Much of the talk about college basketball this week has been focused on two teams: the 1 Louisville Cardinals and 3 Ohio State Buckeyes, and rightfully so.
Louisville rose to the occasion last Tuesday by throttling 5 Michigan, the nation’s hottest team coming out of the Feast Week tournaments.
Ohio State’s stock rose dramatically after dominating then-seventh-ranked North Carolina, holding the Tar Heels to a meager 27.4% from the field and out rebounding them 48-32.
These teams, along with Kansas (despite an opening-night loss to Duke), seem poised to battle for the top spot over the next several weeks. The question then becomes: Who are the best of the rest?
What follows will be the first installment of a series that will take a look at several top-ranked teams and make arguments for and against them as potential number-one squads.
The Terrapins are one of the most experienced teams in the nation. They returned five players from last year’s team who averaged more than twenty minutes per game and two more who played over ten minutes per game.
Furthermore, these guys are good. Senior guard Anthony Cowan, Jr. (16.6 points per game, 4.4 assists) is one of the best offensive players in the Big Ten. Forward Jalen Smith has averaged 13.6 points per game and 10.1 rebounds. When you add two more starters who have double-digit scoring averages, you have a top team that can score in bunches.
Maryland often has to score in bunches. Despite being one of the most explosive teams in the country, they flirt with disaster with inconceivably low-scoring first halves. For example, they had to erase a fifteen-point second half deficit against Illinois and needed a late rally to pull past Temple.
Illinois and Temple are not slouches, but if Maryland is to become a number-one caliber team, their numerous offensive weapons need to learn how to come out of the gate firing.
A tendency to start cold on offense will soon remove the Terrapins from the ranks of the unbeaten and perhaps from the top ten.