With the college basketball season rapidly coming to a picture-box to you and entering the thoughts of those who may have otherwise ignored the greatness that is kids in shorts putting a ball in a hoop for free, Campus Sports thought this would be the appropriate time to drop some information on your domes. That is why we are here to give you the 2014-15 College Basketball Season Preview, brought to you by me — a guy with terrific hair. Who knows, maybe some of this information will inspire you to impress some person at the bar later tonight.
As we traverse through this college basketball season preview we will be joined by other members of the Campus Sports family. Not directly or anything, but through their votes for preseason awards, teams and other things that will be typed up and hurled through the interwebs and even magically appear on your interweb viewing device of choice. So, sit back, grab a beverage of choice as we help you get prepared for the start of the season.
The Nation’s Top Sleeper Teams
A sleeper team is defined as a team that no one really sees coming. Being a dark horse team is a thing that is becoming harder and harder to come by. I mean, with the accessibility of the Internet being as easy as clicking on stuff and there being approximately 77 billion blogs that devote themselves to whatever it is that blogs devote themselves to, any team that may seem like it may end up being even remotely relevant is on at least someone’s radar. Nevertheless, we attempted to come up with five of our own.
I am not too sure how UConn ended up on this list (damn, colleague voting derived systems), but the Huskies have lost a lot of talent over the years. However, Kevin Ollie — and the best mustache this side of exploiting kids and using them as free laborers in the name of student-athletes and making schools money — is still there. Oh, and I am not sure if you heard during the last NBA offseason, but Ollie is a pretty big deal. He’s friends with Kevin Durant.
Harvard, VCU and Dayton don’t feel like sleeper teams to me either. Tommy Amaker did a great job making Harvard relevant last year — when they were everyone’s trendy sleeper pick — and have a plethora of talent returning. Really, it isn’t until next season that many expect a drop in wins from the program.
VCU and Dayton are two programs who don’t have a ton of name-brand players, but they do make up for it with their coaches.
As for Memphis, I have long been a huge supporter of Josh Pastner, but even I have to admit that they are only a sleeper teem if the NCAA Tournament is cancelled.
Regardless, the votes were cast and these are your 2014-15 college basketball sleeper teams to watch.
The Nation’s Most Overrated Teams
Alas, one of my favorite topics. Not because I like to bash teams who other people think are good, but the endgame here results in fanbases getting all hot and bothered. As in, “What do you mean we aren’t 40-0 good? Idiot”, types of things. Honestly, my favorite part of covering college hoops.
5- Michigan State
3- Ohio State
1- North Carolina
The usual mix of teams in the running. These fanbases shouldn’t be upset, though. They should wear these fictitious overrated badges with honor. Seriously, think about it. You are predicted to be such a good team that — through reverse scientific processing — there has been a backlash from other people who just don’t get it. Essentially, this is a great way to help temper expectations when (and/or if) your team falters down the line.
Coaches On the Hot Seat
This is otherwise known as the “Why Hasn’t Oliver Purnell Been Fired Yet?” Award.
Here are a slew of coaches who are not only on a short leash, but might be your new assistant manger at Arby’s next year. So, um, don’t go too harsh on them.
5- Steve Lavin – St John’s
4- Mark Turgeon – Maryland
3- Dave Rice – UNLV
2- Oliver Purnell- DePaul (Seriously, DePaul still pays him to coach)
1- Tom Crean – Indiana
Unfortunately, we could have probably added another 10 guys to this list. Even the winners of the midterm elections won’t be happy, as the end of each college basketball season results in an incline to the unemployment number. I also think had this poll been done about a month ago that Crean’s name isn’t even on this list.
Top Coaches In New Places
Simple enough, right? These are some fellas who are new to their current surrounding area.
5- Kim Anderson – Missouri
4- Donnie Tyndall – Tennessee
3- Steve Wojchiechowski – Marquette
2- Bruce Pearl – Auburn
1- Buzz Williams – Virginia Tech
Outside of Wojo, a lot of these guys are either retreaded head coaches or guys with previous head coaching experience. So, the hope for their new home is that a change of scenery will help propel them to even more success. As for Wojo, well, he is probably just hoping to be good enough, for just long enough, that he can wait until Coach K decides to stop dying his hair black and go away to some retirement home in the south.
Five Programs on the Rise (to start the ’14-15 Season)
These are rather predictable, as programs on the rise are ones who usually have some previous success behind them. I mean, it is not as if you can just say a program is on the rise, literally, just because. Whether it is because a recent string of success, a new influx of money or a coach who seems to have the ability to recruit a professional streetwalker into a streetwalkers’ union (damn you, dues), these are five programs we think are on their way up.
5- Marquette (I guess on the rise for the Wojo era?)
2- Iowa State
Disclaimer: Well, all of that is until their coach takes a better job. Sorry, everyone who thinks Richard Pitino is at Minnesota for the long haul better enjoy his Hairness (patent pending) while he is there.
Five Programs on the Decline (to start the ’14-15 Season)
The programs below have to be programs of some relevance. It is not as if a program like DePaul or other abominations in the realm of Division I hoops can fall any more than they already have. So please refrain from getting upset if your team is on the list. Be thankful your program was once good enough to now be considered relevant enough to be on the decline.
5–UNC (UNC alum, count all your fingers on your right hand. That is this number)
3- Maryland (Still declining?)
1- Ohio State (This came in as the biggest shocker)
Conference Winner Predictions
These are the results of our votes of who we think will win each of the power seven regular season conference crowns. It should be noted, though, that things like Fred Hoiberg’s awesomeness were not factored in or Iowa State would have won leagues they do not even participate in.
Other 26 Top 10 Poll
It would be unrealistic to ask the staff to give conference winners of the other 26 conferences. Really, since we are friends and I think friends should be honest with each other, folks who rattle off all of the “other 26” winners in prediction posts are either super dedicated or are going off other folks’ work (I mean, plagiarism). There is only so much hoops someone could honestly project at an educated level. That’s why we are going to rank our Other 26 as if there were a Other 26 Poll.
9- George Washington
7- San Diego State
1- Wichita State
You have probably noticed a recurring theme here. A lot of teams are appearing numerous times in our 2014-15 College Basketball Season Preview. That actually makes perfect sense, though. As an example: Teams from the Other 26 are more likely to have teams that would be considered sleeper teams.
The All-Tons-To-Prove-Team (NBA stock, legacy, etc)
Basically, which players in the nation have the most to prove to the nation? Whether it be their draft stock, the legacy they leave at their program, if they transferred to a larger program after smaller school success or if they have had enough off-the-court issues that they need to play good so the perception of them being horrid people are changed via the abilities of being good at scoring buckets.
Fed Van Fleet (NBA Stock) – Wichita State
Antoine Mason (Transferring after being a big time scorer at smaller school) – Auburn
Alex Poythress (Will he ever be “that” good?) – Kentucky
Kyle Wiltjer (What is he made of?) – Gonzaga
Willie Caulie-Stein (Once projected as being a first-round NBA Talent. Now, well, not so much) – Kentucky
Most Exciting Team for On-The-Court-Entertainment
Which team will be the best to watch on the picture-box for your pleasures? Well…
Kansas Jayhawks/Kentucky Wildcats– I must admit that I voted for the Iowa State Hoibergs… I mean, the Iowa State Cyclones because of Fred Hoiberg, but the votes were tabulated and my colleagues think that the uptempo pace coupled with the talent Kansas and Kentucky have will result in the most entertaining brand of basketball season. Who am I to argue? I’m just some dude who once tried to coin the phrase HoiBall.
Most Exciting Team for Off-The-Court-Shenanigans
This is a no-brainer, right? Right.
Indiana: While Tom Crean is often said to look like the narc in The Office, I have often found myself thinking he looks just like Tom Arnold. Just like Arnold’s ability to always find himself in crazy, tomfoolery filled situations, Crean currently finds himself on the hot seat because players on his roster have a pension to visit the pokey for short stays.
Campus Sports All-American Americans (The Jack Swagger Team)
If I thought enough readers knew who Jack Swagger was I would just call this the All Jack Swagger Team.
G- Fred Van Fleet – Wichita State
G- Stanley Johnson – Arizona
F- Terran Petteway – Nebraska
F- Montrezl Harrell – Louisville
C- Frank Kaminsky – Wisconsin
Just a quick note on Petteway. He may be the most underrated player in the entire country and the Cornhuskers can thank him for having a program that looks like it can grow into a big time player. Personally, I think he has a really good shot at being the NPOY.
Freshmen of the Year Top Five
I’m not a huge fan of ranking or debating which players are the best that have yet to play a single second of college basketball. I mean, we are basically voting on which guys are winning awards off the evaluations done by other people — at the high school level, mind you.
5- Karl Towns – Kentucky
4 – Trey Lyles – Kentucky
3- Stanley Johnson – Arizona
Runner-up – Jahlil Okafor
FOTY- Cliff Alexander – Kansas
National Player of the Year Top Five
I think this is pretty known concept, right?
5- Marcus Paige – UNC
4 – Georges Niang – Iowa State
3 – Jahlil Okafor – Duke
Runner-up- Frank Kaminsky – Wisconsin
NPOY- Montrezl Harrell – Louisville
To be honest, the most interesting take away from this — for me at least — is that Cliff Alexander got more votes for Freshman of the Year, but Okafor finished higher in the National Player of the Year ballots. I do enjoy the fact that Niang got some much deserved love and that people have not forgotten about Marcus Paige.
Campus Sports Top 25
23. Ohio State
18. San Diego State
14. Iowa State
13. Michigan State
9. North Carolina
Way Too Early Final Four Predictions
Kentucky, Louisville, Wisconsin and Wichita State– It should be noted that only one colleague voted on this part. Oh, and it wasn’t me.
*Section Photo credit to Andy Lyons, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Rick Osentoski, USA Today Sports.