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NCAA Men’s Basketball: Top Teams [redux 2.0]

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NCAA Basketball: Northern Illinois at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

The changes:

The first thing I have tried to do is to “shorten the benches” as teams’ depth charts have shifted and as the primary playing groups have tightened up (and as guys have gotten injured or come back from injury, or transferred).

I have cut the number of teams ranked down to 35 as I try to narrow my group of teams considered towards the group that I think will actually have a shot to do things in the NCAA tournament.

I am no longer featuring the two major polls, and I have left in some comments with strike-throughs to see where I have revised a few qualitative thoughts.

Without further ado...

The TRUE depth-charts and rankings of the ACTUAL top-35 NCAA men’s basketball teams at the rough mid-way point
(brief comments per team, if I have something to say):

(Disclaimer: I am not a genius, have no ability to predict the future, a tenuous grasp of reality, and may have completely forgotten, omitted, or mis-depth-charted various players due to transfers I didn’t know about or check on, legal issues, injuries, etc. please DO let me know about factual or obvious omissions and errors)

I view this as a collective exercise in debate and silliness: please offer your thoughts and critiques and don’t be surprised if I change my rankings and depth charts based on your excellent input!

#1 (Kenpom - 2) Duke (#1 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Jones
2 - Barrett, O’Connell
3 - Reddish
4 - Williamson, White
5 - Bolden, DeLaurier

I still think Duke is the top team in the country, Williamson, Barrett, Reddish, and Jones are just superb (despite Reddish’s recent dip in form), but this team can be beaten (I will save that game plan discussion for when MSU meets them in the tourney), and they do have weaknesses.

#2 (Kenpom - 1) Virginia (#12 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Jerome, Clark
2 - Guy, Anthony, Stattmann
3 - Hunter, Badocchi
4 - Diakite, Key
5 - Salt, Huff

UVA is #2 for me at this point. Not sure why I didn’t have them higher in the pre-season. The only reason they lost to UMBC last year was because they didn’t have Hunter. Yes, they play slow, which makes them vulnerable, but they are so good so athletic, and so good offensively that I don’t see them as anything but a Final Four favorite. I think they match up very well against Duke and wouldn’t be surprised to see them win the ACC.

#3 (Kenpom - 4) Gonzaga (#8 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Perkins, Crandall
2 - Norvell jr
3 - Kispert, Jones
4 - Hachimura
5 - Clarke, Tillie, Petrusev

I was wrong, I admit it, Gonzaga is really good. Their defense hasn’t been very good, but I think once they get everyone healthy and rolling (Tillie and Crandall just got back healthy) that they will become a much better defensive team by the time they get to the tournament. Final Four favorite, with the goods to play any style and beat any team. Assuming they turn themselves into a top-20 type defense (they definitely have the personnel to do so), they are a great bet to win it all.

#4 (Kenpom - 5) Michigan (#10 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Simpson
2 - Poole, Brooks
3 - Matthews
4 - Brazdeikis, Livers
5 - Teske, Davis, Johns

I was happy with my pre-season top-10 ranking of Michigan, and I was happy with my assessment of them coming in (especially my prediction that Brazdekis would be a really good shooter, scorer, and player in general - he had a shocker @ Wisconsin, but he will be on the all frosh team). I think Michigan is certainly in the top group of teams in the country, but, unless they get Johns more involved/playing well, I am nervous that they have already fully reached their ceiling. Simpson has already had the best shooting/scoring game he will have all season, and they have faced very little adversity. The biggest issue is their shooting, which I don’t trust, despite their having a number of guys with decent percentages. They play such good defense, and are so locked in and united, but only 13 teams have finished the season outside the Kenpom top 20 in offensive efficiency and made the Final Four (out of 36 for you mathematicians) (UM, Loyola-Chicago, South Carolina, Syracuse x2, UCONN, Wichita St, OSU, Louisville, Butler x2, VCU, and MSU), UM is straddling that line having played about as well as they can offensively. If they have any dips, then they may fall below that realtively-telling threshold. Not fatal, but not ideal.

#5 (Kenpom - 6) Tennessee (#6 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Bone
2 - Bowden, Pons, Turner
3 - Schofield, Johnson
4 - Williams, Fulkerson
5 - Alexander, Walker jr

I loved this team in the pre-season, and I still do. They should win the SEC, and have 2 awesome focal points in Schofield and, especially, Williams. They have a micro-wave scorer off the bench in Turner (finally healthy and starting to find his form), a solid PG in Bone, and a bunch of athletic and tough secondary players (Pons, Johnson, Fulkerson, Alexander, and Walker jr). Of course Tennessee is straddling the converse of UM’s challenge: they sit outside the top 20 in defensive efficiency at this point; only 9 teams who have made the Final Four finished the season outside of the top 20 in defensive efficiency (still out of 36 teams) (Kansas, UNC, Wisconsin, MSU x2, UK, Wisconsin, UM, WVU). Not fatal, but not ideal.

#6 (Kenpom - 3) Michigan State (#11 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Winston, Loyer
2 - Langford, Henry, Brown
3 - McQuaid, Ahrens
4 - Goins
5 - Ward, Tillman

This team is increasingly a great bet to make a deep tourney run. MSU is inside the top-10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, has identified a legit closer in Winston, has a match-up nightmare in Ward, and, assuming Ahrens and Langford get healthy and resume their excellent early-season play, have 4-5 really good wings to go along with two more outstanding secondary big-men. Most importantly this team has really developed a defensive identity and has really begun to lock teams down. This team has basically the same statistical profile compared to last years team, but considerably more intangibles. Assuming health, this team is a very good bet (if you are a bettor) to make the Final Four (place that bet now, before Josh and Ahrens get back and the hype builds - you will get a better pay-out; I don’t bet, but if I did I would be placing it NOW).

#7 (Kenpom - 10) Kentucky (#3 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Hagans, Quickley
2 - Herro, Baker
3 - Johnson
4 - Travis, Montgomery
5 - Washington, Richards

Now that Green is gone, and Hagans (whose best skill is illegally hand-checking PG’s and never getting called for doing so) has taken over at the point, this team has found itself. They are still susceptible to teams with good wing players and competent bigs/interior players, but they have settled down and found out how to win games. They have almost no shooting, only 1 draftable player (Johnson, their lone “true” wing), and Calipari is going grey before our eyes, but they have a chance to get tough enough to make a run in the tourney and the SEC.

#8 (Kenpom - 8) North Carolina (#4 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - White, Woods
2 - Williams, Robinson
3 - Johnson, Little, Black
4 - Maye,
5 - Brooks, Manley, Huffman

People wanted to flame Izzo for not playing JJJ in one game last year, well Roy Williams hasn’t played his best lineup to start a game all season, and only plays it for 10% of games. He insists on forcing Little to the bench to play a big, when he needs to go small for most of game (and then bring in 2 bruisers to pound the glass for about 8-10 mins per game). Little, who is a good creator and great player inside the arc is out of sorts, and he is the key to UNC reaching their ceiling (roof?). It is bizarre. Hopefully Ol’ Roy keeps it up, and hopefully he keeps not-scouting teams. Tons of talent, very little grit or know-how in part because Roy is sabotaging the team. Still, they have a chance to make a run if they figure out how to score it a bit more efficiently - here’s looking at you Coby White.

#9 (Kenpom - 7) Purdue (#41 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Edwards
2 - Cline, Hunter jr
3 - Eastern, Stefanovic
4 - Eifert, Wheeler
5 - Williams, Haarms, Boudreaux

Moving Boudreaux to a bench role is a good move, and getting Williams as many minutes and touches as possible is essential for Purdue because he is the only other guy on the roster (other than Edwards) who can actually create offense for himself and others. Williams changes Purdue’s ceiling and his increased role gives me hope for their NCAA tourney fortunes. With the right match-ups this team can make a run because Edwards won’t be facing McQ very often for the rest of the year.

#10 (Kenpom - 9) Virginia Tech (#31 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Robinson
2 - Bede, Alexander-Walker
3 - Hill, Wilkins
4 - Outlaw, Horne
5 - Blackshear

They are the best shooting team in the country: five guys shooting better than 40% from 3, and another couple right around 35%. But they have very little depth in the post (one guy over 6’6” - Blackshear, their 6’10” wide-bodied center, who I like a lot). If they get better on defense on the perimeter then this is a Final Four sleeper.

#11 (Kenpom - 13) Kansas (#2 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Dotson
2 - Vick, Moore
3 - Garrett, Agbaji
4 - Grimes, Lawson
5 - Lawson, McCormack, Lightfoot

Bill Self is going to sweat through a lot of suits for the rest of the season. They barely scraped by vs Texas (2pt win), get a sneaky-tricky trip to WVU (update: they lost), and then have a 5 game gauntlet. If Kansas wins the Big XII this year they will have earned it. Dotson and Grimes have not been anywhere near as good this season as they were vs MSU to open the campaign (which is bizarre). Vick’s 3pt% has begun to regress to his mean, he is basically their only decent shooter (Dotson is at 43%, but only 34 3pt attempts and Grimes is at 30% having made nearly a 3rd of his 3’s vs us in the opening game of the season), and they no longer have their best match-up problem in Azubuike (hope he gets healthy). They are eminently beatable, as the rest of the Big XII season will demonstrate (I predict).

#12 (Kenpom - 12) Iowa State (#36 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Weiler-Babb
2 - Wigginton
3 - Shayok, Haliburton
4 - Horton-Tucker
5 - Jacobson, Lard, Conditt, Young

I really like this team. They are tough, talented, and have 5 guys on the perimeter who can all create offense for themselves and others (they basically play 4 wings at all times - Wigginton is their best passer). Foul-trouble or injuries derail them, so they have to be smart and lucky.

#13 (Kenpom - 17) Nevada (#5 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Johnson
2 - Martin, Henson
3 - Martin, Thurman, Zouzoua
4 - Caroline
5 - Porter, Brown

What a disappointing season so far. Their record is still good, they will win their league, win their league tourney, and may make a tourney run, but this team isn’t as good as they should be. The Martin twins have plateaued or regressed, and the freshman 5* Brown has not been good enough. Caroline and Jazz Johnson are their most important players: Caroline because he is their toughest player and best rebounder (and a good 3pt shooter), and Johnson because he is their best 3pt shooter (he and Caroline are almost their only guys here). If the Martin twins can find their swagger again, and, most importantly, if they can improve their defensive efficiency (#32 in the country flatters them from what I have seen), then they can become the NCAA tourney threat I thought they would be in the pre-season.

#14 (Kenpom - 20) Buffalo (NR in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Jordan, Segu
2 - Graves, Caruthers
3 - Massinburg, Williams
4 - Harris, Fagan
5 - Perkins, McRae, Bertram

This team is a bit over ranked, and a bit over-loved by the media (I am happy to explain why I have them ranked here, and how that can be reconciled with my claim that they are over ranked by the media: basically, I think their resume is that of a lower-ranked team, but I am buying “low” because I like their squad), but they ARE really good. They are tough as nails, have zero fear, and love taking care of the ball. Massinburg is a stone cold killer, and Graves, Harris, Perkins, and McRae can all shoot it well from 3 (yes, that is two guards and three good-shooting big men). They give up points, but are happy to beat teams in high scoring affairs. Solid bet for a mid-major sweet-16 team regardless of match-ups.

#15 (Kenpom - 15) Texas Tech (#16 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Culver, Moretti, Murray
2 - Mooney, Corprew, Edwards
3 - Francis, Moore
4 - Ondigo, Mballa
5 - Owens, Odiase

This is too high about right, really, for a team designed to take down Kansas in the Big XII, but also highly susceptible to an early NCAA-T exit (slow pace, one real offensive creator). Culver is superb. I love him. But the rest of their team just isn’t quite good enough offensively, individually. I think they can win the Big XII, or at least help take down Kansas, but they just aren’t good enough (#110 in O eff.) to be considered a real threat in the tourney.

#16 (Kenpom - 28) Mississippi Sate (#37 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Peters
2 - Weatherspoon, Carter
3 - Weatherspoon
4 - Holman, Woodard, Feazell
5 - Ado, Perry

They have solved their #1 issue I saw coming into the season in developing into a great 3pt shooting team: three +40% 3pt shooters, and another two in the mid 30% range. They also crash the offensive glass nicely, and have a great PnP big in Holman (+40% from 3pt range). But they, like Oklahoma, have loaded up their record with “good wins” vs highly rated mid-major/over-rated power conference teams at neutral sites or at home (Florida, Wofford, Cincinnati, Clemson, Dayton, St Marys) whose Kenpom ratings I don’t trust particularly. They let teams shoot ~50% in EFG, and they are still coached by Ben Howland. Just watched them again, and am bumping them up. Peters and the Weatherspoon boys are rock solid, and Holman and Perry I like a lot.

#17 (Kenpom - 11) Wisconsin (#23 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Trice
2 - Davison, Pritzl
3 - Iverson, King
4 - Reuvers, Ford, Thomas
5 - Happ

Happ is outstanding (even if he is inefficient and an embarrassing ft shooter - any coach that allows a guy to re-pocket the ball to the side of his body and then launch a set shot should be dis-barred). And now that Trice, Davison, and King are healthy, and now that Reuvers is firmly in place as their 4, this team should have a great close to their season. The win vs UM is big and should give them a needed boost of confidence. They don’t get enough from their bench and Trice and Davison need another year of seasoning before they reach their peaks.

#18 (Kenpom - 14) Louisville (#46 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Cunningham
2 - McMahon, Fore, Perry
3 - Sutton, King
4 - Nwora
5 - Enoch, Williams

Still really like this team, but I worry about them away from home. King just hasn’t been good enough, and Fore and Perry need to be combined into a single player by magic; Williams too just isn’t giving enough; in short, their bench isn’t good enough. Their margins are quite thin because they like giving up points, but they are very good on the glass on both ends. If they can hold it together through the ACC and make the tourney (they have 8 games left on their schedule where I don’t see them as the favorite) then they will have proved themselves worthy of this top-20 ranking. I have a sneaking suspicion that they will because Mack is a hell of a coach.

#19 (Kenpom - 42(!!!)) Kansas State (#15 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Stokes, Neal-Williams
2 - Brown, McGuirl
3 - Diarra, Trice
4 - Sneed, Shadd, Love III
5 - Wade, Mawien, Stockard III

After trying to literally destroy the rims and back-boards for much of the season by throwing brick after brick at them, as hard as they could, Kansas State has had an offensive prophet return to them from the wilderness, his name? Dean Wade. Finally healthy again (long may it last), this NBA-quality big with range, handles, toughness, low-post moves, passing quality, and defensive acumen has returned to the line-up precipitating two road wins over outstanding opponents (@Iowa St and @Oklahoma). Wade is the answer and the key to this team, he opens doors on offense and forces defenses to stop shading to Barry Brown. This team, currenty #188 in O eff. and #6 in D eff. will become a better offensive team over the back-half of the season and roll into the tourney ready to make another deep run. I love this team; keep an eye on them.

#20 (Kenpom - 22) Maryland (#27 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Cowan
2 - Ayala, Smith jr
3 - Morsell, Wiggins
4 - Smith, Lindo
5 - Fernando, Bender

I really like this Maryland team. They have lost 3 games by a combined 11 points (that’s pretty good - and those losses were vs UVA, @ Purdue, and vs Seton Hall, all great-to-solid teams). They have a PG who really knows how to operate, score, and distribute, they have 3 really good wings in Ayala (some idiot UMD fan told me he wouldn’t start), Morsell, and Wiggins (one of the best 6th men in the country). And, of course, they have Smith and Fernando a hammer-and-anvil big-man duo that is playing outstandingly well. They turn it over too much, and are incredibly young (zero seniors, Cowan is the ONLY junior, two sophomores, and five freshmen in their top 8 players), which has to be concerning once they get into high-pressure situations. But they have performed well in close games for the most part, and have the talent to make a run for the B1G championship and to make a tourney run. I’m just not sure they will do it this year (their best chance for a while given that Fernando and possibly Smith will head to the NBA this year).

#21 (Kenpom - 21) Oklahoma (NR in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Calixte, Bieniemy
2 - Reynolds
3 - James, Odomes
4 - Doolittle
5 - Manek, McNeace, Freeman

Oklahoma is tough, they defend well (#9 in D eff.), and they play for each other (after watching Trae Young jack bad shot after bad shot last year). But do I trust this team, their record, their rankings, or even their Kenpom rating? No. Every one of their “good wins” have come on neutral courts or at home (vs. good mid-major teams or relatively unimpressive power-con. teams), and the best of those wins have come against teams I don’t trust to be quite as good as their ratings either (Florida, Creighton, Northwestern, TCU, Wofford). They aren’t good offensively (#75 in O eff.), and have basically zero 3pt shooting. That is a recipe for competitiveness in the Big XII and an early exit in the NCAA tourney.

#22 (Kenpom - 36(!!!)) Syracuse (#9 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Howard, Carey
2 - Battle, Boeheim
3 - Hughes
4 - Brissett
5 - Dolezaj, Chukwu, Sidibe

Sigh. This team has so much talent, but they don’t play a real scheme on defense (they just hope that teams will miss 3’s - one of the reasons I thought they would beat Duke), and don’t run good stuff on offense (they just hope that their guys can make individual plays or that teams will give them free buckets by passing it to them). I still think that their talent will be enough to make the tourney though they have at least 6 more games that they should lose, so could struggle their way to the bubble and, potentially, out of the tourney if they lose any they shouldn’t.

#23 (Kenpom - 25) Villanova (#7 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Booth
2 - Gillespie, Quinerly
3 - Bey, Cremo
4 - Samuels jr, Swider
5 - Paschall, Roundtree

I have been disappointed by this Nova team, but maybe expecting Paschall, Samuels jr, Swider, and Roundtree to take significant leaps was asking too much (although they have settled down of late in the highly overrated Big East). They don’t defend (#80 in D eff.), but Booth, Bey, Gillespie, and Paschall have enough quality to take them through the soft under-belly of the over-hyped conference they play in. I don’t see them making the second weekend, but they have the veteran moxie to scrape through if their freshman keep getting better on defense.

#24 (Kenpom - 33) Marquette (#30 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Howard
2 - Anim, Chartouny
3 - Hauser, Bailey, Cain
4 - Hauser, Morrow jr
5 - John, Heldt

This team gets lots of hype because Howard is a flamethrower. But they are just good, not great, on both ends of the court, and will get exposed by some tough team in the NCAA tournament. They have a great resume, with a lot of great wins, but many of those were close wins or OT wins, and relying on doing that for a whole season and an entire NCAA tourney run is a fool’s errand.

#25 (Kenpom - 24) LSU (#24 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Waters, Kingsby
2 - Smart, Edwards, Hyatt
3 - Mays, Taylor
4 - Reid, Williams, Days
5 - Bigby-Williams, Cooper

They are still alive, for now. But I only have LSU here because of their outstanding talent level. They have opened SEC play well, but once they get to the tough games I expect them to fold.

#26 (Kenpom - 29) Iowa (#48 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Bohannon, McCaffery
2 - Moss
3 - Wieskamp, Dailey
4 - Cook, Baer, Kreiner
5 - Garza

Take a deep breath Fran, you’re in this. In the pre-season I said Iowa would be great IF they could improve their awful defense from last year. Last year, they were #242 in D eff. So far this year they are #91 in D. eff. They have room to improve on that end, but they have given themselves a chance. Their statistical improvement on the defensive end (oh and they are up to #11 in O eff., this year, after finishing last year at #19) has been reflected in their record, and they have some great wins already this year: neutral vs Oregon (with Bol healthy), vs Iowa St, vs Nebraska, and vs OSU (Iowa City is a fortress in case you haven’t noticed). Their only losses have been vs Wisc, @MSU, and @Purdue. If this team can take one or two more steps forward on the defensive end, then I really like them in the NCAA tourney. They can beat you in multiple ways: Cook and Garza down low, and from any of their six good-to-great 3pt shooters. Fran’s fellas play fast, they get to the line, they run good stuff, and are making teams earn it on defense. Really good team here.

#27 (Kenpom - 32) NC State (#51 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Beverly, Johnson, Harris
2 - Bryce
3 - Daniels, Lockett
4 - Dorn, Hellems
5 - Funderburk, Walker

NC State’s best win of the season came at home vs an Auburn team that basically committed seppuku by way of turnovers (25 TO’s - 32% TO rate!!!). But they are a solid offensive team that plays at a fast pace and crashes the offensive glass. They don’t get to the line (#258 on ft rate), don’t defend very well (#75 in D eff.), and let opposing teams head to the line at will. Solid, not great. I expect them to fall off the pace.

#28 (Kenpom - 23) TCU (#32 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Robinson
2 - Nembhard, Davis
3 - Bane
4 - Noi, Mayen
5 - Samuel, Miller

I feel bad for Jamie Dixon. This should have been a banner season (literally, potentially). Instead, mid-way through the season, his best player, Fisher, having missed most of the year, is transferring, and his most talented freshman, Archie, is also transferring. Add to that a handful of additional missed games by rotation guys, and nothing has gone right so far. That being said, they are still top 30 in both O and D eff. And will have a puncher’s chance to finish the season with a record good enough to make the tourney. The biggest key will be sharpening up against good defenses.

#29 (Kenpom - 31) Ohio State (#39 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Jackson, Washington jr
2 - Muhammad
3 - Woods, Jallow, Ahrens
4 - Wesson, Young
5 - Wesson, LeDee

OSU is struggling right now, but I still believe in this group. The key to their season will be changing their starting group. Young MUST start for them (Wesson doesn’t give enough on offense), and I would consider moving Washington into the starting line-up too. Unless they can find enough offense outside of Kaleb Wesson (what a beast he is), then they will continue to drift out to sea on a leaky dingy...

#30 (Kenpom - 17) Nebraska (#26 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Watson
2 - Allen
3 - Palmer jr, Akenten
4 - Roby, Copeland (out for the year with a torn ACL)
5 - Borchardt, Heiman

I still really like this Nebraska team, but they may be toast now that Copeland is done for the year. Sad. They still have multiple weapons, have some good play-makers and shot-makers in their bigs, and are pretty good defensively. This team will have a chance in the NCAA-T once they are away from B1G defenses and coaches. I like them to make a run to the sweet-16 depending on match-ups.

#31 (Kenpom - 30) Florida State (#17 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Forrest, Nichols
2 - Savoy, Walker, Vassell
3 - Mann, Polite
4 - Cofer, Gray
5 - Kabengele, Koumadje

This team should be better than they are. Their #1 problem is ball-handling and distribution. They don’t have a real PG and their offense suffers from it. But now that Cofer is back (a rock-solid, calming presence at the 4), I think they will settle down. The two 5-men are really great, and Koumadje needs to keep playing like he did @ Duke, when he was FSU’s best player. FSU’s biggest flaw is 3pt shooting, but, again, Cofer, a really good shooter, should help resolve that issue now that he is healthy. If Hamilton (a really good coach) can settle this team down and get them to smooth-out their wrinkles, then they could make another run to the second weekend. Look for them to just about run the table the rest of the way in the ACC and finish in the top-3.

#32 (Kenpom - 35) Washington (#38 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Crisp, Hardy
2 - Nowell, Bey
3 - Thybulle, Green
4 - Wright, Carter, Roberts
5 - Dickerson, Penn-Johnson, Timmins

They are the best team in the Pac-12. They play a 2-3 zone, and they have some not-totally terrible offensive players. They have a number of seniors in their rotation, and they get to waltz through the Pac-12. Good job Washington, you’re doing it!

#33 (Kenpom - 16) Auburn (#13 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Harper,
2 - Brown, McCormick
3 - Doughty, Dunbar,
4 - McLemore, Purifoy
5 - Okeke, Spencer III, Wiley (out for 4-6 weeks)

I am buying low on this Auburn team. They have a TON of talent and played poorly in each of their losses: they really beat themselves vs Duke (lost by 6), beat themselves @ NC State (lost by 7), didn’t bother to show up @ Ole Miss (the most concerning loss, but still doesn’t stress me too much - they shot terribly from all over the court), and they really missed Wiley in their loss to UK today. They have a dynamite PG in Harper (who needs to slow down a bit and “do-less”), a great off-guard in Brown (who needs to hunt GOOD shots), and OUTSTANDING athleticism, length, grit, and depth at the 3-5. Everything changes with Wiley’s broken foot. Sad. Unless they can get a lot tougher despite being much smaller this team is relegated to nearly-cinderella status assuming they can hold on and win enough games to get into the tournament.

#34 (Kenpom - 19) Houston (NR in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Robinson, Jarreau
2 - Davis, Goesling
3 - Brooks, Hinton
4 - Alley, White
5 - Brady, Gresham

This team defends really well (#13 in KP), especially in their contesting of the 3pt arc. And they have a few good shooters, and one great scorer in Davis. I am still skeptical until I watch them a bit more (they have played only the #183 toughest schedule...), but they are in for now.

#35 (Kenpom - 43) Indiana (#18 in my pre-season rankings)

1 - Phinisee, Green
2 - Durham, McRoberts
3 - Langford, Anderson
4 - Smith
5 - Morgan, Fitzner, Davis

This team has the pieces, but has the experience and the skills in the wrong players. They need Phinisee to be the vet, not Morgan; They need Langford to be a better shooter, and they need to be able to play a different guy at the 4. Instead they don’t quite mesh perfectly, and they won’t get another shot at it next year because Langford would break Indiana hoops fans’ hearts when he leaves for the draft. IU fans will have a panoply of “what-ifs” to choose from, and a season that never quite lived up to its seeming promise come their NCAA tournament first or second round exit. Totally falling apart right now, likely won’t make the Tourney, but sticking for another bit or so...

For reference: Rough rankings of major conferences (left-to-right) [redux]

B1G: Michigan, Michigan State, Maryland, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio State, Purdue, Minnesota the rest in some order

Comment: UM and MSU are the class of the best conference in the land. I think the B1G get 4-5 teams in the sweet-16. Purdue is really coming on, and has a highly favorable schedule the rest of the way.

Big XII: Texas Tech, Kansas, Iowa State, Kansas State, Texas, TCU, West Virginia, the rest in some order

Comment: I think Texas Tech/KSU/Iowa St can do it, I am going to will it into existence. I think the conference only gets 6 teams into the tourney.

ACC: Duke, Virginia, North Carolina, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, NC State, Florida State,the rest in some order

Comment: I think we get this as the final order, but I don’t see any teams outside this group of 8 making the tourney.

SEC: Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi State, LSU, Mississippi, Auburn,the rest in some order.

Comment: Eh. This conference, these coaches. Tennessee, UK, and Mississippi St Auburn are the only teams to bet on. Maybe Auburn. Keep an eye on Ole Miss - Kermit Davis is a good coach, and he has Tyree and Davis humming along at their best - they have 7 games left where I don’t see them as favored, if they do well in those, then I will certainly rate them heading into the tourney.

Big East: Nova, Marquette, the rest in some order

Comment: This conference is overrated. These are the only teams I will consider to make possible tourney runs, and may be the only teams to make the tourney from this conference.

[I don’t see a need to really entertain the Pac-12 at this point. Surely 1-2 teams from that awful conference will make the tourney, but who can tell which ones at this point, and who cares - for now Washington is in and looking like the best team in the conference]

“Others”: also considered for the top-35: Mississippi, Cincinnati, Houston, Wofford, Murray St, ASU, UCF, Loyola-Chicago, Mississippi, Arizona.

Comment: Ole Miss, Wofford, Murray St, Loyola-Chicago, and one or two teams from the mid-major conference called the Pac-12 will get serious consideration in the pre-NCAA tourney rankings.

Discuss...