Road to The Final Four: Irrefutable Statements About The Upcoming Season
Pretty much the same premise as last year's article: The following statements can be debated, argued, and squabbled over, but in the end the counterarguments against them aren't strong enough to make the statement debatable.
Last year's turned out pretty well...North Carolina was undoubtedly the best, the Big East was insanely strong, Indiana defined terrible, no mid-major league stood out, and the freshman lacked significant impact.
1. When not violating the law, Kansas is the best team in the country.
The Jayhawks have certainly had their issues during the offseason. Players fighting with fellow student-athletes, facebook wars, drunken driving incidents would have Kansas fighting with Binghamton for the top spot of the Fulmer Cup (if basketball had such a version).
If Kansas can ignore the distractions and focus on the hardwood, then this team will be practically unstoppable. Bill Self has himself a collection of talented players that rivals the strength of last year's North Carolina team which steam-rolled to a title during the NCAA Tournament.
Kansas better get its act into gear right now. While the Jayhawks are confidently the best team entering the season, the gap between KU and other teams like Texas, Michigan State, and even Kentucky isn't as wide as North Carolina's gap.
Bill Self's team makes the above statement true because he has a wide variety of superior talent. Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich form the best one-two, inside-outside punch in the nation. Both could easily be All-Americans by the end of the season.
The talent doesn't end with Aldrich and Collins. The Jayhawks are the premiere team in the land because of the support Aldrich and Collins have. Freshman Xavier Henry will start from day one and provide the extra punch KU needs from a swing man.
The rest of the backcourt is loaded with players like Tyshawn Taylor who will eventually be a first round NBA pick when he leaves Lawrence and also incoming freshman Elijah Johnson.
Aldrich also has forwards around him that will take the pressure off him to dominate the paint. Aldrich was looked to for significant contributions last year as forwards Markieff and Marcus Morris developed as freshmen. Now as sophomores, in addition to stud transfer Jeff Withey and freshman Thomas Robinson, the Jayhawks' frontcourt shouldn't be as much of a one-man band.
2. The Big 10 is the best in not just the Midwest, but the whole nation...
This one is actually quite debatable, but in the end, the Big 10 will dominant this year.
Yes, the Big 10 brand of basketball is generally somewhat of a snooze fest with those great 37-33 games, but that doesn't mean it can't be the best basketball this year (besides the Pac-10 is quickly catching up in the category of ugly basketball).
It will be undeniable how good the Big 10 really will be this season. Michigan State and Purdue are interchangeable at the top of conference. Both squads bring back the majority of their rosters from excellent teams last season.
The Spartans are missing a few replaceable parts from last year's National Runner-Up team while Purdue returns everybody from a Sweet 16 squad.
After Purdue and Michigan State, there is a cluster of top 25 worthy teams that can really be ordered anywhere from third to sixth.
Ohio State has an All-American in Evan Turner who excelled in his first test at point guard in the Buckeyes first exhibition game. Thad Matta has a stellar starting five that should be thinking Sweet 16.
The Buckeyes' old time rival, Michigan has an outstanding one-two punch with Manny Harris (another potential All-American) and DeShawn Sims. Another year in John Beilein's system means another push towards incredibly efficient basketball.
Minnesota has hit a speed bump in its quest for a Sweet 16 after Devron Bostick and Royce White were suspended indefinitely. But even without those two, the Golden Gophers are still a borderline top 25 team and a threat to overachieve with Tubby Smith, a great x's and o's coach, at the helm.
Illinois should also figure into the mix with reliable point guard Demetri McCamey and the Mike and Mike's, Davis and Tisdale in the frontcourt. The Fighting Illini also have a superbly talented freshman class that should give Illinois a jolt off the bench.
These six teams give the conference the best top six in the entire country and the next two best teams in the league aren't slouches either. Northwestern could make its first ever NCAA Tournament this season behind Kevin Coble while Wisconsin's Bo Ryan coached team lurks in the shadows with great balance.
3. ...and the Atlantic-10 is the conference outside the big six.
So technically the A-10 isn't considered by most as a mid-major because of the amount of money those schools spend on athletics and basketball specifically, but in all reality, the A-10 doesn't fit in with the big six conferences.
You won't see the A-10 put half its team in the tournament like big six conferences do, but you will see on a yearly basis the Atlantic 10 fight with the Missouri Valley Conference, Mountain West Conference, and Conference USA as the best non-big six league.
This year, that fight won't even be close.
The Atlantic 10 is absolutely stacked at the top of the league. Dayton is clearly a top 20 team with high flier Chris Wright leading the way. After the Flyers, parity dominates the upper echelon of the 14 team league.
Typical powerhouse Xavier is taken a slight step back in 2010 with new coach Chris Mack walking the sidelines. The Musketeers should still compete for the second spot in the league and make the NCAA Tournament.
Richmond's Chris Mooney and his Princeton Style offense finally has all the pieces to be a slow, but deadly weapon. The Spiders have two great guards Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalvez as well as stud center Dan Geriot who's back after missing last season.
La Salle could also make the NCAA Tournament to give the Atlantic 10 at least four tournament teams. The Explorers return all five starters and bring in perhaps the best freshman in the Atlantic 10, Aaric Murray.
The Charlotte 49ers should also be much improved with Boston College transfer Shamari Spears. Duquesne could also contend for an NCAA Tournament berth if they can replace leading scorer Aaron Jackson.
No other mid-major conference has that kind of depth at the top. The Missouri Valley could come close this year with Northern Iowa, Creighton, Illinois State, and Southern Illinois touting solid teams, but those four aren't in the same ballpark as Dayton, Xavier, Richmond, and La Salle.
4. John Wall deserves Player of the Year consideration from day one (well actually day four).
After John Wall serves his two game suspension, he should immediately be considered a player of the year candidate. The situation Wall enters couldn't be more perfect for the most highly touted recruit since Michael Beasley.
For a player that is practically a shoe-in to be the top pick in the 2010 draft, there is no debating how good Wall will be.
He should have a very similar impact to John Calipari's last stud point guard recruit, Derrick Rose. Although Rose later proved to be ineligible, he was a slick point guard that excelled in Calpari's dribble-drive motion offense. Rose had no problems slashing to the basket or getting his teammates involved when defenders sealed his path to the hoop.
Wall is that same kind of point guard who may even be a better scorer than Rose ever was in 2008. With a strong supporting cast around Wall, he should have no issue scoring as opposing defenses won't be able to focus on just stopping him.
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