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College Basketball National Title Picture

by: Rich Salvatori @dickiesalvatori - posted on: 07-Nov-2013

With another season of college hoops about to get underway, we’ll take a look at the best value picks in terms of national title contention and tell you who we believe could make for the best plays early on.

Michigan State:

Not only are the Spartans ranked number two by most polls, but they also bring back their entire roster save for Derrick Nix. They are a little thin at point guard. But Keith Appling, their starter there, is one of the best nationally at that position.

The Spartans are playing in a conference where the likes of Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan should all be down relative to last season. That’s not to say they won’t meet some resistance along the way. Those programs are all capable of reloading quickly. Still, they will be a sizable favorite.

There is an interesting statistic which says that every single player to play for Tom Izzo over the course of four seasons has made it to a Final Four. Appling and dominant big man Adreian Payne are seniors this season who look for that trend to continue on, and I think they have a very good chance of making it happen.

Sparty is still being pegged as 13-1 or so to win it all. I see value in them at anything 10-1 or higher, and believe they are fully capable of making a deep run come March.


Arizona:

The Wildcats are ranked 5/6 in most polls right now. They are slated at 15-1 to win it all, and might be perhaps the most intriguing contender on the list.

For the first time under Sean Miller’s reign in Tuscon, the Wildcats have a pass first floor leader in T.J. McConnell. McConnell could take some time to mesh with several new teammates including two dynamic freshen small forwards, but that should take place over the course of time.

I worry that this team does not have a go to scorer in the mold of Solomon Hill who carried them at times a season ago. But they could grade out as one of the best defensive units in America and should dominate the glass in virtually any matchup.


Florida: 

Florida has to play in the same conference as Kentucky and loses a trio of athletes who were quite formidable a season ago. Still, they have a veteran bunch that should come along nicely with time under veteran leader Billy Donovan.

Patric Young was one of the most efficient players in the land in 2012, and he returns as an absolute nightmare on the glass for opponents. Eli Carter has been cleared to play immediately and he can take on some of the scoring they lose with the graduation of key seniors Erik Murphy and Michael Rosario.

Will Yeguete is as good of a role player as there is and he is finally healthy again. Transfer Damontre Harris is a massive body who should be able to add depth and shot blocking to a front court that needed it last year.

The guard situation is a bit more uncertain given the suspension of Scott Wilbekin and the question as to whether or not Carter can mesh with a new squad quickly. But Michael Frazier and Casey Prather are good players ready to take on advanced roles within Donovan’s system. More importantly, they are long and athletic defenders who can limit the opposition’s ability to score.

Dorian Finney-Smith and Harris have been suspended along with Wilbekin early in the year. Early season matchups with Wisconsin, UConn, Kansas and Memphis could make them a better pick later in the year, but 20-1 still spells value to me. This team has a ton of athleticism and their style has proven seriously problematic for SEC opponents recently.