Over the last few weeks we’ve looked at the top college
basketball teams in the nation. This week we round out the Jim Feist College
Basketball Preseason Top 30, as we look at the teams ranked 21 through 30.
USC: The Trojans have never been known as a
basketball school, but after last season’s run to the Elite 8, the Trojans are
primed to challenge for the Pac-10 title. Southern Cal lost plenty of talent
from last year’s team, but rugged forward Sam Clancy is back for his senior
season. Point guard Brandon Granville and swingman David Bluthenthal are both
seniors and received plenty of experience during last year’s Tournament run.
As long as those three players can stay in the lineup, the Trojans will be very
Texas: The Longhorns have been hit hard by injuries,
losing both freshman point guard T.J. Ford and senior guard Freddie Williams
already this season. However, forwards Chris Owens and Brandon Mouton make a
quality one-two punch. Center Brian Boddicker and versatile forward Chris Ogden
complete one of the top frontcourts in the country. If Royal Ivey can step up in
the backcourt, the Longhorns could be very difficult to beat.
Georgetown: The Hoyas won their first 16 games of
the season last year and 25 in all, while making an appearance in the Sweet 16.
They’ve already lost a game this season, falling to a solid Georgia team in
the Hall of Fame Classic. However, with
senior point guard Kevin Braswell and big, multi-talented forward Mike Sweetney
leading the way, the Hoyas have the makings of another great season. Georgetown
is big and deep, but streaky offensively. Look for the Hoyas to be one of the
top teams in the Big East all season.
Oklahoma: The Sooners lost three starters from last
year’s 26-7 squad, but return talented shooting guard Hollis Price, power
forward Aaron McGhee and have imported a crew of athletic newcomers. They also
have one of the best coaches and teachers of defense in the country in Kelvin
Sampson, who was 159-69 in seven seasons at Oklahoma coming into this campaign.
Michigan State: The Spartans have been to three
straight Final Fours, yet enter this season in retooling mode. State lost four
starters from last year’s squad, including underclassmen Zach Randolph and
Jason Richardson, whose presence certainly would’ve made the Spartans a top 10
squad. Head coach Tom Izzo
doesn’t have the depth he’s used to, but with Marcus Taylor running the show
and talented newcomers like Kelvin Torbert and Alan Anderson, the Spartans are
still a player in the race for the Big 10 title.
Indiana: The Hoosiers, entering their second season
without Bob Knight, look like one of the better teams in the Big 10. The loss of
Kirk Haston, who spurned his senior season to enter the NBA, hurts. Indiana,
however, has a solid backcourt and forward Jared Jeffries, who averaged almost
14 points and seven rebounds per game last year as a freshman. Indiana isn’t
very deep and one injury could undermine the entire season.
If Jeffries stays healthy, the Hoosiers have a true star player.
Arizona: The Wildcats won 28 games and got all the
way to the NCAA Championship Game. Four starters and three important reserves
are gone from that team and, because of those losses, the Wildcats may have been
underrated. At the time of this writing, Arizona had won all three of its games
in the Top 25. The Wildcats began their season in New York by beating both
Maryland and Florida to win the Coaches versus Cancer Classic, and followed
those victories with a win at Texas. The Wildcats
have point guard Jason Gardner, the only returning starter, and plenty of
new talent like guard Salim Stoudamire.
Fresno State: The Bulldogs are another team smarting from off-season losses,
including point guard Tito Maddox. But the Bulldogs were 3-1 through four games.
Fresno State has two very good players in center Melvin Ely and forward Chris
Jeffries, who, along with hard-working Shannon Swillis, form a very strong
frontline. If the Bulldogs can stay consistent in the backcourt, they could be
Jerry Tarkanian’s best team since the Larry Johnson days at UNLV.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks bring back four starters
from a 20-win team last season, but the one starter lost was swingman Joe
Johnson. Without their star player, the Razorbacks will rely on their
outstanding depth and attempt to tire out their opponents with Nolan
Richardson’s famous “40 Minutes of Hell.” They’ve got the athletes to be
successful, with seven players on the roster at least 6'4" and 12 who
should see time.