Kentucky Favorites to Repeat as National Champions, Indiana Will Be Best Competition

Kentucky Favorites to Repeat as National Champions, Indiana Will Be Best CompetitionThree
teams have received first-place votes in college basketball's first preseason
poll: Indiana is No. 1, Louisville No. 2, and Kentucky No. 3. These three
schools –- all brand-name programs situated in one of college basketball's
hotbeds, the Kentucky-Indiana-Ohio corridor –- are seen by many pundits as the
favorites for the 2013 national championship. And it's fairly easy to understand
why.

Odds to Win National Championship

Kentucky
6-1
Indiana
7-1  
Louisville
17-2
UCLA
12-1   
North
Carolina 14-1 
Arizona
15-1
North
Carolina State 15-1  
Duke
18-1

Indiana's
stock is high because Christian Watford, a 6-foot-9 forward with a lethal
long-distance jump shot and considerable leaping ability, decided to return to
the team, joining sophomore Cody Zeller in the Hoosiers' starting five. There's
no question that Indiana will and should be a major player on the scene in the
coming college basketball season. Indiana's skill level is extremely high and
its level of offensive balance is going to be hard to top.

Louisville
is highly rated because point guard Peyton Siva and shot-blocking center Gorgui
Dieng
are coming back for another year. Siva and Dieng meshed so well last March in the Cardinals' run to the
Final four that a lot of college hoops analysts think that Louisville
can get back to the premier event in the sport.

Kentucky
is a foremost Final Four choice in the college basketball world because head
coach John Calipari has recruited just about every top freshman in the country.
Yes, last year's starting five has entirely moved to the NBA but that's
precisely the point. Kentucky is seen as such an NBA factory that it has
become the destination program for the hottest and most prized recruits
in the country. Calipari has created a monster and it's a beast that
will continue to be fed in the near future -– especially since Calipari has
finally won his first national championship as a coach.

These
three teams are capable of winning the national championship but the games are not
played on paper. Each team has its weaknesses and, overall, the college
basketball season can often become a manifestation of unpredictability and
volatility. This upcoming campaign feels like it will be one extended
rollercoaster ride.

First
of all, Indiana is not a powerful team. It is an athletic team but not a
powerful one. It can get outmuscled on the boards and will struggle if it does
not hit perimeter shots or gets drawn into a slow-tempo game by the likes of
Ohio State and Michigan in the Big Ten. Indiana will get a top-three seed in an
NCAA tournament region but it will have to earn its way to the Final Four
against formidable opponents.

Louisville
has already suffered an injury to a player it was depending on for ample
production at both ends of the floor. Guard Mike Marra tore his anterior
cruciate ligament, dealing a big blow to coach Rick Pitino's club. Louisville
needs reliable perimeter shooting, and Marra's injury means that the Cardinals
won't have as much of it as they might need.

As
for Kentucky, they will have plenty of talent on the floor, but will the
Wildcats be able to replicate the skill set of Anthony Davis and the work ethic
of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist –- the two foremost ingredients in last season's
national title run? Probably not.

While
Indiana, Kentucky and Louisville are viewed as the big three with the best
chances to win the title, don't be surprised if it's actually another team
cutting down the nets at the end of the season.

Yardbarker

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