What To Expect This Year In College Basketball
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What To Expect This Year In College Basketball

My picks for the Wooden Award and the top five teams

What To Expect This Year In College Basketball

By and large, I think most true college basketball fans can agree that this young season is far more exciting than last year's Kentucky show. Now that Kentucky has tasted defeat thanks to an unlikely UCLA upset (further legitimized by their win at Gonzaga), the playing field is once again truly even. It seems as though college basketball has become almost like the NBA in that it's going to be an unpredictable and exciting season, whereas the NBA, obviously headlined by Steph Curry and his juggernaut Warriors, appears to be a one team show thus far.

Expect the national rankings to change constantly, as the preseason top six have all been beaten already. There will be no dominant teams this year, and I'd be surprised to see a Power 5 Conference Team finish the regular season with fewer than three losses--with the possible exception of Maryland/Michigan State and Kentucky playing in the considerably weaker Big Ten and SEC conferences, respectively.

It's way too early to be making end of season predictions, but it's more fun this way, so I'll give it a shot. Here are my Wooden Award (College Basketball's MVP equivalent) and postseason top five picks.

Wooden Award top five:

1. Denzel Valentine - Michigan State may be the best team in the nation, and many argue that the MVP should go to the best player on the best team. Regardless, there's not much you can say to argue Valentine's Wooden Award potential given his recent play. He makes big plays, puts up big numbers, and takes over close games. He's as qualified as any recent Wooden Award winner.

2. Marcus Paige - UNC is another contender for the nation's top spot, and while a massive upset at the hands of Northern Iowa in Paige's absence cost them their number one rank, they are more than capable of recapturing the throne before the season's end. Like Valentine, Paige takes over when his team needs an X factor. He supplies a majority of UNC's threes, and provides intangible leadership that could very well win a national championship. He may not have as much draft potential, but Marcus Paige has earned himself a place among UNC's all-time elite players.

3. Tyler Ulis - Naturally, Kentucky will be a favorite to win the SEC, and maybe even the NCAA tourney. The key to success for the Wildcats isn't cocoa butter, their army of 6'9 plus bigs or their seemingly unfair depth, it's their guard play, particularly that of Tyler Ulis. One of the only returning members of last year's national championship runner-up team, this year's team belongs to Ulis. He probably deserved a starting spot more than either of the Harrison twins, but now that he has it, he'll shine. He won't be a lottery pick, but he'll be one of the nation's top producing point guards as long as he remains healthy.

4. Melo Trimble - Did you see his performance in Maryland's loss to UNC? He single-handedly kept UMD in the game for a good part of the second half. The turnovers were a red flag, but Maryland will be a top ten team for most of the season, and the lethal combo of Trimble and Sulaimon will probably be the best one-two punch in the nation. If Trimble can perform at half of the level he did against UNC (minus the turnovers), he'll be one of the top Wooden Award candidates for sure.

5. Kris Dunn - I was reluctant to put a Big East player in my top five, but he's doing things at Providence that simply transcend the weak conference handicap. He's considered by many to be the best player in the country, and while his numbers may partially reflect a weak conference, seeing is believing. He plays above the rim so easily. With his frame and quickness, he may very well be the nation's top point guard, and will certainly be a lottery pick.

Top Five Teams at the End of the Season:

1. North Carolina - With Marcus Paige back, the Tar Heels are incredibly dangerous. Their size, experience, and athleticism earned them a preseason top ranked spot. Now that the team is healthy, with the Northern Iowa upset forgotten, and a great win against another national contender, the Heels are likely to make an impressive run. Their one weakness is that other than Paige, the team lacks a pure knockdown shooter. They're a Danny Green caliber shooter away from being one of the better UNC teams of all time despite a heartbreaking loss to an underrated and dangerous Texas team.

2. Kentucky - Despite a disappointing upset at UCLA, Kentucky is still one of the nation's deepest and most talented teams. With Vanderbilt as their only true competition in the SEC, they'll likely score a number one seed come tournament time. And they could easily make a championship run. Many (incorrectly) argue that this Kentucky team could compete with last year's, and while this may not be true, few teams in the nation are truly capable of running away with the title.

3. Michigan State - Denzel Valentine could take a high school team to the final four, and given the depth and talent that Michigan State has, I'm pretty confident in saying they'll make it. Michigan State is nowhere near a one man show though, and you can never count a Tom Izzo team out. They'll spend a considerable amount of time in the top five, and given their performance against a good Louisville team, they won't lose often.

4. Kansas - This pick is probably my most dangerous one. Playing in a stacked Big 12 conference, there are more than a few teams that could take this spot, but right now, it has to go to Bill Self's squad. Now that Cheick Diallo has been declared eligible, it seems like the Jayhawks have to be the favorite out of the Big 12. A lethal combination of stellar athletic guard play and Perry Ellis down low, Kansas is dangerous.

5. Oklahoma - I had to go with two Big 12 teams because of the unbelievable depth in the conference. Iowa State could easily replace either Kansas or Oklahoma, but Buddy Hield (another serious Wooden Award contender) and Ryan Spangler are a lethal combination. Oklahoma may lose a few tough games in the dangerous Big 12, but they are easily a top five caliber team.

I can't stress enough how excited I am about this season in the NCAA. This season's predictions are extremely tough to make, and in all honesty, I'm really not confident in any of them. It's going to be unpredictable, but so much fun.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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