Less than a month into the season, it was a season gone awry for college basketball. The preseason rankings have already been shaken up as nine of the top 10 teams in the Associated Press (AP) preseason poll have lost at least one game. For all the craziness, we asked three of our writers who they think is the best team in esports.
Houston at the top
By Ethan Carbone
After a tough week, the Houston Cougars went undefeated and were rightly rewarded by AP voters who ranked them among the best in the country.
Houston took on Oregon and beat them by a score of 66-56, dominating from the opening tip against a Ducks team that was considered a top 3 in the Pac-12 prior to the season. After that, the Cougars took on one of the better mid-major teams in the state of Kent, where they recorded a 49-45 win. That might seem like a bad thing, but to me it shows the defense did a job and were able to end the Golden Blitzes. Even if the game was sloppy, to be the best team you have to win under all possible circumstances, be it a blowout, a head-to-head game, or a purely sloppy one.
The Cougars are 6-0 undefeated and have one of the NCAA’s best players in Marcus Sasser, who will be the top pick to win the Bob Cousy Award. They also feature star role player J’Wan Roberts playing hardball in the suit and snapping rebounds over players taller than him. Finally, another key player is the talented five-star rookie Jarace Walker, who dominates the color on offense and defense as he can drive or post and will make an opposing player regret trying to score against him.
Although Saint Mary’s is coming to town soon, Houston’s next real test will be against No. 11 Alabama, which is one of three teams to beat preseason No. 1 North Carolina. Realistically, no team will go undefeated, but with the defensive bravery instilled in them by head coach Kelvin Sampson and the star power under Sasser’s leadership, Houston makes the most sense at number one as they were and look like the best team like they’ll remain the best team when all is said and done.
Purdue deserves the top spot
By Jacob Hypke
When the AP’s Top 25 preseason poll included the Purdue Boilermakers, some fans expressed their confusion over the inclusion of the Big Ten roster. Head Coach Matt Painter is why they deserve to be not just ranked, but at the top.
With the Boilermakers’ success in Painter’s career, they almost claim a spot in the poll regardless of the supporting cast. However, this year’s supporting cast is filled with top 100-500 recruits like Fletcher Loyer, Mason Gillis, Ethan Morton, Braden Smith and perhaps most notably Zach Edey, who leads the Big Ten with 21.8 points, 12 rebounds and 12 rebounds almost three blocks per game.
One of the most impressive things about this Purdue team is how young they are. Few teams are as young but as successful as Purdue. The Boilermakers have made four appearances with the Sweet 16 in the past five years, regardless of who has left or joined their roster.
Everything points to another successful season and tournament progression for Purdue. Loyer’s emergence against Gonzaga with 14 points and then against Duke with 18 shows has cemented him as a star for his team. Combine that with Edey’s 7-foot-4 frame and top-10 averages in points and rebounds, and this team is destined to exceed expectations this season.
The Cavaliers will soon take the lead
By Caden Sexton
The Virginia Cavaliers, now the third-ranked team in the country, have played well enough to prove their dynasty has returned. This 6-0 team is playing incredible ball under head coach Tony Bennett and showed me they are the team to beat in men’s college basketball.
Other teams may also be undefeated, but no one else beat Baylor and Illinois early in their seasons. Baylor was ranked fifth in the country at the time and Illinois was 19th when they fell to then-No. 1. 16 Cavaliers.
Yes, Virginia has played their other four games against unranked teams, but in those games they had a combined plus 88 point difference, showing their dominance. Their most recent win was against Michigan, who had a great season last year and were undefeated before hosting the Cavaliers.
Virginia plays well on both sides of the ball, with great offensive and defensive stats from each of their stars. Kadin Shedrick leads with eight blocks, has the most steals with 12, and has one of the best field goal percentages on the team. The team’s leader on offense, however, is Reece Beekman, who averages 22 field goals per game and shoots 57 percent from long range.
Overall, this team has the right tools to make a deep run in March. Bennett already has the experience to win everything at the helm and with this team he can once again reach the promised land.