Saturday, October 28, 2006

College Basketball Preview: The Newbies

ESPN came out with a Top 25 Coaches Poll. I think there are a good number of surprises in this Top 25 poll. We'll start with teams that finished the season out of the top 25 last year, and find themselves in it this year. Those teams are (rank in parentheses):

Wisconsin (9), Arizona (10) , Alabama (12), Texas A&M (13), Marquette (17), Syracuse (20), GA Tech (21) , Kentucky (22), Creighton (23), Nevada (25).

I find it interesting that we seem to have (with the exception of Marquette) a very clear separation of previously unranked teams. I wish I could say that this separation was the product of interesting and insightful thought from the voting committee. But it really, really isn't.

In that upper echelon, you've got Wisconsin, Arizona, Alabama and Texas A&M. What they have in common is quite easy to define. Returning players. Quality players? Maybe. I do think Wisconsin and Arizona belong in the top 10. They are returning difference makers, and have smart, college-based coaches. Kammron Taylor and Alando Tucker will be better in WI--Arizona has a bevy of players who should grab the next rung. But Alabama and Texas A&M? There are teams off the top 25 that I would think would beat them the majority of the time. I think we are seeing a very simple version of Coach Rumor Mongering. Clearly, the somewhat unjustified buzz is on Bama and Texas A&M.

Marquette makes a fine dividing line. And then you've got the bottom New comers

Syracuse, GA Tech, Kentucky, Creighton, and Nevada. There are two very, very different types of teams hanging here. I'd guess 3 of these teams don't make it past their 2nd game without getting dropped out. You've got perennial big Conference powerhouses who are clearly a little outmanned this year: Syracuse, GA Tech (potentially a great team in the A-10, they'll make noise in the ACC, but making real noise in the ACC is hard to do) and then Kentucky, perennially SEC troublemakers at least, but without Rajon Rondo, who made that team run last year. And then you've got good mid-major teams like Creighton (balanced) and Nevada (Nick Fazekas) sneaking in.

Gonzaga & Louisville will both crack the top 25 before November 7th. But we'll talk about teams that should be in the top 25 later.

For now, just note the odd congruence. The questionable new teams all end up in the same places. Right in the middle, and right at the bottom. No one is apparently willing to take a risk yet and say that both Georgetown and Wisconsin are Top 5 teams. But they probably are, and will be at some point in the season. Write it down!

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