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Every college basketball season, some teams exceed expectations, even if they are preseason ranked. Teams that have great young talent are now expected to win big. Then you have teams with good guard play, experience or a combination of both that are usually in the mix come tournament time. Here’s a look at five teams that could fit that description.
Second year head coach Penny Hardaway has upped the ante bringing in the number one recruiting class. Not only is he talking title, he’s also embracing the hype surrounding his program.
It all starts with the nation’s top incoming freshman, big man James Wiseman. He will miss 12 games due to improper benefits but will play enough games to impact their season. There is plenty of help to keep the team afloat with freshmen Precious Achiuwa, DJ Jeffries, Boogie Ellis and Damion Baugh.
It’s likely that five freshmen will start (Fab Five ring a bell?). This team is deep and if the youngsters can play with poise, Memphis will be a tough out.
Virginia Commonwealth Rams
The Rams are coming off an NCAA tournament appearance and look to build on that. Coach Mike Rhoades has a solid foundation with budding star big man Marcus Santos-Silva, rim protector Corey Douglas along with guards Marcus Evans and De’Riante Jenkins.
There is plenty of depth to apply their trademark pressure with Isaac Vann, Mike’l Simms, Corey Douglas, Vince Williams, Keshawn Curry and Nah’shon Hyland. They have a great combination of size in the post, athletic wings and guard play to make a serious run. Don’t let the Atlantic 10 conference affiliation fool you, VCU is legit.
Utah State Aggies
Coming off last season’s surprising run, the Aggie faithful are excited about this season. With success comes expectations and a target on your back: no sneaking up on anyone this year.
The good news is four starters are back. It starts with big and returning conference defensive player of the year, Neemias Queta. Sam Merrill is a scoring machine, Diogo Brito is a good defender and wing Brock Miller is poised for a breakout season. Size won’t be an issue as they have seven players off the bench who are 6’7” or taller. Their ability to handle ball pressure will be key.
Seton Hall Pirates
They are top heavy as far as scoring is concerned but the Pirates are a deep team. Guard Myles Powell is their star and leading scorer. He has the ability to carry them.
Big man Sandro Mamukelashvili can be a handful down low and compliments Powell well. Point guard Quincy McKnight runs the show and leads the team in assists.
Seton Hall is deep with Jared Rhoden, Myles Cale, Shavar Reynolds, Romaro Gill, Ike Obiagu, Anthony Nelson and Tyrese Samuel. Some of these players have the ability to have big games.
The Tigers can put up points in bunches. They also rebound and protect the rim well as a team. That combination will make them tough to match up with.
Guard Skylar Mays is hard to handle one on one and is a crafty scorer. Darius Days and Emmitt Williams will provide wing scoring and are very athletic. Big Trendon Watford is a dependable post player on both ends. Guard Javonte Smart is the x-factor because he is streaky but also has the potential to take over games.
They are not a deep team, so foul trouble or an injury could be a problem. Only Charles Manning Jr. sees significant minutes off the bench.