The game don’t start for another two weeks, but the 2011-12 college basketball season finally arrived once team held Midnight Madness festivities Friday.
We did our part by counting down our preseason Top 25 all last week, though that list wasn’t without second thoughts or second-guessing by readers, which is a good thing. Feedback keeps everyone on their toes and constantly reassessing things.
So who could’ve been in our Top 25? Try these teams:
Florida State Seminoles
That nasty, nasty defense is back for more, much to opponents’ dismay. Open shots just don’t happen vs. FSU. Guard Michael Snaer and forward Bernard James are motivated by the season-ending loss to VCU, which is only more motivation for shut-down defense.
Still, the offense isn’t likely to be much better and especially not with leading scorers Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen gone. Teams know the ‘Noles are focused on defense, not offense.
What’s a Top 25 without Gonzaga? Elias Harris and Robert Sacre are back, along with savvy guard David Stockton, who turned the offense from OK to great late last season. The Zags will win plenty of games again – and probably yet another WCC title.
Still, This team struggled mightily at times last season, especially when Harris and Sacre tuned out of games. Coach Mark few has plenty of newcomers to work into the rotation, making this one of the rare seasons when we don’t know exactly what to expect out of the Bulldogs.
All-America candidate Marcus Denmon is flanked by guards Michael Dixon, Phil Pressey and wing Kim English, giving the Tigers a formidable group to pester and run by opponents.
Still, the season-ending injury to forward Laurence Bowers robs Mizzou of its best frontcourt player, leaving Ricardo Ratliffe to do the yeoman’s work. Also, not a huge fan of Frank Haith.
Ben Howland has one of the nation’s best frontcourts, headed by tireless power forward Reeves Nelson and massive center Josh Smith. Behind them are capable big men Anthony Stover, Brendan Lane and transfers David and Travis Wear. That’s enough to intimidate most teams.
Still, UCLA’s backcourt is a shell of the fonrtcourt. Lazeric Jones is a place-holder for transfer Larry Drew II, who never really played all that well at UNC. Jerime Anderson and Tyler Lamb have never been much more than role players, though Lamb still has time to improve.
UNLV Running Rebels
The Rebs will push New Mexico for the MWC crown thanks to a team filled with experienced, versatile players. Chace Stanback will be one of the league’s top offensive players, while Anthony Marshall and Oscar Bellfield are and underrated backcourt.
Transitioning to a new system under coach Dave Rice will take some time. Working transfer Mike Mosier into the rotation is necessary, but also could take some adjusting.
Once again, Lorenzo Romar has a roster filled with athletic, rangy players who can shoot and run. With a healthy Abdul Gaddy running the show, wing Terrence Ross poised for a breakout season and freshman Tony Wroten adding flair, the Huskies will be a treat to watch and a bear to play.
Still, this is a team that’ll almost certainly be better at season’s end, much like the 2010-11 squad was. And also like last season, the Huskies will struggle when their outside shots don’t fall.
Wichita State Shockers
The Shock were one of the Missouri Valley’s top two teams last season and return a fair amount of that squad, including all-conference guard Toure’ Murry. Gregg Marshall’s team will challenge for the conference title again.
Still, leading scoring J.T. Durley is gone, as are big men Gabe Blair and Aaron Ellis. WSU may very well make the NCAA tournament, but I give Creighton the edge in overall talent from the Valley.
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