We are just about a week into the men’s college basketball season, and boy has it been amazing. The games have been spectacular and I can’t wait for the rest of the season already. Now with that being said I have three contenders, and three pretenders that I want to talk about after the first five days of college basketball. With that being said here are three teams that I see as contenders, and three that I see as pretenders as of December 1st.
This should be one of everybody’s contenders after the first five days. Gonzaga’s team looks fantastic from top to bottom, and have put up an absolute flurry of points. The Bulldogs are averaging 96 points per game and absolutely rolled over Kansas and Auburn; both of which are Power Five Schools. Led by the trio of Corey Kispert, Drew Timme, and Jalen Suggs Gonzaga is going to be a force all year round. They also have solid pieces around them in Florida transfer Andrew Nembhard and Joel Ayayi.
Gonzaga has two big games this week as they take on West Virginia who just won the Bad Boy Mowers Crossover Classic, and they then take on Baylor on Saturday which will be an extremely good game. These games will solidify how legit this Gonzaga team is. I am all in on the Bulldogs this year, I think they are going to win the National Championship, but then again its March Madness so anything can happen.
Villanova hasn’t looked great so far this season. They are 2-1 through three games, but they haven’t looked convincingly good to me in any of those games. The Wildcats beat Boston College and Arizona State, but I wasn’t convinced that they were the better teams in those games. Boston College kept it close till the end, and Arizona State dug themselves into a hole that they couldn’t get themselves out of. Villanova also lost to Virginia Tech in overtime as well.
Now I understand that Villanova plays in the Big East and is considered the favorite to win the Big East. When it comes to the NCAA tournament though I am not sold on them as a contender. This Villanova team isn’t as good as it has been in year’s past. They only go eight deep, and rely heavily on their starting five. Unfortunately for Jay Wright and company they land on my list of pretenders.
The Houston Cougars have started off red hot, as they are currently 3-0 and have a win over Texas Tech under their belt already. Houston is led by Marcus Sasser, Caleb Mills, and Quentin Grimes. Grimes is looking like a legitimate prospect after he left Kansas … weird how that works. This Houston team is a very defensive minded team, and their offense has been solid so far this season. If this team wants to contend in March this offense has to be as good as it has been the first three games.
The defense will be there in March as head coach Kelvin Sampson will not let this team give up on the defensive end. Houston is going to be a team to watch out for because nobody is going to want to go up against their tenacious defense. Keep an eye out for the Cougars as they are going to be a team that is going to go far into the tournament and might have a chance at winning the NCAA tournament.
The Virginia Cavaliers have disappointed me yet again. They already have a loss to San Francisco and haven’t looked great so far this year in my opinion. This team needed to come out firing, and they have done the opposite of that. Don’t get me wrong their defense is still very good. Their offense just doesn’t look good to me. The Cavaliers offense hasn’t looked good since they won the NCAA title two years ago.
Tony Bennett needs to get this team back on track, and in a hurry. The Cavaliers have Michigan State and Villanova coming up before they enter conference play. If they lose both of those games, their confidence will be very low going into conference play. Virginia needs to do something to impress me in order for me to buy in, and as of right now they are pretenders in my eyes.
Now I will say I was one of the first one’s to say that there is no way that this team would be a contender for me. After the first two games and watching how dominant they have been, I have been sold for now. Iowa is led by Luka Garza who has been on a war path so far this season. Garza is a 6’11 senior center that is currently averaging 33.5 PPG to go along with 9.5 RPG and 86 percent from the field to go along with 75 percent from beyond the arc.
I still believe this team will only go as far in the NCAA tournament as long as Garza helps them tremendously. However the way he has gotten off to his hot start, I see the Hawkeyes being put in the right position come March. Watch out for the Hawkeyes as if Luka Garza continues his level of performance, he will be an absolute monster for the entire season.
Illinois Fighting Illini
The Illinois Fighting Illini were projected to be a very good team in not only the Big Ten this year, but when it came to the NCAA tournament people were selling very high on them. They are 3-0 so far, but they have played NC A&T, Chicago State, and Ohio. Illinois struggled with Ohio as that was the best team that they played so far. Coming up for the Fighting Illini they have Baylor tomorrow night, and Duke a week from tonight.
Those two games are going to set the tone on how legitimate Illinois is going to be this season. They are led by the duo of Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn. Also they added Adam Miller (30th in ESPN’s Top 100) who has been a key part of their lineup. If the duo of Dosunmu and Cockburn don’t contribute enough this Illinois team is going to be in trouble. Illinois has not convinced me yet that they aren’t a pretender. Illinois needs to perform against the good teams they play against, and if they don’t they will stick as pretenders for the rest of the year.
-Chris Jones (@cjoneswho1212)
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