Better start thinking about USC as basketball school

Nov 27, 2001 3:26 AM

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 tough.

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.

Purdue: The Boilermakers went 17-15 in a rebuilding season, losing in the NIT quarterfinal. Four starters are back, including strong frontcourt duo Rodney Smith and John Allison. The Boilermakers have plenty of depth and head coach Gene Keady always seems to get the most out of his veteran team. Purdue’s top eight players include four seniors and two juniors, which bodes well.