Ranking the 10 Most Athletic Teams in NCAA Basketball for the 2013-14 Season
You could make the argument that the most athletic teams in the country have won the last two national championships.
Louisville had a great combination of quickness and length, and Kentucky in 2012 had Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (no need to say anymore there).
It takes a lot more than having great athletes to win consistently. Rick Pitino and John Calipari had to convince those players to buy into defense. But if you have the athletes, it makes coaching a lot easier.
So next season's national champion is probably on this list as these 10 teams will have no shortage of athletes.
Note: All advanced stats used in this piece come from KenPom.com (subscription needed).
The Tigers lose their best athlete in D.J. Stephens, but you can count on Josh Pastner to bring in more athletes every year.
Memphis will be extremely quick on the perimeter with Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson and Missouri transfer Michael Dixon. Pastner also signed five freshmen, a class that ranks as the third best according to Rivals.com (and No. 1 if you ask Kuran Iverson, as Zagsblog.com did).
Playing next to big man Patric Young—a decent athlete himself—will be a combination of undersized speedy 4s Will Yeguete or Casey Prather, or Billy Donovan can go really big with incoming freshman Chris Walker, who is known as a great leaper. (Walker's eligibility is still up in the air, according to the Orlando Sentinel.)
Donovan's team will once again be quick on the perimeter, led by Scottie Wilbekin. Donovan, similar to Rick Pitino, does a good job building his roster with quickness all over the court, which allows the Gators to press and use their athleticism all 94 feet.
Shaka Smart recruits to his "Havoc" system by finding athletic big men who can get up and down the court and pestering guards. It's no coincidence that the longer Smart has been at VCU, the better his teams get at forcing turnovers.
Last year, the Rams led the nation last season in steals per game. Several of the athletes who made that happen return, including Briante Weber, Juvonte Reddic, Treveon Graham and Rob Brandenberg.
If you call Andrew Wiggins the best athlete in college basketball before he even plays a minute of college basketball, it's doubtful anyone is going to argue with you. You've seen the mixtapes. They make the argument.
Bill Self also signed another extremely athletic wing in Wayne Selden. The Jayhawks are athletic inside with Tarik Black, Jamari Traylor and incoming freshman shot-blocker Joel Embiid. This could be Self's most athletic team since the 2008 championship squad.
In the time it took me to write this sentence, Nick Johnson jumped and was yet to land. Johnson's dad was nicknamed "Jumping" Joey Johnson, and the younger Johnson inherited his dad's hops.
The Wildcats could be on this list simply because of Johnson, but they have some other nice athletes as well. Incoming freshman Aaron Gordon, specifically, will be a difficult matchup with his combination of size, quickness and skill.
Jim Boeheim wants long athletes who can cover a lot of space in his zone. That's how Boeheim recruits, and his current team is a perfect example.
C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant, Rakeem Chrismas, DaJuan Coleman, Baye Keita and incoming freshman Tyler Robinson all fit the mold.
The Orange led the nation in block percentage last season because of those five returners, and it's a good bet they'll get it done again.
4. Oklahoma State
Now that Detroit's Doug Anderson has graduated, the title of best dunker in college basketball should go to Oklahoma State guard Markel Brown.
The Cowboys also have Marcus Smart, who can out-muscle, out-smart and out-quick you. And when Smart has beat you up, he can finish things off with a backflip, as he did at Allen Fieldhouse last season after knocking off Kansas.
Travis Ford also has some some rangy big men in Kamari Murphy and Michael Cobbins. Wings Brian Williams and Le'Bryan Nash are decent dunkers as well.
Louisville has every attribute of athleticism checked off the list.
Want quickness? Russ Smith delivers that. Want brute strength? Re-watch Chane Behanan in the national championship game. Want a skywalker? Montrezl Harrell can rise to the top of the square to get an alley-oop.
What makes Rick Pitino's team so devastating defensively is that he can keep bringing athletes at you for 40 minutes with enough depth his guys don't get tired, and next season he should have even more depth and athleticism than the 2013 championship team.
2. Michigan State
Adreian Payne could probably beat any 4 in the country in a foot race and out-jump them as well. Branden Dawson looks like he could play linebacker. Point guard Keith Appling puts big men on posters (watch the video). And Gary Harris is as smooth as any wing in the country.
Some of the Spartans—Dawson, Payne and Appling—have been a work in progress from a feel standpoint throughout their careers, but they've always been able to get by because of their athleticism.
What will be so daunting about playing Kentucky this year is UK will typically have the best athlete at each position on the court, and when John Calipari goes to his bench, that's not going to change.
Calipari should record all of his practices. They are sure to be a mixtape in progress. It could be yet another recruiting tool for the guy—not that he needs one.
The Wildcats may be lacking in experience, but they'll have more quickness, strength and length than any team team in the country.