The smoke has cleared from the recruiting circus. David Stern's WWF lieutenants have scourged the college basketball landscape leaving only the truest student athletes to carry the torch. What we have left, it seems, is a 5 horse race in the quest for one shining moment. Sure, we can discuss why you think that Matt Painter's Boilers will make a deeper run than the Gerald Henderson-less Dukies. Will Ater Majok be the competent offensive frontcourt scorer the Huskies need to replace the departed fly swatter Thabeet? What of Tyler Smith's headband and Bruce Pearl's yamaka? I'll tell you in good time. Cutting to the chase, however, these are the five programs most likely to make a deep run into the madness. I'd be shocked if less than 3 of these teams made it to Indy. In my opinion, there's these five and then everybody else. I'll rank them and give you a high level breakdown of the squads.
1. Texas. Call me a homer, but I can't help myself given the talent and experience this season's squad will bring to bear. It's certainly the best Texas team I've seen in my life time, on paper at least. And it's probably one of the deepest teams the Big Dozen has had in quite sometime.
Backcourt. First you've got your holdovers. Balbay is going to play as a drive and distribute lead guard. Varez Ward escaped the jaws of transfer and after his stellar showing as a one man wrecking ball in the tourney vs. Duke, he'll be counted on to be a combo guard scorer with the mechanics and stroke to become a plus perimeter shooter. Oh and he'll also guard. The newcomers are blue chip blur Avery Bradley, and mid-term enrollee Jai Lucas. Bradley is a terrific athlete and a ferocious defender. His bread is buttered in the midrange game, but he'll need to add a deep stroke to his arsenal to become a complete player. Jai Lucas will run the show and knock down open jumpers. What he lacks in size he makes up by being the son of a John Lucas.
Frontcourt. Dex Pittman is the most dominant big man force in the college game today. Sorry Patrick Patterson. He played in a post situation last season that had to feel like a suffocating closet. With the floor opened up by the influx of perimeter talent, he'll feel like a euphemistic version of a confused HenryJames this year.
Jordan Hamilton may be the best player in the big twelve at the 3 spot even though the head of the San Franciso chapter of the Black Panthers disagrees. Damion James at the 4? Are you serious? This team waltzes to the final quatro.
2. Kansas. Sorry, their lack of creative playmakers still hurts them. Shut down Collins and you limit what they can do offensively. Xavier Henry gives them another playmaker, but can they really guard as well as Texas? Despite all that, these mother suckers are talented as anyone in the country.
Backcourt. Collins is the best point guard in the big dozen, but Texas has two cats that contain and control this playmaking stud in Balbay and Mason. Xavier Henry can make plays from the 2 or 3, but Elijah Johnson might be the key to the Jayhawks employing three playmakers on the floor at any given time.
Frontcourt. The third best big man in the nation behind Dex Pittman and Patrick Patterson is probably Cole Aldrich. Kid can score, but can he hold his own against a monster like Pittman?
The one two punch of Aldrich and Collins make the likelihood of an all big 12 National Championship a huge possibility. If I'm betting, it's the Hawks and the Longhorns for all the marbles in Indy.
3. Michigan State. The fighting Izzos are solid from guard to wing to pivot. What's not to like?
Backcourt. Kalin Lucas may be the quickest man in the country. If he can hit a 20 footer consistently he's unstoppable.
Frontcourt. Delvin Roe is the most talented player in the Big 10 and he's flanked by a hugely experienced and talented wing in Raymar Morgan. If they guard like most Izzo's squads, they'll be a tough out in the tourney.
4. Kentucky. Look, we're talking first year talent that makes the fab five blush. Calipari gets a crap ton more out of his players than most purists would admit, and that makes the Wildcats dangerous.
Backcourt. John Wall is a 6-2 version of TJ Ford. He's already better than Kenny Anderson and Stephon Marbury at this stage of the game in terms of handling the rock and getting where he needs to get on the floor. If he shoots it a lick he'll be a world beater at any level.
Frontcourt. Patrick Patterson wrecks shit in the pivot and the talented young group around him will only make that easier. Demarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton make this group sick with talent. It reminds of Scipio catching swine flu and the clap after a mercurial jaunt in Lubbock.
5. Villanova. Jay Wright is almost as good looking as I am and that means a bunch in tournaments and Austin clubs. If you put a premium on guard play in the tournament then you have to love the Cats.
Backcourt. There isn't a better backcourt in the nation than Reynolds and Fisher. Maalik Wayns gives 'Nova a Mickey D's caliber point guard off the bench.
Frontcourt. Dominic Cheek, Mouphtaou Yarou, and Isaiah Armwood give the Cats one of the best frontcourts in the nation. Couple a deep experienced backcourt with these three phenoms, and you have the makings for a deep tourney run.
A tourney that Texas is going to win. Thoughts?