Road to the Final Four at Ford Field: Statements You Can't Argue Against

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer INovember 2, 2008

There is a pretty easy premise for this 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.


1. When healthy, North Carolina is the best team in the country.

Recent injuries to Marcus Ginyard and Tyler Hansbrough have left doubts whether the Tar Heels are going to be the best team in the country come April. If Ginyard and Hansbrough return to the court 100 percent, there is no reason why North Carolina isn't the best team in the country.

Pollsters picked UNC to be the preseason unanimous number one team for good reason. Roy Williams has all five starters back from last year's Final Four team, a team that most considered for the majority of the season to be the best team in the country. UNC also has one of the nation's best sixth men in Danny Green.

The Tar Heels also have an incredible amount of experience. The seven players that will see the most time for Coach Williams are all upperclassmen who combined have played almost 75 NCAA Tournament games.


2. The Big East is the best conference in America, and it's not even close.

Four top 10 teams, nine that flirt with the top 25, and three more that have the talent to make the NIT. The top to bottom talent in the Big East is jaw-dropping and unmatched. Several coaches are on the record saying the collection of teams in the Big East is the greatest group of teams in one conference in college basketball history.

The conference is that good this year.

In past years, you could make the argument that there's an East Coast bias and the conference is overrated because of its size, but that's simply not the case in 2009.

UConn, Pitt, Louisville, and Notre Dame will be contenders to reach the Final Four. Georgetown, Villanova, Syracuse, Marquette, and West Virginia have more than enough talent to reach the NCAA Tournament.

The only other conference that compares to the Big East in 2009 is the ACC, but the drop-off after the top six teams in that conference is too dramatic, and the top of the conference isn't as strong as the top of the Big East.

3. Indiana is flat-out awful and will be fighting with Northwestern and Iowa to stay out of the Big Ten basement.

Name a Hoosier. Try it. It's fun and frustrating because you probably can't. Tom Crean received a team decimated by graduation and defection to the pros and other schools. Indiana returns just one percent of its scoring from 2008.

Crean won't be bringing in a tremendous amount of talent either. His recruiting class falls in the middle of the Big Ten and doesn't bring in a single player in Scout's list of Top 100 players.

As for Indiana's competition to stay out of the basement, Northwestern finally has some height and experience. Bill Carmody should finally have the personnel to win a few games in Evanston.

Iowa is also in bad shape for 2009, but the Hawkeyes return several starters and bring in a solid recruiting class.


4. No one Mid-Major conference will be head and shoulders above the rest.

The West Coast Conference and Conference USA will be the class of the mid-majors this year, but neither will step up and be clearly better than the other. Both conferences have a nice group of teams at the top, but both drop off significantly towards the bottom.

The West Coast Conference has three teams that will contend for an NCAA Tournament spot. Gonzaga is generally considered a top 10 team, while St. Mary's College, behind star guard Patty Mills, is a borderline top 25 team. San Diego will also fight for a berth in the Big Dance.

Conference USA finally has some parity, but it's not because of mediocrity. Memphis is the favorite to take the title again, but UAB, Tulsa, and UTEP all have the talent to make some noise and take down the Tigers.

5. This year's freshman class won't have as big as impact as last year's freshman class.

Derrick Rose, Michael Beasley, O.J. Mayo, Kevin Love, Eric Gordon, Jerryd Bayless and Anthony Randolph: Those seven players were all freshmen and were all picked in the NBA Draft Lottery.

That list still leaves out several more freshmen picked in the first round of the draft, as well as players like James Harden and Blake Griffin, who returned to school after outstanding freshman campaigns.

This year's freshman class has numerous notable names, but in terms of depth, impact, and pro prospects, this freshman class doesn't compare to last year's.

UCLA's Jrue Holliday, Memphis's Tyreke Evans, USC's Demar DeRozan, and Ohio State's B.J. Mullens are the only ones that will have the immediate, night in and night out impact of last year's outstanding freshman class.

There are certainly other freshmen that will have a significant impact on their teams, but not to the level of last year's fabulous freshmen.