The college basketball season is just under two months away but it’s time to start examining futures, handicapping team and making some projections. Teams will be practicing in roughly one month. The groundwork for the season is being laid. The rosters are largely if not entirely in place. What can people expect from teams at both ends of the floor? Offense is for another day, but here are five of the better defenses which should take the court this coming season:
The Cardinals sometimes suffer from long shooting droughts, but they have hung their hat on defense under coach Rick Pitino. Louisville will have the basic mixture next season that it creates in most seasons – small and tenacious guards on the perimeter to bother the ballhandler, and long, lanky big men in the paint who protect the rim and alter a lot of shots. Louisville offers few places where offenses can find a consistent and reliable point of attack. The combination of pressure, energy and interior length gives Louisville multiple defensive resources plus balance at various areas on the floor. This is why the Cardinals will be thorny and difficult for opposing teams, especially in the ACC season. Duke will have another freshman-heavy lineup which Louisville can fluster with more experienced players. North Carolina loses big man Kennedy Meeks and wing scorer Justin Jackson. Louisville should be able to hold up well in the paint against the defending national champion Tar Heels.
The Mountaineers are called “Press Virginia” due to their pressure defense across all 94 feet of the court. One thing West Virginia specifically does is to press opposing teams after missed shots, not just after made shots. The insistence on applying pressure at all times is meant to rattle opponents, and if often does. Coach Bob Huggins recruits players who are not slick five- or four-star recruits, but who will be aggressive all-court defenders who tirelessly work hard on defense and can add value on defense. A typical returning cast of players should give West Virginia a vintage defense. The program struggles on offense, but not on defense.
The Shockers engaged Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament last March, drawing the Wildcats into a brutal, physical and low-scoring contest in which few shots were ever comfortable and no one player became a dominant scorer on either side. Wichita State observes excellent defensive principles, making very crisp switches on the perimeter and exhibiting the kind of communication which warns teammates about screens and cuts. This is a responsible team given great guidance by head coach Gregg Marshall. The starting five returns from last year – the lack of disruption to the roster should create one of the best defenses in the country.
The Wildcats, due to problems with NCAA college eligibility processes and procedures, did not get Omari Spellman on their roster last season. Spellman was supposed to be the big man who gave Villanova a big paint presence. His absence due to ineligibility might have cost Villanova a repeat national championship. Now, though, Spellman is eligible, and his place on the roster should make the Wildcats absolutely ferocious on defense.
The addition of 6-11 freshman Mohamed Bamba, one of the most coveted recruits in the nation, will give the Longhorns an elite rim protector who will cover up the mistakes of guards on the perimeter and will represent an obstacle for some of the better post players in the Big 12 next season. If Bamba is as good as the advance billing suggests he is, Texas will have that same inside-outside defensive balance Louisville has.
The Longhorns had a really rough end to the season, so we’ll have to see what they’re capable of early on. They ended the year with losses in eight of their final nine games. Their offense reached 70 points just once in that streak, which is a big reason why this team was one of the best under bets in 2016-17. Expect more of the same in the coming year.
Best Under Teams Of 2016-17
UC-Santa Barbara 6-18-0
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers 10-20-0
Washington Huskies 10-20-0
Illinois Fighting Illini 11-22-0
Jacksonville State Jaguars 10-20-0
Illinois State 11-21-0
The Citadel 8-15-0
The 2017-18 NCAA Tournament futures have been posted. Visit Diamond Sportsbook to get all of the latest college basketball betting lines right here.
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