Hope’s Heat Meter: Virginia’s roster; UCLA and Indiana’s tourney hopes; Julian Strawther’s potential

In “Hope’s Heat Meter,” Connor Hope analyzes the hottest takes in college basketball and determines if there’s any substance behind the Internet’s wild opinions.

The college basketball season is finally here, and with it comes a ton of new takes.

These takes can be pretty on point, relatively hot and reactive, or even the infamous “Not Take” — a take so hot that it isn’t really a take at all. This weekly series will include a handful of common opinions being discussed around the sport and attempt to rate them on their absurdity.

For the purposes of this article, we will be defining hot takes as reactionary takes based on minimal evidence or thought. In other words, the hotter the take, the more reactionary it is in nature, and the less likely it is to be 100% accurate. Remember, don’t buy into hot takes unless you are willing to get burned.

Let’s dive into this week’s hottest takes.

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“Virginia does not have the roster to make the NCAA Tournament”

This is an interesting discussion that should be had, as many analysts are fighting a battle between trusting Tony Bennett and discounting an underwhelming roster. What we saw in Game 1 against Navy was a team that struggled to do all the things that Virginia has historically done well: shoot efficiently, prevent second-chance points, and move the ball without giving it away. We also saw a team that is likely to rely heavily on two or three players to carry the entire scoring load.

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I am hesitant to write the Cavaliers off as a complete bust — due in large part to what we know about Bennett’s ability to develop players — but Jayden Gardner and Reece Beekman can’t be the only reliable players. My decision to put Virginia in as the de facto No. 25 team, however, is something that will be fixed in the upcoming Heat Check CBB Top 25 college basketball polls. This team is just not good enough to warrant any ranking consideration. They have a good chance to figure it out and finish in the top half of the ACC, but could just as easily fall off a cliff.

Heat Meter: Fresh hot chocolate with two ice cubes

“Indiana is a Sweet 16 team this season”

I don’t think it is a secret that the two of us on the Hope & Rauf Podcast are not overly excited about Indiana’s prospects this year in Mike Woodson’s first season at the helm. Trayce Jackson-Davis may be one of the best players in the country and my pick for conference player of the year, but consistency from the rest of the team could prevent a Sweet 16 contender. I’m not suggesting this team can’t win two games in a row in March, but I am fully expecting the Hoosiers to get a bottom half seed in the NCAA Tournament, which would make the task an uphill battle.

With that being said, what I saw from Indiana in the first half against Eastern Michigan Tuesday night is a team whose defense can help compete every night. Defending at that level for 40 minutes, however, is where I lack confidence. With a lack of scoring depth, the Hoosiers’ season will go as far as the defense can carry them, and right now I am not holding my breath on much consistency.

Heat Meter: The cheese on pizza when it first comes out of the oven

UCLA is not a second weekend team

This is a common point of view for those who believe that the Bruins’ Final Four run was a fluke. It is understandable to take the entire season under the microscope and suggest that UCLA is closer to its regular-season performance than its March one. But what needs to be discussed is the variability in the active roster during that time, especially with Chris Smith going down after just eight games.

I am of the viewpoint that UCLA and the emergence of Johnny Juzang was just a matter of time, and the additions the team made this offseason only make them better. I don’t think anyone should view the Bruins as a locked-in Final Four team, but if they were to drop out of the top 10 or suffer an unexpected upset early in the NCAA Tournament, I would be surprised. The players have been there before and understand the pressure of playing in a win-or-go-home setting. This is one of the few college basketball teams I am confident in guaranteeing a second-weekend appearance.

Heat Meter: Learn from Icarus; don’t fly too close to the sun

Julian Strawther is an All-WCC First Teamer”

If you haven’t already bought stock in Gonzaga forward Julian Strawther’s talent, it’s probably too late. All summer we heard about the strides Strawther made after a season spent behind Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi. Through two exhibitions and the opener against Dixie State, we saw Strawther lead the team in scoring, even with Drew Timme and Chet Holmgren enjoying big performances of their own.

We knew that Timme and Holmgren were near locks for all-conference honors, but with Gonzaga guaranteed three or four spots on the first team, Strawther is emerging as a third near-lock early this season. He’s unlikely to score at this level all year because Timme will likely regress to the mean and Holmgren still has a ton of untapped potential. However, he is the clear No. 3 option in the pecking order and does a ton of dirty work as well.

Heat Meter: Hour-old coffee — still warm but also not

Illinois will beat Marquette without Kofi Cockburn

Forget about the actual decision to suspend Cockburn for a second, which is ridiculous. The actual impact it will have on the team’s opening schedule will likely be minimal. We saw the Illini beat Jackson State by 24 on Tuesday without Cockburn, Andre Curbelo and Trent Frazier. They will likely enter the Marquette game with a solid 2-0 record after playing Arkansas State, and should at least have Curbelo back. This is the same Marquette team that carried a one-point lead into the half against SIU Edwardsville.

The only way I can see the Golden Eagles winning this game would be for Darryl Morsell to shut Andre Curbelo down and force the other four players on the floor to beat them. Even that might not be enough because the rest of the players — Jacob Grandison, Coleman Hawkins, Alfonso Plummer, and Da’Monte Williams — are still better players than any lineup the Golden Eagles can throw on the floor. Cockburn would have made this game a projected bloodbath, but I am still confident the Illini win by at least three buckets.

Heat Meter: Lock it in and throw away the key

Bonus “Not Take” of the Week: “Villanova will miss the NCAA Tournament”

It’s not unreasonable to believe that Villanova’s high ranking is due to the media’s trust in Jay Wright rather than the quality of the roster. Still, this Wildcat team is fantastic, will win a ton of games, should be the favorite to win the Big East, and will likely be a top-5 seed in the NCAA Tournament come Selection Sunday.



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