Baseball is finished as basketball returns. College Basketball doesn’t receive all the hype it deserves… until March. Lots of things can change when March approaches, but here’s an early look at a couple teams that could win the National Championship in early April. Jason Radowitz provides his three favorites to cut down the nets and hold the trophy up high.
Michigan State +700
There’s no way I can write a future article and not include Michigan State. Michigan State might just have the best team they’ve ever put together at Michigan State. Head Coach Tom Izzo brings back Cassius Winston after winning the Big Ten Player of the Year award last season averaging 18.8 points and 7.5 assists per game.
Michigan State’s younger players have also matured into their own. Sophomore Gabe Brown looks to have more confidence this season as he’s taking the ball to the rim and scoring over defenders. He’s one of the most athletic kids in college basketball right now and if everything comes together for Brown, Michigan State is a team to watch this season. Michigan State also brings back Aaron Henry as a full-time starter. He’ll look to cut down on the turnovers this season. If Henry can keep the turnovers low, he’ll be an NBA prospect soon.
As the number one seed in the preseason AP Poll, Michigan State will have to deal with a big target on their backs. If they don’t win the National Championship, the season might be viewed as a disappointment and failure. Michigan State’s 2011-22 team were ranked 2nd to start the season and lost in the first round with 15 losses on the season.
I might’ve just scared you away. Thankfully this time, Michigan State is veteran-led while Winston doesn’t seem phased by the pressure. He’ll have his teammate Xavier Tillman help lead while Michigan State waits for Josh Langford to get back from injury, which sounds like it’ll be in the second half of the season.
ESPN’s very own Jay Bilas is very high on Tom Izzo and the Michigan State Spartans this season.
“They’re very talented, they have experience” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said of MSU Thursday on a conference call. “And I think they’re gonna be if not the best team, then among the best teams all year.”
Michigan State went 32-7 last season earning their 8th final four trip in Izzo’s tenture as head coach. Coach Izzo was hoping his team could be healthier for the start of the season. Currently, Izzo is viewed as one of the top coaches in college basketball. He’ll get to show off his team against Duke and potentially Kansas in the Maui Classic.
Michigan State will start their season off with a strong schedule which should only help them as they prepare for down the stretch in March. Coach Izzo has always booked a tough schedule against big time opponents to make sure his team is prepared to play in March. And they usually are. I’ll ride with Michigan State to the Final Four and potentially beyond.
North Carolina +1400
Duke had their fun last season with freshman Zion Williamson, RJ Barrett, and Cam Reddish. This year, North Carolina will have their fun with Cole Anthony. Remember all that hype for Duke’s freshman last year, right?
The UNC freshman, Cole Anthony was named as the unanimous pick as Sports Illustrated preseason National Freshman of the Year. UNC lost Coby White after just one season to the NBA. Cole Anthony will pick up right where Coby White left off. White averaged 16 points per game in 28 minutes as a five star recruit in his freshman season. Expectations for Anthony seem to be that, if not more.
Signing Anthony on board with UNC was the first time head coach Roy Williams signed back-to-back five star points guards since Ty Lawson in 2006. Lawson has had a long career in the NBA, and he’s still going. Anthony was recruited by basically every high-major school in the country. North Carolina expects Anthony to be a high-volume shooter and scorer in his (expected) lone season at college. In most mock drafts, Cole Anthony is projected to be the first player selected. How cool would it be to win the National Championship and also get drafted first? Anthony makes it possible for UNC.
Anthony scored 28 points in their scrimmage win against Villanova. The other freshman, Armando Bacot scored 18 points. Those two freshman are approaching monster years in their first season of college hoops.
UNC will lose five players due to graduation or professional basketball. Cameron Johnson, Nassir Little, Coby White, Luke Maye, and Kenny Williams. This is how high-major basketball programs do their thing. This isn’t alarming. It’s just college basketball.
North Carolina lacks experience but they don’t lack high-level talent. Their entire roster, outside Garrison Brooks, will need to be counted on to produce in roles and positions they’ve never been in before. The first half of the season, Roy Williams will need to play mix and match to find the best lineups for his squad. But as long as their freshman top Anthony and Armando Bacot strive along with their wing play, the Tar Heels will be contending all the way to the National Championship.
Louisville Cardinals +1700 (Sleeper Pick)
I heard you. You want a value pick. A team that can absolutely destroy the competition and get better as a team by February and March. Look no further than the Louisville Cardinals. Junior Forward Jordan Nwora had the chance to go professional last season but chose to stay with Louisville for another season. He’s a legitimate candidate as a sleeper pick to be the best player in the ACC. Louisville will return quite a few players from last season with one goal in mind. Last year’s team won 20 games. This year’s team brings back some talent as well as a stellar recruiting class.
Don’t be mistaken. Don’t take Louisville to win the National Championship before the season expecting them to blow away their competition. It’s going to take time for this group to develop into its own. Louisville has a versatile frontcourt and a lot of young athleticism. Some of these guys can make a legitimate impact as youngsters.
Jordan Nwora, the junior forward, averaged 17 points and 7.5 rebounds a game. His box score is always filled up however expectations are a little higher for Nwora this season. Many college basketball analysts and ACC coaches around the league believe Nwora will be the player of the year in the ACC.
Louisville struggled in their final scrimmage before the season against Bellarmine. They won 75-65 but scored the final nine points of the game. This might scare some people away from taking Louisville. Just let them grow as a team! Nwora had 28 points while freshman Samuell Williamson scored 17 points and nine rebounds in the win. The Cardinals played the game without their bigs in Steven Enoch and Malik Williams. They added Dwayne Sutton at the five playing small ball. He scored 18 points and 12 rebounds as he looks to become one of the most improved players in the ACC.
Take Louisville now and watch them wiggle their way into the Final Four or beyond. They have the pieces.