Holbrook: Picking the Power Five basketball champs

Fans show their excitement and support for the Cyclones on ESPN’s College GameDay on Jan. 17, 2015.

Trevor Holbrook

College basketball is back!

A lot of schools featured in Power Five conferences beat up on smaller schools to start the season, including Iowa State in its opening win against Mississippi Valley State.

Elsewhere, heavyweights like Duke and Kansas or Michigan State and Kentucky squared off, providing a March-like feeling to kick off November.

Regardless of the matchups, we learned a little about each team in opening games, and now I’ll select which teams I see securing the top spots in the Power Five conferences. (Note: these are regular season champions, not conference tournament champions because you can probably already pencil in Iowa State to win the Big 12 Tournament.)


There’s a lot of different directions I could go here. Duke, North Carolina, Louisville and Virginia all seem like realistic options to secure the top spot, but I’ll go with Louisville.

I still think Duke and North Carolina will be really good, and Virginia will be solid. Sure, each of those three lost a ton of talent from last year, but that’s not uncommon for top schools like them.

Meanwhile, Louisville retained quite a bit of its talent with four starters that are juniors or seniors and three strong bench options that are also upperclassmen. The fifth Cardinal starter is also five-star wing Samuell Williamson — not too shabby.

Big Ten

Unlike the ACC, I think the Big Ten has a pretty clear-cut top team: Michigan State. The Big Ten probably has four or five tournament teams outside of Michigan State, but none will come close to pushing the Spartans out of the top position.

Similar to Louisville, Michigan State retained a pretty experienced team that Tom Izzo should be able to push for a long run in March. Expect senior guard Cassius Winston to dominate the conference and propel the Spartans to the top.


Again, not a very exciting pick, but I’m going with Kentucky here. The Wildcats knocked off Michigan State earlier this week, and I expect them to cruise through the SEC for another season.

I think Florida and maybe LSU could challenge the young Wildcats, but Kentucky reloaded this offseason to give it enough firepower to fend off the rest of the conference.

Pac 12

I’m tired of picking blue bloods, so I’ll mix it up in the Pac 12 and avoid picking Arizona. I’m going to go with former Big 12 school Colorado to take the Pac 12 regular season crown.

The Buffs are one of the most experienced teams in the country, possessing a starting five of upperclassmen with a couple seniors and a junior on the bench, too.

According to barttorvik.com, Colorado is one of eight schools to return 90% or more of its minutes from last season with 94.1%. Colorado is also the only Power Five school to hit that threshold.

Also look for Arizona and Oregon to contend, but I’m rolling with the experienced Buffs for the Pac 12.

Big 12

Death, taxes and Kansas winning the Big 12 (besides last year). I’ll take the Jayhawks here, but I don’t think this season is a lock by any means. I think Baylor pushes Kansas, but the Jayhawks ultimately edge out the Bears.

From an Iowa State perspective, I don’t expect the Cyclones to be too close to contending for the top spot, finishing around fourth to sixth in the conference. I do think Iowa State sneaks into the dance, grabbing an eight or nine seed or somewhere in that ballpark.