Welcome to the third part of the Bald Prophet Top 40 Countdown. I am not Shadoe Stevens and this countdown does not feature the Black-Eyed Peas or Mariah Carey. In any event, we will look at several teams from the ACC and Pac-10 as well as an up-and-comer from the Buckeye State that plays in the A-10 (it may not be who you think). Let's go!
Why they will make the tournament (and could make the Sweet 16): Gary Williams isn’t likely to hear any words of doubt from his university colleagues this season. Greivis Vasquez is the obvious star and isn’t shy about letting you know it. Milbourne, Hayes and Mosley add help.
Why they won’t win a game: Vasquez has the unique “talent” of running his mouth at inopportune times. He needs to let his game do the talking. They have no one taller than 6-9 who will see significant time – needless to say, they struggle on the boards.
Early season test: December 6 against Villanova. Gotta love the Big East-ACC challenge. No sarcasm with that statement, either.
Why they will make the tournament (and could make the Sweet 16): Four starters come back from a 27-win team that knocked off West Virginia in the Dance. The lone flyer who took off will be ably replaced by one of the capable reserves. London Warren treats the ball as if it were gold (30th in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio).
Why they won’t win a game: Outside of Xavier the A-10 won’t offer much training for the Dance. Chris Wright is the leading scorer but only averaged 13 points a game last season.
Early season test: They get Georgia Tech almost right off the bat on November 19. Don’t be surprised if you see an upset here as the Jackets are highly ranked mostly based on precocious freshmen.
Why they will make the tournament (and could make the Sweet 16): John Beilein’s fanatical attention to detail returned the Wolverines to the national scene. Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims are productive and experienced. They have experience on the bench as well in both the frontcourt and backcourt.
Why they could be out after round 2: Their taller players, outside of Sims, are more skilled on the perimeter than the paint. A huge key (no pun intended) is center Ben Cronin, who flashed some skills before his hip sidelined him last season. Even without Cronin they shouldn’t have finished near the bottom of Division I in rebounding margin.
Early season test: December 19 at Kansas. Take a load off before hitting the malls and watch this one.
Why they will make the tournament (and could make the Sweet 16): Beilein’s former team has been remade into the tough defensive bunch Huggie Bear likes. Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks make up two-thirds of one of the nation’s best frontcourts. Joe Mazzulla, who was a key freshman on one of Beilein’s last Mountaineer squads, returns to run the show following a painful shoulder injury.
Why they could be out after round 2: Alex Ruoff took his shooting touch with him when he graduated. Who’s gonna shoot the rock? Darryl Bryant ran the team well in Mazzulla’s absence. but had some off-the-court issues this summer.
Early season test: Not much until conference season starts. No reason to think they won’t be undefeated once they hit the Big East.
Why they will make the tournament (and could make the Sweet 16): After a storied career where he starred in such movies as Wimbledon and Firewall Paul Bettany returns to the screen….sorry, I mean Kyle Singler (there’s a heck of a likeness, trust me) heads the Devils’ playground. Jon Scheyer can run the offense while getting his points. Coach K adds another Plum-Lee recruiting class (Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly).
Why they could be out after round 2: Olek Czyz, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek could make this team a threat to win another championship if they played as advertised. Last season they combined to average ten points a game. Scheyer doesn’t have anone else to help run the offense as Nolan Smith didn’t prove that he was up to the task. Seth Curry won’t be able to contribute until 2010-11.
Early season test: There are some name schools on their schedule before they hit ACC play but none that should pose a threat.
Why they should make the Sweet 16: Samardo Samuels should build off last year’s solid freshman campaign to become one of the Big East’s dominant big men. Sosa, Smith and Knowles form a formidable backcourt trio. Watch for freshmen Stephen Van Treese and Peyton Siva.
Why they could be out after round 2: Karen Cunagin Sypher. She doesn’t play for UConn’s women’s team but her role as Derby City’s answer to Alex Forrest will serve as a distraction until the trial is completed. There were also some off-the-court issues with the players as well. It’s unknown who will replace Terrence Williams at the three-spot.
Early season test: January 2 isn’t exactly early but it’s before they start Big East play. Plus it’s Kentucky. Always entertaining.
Why they should make the Sweet 16: The Huskies’ Isaiah Thomas didn’t bankrupt a league and a NBA marquee team. Together with super-newbie Abdul Gaddy and Venoy Overton this is the best backcourt to average under six feet tall since the Lollipop Guild tore up the OBL (Oz Basketball League).
Why they could be out after round 2: Quincy Pondexter isn’t six-nine or ten. Matthew Bryan-Amaning is but struggled against Pac-10 play, which he can’t do again if he wants to take over as top hound for Jon Brockman.
Early season test: December 22 against Texas A&M. Before that a potential upset looms on December 12 when they face Georgetown.
Why they should make the Sweet 16 (with some Elite Eight potential): Jarvis Vanardo. If he were seven feet people would make Tim Duncan comparisons. The Bulldogs were able to use Vanardo as a centerpiece to their Villanova-like four-guard set, which was effective everywhere but the boards. In addition, controversial recruit Renardo Sidney has permission to land in Starkville, which means a talented starter from last season will come off the bench.
Why they could be out after round 2: The truth is that their likely second-round opponent in the Dance will have to play very well to beat this bunch. Either Ravern Johnson or Phil Turner will be relegated to sixth-man status and together they averaged 20 points a game. A lot of NBA teams would love to have a bench player like that. They could cut down on the turnovers a bit.
Early season test: They go to Westwood to take on UCLA on December 12.
Why they will make the tournament (and could make the Sweet 16): Their recruiting class is a monster one if only because of Derrick Favors, who should challenge for the honor of being the nation’s top freshman. Gani Lawal and Iman Shumpert are a great inside-outside combo and coach Paul Hewitt can use two point guards at once if he puts freshman Mdon Udofia out there.
Why they could be out after round 2: The returnees went 12-19 last season, the only team in this list to have a losing record. The big reasons were turnovers (they ranked a pitiful 314th in the nation) and scoring defense (they gave as good as they got). They’re also depending a lot on freshmen.
Early season test: Dayton and Siena provide interesting matchups in a two-week span (November 19 and December 2).
Why they should make the Sweet 16: Experience really counts in the backcourt. Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher make that experience really, really count with their combined 33 points a game. Forwards Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin are fellow seniors who give the Golden Bears one of the best one-thru-four lineups in the country.
Why they could be out after round 2: This is a classic donut team as Harper Kamp will give inches at the pivot unless 7-3 project Max Zhang suddenly blossoms. Cal also tends to underachieve when highly ranked and hasn’t made the Sweet 16 since Jason Kidd’s freshman year.
Early season test: Before the December 22 donnybrook against Kansas they face Syracuse on November 19.