It’s that time of year again for the early season tournament. This is the best time of the year besides March for college basketball. Check out some of my team previews and who I predict to win the tournament below.
Louisville over Northern Iowa
Missouri over Stanford
Memphis over VCU
Duke over Minnesota
Louisville over Missouri
Duke over Memphis
Louisville over Duke
Coach: Mike Krzyewski (32 seasons at Duke 927-291) Overall 927-291, 37 years
2011-12: Record 27-7 overall, 13-3 in ACC (2nd)
Starters Returning (3) Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly
Preseason Tournament: Battle of Atlantis, Champions Classic
Top Non-Conference Games: vs. Ohio State, vs. Temple
Transfer Out: Michael Gbinjie (Syracuse)
Transfer In : Rodney Hood (Mississippi State)
Sat Out: Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee (redshirt)
Sit Out: Andre Dawkins (Personal reasons)
After overachieving in the regular season the Blue Devils were a huge disappointment in the NCAA tournament losing to 15th seed Lehigh. Their best player Austin Rivers also departs to the NBA. The good news the Blue Devils return 3 senior starters and bring in 2 very talented freshman. One thing is for sure you can never count out a Coach K team; he will always get the most out of his team.
This Duke team will have a very strong frontcourt led by two senior starters. Leading the way is Mason Plumlee (11.1 ppg), who turned down the NBA. He almost averaged a double double last season; look for him to average one easily this season. He is also pretty athletic for a big guy and he is a good shot blocker, currently 5th in Duke History. Joining him in the frontcourt is Ryan Kelly(11.8 ppg). Kelly value to this team showed when he missed the final three games with an injury Duke lost two of those games. Kelly is most effective as a three pointer shooter, which he made 41 % from distance last season. At the small forward position will be redshirt freshman Alex Murphy. Murphy is basically a Kyle Single clone. He is a very versatile player than can score inside and out and guard multiple positions. Also in the frontcourt will be glue guy Josh Hairston (2.7 ppg) and highly touted freshman Amile Jefferson. He is probably the best athlete on the Duke roster. Also providing depth here is Marshall Plumlee. This unit receives a major boost next season with Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood.
Leading the way in the backcourt for Duke will be shooting guard Seth Curry (13.2 ppg). Curry led the Blue Devils in assists and steals last season and is Duke’s returning leading scorer. Curry’s biggest asset is his shooting ability and mid-range game. He made 67 three pointers last season. He needs to attack the rim more. At point guard will be either Quinn Cook (4.4 ppg) or Tyler Thornton (4.1 ppg). Cook had a up and down season with injuries . Last year he had pretty good assist to turnover ratio but struggled to score. Look for him to double his scoring average this season. Thornton (4.1 ppg) is the ultimate glue guy. He is best known for being a pesky defender. Also providing depth here is highly though of freshman Rasheed Sulaimon, who is a deadly shooter. Don’t be shocked if Sulaimon starts if Duke goes to a 3 guard lineup. Andre Dawkins will redshirt this season due to personal reasons.
Coach: Josh Pastner (3 seasons at Memphis 75-19) 2011-12: Record 26-9 overall, 13-3 in Conf. USA (1st)
Starters Returning (4) Joe Jackson, Antonio Barton, Chris Crawford, Tarik Black
Preseason Tournament: Battle 4 Atlantis
Top Non-Conference Games: vs. Ohio, vs. Louisville, at Tennessee
The Tigers and Josh Pastner had an up and down season last year but they finished strong before losing in the 1st round of the NCAA tournament. The Tigers lose leading scorer Will Barton to the draft but they bring back their next four leading scorers. Unlike Memphis teams before this team has ton of experience and upperclassmen. As you would Pastner brings in a couple more talented recruits.
The strength of this Memphis team will be the backcourt. Leading the Tigers here will be point guard Joe Jackson (11 ppg). He does a bit of everything; his really only weakness is shooting the three. He will make this team go with his passing ability. Joining him in the backcourt is Chris Crawford (9.1 ppg). Crawford is by far the best shooter on this Memphis. He is also a great athlete and defender; he led the conference is steal last season. The Tigers will most feature a 3 guard lineup and that starting spot goes to Antonio Barton (6.6 ppg). Barton should score closer to double figures this season with more minutes; he can shoot the three but is most effective in transition. The top option off the bench will likely be D.J. Stephens (2.4 ppg). The rest of the depth is inexperienced but talented. Those players are freshman Damien Wilson and JUCO transfer Geron Johnson.
There is no question if the Tigers want to go deeper in the NCAA tournament they will need more production out of their frontcourt. Leading the way here is center Tarik Black( 10.7 ppg). He gives the Tigers that physical presence in the paint but he needs to rebound better. He is tough around the basket last season he shot 69 % from the field. At the power forward position the likely starter will be Adonis Thomas (8.8 ppg). Thomas was a highly rated recruited last season but he was slowed by injuries. He is a very versatile player that can score inside or out. Thomas is also a great athlete. If the Tigers face a bigger team they might start either Ferrakohn Hall (3.7 ppg) or highly touted freshman Shaq Goodwin. Hall started 20 games a year ago and Goodwin is really athletic but still raw on offense. Also providing depth here is Stan Simpson (1.6 ppg).
Coach: Frank Haith (1 season at Missouri 30-5) Overall 159-106, 8 years
2011-12: Record 30-5 overall, 14-4 in Big East (2nd)
Starters Returning (1) Phil Pressey
Preseason Tournament: Battle of Atlantis
Top Non-Conference Games: at UCLA, vs. Illinois
Transfer In : Alex Oriakhi (Uconn eligible right away), Jordan Clarkson (Tulsa)
Transfer Out: Kadeem Green (Ohio)
Sat Out: Emest Ross (Auburn), Keion Ball (Pepperdine), Jabari Brown (Oregon) , Lawrence Bowers (injury)
What a coaching job Frank Haith did at Missouri at his 1st year at the school. The Tigers won 30 games doing so with only 7 scholarship players. However, the Tigers fail in the big dance losing to a 15th seed. Now Haith and the Tigers are in the SEC and lose 4 key starters off last year’s team. That being said the Tigers return a key player from injury and have 4 impact transfers joining the team. 3 of those transfers sat out last season.
The strength of this team will once again be in the backcourt. Leading the way is point guard Phil Pressey (10.3 ppg). Last season Pressey led the Big 12 in assists, steals, and assist to turnover ratio. He is most likely the fastest guard in the country. Joining him in the backcourt is Michael Dixon Jr. (13.5 ppg). He averaged the most points per game than other non-starter in the country. Like Pressey he is very fast that allows him to attack the rim and he is also a decent three point shooter. The battle for the 3 spot will be between two highly transfer than sat out last season. In his last season at Pepperdine Keion Ball averaged 18.9 ppg and at his last season at Auburn Earnest Ross scored 13.1 ppg. Both players are pure scores that excel at attacking the rim but can also shot the three. Both are also good rebounders for their position. Oregon transfer Jabari Brown a former McDonalds’ All American will become eligible mid-December. Also providing depth will be freshman Dominique Bull and Negus Webster-Chan.
Leading the way in the frontcourt for the Tigers is Laurence Bowers (10.2 ppg). Bowers missed last season with an ACL injury. Bowers is a very good rebounder and he is good scoring around the basket. At Center will be UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi (7.2 ppg). While not a scorer he is a strong presence in the paint with his rebounding and shot blocking ability. He won a title at UConn. Depth will be a concern here because of inexperience. Providing the depth will be JUCO transfer Tony Criswell and freshman Stefan Jankovic and Ryan Rosburg.
Coach: Rich Pitino (10 seasons at Louisville 275-106) Overall 627-230, 26 years
2011-12: Record 30-10 overall, 10-8 in Big East (7th)
Starters Returning (3) Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan
Preseason Tournament: Battle of Atlantis
Top Non-Conference Games: at Memphis, vs. Kentucky
Transfer Out: Jared Swosphire (Northwestern), Elisha Justice
Sat Out: Luke Hancock (George Mason)
The Cardinals were on quite a run to finish last season before losing to Kentucky in the Final Four. Pitino did one heck of coaching job last season because of major injuries on his team. The Cardinals lose 2 of their top 3 scorers but they return about everyone else including three starters. Pitino also brings in some talented recruits and one player that sat out last season after transferring in. The Cardinals should have one of the top frontcourt and backcourts in the country.
Leading Louisville will be point guard Peyton Siva (9.1 ppg). Siva really improved as the season went out especially in the tournaments. Siva is a super quick athletic guard that loves to attack the rim. He is a great passer with 5.6 assists pg last season. He is also a great defender. He needs to cut down on his turnovers and shoot the ball better. Joining him in the backcourt will be Russ Smith (11.5 ppg). Smith is the Cardinals returning leading soccer but only shot 36 % from the field. His biggest strength is attacking the rim and he is also a capable three point shooter. His biggest strength might come on the defensive end where he averaged 2.2 steals per game. At the 3 spot will be George Mason transfer Luke Hancock. He is an extremely versatile player. In his last season at George Mason he averaged 10.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists. The top option off the bench will be wing Wayne Blackshaer (2.5 ppg). He missed most of last season with shoulder problems and he did some flashes of his potential. He is a strong physical wing that can score in a variety of ways. Kevin Ware (1 ppg) will back up Siva. After this the Cardinals lack depth because of the Mike Marra injury.
The Cardinals will have the best frontcourt in the Big East. Leading the way is center Gorgui Dieng (9.1 ppg). Deng was the most improved player in the country last season. His biggest strength is his rebounding ability and shot blocking . He finished last season with 9.1 rebounds and 3.2 blocks. Look for Dieng to average a double double this season. He continues to improve his offensive game. Joining him in the frontcourt is Chane Behanan (9.5 ppg). Behanan exceled in the NCAA tournament; he was the West Region MVP. Behanan is really a strong rebounder and scorer in the lane. The Cardinals have ton of depth here. Leading the way will be freshman Montrezl Harrell. He is a very strong athlete that can rebound and still raw on offense. Also providing depth here are Angel Nunez (2 ppg), Stephan Van Treese (1.3 ppg), Zach Price (.6 ppg) and freshman Mangok Mathinag.
Coach: Tubby Smith (5 seasons at Minnesota 103-68), Overall 490-213, 21 seasons
2011-12: Record 23-15 overall, 6-12 in Big Ten (9th)
Starters Returning (4) Julian Welch, Austin Hollins, Trevor Mbakwe, Rodney Williams
Preseason Tournament: Battle of Atlantis
Top Non-Conference Games: at Florida State, at USC
Transfer Out: Chip Armelin (Southern Mississippi)
Sat Out: Trevor Mbakwe (injury), Maurice Walker (injury)
The Golden Gophers were right in the mix of the NCAA tournament but they lost their final 6 out of 7 games. They did however make the NIT and made to the championship before losing to Stanford. Now to this season there is lot of hope for Tubby Smith’s squad. The Gophers only really lose 1 player off their roster plus they return a couple key players from injury.
Trevor Mbakwe is coming back after tearing his ACL. He only played in 7 games last season. When healthy Mbakwe is one of the most dominant post players in the country. His last full season he averaged a double double. Joining him in the frontcourt is Elliott Eliason (2.6 ppg). Look for Eliason to produce more with more playing time. He got some starting experience last year as a freshman. At the small forward will be Rodney Williams (12.2 ppg). With Mbakwe out last season Williams took over the offense. He is very versatile but his biggest strength is attacking the rim and his athletic and jumping ability. He is probably the best dunker in the country. The top option off the bench will be Maurice Walker, who was also out last season because of an injury. Also providing depth is freshman Charles Buggs, Oto Osenieks (3 ppg) and Andre Ingram (1.9 ppg).
The backcourt will also be strength for Minnesota. At the point will be Julian Welch (9.5 ppg). Welch led the Gophers in assists and three point shooter percentage wise last season. Joining Welch in the backcourt is Austin Hollins (9.2 ppg). Hollins is a very versatile scorer, he can attack the rim and he most the most three pointers for Minnesota last season. Andre Hollins (9.2 ppg) will be the top option off the bench and don’t be shocked to see him start any games. Hollins was just a freshman last season so he could have a breakout season. He is very versatile scoring wise also. Joe Coleman (5.8 ppg) is another quality player of the bench. He has some starting experience. Maverick Ahanmisi (2.7 ppg) and freshman Wally Ellenson will also provide depth.
Coach: Shaka Smart (3 seasons at VCU 84-28)
2011-12: Record 29-7 overall, 15-3 in CAA (2nd)
Starters Returning (4) Juvonte Reddic, Darius Theus, Troy Daniels, D.J. Haley
Preseason Tournament: Battle 4 Atlantis
Top Non-Conference Games: vs. Wichita State, vs. Belmont, vs. Alabama
Transfer Out: Reco McCarter , Heath Houston
VCU was not even supposed to make the tournament last season but Shaka Smart proved why he is the best young coach in the game by getting the Rams back to the dance. The Rams were the 9th youngest team in the nation last season. Now they are headed to the tougher Atlantic 10 conference. They lose their best player Bradford Burgess but they bring everyone else back and add some talented freshman.
The strength of VCU is guard play, they will likely use a 4 guard lineup at times. Last season they led the nation in steal with their aggressive defense. Leading the way for the Rams is point guard Darius Theus (8.7 ppg). Theus makes the engine run he is a pesky defender and excels at getting his teammates involved. He needs to work on his shooting. Troy Daniels (10 ppg) is a deadly shooter. Last season he made 94 three pointers. Joining Theus and Daniels in the backcourt is Rob Brandenberg (8.9 ppg). Brandenberg excels at getting to the rim with his athletic ability. He can also shot the three but he need to make a better percentage. Treveon Graham (7 ppg) will either be the top option off the bench or a starter this season. He really came on late last season and with more playing time he should average in double figures. Providing depth here will be Briante Weber (4.9 ppg), Teddy Okereafor (.8 ppg), freshman Melvin Johnson and Jordan Burgess. Burgess and Johnson are both highly regarded recruits.
Leading the Rams in the frontcourt will be Juvonte Reddic (10.4 ppg). He is VCU’s returning leading scorer and rebounder. He also is a good shot blocker and had a good amount of steals for a big. He can really score around the rim with his soft touch. Joining him in the frontcourt will be D.J. Haley (3.2 ppg). Haley is a big body; he will see more playing time against bigger teams. He is not an efficient scorer. Providing depth here will be Jarred Guest (.9 ppg), David Hinton (.2 ppg) and freshman Mo Alie-Cox and Justin Tuoyo.
Coach: Johnny Dawkins (4 seasons at Stanford 75-59)
2011-12: Record 26-11 overall, 10-8 in Pac 12 (7th)
Starters Returning (3) Aaron Bright, Anthony Brown, Chasson Randle
Preseason Tournament: Battle 4 Atlantis
Top Non-Conference Games: vs. Belmont, at NC State, at Northwestern, vs. St. Louis
Last year the Cardinal won the NIT championship. While the is great fact is the Cardinal has not made the NCAA tournament in Johnny Dawkins 4 seasons at Stanford. It is time for him to take his program to the next level and it looks like he is prime to do so. The Cardinal return 4 of their top 5 scorers off last year team. The good news for the future all 4 of those players are underclassmen.
The strength of this team will no doubt be the backcourt. Leading the way is shooting guard Chasson Randle (13. 8 ppg). He had a breakout season last year as a freshman. He does a little bit of everything but his biggest asset is his three point shooting ability. He made 85 threes while shooting 44 %. Joining him in the backcourt is point guard Aaron Bright (11.7 ppg). Bright is a very good passer and like Randle a strong three pointer shooter. At the 3 spot will be Anthony Brown (8.1 ppg). Brown can score in a variety of ways; he is also an excellent defender. Depth could be a concern here. Leading the way will be Gabriel Harris (3. 6ppg), who was sidelined with an injury last season. Also providing depth will be freshman Christian Sanders and Robbie Lemons (.4 ppg).
The Cardinal have to replace 2 starters in the frontcourt but they players that have experience. Leading the way is Dwight Powell (5.8 ppg). He took a step back last season in production but still he is the team’s most athletic player and leaper. Joining him in the frontcourt is Josh Huestis (5.3 ppg). He led the Cardinal in block shots last season and should score more with more playing time. The Cardinal have plenty of depth here. Leading the way will be Stefan Nastic (2 ppg) and John Gage (3.9 ppg). Freshman Grant Verhoeven and Roscoe Allen are two highly regarded freshman that should see plenty of playing time. Allen is a great shooter. Also providing depth here is Andy Brown (1.1 ppg) and Elliott Bullock
Coach: Ben Jacobson (6 seasons at N. Iowa 129-71)
2011-12: Record 20-14 overall, 9-9 in Missouri Valley ( Tie 3rd)
Starters Returning (4) Deon Mitchell, Seth Tuttle, Jake Koch, Marc Sonnen
Preseason Tournament: Battle 4 Atlantis
Top Non-Conference Games: vs. Iowa, at UNLV, vs. St. Mary’s
There is ton of excitement for Ben Jacobson and his team for this upcoming season. Why? The Panthers basically return everyone from last year’s team. They return 12 letterman and two redshirts. Maybe the bad news this same core of players only went .500 in the Missouri Valley last season.
Leading the backcourt will be Anthony James (12.5 ppg). He was the only Panther to score average double figures last season. He is also a good rebounder for a guard. Joining him in the backcourt is shooting guard Deon Mitchell (7 ppg). Look for Mitchell to average double figures this season after a strong freshman season. Starting at the third guard spot will be Marc Sonnen (8.6 ppg). He is the team best three point shooter. Matt Morrison (3.4 ppg) is another great shooter of the bench. Also providing depth is Max Matino (.4 ppg) and freshman Matt Bohannon.
Leading the Panthers upfront will be center Jake Koch(8.5 ppg). Yes, he led Northern Iowa in assists last season. He also led that in block shots. Look for him to average in double figures this season. Joining him up front is Seth Tuttle (9.6 ppg). Tuttle led the team in rebounding and shot over 65 % from the field as a freshman. Like the backcourt the Panthers have solid depth here . The two top options off the bench will be Chip Rank(6.1 ppg) and Austin Pehl (2.3 ppg). Also providing depth is Marvin Singleton, Nate Boss, Chris Oliver, and Tyler Lange.
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