Dan Hurley and UCONN look to defend their crown in 2024.
October is ending and you know what that means… College Basketball is back! There are plenty of storylines heading into this season that are peaking the interest of the Panther Print. Can UCONN defend their title? Will the B1G breakthrough and finally win their first title since Michigan St. lifted the trophy in 2000? Is Hunter Dickinson the biggest villain in college basketball history (that didn’t go to Duke)? Who can contend for the National Player of the Year? Hint: Zach Edey is going to win it again.
Lots of questions will be answered in the next 5 months. Lucky for you, we have the answers on who the Top 34 teams in the country are going to be. Each week the Top 10 rankings will be updated throughout the season.
34. College of Charleston
33. Texas A&M
29. Kansas St.
26. St. John’s
Saginaw native Ty Rodgers looks to lead Illinois to the 2nd weekend of the tournament.
22. Saint Mary’s
21. San Diego St.
The list starts off hot with mid-major College of Charleston, who was 31-4 last year losing a close 63-57 1st round match-up with National Runners-Up San Diego St. Coach Jerome Tang and Kansas St. are trying to replicate last year’s tournament success as well, but have to replace dynamic do-it-all jitter bug point guard Markquis Nowell. Illinois is always a question mark. Coach Brad Underwood’s squad is usually up and down. Sometimes they look like one of the best teams in the country, and sometimes they just fall flat. They look to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since Coach K was in high school. Saginaw native Ty Rodgers (pictured above) is one of the best defenders in the country and should be a key cog for the Fighting Illini.
19. Southern Cal
Young, talented, young, athletic… and did we say young? USC has one of the best incoming freshmen classes. Bronny James is hoping to come back from his health scare in the fall to assist the Trojans off the bench.
Bronny James is hoping to contribute to an exciting USC team.
Coach Drew knows what he is doing, but the Big XII is a gauntlet and this year is no different.
Can Rick Barnes ever get to a Final 4? Tennessee will be great in the regular season and more than likely flounder come tournament time.
16. North Carolina
It’s secret scrimmage season, and word out of the Tar Heel state is that Coach Hubie Brown’s team beat up on FAU. The Heels floundered last season, not making the tournament, but they return double-double machine Armando Bacot and add shooting in transfer Cormac Ryan (Notre Dame).
While all eyes are on the football team this fall, the Longhorns should have a formidable basketball team coming back. Coach Rodney Terry led the Horns to an Elite 8 last season.
14. Miami (FL)
Speaking of that Elite 8 season, the team that beat Texas last year in that game was Miami (FL). Coach Jim Larranaga is one of the most underrated coaches in the country and is coming off his 2nd trip to the Final Four. Nijel Pack is one of the best playmakers in the country.
13. Florida Atlantic
Not to be outshone by their South Florida brethren, the Owls return almost everyone from a Final 4 team. Can they repeat the success this season? Sometimes its easier to be the hunter than the hunted.
I wouldn’t say that the seat is hot for Coach Cal yet, but it is starting to get uncomfortable. This is Kentucky and First and Second Round losses are not acceptable. Lucky for Big Blue Nation, their next crop of future NBA All-Star guards is here in DJ Wagner and Rob Dillingham.
Keshad Johnson made the move east from San Diego St. to Arizona after leading the Aztecs to the Final Four which has to please Coach Tommy Lloyd. Lloyd, who is a disciple of Mark Few at Gonzaga, likes to have a wide open offense that puts up points in bunches.
Another year, another crop of transfers for Coach Eric Musselman. Chandler Lawson, El Ellis, and Freshman Layden Blocker should lead an exciting group. Only thing missing is dynamic scoring Beecher alum Keyon Menifield (see picture below) who is redshirting the 2023-24 season.
Beecher Alum Keyon Menifield.
Speaking of same old, same old, Gonzaga is going to make the tournament again. Surprise! Coach Few picked up one of the best players in the transfer portal in guard Ryan Nembhard, whose brother played in Spokane. Transfer Graham Ike will be a difference maker in the front court for the Zags who look to make the tournament for the 25th consecutive year.
The defending National Champs lose a lot. But if we know anything about Coach Hurley, that will only lead to a bigger chip on their shoulder making the Huskies dangerous again in March. Donovan Clingan doesn’t have to play behind Adama Sanogo anymore and has the opportunity to put up monster stats. Storrs may be rocking again come March.
Kelvin Sampson is the best coach in the country. Period. While the Cougars moving to the Big XII is a bit of a concern, this should make them more prepared come tourney time. Not a ton of star power on this team, but they are tough nosed, gritty players who will lock you up.
Ryan Kalbrenner is the best rim protector in the country and Trey Alexander is a star. While there’s questions with the loss of Ryan Nembhard, the Blue Jays big 4 of Kalbrenner, Alexander, Steven Ashworth, and Baylor Scheierman give fans in Omaha something to be excited about.
The highest ranked Catholic university in Coach K’s rankings, the Golden Eagles have a loaded backcourt. Tyler Kolek leads the charge at the point guard position as one of the best playmaker’s in the country. The Golden Eagles have everything you need to be a great team: shooting, point guard play, and scheme continuity. Oh, and I did not even mention Kam Jones, the returning scorer for Marquette. The only question mark for Coach Shaka Smart’s team is their defense and surviving the tough Big East.
Jon Scheyer is back for his 2nd season at the helm, while Mike Krzyzewski (he is no longer Coach K since technically he is not a coach any longer), is floating in the background like the Emperor from Star Wars.
Coach Jon Scheyer is looking to make his stamp on the Duke program in his 2nd season.
The Blue Devils started last year slow, but exploded towards the end of the season, winning the ACC Tournament Title. The talent on this team is undeniable. Kyle Filipowski, who flirted with the NBA, is an ACC Player of the Year candidate who can do it all. Mark Mitchell and Jeremy Roach return as well, along with a talented crop of incoming freshmen. Can Roach develop some consistency in his shot? Will Krzyzewski allow Scheyer to coach? All questions out of Durham.
Returning National Player of the Year? Check. Shooting? Check. Coach that all coaches respect because of his X and O ability? Check. One of the best home court advantages in the country? Check. Some of the best bathrooms in the country? Also check. (Seriously, the bathrooms at Mackey Arena are luxurious.)
I know what some of you are thinking… Farleigh Dickinson. Well, last time a team lost to a 16 seed, Virginia won it all. A similar result isn’t out of the question as Coach Painter has the most dominant player in the country in Zach Edey.
The bathrooms are a delight at Mackey Arena. The crowd isn’t half bad either.
Bill Self got arguably the best, and most controversial, transfer in the country in All-American Hunter Dickinson from Michigan. I cannot remember another time when an All-American has transferred from their school. Bill Self loves to scheme around big men and Dickinson is the most talented offensive big in the country. Dajuan Harris Jr. is a bonafide All-American at the guard position. The Jayhawks have what it takes to win it all this season.
Kansas looks to win their 2nd title in 3 years with transfer Hunter Dickinson.
1. Michigan St.
Football season cannot end any quicker for the faithful in Green and White. Lucky for them, they will have a lot to cheer for in East Lansing as Coach Izzo returns a loaded squad. Jaden Akins, Tyson Walker, and AJ Hoggard should lead a talented backcourt that may need to carry the load early until the big men catch up. Malik Hall and Mady Sissoko should round out the starting line up with Jaxson Koehler sidelined early on with a foot injury.
However, it should not take long for Xavier Booker to crack the line-up. Coach K’s pick for B1G Freshmen of the year, Booker out of Indianapolis is a clone of Jaren Jackson Jr. Jeremy Fears is another talented frosh who should give the Spartans depth. Coen Carr may take a little bit longer to get up to speed, but his athleticism is undeniable.
At this year’s BCAM clinic, Coach Izzo talked highly about this team. Coach Izzo never talks highly about his team.
Expect Izzo to win his 2nd title this April and ride off into the sunset.
Tom Izzo is hoping for Title #2 this year.