Daily Word: Potential trouble for contenders
Every weekday, Andy Katz leads a panel of our college hoops experts in a discussion of the biggest issues, trends and themes happening in and around college basketball.
1. What could derail your championship pick?
Andy Katz: Kansas still is a bit suspect at the point. There is a lot of pressure on point guard Naadir Tharpe to run this team at a championship level. The Jayhawks have alternatives to bringing up the ball, but a calming leader could be the missing ingredient. How this position plays out will determine whether they can win the title.
C.L. Brown: Michigan State must do a better job taking care of the ball this season after it had more turnovers than assists last season. That will start with point guard Keith Appling, who had seven turnovers for every 10 assists last season.
Myron Medcalf: Well, Kentucky has the talent. No one doubts that. But I'm still not sure the Wildcats have the leadership that they'll need to win in those dark, tough moments that will certainly come in the postseason.
2. What team outside of the Top 25 now could make a Final Four run?
Katz: The talent certainly exists at Iowa and Tennessee for those teams to make a run. But if we're going to go with the Wichita State, VCU model, then Harvard or Creighton fits that criteria. Harvard is deep, experienced and talented enough to win four games in the tournament, while the Bluejays have a star who could carry them in All-American Doug McDermott.
Brown: If Colorado were perceived as a basketball school, voters would have given it the benefit of the doubt and ranked it in the Top 25. The Buffaloes return three of their four double-figure scorers from last season, including sophomore Josh Scott, who is poised for a breakout sophomore season. The backcourt of Spencer Dinwiddie and Askia Booker is just the type that could power a long tournament run.
Medcalf: I like Boise State's chances. The Broncos bring everyone back from last season's NCAA tournament. Derrick Marks & Co. could be this year's VCU.
3. What Top 25 team has the most to prove in the first few weeks?
Katz: UConn. The Huskies open with Maryland in Brooklyn on Friday night, could play Indiana in New York and face Florida at home all within the first three-plus weeks of the season. Each game is a toss-up and will give UConn the momentum it needs going into the American Athletic Conference or could lead the Huskies to stumbling into the new league.
Brown: Kentucky has considerable pressure to go with the considerable expectations of such a heralded recruiting class. And if the Wildcats stumble in their marquee nonconference games against Michigan State, North Carolina, Baylor and Louisville, how will their youthful roster handle it? All they've heard to this point is how good they will be, which was notarized by their No. 1 ranking in both major polls.
Medcalf: I think Arizona has a lot to prove. Sean Miller has a bunch of new faces, including young phenom Aaron Gordon. I think the Wildcats are the Pac-12's best squad, but we'll have to see how they recover from the losses of Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons.
Season Of Change
Perhaps the most misunderstood thing about college basketball is that the size of the NCAA tournament field nullifies the regular season. Every game from November to mid-March now matters not only to the teams directly involved but to their opponents, and their opponents' opponents. The effect of every win or loss bounces outward dozens, or even hundreds, of times.
They Said It
ESPNU Basketball Podcast
Andy Katz and Seth Greenberg check in with newsmakers from around college basketball.