Predicting the 10 Best Defensive Teams in College Basketball in 2014-15

Defense wins championships, and that makes Arizona, Kansas and Louisville three of the biggest favorites to make deep runs in the 2015 NCAA tournament.

Each of the last 13 national champions has ranked in the top 21 in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.com.

As such, we’re forecasting which 10 teams will finish atop that metric for the 2014-15 season.

To do so, we focused solely on teams that have been ranked in the top 100 in ADE in each of the past four years. That only narrowed the field to 39 teams, so we further reduced consideration to teams with an average score of 94.0 or betterwhich roughly equates to 0.94 points per possession or fewer.

From that field of 19 teams, we ranked teams based on returning players and coaching systems.

 

Statistics on the following slides are courtesy of KenPom.com (subscription required) and Sports-Reference.com.

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College basketball countdown: No. 35 George Washington

USA TODAY Sports breaks down the projected NCAA tournament field of 68.

      
 

 

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Greatest to skip college: Kobe vs. LeBron

Eddie Johnson breaks down top five players to skip college and head to the NBA.

      
 

 

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10 College Basketball Conference Games Which Require Crazy Travel

For the 2014-15 college basketball season, there will be 351 Division I college basketball teams spread across all 48 contiguous states as well as Hawaii. Sorry, Alaska and Puerto Rico, your involvement is limited to early-season tournaments.

Teams are lumped into 32 different conferences, but because of the crazy realignment that has gone on over the past decade—thanks, college football—the old concept of having leagues represent a certain geographic region (or even make numerical sense) is a thing of the past.

Because of this, we have 10 teams in the Big 12 and 14 apiece in the Atlantic 10 and Big Ten, and schools are nowhere near the southeastern part of the country or within a day’s drive of the ocean for which their conference is named for.

We also have some teams traveling very long distances, because of their conference affiliations, to attend league games.

We’re not talking about the preseason games that schools set up between each other, often involving the exchange of some currency to lure one team a long way to face the other. This is about conference-mandated competition, required games that help determine league titles.

As the 2014-15 season nears, here’s a look at some of the oddest trips that teams have to take to play conference games, putting emphasis on home-and-home series rather than one-sided travel. The one team we didn’t factor into this was Hawaii, which is forced into traveling long distances no matter what league it’s in and has trips ranging from 2,445 to 2,610 miles for each of its eight Big West road games.

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2014-15 college hoops countdown: Projecting the 68 NCAA tournament teams

USA TODAY Sports breaks down the projected field of 68.

      
 

 

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Ranking the 10 College Basketball Coaches with the Most Job Security

Which college basketball coaches have the job security to survive a completely unthinkable winless season?

We’ve done plenty of pieces on coaches who are most in danger of losing their job after this season, but let’s look at the opposite end of that spectrum.

If Bill Self and Kansas inexplicably went 0-32 in 2014-15, would he be fired? What about Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo or John Calipari? Could they maintain their jobs after posting what would be by far the worst season of their careers?

This isn’t your typical “Best College Basketball Coaches” article. Rather, we looked at track record and projected years remaining to determine which college basketball coaches would be least likely to get fired after a winless season.

Think of these coaches as cars with blown transmissions. You may love that car like a family member after all that you’ve been through together. But you eventually have to wonder whether the miles per gallon and years left on the engine are really worth reinvesting in a major repair when you can just as easily afford a gently used, newer model.

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Ranking the Most Important ‘Glue Guys’ in College Basketball in 2014-15

Star power is a great asset to a college basketball team, but having too many elite talents can cause its own problems. Sometimes, the most valuable asset to a coach is the kind of player who doesn’t always look good in a box score but does a little of everything to help his team win.

The archetypal “glue guy” does the dirty work as a defender while also grabbing key rebounds, making the right pass and knocking down the occasional big shot when the defense ignores him. He’s usually a team leader; therefore, upperclassmen are the norm in this category.

Wisconsin’s Josh Gasser, who has been helping the Badgers grind their way to wins for three years already, has a chance to do the same for a national champion to close out his college career.

Here is a closer look at Gasser and the rest of the 10 best glue guys in the country, with an eye to picking the ones who will make the biggest difference in the way the 2014-15 season unfolds.

These rankings are based on three major factors: how good the player is at making the variety of contributions the role calls for, how badly his team needs someone to do what he does and how much of an impact his team is likely to have on the national scene.

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Predicting Who Will Be the 10 Most Hated College Basketball Players in 2014-15

A little bit of hate goes a long way in college basketball.

As passionate and devoted that fans can be toward their teams, part of what fuels that commitment is a healthy distaste of a team’s rivals and their top players. But certain players elicit a special level of disdain, either because of the way they play or how they operate on the court.

Some truly hated players have moved on from college basketball, leaving a bit of a void in that area. We no longer have Ohio State point guard Aaron Craft, Ole Miss shooter Marshall Henderson or Oklahoma State star Marcus Smart to abhor, so it’s time to find some new standouts to hate. 

We’re not advocating hatred in sports, rather acknowledging how it’s part of the game. The best rivalries in college basketball have hate as a main ingredient, with most of that enmity directed toward particular players.

Here’s our prediction of who will be the most hated players in college basketball during the 2014-15 season, listed in alphabetical order.

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College basketball countdown: No. 41 Illinois

USA TODAY Sports breaks down the projected NCAA tournament field of 68.

      
 

 

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15 College Basketball Coaches Who Are Great in Press Conferences

During college basketball games, coaches are at the mercy of their players. But behind the microphone, it’s all on them.

Win or lose, coaches have to face the media after every game and oftentimes beforehand, too, if it’s a big enough contest. The question-and-answer sessions provide reporters with insight into what just happened (or what will happen), spun in whatever way the coach ends up weaving.

The best coaches can work a press conference like it’s breaking a 2-3 zone, dodging the tough questions and getting out there the information they want publicized. It’s a tricky game, but those who do it well do it really well.

Here’s a look at 15 current Division I men’s basketball coaches who know how to get the job done when the cameras and tape recorders are on.

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