It is my second favorite time of year. The seasons are changing, the smell of turkeys and honey baked hams fill the air, and the sound of Dicky V’s voice vibrates off the hardwood. It is college basketball season! The most pure form of big-time collegiate athletics is here and I am loving every moment of it.
Last year ended on a dramatic note with Cinderellas beating #1 overall seeds, star players leaving for the NBA, and Duke winning it all. This year picks up right where it left off, with Duke. As Duke is coming down the ladder from cutting the nets down they realize that not much has changed. They still have preseason All American, Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, and the best recruiting class as usual. They are projected as the #1 seed as it they have a huge target on the back of their new Nike Elite uniforms. It will be up to their leadership down the stretch and legendary Coach K to bring the Blue Devils another championship.
Outside of the Dukies, there are a lot of teams on the same level. A lot of teams that have a lot of proving to do including Coach Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans. Sparty is known for their toughness and rebounding. Their players have great conditioning and can run the floor with anyone. They also have the experience with their current team of knowing what it takes to go late into the tournament, so look for them to be there in the end as well.
Rankings 3-11 are all up in the air. K-State has one of the best defenses in the country, Pitt and Nova have great guard play as always in the toughest basketball conference in the nation. Syracuse led by Jim Boeheim have a 7 footer named Fab Melo who can handle the ball, block shots, and score which adds a lot of versatility to a conference where you need everything you can give night in and night out.
The next toughest conference this year will be played in the Midwest with the Big Ten. The Big Ten has Ohio State, Purdue, and Illinois, and Wisconsin all with plenty of Top 25 votes upon which it looks like Michigan State will still emerge. Also, look for Memphis and Butler to come out of their weak conferences and go late into the tournament again. They both have tough out of conference schedules and lost stars to the draft so it will be interesting to see how their seasons play out.
Perennial powerhouse, Kentucky, is missing John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins on a team that was projected to go all the way last year. We’ll see how Calipari can get them to function without the possible NBA Rookie of the Year and the best big man in the SEC. Florida will be giving them some trouble in conference with slick backed Billy Donovan who has a great recruiting class as well and knows how to win in March.
Outside of Duke, the ACC doesn’t seem to be the ACC of old this year. North Carolina was one of the most overrated teams of all times last year, which I guess is a plus for them this year coming in with lower expectations. But are there really ever low expectations for UNC? After Kansas got dethrowned early in the tournament by Northern Iowa in the tournament, a lot of people will be watching them play in the weak Big 12 this year to see if last year was just a fluke.
The Pac-10 also looks to be having low expectations with U-Dub being the only standout team. However, I do see UCLA and Arizona, and Cal getting into at least one of the Top 25s this year. They have great coaching and great athletes which has the makes for great competition. They haven’t done well in the tournament in recent years though, so we will see if they can live up to the standards that Pac-10 football has set this year for the conference.
The Mountain West also has a deep conference this year. BYU has preseason All American Jimmer (Yes, his name is Jimmer), SDSU has Las Vegan big man, Billy White, UNM has a bunch of hicks who can shoot the rock, and UNLV does what we do with speed and defense. Look for all of the MWC to do well in out of conference play and have 3/4 MWC teams in the Top 25s going into conference play.
It is too hard to predict who will win it all in college basketball because anything can happen in March as all of your brackets were busted with Kansas and Kentucky suckying but ya boi picked Duke to win it all and actually picked the correct score. So, keep my projections in mind this March when you fill out your brackets.