Lindy’s ranks Michigan State as the preseason No. 1


This is the time of year that preview magazines start rolling out, and while much of what is written in these magazines — and our preview series, which we will start rolling out next month — will be proven wrong in the first month of the season, arguing about where a team is ranked or who is a preseason all-american is more fun than anything we’re doing college basketball-related right now.

Lindy’s posted their cover as a teaser for the release of their magazine on Tuesday, and on it, they have listed their preseason top 10.

And it’s sure to create some discussion.

Lindy’s ranks Michigan State as their preseason No. 1 team, followed by Kentucky at No. 2. I love the Spartans this season, and if Adreian Payne can be a presence in the paint, Gary Harris develops like we all expect him too and Keith Appling learns to be a better point guard, Tom Izzo’s club not only could end up winning a national title, but they may also beat Kentucky when they play on November 12th.

But Kentucky this season is much closer to being the Kentucky of 2012 than the Kentucky of 2013. They have seven or eight first round picks on the roster. They have one of the best recruiting classes in the history of college basketball coming in. Lindy’s may end up being the only outlet that doesn’t rank Kentucky No. 1.

To be honest, that’s not the biggest issue I have with their top ten.

First and foremost, North Carolina is ranked fifth in the country despite the fact that they lost Reggie Bullock to the draft, they may lose PJ Hairston for an extended period of time, and are going to be forced to rely on either Marcus Paige at the point or spend another season with a freshman, Nate Britt, running the show. I had UNC outside the top ten with Hairston.

But that’s still not my biggest qualm.

Louisville at No. 7?

I know they lose Peyton Siva and I know they lose Gorgui Dieng, but with Russ Smith and Montrezl Harrell returning as well as another talented recruiting class coming in, I don’t see how the Cardinals, who are coming off of a Final Four and a national title the last two seasons, can be ranked outside the top three.

But see, that’s the beauty of the offseason.

Everyone’s entitled to an opinion.

No. 1 Kentucky survives without Tyler Ulis in lineup

Tyler Ulis
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Less than a week after giving No. 2 Maryland all they could handle, Illinois State went into Lexington and gave No. 1 Kentucky fits.

The Redbirds never really threatened UK in the second half, but they went into the break tied and were within single digits down the stretch, eventually losing 75-63.

Kentucky was flustered. They turned the ball over 15 times compared to just eight assists, they shot 2-for-12 from three and just 29-for-46 (63 percent) from the charity stripe. They simply did not handle Illinois State’s pressure all that well.

And there was a reason for that.

Tyler Ulis didn’t play.

Sometimes it’s difficult to appreciate just what a player brings to a team until that player is not in the lineup, and that was precisely the case with Ulis on Monday night. It was crystal clear what he provides Kentucky. Beyond leadership and the ability to break a press without throwing the ball to the other team, he’s a calming presence. He doesn’t get rattled when a defender is harassing him and he doesn’t get overwhelmed by a situation like a mid-major threatening the No. 1 team in the country in their own gym.

He’s everything you look for in a pure point guard, and for as good as Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe have looked at times this season, it should be crystal clear who the most important player on this Kentucky team is.

LSU loses to Charleston, eliminates at-large bid margin for error

Ben Simmons
AP Photo/Kathy Willens
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Ben Simmons scored 15 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, the second time in his six-game career that the LSU freshman has collected that many caroms, but that wasn’t enough for the Tigers to avoid dropping a game on the road to the College of Charleston, 70-58. It was the third straight loss for Simmons’ crew, as they fell to Marquette and N.C. State at the Legends Classic last week.

But here’s the thing: LSU didn’t just lose.

The game really wasn’t close.

LSU was down by as many as 23 points. It was 39-17 at the half, and that was after Charleston had a shot at the buzzer called off upon review. They made a bit of a run in the second half but never got closer than seven. When LSU would cut into the lead, the Cougars would respond with a run of their own, killing LSU’s spirit while keeping them at arm’s length.

[RELATED: Ben Simmons’ one college year a waste?]

Now, there are quite a few things here to discuss. For starters, LSU’s effort was, at best, apathetic, and, at worst, regular old pathetic. The team has a serious lack of leadership that was plainly evident on Monday night; would Fred VanVleet let his team fold against a program picked to finish at the bottom of the SoCon? Would Tyler Ulis? For that matter, would Tom Izzo or Mike Krzyzewski or John Calipari?

Perhaps more importantly, does any of that change when Keith Hornsby and Craig Victor get back?

Simmons did show off his potential — 18 boards, four assists, he even made his first three of the year — but he also showed precisely why there are scouts that are trying to curtail the LeBron James comparisons. Simmons was 4-for-15 from the floor with seven turnovers against a mediocre mid-major team. There are so many things that Simmons does well, but scoring efficiently — particularly in half court setting — and shooting the ball consistently are not on that list.

But here’s the biggest issue: LSU may have put themselves in a situation where they aren’t a tournament team. As of today, they’re 3-3 on the season with losses to a pair of teams that, at best, seem destined to be in the bubble conversation on Selection Sunday in addition to this loss to Charleston. The rest of their non-conference schedule is ugly. The only game worth noting is at home against No. 6 Oklahoma at the end of January.

The NCAA factors in non-conference schedule strength when determining at-large teams. You need to at least try, and LSU didn’t try; they have one of the worst non-conference schedules in the country.

The great thing about being in the SEC — as opposed to, say, the Missouri Valley — is that the Tigers will have plenty of chances to earn marquee wins. Six, by my court: Kentucky twice, Texas A&M twice, Vanderbilt on the road and Oklahoma at home. They probably need to win at least two or three of those games to have a real chance, and that’s assuming they can avoid anymore horrid losses in the process.

The season isn’t over six games in, not by any stretch of the imagination.

But LSU has done a hell of a job eliminating their margin for error.