Keys to the Season for Top NCAA Basketball Teams
Michigan State – Last season was Michigan State’s 11th trip to at least the Sweet Sixteen under Tom Izzo and with the return of some key personnel from last year’s team, they are primed to make a title run again. The return of Gary Harris for his sophomore season and Adreian Payne for his senior were vital if the Spartans expect to advance far. Harris is capable of scoring from the perimeter and on penetration, and he uses his strong body well to create space. Payne is very skilled for his size, but he has had issues staying focused and putting all the pieces together. The key for this group may be the play of point guard Keith Appling who has shown flashes of the distributor he could be, but would still rather look to score first. If Appling can defer more to Harris and Payne, it may make his job much easier.
Louisville – Losing the starting point guard and center from a National Championship team would be tough for almost any one, but Rick Pitino has himself a team that will be right back in the NCAA Championship hunt this season. With Peyton Siva now in the NBA, this is fully Russ Smith’s team, and like him or hate him, he produces on both ends of the floor. He’ll be joined in the backcourt by JUCO Player of the Year Chris Jones, who uses his speed well to create scoring opportunities and force turnovers. The backcourt also has depth with freshman Terry Rozier and the returning Kevin Ware. The frontcourt has two of the toughest forwards in the country in Chane Behanan and Montrezl Harrell, and both are capable of scoring and defending in the paint. The key for Louisville is adjusting to not having a true big man to rely on, especially having someone to replace Gorgui Dieng as a rim protector. It will likely be a backcourt-dominant team again, but the frontcourt will need to produce consistently.