[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”30813″ img_size=”440×309″ alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]The NBA season has finally arrived, and it should be an exciting one. The league-wide switch from superteams to dynamic duos has essentially shuffled the talent around professional basketball, which means every team ought to be interesting to watch for new reasons.
As exciting as it is to have the NBA back though, college basketball is also right around the corner. And while some don’t tune in until conference play starts up in earnest and the tournaments start to loom, we thought now would be as good a time as any to take a look at five of the best teams to keep an eye out for this coming season.
1.) Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State made it all the way to the Final Four last year, most memorably defeating Duke (a popular title pick given the presence of Zion Williamson) in the Elite 8. And Tom Izzo’s Spartans will return almost fully intact this season. Led by point guard Cassius Winston, who’s essentially sweeping preseason player of the year awards, Michigan State should be fast, strong, and skilled – not to mention experienced. Izzo’s teams often start off a little bit weaker than other contenders and round into form come March. But this season, the college basketball betting odds and the analysts pretty much universally agree: Michigan State is the clear favorite from the start.
2.) Kentucky Wildcats
As usual, John Calipari will be coaching a young group at Kentucky this season. Sophomore guards Immanuel Quickley and Ashton Hagans should be leaders on a team that welcomes the third-best recruiting class in the country. Among the incoming freshmen, Tyrese Maxey and Khalil Whitney are the names to know. This should be a more guard-oriented team overall than Calipari has had in several seasons, with returning sophomore EJ Montgomery the only big man who looks guaranteed to see significant playing time. But they should be quick and talented, and difficult for anyone to guard.
3.) Memphis Tigers
Memphis is not a mainstay among top programs anymore, and in fact the initial KenPom ratings for the season just came out (these being advanced statistical ratings that have proven to be quite accurate much of the time) and shockingly didn’t list the Tigers until 50th. However, with ex-NBA star Penny Hardaway coaching and the nation’s top recruiting class aboard, it’s hard to imagine this team won’t exceed those expectations. Center James Wiseman is the top recruit in the country, and will be joined by fellow five-star prospects Precious Achiuwa and DJ Jeffries, as well as one-time Duke commit Rejean “Boogie” Ellis. Those four players should be talented enough to keep Memphis in the top 10 most of the season.
4.) Duke Blue Devils
Duke will be led from a talent standpoint by the latest in a string of excellent recruiting classes. Big men Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt are the top recruits, but wing players Wendell Moore and Cassius Stanley will see time as well. However, these Blue Devils won’t lean quite as heavily on the freshmen as some past groups for Mike Krzyzewski have. This time around Duke has a fairly strong veteran presence as well, with sophomore point guard Tre Jones, junior shooting guard Alex O’Connell, and a pair of senior captains (Jack White and Javin DeLaurier) leading the way. Duke may be slightly less talented than in recent seasons, but it also has the experience it’s been lacking.
5.) Kansas Jayhawks
Bill Self actually has a weaker recruiting class than he’s accustomed to at Kansas, with a group of four-star prospects coming in. However, he may have the most talented returning core of any team outside of Michigan State. Udoka Azubuike should be one of the best big men in the country; Devon Dotson and Ochai Agbaji ought to comprise a strong sophomore backcourt; Marcus Garrett will be a valuable veteran leader and defensive anchor; and Isaiah Moss, a transfer from Iowa, could be the Jayhawks’ best offensive player. It’s a deep group that may take time to reach its full potential, but should be formidable at one point or another.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]