Daily Word: Kentucky's toughest competition
Every weekday, Andy Katz leads a panel of our college hoops experts in a discussion of the biggest issues, trends and themes happening in and around college basketball.
1. Which team poses the biggest threat to Kentucky?
Andy Katz: Kansas. The Jayhawks have the most talent on their roster outside of the Wildcats. Both teams will rely heavily on newcomers. The separation could come in which team gets the most out of its returnees.
Dana O'Neil: I stubbornly still think it's Louisville. Presuming Chane Behanan rejoins the team -- and I presume he will -- I think the veteran Cardinals could knock their in-state rival off the podium.
Myron Medcalf: Kansas has three potential top-10 picks in Andrew Wiggins, Wayne Selden and Joel Embiid. Plus, some solid veterans in Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe and transfer Tarik Black. I saw the Jayhawks practice in Lawrence, Kan., last week, and I'm convinced that they'll be the Wildcats' biggest threat in the hunt for the national title.
2. What's the biggest key to Arizona being a Final Four team?
Andy Katz: Arizona has loads of talent. But how this team handles the definition of roles and who it designates as the go-to, late-game playmaker will be key to its late-season finish. If the newcomers develop as expected, notably Aaron Gordon, this team has the pieces to be in the Final Four.
Dana O'Neil: It's the same story as last year for Arizona: point guard play. T.J. McConnell is a true point guard, unlike Mark Lyons from last season, but how deftly the Duquesne transfer guides the young Wildcats will determine how good Arizona is.
Myron Medcalf: Last season, Arizona was the top 3-point-shooting team in the Pac-12 (37.1 percent). But four players who combined for 532 3-point attempts (Mark Lyons, Kevin Parrom, Solomon Hill and Grant Jerrett) are gone. Arizona has to find a way to stretch the floor after losing so many shooters from last season.
3. The first top-25 poll of the year came out. What jumped out at you the most?
Andy Katz: I'm surprised Creighton isn't a lock in the top 25. The Bluejays return a multiple All-American in Doug McDermott and an experienced, rugged crew that will compete for the new Big East title. Teams with a player-of-the-year candidate like McDermott usually get at least a last-five spot in the top 25.
Dana O'Neil: The poll showed how great the Champions Classic (Nov. 12) will be: No. 1 Kentucky against No. 2 Michigan State and No. 4 Duke against No. 5 Kansas. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said, in terms of great teams, it could be better than most Final Fours. I agree.
Myron Medcalf: I was just reminded of the talent in the top 10. Sure, Kentucky is No. 1. But the Wildcats and the other contenders have a rough road ahead. There's a lot of competition in the field this year.
Season Of Change
It's hard to remember now, and for good reason: His freshman season lifted Oklahoma State out of its NIT doldrums, his return to college basketball was universally celebrated, USA Basketball made him the lone non-NBA player to receive an invite to team USA minicamp in July and his own coach, Travis Ford, is running short on new ways to praise. But as removed as it may seem, it wasn't so long ago that Marcus Smart's supremacy was a matter of some debate.
They Said It
ESPNU Basketball Podcast
Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg check in with newsmakers from around college basketball.