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November 28, 2008

Roundtable: Which team ends up the turkey?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a current topic in the sport.

This week's question:
With the recent Thanksgiving holiday in mind, which current top-25 team will turn out to be a turkey by season's end?

Bob McClellan's answer:
If by turkey we can assume that means outside the top 25, I'll say Xavier. The Musketeers are generating some buzz with their 5-0 start, but I'm still not sold. They easily could have lost two or even three of those five. They beat unranked Virginia Tech in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on an improbable halfcourt 3-pointer at the buzzer. Unranked Missouri led them by seven in the second half before losing by four. The Musketeers don't really have a go-to guy, either. They have eight guys averaging at least 6.0 points, but no one who averages more than 10.6. You can sell me on the balance all you want, but to me it equals some looking around at crunch time. XU also doesn't shoot it well from the perimeter (31 percent from 3-point range) or the free-throw line (68.8 percent). They're 63.4 percent from the charity stripe when you take away freshman point guard Terrell Holloway (96.4 percent, 27-of-28), who is expected to miss up to a month with a stress fracture. I believe XU will lose a couple of non-conference games, and it will have a tough time defending its Atlantic 10 title. There's no question the Musketeers get everyone's best shot in the conference, and I believe when they're on the road in the heat of battle against the likes of Saint Joseph's, Temple and Charlotte, they'll really miss the leadership of Drew Lavender and Josh Duncan.

Andrew Skwara's answer:
I was initially going to say Davidson, but changed my mind after seeing the Wildcats beat a Division I team Loyola (Md.) by 30 points with star Stephen Curry taking only three shots and not scoring a point. I'm going with Arizona State instead. I don't see how the Sun Devils can be voted No. 14 in the AP poll. They have virtually the same team they did last season when they were one of the last teams left out of the NCAA tournament. Are they really that much better? I seriously doubt it. They have one of the top players in the nation in swingman James Harden, but his supporting cast is average at best. They lack a solid No. 2 scoring threat and don't have much depth. The Pac-10 remains a strong conference despite losing a ton of NBA draft picks, too. Lowly Oregon State is the only team in the league that can be penciled in as an automatic win. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Sun Devils head into Selection Sunday on the NCAA bubble once again.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
I'm not sold on Kansas. The Jayhawks played well in the CBS Classic, but I think they lost too much firepower to finish in the top four in the Big 12 and I think they eventually will fall out of the national top 25. Bill Self can coach, and the Jayhawks have talent. But it's talent that hasn't played together, and the Big 12 is deep enough that KU is going to lose some games it wouldn't lose in a "normal" season. Nine of the next 10 games are at home, which means the record is going to be OK. Indeed, Kansas is not going to be bad; it's just not going to be a top-25 team and it will find itself on the NCAA bubble on Selection Sunday.

Greg Anthony's answer:
It is early in the season, and I've been wrong before (remember I'm the guy that picked Notre Dame to beat the Tar Heels in Maui). However, after canvassing the top 25 the one team that stands out to me is Florida.

I think they're talented (Nick Calathes may end up being a first-team All American), and you cannot say that Billy Donovan is not a proven coach. The question for me is are they tough enough defensively. At this stage of the season they may be the only team in the top 25 who might not be able win because of their defense. They would have to win in spite of it. This is my one concern about them - I haven't seen the committment on that side of the floor.

As I stated earlier, we have a long way to go. But in the two games agains teams that have some offensive firepower (Syracuse and Washington) they gave up 86.5 ppg. Florida is a very capable offensive team, but the Gators don't defend the ball or the paint as well as I'm sure Coach Donovan would like.

One advantage for them is the SEC is down a bit, which could allow them to really improve on their conference showing from a year ago. However, a weak nonconference schedule will put more pressure on them to perform well in order to get back to the NCAA tournament.

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