Monday, February 11, 2013

College Hoops Heating Up

With about a month to go until March Madness strikes, the college basketball season is really coming alive with about 15 teams looking capable of winning the National Title. Without a clear dominant team like Kentucky and North Carolina last season, the battle for the Final Four is up for grabs.

In the past four weeks, Indiana, Michigan, Duke, and Louisville have all taken turns atop the national polls, only to promptly lose that week. In my estimation, the following squads are all capable of making a long run in the tournament in March: Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Syracuse, Louisville, Duke, Miami, Florida, Kansas, Gonzaga, Arizona, and Butler.

Now that the NFL season has ended, you may be turning to college hoops for the first time this year. One of the more exciting players on the national stage has been Indiana's dynamic junior guard Victor Oladipo, a 6-5 Michael Jordan clone, who is a human highlight reel with his athletic dunks and drives to the hoop. But, he is more than an incredible leaper. Oladipo is also shooting a sparkling 54 percent from three-point range - one of the best in the NCAA.

Syracuse sophomore point guard Michael Carter-Williams has made a huge impact for the Orange, leading the nation in assists per game with 8.5. He also contributes 12 points and nearly five rebounds a game for Coach Jim Boeheim's squad. He is a lanky 6-6 point guard, a rarity in college ball, and has developed a penchant for late-game heroics.

Sophomore Trey Burke, perhaps the top player in the country, leads highly-ranked Michigan with 18 points and seven assists an outing. Burke's lightning-quick first step and his shot-making skills have the NBA scouts drooling. He must remain at the top of his game for the Wolverines to advance deep into the tourney.

Oklahoma State's fantastic freshman guard - Marcus Smart, a muscular 6-4' 225 pounder, has NBA star written all over him. He dominates for the Cowboys by scoring nearly 15 points a contest, while adding six rebounds and nearly five assists. In his squads' last five games - all wins - Smart has poured in 96 points, pulled down 33 rebounds, and registered 21 steals. He will most certainly be playing for pay next year.

Another precocious freshman is Kansas guard Ben McLemore, who leads the Jayhawks with 16 points a game. In an overtime win over Iowa State last month, McLemore exploded for 33 points, hitting all six of his three-point attempts.

These are five of the players I've enjoyed watching so far this season. There are many more impact players that I will feature in a later post.

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