Tiki Barber recently attended a University of Virginia basketball game in which Justin Anderson was on the sideline – not on the bench, but in street clothes. That’s because Anderson, 22, is a rookie in the NBA. Dallas selected him with the 21st overall pick in last year’s draft.
Barber couldn’t help but wonder: Just how good would Virginia (21-5, 10-4) be if Anderson hadn’t left school early?
“I don’t think there’s any doubt Virginia would be the team to beat if Justin Anderson was eligible and playing for the Cavaliers,” CBS Sports college basketball analyst Jon Rothstein said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “This team has really had to alter things with their offense, especially with London Perrantes taking on an offensive role right now, but I don’t think there’s any question Virginia would be the team to beat if it had Justin Anderson.”
As it stands, Virginia still has a chance to go on a deep run come tournament time. Then again, so do a dozen or so other teams.
This year is just that wide open.
Rothstein said if he had to pick a horse in the race now, he would go opt for Michigan State for two reasons: One, the Spartans have the best player in America in Denzel Valentine, and two, they have the best coach in Tom Izzo.
Still, this season reminds Rothstein of 2011, when No. 3 Connecticut, No. 4 Kentucky, No. 8 Butler and No. 11 VCU advanced to the Final Four.
In other words, expect the unexpected in March.
At least two of the 1-seeds are still up for grabs, but Rothstein isn’t sure how much those top spots will matter anyway.
“It matters probably less than it has in years,” he said. “I think right now Villanova will get the 1-seed in the East, and I think Kansas looks like a safe bet as far as the other No. 1 seed. But as far as the other two spots, look, if Virginia or North Carolina got hot and won the ACC regular season title and then went on to win the ACC Tournament, I think one of those teams would find a spot on the 1-line.”
After that? It’s anyone’s guess.
“The interesting team to watch in terms of potentially No. 1 seeds is Xavier,” Rothstein said. “Xavier hosts Villanova on Wednesday night at the Cintas Center – one of the more anticipated games we’ve seen since this new reconfiguration of the Big East. If Xavier were to win that game and then go on to win the Big East Tournament, I think the Musketeers could be in position to be on the 1-line.”