Way Too Early Final Four
It's back...it's not bigger, and we won't even claim it's better. But, hey, 1 out of 3 is still worth millions in baseball, right? As always, in alphabetical order...
Austin (ricosuave21) was 23-7 last season, advancing to the second round of the national tournament. Rico will be running with a 10-man rotation this season, which always leaves open the door to an injury bug and questions about how the team might fare against uptempo competition (especially since rico runs a press), but there's no denying the values are there to make this an elite team this season. Austin will "steak" its title hopes to Andrew Salisbury, who averaged 11.4 points per game last season after transferring in from Kent St. (because of Austin's outstanding "Rocks for Jocks" department). Nathan Thompson will be a steals magnet and should end his career in Austin's top 25 in the category.
Colorado (bdpoor) went 25-5, but got ejected in the opening round of the national tournament. That shouldn't be an issue this year as the team features an amazing inside-outside game. Justin Johnson (10.0 ppg last season) will jack them up from the perimeter and give opponents fits from the outside. But you can't extend the defense too far, because inside lies Mark Treadwell (9.4 ppg/8.7 rpg last season) waiting to penalize teams that open the middle too much. Like Austin, Colorado is running with 10 this season, which leaves open the same risks and depth-related questions.
Hamline (foofighter13) was 28-2 last season but, like Colorado, was sitting at home as a spectator after the opening round of NT play. That shouldn't be an issue this season. The beauty about Hamline's roster in my eyes is that there isn't a superstar. This is a roster built for balance and, on any given night, there's 4 or 5 names on it that COULD go off on you. Good luck picking whose night it is tonight when you set your game plan against Hamline. Worth noting, big man Phillip Hall sports an A+ free throw rating. That's noteworthy because 1. I'm not sure I've seen an A+ rating at D3 and 2. he's a center, which by definition means he should be netistically challenged from the charity stripe.
Millsaps (brianxavier) was 20-9 last season and reached the second round of the national tournament. Millsaps, like Hamline above, returend everyone from last season's roster and appears poised to make a title run in Season 73. Michael Englehart is just criminal good. After
transferring in from Kent St. last season joining the team out of JUCO two seasons ago after his childhood dreams of playing at Kent St. fell through, all he did was average 10.7 ppg last year, a figure that could grow significantly this season. Shon Leos (bonus points for the name alone!) is the likely beneficiary of the attention folks will be forced to pay to Englehart...it's a role that served him well last season with 10.9 ppg to his credit. Aside from that, Millsaps opens the season with Ath and Def values in the mid 60s, which makes them pop in a comparison with pretty much every team in Rupp right now.
One final note...I don't know what frankgrimes did to national voters, but don't sleep on Penn St. Altoona, which strikes me as being under-rated by about 10-15 spots to open the season. Absolutely a whiff by the pollsters in my opinion.