2009-10 College Basketball Early Season Predictions: Sleeper Teams

Last Updated: November 18th, 2009 by Travis Edwards (Bankroll Sports Contributor)
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Well everyone it is that time of year again when the weather turns cold, leafs fall off the trees, college football is winding down the regular season, and the college basketball season is quietly getting under way. That’s right college hoops are here and time to put some focus on the hardwood. The college basketball season usually does not get the most attention until the majority of the football season is over, but for college basketball enthusiasts our time is here. Over the last 24 hours the first games of the regular season have been played as we anticipate the long exciting season so there is no better time to take a look at some of the teams to watch out for in 2009-2010 basketball season.

The Kansas Jayhawks young talented team has taken the top spot in the polls which should be a surprise considering how well the Jayhawks played in the NCAA Tournament with an inexperienced roster. However, our focus for this article is to shy away from the top 5 teams in America who are receiving all of the attention and spot the potential sleepers who will come on strong. Remember last year we nailed 3 out of the 4 NCAA Bracket winners including the big underdog in Villanova and we have a few teams on our watch that you should keep on your radar throughout the year. Take a look at a few teams that are not receiving a ton of attention, but could be shining brightly in the spotlight by season’s end.

West Virginia Mountaineers

The Mountaineers finished the regular season in 2008 at a mark of 21-10 despite being beaten up by the brutal conference play down the stretch. The fact is that West Virginia would have been a top 10 team all season long if they played anywhere outside the Big East considering how stacked the conference was last year. Coach Bob Huggins now enters his 3rd year in Morgantown and considering the difference he has made in his first two years the program is definitely headed in the right direction. Huggins now has most of his own players running his style of play which will make all the difference. The key player on the West Virginia roster will be sophomore forward Devin Ebanks. Ebanks got off to a slow start last year reaching double digits just 9 times through the first 25 games. However, the young talent really came on strong scoring at least 10 points or more in 13 of the final 15 games giving tons of promise for the 2009-2010 season. Leading scorer Da’Sean Butler will also be back after averaging 17 points per game a season ago. Butler gives the team the dangerous ability to get hot and is dangerous all over the court. If junior transfer Casey Mitchell can come in and give immediate help, the Mountaineers will have the best inside presence in the conference. Look out for freshman Kevin Jones who could make a similar big presence on the inside well with some time as well. If the Mountaineers can find one guy to become a big shooter on the outside to compliment the inside game, dare I say Final Four?

Butler Bulldogs

I know what most are thinking when they see Butler, but do not be fooled. The Bulldogs return everyone from the starting rotation a year ago that finished 25-4 on the season. Sure Butler plays a weak schedule, but their style of play proved to cause problems for many different teams last year. The Bulldogs took down Xavier and Davidson during the regular season and fell by a single basket to Ohio State who many had as preseason best in the Big Ten for 2008. Butler also fell just short of knocking off number 2 seed Tennessee who was the best team in the SEC keeping them out of the sweet 16. However, with everyone back things should only get better. This could be the only team in the nation that could put 5 guards on the court and get away with it. Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward will be critical youngsters for the team as veteran senior Willie Veasley will provide the leadership the team will need. How far could Butler go? Well that may be hard to tell, but they will be a team that is extremely difficult to guard and it would not be a big surprise if this shaped up to be a Cinderella Story.

South Carolina Gamecocks

The Gamecocks may be a stretch to make a ton of noise this season, but they deserve a lot more attention than they are getting. South Carolina currently is not even ranked, but they will change after a few short weeks. Senior guard Devin Downey is one of the most exciting players in the SEC to watch with tremendous hustle. Downey scored 19 points per game in 2008 and led the conference with 3 steals per game. The talented senior will be the key guy when South Carolina needs to pull out close wins as he did multiple times in 2008. However, the entire team is on the rise behind Coach Darrin Horn who is in just his 2nd year as head coach. The team may have its best years ahead, but that is not to say they can do some damage in the SEC this year. South Carolina took down Florida once and Kentucky twice in the regular season and they will match-up well with everyone again this year. The Gamecocks will need senior Dominique Archie to have an even bigger season this year especially on the boards. Archie averaged 16.5 points and 8 rebounds last season, but South Carolina really needs him to control the boards as they lack the single big man needed to be really strong. However, this is a quick team that will give everyone a hard time and we would put them ahead of some of the over hyped Big Ten teams already ranked in the top 25.

Purdue Boilermakers

One of those Big Ten teams that are not over hyped is the Purdue Boilermakers. While Michigan State is receiving the overwhelming attention in the Big Ten and rightfully so, Purdue will have every opportunity to be the dark horse that could steal the thunder. In fact, this is most of the same team that blew out the Spartans by nearly 20 points in late February of last season. The lethal weapon of the team will be forward Robbie Hummel who averaged 13 points and 7 boards last season. Hummel will be even better this year and the Boilermakers will be a force. Purdue as a team has all the players in the right positions to expect big things. JaJuan Johnson is the big guy in the middle and senior guard Chris Kramer will need to improve a bit. However, freshman guard D.J Byrd could be the biggest difference for the Boilermakers. It is usually not a good sign to place a lot of responsibility on a freshman, but Purdue really needs a consistent hot hand from the perimeter. Bryd could do that right away depending on how quickly he adapts at the next level. However, if he can knock down a few shots each game Purdue has all the making to contend in the Big Ten.

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Posted in NCAA Basketball - Last Updated on Wednesday, November 18th, 2009 @ 11:29 am (EST)
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