No. 7: These Are The 2 Seeds
Our Bold Prediction No. 7 is a breakdown of the four teams that will be on the two line in our Preseason bracket.
Hoya fans had half of their prayers answered in the off-season, as one of their two junior stars – Roy Hibbert – decided to returned to school. Even with Jeff Green, last year’s Big East player of the Year, gone, it’s Final Four or bust this season for Georgetown. Hibbert is the best true center in the country, and he has plenty of talent around him. Jonathan Wallace doesn’t exactly fill up a stat line, but he runs John Thompson III’s offense to perfection, Jessie Sapp is a solid shooting guard, and DaJuan Summers and Vernon Macklin are improving options in the frontcourt. The Hoyas also welcome a heralded recruiting class, led by guards Austin Freeman and Chris Wright. In short, Georgetown is loaded. It has the a style of play and a cornerstone player that will give everyone they play match-up problems – and the Hoyas have Final Four experience to boot. The only issue, if you want to call it an issue, that Georgetown has as it enters this season is the conference it plays in. The Big East is very deep, and with an expanded 18-game conference schedule, the Hoyas could get picked off a few times. They also have to play Louisville twice. Kansas won’t have those obstacles in a poor Big XII, meaning even with a Big East title, Georgetown might not get a 1 seed.
Louisville lost a grand total of five points per game off of last year’s team, and returns maybe the most balanced team in the Big East. Unlike Georgetown, the Cardinals don’t have a superstar, but what they do have is a ton of talent and a ton of options on the offensive end. Many people argue that because of this balance, Louisville is a safer pick to win the Big East than Georgetown is. We don’t necessarily agree, based on the idea that Louisville right now at least lacks a true go-to guy that they can consistently rely on in crunch time of a huge conference game. That said, with Derrick Caracter, David Padgett, Terrence Williams, and Earl Clark up front, and Terrence Williams an a feisty and underrated Edgar Sosa in the backcourt, scoring points won’t be a problem. The Cardinals are also solid on the defensive end. Louisville will be a top-6 team in the post-season polls and will be around that spot all season long. We’ll say they finish a game back of Georgetown for the Big East title and join the Hoyas on the two line.
Bruce Pearl’s chest painting aside, last year was a unforgettable season for Tennessee, as the Volunteers made it to the Sweet 16 before falling by a point to Ohio State. This season hasn’t started off on the best foot, with sophomore Duke Crews being suspended indefinitely after a violation of team rules and then marijuana subsequently being found in his on-campus apartment, but even that news has not done much to lower expectations in Knoxville. Tennessee should be a top-8 team when the first official polls are released, thanks in large part to the core group of talent that returns. Chris Lofton is the nation’s most lethal shooter and a likely first-team All-American. With Ramar Smith beside him in the Vols’ backcourt, Tennessee will be extremely tough to defend on the perimeter. JuJuan Smith is an underrated, do-everything player on the wing, Wayne Chism is a scrappy competitor down low, and a third Smith – transfer Tyler Smith – should step in and contribute immediately. Even without Crews, Tennessee is the class of the SEC – a distinction that will earn them a two seed in March.
It only seems like D.J. White has been at Indiana since the Reagan administration. In reality, it’s (only) been four years, and this year, the senior’s decision to return to school has Hoosier fans anticipating a Big Ten title. With White back and dominating the paint, and freshman sensation Eric Gordon likely scoring in bunches from his shooting guard spot, Indiana has a tough-to-beat inside-out combination. The rest of the starting lineup, which might soon include impressive juco transfer Jamarcus Ellis, is talented in its own right and gives Kelvin Sampson a depth advantage over Tom Izzo’s Michigan State squad. The Michigan State-Indiana games are going to be intense and will likely decide who wins the Big Ten title. That honor will earn someone – we say Indiana – a two seed in the NCAA tourney.