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Sports Journee

The biggest problems for the top 25 teams in college basketball

The season hasn’t even started yet, nor do we have an AP Top 25 for 2019-20. Yet here I am, ready to poke holes in the hype and spot weaknesses with even the nation’s best teams. Let’s talk about opportunities for improvement.

Sure, that might make me a buzzkill if I’m talking about your team, but, hey, I’m also here with “good bad news” about that archrival of yours.

For our population of ranked teams in the absence of, well, ranked teams, we will turn to my colleague Jeff Borzello and his authoritative “way too early top 25.” Jeff has capably defined the group that, heading into the season, should be the nation’s elite for 2019-20.

Here’s the biggest problem I see with every top-25 team:

Problem: So-so defensive rebounding

Thank you, Tom Izzo. Bringing back Cassius Winston, Xavier Tillman and, reportedly, a healthy Joshua Langford from last season makes forecasting that much easier. What will we see from MSU this season? Possibly a fair approximation of the 2019 Final Four Spartans. That would mean Winston and his mates will again excel at putting the ball in the basket (particularly inside the arc) and at forcing opponents to miss their shots.

The downside of a repeat performance, however, would be another below-average (in Big Ten terms) showing on the defensive glass. Pulling down 69.8% of your conference opponents’ misses when the league average is 71.4 isn’t necessarily terrible, but the Spartans’ three-game losing streak spanning last January and February coincided with a stretch of downright anemic defensive rebounding. It’s something Izzo will want to watch.

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