College basketball teams around the country are preparing for the start of another exciting season. Coaches, players and fans can’t wait for the games to begin.
Many teams will enter the 2013-14 season with pressure and expectations to succeed this season, while others appear to be facing challenging circumstances that could force them into a difficult year.
There are also teams around the country that no one is talking about who are poised for big seasons. These teams have all the ingredients to surprise the college basketball world with their success.
The following list looks at one team from each of the major NCAA basketball conferences that will surprise folks in the 2013-14 season.
It’s only year two in the rebuilding project at SMU for Larry Brown, but he already appears to have the Mustangs on the right track.
Southern Methodist will still have trouble competing with Louisville and Memphis for the top spot in the American Athletic Conference, but they will surprise people this year and have some great opportunities to get major upsets.
The Mustangs will benefit from the arrival of talented freshman guard Keith Frazier and two potential impact transfers in Markus Kennedy and Nic Moore.
Look for Larry Brown to have his team on the NCAA tournament bubble by the end of the season.
In Boston College’s home games last season against Duke and Miami, the Eagles lost the two games by a combined total of two points. The Hurricanes escaped Chestnut Hill with a 60-59 victory, while Duke left with a 62-61 win.
Boston College was young and inexperienced last season, but they still had the talent to compete with the best teams in the ACC.
Now, those players have had a year to learn and grow under Steve Donahue, and the Eagles have a chance to be one of the better teams in a very talented conference. Boston College also has one of the best duos in the league in Ryan Anderson and Olivier Hanlan.
With the type of team Steve Donahue has built over the past two seasons, this is the time for the Eagles to start putting it all together.
It won’t be a surprise if Baylor has a good season, because that’s to be expected from a team with two potential first-round draft picks. But most people probably aren’t expecting the Bears to realistically compete for the Big 12 Championship.
Led by Cory Jefferson and Isaiah Austin, Baylor has unique size and athleticism that could present a lot of problems to the opposition if both players can consistently play at a high level.
At 7’1,” Austin is one of the most difficult matchups in the country, and Cory Jefferson has the ability to be unstoppable in the paint.
While the Bears will struggle against the backcourts of Oklahoma State and Kansas, their talented frontcourt will give them an advantage in nearly every game this season.
The Providence Friars managed to win 19 games—nine conference games—while playing in the Big East last season, one of the best conferences in the country.
Now, the Friars get the opportunity to play in a Big East that isn’t as deep, and they feature one of the best guards in the conference in Bryce Cotton, who averaged 19.7 points per game last season.
Kadeem Betts is also an underrated, physical big man who averaged 14.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game last season, and Carson DeRosiers is a 7-foot transfer from Wake Forest who could make an impact in the paint.
Providence has plenty of talent to reach the NCAA tournament this season, and they could even compete for a conference championship.
Purdue struggled to a 16-18 record last season and failed to reach the NCAA tournament, but the Boilermakers return their top three scorers for the 2013-14 season.
Head coach Matt Painter can build this team around 7’0”, 250-pound sophomore A.J. Hammons, who has the potential to emerge as one of the best centers in college basketball, and he also has two talented guards in the Johnson brothers, Terone and Ronnie.
The Big Ten will likely take a step back this year as Indiana and Michigan don’t appear to be as strong as they were last season, which should benefit teams like Purdue.
However, it will still be one of the best leagues in the country, and the Boilermakers will have to fight to reach the NCAA tournament.
If they can grow from the hardship of last season, the talent and experience should be enough to get them dancing in March.
Arizona State is led by Jahii Carson, one of the best players in the country no one is talking about. Along with Carson, the Sun Devils have one of the most underrated big men in college basketball in Jordan Bachynski.
Throw in three potential impact transfers in Richie Edwards, Jermaine Marshall and Brandan Kearney, and Herb Sendek has a team that can do some damage in the Pac-12.
Carson is the key to everything for Arizona State, and he can use his incredible quickness and ballhandling ability to get great looks for his teammates. If they can convert the opportunities, the Sun Devils will be a very dangerous team.
Sendek will need to coach this team to its strengths and avoid taking an approach that’s too conservative.
Kentucky and Florida have been the class of the SEC East over the past few years, but Tennessee will earn a place in the discussion in the 2013-14 season.
The Volunteers have an SEC Player of the Year candidate in Jordan McRae and Jarnell Stokes became a double-double machine in the second half of last season.
Tennessee will also greatly benefit from the return of Jeronne Maymon, who was forced to redshirt last season because of a knee injury. Maymon is a fifth-year senior who will help give Cuonzo Martin an imposing frontcourt.
With the physical and aggressive style of play Martin has instilled to the Tennessee program, this season’s Volunteers appear to be a group built for success.
What are some other college basketball teams you think will surprise people this season? Leave your thoughts in the comments section.