In the peanut gallery…

In the peanut gallery...

Allison Mueller

Each week sports reporters Matthew Lambert and Sam Thiel will face off on a hot topic in sports. The world of sports is changing quickly and constantly, but we want to slow it down and take a better look at the juiciest gossip, scandal, rumor or issue that is making headlines this week. Lambert and Thiel will take different sides and battle it out, telling you why you they are right.

This week’s topic: College Basketball Preview

College basketball season is officially underway, with hundreds of Division I programs starting the long journey with hopes of making an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. This week, Matthew Lambert and Sam Thiel voice their opinions about which team will cut down the nets in April. Let’s talk about it… (Recap by Sam Thiel)

Matthew Lambert/Winonan

Choosing who will win the NCAA Men’s basketball championship is a crapshoot. You have your usual suspects who will always be threats (i.e. Duke, Kentucky). You have teams that always are overrated and fail to live up to the hype (i.e. UNC and Kansas). Finally you have the surprise, consistent team that becomes a serious threat to the title. Is there a more consistent team in college than Virginia? No way.

The Cavaliers are returning six key contributors from their previous 30-4 season in 2014, what’s more surprising is that they are all upperclassmen, something we don’t usually see in college basketball. Personally, I trust upperclassmen players, who have had success at the college level more than first-year players with no playing time.

Another point is the defensive efficiency the Cavaliers displayed last season. They were the top team in the nation in scoring defense, allowing only 51.4 point per game. They were third in the nation in turnovers, averaging 9.3. Combine their outstanding defense and their efficiency, the Cavaliers are a dangerous team.

Yes, they lost Justin Anderson, the best player on their team to the NBA, but the Cavaliers can rebound from his departure. Anderson may have been the best player, but he ranked fifth on the team in minutes played with 724 minutes. Three of those five players are back on the team.

My final point revolves around their schedule. They currently rank sixth, which is a favorable spot, and have a fairly difficult schedule. It won’t be a cakewalk for the Cavaliers, but when it comes to rankings, the voters like it when teams have played against tough teams. They play at home against Notre Dame, California, Villanova, UNC. They will probably lose against Duke but one loss isn’t bad. Ask Kentucky, they’ll say they would’ve rather lost earlier than in the Final Four.

 

Sam Thiel/Winonan

As the old sports saying goes, “Defense wins championships.”

But in the case of the Duke Blue Devils, “Leadership wins championships.”

Last season the Blue Devils raced to a 35-4 record and made its 20th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Division I Men’s College Basketball Tournament. After being ousted in the Round of 64 in 2014 in an upset to Mercer University, Duke earned its fifth National Championship in the Mike Krzyzewski era, leading to my first point why the Blue Devils will repeat as National Champs in 2016.

Mike Krzyzewski, also known as Coach K to those in the sports world, is the clipboard-wielding head coach of Duke and is considered to be one of the greatest coaches in basketball history. In over 35 years as coach of Duke, Krzyzewski has steered the Blue Devils to five NCAA Championships, 12 Final Four appearances, 12 ACC titles and 13 ACC Tournament titles. To add to all of that, he has served as the U.S. men’s national basketball team and coached them to a pair of gold medals in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. Krzyzewski’s resumé is just as crazy as people trying to spell his last name.

Another reason why the Blue Devils will repeat as National Champions is their roster depth. Yes, they lost stars like Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor to the NBA draft, but like any winning basketball program, they are able to replace players with new talent. Duke brings in seven first-year players this year and will be led by sophomore Grayson Allen, who will be the primer point guard.

Finally, Duke will win because they have the loudest fans in college basketball. Cameron Indoor Stadium is sold out each night and they aren’t called “Cameron Crazies” for a reason.

Talent might win games, but leadership wins championships.