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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Moments ‘til Madness: Predicting the unpredictable

Overrated and underrated teams of the college basketball preseason.

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The University of Kansas football team is pitctured in 2022.

Just like in every preseason, the speculation around which team could be raising the trophy in 2024 is non-stop. The University of Kansas, the consensus pick for the No. 1 team for 2023–24, took advantage of the transfer portal after winning the Big 12 title last year. The Jayhawks brought in one of the best centers in college hoops, Hunter Dickinson, and three other important players. After ending the regular season by winning the ACC Tournament, Jon Scheyer and Duke University are looking to win it all with their four leading scorers all staying in school. Michigan State University had a couple surprising wins in March Madness last year, but many believe it was just a preview of what Tom Izzo’s talented and experienced roster can do come November.

But with all of these projections, there are bound to be some major misses for anyone filling out their preseason rankings. Purdue is making the top three in almost all of these lists, but do they really have what it takes to make it to Phoenix in March? Zach Edey could win National Player of the Year back-to-back, but it’s hard to believe his underwhelming supporting cast won’t disappear again like they did against Fairleigh Dickinson University in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Similarly, another 2023 No. 1 seed in Houston University got knocked out relatively early and also lost their best player, Marcus Sasser and Jarace Walker, then a top NBA prospect. To make matters worse, Houston is making the move from the non-Power Six AAC to what most believe to be the best basketball conference in the Big 12. While both of these teams have enough talent to scrape together decently high seeds in the tournament, I doubt either of them will be able to bring it all together for a championship, or even a respectable run in the tournament.

Not only is there a lot of overrating prior to the first tip-off of the season, but many teams have fallen off the radar to a certain extent. The Big East’s Marquette University lost just one of their relevant players and are being led by a sneaky candidate for National Player of the Year, Tyler Kolek. Although their season ended on a bad note, with a loss in the second round as a No. 2 seed, Shaka Smart had his team firing on all cylinders prior to March Madness, winning both their conference season and tournament titles. Still, this team is being projected lower than where they ended the season last year, even though I could make a case for them being No. 2 in the nation. The University of North Carolina, the laughingstock of college basketball last year, could prove everyone wrong in 2024. In my eyes, Caleb Love transferring to Arizona should be looked at as a huge positive. Last year, he was much more of a shot-taker than a shot-maker, leaving UNC’s full roster of talent almost unused. Now, Hubert Davis has given the reins of the backcourt to an experienced R.J. Davis, brought in a few high-ceiling transfers and helped reclass five-star guard Elliot Cadeau. It’s understandable to be hesitant about UNC now, but it seems almost inevitable that they will come back to form this upcoming season.

Whether these expectations come to fruition or not, there is absolutely no way to predict any team’s season, especially in college basketball. If I were to put together my own top 25, half of those teams would probably be out of the rankings in a couple of weeks. The best thing we can do is wait for Nov. 6.