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October 11, 2008
At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for their opinion about a topic in the sport.
THIS WEEK'S QUESTION: Which is the most overrated team in our Top 65 Countdown?
Why does winning the national title the previous season automatically give Kansas a pass into the top 20? The Jayhawks, whom we have ranked No. 16, lost almost everybody. They had five players taken in the NBA draft. That's not something you recover from easily.
Look at the projected starting lineup. It has three newcomers ? two freshmen and a junior college transfer ? and a sophomore who didn't start a game last season. If you looked at that kind of lineup at most any other program you'd scoff at putting it in the top 25.
Bill Self signed a terrific recruiting class, one that was ranked No. 2 nationally. But it doesn't have a single five-star prospect. The Morris twins have tremendous potential, and Travis Releford will provide valuable minutes from the opening tip of his career until he leaves Lawrence. But they're not Beasley-type ready.
But the bottom line is this: The fourth-place team in the Big 12 should not be ranked No. 16.
We have Duke ranked No. 6, a spot that should be reserved for teams with a good chance of reaching the Final Four. That's not the case for the Blue Devils. If it was solely up to me, they'd be in the No. 15-20 range.
The Blue Devils have a good team. They have experience, a large amount of talent and will be particularly strong on the perimeter again. But they still have the same glaring flaws as last season, when they nearly were bounced out in the first round of the NCAA tournament by Belmont. West Virginia beat the Blue Devils 73-67 in the second round.
There is no inside scoring threat. There is no one around to create an inside presence, unless you count 7-foot-1 Brian Zoubek, and I don't. Zoubek has been nothing more than a role player thus far. Kyle Singler, a 6-8 small forward, is going to have to guard opposing big men.
There is no DeMarcus Nelson, whose loss is being overlooked. Nelson led the Blue Devils in scoring and steals last season and tied for the lead in rebounding.
How do you get better without someone as valuable as Nelson? How is Duke going to overcome not having a big guy? The answer is it won't. The undersized Blue Devils are probably a second-round out again and will advance no further than the Sweet 16.
Tony Crocker and Austin Johnson will have to be better decision-makers when it comes to running the offense and shot selection. Also, they will have to rely on junior college players Kyle Cannon and Orlando Allen, who missed all of last season because of injury. As someone who had to redshirt a year, it's extremely difficult to get up to speed after being out an entire season.
On the plus side, I am really excited to see Willie Warren, who is as talented as any freshman in the Big 12. Capel will have his hands full because of the high expectations. This may be his greatest challenge to date. I love the potential, but this is a team that has struggled to stay healthy. I'm not sure they're a top-10 team.
I'm not nearly as high on Michigan State as some others. I know the Big Ten is wide open after Purdue, but it was just as wide open last season and the Spartans lost eight games overall and finished fourth in the league.
In addition, the Spartans have had double-digit losses in four of the past six seasons and ? truth be told ? may have underachieved in all but one of those seasons.
Drew Neitzel and Drew Naymick are gone from last season's team, which means the loss of the team's backcourt leader and a frontcourt mainstay (Naymick led the team in blocks and was third in rebounds).
Who will fill Neitzel's role in the backcourt? Sophomore Chris Allen seems the likely candidate. He especially needs to fill Neitzel's 3-point production. Senior Travis Walton, who was an offensive non-factor last season, needs to step up as well. One thing to consider: The Spartans had more turnovers than their opponents last season, and that was with Neitzel, who took extremely good care of the ball.
Up front, incoming freshman Delvon Roe is a five-star guy, but he missed almost all of last season after microfracture surgery on his knee. That's serious surgery; will he be 100 percent this season? Plus, he had more surgery in August to clean up some cartilage issues. ?
A lot depends on forward Raymar Morgan, who lacked consistency last season.
Add it all up, and this looks like another Michigan State team that's going to lose at least 10 games. And if that happens, there is no way the Spartans finish as high as we have them ranked (No. 12).