After a disappointing end to last season, we are finally in a new season. It’s a season that surely will have some bumps in the road, but it’s a fresh start nonetheless. This year we are gifted with a super talented freshman class, a lot of returning players and an endless amount of possibilities for each team. Not only will teams be squaring off with one another, the entire country will be battling the common opponent of COVID-19. With everything said, let’s get into our first Power 16 and Players of the Week of the new season.
1. Gonzaga (2-0)
It’s a little weird for me to put a team like Gonzaga at No. 1 so early in the season. I would normally like to start the Bulldogs a little bit lower and let the team work its way up as other teams fall off, but the Zags might truly be the top team in the country from the jump. Returning stars Corey Kispert and Drew Timme are joined by incoming freshman Jalen Suggs and new transfer Andrew Nembhard to make a scary talented roster. These guys have already tallied wins over Kansas and Auburn and still have a couple of really tough matchups left to start the season.
2. Iowa (2-0)
The popular pick would probably be to put Baylor at No. 2, but I think Iowa is being a little underrated. The Hawkeyes are returning a player, who in my opinion got robbed of the Player of the Year award last year, in Luka Garza. They also bring back Joe Wieskamp, Jordan Bohannon along with a couple of other key pieces to make up a very talented and experienced roster that seems to just make up a great college basketball team. Iowa has convincing wins over NC Central and Southern, and will potentially add a ranked win or two in the coming weeks.
3. Illinois (3-0)
Again, maybe not the typical pick, but I believe this Illinois team is as legit as it gets. The Fighting Illini have an intimidating backcourt, led by one of the most dynamic guards in the country, Ayo Dosunmu, and joined by talented freshman Adam Miller. Further, they have a solidified big man in Kofi Cockburn who can both protect the rim and score in the post. Illinois has started 3-0 with easy wins over North Carolina A&T and Chicago State and winning a close one against Ohio. There’s big things ahead for this team.
4. Baylor (2-0)
Potentially my most controversial pick, I’m putting Baylor down at No. 4. I really don’t think saying a team is the fourth-best in the country is disrespectful but I’m sure the Baylor fans will be a little mad. I like what Baylor has, I really do. I think the Bears are the best team in the Big 12, have a ton of depth, a lot of experience and a balanced offense. Unfortunately, I believe that not having a true go-to player might cause some issues for this team. Baylor should be amongst the top of the rankings for most of the season, barring something unforeseen.
5. Duke (1-0)
The Blue Devils fall into a situation they have become very familiar with. They will heavily rely on freshmen to develop quickly and be able to lead a team. However, for the first time in what seems like forever, Duke will be returning a couple of five-star recruits that should make a big jump in performance and help make this one of the better Duke teams we have seen. Matthew Hurt and Wendell Moore are the returners, while Jalen Johnson, Jeremy Roach and DJ Steward will be extremely important freshmen in making this Duke team elite.
6. Wisconsin (2-0)
I have some of the same concerns with Wisconsin as I do with Baylor. I don’t see a top dog in the offense. However, just like Baylor, the Badgers have a handful of guys who can be the best player on the team on any given night. The Big Ten is going to be a mad house this season with so many talented teams, and I think Wisconsin has the build to be consistent in what will surely be a chaotic and wild ride through conference play. The Badgers have started off with easy wins over Eastern Illinois and Arkansas Pine Bluff.
7. Kansas (1-1)
The Jayhawks are one of the biggest question marks in all of college basketball in my eyes. When I think about it, I have to give the benefit of the doubt to Bill Self. Kansas did lose a couple of important guys, but I think they have enough in the backcourt and on the wings to help overcome their weakness which will be in the frontcourt. We have to keep a close eye on this team because we shouldn’t put too much into a loss against Gonzaga and likewise for a win against St. Joes.
8. Michigan State (2-0)
Michigan State lost a lot, but still has a good amount of talent at the top of it’s depth chart. The most valuable edition of the offseason might just be Joey Hauser, the transfer from Marquette. The Spartans might not be the top of the Big Ten, but should not be ruled out by any means. Tom Izzo and skilled players should never be taken lightly. Eastern Michigan and Notre Dame are the wins on MSU’s resume thus far.
9. West Virginia (3-0)
Bob Huggins’ team has started the year 3-0 with wins over South Dakota State, VCU and Western Kentucky. The Mountaineers return almost the entire starting lineup and let’s not forget how good this team was last year. West Virginia is always built on defense, and the tough, gritty style of WVU basketball shouldn’t be going anywhere. That’s a recipe that will surely give Big 12 teams trouble.
10. North Carolina (1-0)
North Carolina is a good basketball team, and probably underrated in the mainstream basketball media. With a win over Charleston, UNC has started it’s season on a strong note. This team seems like your typical Tar Heel team, built around the big men. Armando Bacot, Garrison Brooks, Day'Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler make up a deep and skilled front court, possibly the best in the nation. Also, guys like Caleb Love and Leaky Black leave the backcourt in good hands.
11. Villanova (2-1)
Villanova started the season strong with wins over Boston College and Arizona State, but then fell to Virginia Tech in the most recent game. I do respect Jay Wright and the product he builds, but Nova teams usually get stronger later into the season. Right now, I have some concerns about the team. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Collin Gillespie are the top two options, and I’m not sure if that’s good enough to be a top ten team in the country. Plus, the depth is yet to be seen as well. The Wildcats are a good team, but maybe not a great team.
12. Virginia (1-1)
I had some questions about Virginia entering the season, and the loss to San Fransisco didn’t help. The addition of Sam Hauser should bring a reliable three-point shooter to the team, which is a super important need for a team that will have limited offensive possessions, but there’s still a lot of problems. I don’t see the ability in this team to be the best defensive team in the nation, and honestly I see this team struggling at times on defense. We’ll see if the Cavaliers prove me wrong.
13. Houston (3-0)
The Cougars picked up a big win over Texas Tech this week, and also have a pair of wins over Boise State and Lamar. Houston wont play the best competition throughout the year, but seems to have a team that can make a deep run in the (hopefully happening this year) NCAA Tournament. This team has good defense, reliable three-point shooters and a handful of ball-handlers who can create their own shot. I like the direction this team is heading in.
14. Creighton (1-0)
Creighton has only played North Dakota State this year, but we somewhat know what the Blue Jays are going to be this year. Marcus Zegarowski will be the top option and potentially the Big East Player of the Year. Also, Creighton has one of the best deep ball shooters in the country, and that can never hurt. I like the Blue Jays to challenge Villanova in the Big East.
15. Texas (1-0)
The Longhorns are one of the biggest sleeper teams in the nation. Greg Brown is a beast, Jericho Sims is a reliable post scorer, Matt Coleman is a vastly underrated point guard and Courtney Ramey might be a breakout player this team doesn’t necessarily need, but would greatly benefit from. As always, a 36-point win to start the season doesn’t hurt either.
16. Kentucky (1-1)
Kentucky is in a tough place, but not an unfamiliar one. Forced to rely on freshmen to lead the team is never easy, but John Calipari is obviously one of the best. BJ Boston, Devin Askew, Isaiah Jackson and Terrence Clarke are the big ones, but of course, there’s more. The Wildcats should only get better as the season progresses, so the loss to Richmond is bad, but not overly concerning.
Next Five: Tennessee, Ohio State, Michigan, Rutgers, LSU
Players of the Week
Luka Garza – Iowa
Luka Garza is probably the best player in college basketball this year (last year too, but that’s a different argument). He has started off the season right where he left off, on a tear. A 26 point, 10 rebound, 3 block and 2 steal performance is a great season opener, but Garza has already topped it. Against Southern, the Iowa big man dropped 41 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks. He’s also shooting 25-29 from the floor, good for 86.2%.
Ayo Dosunmu – Illinois
Ayo Dosunmu had a lot of hype coming into the year, and has already lived up to it. The Illinois point guard is filling up the stat sheet this year, with 28-10-5, 22-7-6 and 27-8-7 stat lines already. Averaging 25.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists on 55.8% shooting through three games, Dosunmu had to be on the list.
Drew Timme – Gonzaga
Timme started off his sophomore campaign on the right foot by dropping 25 points and 6 boards followed by 28 points and 10 rebounds in his second outing. Timme is one of the best scorers in the country with his back to the basket and will likely record many outings like these in the future.
Jalen Johnson – Duke
I try to avoid one game performances, but Jalen Johnson shined in his college football debut. In 35 minutes, Johnson shot 8-8 from the field including 1-1 from deep and 2-2 from the charity stripe. He tallied 19 points, 19 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks. Look out for this guy.
Xavier Johnson – Pittsburgh
Xavier Johnson fills in the final place on this list by putting up an average of 18.5 points, 9.0 assists and 5.5 rebounds through Pitt’s first two games of the year. Assists often get overlooked in college basketball and I want to be sure to give playmakers a nod. Pitt as a team isn’t very good, but Johnson has been the brightest spot on the team so far.
Play of the Week
This is something new that I’d like to start adding as the year goes on, a single play of the week. These will most likely consist of poster dunks, but who knows, maybe we get some wild passes in here too. Anyways, we have to give Texas’ freshman, Greg Brown, the play of the week to start the year. Here it is.