The College Basketball season will be upon us in just a few short days, and while matchups of week one are not always captivating, there are some things to watch for.
Today, I want to preview a few of the top 25 teams that should pique your interest, as well as some wagers that warrant at least a gander and possibly some of your money.
Top 25 Interesting NCAA Basketball Teams For Next Season
- Current Ranking: 10th
To say that Arkansas hit a home run with the hiring of Eric Musselman would be an understatement. The nation of the pig has been revitalized, and there seems to be a reason for excitement year-round. Musselman has killed it both on the court and on the recruiting trail, landing both prep stars and transfer studs.
This season, the Muss bus rolls into town boasting a revamped front court with the addition of the Mitchell brothers, Makhi and Mahkel from Rhode Island, as well as Jalen Graham, who averaged roughly 10 points and five rips per game at Arizona State. The Razorbacks also boast some of the most intriguing freshmen in the country.
Point guard Nick Smith is arguably the best player in the entire incoming class, while swingman Jordan Walsh has a ton of upside. Anthony Black, Trevon Brazille, and Ricky Council IV coming off of the bench give Arkansas a ton of talented depth.
Arkansas opens up the season on Monday, November 7th, against North Dakota State. Look for the spread to be somewhere around 23 points.
Musselman’s team has ranked in the top 11 in adjusted defensive efficiency each of the last two seasons and is well-balanced this year. Take Arkansas to cover that number.
- Current Ranking: 18th
This is going to be an interesting season in Charlottesville. Tony Bennett is one of the best coaches in the country, and Kihei Clark and Reece Beekman are a great backcourt.
Jayden Gardner is a great frontcourt talent, and Armaan Franklin can (or used to be able to) shoot the ball. Ben Vander Plas was fantastic in his four seasons at Ohio and even in a game against Virginia when the Bobcats knocked the Cavs out of the dance.
There are, of course, questions. The first is can the Wahoos shoot the basketball effectively from deep. Franklin shot over 42% from deep in his final season for Indiana but just 29.6% last season for Virginia.
Freshman Isaac McNeely has the reputation as a big-time shooter, but freshmen rarely stand out for Tony Bennett in their first season on campus.
The second question is, apart from Gardner, who will step up in the frontcourt? Francisco Caffaro and Kadin Shedrick are ok, but someone needs to take a step and give Gardner some help.
The defense will be there, along with a boatload of experience, but the question will once again be scoring and shooting. We will find out together.
The Cavaliers open the season on Monday, November 7th, against North Carolina Central. Early predictors have the total coming in at 128 points.
Last season was only the second time since 2017-18 that Levell Moton’s team ranked inside the top 300 in adjusted offensive efficiency; they ranked 289th. It wouldn’t shock me if Virginia held them under 40 points. Take the under.
Illinois Fighting Illini
- Current Rank: 23rd
Brad Underwood’s team/program is in a year of a sort of transition. The immense talent that was Kofi Cockburn is no longer on the roster, and multiple high-level players have joined the program.
Five-star prospect Skyy Clark joins the program after decommitting from Kentucky. With Andre Curbello now in Queens, NY, Clark steps into the starting lineup, looking to make an immediate impact.
Clark will have a lot of toys at his disposal as former Texas Tech G/F Terrence Shannon and Baylor swingman Matthew Mayer join the fray. Shannon averaged 11 points per game in 83 contests with the Red Raiders, while Mayer averaged 9.8 points and five rebounds for the Bears last season.
Coach Underwood will also be looking for forwards RJ Melendez and Coleman Hawkins to take a step forward to solidify the front court in the always physical B1G.
The Illini play Eastern Illinois on opening night but take a look at their Friday contest against UMKC. The spread on that game is predicted to be roughly 23 points.
That should be an easy cover for a team that is likely to be too big and too talented for an America East team in a buy-game.