Apparently the lastest news, apart from some kind of election or something that is going on, is that the Twins are apparently interested in trading for James Shields of the Rays. I'm not sure I'm buying that this team would do such a drastic move but that would be pretty sweet. If they trade for Shields and sign someone like Brandon McCarthy or Edwin Jackson suddenly everything looks a whole lot better. Then your rotation is Shields/McCarthy or Jackson/Diamond/Baker and then that whole mess of young dorks. I feel pretty good about throwing all those guys into a competition for the fifth starter, especially as compared to needed three of them to be in the rotation as we stand now.
And what would it take to get Shields? Denard Span at a minimum, but with the Rays needed to shed Shields salary and Span's contract is so team friendly through 2015 they might be willing to do it for just him, especially since they're expecting B.J. Upton to sign elsewhere so they'll need a CF. I'm willing to give up Span as much as I like him just because Ben Revere's skill set is so close to his so losing Span doesn't really hurt that much. The other rumor is they might want either Parmelee or Morneau as well to fill that black hole at first that is Carlos Pena, and I'd be fine giving up either to get Shields. I'd be a little bit surprised if they want Morneau because of his salary, but if they can talk the Twins into picking up a chunk of his money then it could happen. Either way making that trade significantly upgrades the rotation without hurting the lineup too much, so it's got to happen. Which means it won't.
On to the stuff:
11. Ohio State Buckeyes. I don't really get the high ranking for Ohio State in all the polls. To be honest, I think 11 is a little bit high but I don't want to look like too big of an idiot and have them at 20 or something. I know DeShaun Thomas is a scoring machine and I know Aaron Craft is a very, very good on ball defender, but beyond that everything is a mystery. Can Craft excel when he has to be more the focal point of the offense? Will that make his defense suffer? Can Lenzelle Smith stop shooting bricks and become the scorer and shooter the Buckeyes need? Sam Thompson and Amir Williams certainly have the pedigree to become stars or at least quality starters, but will they? They're about to go from benchwarmer minutes to starters. There's a **** load of other guys here too who have really impressive high school stats and good rankings when they came out, but they haven't proven anything. Maybe Ohio State will be really good and be a Final Four contender yet again, but there are just way too many questions for me to have them in my top 10, let alone top 5. Ask Jonathan Bender, Charles Rogers, and Brien Taylor about potential.
10. Missouri Tigers. I just read a thing on ESPN where they said the Tigers have the best back court in America and you know how much I love guards. Mizzou would normally be in tough straights losing four starters off of last year's squad, but for whatever reason they've become a transfer haven lately and should be a getting a massive boost. They will once again be mainly perimeter oriented, but Alex Oriakhi is in from UCONN and Laurence Bowers is back after an ACL injury that caused him to miss all of last season and those two alone are some considerable talent up front. They have maybe the most fun PG to watch in the country (outside Andre Hollins of course) back in Phil Pressey as well as last year's sixth man Michael Dixon and add a whole mess of talented wing guys from Oregon, Auburn, and Pepperdine. That, my friends, is a well built, well balanced team who is also going to run the hell out of you. So much fun to watch. There's a reason why I have a Missouri sweatshirt. Mainly because it was $7 at Barry & Steve's. RIP.
9. Florida Gators. The Gators are similar to Missouri in that they are perimeter oriented and I own or once owned a $7 sweatshirt from Barry & Steve's of them, but while Missouri probably has more questions the Gators might be looking at the biggest question: who replaces Erving Walker? Yeah, Bradley Beal is gone to the NBA and he was a bigger scorer than Walker, but Mike Rosario (former Rutgers dude and a big-time recruit) should be just fine stepping in, while Walker has been the team's starting PG for the last four years and there's no obvious replacement. Kenny Boynton could slide over but he really, really loves to shoot (although in fairness so did Walker). The other choices are a freshman (#7 PG frosh in the country by ESPN but still) or a junior who averaged just 15 minutes and 2.6 ppg last season. As long as they figure that out they'll be a Final Four candidate because they're loaded with talent, and since Billy Donovan is a disciple of college basketball coaching jesus I'm sure the Gators will be just fine. I really wish I knew what I did with that damn sweatshirt. I want to wear it when they make the Final Four.
8. Duke Blue Devils. More like Puke, am I right? I think I made that joke last year, but I, like the majority of America, just really dislike these guys. Partially it's the overall douchbaggery, partially it's the entitlement, partially it's the reverence the national media bestows upon them, partially it's the constant whining of their rat-faced coach, and partially it's that they have a little floor-slapping weiner named Wojo as their big man coach. Oh, you weren't aware? Yes, Floppy McDiveonfloor himself is Duke's big man coach. Suddenly it seems less of a wonder that they haven't had a good big man since Elton Brand when the guy who is supposed to be developing all this front line talent (and they still get the talent, it just never develops) is busy teaching them how to draw charges and miss three pointers. Hopefully that never changes. In conclusion, Duke will be pretty good all year and then lose in the first or second round of the tournament and America will once again rejoice amen.
7. Kentucky Wildcats. How exactly do you write about a team that has turned over it's entire roster? Oh yeah, Kyle Wiltjer is back and is supposed to be pretty good and stuff. Ryan Harrow will be the starting PG this year and I remember him from his NC State days, he was pretty good. And the rest is transfers, guys who didn't play last year, and freshmen. And yes, once again they're a really good group of recruits and next year is shaping up to be even stronger. Say what you will about Calipari, like that if he and an orange were having a coaching battle I'd take Cal but I'd have to think about it, but he figured the game out before anyone else. While most coaches were fighting the one-and-done culture and trying to figure out how to get kids to stay he embraced it and made it part of his team's model to the point where he can nearly pick and choose his recruits knowing that Calipari and Kentucky will embrace the fact that he'll only be there for a single season. That, as well as Calipari's record with getting the most from his kids in that single year and getting them drafted, is awfully attractive for that very top tier talent. He's made it work, he beat everyone else to it, and now he's got a dynasty on his hands and there's no reason to think it's going to stop any time soon. You've got to give him credit for that. I will now go wander into rush hour traffic.
Team #19 (GOPHERS)