Biggest Obstacle Facing Top College Basketball Contenders in 2014-15

Every college basketball team in America can have their national championship hopes derailed by any number of issues. Entering the season, however, they all have very specific strengths and weaknesses for fans to point to and obsess over. (Yes, even you, Kentucky fans.)

No matter what the difficulties are facing your favorite team, rest assured that in most cases, it’s not alone. Otherseven those among the eliteare dealing with similar issues.

The teams that can figure out how to surmount their weak spots and enter the NCAA tournament on a high are the ones most likely to finish a run to the national crown, much like UConn did in 2014.

Until the games start, though, these 10 issues look like they’ll plague at least one of Bleacher Report’s preseason top 25 teams. Who will be able to overcome?

 

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Ranking the Best Dunkers in College Basketball in 2014-15

As college football pads clash around the country, college basketball fans can look forward to their own kind of slams from top dunk artists. The most crowd-pleasing, momentum-swinging play in hoops gives the game’s best athletes a showcase for their talents.

Michigan State lost one elite finisher in Adreian Payne, but he wasn’t the only Spartan to make an impact in this category. Rim-rocking forward Branden Dawson returns to East Lansing as the team leader, as well as one of the top highlight factories in the Big Ten.

Here is a look at Dawson and the rest of the dozen best dunk specialists in the country, rated according to how impressive their slams are (for both power and flair) and how many chances they’re likely to get to show off their skills in 2014-15.

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The Greatest Concern for the Top 20 College Basketball Teams in 2014-15

No team is perfect. Each one has a weakness, something that can be better than the current state.

This is the case for every one of the 350-ish college basketball teams as we slowly inch toward the 2014-15 season, even those that will begin the year atop polls and best-of lists. There’s something of a concern for each, something that like a loose thread on a sweater could cause everything to unravel if pulled on instead of snipped.

Using Bleacher Report’s preseason basketball rankings from earlier this summer, we’ve listed one issue that each of the top 20 teams has to address before the 2014-15 season begins.

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College Basketball Coaches with the Most to Prove in 2014-15

Maybe last season didn’t go as well as planned, or maybe that’s been the case for a few years. Perhaps the 2013-14 results were so unexpected—but in a good way—there’s concern whether they can be replicated. Or despite being given a fresh start, the pressure to perform right away makes for tension right from the get-go.

Whatever the case, several college basketball coaches head into the 2014-15 season with a lot to prove. That isn’t just in the form of wins and losses, though it’s high on the list, but the need to create a certain culture or atmosphere of success with their program is also imperative.

Looking at what they’ve done before, and what’s projected to happen this upcoming year, we’ve identified eight coaches who must really show their true mettle in 2014-15.

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College basketball countdown: No. 51 Toledo

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

      
 

 

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Biggest Offseason Transformations in College Basketball Ahead of 2014-15 Season

Death, taxes and reports of college basketball players getting into the best shape of their lives over the summer.

There aren’t many things in this world we can count on, but those are three of the big ones.

See for yourself. Pick virtually any noteworthy team in the country, do enough searching around the Internet, and you’ll inevitably find a story or 20 about a player poised for a huge season because he either gained or lost a bunch of weight and added something to his offensive arsenal.

If the stories aren’t there yet, they sure will be by mid-October.

You certainly can’t believe every story you read, but these are the eight players with offseason transformations that should have the biggest impact on the 2014-15 college basketball landscape.

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College basketball countdown: No. 52 Green Bay

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

      
 

 

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College Basketball Recruiting Rankings: B/R’s Top 20 Players in Class of 2015

Every class has its strength. From what I saw this summer keeping tabs on the top prospects in the 2015 class, this is the year of the big man.

Based on Bleacher Report’s recruiting rankings—picked using my observations and discussions with college coaches throughout the summer—12 of the top 20 players in this class are big men.

That’s good news for coaches chasing a national title. A lot is made of guard play in the NCAA tournament, but it’s hard to win without a big guy. Going into last season, only one national champ in 13 years had won the title without a big man who would eventually get drafted in the first round of the NBA draft.

Connecticut likely bucked that trend unless one of the Huskies’ bigs ends up getting drafted in the first round down the road. Their lack of talent in the post made their run all the more unbelievable.

Most champs are built inside out. And with that in mind, let’s take a look at which 2015 big fellas landed in my top 20 prospects.

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College basketball countdown: No. 54 Iona

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

      
 

 

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Ranking the Most Surprising Final Four Teams in College Basketball History

In 76 years of NCAA tournament history, 91 teams have combined to make 304 appearances in the Final Four.

Some of those were much more surprising than others.

Take the 2010-11 VCU Rams, for example.

Few people thought Shaka Smart and company deserved to make the tournament. Much fewer picked them to make the Final Four. According to ESPN’s Tournament Challenge blog, less than 0.1 percent of the 5.9 million brackets filled out had the Rams reaching the national semifinals.

But they busted brackets left and right to become the most surprising team to ever reach the Final Four.

Based on a combination of the difficulty of the path taken to the Final Four and the perceived strength of the team at the end of the season, we’ve ranked the 10 most surprising Final Four teams in men’s college basketball history.

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