College Hoops Mailbag: Iowa’s outlook, NC State’s upside, and more

We’re officially a week into the season and we have a new College Hoops Mailbag to dive into!

Despite everything we thought we knew in the offseason, most of it has already been ripped to shreds. Three top 10 teams lost to unranked foes in the season’s first seven days including two national championship favorites in Villanova and Virginia. It feels like we know less now than we did when the first mailbag was posted a week ago – so what’s on your mind?

We will post these mailbags every Wednesday throughout the course of the season, so make sure you join the conversation on Twitter at @brauf33. Thanks as always to those who contributed this week.

My most overrated team is Wisconsin. I wrote and talked about it a lot in the offseason but they are getting a boost by returning pretty much everyone from the group that won a share of the Big Ten title, which they won by closing the year on an eight-game win streak. However, they only went on that streak because they got uncharacteristically hot from three.

Prior to that streak, they were 13-10 and a middling Big Ten team. I think the real Wisconsin is more like the former than the latter, though I still have them outside my top 10 — and not at No. 4, where they are in the AP poll.

As for my underrated team, I have Tennessee. It’s tough to analyze performance because they haven’t played a game yet due to COVID protocols, but I think they have a chance to be an elite team (I picked them to go to the Final Four). My Heat Check CBB colleague, Lukas Harkins, wrote an excellent piece this offseason breaking down why the Vols will be better than expected, which you can read here.

I think NC State will be a solid team that should make the NCAA Tournament, but I don’t think they’ll be competing for an ACC title or anything like that. Their defense has looked great through two games, Devon Daniels has All-ACC potential, and DJ Funderburk and Manny Bates are two of the better big men in the conference. The Wolfpack appear to have more depth — which will help them play at the pace they want — but the freshmen providing that depth haven’t been tested yet.

I want to see how they match up against UConn and Michigan in two weeks before I’m fully buying into the Pack, but I am a Kevin Keatts fan and like some of the pieces they have.

Why do you STILL hate Iowa? – MattyMc1 (@triaxmax)

I don’t hate Iowa! I have them in the top five in my Rockin’ 25 poll this week!

In fairness, I know I have them below where they’re at in the AP. The Hawkeyes have been every bit dominant as advertised offensively and Luka Garza picked up right where he left off last year. My question with them when comparing them to my top four continues to be on the defensive end and they haven’t faced anyone who can really test them.

Michigan State has an excellent win over Duke, and Illinois has answered my biggest question with their three-point shooting. Iowa’s question won’t be answered until next week when they face UNC. If they knock off the Tar Heels, they’ll move up – but I’m holding onto my reservations until then.

Brian Rauf is a college basketball writer for HeatCheckCBB.com. His content has been featured by Sports Illustrated, Bleacher Report, and FanSided, among other publications. Rauf is also a current USBWA member and Rockin’ 25 voter.



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