Ranking the 10 Most Talented College Basketball Teams for 2013-14 Season
College basketball fans: we are five months away from preseason practices and exhibition games.
Coaches and their staffs have been working tirelessly since the close of the 2012-13 season to bring in more talented players and begin to develop them during the offseason.
Let's take a quick look at the the 10 most-talented college basketball teams.
10. Michigan Wolverines
Michigan returns an uber-young core that played this past April in Atlanta for the NCAA championship.
Mitch McGary exploded onto the national scene during March Madness, showing that he is more than capable of doing work down low. Nik Stauskas is a dead-eye from downtown. He will be one of the best three-point shooters in the nation in 2013-14. As Glenn Robinson III moves over to his natural SF position, he will step into a primary scorer's role in the upcoming season.
Spike Albrecht, Jordan Morgan and Caris LeVert will all compete for the open starting roles vacated by national player of the year Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.
Michigan head coach John Beilein reeled in another highly-rated recruiting classes (No. 12 on ESPN.com). Zak Irvin is another 5-star wing who can consistently get into the lane or knock down shots from the great beyond. Derrick Walton will have a shot to move into the PG position vacated by Trey Burke. Mark Donnal is a face-up PF who will help spread the floor.
9. Oklahoma State Cowboys
All-American Marcus Smart shocked the college basketball world when he decided to come back to Stillwater for his sophomore season. Smart was the 2013 national freshman of the year and the Big 12 player of the year. Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash are also returning to give the Cowboys one of the best perimeter trios in the country.
Look for the Cowboys to challenge for the Big 12 crown and make a deep run in the 2014 NCAA tournament.
8. Duke Blue Devils
Duke lost as much or more than just about any other program in college basketball. Seniors Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly averaged a combined 47.5 points per game. But Coach K will still have one of the most dazzling starting fives in the country this season.
Quinn Cook took over the floor leadership for the Blue Devils in 2012-13, and is ready to demonstrate that he is among the best point guards in the country. Rising sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon will again prove to be valuable on both ends of the court.
Signing all-everything SF Jabari Parker ensured that Duke will again be relevant on the national college hoops scene. Parker is the kind of player that makes everyone around him better. It will be hard to keep McDonald’s All-American SG Matt Jones off the court. His ESPN.com scouting report says that “his game is very reminiscent of a young Ray Allen.” 6’8” Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood gives the Blue Devils another long, athletic frontcourt weapon that will make life miserable for Duke’s 2013-14 opponents.
7. Florida Gators
Florida head coach Billy Donovan will have problems this season. Problems like, “How will he find playing time for all of the talented players on his 2013-14 team?”
The Gators welcome back three skilled seniors who will lead an impressive squad that may be more defensive-oriented than any recent UF team. Patric Young is a beast who is ready to have a monster senior season. Scottie Wilbekin proved this past season to be a more-than-capable floor leader. If Will Yeguette can stay healthy, he could be one of the best front court defenders in the nation.
McDonald’s All-Americans Chris Walker and Casey Hill add instant explosiveness. A pair of elite-level front court transfers, Dorian Finney-Smith (Virginia Tech) and Damontre Harris (South Carolina), provide additional weapons that will help Florida challenge Kentucky for the SEC title and make another March Madness trek that could end up in North Texas in April.
6. North Carolina Tar Heels
North Carolina could have been devastated by early departures. Instead, it will have an experienced core that has the chance to set the standard in the upgraded ACC. Even though P.J. Hairston had a break-out sophomore season, he could still elevate his game to an even higher level in 2013-14. James Michael McAdoo is emerging as a front court force. If Marcus Paige keeps improving, he will be able to blend all of this talent into a dynamic unit.
Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto, Joel James and Desmond Hubert will all be fighting for whatever minutes are available up front. Quality depth will not be a problem in Chapel Hill.
Carolina head coach Roy Williams is bringing in another first-rate recruiting class, featuring 5-star PF Isaiah Hicks and wide-body center Kennedy Meeks. PG Nate Britt will push Paige and make it hard for Williams to keep him off the court.
5. Arizona Wildcats
Head coach Sean Miller continues to restore Arizona hoops into the best program in the west. He has scored one recruiting success after another, and then he has developed the talent into a promising Final Four challenger.
Rising junior SG Nick Johnson is one of the most underrated perimeter players in the country. He is becoming a lock-down defender as well as a dangerous scoring threat on offense. Seven-foot center Kaleb Tarczewski clogs the middle and cleans the boards. Combo forward Brandon Ashley showed flashes of brilliance in his first year in Tucson.
McDonald’s All-American game MVP Aaron Gordon is a high-flying freak. He is a highlight reel waiting to happen. 5-star SF Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will add some Philly grit and intensity to this fledgling frontcourt. Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell is a pure point who will make sure that everyone gets the ball in scoring position.
4. Kansas Jayhawks
When most teams face a total reconstruction of their starting five, the predictions are dim and dismal for the upcoming season. Not for Kansas this year. Even though it will have five new starters when the ball goes up in November, the Jayhawks are ready to rock in 2013-14.
Last year’s back up PG, Naadir Tharpe is eager to finally get his chance to get the ball and run the show. Rising sophomore Perry Ellis has all the tools to be the next great KU frontcourt star. His development will be key to Kansas’ future success.
Bill Self’s 2013 recruiting class (No. 2) could be one of the best incoming groups in school history, which is not a small accomplishment. Andrew Wiggins’ signing thrust the program into an entirely different universe. Wiggins is a once-in-a-decade type recruit that will instantly make the Jayhawks a March Madness contender. Joel Embiid is a raw 6’11” prospect who has the makings of becoming an elite-level defender and shot blocker. Wayne Selden is a powerful and relentless penetrator that will provide an exceptional running mate for Wiggins. Conner Frankamp and Brannen Greene will add further firepower on the perimeter.
3. Louisville Cardinals
Louisville, the 2013 national champs, will be right back in the thick of things next season. Though it is losing Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng, the Cardinals will be still be geared up for their farewell season in the Big East.
UL’s leading scorer, Russ Smith, is surprisingly coming back for his senior season. He will once again bring his wide-open, free-wheeling style to the Yum Center. Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear and Final Four most outstanding player Luke Hancock give head coach Rick Pitino plenty of options. Montrezl Harrell is ready to detonate.
Pitino will have his choice between two excellent incoming PG options. JUCO transfer Chris Jones and 5-star Terry Rozier are both tremendous playmakers and will be ready to make it happen. Anton Gill is an athletic wing that can do work on both ends of the court.
2. Michigan State Spartans
Few teams return as many contributing players as Michigan State. Only Derrick Nix will not be back in East Lansing. Spartans coach Tom Izzo will have his MSU squad ready for battle.
Michigan State has its high-scoring backcourt—Keith Appling and Gary Harris—intact. Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson will patrol the middle and shut other teams down. Dawson is ready for a breakout season. Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice have starter skills, but they will continue to come off the bench to bring spark and scoring.
Because nearly the entire roster will be returning this season, Izzo only brought in two 3-star recruits. Gavin Schilling and Alvin Ellis will not be counted on to contribute much in their first year on campus. Red-shirting is a real possibility for both.
With this type of talent and experience, the Spartans are going to be an incredibly tough team to beat.
1. Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky’s 2013 recruiting class is almost beyond description. Have you ever heard about one school, in one year, bringing in the No. 1 point guard, shooting guard, power forward and center? Me neither.
Willie Cauley-Stein is returning to fine tune his game and attempt to help his team’s chances in the 2014 NCAA tournament. WCS is a quickly emerging force in the middle. Alex Poythress showed flashes of his huge upside and is looking to have a monster season as a sophomore. Kyle Wiltjer is still a work in progress. As his time increased, his production did too.
John Calipari has done it again. He is a master at connecting with recruits and therefore has a chance to reel in just about any high school player. Andrew and Aaron Harrison will set the pace in the UK backcourt. PF Julius Randle has an amazing skill set that allows him to move off the low-block and look for scoring opportunities while facing up. Dakari Johnson, the nation’s No. 1 ranked center among the Class of 2013, will mostly come off the bench in his first season.
This season will be an interesting opportunity to watch Calipari and the Cats.