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5 College Basketball Teams To Buy And 5 To Sell
It's only January but you know what they say: The early bird gets the worm (I don't know who actually says that.) Here are 5 teams to buy and 5 to sell for the rest of the college basketball season and in March. This is obviously not a comprehensive list. Just because I am not "buying" Villanova or Kentucky does not mean I don't think they will do well this year.
Teams I Am Buying:
Xavier - The Musketeers have been a bit of a disappointment this far (loss to Colorado, narrow wins against Lehigh, Wake Forest, and Missouri) even though they are still ranked in the top 15. Edmund Sumner and Trevon Bluiett are 2 of the Big East's best guards and junior guard JP Macura is very solid as well. Coach Chris Mack recently said senior Myles Davis has been reinstated and will be available to play immediately after being suspended since the start of the season. Xavier has 4 experienced guards and a team that is hungry after getting beat earlier than expected in last season's NCAA tournament by Bronson Koenig's buzzer beating 3s.
Reason for Concern-While Xavier's frontcourt is formidable there is not a lot of depth. Foul trouble or going against a team with multiple bigs in march could cause problems.
Indiana- Indiana has fallen on some tough times with losses to IPFW, Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Louisville. But this is still the same team that beat North Carolina and Kansas. This roster is scary with its ability to shoot and spread the court around a legitimate 1st-round NBA draft pick (Thomas Bryant) while also featuring freak athlete OG Anunoby.
Reason for Concern-Turnovers. IU has to take better care of the basketball.
Duke- When in tact, Duke features the most talented roster in the country with arguably the best coach ever leading them. However, it hasn't been easy in Durham this year. Injuries to 3 of the most talented freshman in the nation and also an injury to under appreciated big man amile Jefferson, a (deserved) suspension to its best player Grayson Allen, and Coach K out for at least a month due to back surgery have plagued them. However, this team is still 14-2 and ranked #7 in the country.
Reason for Concern- At some point this team will likely be fully healthy and have their coach back. When that happens, will there be enough time for the players to gel and for Coach K to figure out what rotations work before the NCAA tournament?
Florida state- if you haven't watched the Seminoles play this year you should do yourself a favor and find a way. Leonard Hamilton's team has two future 1st round draft picks in Dwayne Bacon and Jonathan Isaac, guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes can fill it up, and Michael Ojo legitimately scares me; all 7-feet, 300 pounds of him. Hamilton has historically been known for getting his teams to defend and this team is no different in that category.
Reason for Concern- Lack of NCAA experience. Florida State hasn't been to the NCAA tournament recently. How will this relatively young team deal with the pressure of March and a rugged ACC?
Notre Dame- There wasn't a lot of buzz around Mike Brey's team coming into the year but the Irish have 14 wins in 16 tries including a win over Louisville and they gave Villanova all it could handle.Stop me if you have heard this before: Notre Dame can really score. While being a bit undersized for their positions, Bonzie Colson and VJ Beachem just get it done on the interior. Steve Vasturia is a good shooter with a knack for making big shots and point guard Farrell has made a huge jump from his sophomore to junior season. Keep an eye on these Irish.
Reason for Concern- Along the same lines as Xavier, a team with elite size on the inside could give Notre Dame fits.
Teams I Am Selling:
Baylor- I don't have a really good reason for why I am selling the Bears. Johnathan Motley is a match-up problem for most teams and Miami transfer Manu Lecomte has been really good. Baylor has one of if not the best resume in the country with wins over Oregon, Michigan State, Louisville, and Xavier. That's legit. For some reason Baylor just doesn't pass the eye test for me. Prove me wrong, Bears!
Reason for Optimism: I will post their resume one more time: Wins over Oregon, Michigan State, Louisville, and Xavier.
Gonzaga: Stop me if you have heard this one before: "This is the best team Mark Few has ever had" or "This is the team that can finally get Gonzaga to the final four!" It seems like those statements are made every year and this year is no different. Now, I am not saying that those statements were wrong before or are not true this year. Gonzaga already has done something this year that they have not done before: Complete the non-conference schedule undefeated. The Zags likely wont get much resistance from WCC foes aside from a couple of tilts with St. Mary's and possibly BYU; meaning they will head into March with no more than 2 or 3 losses barring a shocking upset. A couple of former Pac-12 players, Nigel Williams-Goss (from Washington) and Jordan Mathews (from Cal) have been fantastic and both are averaging in double figures. Przemek Karnowski is a 7-foot, 300 pound load in the paint. Fellow 7-footer Zach Collins is averaging in double figures in his freshman season as well. This very well could be the best team Mark Few has had and could be the team that gets Gonzaga to their first final 4. But until I actually see Zags playing in Arizona in April, call me a skeptic.
Reason for Optimism: Mark Few. He is an excellent coach who has stayed at a "mid-major" program instead of leaving for bigger gigs. There is something to be said for continuity.
West Virginia- "Press Virginia!" Yes, Bob Huggins is still having his players press at every opportunity and creating chaos on defense just as he has the previous couple of years and has his team currently ranked in the top 10. They are much more improved this year at taking care of the ball themselves. They are forcing 24 turnovers per game, best in the country. I don't think the Mountaineers can force that many turnovers every game for the entire year. Teams should get good looks at the basket after breaking the initial pressure.
Reason for Optimism: The style of play is very hard to prepare for; especially if a team only has 1 full day to prepare for it in between the 1st and 2nd rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
Arizona: This is subject to change if Allonzo Trier comes back at some point this season. The talented sophomore has not played in a single game this season due to..... who knows? Arizona hasn't really stated a reason why he is not playing and neither has the NCAA. The Wildcats have done a good job of having success without Trier but haven't really beaten anyone of note (best win Texas A&M? Michigan State early on in the season?) Arizona has relied heavily on 3 freshman and they have played well (especially Lauri Markkanen) but they need Trier back if they want to do damage in March.
Reason for optimism: Sean Miller. Miller is already on a list that no coach wants to be on for long: One of the best coaches without a final 4. He is a terrific coach and will be off of that list soon; but not this year unless he gets his best player back.
Virginia: As you probably already know, Tony Bennett has his team playing spectacular defense and playing at one of the slowest paces in all of college basketball once again. They have a good win at Louisville and would have another good win over Florida State if it wasn't for a cold blooded, last-second 3 by Dwayne Bacon. The problem is that there is no Malcolm Brogdon or Justin Anderson to make plays with the ball in their hands late in the shot clock. London Perrantes is a very good point guard but doesn't have the body to absorb contact like Virginia players have had in the previous few seasons.
Reason for Optimism: Pace of play. When you play as good defense as Virginia does, you are likely going to be in every game. Teams can also get frustrated playing at the pace that Virginia does. As the cliche goes: It is much easier to slow a team down that wants to play fast than speed a team up that wants to play slow,
So there you have it! Teams that I am on board with and teams I think might struggle a little but in the near future. Don't agree? Want to provide your own list? Go ahead and comment!