Every year there are a handful of teams that make those of us who make preseason polls look really dumb.
So in an effort to allow ourselves the ability to say “we told you so,” this is a prediction of those teams that we shouldn’t be overlooking.
You’ll notice a trend. Most of these programs are coached by men who have made a career of turning preseason rankings into confetti.
Get ready to hear a lot of "Gonzaga is overrated" talk by next February.
Mark Few returns enough talent from the team that climbed all the way to No. 1 in the polls will inevitably make a gradual climb again in 2014.
The biggest challenge is replacing Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris up front. There’s reason to believe that replacements Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski can get the job done. Mainly, Dower and Karnowski combined to average 37.6 points per 40 minutes last year.
The Badgers graduate three starters, and graduating three starters, usually, is followed by a down year. Not when Bo Ryan is your coach.
Ryan has never finished below fourth place in the Big Ten in 12 seasons at Wisconsin. The most talented player on the roster last year was Sam Dekker, and he’ll go from coming off the bench to Wisconsin’s go-to scorer. The team’s best shooter, Ben Brust, returns.
The Badgers also return point guard Josh Gasser, who had to sit out last year because of a torn ACL.
You could make the argument that expectations should be higher than last year once Gasser went down and Ryan had to replace him with an unproven sophomore in Traevon Jackson.
It’s easy to write off the Hoyas after losing to Florida Gulf Coast and then losing star Otto Porter to the NBA.
But John Thompson III returns his other four starters, will likely get Greg Whittington back—Whittington missed the final 19 games of 2013 because he was academically ineligible—and UCLA transfer Josh Smith will be eligible at semester.
Whittington averaged 12.1 points per game in the 13 games he played, and Smith has good feet, soft hands and a weight issue. If he ever gets that last part figured out, he’ll be an impact player.
That’s a lot of talent to simply write off.
The Cavaliers return their top five leading scorers and also add transfer big man Anthony Gill, who started as a freshman at South Carolina.
This is a team that went 11-7 in the ACC, had an impressive against Duke and has one of the best shooters in the country in Joe Harris.
What I’m trying to say is…Buy! Buy! Buy!
Steve Fisher has it going at San Diego State. The Aztecs have been to four straight NCAA tournaments, but....
Leading scorer, rebounder, assister and stealer Jamaal Franklin—yes, that was all one man—left for the NBA. Second-leading scorer Chase Tapley graduated. Fisher's tourney streak should come to an end, right?
(Insert a “not so fast my friend” from Lee Corso.)
Knowing he needed immediate help, Fisher went out and got Tulane transfer Josh Davis, who can play right away. Davis, who started his career at North Carolina State, averaged a double-double last year. He cannot replace everything Franklin did, but he can at least take care of the scoring and rebounding.
Two years ago, Iowa State was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12. The Cyclones finished third and made the NCAA tournament.
Last year, Iowa State was picked to finish eighth in the Big 12. The Cyclones finished fourth and made the NCAA tournament.
See a trend here?
The Cyclones graduated three starters and the Big 12’s Sixth Man of the Year Tyrus McGee. But what Fred Hoiberg has built is a program that plays a fun style and keeps finding ways to get players.
The last two years it has been via transfer. This upcoming year he has the best high school recruiting class he’s brought to Ames. Bet on Hoiberg’s squad to outperform preseason expectations again.
Denver is a school more known for its hockey program than its basketball program, but coach Joe Scott has quietly built a winner and eventually you’ll start hearing about the basketball team.
The Pioneers had the WAC’s most efficient offense and defense last year, according to KenPom.com’s numbers (subscription only) and tied with Louisiana Tech for the conference title. They then played a stinker in the opening round of the WAC tourney and ended up in the NIT.
Denver graduates one starter and lost another, Royce O’Neale, via transfer to Baylor. But what made the Pioneers successful last year was the ability to hit a lot of threes. Scott returns five players who shot better than 34 percent from deep.
Arizona State would have had one of the better backcourts in the country next year with Jahii Carson and Evan Gordon.
Then Gordon decided to transfer to Indiana.
Here’s reason to not sleep on the Sun Devils: Carson is still around, and he’s going to be a sophomore.
The speedy point guard is the best player Arizona State has had since James Harden, and Carson averaged more points and more assists as a freshman than Harden.
Larry Brown doesn’t stay in one place too long, and he usually fixes things quickly.
The first thing Brown did as head coach was convince Tim Jankovich to leave his job as head coach at Illinois State to become SMU’s coach-in-waiting and Brown’s top assistant. Jankovich brought with him a point guard, Nic Moore, who will be eligible in 2013-14.
The SMU staff announced its presence on the recruiting scene by convincing five-star shooting guard Keith Frazier to stay home in Dallas.
Give Brown two talented guards, and there’s a good chance he’ll figure out a way to win.
Last year, Marquette had to replace its two leading scorers and the preseason Big East poll that had the team pegged to finish seventh seemed fair. And the Golden Eagles made that ranking look ridiculous by finishing tied for first in the Big East and making the Elite Eight.
Let’s remember what happened, so we’re not surprised by this upcoming season.
Expectations were going to be big because of that recent success, then Vander Blue unexpectedly declared for the draft and expectations immediately tempered.
Blue’s departure hurts, but Buzz Williams signed two top guards ranked in Rivals.com’s top 51. Williams has proven himself enough that Marquette fans should have faith the coach will figure out how to compensate without Blue.