College Hoops "Roundable": Title Picks Outside of Top 4

November 7th, 2011
We've finally reached the last question in this five-part series, where some college basketball writers took time to answer who their pick to win the national title is. There was one caveat, however: the pick had to come from outside of the top four that is North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State and UConn. That led to some interesting choices, so enjoy.

Question: Outside of the generally accepted top four (UNC/UK/Ohio State/UConn) who do you think can win the national title?

Peter Robert Casey, Five-Star Basketball
Sans Singler, Smith and Irving, I still like the Blue Devils. Not literally of course, but Duke should surprise folks. This edition's much younger than traditional Duke teams, but it's a wildly talented bunch. They'll grow up fast in the ACC.

Mason Plumlee's the key upfront, and Duke will rely on his consistency. He's good for 8.5 caroms per outing and offensive efficiency around the basket while Ryan Kelly, a 6-11 junior, can haul in boards and play gritty Coach K-style defense. Miles Plumlee should see rotation minutes in the post and first-year forward Alex Murphy may be a difference-maker.

The question mark around Duke is in the backcourt. Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Austin Rivers can all hoist it, but who will step up to create those shots? Tyler Thornton's much more effective on the defensive end, so the onus may be on McDonald's All-American Quinn Cook. If the freshman floor leader can capably fill that void, Duke will be dangerous come March.

Rob Dauster, Ballin' is a Habit
I think Syracuse and Duke are the obvious answers here, but I'll mix it up - Xavier.


They have Tu Holloway, who is the best point guard in the country not named Jordan Taylor. Mark Lyons is better than anyone thinks alongside Holloway in the back court. Brad Redford is a sniper, as is redshirt freshman Justin Martin, and Dez Wells is going to make a lot of fans across the country with his athleticism. And lastly, the Muskies have a very good front line. Kenny Frease is eligible again in the middle while transfers Travis Taylor (who is going to sneak up on people this year) and Andre Walker and junior Jeff Robinson can all play.

Remember where you heard it first!

Brian Ewart,
Here's the cop-out answer of the day: Duke. The Blue Devils lost a stud at point guard but have Quinn Cook and Seth Curry to help them move on. Austin Rivers is going to be another big contributor for Duke, and they also have all three Plumlees now. They've got plenty of talent anyway, and if I can't pick UConn or UNC, I guess I'll play it like Dickie V.

Troy Machir, Ballin' is a Habit
Butler. Yeah, I said it. Butler. I mean, why the hell not? Sure, they will probably fall off the radar in late-January, but come March, they will be a part of the bracket, and you'd be a fool not to pencil them in to the Final Four, not after the last two years. But in all seriousness, I really like Memphis to do big things this season. They do have an inexperienced team when it comes to the NCAA tournament, but they just have so much talent and athleticism, and I think Josh Pastner could be a legitimate candidate for Coach of the Year. I really think this is the year Memphis comes back into the public eye. If It's not Butler or Memphis, then I'll go with Duke.

Ray Mernagh, NBE Sports
I like Kentucky to win it all. But outside of those four? Syracuse could win it. I also like Baylor and Xavier as sleepers, but right now if I had to pick one team outside of those four it would be the Orange.

Jon Pence,
I've sat here for 20 minutes looking at teams 5-20 and I'm still scratching my head. If that's any indication, the top 4 are definitely a big step ahead of the rest. Syracuse and Duke are the easy answers here, but I want to look past both and go with Ashton Gibbs and the Pitt Panthers. Gibbs is the real deal and could take a page from Kemba Walker and lead Pitt to the title. Jamie Dixon has averaged 27 wins per season in his 8 years at Pitt, mostly with good, but not great talent. This year's roster should be a step up. Gibbs is good enough to lead Pitt to a run in the tourney and Dixon's defense is always among the best in the NCAA, so I'll go with Pitt.

Jon Teitel,
I know that non-BCS AQ teams with a young coach can go very far in March (Butler and VCU) but I just do not think they can go all the way, so I will cross Memphis and Xavier off the list. I also do not like teams who have to replace a ton of talent, so when you lose a trio like Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler (Duke) or Markieff Morris, Marcus Morris and Josh Selby (Kansas), I would forget about them as well.

The past 15 years have demonstrated that it really helps to have a Hall of Fame caliber coach if you want to win the title (Jim Calhoun, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams, Jim Boeheim, etc.), so while I respect Kevin Stallings and Jamie Dixon and their current teams, I am not ready to hand Vanderbilt or Pitt the title just yet.

That narrows it down to a few Top 15 teams that have a great coaches: Syracuse, Florida and Louisville. I think the Gators are going to be a bit guard-heavy this year after losing his entire starting frontcourt (Vernon Macklin, Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus), so I am tempted to simply pick the winner of the Louisville-Syracuse season series.

However, after recently hearing that Cardinal freshman Wayne Blackshear will miss a decent chunk of the season after suffering a shoulder injury, I will take that as a sign of bad karma and I will pick Syracuse to have the best shot of winning the title.

Ben Weixlmann, Heard This Blog
Man, I have to admit - I really hate questions like this. If I were forced to pick one team right now, I would say Louisville. I think playing in the Big East will provide them with the toughness and challenges to be prepared to make a long run into March. Peyton Siva is a top-notch floor general, and they've got depth to run alongside the gifted Seattle native. Losing Wayne Blackshear for an extended period of time due to a torn labrum won't help their chances, but if he can recover and be back in time for the end of the Big East season, look for them to be primed for a March push.

My Pick
This won't be a popular pick due to their recent March failings, but I'll go with Vanderbilt. Why? In guard John Jenkins they have one of the best shooters in the nation and wing Jeffery Taylor is an outstanding athlete who can get it done on both ends. Festus Ezeli leads a deep frontcourt, and his six-game suspension could work out to be a positive as players such as Rod Odom and Steve Tchiengang stand to receive even more minutes. Add in a talented freshman in Dai'Jon Parker and the Commodores have a good rotation to call on. They'll be right there with Kentucky in the SEC conversation, and as a result avoid those pesky opening matchups that have resulted in them heading home after one game.

Previous Questions

What are your thoughts on conference realignment, and what solution do you have for the issue?

What are your thoughts on the new recruiting rules that the NCAA has put in place? Sufficient or no, and if not what would you like changed?

What are your thoughts on the initiative to raise the value of a full scholarship (adding up to $2,000 to help reach the total cost of attendance)?

Removing North Carolina/Kentucky, what's one game (conference or non-conference) that you're looking forward to watching this season?