College Basketball

B/R Expert Predictions for the 2013-14 College Basketball Season

C.J. MooreCollege Basketball National Lead WriterNovember 6, 2013

B/R Expert Predictions for the 2013-14 College Basketball Season

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    Andrew Wiggins threw down an alley-oop in an exhibition game on Tuesday. Our experts weigh in on whether he can live up to the hype.
    Andrew Wiggins threw down an alley-oop in an exhibition game on Tuesday. Our experts weigh in on whether he can live up to the hype.John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

    The college basketball season is finally here, and it's time for those of us here at Bleacher Report to make predictions that we'll probably regret by February. 

    The preseason headlines have been dominated by freshmen, yet the veterans seem to be getting a lot of love from our experts. John Calipari would be disappointed in us. 

    We put our fortune-telling skills to work by predicting whether Andrew Wiggins will live up to the hype, picking a March sleeper and the eventual national champ and answering several other preseason questions. 

C.J. Moore

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    Aaron Craft's Buckeyes are C.J.'s pick as the biggest disappointment.
    Aaron Craft's Buckeyes are C.J.'s pick as the biggest disappointment.Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

    Will Andrew Wiggins Live Up to the Hype?

    No. How can he?

    Unless Wiggins averages more than 20 points a game, wins national player of the year, leads KU to (at least) a Final Four and then is clearly the No. 1 pick in June, he will have failed to live up to the hype.

    What I think we're going to get is a player who evolves into a great defender and averages around 16 points per game. Sorry, he's not Kevin Durant, but he could be the wing version of Anthony Davis.

    Early on, I think Wiggins will have a few down games that will get blown out of proportion—like scoring in single-digits, oh my!—but by March, I do believe he'll be closer to the game-changer he's expected to be.   

    Who’s Better: Big Ten or ACC?

    This would be the ACC if Louisville didn't have to spend a year hostage in the American Athletic Conference. Louisville, Duke and Syracuse are better than Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State. But that's not the case yet, and the Big Ten still has the advantage because of depth.

    Four Big Ten teams are locks for the tourney (Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin), three others have a good chance (Indiana, Iowa and Illinois) and two others have tourney potential (Purdue and Minnesota). That's three-fourths of the league with a shot at the tourney.

    The ACC's top-half is really good, and the top five (Duke, Syracuse, North Carolina, Virginia and Notre Dame) are comparable, maybe even better than the Big Ten. But the middle-tier is stronger in the Big Ten, and that's why I'm going that way.   

    How Many Teams Will Rank No. 1? Who Will They Be?

    Three. Kentucky, Michigan State and Louisville. The elite are better this year and have fewer holes than last year's elite, so you'll see less turnover at the top of the polls.  

    Best Mid-Major Star?

    Dwayne Evans, Saint Louis. He's a hybrid between a small forward and a power forward, and it's hard to guard him with either. He averaged 19.7 points per games over the Billikens' final 10 games last year. 

    Player of the Year?

    Doug McDermott. His numbers will just be too hard to ignore, and now that Creighton is in a new conference (the new Big East), no one is going to question the legitimacy of those numbers.  

    Most Disappointing Team?

    Ohio State. I'm worried that the Buckeyes cannot score enough to be a Top 10 team, and they lack depth in the interior. LaQuinton Ross impressed me in March, but I'm not sure he can carry the offense as much as Deshaun Thomas was able to last year. It's tough to bet against Thad Matta and Aaron Craft, but if I have to pick one highly-ranked team that I'm not sure about, it's Ohio State. 

    NCAA Tournament Sleeper?

    Saint Louis. I loved the Billikens last year, and they ran into a hot Oregon team. They have four seniors who have been through some battles, they play smart ball and they're extremely sound defensively.

    National Champion?

    Louisville. If Chane Behanan is eventually allowed to play, Louisville is the most complete team in the country. Defensively, the Cardinals were one of the best last year and will remain around the top. Offensively, they have the pieces to be better, and Rick Pitino improved his bench. Pitino will finally accomplish what he couldn't pull off in Kentucky: Repeat.  

Thad Novak

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    Thad predicts Kentucky, led by Julius Randle (left), will win John Calipari his second title.
    Thad predicts Kentucky, led by Julius Randle (left), will win John Calipari his second title.Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    Will Andrew Wiggins Live Up to the Hype?

    No, but that's not to say he won’t be very good. He'll probably win the Big 12 scoring title, but with Marcus Smart around, he's not even the best player in his own conference, let alone the country.

    Who's Better: Big Ten or ACC?

    For one more year, the Big Ten will be top dog. The ACC's two great teams at the top (Syracuse and Duke) can't keep up with the Big Ten's three (Michigan State, Ohio State, Michigan).

    How Many Teams Will Rank No. 1? Who Will They Be?

    Three: Louisville, Kentucky and Michigan State. The Spartans aren't really in the same class as the talent-laden Cardinals and Wildcats, but as the preseason No. 2, they're in the best position to take over if inexperienced Kentucky falters early.

    Best Mid-Major Star?

    New Mexico's Alex Kirk has the size of an NBA center (7'0", 245 lbs) and was already one of the top big men in a strong Mountain West last year. He's ready to break out as a junior.

    Player of the Year?

    Russ Smith, Louisville. Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart is the best player in the country, but he doesn't have nearly as much talent around him. Louisville will be either No. 1 or No. 2 in the polls heading into the Big Dance, and Smith will have won at least a few close games with a steal or a scoop shot in the waning seconds.

    Most Disappointing Team?

    Wichita State. The Shockers' Final Four run would be a lot for any team to live up to, and with Carl Hall gone, they lose their rebounding edge in addition to losing the element of surprise against big-name foes.

    NCAA Tournament Sleeper?

    Arizona State. It's never a good idea to underestimate the value of a hot point guard in March, and the Sun Devils have one of the nation’s best in Jahii Carson.

    National Champion?

    Kentucky. The Wildcats and Louisville are head-and-shoulders above any other teams in the country, and there's a great chance they'll meet in the Final Four. Louisville will probably win when the two face off on its home floor in December, but will have the burden of trying to beat the same great team twice in one season, and even the Cardinals aren't up to that challenge.

Scott Polacek

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    Scott believes in Marcus Smart and the Cowboys. Smart is his pick for Player of the Year and he also believes OSU will top the polls at some point this season.
    Scott believes in Marcus Smart and the Cowboys. Smart is his pick for Player of the Year and he also believes OSU will top the polls at some point this season.Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Will Andrew Wiggins Live Up to the Hype?

    No.

    That's not a knock on Wiggins as much as it is a reality check on the hype surrounding his every move. If college basketball fans aren't treated to something on the level of a LeBron James, Kevin Durant or Michael Jordan, then Wiggins will fall short of the incredible standards being set for him.

    He will still be one of the best players in the country this year, but the level of expectations are bordering on unfair for an 18-year-old kid.

    Who's Better: Big Ten or ACC?

    The best part about this question is that we will have the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge to help decide conference superiority, but for now the nod has to be given to the Big Ten based on depth alone.

    Each league has an intriguing trio on the top—Syracuse, Duke and North Carolina for the ACC and Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State for the Big Ten—but the teams in the middle of the conference pecking orders is where the Big Ten has the advantage. Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota and even Purdue are all talented squads that should find themselves playing in the NCAA tournament this year.

    How Many Teams Will Rank No. 1? Who Will They Be?

    Six. Kentucky, Michigan State, Louisville, Duke, Kansas and Oklahoma State. There are a number of marquee showdowns in the non-conference schedules of the Wildcats, Spartans, Cardinals, Blue Devils and Jayhawks, and there will be plenty of flip-flopping as some of the top teams beat up on each other. The Cowboys will gradually creep up as they beat up on a soft non-conference schedule before the Jan. 18 showdown at Kansas.

    Best Mid-Major Star?

    Tyler Haws, BYU. Haws averaged better than 20 points a night last year and posted a number of impressive scoring totals against some of the more difficult opponents the Cougars faced. With another year of experience, he has a chance to contend for the nation’s leading scorer title thanks to his overall offensive arsenal.

    Player of the Year?

    Marcus Smart. While Andrew Wiggins received much of the preseason hype in the Big 12, Smart will be the slightly better player during the season. The difference between Smart and so many other superstars is just how excellent he is on both ends of the floor. Smart will score plenty of points while racking up steals and shutting down opposing guards.

    Most Disappointing Team?

    Florida. The Gators are already replacing a ton of talent as it is, and the attrition from an offseason of multiple suspensions will not help their cause in the early going. Florida will not be able to keep up with Kentucky in the SEC and will ultimately disappoint.

    NCAA Tournament Sleeper?

    Boise State. The Broncos will win the Mountain West this season and then make some noise in the Big Dance behind the dynamic duo of Derrick Marks and Anthony Drmic. Both are impressive scorers, and Marks will serve as one of the best and most underrated floor generals in the country.

    National Champion?

    Michigan State. The Spartans are No. 2 in the country in both major polls to start the season, and Tom Izzo will have his team humming by March. There will be few teams as physical as Michigan State this year on both ends of the floor, and Gary Harris and Adreian Payne give Izzo an elite player on the interior and perimeter.

    The combination of experience and talent that Izzo and the Spartans bring will prevail over so many talented freshmen in the NCAA tournament.

Kerry Miller

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    Juvonte Reddic is Kerry's pick for best mid-major player. He also sees the Rams as a dark horse to get to No. 1 in the polls.
    Juvonte Reddic is Kerry's pick for best mid-major player. He also sees the Rams as a dark horse to get to No. 1 in the polls.Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

    Will Andrew Wiggins Live Up to the Hype?

    I sure hope so.

    Save the skepticism for whether or not he'll be able to compete with LeBron James or Kevin Durant in the NBA within the next few years. As far as his one-year college career is concerned, I'm a believer.

    At this point, I think he might actually be underrated. Many months of endless hype has pushed public opinion to a state of "Come on, he can't really be that good, can he?" And when he is, we will all be amazed.

    Who's Better: Big Ten or ACC?

    Depends on how far Indiana falls and how well Pitt and Notre Dame adjust to life in the ACC. Arguing over whether Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are better than Duke, North Carolina and Syracuse is an exercise in futility.

    The unbalanced size of the conferences doesn't help solidify the debate. I would take the ACC's top seven schools over the Big Ten's top seven schools, but I also think the ACC has a lot of extra cannon fodder at the bottom of the conference.

    How's this for an answer? If I had to choose one conference from which to watch every regular season game, I would pick the Big Ten. But if I had to pick which conference is more likely to win the National Championship, I would pick the ACC.

    How Many Teams Will Rank No. 1? Who Will They Be?

    Can I plead the fifth until after the Champions Classic?

    I'll say five. Kentucky, Michigan State, Louisville, Arizona and whoever wins between Duke and Kansas on November 12. I'll also nominate VCU as a dark horse candidate under the same rationale which saw Gonzaga get a No. 1 seed in last year's tournament. Depending on how well the Rams get through the first six games of their season, I could see them winning 28 or more regular season games. And with a ranking system that rewards you for simply not losing while other teams do, a long winning streak could be all it takes.

    Best Mid-Major Star?

    Juvonte Reddic, VCU. Without Troy Daniels attempting 308 three-pointers this season, VCU will pound it down low to Reddic more often than it did last year when he averaged 14.6 points and 8.1 rebounds. The senior from Winston-Salem has great hands and can stuff the stat sheet in every category.

    Player of the Year?

    Russ Smith, Louisville. Everyone assumed Russdiculous would leave for the professional circuit after winning a championship in his junior year, but the negative things that NBA scouts and wannabe NBA scouts on Twitter were saying about the flaws in his game drove him to come back for one more year. The whole thing has almost a "Michael Jordan getting cut from his high school varsity team" feel to it.

    Most Disappointing Team?

    Michigan. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are gone, and no one seems to actually know how badly Mitch McGary's back is ailing him. No disrespect to Glenn Robinson III or Nik Stauskas, but I have to question whether the voters putting Michigan in the Top 10 recognize that those two guys will have to carry the team at various points throughout the year.

    NCAA Tournament Sleeper?

    Sleeper to make the Final Four: Southern Miss. At long last, Memphis is no longer in Conference USA, but that hardly means the conference is suddenly sending a hapless auto bid to the slaughter. Led by Jerrold Brooks and Neil Watson, the Golden Eagles should be tough to beat. And in case you aren't already pulling for Southern Miss, imagine the high comedy of hearing announcers pronounce Ude Ifeanyichukwa's name.

    Sleeper to win one game: Chicago State. The Cougars probably won't even make the tournament, but if they get there, they'll have nine seniors who would love nothing more than to make history by being the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed.

    National Champion?

    Oklahoma State. The Cowboys had six players who scored at least 100 points last year, and all six of those players are one year older, one year wiser and one year more determined to cut down the nets. In what figures to be a regular season devoted to the successes of freshmen, my championship money (at 35/1 odds, nonetheless) is on a team full of players that have actually competed at this level before.

Doug Brodess

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    Arizona big man Brandon Ashley gives Doug two thumbs up for his national champion pick.
    Arizona big man Brandon Ashley gives Doug two thumbs up for his national champion pick.Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Will Andrew Wiggins Live Up to the Hype?

    Andrew Wiggins is an amazingly talented player. But, there is virtually no chance for him to live up to the hype surrounding his freshman season at Kansas.

    Even if he goes off early in 2013-14, expectations for him would become greater still.

    Who's Better: Big Ten or ACC?

    The top five teams in the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference are equally good.

    Where the ACC gets a slight nod is in the next three teams. Maryland, Pitt and Boston College are marginally better than Iowa, Illinois and Purdue.

    How Many Teams Will Rank No. 1? Who Will They Be?

    Four. Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State and Duke. Exciting preconference schedules will ensure some unrest at the top of the polls.

    Best Mid-Major Star?

    Elfrid Payton, Louisiana-Lafayette. This versatile point guard blew up this summer and is no longer flying under the radar. He is a determined defender, a selfless playmaker and a capable scorer (15.9 PPG in 2012-13).

    Player of the Year?

    Marcus Smart. The Oklahoma State point guard did not come back to coast through the upcoming season in Stillwater. With all of the hype surrounding Kansas' Andrew Wiggins, Smart will attack with a chip on his shoulder.

    Most Disappointing Team?

    Michigan. Mitch McGary's status, because of his troublesome lower-back condition, creates serious questions for the Wolverines' prospects. With him at 100 percent, Michigan is a Big Ten contender and a March Madness monster. Without him at full strength, they could be looking at an uneven season with a substandard finish.

    NCAA Tournament Sleeper?

    Virginia Commonwealth. Shaka Smart's squad will once again create mayhem and disorder with their "Havoc" defense. The Rams will also have more answers in the half court and more depth off their bench than they have previously had under Smart.

    National Champion?

    Arizona. Sean Miller, one of the hardest working recruiters in college hoops, has assembled all of the components for a menacing team.

    The Cats will have a formidable frontcourt (featuring Aaron Gordon, Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley), a tenacious backcourt (Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell) and a rock-solid bench (Jordin Mayes, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Gabe York and Zach Peters).

    While U of A will consistently have plenty of offensive firepower on the floor, this team could be ferocious on defense and nasty on the glass.

Scott Henry

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    Scott likes Michigan State to cut down the nets and he believes Keith Appling is the key.
    Scott likes Michigan State to cut down the nets and he believes Keith Appling is the key.Jamie Rhodes-USA TODAY Sports

    Will Andrew Wiggins Live Up to the Hype?

    Not unless he can turn all the soda at the Allen Fieldhouse concession stands into wine. He's not LeBron James, he's likely not even Kevin Durant. He can be a great player, he can be an All-American, and all of that won't be good enough for some observers. All he can do is go out and try to win a championship before he goes and shakes hands with Adam Silver in June.

    Who’s Better: Big Ten or ACC?

    The ACC probably has more Final Four candidates. I'd rate Duke, Syracuse and possibly North Carolina at that level from the ACC, while only Michigan State rates that high right now from the Big Ten. Questions still surround Ohio State and Michigan, so they're still a step behind.

    Depth-wise, however, it's a really close call. Both leagues probably have nine teams that could be NCAA tournament participants, but the last few will cannibalize each other.

    The biggest decider may come down to officiating. The Big Ten is known for physical defense, and its members may be forced to adapt more radically than any other league in the country. At this moment, I'll give a very slight nod to the ACC. But, if X-factor players like Mitch McGary, LaQuinton Ross and A.J. Hammons put it all together this season, the order will change.

    How Many Teams Will Rank No. 1? Who Will They Be?

    We'll see about five teams pass the hat around. Michigan State, Louisville, Kentucky, Arizona and Duke will all get their shots, depending on who stumbles and when.

    Best Mid-Major Star?

    Give me either Juvonte Reddic of VCU or Jerrelle Benimon of Towson. Reddic will get freed up to roam on offense by the presence of low-post junkyard dog Terrance Shannon, a Florida State transfer. Benimon is the most likely player in America to average 20 and 10 this season, I named him a third-team All-American, and he's only held back from greater acclaim by the fact that Joe Casual Fan can't tell you what state Towson is in.

    Player of the Year?

    Doug McDermott, Creighton. He's just been too efficient for too long, and if Creighton wins the Big East, he'll get this award as much for lifetime achievement as anything else.

    Most Disappointing Team?

    Michigan. Mitch McGary's back injury is beginning to sound very, very ominous. Glenn Robinson, Nik Stauskas and Zak Irvin will be helped tremendously by a low-post scoring presence, but Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford are not that guy.

    NCAA Tournament Sleeper?

    I don't know if we can call a major-conference team a sleeper, but give me Oregon. Their backcourt will be getting acclaimed as the best in America by season's end, as long as the NCAA doesn't staple Dominic Artis to the wall for selling a pair of kicks. At this point, I put nothing past the NCAA and their brand of dartboard justice.

    National Champion?

    Michigan State...IF Keith Appling decides to be a point guard and not a guard who gets points. Harris and Payne need to be the primary options.

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