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Only 1 month left in the college basketball regular season. Then in March, some sort of madness occurs to try to get to San Antonio for the final 4, they call it March Madness. I'm hear to tell you who (so far) is a contender and who is a pretender. Take note that I'm doing the teams from the top 10 only.
Memphis Tigers #1
Strengths: I have to tell you that one?
Weaknesses: They played a tough non-conference schedule against the likes of Gonzaga and Georgetown and beat them.....but it's still not enough to balance out the incredibly bad C-USA they play in.
Verdict: All in all, they are contenders.
Duke Blue Devils #2
Strengths: Duke just came off an entertaining 89-78 win over North Carolina at Chapel Hill. They've only lost 1 game, they capitalize on turnovers consistently. Just about all of their players are deadly from three point range, as illustrated last night. The fact that they can go on the road and dominate is impressive.
Weaknesses: This team can't shoot free throws well. The defense has had many lapses in the game that have been saved by their prolific offense featuring Greg Paulus and Jon Scheyer.
Verdict: Duke is actually playing better now that Josh McRoberts is out of the picture. Maybe this is the year they finally get back to glory after a shocking loss to VCU last year in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Contenders.
North Carolina Tar Heels #3
Strengths: Tyler Hansbrough. Oh yeah, and unlike Duke, they make their free throws, also have a great offense, and are strong in offensive rebounds resulting in 2nd chance points.
Weaknesses: This one could actually be fatal. Their defense is not performing well. Not only that, they are getting burned by fairly average teams like Florida State and Georgia Tech. They are quite lucky that they sneaked by with both of those wins. Speaking of fairly average teams, that's who the Tar Heels are struggling with in the ACC. Tyler Hansbrough is their offense, and when he is off track, the team is off track.
Verdict: I am just not sold on this team at all. They are probably worthy of a sweet 16 or elite 8 appearance, but you can't lose 2 conference games at home. You can't struggle with Florida State, you can't. Pretenders. That won't change until they clean up that defensive mess.
Kansas Jayhawks #4
Strengths: Like North Carolina, a strong rebounding team, they have a lot of star power. They have speed with Brandon Rush and Russell Robinson. Kansas has a good defensive unit, and they also have more experience as they got virtually all of their players from last year's team back.
Weaknesses: Not many I can think of, I think the Kansas State game showed that you have to have a team that can run with them.
UCLA Bruins #5
Strengths: They are the class of the Pac-10. Kevin Love is a candidate for player of the year in the country. Darren Collison and Russell Westbrook provide the outside play. UCLA has a very deep depth chart, you can't stop them....unless you're USC.
Weaknesses: Playing on the road. Tonight's game against a Washington State team that went from #1 seed contender to being most likely to lose in the first round as a #5 seed will be their biggest test on whether or not they belong as one of the country's elite. The Bruins struggled at Oregon, and have had the benefit of starting the Pac-10 schedule at home.
Georgetown Hoyas #6
Strengths: Roy Hibbert made a 3!!! Anyways....Georgetown, like Kansas, had most of their players return from last year, in which the Hoyas made it to the final 4. The one exception being Jeff Green, who is now a member of the Sonics. The inside presence of Hibbert is huge, and Patrick Ewing Jr. continues to make a major impact on the defensive side.
Weaknesses: Not sold on Jessie Sapp and Dajuan Summers. I don't know why, but their play hasn't been particularly tremendous this year. Also, too many slow starts. They struggled last night against South Florida at home, a 10-13 team, and only won by 10.
Verdict: Tough one here.....that loss to Memphis and then to Pitt has given me second thoughts about this team. Pretenders.
Tennessee Volunteers #7
Strengths: They score a lot. Chris Lofton has my vote for SEC player of the year.
Weaknesses: In return, they allow a lot of points.
Verdict: The Vols have only lost 2 games, they've proven they can win close games.....Contenders.
Wisconsin Badgers #8
Strengths: I like Trevon Hughes a lot. He leads the team in scoring...although that doesn't say much, and Brian Butch helps him with rebounds, he averages 7.1 per game. Their defense has also played magnificently.
Weaknesses: No quality wins, their offense is average....
Verdict: Maybe I need to watch the Badgers play more, but from what I've seen.....Pretenders.
Stanford Cardinal #9
Strengths: The Lopez brothers (Brook and Robin) seem to be doing fine. Mitch Johnson is a very good outside shooter, and their Pac-10 run of 5 wins in a row makes them the hottest team in the conference.
Weaknesses: They lost to freaking Siena.
Butler Bulldogs #10
Strengths: AJ Graves and Mike Green, both senior guards, combine to make a fantastic duo for this Butler team. Green leads the team in scoring, while Graves is 2nd on the team in scoring. They have not had one letdown this season (Cough)Texas A&M(Cough). Defense is terrific.
Weaknesses: The lack of a quality opponent hurts them, but coming up is #20 Drake, and if they can beat them, they are definitely a top 10 team.
Any thoughts on this one? Any team you think is a contender but I think is a pretender? Vice versa? March Madness is AWESOME BABY!!!
All of the teams rankings are based on the AP poll.
This is just one in a series of articles I'll hope to start as we begin the road to the Alamodome. I'll have another one up featuring teams #11-20.