They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom. ~Confucius
Why is it that I read Confucius in my Yoda voice? Probably for the same reason I write preseason rankings articles before underclassmen make their NBA declarations.
So here I am, conical hat in hand, with a June version of the preseason top 10.
1) Duke Blue Devils. Coach K’s group should be a unanimous number one pick going in to the 2010-2011 season, and why not. The Blue Devils actually are a much stronger team than last year’s championship squad after trading Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek, and Lance Thomas for Kyrie Irving, transfer sniper Seth Curry, and a more experienced and stronger pair of Plumlees.
I love Scheyer, and the Thomas/Zoubek interior monster wrecked shop in the tournament, but the additions of the explosive Irving and another Curry scoring machine and the Blue Devils become downright explosive on the perimeter.
Oh yeah, the Devils also have POY candidate Kyle Singler and the steadying influence of the quiet assassin Nolan Smith.
Duke has a great chance to repeat their 1992 championship season in which the Blue Devil went wire to wire as the number 1 team in the land and coincidentally wrapped up a back-to-back titles. Hmmm…
2) Ohio State Buckeyes. Jared Sullinger is probably the one of the two best incoming freshmen in America, and he gives the Buckeyes the star power inside they haven’t had since the last freshman big man that took them to a title game in Greg Oden.
Sullinger will be surrounded by experience perimeter guys that are versatile enough offensively to take pressure on the budding superstar with their own dynamic games. Diebler, Lighty, and Buford have the ability to shoot it, put it on the deck, and find with the best in the nation.
And they’re all upperclassmen, which means Sullinger will be getting the ball in situations and in places on the floor that give him the best chance of success.
Dallas Lauderdale and Deshaun Thomas give the Buckeyes depth and balance off the bench. Also, don’t be surprised to see Thad Matta protect his young pup with some patented, active 2-3 zone. Sometimes simple is better, but the Bucks will be in the title hunt.
3) Purdue Boilermakers. So last season Robbie Hummel was Kenyon Martin-ed, essentially ending Purdue’s title run, but don’t cry for Boiler fan just yet.
With the return of Etwaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson and a healthy Hummel, there isn’t a team in America as talented at all three levels as Coach Painter’s troika. Plus, Hummel’s injury wasn’t all bad news considering DJ Byrd, Kelsey Barlow, and Lewis Jackson were able to get valuable big game experience in the tournament.
The Boilers will need the depth in the conference play and beyond. This depth along with forcing opponents to guard a great perimeter player in Moore, a terrific wing in Hummel, and an explosive big in Johnson, makes Purdue formidable opponent for any team in America. It also makes them a legit final four squad.
4) Kansas Jayhawks. There’s a serious drop-off after the first 3 teams, so there’s probably four or maybe five teams with a strong argument to be rated in the top four. I’ll go with KU because they look to have the best mix of interior and perimeter balance, star power, and experience.
This year’s Kansas attack begins with the Morris twins Marcus and Markieff. Down the stretch and into the tournament the Jayhawks were simply a better team with the twins in the game dominating block to block than they were with Cole Aldrich.
Pop in the tape and watch.
Marcus Morris would dominate the strong side block with terrific footwork coupled with brute strength for easy post offense. Most of Marcus’ Misses were cleaned up by Markieff on the weak side glass. So it stands to reason that KU actually gets more production inside than they had last season.
On the perimeter, things get tricky for Coach Self. He’ll have to manage a number of talented players and a host of fragile egos starting with Tyshawn Taylor. If Self can get Taylor to buy-in to the KU system, the Jayhawks will be fine because that will mean guys like Reed and Morningstar are getting involved.
If Tyshawn’s floor game doesn’t improve, however, blue trip freshman lead guard Josh Selby will be called upon to be both facilitator and scorer which is a lot to ask for a first year player. So the key is Taylor, if he starts to get “it” pencil in KU as a final four team. If not, the wheels come off if Selby isn’t up for the task.
5) Kansas State. The bad news for ‘Cats fans is that Denis Clemente is gone. The good news is that his 30 heat checks with 30 seconds to go on the shot clock are gone as well.
If KSU can find a distributor to go along with the experienced talent of Pullen, Kelly, and Sutton, the Wildcats will take better shots and be a more efficient club.
6) Michigan State. Lots of questions here. Is Izzo coming back? Yes. Is Kalin Lucas’ Achilles heel fully, umm, healed? If so, baby magic replica Draymond Green, along with Chris Allen, can carry the Spartans a long ways.
7) Villanova Wildcats. Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena, Maalik Wayns, and Dominic Cheeks are one of the two or three best starting fives in America.
Two solid shooting guards, a great wing player in Cheeks, and athletes inside mean sky’s the limit for the Wildcats if Coach Wright can push the right chemistry buttons. Still ‘Nova is your odds on favorite to win the Big East.
8. North Carolina Tar Heels. I’m calling my shot. Yes Harrison Barnes is that good and he’s the kind of player that makes his teammates better. For Roy Williams, that’s a bit of good news considering the players that will improve with Barnes on the floor are already talented.
Guys like Henson, Strickland, Drew, and Bullock will find a lot of room on the floor with so much attention being paid to Harrison Barnes. Look for the Heels to bounce back in a big way.
9) Pitt Panthers. With Ashton Gibbs as a dynamic combo guard, flanked by the steady hand of Brad Wannamaker, Jamie Dixon has the type of backcourt that can win games.
Throw in a frontcourt with the physicality of Gary McGhee, the post-up talent of Nassir Robinson, and the leadership of Gilbert Brown, and you have a recipe for success. Jamie Dixon’s teams always guard, and this team will be no different with so much experience on the floor.
10) Illinois Illini. Rounding out the top 10 is a team with about as much experience as the Pitt Panthers. The Illini return their starting five including four players that averaged double digit points a game.
Demetri McCamey, one of the best 4 or 5 point guards in America is among that group and he’ll be surrounded by a wealth of experienced talent.
The more things change, the more they stay the same it seems. The list is dominated by the Big 10, Big East, and ACC.
Maybe Confucius was wrong.
Or maybe it was just me.
Kevin Berger writes the leading college hoops blog March To March .
Follow him on Twitter: @MarchToMarch
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