College basketball's preseason magazines have hit the newsstands, and it’s always fun to check out preseason top 25s. Let’s face it: Much of it is a guessing game and is based on a combination of last season's success, the number of key returnees and the quality of the newcomers.
While I agree with many of my colleagues, certainly a few teams are getting a little too much credit.
Which are the most overrated teams in the preseason?
Freshman point guard Lonzo Ball is fun to watch, but will coach Steve Alford will put the ball in his hands and let him go? That’s the key. Ball just flat-out makes people around him better with his tremendous court vision and passing ability. However, I’m not sold that Ball will ultimately be the primary ballhandler with Bryce Alford and Aaron Holiday on the roster. When you look at the talent on this roster, it’s impressive: Ball, Alford, Holiday, Isaac Hamilton, Thomas Welsh and skilled freshman forward T.J. Leaf. But this is also a group that went 15-17 overall and finished ahead of only Arizona State and Washington State in the Pac-12 a year ago. I’m just not sold the Bruins are worthy of top-25 inclusion.
Some have the Badgers in the top 10. Wow. That’s a little high. The Badgers turned it on under coach Greg Gard last season, then made an improbable Sweet 16 appearance. Gard brings back everyone: Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes, Ethan Happ as well as fellow starters Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter. But I can’t get the vision out of my head of Hayes struggling in the NCAA tourney. Wisconsin could be a top-20 team virtually all season, but I’m not sold on top-10.
The Bluejays seem to be a favorite of just about everyone who compiled a top 25 this season, with a 20-15 record from a year ago and the addition of former Kansas State guard Marcus Foster. Can Foster return to his freshman form, when he was one of the top scoring guards in the Big 12, or will he revert to the player who was an issue for Bruce Weber as a sophomore? Maurice Watson Jr., and Cole Huff had success for coach Greg McDermott a year ago, but the Big East will still be tough at the top with Villanova and Xavier -- as well as Seton Hall and Georgetown. I’m just not quite ready to throw Creighton in the top 25 just yet.
Coach Danny Hurley was without his best player, E.C. Matthews, for nearly the entire season, and Matthews will be back. But the Rams haven’t proved anything of note yet, going 17-15 a year ago and 9-9 in league play. There’s certainly some pressure on this group this season with Hassan Martin and Kuran Iverson being seniors and Matthews hoping to leave for the NBA after this year. The Rams are in just about everyone’s top 25, and while they look the part on paper, they need to do it on the court.
A couple of polls have mentioned the Terps. Coach Mark Turgeon returns Melo Trimble, but first things first: Which Trimble will return? The one who was considered one of the best point guards in the country and could both make shots and also make those around him better, or the one from the second half of last season who couldn’t make shots and struggled to run the team? Then there’s the fact of Turgeon's having to replace four starters: Diamond Stone, Robert Carter, Jake Layman and Rasheed Sulaimon. This could be a bit of a rebuilding year in College Park.