In It to Win It
With the final day of the college football campaign upon us, it’s time to turn the page to college hoops. There’s more parity than ever, but our hoops insider Jeff Goodman gives you 10 legit national title contenders that could cut down the nets come April 3 in Houston.
And as you can see, we don’t have Kentucky, Duke or North Carolina on this list. Why? Because none have done enough to warrant inclusion.
Goodman’s 10 Title Contenders
1) Houston – Kelvin Sampson has done an incredible job rebuilding this once-storied program that hadn’t gone to the Final Four in nearly four decades prior to 2021. The Cougars have a star guard in Marcus Sasser and a talented frosh in Jarace Walker.
2) Purdue – The Boilermakers have the leading candidate for National Player of the Year in 7-foot-4 junior Zach Edey, but it’s also been a pair of freshman guards who have been difference-makers: Point guard Braden Smith and wing Fletcher Loyer.
3) Kansas – Bill Self lost four of his top five scorers from last year’s national title squad, but Jalen Wilson is back, the Jayhawks added one of the top freshmen in the country in sharpshooter Gradey Dick, and Dajuan Harris has turned into one of the top all-around point guards in the nation.
4) UConn – It’s Year 5 of the Dan Hurley rebuild in Storrs, and this could be the year the Huskies get back to the Final Four. It’s been rough sledding since the 2014 national title, but Hurley added transfer shooters around star Adama Sanogo.
5) Alabama – Nate Oats completely revamped his program after a disappointing season, and it’s been star freshman F Brandon Miller leading the way for the Tide. These guys are fun to watch, as they hoist an average of 28.3 3-pointers per game.
6) Tennessee – The Vols are second in the country in points allowed (52.5), and while they don’t have a star, they have balanced scoring and enough experience with seniors Santiago Vescovi, Olivier Nkamhoua and Tyreke Key. Sophomore PG Zakai Zeigler is small, but he brings a New York toughness to Knoxville.
7) Gonzaga – I know, I know. The ‘Zags can’t win the big one. That’s what the naysayers echo, but Mark Few has another team in the hunt largely due to veteran big man Drew Timme, who has a 104-10 career record since arriving in Spokane.
8) Arizona – Tommy Lloyd lost three players to the NBA — Benn Mathurin, Dalen Terry and Christian Koloko — but the Wildcats have one of the best frontcourt tandems in the country in Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo. The key is PG Kerr Kriisa.
9) UCLA – Mick Cronin took the Bruins to the Final Four from the First Four a couple years ago, and he still has a couple of his top players from that team in Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell. Depth is a major question this year in Westwood.
10) Xavier – Sean Miller was fired at Arizona nearly two years ago. He returned to his old stomping grounds and inherited a veteran team with talent, but one that hadn’t gone to the NCAA tourney four straight years under Travis Steele. The key for Miller was bringing in UTEP transfer Souley Boum — a combo guard who leads the team in scoring and is second in assists.
History in the Making
One way or another, history will be made in tonight’s College Football Playoff National Championship between No. 1 Georgia and No. 3 TCU.
Will Bulldogs QB Stetson Bennett make history by becoming the first back-to-back National Championship Offensive MVP in the CFP era? For someone who’s faced doubts from opponents, analysts, even his own fan base and coaching staff, what would a second title do for his legacy? As our Joshua Perry says, “You get to be Stetson Bennett for a living when you win back-to-back national titles.”
What would a second consecutive title do for head coach Kirby Smart? With just Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney being the only active head coaches with two or more titles, we know where the conversation goes if Georgia gets the W tonight — it’ll be all about the D-word: Dynasty.
As for No. 3 TCU, we’re not talking about a dynasty; we’re talking about the improbability of beginning a season unranked and ending it as national champions. The Horned Frogs entered the season as 200/1 odds to win the title — basically the same odds the Rockies and Pirates have to win next year’s World Series.
So, what would a national title mean for Sonny Dykes and the TCU program?
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