Friday, October 13, 2006

College Hoops: Midnight Madness!

Warning: Rant.

The biggest controversy of the college basketball season is already here:

How could any "expert" in their right freaking mind POSSIBLY pick North Carolina as a preseason No. 1 over Florida, the defending champs.

Start with this: The argument for Florida as No. 1, regardless of any other team out there.

It's not simply that they're the defending champs. There have been a lot of defending champs who don't deserve to start the next season No. 1.

It's that this defending champ RETURNS ALL FIVE STARTERS. And that's from a team that demolished 5 out of 6 NCAA Tournament opponents.

The Gators' frontcourt is, arguably, the best in the last 25 years of college basketball history. I challenge you to find any that are better, that combine this much talent with championship experience:

Joakim Noah, the reigning Tournament MOP; Al Horford, perhaps the most NBA-ready big man in college hoops; and Corey Brewer, even more versatile than either of the other two. (Oh, plus backup PF/C Chris Richard, who could start for every other team in the country.)

Then layer in the attitude: Everyone knows about the Big Three forgoing the NBA Lottery to return to school to defend their title. But you have to follow the team closely to hear the talk: There's no ego, no sense of entitlement. They're hungry.

If anything, the run to the title in March taught this team precisely what they have to do to win another -- no other team can say that, certainly not UNC. (Last time I checked, UNC was losing to a team from the Colonial Athletic Association.)

So, let's see:

Superstar talent? Check.
Championship experience? Check.
Hungry attitude? Check.

Florida is the most loaded returning champ since Duke in 1991-1992. And that Duke team easily won its repeat title (over an inexperienced, talented Fab Five) -- just like this Florida team will.

That's the thing: Talent without experience can win SOME games in the NCAA Tournament. (LSU over Duke) Experience without talent can win SOME games in the NCAA Tournament. (George Mason over UNC or UConn) But Talent AND Experience, combined, will beat either, handily.

Line up the rosters: Florida is even MORE talented than UNC... AND more experienced.

In fact, I'd argue that Florida is more talented than ANY team in the country -- AND more experienced than any team in the country. Using any metric for how to project success, and the Gators have a monopoly. How can any team beat that?

(Or, more accurately: When you're picking out the team most likely to win the national title – which is what the preseason Top 25 ranking is supposed to be – how can you NOT pick Florida?)

So, here we go: Explain to me again how UNC is better than Florida, to the point that big-name publications and experts have the Heels ranked No. 1 ahead of the Gators.

I understand the greatness of Tyler Hansbrough, but he's not better than Noah or Horford -- and he's certainly not better than both COMBINED.

Then there's the heralded UNC freshman class. Absolutely: They are an awesome collection of talent. But as we've seen, talent isn't enough in March. Florida's greatest legacy is TEAM equaling TALENT. The best pick should have both.

There's no evidence that these UNC freshmen are ready to sublimate their high school egos in the way necessary to win a national title. A year from now? Sure. (That is, if they all stay in college. Good luck with that.) But they'll need this year to figure it out, in order to make a run in 2007-08. They could take a lesson from this Florida team.

(If anything, the team of young talent most likely to make the Florida-type leap is Kansas -- humiliated a year ago and presumably a year wiser about the psychological talent necessary to complement basketball talent.)

(And if you're looking for the top freshman class, forget UNC: Ohio State is the best. Amazingly, you'll get a chance to see both Kansas and Ohio St against the 2006 gold standard; both play Florida before the year is over.)

OK, so back to UNC: They might be a Top 5 team, but I think it's ridiculous to project how this freshman class will deal with (a) college competition, (b) playing with a bonafide superstar in Hansbrough, and (c) winning six straight in March, which -- in the end -- is all that matters. I don't think they can do it.

And to argue that ANY team – UNC or anyone else – is better positioned to win the title than Florida?

That's the REAL Madness.

-- D.S.


Christian Thoma said...

While I agree UNC doesn't deserve #1 over Florida, I need to strongly criticize the following:

When you're picking out the team most likely to win the national title – which is what the preseason Top 25 ranking is supposed to be

Since when? I thought the Top 25 ranking was supposed to be a ranking of the teams as they are now. Didn't we criticize the pollsters who gave West Virginia first-place votes at the beginning of the season (and still giving it to them) because they were trying to project the championship winner rather than realistically rate the teams at that time? I call 'foul' on this statement. Pollsters should be ranking the teams, not making predictions.

Christian Thoma said...

Wait a sec, Dan, what are you ranting against? The only rankings I've found is on and they have Florida on top. Link?

Dan Shanoff said...

I was at the Borders store last night and Sporting News had UNC as No. 1. And, I believe, Dickie V has UNC as No. 1. Say what you want about Dickie V's choices, but he's got the biggest platform of any CBB expert in the country.

Liam said...

Don't forget another big reasons that Gators were nat'l champs last year and deserve to be #1 this year, Billy Donovan! Any program in the country would love to have him and certainly NBA teams would want to hire him.

Anonymous said...

wait, why do college basketball rankings matter? they have a playoff system at the end of the season right? so who gives a shit?

Jon said...

Seriously, should Dickie V's rankings even be listened to at this point. The guy lost it several years ago....besides the rankings in college hoops no matter who they come from mean nothing thanks to March (see Duke).

Anyway, Florida does deserve to open up the season as the #1 team based on their championship and the return of their starting 5. Really though it doesn't matter because Florida or UNC whoever you rank #1 at this point or any point during the season? Neither is going to hold onto it for the entire season and in the end they probably won't win the championship.

Dan Shanoff said...

As awesome as this frosh class is -- and most NBA draft experts say it's as good as any in recent memory and these four guys might be four of the first 5 players taken in next year's NBA draft -- but I'm not sure any of those players have the Melo-like ability to carry a team to the national title. These

Durant: It's Texas. Come on.

Young: And who else? Even Melo had Gerry Mac and Warrick.

Oden: Hell, it's Oden Plus Four, but are they TOO young? They're no Fab Five, and even the Fab Five could "only" make it to runner-up. But, once there, it wasn't even close against experienced + talented Duke.

Lawson: The big difference: You think Hansbrough is going to let Lawson play that dominant role that Melo played for Cuse? Uh...NO.

Joe Carr said...

Dan Dan Dan, haven't you learned, polls are polls you can't help but have a couple of idoits in the polls. There are plenty of games to sort it out, unlike college football. Plus isn't it true that it is more of a curse to be pick #1 in the preseason? Just like being put on the cover of a video game or magazine? Just ask Shawn Alexander, Michael Vick, and Marshall Faulk.

TJ said...

I saw Dickie V speak last night in the O'Dome and he said (hard to tell if he was serious) that Billy D was begging him to not put us #1 to help keep some spotlight off (like that's possible).

This is actually credible, since Billy D was always upset when his Matt Bonner-Matt Walsh-David Lee teams would get top 10 preseason love. Billy D is allergic to any sort of hype that isn't earned by actual play. True we have mostly the same players as last year, but it's college, so it's not the same team.

Of curse, Vitale has also said he's put Florida #2 because it's so hard to repeat and he sees them losing in the final game to UNC.

That said, yes UF should be consensus #1. But I don't exactly blame voters for still reacting to getting burned by UF basketball so much over the 5 years prior to '06.

TJ said...

both play Florida before the year is over

Actually, both play Florida before Christmas.

Anonymous said...

i'm about ready to remove this blog from my delicious account. i wasn't aware that this was a UF fanblog.

Christian Thoma said...

troy said:

both play Florida before the year is over

Actually, both play Florida before Christmas.

Why did you make this distinction? There's only 6 days between Christmas and the end of the year. *confused*

Sean said...

(Or, more accurately: When you're picking out the team most likely to win the national title – which is what the preseason Top 25 ranking is supposed to be – how can you NOT pick Florida?)


That COMPLETELY goes against your argument for the College Football Top 25.

I agree with the previous post...this is turning in to a Florida fan blog...I hope Florida loses early in the season so we don't have to listen to this during the ENTIRE basketball season...UGH!

BLUE said...

On talent alone, the front court at florida is overrated. The reason that they didn't come out is they weren't ready, and i'm sure somebody told them that. Yes Noah would have been the #1 pick, but so was Kwame Brown. You can't turn these guys into superstars because they got their act together for 6 games last year. What happened the previous 30? And the front court of Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, and whoever the other guy was would destroy these guys.

Mega said...

Not sure if anyone noticed but SI is picking THREE MVC teams in the top 25 with Creighton, Witchita, and Southern.

I love it! Go Salukis!

FreKy J said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
FreKy J said...

I think I'm going to port out my CFB Ladder to include this year's Basketball season. More teams, more games, more ladder goodness! I'm excited!

Dan, we'll see if Florida can do what they need to this year to:

Climb. The. Ladder.

PS - How many games do all you guys suggest should play out before I come out with the initial ladder standings?

Anonymous said...

huggins will drink. someone on the team will get arrested. same old same old.

as for OSU, Oden is out until January. ..lucky for Florida on 12/23. Call it an early Xmas present.

TJ said...

Why did you make this distinction? There's only 6 days between Christmas and the end of the year.
Whoops, I read "year" as "season."