NBA-DRAFT.COM top 65 College Teams (#25 - 21)
And now, with schools starting up across the country, it's time for our Top 25. Here's a quick review of our Top 65 by conference thus far:
ACC: 1 (Miami - 35)
A-10: 1 (Temple - 29)
Atlantic Sun: 1 (Belmont - 36)
Big 12: 3 (Kansas State - 55; Oklahoma State - 49; Texas - 44;
Big East: 4 (Notre Dame - 48; Villanova - 42; St. John's - 41; West Virginia - 39)
Big Sky: 1 (Montana - 63)
Big Ten: 7 (Northwestern - 53; Indiana - 52; Minnesota - 51; Illinois - 46; Purdue - 43; Michigan - 34; Michigan State - 30)
Big West: 1 (Long Beach State - 54)
CAA: 3 (VCU - 65; Drexel - 57; George Mason - 32)
C-USA: 1 (UCF - 38)
Horizon: 2 (Butler - 62; Detroit - 58)
Ivy: 1 (Harvard - 59)
MAAC: 2 (Fairfield - 61; Iona - 33)
Missouri Valley: 2 (Creighton - 50; Wichita State - 37;
Mountain West: 2 (UNLV - 40; New Mexico - 28)
Pac-12: 3 (USC - 60; Washington - 31; Cal - 26)
Patriot: 1 (Bucknell - 64)
SEC: 2 (Arkansas - 47; Mississippi State - 27)
WCC: 2 (BYU - 56; St. Mary's - 45)
Probably not a surprise to anyone- last season's power conferences- the Big Ten and Big East, once again reign supreme, both with more teams to come in the top 25 rankings. With injuries and potential suspensions to come for Miami (FL), the ACC could easily have zero teams in the Top 65 as we expect a great fall from the Hurricanes, but the elite teams in the conference make this a dangerous league with two or three title contenders. The west coast, especially in the Pac-12 and new-look WCC, is stronger than in year's past.
And now onto the final Top 25 teams in our poll…
In early-December, many skeptics counted UCLA amongst the west coast disappointments yet again as Ben Howland's team sported a 3-4 record after a 14-18 campaign in 2009-10. But a combination of frontcourt power and steady perimeter play boosted the Bruins to a 19-4 record to close the regular-season including victories over BYU, Arizona, and St. John's. And even though two important underclassmen left the program to play professionally, UCLA still has a lethal combination of Joshua Smith and Reeves Nelson up front.
There's no doubt that this team has questions, but the potential up front cannot be ignored. The hulking Joshua Smith played in just over half of the team's minutes a year ago as a freshman, but recorded the second-highest offensive rebounding rate in the country. His large hands, soft touch and massive size make him a tremendous low-post scorer, while the smaller Reeves Nelson is more versatile with his quickness and decent perimeter play. Both command attention and draw high rates in getting to the foul line. A pair of transfers bolster the frontcourt even further to give UCLA some of the best talent and depth around. David and Travis Wear, twins formerly of North Carolina, could see some time at the 3, 4 or 5, making their versatility and grit a true advantage.
But who will play alongside of them? Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee have moved on and senior point guard Jerime Anderson is gone for at least a few games and potentially more. Senior guard Lazeric Jones will handle the point guard duties- a high-risk, high-reward passer who will grow with more minutes, but is not a threat from the perimeter as he shot 38.6 percent from the field a year ago.
Howland is desperately looking for a floor general and even more so, perimeter threats. Last season's team, with Honeycutt and Lee, shot just 32.6 percent from behind the arc, turned the ball over too often and did not force many turnovers on the defensive end. Howland is hoping his three-man perimeter-oriented class, mainly shooting guard Norman Powell can step in to improve his guard play.
If there is one thing you can take from this entire team overview, it is never count out a Bo Ryan-coached team. Last season, the Badgers were overlooked in part due to the "ugly" style of basketball they play. It's gritty, tough, and Wisconsin digs in. But it's super-effective. Wisconsin, behind the play of two all-conference players- Jon Leuer and Jordan Taylor, made it to the Sweet 16 with the nation's second-ranked offensive efficiency. Bo Ryan's squad topped the nation in turnover percentage and free-throw percentage, one of the reasons why the Badgers were so good at closing out teams down the stretch last season.
While Leuer and his sweet-stroke are gone, Jordan Taylor maintains the reigns as the conference's and the country's top point guard. He ranked amongst the best across the board last season in nearly every statistical measure, especially turnover rate (second-lowest in the country), assist rate, and offensive rating. He is effective penetrating to score or dish, knocking down perimeter jumpers (42.9 percent from 3) and running the offense in the half-court setting. Josh Gasser, the only freshman in the nation to record a triple-double last season, will pair up with Taylor in the backcourt.
The frontcourt will see three new starters- a difficult feat to match last season's leadership and versatility. The red-headed Mike Bruesewitz came through with some timely buckets and rebounds in the postseason and will be counted on for a larger role this season as will little-used bigs Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren.
The Bearcats showed their 15-0 start was no joke. Although they beat up on some pretty weak opponents, Cincinnati put together an 11-7 record in Big East play and took down Missouri in Mick Cronin's first 20-win season since he was at Murray State. An encore is expected as the Bearcats return four starters including lefty low-post force Yancy Gates, and wings Sean Kilpatrick, Dion Dixon and Cashmere Wright. The wings are ultra-athlete and a threat to knock down shots from the perimeter or attack the rim with ferocious aggressiveness. Defensively, they hound opposing ball-handlers and play the passing lanes well, but they could miss the interior presence of Rashad Bishop inside. Gates is a very strong rebounder and shot blocker, but too often he took plays off last season and floated out to the perimeter on offense. This year especially, he needs to show what a force he can be on the interior. The leading candidate to earn the lion's share of Bishop's minutes is four-star freshman recruit Shaquille Thomas- a small forward by trade, but possesses long arms and tremendous athleticism to create mismatches on both ends of the floor.
On the perimeter, keep your eyes on Sean Kilpatrick, a rising sophomore, who played in just over half the team's minutes last season, yet still managed to be their most lethal perimeter threat to spread the floor for the slashing guards and big men operating down low.
#22. Texas A&M
New coach? No problem when you have the returning talent and blue prints for success that now-Maryland coach Mark Turgeon left behind. Billy Kennedy inherits one of the Big 12's best and one of the nation's most underrated players in the ever-versatile Khris Middleton and a premier interior defender in David Loubeau. Along with point guard Dash Harris, the Aggies are one of the more steady forces in a Big 12 conference with numerous questions and this could be the year Texas A&M unseats Texas in the state.
Middleton is a smooth, skilled wing, capable of playing and excelling at four positions on the floor. Loubeau, on the other hand, is strictly an interior player, often struggling to finish around the rim, but what he brings in terms of intangibles, as a rebounder, and all-around motor player, cannot be easily matched.
At the point, Harris has the job of getting the ball in the hands of Middleton and/or Loubeau, but also creating shots for the others like graduated-senior BJ Holmes did. The speedy Holmes was also one of the better distance shooters in the conference, an area that freshman guard Jamal Branch and sophomore wing Andrew Darko could improve.
The Golden Eagles are never a "sexy" pick- Buzz Williams brings in mostly junior college talent, not high-profile freshmen. They rarely have a big man to build the offense around. And despite their four-guard lineup, Marquette doesn't dish out a ton of assists or knock down perimeter shots at a high rate. But, here they are. Buzz Williams has created an offensive monster at Marquette where his teams have ranked in the top 22 the past three seasons and put forth above-average defensive efforts, s expect nothing less this season.
You may be thinking that this is a bit too high for Marquette- a team losing its best player in Jimmy Butler, one of the top defensive and all-around players in the country and top distributor Dwight Buycks, but you'd be wrong. Darius Johnson-Odom returns to the backcourt and looks to improve off of a tremendous second-half of the season; after the first ten games of the season, Johnson-Odom averaged 16.6 points per game and connected on 39.3 percent of his shots from behind the arc (13 percent better than in the games prior). He's not quite a point guard, but not quite a pure 2-guard, so junior guard Junior Cadougan will again be counted on to run the offense; he dismal shooting performances eventually led to defenses sagging off of him, but when he could push the tempo, Cadougan did a great job with the reigns. However, he must be more of a threat from the perimeter, where he knocked down just 2 of 13 shots from distance a year ago. Look for sophomore Vander Blue to impact the game if he too can fix his shooting stroke.
In the frontcourt, Jae Crowder plays bigger than his size (6'6") as he led the team in rebounding and will be counted on again to play more minutes. His strength and athleticism allow him to defend four, sometimes, all five positions on the floor. A player that we really like is junior center Chris Otule- a 6'11", 260 pound athletic big. He is still growing into his body and looks quite awkward at times, but he can get up and down the floor, finishing plays around the rim and blocking and altering numerous shots; his biggest problem is that he was called for an average of 6.1 fouls per 40 minutes a year ago.
Buzz Williams has depth with Jamail Jones, No. 52 on Rivals.com's Top 100, Jamil Wilson, an Oregon transfer who also ranked in the Top 100 and post back-up Davante Gardner.