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2013-'14 college basketball preview and picks

Dan Knapinski and Chris Skaggs discuss college basketball previews and picks for the 2013-14 season. (photo/ CBSSports.com)

 

The college basketball season is here once again, with many teams starting their seasons on the night of Nov. 8, with every team gunning for the top spot that the Louisville Cardinals are trying to defend. Headlining the season are some big names and some big schools. Here to preview the players and make some picks are your favorite sportswriters for the Nothern Review.

Conference Winners:

Big Ten:

Dan: Michigan State- Gary Harris is a conference POY talent; Keith Appling, Adreian Payne and Branden Dawson are back. MSU will win the conference, and then some.

Chris: Ohio State- Just as in football, the Buckeyes benefit from a weak schedule. They only play Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana once. If Ohio State can find a scorer to replace Deshaun Thomas and can win two of three games against Michigan/Wisconsin/Indiana, and can split with Michigan State, the Buckeyes will be the Big Ten champions.

ACC:

Dan: UNC- The reason I went UNC over Duke is because the Heels have more proven players like McAdoo, Paige and Hairston, instead of relying so heavily on freshmen in what is a super-deep ACC with the addition of Syracuse, Pitt, and Notre Dame.

Chris: Notre Dame- The ACC is once again one of the deepest conferences in the country. Notre Dame has a backcourt with two outstanding seniors, Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant.

SEC:

Dan: Kentucky- Are they young? They always are. Will they lose a few conference games? Yes. They’ll just lose fewer than anyone else in the SEC with the talent that they have.

Chris: Florida- It seems as though the Gators are always overshadowed by the Kentucky Wildcats and their revolving door of top recruits. Billy Donovan has been building a powerhouse in Gainesville and returns a team loaded with experienced juniors and seniors.

Big 12:

Dan: Oklahoma State- They have the best returning ‘big three’ in the country in Marcus Smart, Le’Bryan Nash, and Markel Brown. The conference is as deep as it’s been in years though.

Chris: Iowa State- The Cyclones return Melvin Ejim (11.3 PPG; 9.3 RPG) and Georges Niang (12.1 PPG; 4.6 RPG), and add NIU-transfer Abdel Nader, who averaged 13.1 PPG in the MAC last season. Iowa State is my surprise pick to win the Big 12.

Pac 12:

Dan: UCLA- Seems like everyone is picking either Oregon or Arizona and almost forgetting about the Bruins. They get Jordan Adams back from a foot injury that kept him out of the tourney and still have Kyle Anderson running the show, now with Steve Alford at the helm.

Chris: Arizona- The Wildcats are a powerhouse in the Pac-12. They have the most talent, size, and athleticism in the entire conference. Arizona brought in a highly touted recruiting class that can have an immediate impact.

Big East:

Dan: Marquette- Davante Gardner is the best big guy in the conference and is a machine down low. Without Vander Blue, the floor should open up a little bit for the Golden Eagles.

Chris: Creighton- Doug McDermott is Creighton’s Mr. Everything, averaging 22.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game his sophomore year and 23.2 points and 7.7 rebounds per game his junior year. Look for McDermott to carry Creighton to the Big East conference crown.

American Athletic:

Dan: Louisville- They might be the easiest conference-winning pick, but watch for Memphis to get the Cards at least once. Russ Smith will make his bonehead plays, but the help around him is too much with three starters returning.

Chris: Louisville- Last year’s National Champion returns leading scorer Russ Smith to a team that otherwise lost a lot of top talent. The Cardinals should take advantage of a weak conference and win the first American Athletic Conference basketball championship.

Team to Watch

Dan: St. John’s Red Storm- Remember when the Johnnies had the best recruiting class in the country? Well those guys are ready to make some noise this year, with Jakarr Sampson, D’Angelo Harrison and Phil Greene IV looking to challenge Marquette for the top spot in the Big East, and still relatively young at that.

Chris: The New Mexico Lobos might be the most overlooked preseason top 25 team in years. The Lobos were 29-6 a season ago, and after being ousted early in the NCAA tournament look to prove that they aren’t just the benefactors of being a part of a mid-major conference. New coach Craig Neal should seamlessly replace former coach Steve Alford. Look for New Mexico to make a legitimate run at a one or two seed in March.

Player of the Year

Dan: Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State- He shocked everyone by coming back to school instead of taking his top-5 pick wealth in the NBA, and it will pay off for the Cowboys. He is surrounded by a lot of talent and they’ll be battle-tested in the Big 12. He was the conference player of the year as a freshman and looks to build on his 15/6r/4a numbers from last season. He’ll be the best player on the floor in every game they play this season.

Chris: Isaiah Austin, Baylor- Austin is a 7’1” sophomore center who has a rare combination of talents. He is tall enough to be a force in the post and has the basketball skills to be a perimeter threat. If the Baylor Bears make a run for the Big 12 championship and Austin can raise his points per game to 17 and his rebounds per game to 11, which isn’t out of the question, look for him to be in the Player of the Year debate.

Final Four Teams

Dan: Oklahoma State, Louisville, Michigan State, VCU

Chris: Arizona, Michigan State, Kentucky, Florida

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