it's still not great.
9. UNLV: Their Backcourt Is Pretty Thin
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UNLV has a ton of great big men for next season, including returning star Mike Moser, elite recruit Anthony Bennett and transfers Khem Birch and Roscoe Smith.
However, the backcourt is a different story. With Oscar Bellfield and Kendall Wallace graduating, their backcourt is going to rely heavily on Anthony Marshall and recruit Katin Reinhardt, but there isn't much depth after those two.
Senior Justin Hawkins is going to have to play a lot of minutes at guard, but the team doesn't have many good replacements, which could hurt them against top programs.
8. Missouri: They Might Not Have Any Chemistry
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Most teams on this list are returning a lot of players, but Missouri is the exception. After losing seven seniors, the team only returns three players from last year's roster.
Luckily, Frank Haith is bringing in seven new players (five recruits, two JUCO transfers), but it will be hard to establish chemistry with such a young, inexperienced team in a short amount of time.
While Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon will be huge for the team's coming together, there will almost certainly be issues with miscommunications early in the year for the Tigers.
7. Arizona: They'll Be Relying Heavily on Newcomers
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Arizona is bringing in a ton of talent for the upcoming season, but they may be relying too heavily on these new players.
Their frontcourt is going to be made up entirely of freshmen with seven-footer Kaleb Tarczewski and forwards Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett playing inside for the team.
Then you add in combo-guard Gabe York and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons, who will likely be playing point guard, and we could see four or five starters being completely new to Arizona's system.
While this isn't the worst problem in the world, it's still a problem, and coach Sean Miller needs to make sure his guys are all on the same page.
6. Michigan: They're Paper Thin
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Michigan is going to have one of the best starting fives in college basketball with Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. in the backcourt and Jordan Morgan being joined by recruits Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III.
Unfortunately, that's about the full extent of talent on the team, as their bench is depressingly thin.
While recruit Nik Stauskas will help, the team still needs another option or two off the bench if they want to be truly elite and compete for a Big Ten title or a national championship.
5. North Carolina State: Their Backcourt Is Thin
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Mark Gottfried is on fire at North Carolina State, and he has one of the best teams in the country this year. The early ACC favorites might have a problem in the backcourt, however, as they aren't deep and have injury concerns.
While Tyler Lewis and Rodney Purvis make up an excellent backcourt coming in from the 2012 recruiting class, Lorenzo Brown should be considered the starting point guard until he loses the role. However, there isn't another impact guard on the roster, and Brown has had a history of injuries.
If Brown goes down the team could be in trouble, and they don't exactly have a lot of options after that.
4. UCLA: They're Thin in the Backcourt
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UCLA has the No. 1 recruiting class for 2012, and their four recruits will play a huge role next season. Unfortunately, three of the four are in the frontcourt, with 6'9" point guard Kyle Anderson being the only exception.
Along with Anderson will be Tyler Lamb in the backcourt, and sophomore Norman Powell will come off the bench.
Losing four senior guards hurts, and unless SF Jordan Adams converts to a guard, the team only has three impact players in the backcourt for next season.
3. Kentucky: Their Season Is Based on How Ryan Harrow Plays
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North Carolina State transfer Ryan Harrow is the X-factor for Kentucky this year, and his play will determine whether the team competes for a second national championship or needs to fight to win the SEC.
With an incredible team led by SG Archie Goodwin, SF Alex Poythress, PF Kyle Wiltjer and C Nerlens Noel, this team has the potential to be a national contender. However, without a point guard, they will struggle.
Harrow has the potential to be a star or a bust, and he needs to improve from his 3.3 assists per game average at NC State. While he will likely improve, the question remaining is by how much, and will it be enough for the Wildcats?
2. Louisville: They Lack a High-Powered Offense
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Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith have graduated from Louisville, leaving the team without its top scorer and two of the top three from last season.
Louisville didn't exactly have a great offense last year, averaging just 68.2 points per game (T-169th in the nation). Now, without Kuric and Smith, everyone on the team must play a bigger role.
Even with an incredible point guard like Peyton Siva, the team doesn't have a ton of weapons and will be relying on their defense to win big games.
1. Indiana: They've Got a Target on Their Back
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By returning all five starters from last year's Sweet 16 team and an elite recruiting class with five members, Indiana is the clear No. 1 team in the country.
Everyone knows that Indiana is on top, and they want to be the team to knock them off. Every team on their schedule is circling the date that they play the Hoosiers, and they'll be gunning to upset them.
While there are very few flaws with this team, their biggest threat will be that every single game on their schedule will be a test since every team they play will be bringing their A game.