October 17, 2012

Basketball's Hidden Gems

The USA Today-ESPN Top 25 men's college basketball poll was released earlier today. The poll is decided by one member of each of the 33 NCAA Division I basketball conferences. Here are the results:

1. Indiana (21)

2. Louisville (5)

3. Kentucky (5)

4. Ohio State

5. Michigan

6. N.C. State

7. Kansas

8. Duke

9. Syracuse

10. Florida

11. Arizona

12. North Carolina

13. UCLA

14. Michigan State

15. Creighton

16. Memphis

17. Missouri

18. Baylor

19. UNLV

20. San Diego State

21. Wisconsin

22. Gonzaga

23. Notre Dame

24. Florida State

24. Texas

For many of the schools/programs it is no surprise that they will/did make the Top 25 list. What really excites me are those Cinderella programs and "hidden gems" that rise through the rankings from unexpected defeats or those programs that merely did not receive enough respect at the beginning of the college basketball season. 

Now that I have been married to a college basketball coach for 2 months, I can consider myself an expert at analyzing and choosing these "hidden gems."  I have chosen five that I am certain will rise through the rubbles and surprise some during March Madness. In no particular order....

Murray State: For starters, Murray State will be returning one of the best guards in the nation, Isaiah Canaan. Additionally, they have rightfully partaken in the March Madness festivities the last three years as the Ohio Valley Conference champion. From my understanding, there is a new team in the OVC that may stir up the pot but my prediction stays firm with Murray State!

Tennessee: I do have a slight affinity for SEC teams and am delighted to see my alma mater, UF, in the #10 place. I do believe that TN will move up the ranking as the season progresses. This is Cuonzo Martin's second year as head coach which has allowed him to settle into his position and I believe they are once again 'on the rise.' Fans should be on the look-out for Jeronne Maymon whose birthplace is Madison, WI. (As an aside, great people were born in Madison!). 

Stanford: Coached by Johnny Dawkins. Its hard to pin-point a single, individual player that shines on this team HOWEVER they return a group of student-athletes that have played together for 3-4 years which typically equals success! They have a tough road ahead as Arizona, Washington, UCLA, and Oregon will be major factors on the West Coast. Another tid-bit is that the 2011-12 basketball team won the NIT Championship.

Colorado State: So, many people are thinking that I have no idea what I am talking about since Tim Miles is no longer the Rams head coach. Well, you must also consider that the team of players from last year, whom qualified for the NCAA tournament all return. I wish new head coach, Larry Eustachy all the best with his Rams team. Also, good luck to Coach Miles at Nebraska!

Miami (FL): In addition to being partial to SEC teams, I am also partial to teams in the state of Florida. Ok, now that we got that out of the way I can share my technical justifications for including Miami. All kidding aside, Miami returns many of their key players from last year and their head coach, Jim Larrannaga made the Final Four while coaching at George Mason. 

What are your predictions for the 2012-13 men's basketball season?

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