By Kevin Sweeney
Named for the NBA’s TV package “NBA League Pass”, the discussion of the best “League Pass teams” in the NBA has been floated many times. The premise is simple: if you could only watch a certain number of teams in the entire NBA (5 is a common number to debate), which would they be? So, while us college basketball fans have the luxury of accessing tons of teams through ESPN3 and other online streams, it’s still an interesting hypothetical concept to be brought to a discussion about college basketball. After getting a massive amount of feedback yesterday to the tweet below, I’ve put together my list of 10 college basketball “League Pass teams”.
There were only a couple teams that felt like locks for this list, but the Sooners were definitely one of them. Who doesn’t want to watch an incredibly efficient offense led by one of the best and most exciting players in college basketball? Norman native Trae Young has been a revelation for Lon Kruger, averaging nearly 29 points and 9 assists per game in an early push for the Wooden Award. The Sooners share the ball, get great looks, and play at an extremely fun tempo, and I can’t wait to watch them more as conference play gets going.
If you like the new wave of positionless basketball, I invite you to turn on a Nevada game. You won’t be disappointed. The Wolf Pack can spread you out and attack the rim, or get cooking from 3 and start pouring on points in a hurry. Eric Musselman has assembled a roster nearly exclusively made up of transfers, and that influx of talent has given Nevada a roster that resembles that of any high-major team in the country.
Staying in the Mountain West, we pivot to Nevada’s in-state rival at UNLV, which has been one of college basketball’s biggest surprises thus far. Senior point guard Jordan Johnson is all kinds of fun to watch create offense despite is generously-listed 5-9 frame, and the Rebels’ 2 stud recruits in center Brandon McCoy and power forward Shakur Juiston are each averaging double-doubles. They get up and down the floor, make plays, and are definitely one of the most fun-to-watch teams in college basketball.
If you watch college basketball, chances are you have a strong opinion one way or another about Duke basketball. They are always interesting, but they are especially interesting this year with a transcendent talent in Marvin Bagley and the most controversial player in college basketball in Grayson Allen. The Blue Devils are as explosive offensively as any team in the country, but more importantly, college basketball would be missing something without the Dukies.
This is the team that will likely draw the most criticism for its inclusion, but I’m a huge fan of watching Virginia basketball. It may not bring the same excitement that a game featuring powerhouse offenses like Oklahoma or Duke would, but the Cavaliers are always extremely disciplined, well-coached, and play tremendous defense. Plus, it wouldn’t be fun to only watch offensive-minded clubs all the time, would it?
The biggest surprise of the college basketball season has been the scorching start the Sun Devils have been on, capped with an incredible win at Allen Fieldhouse yesterday against Kansas. ASU has perhaps the best backcourt in college basketball with Tra Holder and Shannon Evans leading the way, and freshman big man Romello White has been dominant to open his career in Tempe. At this stage in the game, the Sun Devils are a top 5 team in the country and certainly a team you wouldn’t want to miss.
If I were building a basketball team, I’d want it to look like Villanova. The Wildcats are a machine, a model of consistency despite the up-and-down nature of college basketball. They cut well, run extremely efficient offense, and play unselfishly. Definitely a must-watch team in college basketball.
As a mid-major lover, I had to get some true one-bid flavor in this group. And who better to do that with than UT-Arlington, which features one of the best duos in all of college basketball in Erick Neal and Kevin Hervey. Neal is the fearless, undersized creator that most mid-major coaches could only dream about landing, and Hervey is a legit NBA prospect at 6-9 with his ability to space the floor. The Mavs have shown the ability to pull upsets in the past (last season’s road wins at St. Mary’s and Texas come to mind) and they should be a team to watch in March.
Since before the season even began, there was plenty of reason to care about the Wildcats. After assistant Book Richardson was arrested as part of the FBI investigation that shook the college basketball world, there was a lot of talk about the Arizona program. Then, a promising season appeared to be on the brink after a disastrous 0-3 weekend at the Battle 4 Atlantis. However, the Wildcats have rebounded well from that trip and once again look like one of the most talented and complete teams in college basketball.
The Gators have struggled of late, but it’s hard to forget the display they put on at the PK80 late last month, where they went 2-1 that played an exciting brand of basketball and took Duke wire-to-wire. Jalen Hudson is incredible at making uber-tough shots, and Chris Chiozza is the engine that runs the Gators at both ends of the floor. Combine that with a great X & O coach in Mike White, and UF still makes my list despite their recent skid.