That’s Debatable is back for another year of expert opinions, ridiculous assertions and general know-it-all-itude. Remember, kids, there are no stupid answers, just stupid people. We’ll try to do one of these each week during the rest of the season. Feel free to leave your takes below in the comments section.
This Week’s Topic: There are a number of teams trending up — Notre Dame, Florida, Pittsburgh, St. Mary’s, Florida State, Iowa State, etc. Among these and other non-elite teams, which one do you think has the best long-term prospects this season?
Andrew Murawa, Pac-12/MW Correspondent & Pac-12 Microsite Writer
When I’m looking for a sleeper team in the NCAA Tournament, I like to see size, depth, good guard play and an experienced head coach. When I look at Wisconsin, I can check off all of those categories with confidence. Still, while Bo Ryan’s Badgers have made the Tournament in each of his nine previous seasons and won at least a game in eight of those years, they’ve advanced beyond the Sweet Sixteen just once, in 2005 before losing a hard-fought regional final to North Carolina. The Badgers struggled early to replace several key big guys, and senior point guard Jordan Taylor’s numbers haven’t been up to last year’s lofty realm. But things are picking up now, as Taylor’s scored in double figures now in 14 straight games and frontcourt guys like Mike Bruesewitz and Jared Berggren have stepped into that typical three-point shooting big man role for Wisconsin. Given the right matchups, this team could be playing into the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, and possibly beyond.
Walker Carey, Correspondent
I am going with Notre Dame. Three weeks ago this answer would have been insane, but look what the Irish have accomplished in that time – wins at home versus Syracuse and Marquette and road victories over Seton Hall, Connecticut, and West Virginia. Mike Brey has his squad playing much better than anyone would have ever imagined. The most surprising part of Notre Dame’s resurgence has been that it has come without the services of preseason All-Big East senior forward Tim Abromaitis, who tore his ACL in late November. While at first the Irish struggled mightily without him, they are currently in a groove led by a variety of players. Sophomore guards Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant, freshman guard Pat Connaughton, junior forward Jack Cooley, and senior forward Scott Martin have all been instrumental to the season’s turnaround. If the Irish continue to show great defense, smart basketball, and timely shooting, I think it is reasonable to believe that Mike Brey’s squad will be a force to be reckoned with in March.
Kenny Ocker, Correspondent
With the exception of its second inexplicable conference loss Wednesday night, Florida State has the best prospects throughout the rest of this season, mostly because of its conference form and remaining schedule. Before the BC debacle, the Seminoles had run off seven straight wins to sit atop the ACC. In those seven straight wins are victories against the three other ACC contenders — a 33-point shellacking of North Carolina at home, a 76-73 win at Duke, and a 58-55 win over Virginia at home on Saturday. According to Ken Pomeroy, Florida State is in a dead heat with North Carolina to become the outright ACC regular-season champion, but the Seminoles hold the tiebreaker against the Tar Heels because they only play once this season. The best part of this recent run of form for Florida State is that it has been keyed by the team’s offense, which ranks second in the ACC in efficiency, but the team’s stalwart defense hasn’t gone anywhere either. Although the Seminoles seemingly peaked with their Sweet Sixteen run last season, the potential is there for this team to reach those heights again this season, or possibly go beyond.