As we said last time, we will look at the Top 25 Rankings from Rivals.com, and let you know where we think they went astray. Unlike most countdowns, we think the most disagreement and drama will be at the bottom of the rankings, so we will be starting at the top, and working our way down. Part 1 here.
When we left off, we were casually dismissing Louisville as the #5 team in the country. And before you dismiss us, as bloggers who aren't even wearing pants right now, consider what we wrote almost exactly a year ago when the first pre-season polls came out: "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!" So, we actually kind of know what we are talking about here.
That said, we may have been a bit too dismissive of Louisville. We definitely see them as a top 20 team, but Top 5 seems a bit too high for us.
Moving on to 6-10, according to Rivals.com:
Rivals #6: Tennessee
Why they are good: They will probably be running a 3-guard set, similar to what Villanova was running a couple of years ago, and their backcourt is frightful. I don't know why Chris Lofton is still in college, but he is, and he may be the best overall player at the 2 spot. He and Mario Chalmers of Kansas will be vying for that honor all year. Lofton about as perfect college shooting guard that you could hope for. Their frontcourt is stronger than Rivals gives it credit for. Wayne Chism will be the breakout player in a wide-open SEC. Bruce Pearl may be the best coach in the SEC.
Why they aren't THAT good: Frontcourt depth is an issue. They stay injury free, and it isn't an issue at all. I think this team is clearly better than Louisville, but the games will prove it, one way or another.
Rivals #7: Indiana
Why they are good: The Big 10 is wide open, and Indiana may indeed be the best team in that conference. I'm not convinced that, given the graduation of talent, and the very top-heavy quality of the conference, that any Big 10 team deserves to be a Pre-Season Top 10. Freshman Eric Gordon is considered by many to be the most overlooked newcomer in the entire NCAA. Rival's says he's the #2 Freshman in the country. We'll see. If he's Kevin Durant good, then yes, this could be a transformative year for a once proud team.
Why they aren't THAT good: The Big 10 was one of the most top heavy conferences in the country last year. Ohio State and Wisconsin, between them, said adieu to the four most talented players in the conference. In conference play will tell us little about Indiana. Head Coach Kelvin Sampson seems to be unable to start a year without controversy. When D.J. White is your best returning player, you have some work to do.
Rivals #8: Michigan State:
Why They are Good: Speaking of Big 10 bias. Last year, I spoke about reflected glory--that Big 10 teams were getting ranked higher because they played Ohio State or Wisconsin well. Michigan State was almost certainly one of those teams. They do return just about everybody from last year. They should be able to generate easy wins against at least half of the the Big 10 (Minnesota, Northwestern, Michigan, amongst others). Tom Izzo gets his teams good at the right time.
Why they aren't THAT Good: Drew Neitzel may be the most overrated guard in the country. Raymar Morgan at forward is much more of enigma that anyone would like to admit. He's got talent, but he will disappear during games.
Rivals #9: USC
Why They are Good: Tim Floyd's recruiting genius. OJ Mayo, one of the most talked about high school players last year will be one of the breakout new players in the super tough PAC-10. The average age of the starters will probably be hovering right around 19.75. If their recruits are as bad ass as they are supposed to be, then they will be Top 5 before November is over.
Why they aren't THAT Good: Rivals is too kind to discuss the rumors as to how sophomore guard Daniel Hackett suffered a broken jaw. We are not. OJ Mayo broke Hackett's jaw in a pick-up game. Rumors swirl about the incident--was it an inadvertent elbow, or was it a very purposeful punch? Hackett says it was an elbow, "sources" say it was a deliberate punch. Is Mayo a talented but angry player? Can this team gel? We'll see. One way or another, we'll be talking about OJ Mayo. Friendly preseason violence, we will note, rarely knocks a player out for the first 2 months of a season.
Rivals #10: Georgetown
Why They are Good: Returning just about everybody, except Glue Guy Par Excellance Jeff Green. I am trying not to be too much of a homer here, but I think this team should be about 5 spots up the list. Clearly the class of the Big East, with the best center in the game in Roy "Dr. " Hibbert, Big-East freshman of the Year in DaJuan Summers, and Patrick Ewing Jr. in the front court, along with Jessie Sapp and Jonathan Wallace in the backcourt. This is a Final Four team from last year, and the only player they lost was Jeff Green.
Why they are NOT that Good: They lost Jeff Green. Green was a talented, heady player, who kept his team in games they should have lost. Frontcourt depth is a concern. Backcourt is almost too deep. Lots of quality players, including a new freshman badass in Austin Freeman, and a underused Jeremiah Rivers could lead to some chemistry issues. That said, this team would beat Louisville 8 times out of 10.