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Barstool's College Basketball Top-25 Rankings: Teams 20-25

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It’s officially October, which means we’re in basketball season. You can take your Hocus Pocus. Take your pumpkin beer. Take your flannel and Halloween. I’ll take basketball starting.

So with all that said, we’re going to do the top-25 a little different this year. I want to break up the teams to focus a little bit more on what to expect with each team – think of what Luke Winn did with his power rankings. The blogs will be broken up in teams of 5 and then we’ll focus on the top-10 or so on an individual level and go a little more in depth. As I mentioned in other blogs we’ll be doing conference previews and a betting guide and more season previews so everyone is ready to go here in a few weeks. 

25. Oregon Ducks 

Key Players: Troy Brown, Payton Pritchard, Elijah Brown, Paul White

Yes, I know Oregon lost just about everyone from last year’s Final Four team. They don’t have Tyler Dorsey, Dillon Brooks, Kavell Bigby-Williams, Jordan Bell, Casey Benson or Chris Boucher, but they do have one of the best players in the country coming in this year that can help fill the scoring void in Troy Brown. The freshman was ranked No. 14 in his class and is a 6’6″ wing who can score in a variety of ways. I expect Altman to find a way to use him the way he used Dillon Brooks. Brown isn’t an incredible athlete, but you can play him in the post and has good enough ball-handling skills you can let him initiate some offense. The other thing to remember about Brown is he has a 6’11” wingspan, making him capable of guarding multiple positions.

One thing I want to do with these previews is break down a common play that the teams run, but with Oregon returning next to nothing it’s tough to do. So, we’re going to take a look at Payton Pritchard, who should take another small jump after getting a ton of run as a freshman. Pritchard was on Team USA this summer, something that I always think helps with the jump. He’s a guy who can do a little bit of everything from the point guard spot. He took care of the ball, turning it over just 1.4 times per game, while averaging over 3.5 assists per game. I expect him to be a better shooter as he just shot 35% from three last year. They used Pritchard mostly in pick and roll and spot up shooting spots last year. We’ll focus on the spot up shooting, something he should get a lot of this year, especially with how good of a passer Brown is. He scored .986 points per possession last year on 124 possessions, which ranked in the 61st percentile nationally.

24. Baylor Bears

Key Players: Manu Lecomte, Jo Lual-Acuil, King McClure, Jake Lindsey, Terry Maston

Yeah, Baylor loses Johnathan Motley and Ish Wainwright, but getting your point guard back and a couple other guys who have plenty of experience and this is still a top-25 team. Remember Baylor was able to stay around the top-10 pretty much all of last year. A lot of that had to do with Motley, but also the development of Lecomte after transferring from Miami. Throw in the fact they are going to still run that 1-1-3 zone which always gives teams some trouble and they’ll win games early. They ranked in the 85th percentile nationally last season in overall defense giving up just .849 points per possession. Part of that reason is Lual-Acuil, who blocked 2.5 shots per game. He’s going to be the one to watch this year as he can fill in the role left by Motley. He’s not going to be as skilled or productive as Motley, but he’s a legit 7’0″ that can step out and shoot and defend. Here you can see the zone throughout an entire possession.

23. Northwestern Wildcats 

Key Players: Bryant McIntosh, Scottie Lindsey, Vic Law, Derek Pardon

Northwestern was one of the feel good stories last year as they made the NCAA Tournament for the first time and actually looked ready to compete in the Big 10. They’ll have even higher expectations this year as they return their top five players, with McIntosh expected to be an All-Big 10 type player. I like this team to be better than most early, but do think teams like Oregon could catch them as the season goes on. Northwestern will be one of the most experienced teams in the country and they are also incredibly balanced. They don’t need McIntosh to be a star as they’ll have a bunch of guys average between 8 and 15 points per game. I do worry about their ability to spread the floor though as they simply aren’t a good shooting team. Last year they shot 34% from the 3-point line, which was 202nd in the country. What they will do though is defend the hell out of you, as they ranked 32nd in the country in DRtg and take care of the ball. It’s no surprise with Collins background, but Northwestern’s best offensive sets were on cuts, where they scored 1.286 points per possession. Here you can see a play Northwestern likes to run. They’ll set a high ball screen for McIntosh and as the defense is focusing there, opposite wing will make a baseline cut.

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22. St. Mary’s Gaels 

Key Players: Jock Landale, Emmet Naar, Cullen Neal

This is by far one of the most efficient offenses in the entire country. St. Mary’s ranked 14th in offense last year and 2nd in effective field goal percentage. A lot of that has to do with Landale and Naar – Landale specifically. Landale should be on preseason All-American teams as he averaged 17 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last year. On top of that he shot 63% from the floor and ranked 23rd in the country in offensive rebounding percentage. If you ever watched St. Mary’s play, you know what to expect. They like to use a lot of the clock on offense, run the defense through multiple picks and find the open man. They were 8th in the country in assists per field goals made and the 2nd slowest team in the country. Landale can beat you in a couple different ways, but I want to focus on him as the roll man. He had 140 possessions last year as a roll man in a pick and roll set and scored 1.308 points per possession. Here you can see the two-man game with Landale and Naar and how patient they are on offense.

21. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Key Players: Johnathan Williams, Silas Melson, Josh Perkins, Killian Tillie, Rui Hachimura

Gonzaga had by far its best season last year and now have to deal with following up with reasonable expectations. They do lose a good majority of what they had last year, but there’s still enough there for them to win the WCC and win some games in the NCAA Tournament. To me, the player to watch is Rui Hachimura, who was a star for Japan in the U-19 Championships and should take a huge leap this year. He’s a potential NBA prospect as he can step out and shoot and has good size. For this year though, the go-to guy is going to be Johnathan Williams, the transfer from Missouri, who was a starter last year. He averaged over 10 a game last year and was wildly effective from inside the 3-point line. In fact, he led the WCC in 2-pt shooting percentage last year. Williams thrived last year in post-up settings, where he had 101 possessions and scored 1.04 points per possession. What he likes to do though is catch the ball out on top of the key or the wing and use the dribble to get in the post position. Here’s an example against UNC last year:

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20. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Key Players: Matt Farrell, Temple Gibbs, Bonzie Colson

It seems like every year some guard makes a huge jump for Notre Dame and keeps Mike Brey’s system flowing. This year I expect that to be Temple Gibbs after Farrell made that jump last year. The real key here though is the play of Colson and Farrell. Colson is going to be an All-American and Farrell can make some All-ACC teams. Notre Dame is consistently one of the best offenses in the country and a lot of that has to do with Brey’s development of guards. He’s incredibly creative when it comes to offensive sets and likes to run a space and pace type offense. He’ll spread teams out, run a bunch of cuts and NBA sets to get his guys open. I showed this in my offense blog, but it’s worth the look again. Last year we saw Brey use a release, or a shallow cut, to get Colson the ball and take advantage of the mismatch. He’d run a wheel motion offense, getting guys out of the way and then bring Colson up to the top of the key. This is going to be very common to see again this year as the offense will run through Farrell and Colson: