Last week I trotted out my picks for the top five defenses of 2017-18. Now it's time to look at the best offenses. One thing you'll notice immediately is that no team made both lists. Does this spell a wide-open season? Well, I don't suppose the 1975-76 undefeated Indiana Hoosiers will be losing any sleep over the coming months. Then again, there are going to be some very, very strong rosters out there.
1. Arizona Wildcats
Arizona's going to get its fair share of preseason votes as the No. 1 team in the nation, period, and rightly so. With an attack led by Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins and incoming freshman Deandre Ayton, Sean Miller will have possibly the most talented and potent nucleus in the country.
In a sophomore season that was abbreviated due to a suspension for PED use, Trier, 6-foot-5, was a foul-drawing machine who made opposing defenses suffer both from beyond the arc and in the paint. Alkins put together a freshman season that qualifies him as a borderline Trier clone, only beefier (and with fewer fouls drawn).
Lastly, Ayton, 7-1, is projected as a top-three pick in the 2018 draft. Keep in mind that in Pac-12 play last season, the Wildcats' only (and I do mean only) brush with statistical mediocrity came in the form of 2-point accuracy (50.1 percent). Ayton will see to it that this number rises in 2017-18. This could be Miller's strongest team yet in Tucson.
2. Duke Blue Devils
With a projected top-two overall pick in the 2018 draft in Marvin Bagley III and last season's preseason national player of the year, Grayson Allen (yes, emphasis on preseason), Duke may feature an inside-outside punch that no other team in the country can match. For my money, however, the Blue Devils' season will be riding on the "inside" half of that equation.
It has been a long, long time since we've seen a Mike Krzyzewski offense that didn't take at least decent care of the ball and hit shots from outside. But interior scoring and, especially, offensive rebounding have been much more of a hit-or-miss affair in Durham the past few years -- and last season qualified as a miss. If Bagley (alongside the estimable likes of Marques Bolden and Wendell Carter) gets the job done in the paint and freshman Trevon Duval takes care of business at the point, this is going to be an offense that transcends its rather extreme youth and lives up to its well-deserved hype.
3. Michigan State Spartans
Miles Bridges came back to school for his sophomore season, and so one of the oddest streaks in college basketball continues. Since the NBA adopted the current one-and-done rule in 2005, no Big Ten freshman from a program other than Ohio State or Indiana has been selected in the first round of the draft.
Speaking of odd streaks, Tom Izzo's past two forays into the NCAA tournament have each ended the first weekend. The last time that happened was in the 2006 and 2007 brackets. So, yes, the coach is due, and, more importantly, he has Bridges, Nick Ward and freshman Jaren Jackson on hand to set things right. Last season the Spartans were a good shooting team that gave the ball away far too often (while being surprisingly meek on the offensive glass). Assuming MSU gets a mere normal number of chances to score, look out, Big Ten.
4. Saint Mary's Gaels
For two seasons in a row, the trio of Jock Landale, Emmett Naar and Calvin Hermanson anchored an SMC offense that scored 1.16 points per possession or more in West Coast Conference play. That factoid alone arguably makes this pick one of the easier ones on this list. All three of those guys are back (Landale should by rights be shooting for back-to-back WCC Player of the Year awards, but oh well) and they'll be joined by Ole Miss transfer and onetime New Mexico starter Cullen Neal.
Last season Neal hit 41 percent of his 3s for the Rebels. His arrival in Moraga should give Randy Bennett a two-headed perimeter-scoring monster, along with Hermanson, with which to bedevil opponents already preoccupied with slowing down Landale in the paint. Stopping the Gaels offense is going to be one tall order for Gonzaga, much less for the rest of the WCC.
5. Kansas Jayhawks
Leave it to Bill Self to lose a Wooden Award winner (Frank Mason III) and a top-five NBA pick (Josh Jackson) and still show up on this list. Maybe I'm putting too much stock in that whole "13 straight conference titles" thing, but I'll give Self the benefit of the doubt where replacing personnel is concerned.
With Devonte' Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman and Lagerald Vick all on hand, KU will again have the perimeter chops to score from deep. (Plus Arizona State transfer Sam Cunliffe will be eligible after the first semester.) Udoka Azubuike is now healthy, and he and 6-10 freshman Billy Preston will hold down the fort in the paint for the Jayhawks. Add it all up and there's more than enough on hand for KU to mount yet another defense of its perpetually recurring Big 12 title. You may have noticed Self is good at what he does.