Press Box Perspective: The Months Before The War In March

By Seth Rivello

Every year in college basketball, it seems like the Top 10 rankings always change, which is good. It keeps the game fresh even though there are a couple teams that might make it stale. The Duke Blue Devils always seem to crack the top, the Kentucky Wildcats, even with all its youth, always seem to be a top five team, The Kansas Jayhawks, Michigan State Spartans, this list could go on forever.

A huge part of these teams always coming back highly ranked is coaching, but it’s also clearly the talent that’s put on the floor which could be anywhere from a newly recruited freshman to fifth year senior.

Since Coach K took over the program in 1980, Duke has been a number one seed 13 times entering the March Madness Tournament. It looks to enter as number one this year as arguably the top recruit in the nation is putting up big numbers. Marvin Bagley III is a 6’11” forward with possible LeBron James-like upside. It’s very early to say that, but this kid is good. He’s averaging 22 points per game and 11 rebounds, which doesn’t seem outrageous. But college basketball only plays two 20-minute halves. If you add up his minutes minus the Michigan State game (he was injured mid-game), he’s averaging close to 34 minutes.

In each of his last three games, he has recorded 15 rebounds, and in two of those games he’s had 30 or more points. It’s hard to stop this kid especially when you pair him up with Grayson Allen and Trevon Duval.

Tom Izzo is working his genius again as he has his Michigan State Spartans ranked third in the nation with a 5-1 record. Its only loss was given to them by Duke and Grayson Allen who had 37 points, but soon after Sparty bounced back and destroyed a top 10 North Carolina team by 18.

The Spartans team is built very well, so sophomore guard Miles Bridges doesn’t have to score 40 every game to get a win. Bridges averages 15 points per game and seven boards; forward Nick Ward puts up 13 points and six boards. You can go down the roster and clearly tell this is an unselfish team. The Spartans don’t have that one guy they rely on – they have multiple scorers, and if one of them starts to get hot, the team feeds him. Guard Cassius Winston has showed he can put up big numbers when he’s on, but when he isn’t hot he’s not scared to feed others and earn double-digit assists.

This team is dangerous and showing its unselfishness; if they roll into March hot, this could be a runaway.

The Kansas Jayhawks do have a tough schedule approaching but it’s hard to see them dipping below the top 10. They are led by the shooting big man Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk with his team high 18 points, junior guard Lagerald Vick who’s having his best season by far, and the young big man Udoka Azubuike who’s dominating down low averaging 16 points and seven rebounds.

There are a lot of teams that shouldn’t be slept on like the Florida Gators, Texas A&M Aggies, and the Wichita State Shockers. You won’t really be able to see a team’s true colors until Conference Tournament play begins in March – that’s when the first knockoffs and shocking the nation begins.