A traditional pre-season top 25? They’re fairly ubiquitous this time of year. Everyone has one, but from Duke to Mississippi Valley State and in between, there’s a lot of intriguing teams for the upcoming college basketball season.
In ascending order of squads that pique our interest, our list consists of teams with a rare chance to make noise, have a lot to prove, quirky schedules, or are just named Kentucky.
Follow along. Story lines aren’t just for the nation’s elite.
Even for a top seed, it was strange how many people were sleeping on Mike Krzyzewski's team last March. Most were in agreement that Duke's prospective path to the Final Four was of the primrose variety, but the word "dominant" rarely came to mind when talking about this team. Or so we thought. Duke's ultra-efficient 2010 roster plowed through the NCAA Tournament right in front of our eyes, affirming their status as the kings of college hoops along the way.
Duke's run was still a tad shocking because we had already tabbed 2010-11 as the season for Coach K's team to officially run wild on college basketball. We knew that transfer Seth Curry would be eligible, that Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler would be seniors, and that stud recruit Kyrie Irving would provide a huge spark right away. We were willing to overlook the graduations of Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek because of this too, despite the fact that all three ended up being integral in Duke's title run.
So maybe in a way it feels like the Blue Devils stole themselves a championship one year before their roster was supposed to fully bloom. That's not to say they didn't deserve to cut down the nets in the end (they did), but they won during a year where they had less talent than what we're going to see from them this season. If all goes to plan, this current roster has the makings of an absolute juggernaut. To say that about a team that just won an NCAA championship is a scary thought. Maybe that whole dominance thing isn't too far off after all.
What happened this summer?
Coach K's "championship scissors" fetched $2,505 in an auction. Former UNC punching bag Greg Paulus was named assistant coach at Navy. White House Bracketologist Barack Obama praised Duke's growth as a team. Nolan Smith entered the blogosphere.
Games that really matter
- 11/22 vs. Marquette
- 11/27 @ Oregon
- 12/1 vs. Michigan State
- 12/4 vs. Butler
- 1/9 vs. Maryland
- 1/12 @ Florida State
- 2/2 @ Maryland
- 2/9 vs. North Carolina
- 2/23 vs. Temple
- 2/26 @ Virginia Tech
- 3/5 @ North Carolina
Most intriguing player
Seth Curry (6'2" guard; RS sophomore)– When the youngest Curry arrived as a transfer from Liberty, it was a classic case of the rich getting richer. The smooth scorer offered up moments of brilliance during his freshman season in the Big South, posting averages of 20.2 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. And after spending a full year absorbing the nuances of Coach K's style of play from the bench, it's easy to see why Curry is the most hyped transfer in the country. The wealth of talent on this Duke roster won't be enough to stop him from snagging a portion of the headlines either. This kid is simply too good for that, and it won't matter how many minutes he plays. Plus, the NCAA already fueled the fire by not awarding Curry a 2010 championship ring, and he's not too happy about it. Watch out.
What’s on the line?
Coach K's string of 15 consecutive NCAA appearances. The Blue Devils won 77.5% of their ACC games during that span, which averages out to 12.4 conference victories per season. It would be a monumental disappointment for this team to fall short of 12 league wins in 2011, so expect both of those numbers to increase. Duke's 65 victories over the last two years were the most in college hoops. Even for one of the sport's few powerhouses, the bar has been set exceptionally high. The Cameron Crazies wouldn't have it any other way.
Surprise, surprise, we've got the Dukies repeating as champs. Shocking, right? Listen, all of our favorite components on last year's squad are back and better than ever. Zoubek's postseason explosion is the type of thing that can be duplicated by the Plumlee brothers, and Scheyer's big-shot ability was a trait that ultimately masked his poor shooting percentages. The combination of Curry and Irving will be a significant upgrade at both guard positions anyway. Having the most accomplished coach in college basketball running the show also helps a little bit too. So with more talent, an infusion of newcomers and the leadership of Singler and Smith, who in the world is gonna beat these guys? Answer: Nobody.
- Conference: 1st
- Postseason: NCAA Champs