In this NCAA basketball's betting preview our expert handicapper takes a look at five teams who should be making waves in the upcoming season.
While football is just getting underway, it’s never too early to take a look at the upcoming 2016 NCAA basketball season. Some great squads are returning this year, and others have lost superstars just to see their rosters reload with exciting freshman. Let’s take a look at five squads who are sure to make waves this season and have hopes for a deep NCAA tournament run
Always a perennial contender, it’s never a bad idea to back the Spartans for our NCAA Basketball Pick long as Tom Izzo is around. Coming off of a stinging loss to Duke in the Final Four, the Spartans will be motivated to get back and have just finished an international tour in which they played the national teams of Russia, Italy, and Georgia. They lost each of those games, but got some great minutes from players that will need to take a step forward this year for Michigan State to get over the hump. One standout in international play was big man, Gavin Schilling, who shot 60% from the floor and committed only 2.5 fouls per 40 minutes. Junior guard Denzel Valentine is also a player to watch and should bring a nice balance of scoring and ball distribution to the table in 2016.
Another team that has taken advantage of international play this summer is Kansas, who along with SMU guard Nic Moore, represented the USA in the World University Games in South Korea in July and came home with the gold medal. This tournament isn’t a cupcake either, two years ago in this tournament the US squad took ninth. The fact that the Jayhawks were able to take this international competition makes sense as they have a boatload of NBA talent on their roster. Cheick Diallo, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Wayne Selden Jr. are all projected to go in the draft, and sophomore standout Brannen Greene could join them a year later. With a solid Big 12 conference schedule that includes 2015 ranked teams Iowa State, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Baylor, the Jayhawks should enter the 2016 NCAA tournament tested and ready to roll.
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Tony Bennett had this squad playing excellent defense all of last year, so much so that they were almost an Under lock for most of the season. They ended up with a second 30-win season in a row in 2015, but also lost to Michigan State for the second year in a row in the NCAA tournament. Standout defensive force, Justin Anderson, is set for the NBA after an injury-shortened season, but I’m making this call based on the coach. Tony Bennett’s programs are always consistent, hell; he even took the Washington State Cougars to the tournament before coming to Virginia. That consistency from year to year makes Virginia another team to watch in 2016.
With a collective sigh of relief, the Tar Heels just secured their first big name 2016 recruit in a while since languishing in NCAA maybe-sanctions-lingo. That should help solidify their future as a perennial powerhouse, as is currently the case. The Tar Heels have one of the best starting five in the nation, led by guard Marcus Paige. Paige led the team with 13.5 PPG and 4.4 assists last year in a balanced attack that included forward Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks. Nothing will make the fan base forget about a cheating scandal like winning.
This is a pretty boring prediction; that the Wildcats will be good at basketball. However, you can’t deny that they have a wealth of talent on their roster. It’s really just a question of how the rotation will sort itself out during the season. Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray are potential NBA lottery picks; Isaiah Briscoe and Marcus Lee are potential first rounders, with Alex Poythress and Tyler Ulis finishing out probably the deepest starting six in the NCAA. The talent is definitely there so it will be up to coach John Calipari to harness it. He didn’t too bad at that last year, starting 38-0 before losing to Wisconsin in the Final Four. I’d guess this group takes a little longer to gel than last year’s and could drop some early games, but after they settle into their roles… watch out.