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Staff picks include North Carolina and Louisville
The last few weeks have given a few big-name programs and coaches much to think about on the practice court.
Louisville is recalibrating without Chane Behanan for a team that already showed flaws that could prevent the Cardinals from defending their national title. Kansas’ youth has been exposed by a brutal non-conference schedule. Duke has struggled in the defensive end of the court even before losing to a shorthanded Notre Dame on the road.
The top 10 has been thrown into disarray in recent weeks to a point where it’s almost unrecognizable from the preseason rankings, but which of these teams have the most pressing long-term concerns?
It’s worth noting Michigan, a team that recently lost forward Mitch McGary to back surgery, was ranked in the preseason top 10 in the AP and coaches’ poll, but Athlon ranked the Wolverines No. 12. Both are obsolete at this point, but we decided to make our question more difficult by looking only at the Athlon preseason top 10.
Weekly Tipoff: Which Athlon preseason top 10 team has the most concerns?
David Fox: That’s a tough call mainly because the most likely candidates who were among Athlon’s preseason top 10 — Kentucky, Louisville, Duke, Kansas — have arguably top-five coaches and immense talent. Are you really going to bet against Calipari, Pitino, Krzyzewski and Self figuring things out by February? Another team, Oklahoma State, has depth issues, but I’m not going to bet against Marcus Smart, either. Of those five, I’m going to go with Louisville. The Cardinals didn’t look like a national championship team with forward Chane Behanan in the lineup, and now he’s gone for the year. The Cards entered AAC play without a signature win and without consistent contributions from the supporting cast of Wayne Blackshear, Luke Hancock and Montrezl Harrell. Guards Russ Smith and Chris Jones have been fantastic, but the Cardinals are forcing their guard duo to carry the entire load.
Braden Gall: Louisville has had some roster attrition since winning the national title, Kansas and Kentucky are extremely young and Michigan State has dealt with major injuries. But North Carolina has to be considered the biggest question mark in the preseason top 10. The Tar Heels are the most schizophrenic team in the nation — capable of winning at Michigan State and against both Louisville and Kentucky while also dysfunctional enough to lose to unranked Belmont, UAB, Texas and Wake Forest. This team has some talent, although not as much as Roy Williams' championship squads, so they are a clearcut top notch ACC team. But are the Tar Heels as good as Duke or Syracuse in that league? I am not ready to say that yet.