Burlison Countdown: No. 20 - 16

College basketball expert Frank Burlison continues his countdown of his pre-season Top 25. A Missouri Valley Conference team came very close to knocking off Kansas in the NCAA Tournament last yaer, and that same team is pretty good again!

It's a little tough for a Southern California resident to focus on anything but the inferno that is a lot of the Southland right now.

 

But the college basketball preview world has got to go on . . .

 

So here's the latest batch of Frankhoops.com Top 25 entries.

 

No. 20 Kentucky

2006-07 record: 22-12

Why this rating? A reasonably potent group of perimeter players, including seniors Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley, and sophomore Jodie Meeks, is on hand as Bill Gillispie sets out to appease the Big Blue Nation with a product that will eventually – the BBN residents eagerly anticipate or demand  . . . take your pick – return the program to its rightful place as The Power in the SEC. Patrick Patterson should join Kevin Love (UCLA) and Michael Beasley (Kansas State) as one of the three most-productive freshmen posts in the country.

Potential pitfall: Other than Patterson (who said "No" to Duke and Florida to become a Wildcat), where does the productivity in the post come from?

Get to know: Freshman Alex Legion. Like Crawford, he's a product of Detroit. And, also like Crawford, he's more "slasher/scorer" than "exceptional jump shooter".

Watch this game: vs. North Carolina (Dec.1, Lexington). This could be the Wildcats' second outing (they could face Memphis in November during the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic) against a strong Final Four contender. As far as "measuring-stick games" go, they don't get much more measurable.

Frank Says: If another "dependable" (aka, "someone who could score 10-12 points and grab 8 to 10 rebounds per game and guard the heck out of people inside) post player develops, reaching the second week of the NCAA Tournament is doable.

 

No. 19 Pittsburgh

2006-07 record: 29-8

Why this rating? The Panthers are missing one of most productive big men (Aaron Gray) of the past couple of seasons. But they've got depth galore, most notably in the backcourt. And newcomers DaJuan Blair, Gilbert Brown and Austin Wallace join returnee Sam Young to give Jamie Dixon a frontcourt that is as bouncy and active as most any in the Big East this season.

Potential pitfall: They could often be guarding 6-10 or bigger players with 6-7 or smaller defenders.

Get to know: The 245-pound Blair, who may be the most promising freshman to play at Pittsburgh in a long while.

Watch this game: vs. Saint Louis (Nov. 11, Pittsburgh). Rick Majerus brings a basketball team to town. And you know what that signals? That team is going to be very well prepared and not let anything come very easily, at either end of the court, for Dixon's club.

Frank Says: The departure of Gray can't be soft sold. But this is Dixon's deepest and, potentially, most versatile team. There isn't going to be a lot of slippage after averaging 26 wins over his four years as the head honcho.

 

No. 18 Texas

2006-07 record: 25-10

Why this rating? Sure, Kevin Durant is now launching jumpers (and making lots of them, no doubt) in Seattle – at least before the SuperSonics up and relocate to Oklahoma City, apparently. But Durant had some pretty good teammates around him as a freshman, the most notable of those being classmate (well, for one season, at least) D.J. Augustin, who teams with A.J. Abrams to form one of the most potent – albeit, smallish – backcourts anywhere.

Potential pitfall: Who is going to evolve as a consistent back-to-the-basket scoring threat? So much of the Longhorns offense in the lane came as the result of Durant "making plays", for himself and, directly or indirectly, for teammates.

Get to know: Six-ten freshman Clint Chapman. Kevin Love (UCLA) and Kyle Singler (Duke) got all of the national recruiting hyperbole. But Chapman was an elite-level recruit himself in Oregon a year ago.

Watch this game: vs. UCLA (Dec. 2, Pauley Pavilion). With multiple intriguing potential matchups (including Augustin vs. Darren Collison, arguably the two best point guards in college basketball), this is one of those "gotta-watch-it!" contests.

Frank Says: The Longhorns, for the time being, looked like the best of those teams that will be fighting for second place (after that team in Lawrence) in the Big 12.

 

No. 17 Davidson

2006-07 record: 29-5

Why this rating? There is no shortage of talent returning from a team that came extremely close to picking up win No. 30 by way of an NCAA Tournament victory over Maryland in the first round. And Bob McKillop is one of a legion of coaches who aren't fully appreciated on a national basis.

Potential pitfall: The Wildcats aren't particularly big. And Stephen Curry will have to cope with a lot of double-teams and other "junk defenses" that will aim to cut into that marvelous productivity (21.5 points) that he gave the program as a freshman.

Get to know: Six-eight forward Thomas Sander will have to match up well against some big and skilled players if the Wildcats are going to garner a lot of non-conference kudos.

Watch this game: vs. UCLA (Dec. 8, Anaheim, Calif.) The Wildcats are going to have to demonstrate their own special wizardly execution if they're going to have a shot at knocking off the Bruins in the John R. Wooden Classic.

Frank Says: As was the case with Winthrop last season, this is one "mid-major" that appears bound, determined and fully capable of knocking off at least one NCAA Tournament opponent next March.

 

No. 16 Southern Illinois

2006-07 record: 29-7

Why this rating? And why not? The Salukis lose a couple of key ingredients from the team that oh-so-close to dispensing with Kansas in a Sweet 16 matchup. But there are more than enough gifted and experienced returnees on hand for Coach Chris Lowery to have good reason to believe there should be very little, if any, slippage this time around. And – man-oh-man! His team sure does play phenomenal half-court defense!

Potential pitfall: Who takes up the slack, in so many ways, to compensate for the loss of guard Jamal Tatum, the Player of the Year in the Missouri Valley Conference last season?

Get to know: Six-seven Randal Falker. There might not be a better defensive post player anywhere in college.

Watch this game: vs. Indiana (Dec. 1, Carbondale). The Hoosiers could head home with a loss in this one but, in reality, still be good enough to win the Big Ten.

Frank Says: On the pecking order of spring surprises "Lowery staying at SIU" was relatively within striking distance of the top.



 

Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame in April, 2005, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.frankhoops.com


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