College Basketball Contenders

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IDecember 25, 2008

Cutting down the nets in April is reserved for only the best. The complete teams, the teams littered with shooters and rebounders, slashers and shot-blockers are the ones that share the one shining moment that seemingly lasts a lifetime.

With one third of the season complete, several squads have stood out as serious candidates to take the title.

Legitimate Contenders

North Carolina

The Tar Heels are the nations' best. There's no doubting this. But the best team doesn't always win the title. UNC is a very good defensive team, but isn't in the elite tier of defensive squads. With how good Roy Williams' team is offensively, that probably won't matter.

With several future NBA stalwarts like All-Americans Tyler Hansbrough and Ty Lawson, shooting guard Wayne Ellington and big man Deon Thompson, North Carolina will never run out of options with the ball.


With wins over three likely NCAA Tournament teams in the non-conference schedule (Miami, Wisconsin, and Gonzaga), the Huskies have already established their legitimacy as one the country's top teams. From point guard to center and everything in between, the Huskies have the talent to matchup with any kind of team.

Forwards Jeff Adrien and Hasheem Thabeet make one of the top frontcourt tandems in the country. While guards Jerome Dyson and A.J. Price can go toe to toe with almost any backcourt in the nation when healthy.


The Panthers have one of the top threesomes in the country with veterans Levance Fields and Sam Young providing the passing and the scoring. While sophomore stud DeJuan Blair is the beast under the basket.

Pitt is among the top of the country in both offense and defense. And the team's incredible depth keeps its key players fresh all game. Eleven different Panthers average at least nine minutes per game.


This great Blue Devil team is not the usual Blue Devil team. Coach Mike Krzyzewski typically has a starting lineup filled with McDonald's All-Americans and little production off the bench. This year is much different. Coach K's starting lineup is one of the best, but he also has numerous weapons off the pine to exploit the other team's weaknesses.

Something that's still the same is Duke continues to have several players who can knock down a long bomb and still plays in your face defense.


The Sooners have the leading candidate for the National Player of the Year, Blake Griffin. The sophomore is also the likely No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. With several 20 point, 20 rebound games already in the books, Griffin is on pace to have one of the most dominating seasons for a college big man in the last decade.

Oklahoma isn't just a one man show. Blake's older brother, Taylor Griffin is an extremely talented offensive rebounder and shot-blocker. The Big 12's only McDonald's All-American, Willie Warren can put the ball on the floor and get to the hoop. The Sooners also have enough shooters to prevent teams from packing the box on them.

Teams a Step Away


The Baby Boilermakers are starting to grow up, but Purdue is still a little soft on the inside and doesn't have one scorer that strikes fear in the hearts of opponents. E'Twaun Moore and Robbie Hummell make for a solid inside-outside combination, but in all reality, this team is probably a year away from being legitimate title contenders.


The Orange play the same way night in and night out. Jim Boeheim's club scores its 80 points, plays enough defense to win and moves onto the next day. But it seems like the 'Cuse does this with every team from Kansas to Coppin State.

It's already caught up to them once against Cleveland State, but with three wins against top 25 teams already, it's hard to dismiss the Orange.


The Bears have the best quartet of guards in the country with senior leader Curtis Jerrells, spark-plug LaceDarius Dunn and do-it all guards Tweety Carter and Henry Dugat. But coach Scott Drew's backcourt doesn't have to shoulder the entire load.

Forward Kevin Rogers is a tremendous offensive rebounder and finisher while freshman Quincy Acy provides fireworks with his incredible athleticism. But the Bears lack experience and have been inconsistent on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor in 2008.

Wake Forest

The late Skip Prosser's replacement, Dino Gaudio has gotten the most out of the roster Prosser left him. He's put together a front-line of trees that forms an impenetrable forest that surrounds the basket.

James Johnson is one of the best wings in the country you've probably never heard of. Al-Farouq Aminu, the top freshman you've also haven't heard about, and Jeff Teague, the ACC's best player, unknown to many.

Not knowing of these players isn't a sin. Wake wasn't very good last year and hasn't played a lot of strong teams that would gain them exposure this year. The Demon Deacons lack a point guard and experience. The combination should be enough to keep them out of the Final Four.





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