My Preseason AP Top 25 Ballot; UConn at No. 13
Here's my preseason poll, along with my five-man All-America team. (The first AP poll won't come out until Oct. 31, while the All-America team moves Nov. 4):
I'm going with the Spartans at No. 1, not to be different but because I'll take experience, guard play and a great coach over what's being labeled as the greatest recruiting class in the history of the world, any day of the week. Kentucky may be the next Fab Five (or, for that matter, the next 2012 Kentucky), but I'd like to see it on the court first before I vault them to No. 1.
Same goes for the five-man All-America team we're asked to submit. No freshmen on my squad. Got burned by Harrison Barnes a few years ago and promised never to do so again. That doesn't mean a frosh can't make my end-of-the-season All-American teams, but again, prove it on the court first.
As for UConn, I've got them as a solid No. 13, higher than most preseason polls. Homerism? Nah, just someone who saw first-hand what this team did last year, largely flying under the national radar, and believes it can really do some special things this season. Kevin Ollie preaches building better men and a strong, family unit, and while some may pass that off as sports cliches, from Ollie, it's truly sincere and very evident in the way this team seems to like each other. There really seems to be something special brewing in Storrs this season, and come tourney time, I'd be shocked if this wasn't a team on a mission to make amends for last year's postseason ban.
Oh yeah, and watch out for DeAndre Daniels this season. Could be a true breakout star.
Are there concerns? Of course. Rebounding being the primary one, but here's my theory on that: the Huskies won 20 games last year despite poor rebounding, and they almost have to be better on the boards this season, right? Heck, their top five rebounders are all back (and that's not even counting Phil Nolan, who'll be better), along with freshmen Amida Brimah, Kentan Facey (pending his eligibility) and transfer Lasan Kromah. I also think Tyler Olander will be a lot better on the boards this season. Plus, how many truly dominant big men/frontcourts are there in the nation? Guard play seems to rule the land these days, and UConn certainly has that covered.
One thing I would watch for is to make sure the guards play together as a unit all season. The NBA will be on the minds of Shabazz Napier and (particularly) Ryan Boatright, so it bears watching to see if the two continue to do what's best for the team down the stretch, rather than try to do what they think will best boost their NBA stock. I don't think it'll be a problem, but you never know.
There's also this somewhat intangible point: Napier was so clutch last season, had so many last-minute heroics, you almost wonder if he should've saved some for this season -- a season that, y'know, really counts. I know, sounds silly. I guess the point is, does Napier still have plenty of late-game magic left this season? My guess: yes, indeed he does.
Labels: Amida Brimah, DeAndre Daniels, Doug McDermott, Gary Harris, Kentan Facey, Kevin Ollie, Lasan Kromah, Marcus Smart, Mitch McGary, Phil Nolan, Russ Smith, Ryan Boatright, Shabazz Napier, Tyler Olander