Everyday I will give a new reason to be pumped for the upcoming college basketball season. We are about 80 days from the start of meaningful college basketball.
Today's reason to be pumped for basketball season: Parity among the top eight teams.
I'm going to slightly contradict myself with this first statement, UNC is without a doubt the best team in the nation.
With that said, there are seven more teams that could be potentially so good this year, that they could easily have won the title last year and will give North Carolina a serious run for their money in 2008-2009.
What's even more amazing about the strength at the top is four of those teams come from one conference - the Big East. UCONN, Pitt, Notre Dame, and Louisville are bringing back the majority of their core players.
Purdue, Duke, and Oklahoma also all bring back the majority of their players. Purdue's freshmen class was over looked beginning the year, but by February had the respect of every educated college basketball fan in the country. Duke will ride a very balanced lineup anchored by veteran guard Greg Paulus and multi-talented forward Kyle Singler. Oklahoma loses the all-name forward in Longar Longar, but brings back potential number one overall pick in 2009, Blake Griffin.
Those teams will all be chasing North Carolina who's absolutely stacked from top to bottom. Widely considered the best team entering the tournament in 2008, UNC suffered a devestating loss to Kansas and almost lost three of their best players to the NBA draft , but guards Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington withdrew their names as did dynamic winger Danny Green.
Lawson withdrew despite basically saying a player enters the NBA draft to play in the NBA, not to test the waters. A few weeks later Lawson took his name out of the draft to play another season for the Tar Heels.
Add in Tyler Hansbrough who barring injury or bizarre regression in skill should break almost every UNC and ACC scoring and rebound record and you get a team that should coast to the Final Four and probably a National Championship.
But of course it can't be that easy. There are four Big East teams that will give them a legitimate challenge assuming they don't beat the living hell out of each other during the conference season.
Pittsburgh is coming off a Big East title and a Dickie V prediction to win the 2008 NCAA tournament. Sam Young, one of the Big East's best scorers, Levance Fields, one of the BE's best guards, and DeJaun Blair, one of the conference's best bangers down low combine to give Pitt one of the most explosive threesomes in the country.
UCONN returns everybody. And I mean everybody. Point guard A.J. Price will miss some due to an ACL injury, but will be back by the conference season which is the only thing that matters with the Huskies since coach Jim Calhoun never schedules anyone in the non-conference slate. Star recruit Kemba Walker may make UCONN fans forget about Price for awhile.
Hasheem Thabeet is tall. Very tall. Seven foot three tall. And he blocks shots, lots of them. He's also becoming an accomplished scorer and solid free throw shooter. In the front court joining him is senior Jeff Adrien who's a potential all-conference forward.
Louisville lost the best passing big man in the country in David Padgett to graduation and big body Derrick Caracter to the NBA draft, but that is certainly not going to keep this team away from a potential Final Four run. Why? Two of the very best incoming power forwards in the country are going to be Cardinals in 2009. Terrence Jennings and Samuardo Samuels are scary good.
Terrence Williams is as explosive as any player in the country and Earl Clark just seems like he does everything. Louisville fans should be thanking whatever they worship that these two stayed out of the NBA draft.
Notre Dame will be just as good with the best duo in the conference in Naismith candidate Luke Harangody and sharp shooter Kyle McAlarney. Point guard Tory Jackson is also one of the premier guards in the league. The Celtics showed trios make great champions which is something Notre Dame and the other great Big East teams have.
So reason #80 you should be pumped for basketball season to begin is the top eight teams in the country are absolutely stacked and are as good as any team was in 2008.