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Ever since the NBA instituted its draft rules, for early entry candidates, college basketball has flourished. Non-traditional powers have risen to the top of the polls, and mid-majors are more dangerous than ever. This is why I’m writing about college hoops on January 3 rd …I am pumped about the rest of the season, and what it’s going to bring. The Pac-10 might be the best conference in the land. The ACC has fallen off a bit, but only at the bottom of the conference, as Duke and UNC are top notch. The Big East has 4 to 5 teams in the top 25 every week. The Big 12 always has NBA ready talent, and Kansas has the best attack in the country (in my opinion). The SEC and Big Ten (a.k.a. the most overrated conference in the country in basketball and football) have a couple of squads that will make noise in March. So, I told the hardcore hoops fan out there something they already knew. What I am really building up to is the top underrated teams in the nation that aren’t ranked. These three teams will be 5 through 10 seeds in the tourney this year, and at least one will' get to the sweet 16 ' because they are that good.
Pros: This is one team that likes to run and shoot 3’s…Ricky Harris and Gary Forbes make them go (both averaging above 18 per game). They can score with anybody.
Cons: Will win twenty this year, but have to have strong showings against Vandy, Rhode Island, and Dayton this year (a total of 4 games). Or, they have to win the A10 outright…either way, their strength of schedule will not get them much respect come March. This is a team that can bust some brackets, if they are playing well in March.
Pros: They play good teams out of conference. They also have “pro” talent at the point (Jeremy Pargo), the two (Matt Bouldin), down low (Josh Heytvelt), and at the three (Austin Daye). They played tough against Tennessee (who I consider one of the best four teams in the nation). They have one of the best coaches in college, as well (Mark Few).
Cons: Haven’t had a full squad, until recently when Heytvelt came back from his foot issues and suspension for having shrooms. Their best talent is Austin Daye, and he must assert himself when the offense struggles. They will be a tough out in March.
Pros: Maybe the most athletic team in the nation. They have “pro” talent at every position, including three definite NBA guys (Stanley Robinson, Hasheem Thabeet, and Jeff Adrien). They can run, and if a team wants to grind it out, they have size and rebounding. They proved they can hang with Memphis, who is the most talented team in the land.
Cons: They’re young. Their ballhandling is suspect, and they play to the level of every opponent. Talent isn’t the issue, intangibles are. Look for this team to get exponentially better as the season goes on, due to being coached by Jim Calhoun. I don’t know how this team isn’t in the top 25 (probably because they haven’t payed their dues), but don’t be surprised if they are in the Garden playing for the Big East crown.
Other teams that can make noise: Syracuse (even without Devendorf), Seton Hall, Arizona and St. Mary’s (didn’t make the list because they are ranked right now).
Laredo Slider is a Senior Writer for http://www.laredoslider.com, and also a Knicks fan…so now he writes about college basketball, while contemplating poking his eyes out.