The college basketball season is upon us again, which means more perennial powerhouses getting upset by no-name schools, buzzer beaters, and “one-and-dones.”
Thankfully, it does not include the return of the North Carolina star, Tyler Hansbrough, who finally graduated and moved onto the NBA. This spells an end to Carolina’s dominance, right? Surprisingly, this Carolina bunch is, again, right in the mix among a few teams to get to Indianapolis for this year’s Final Four. Besides UNC, Kansas, Michigan, State, Villanova, Duke, Butler, Texas, Purdue and West Virginia, all seem to be early season favorites to make a deep run in the big dance.
Another storyline to consider for the upcoming season is the slew of freshmen standouts lead by John Wall, Xavier Henry, Avery Bradley, Derrick Favors, Daniel Orton, not to mention the recently-instated Lance Stephenson. I am going to be previewing this season’s best teams, players and story lines to get you ready for what should be another great college basketball season.
The first thing I would like to touch on is the issue of “one-and-dones.” A one and done is the slang term used for someone who spends just one year in college, only to them leave for the NBA. Last season, we did not see quite as many as in years past. Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday, DeMar DeRozan and Taj Gibson were among the freshmen last year to make the jump to the NBA.
As of now, this year’s class may see more players go one and done with an even higher talent level. A player worth highlighting is John Wall, of Kentucky. He was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school and is considered to be the number one pick in the 2010 NBA Draft by Chad Ford.
Wall combines his athleticism with speed and versatility as a ball handler, and when he slashes towards the hoop, he’s nearly unstoppable. He is a very capable defender who can clean up on the boards. He combines his athletic moves to get to the hoop with spectacular passes, showing that he understands the team concept of the game and is a complete player.
I believe that he will help Coach John Calipari revive Kentucky and, combined with fellow freshmen standouts like Daniel Orton and Eric Bledsoe, and returning star Patrick Patterson, they could be making a deep run in this year’s tournament, which is why I believe John Wall will win the Freshmen of the Year award.
Kentucky is part of a group of teams that will be in contention for a championship this season. Also among them is Michigan State, who, a decade ago lost the National Championship game only to return in 2000 to win the whole thing. Villanova, another Final Four team from last season, is also primed for another run, returning Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Reggie Redding and the arrival of 6’11” freshmen Maurice Sutton, which should add depth to a fairly small front court.
Kansas has a lot of hype surrounding its program this year after a surprising finish last season, which saw them win the Big 12 a year after the departure of all five starters from their 2008 championship team and an eventual loss in the Sweet Sixteen. They’ll be returning Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, standout sophomore Tyshawn Taylor and one of the best freshmen in the country, Xavier Henry.
Overall, I believe we could see a very open field this year because it doesn’t seem like there are too many elite teams, or even one elite team like we had in years past. If there is going to be another George Mason-like performance, then this year seems to be as good as any for that to happen.
Taking a lot into consideration, my Final Four this year is West Virginia, Texas, Duke and Kentucky. Some other teams to look out for this season are Cincinnati, Northern Iowa, Georgia Tech, Clemson, Minnesota and Northwestern, who will earn their first birth into the NCAA Tournament, making them the last Power 6 conference team to make it into the Big Dance.
This season may be dominated by freshmen again, but some other upperclassmen can still get it done such as Notre Dame’s Luke Harengody, Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez, and Duke’s Kyle Singler, to name a few. In my opinion, Kyle Singler has all the physical tools, averaging 17 and 7 last season, but is a versatile scorer as he can put it on the floor or hit the pull up J and seems to step up in late game situations, making him my pick to win the Player of the Year award and perhaps propel Duke to their first Final Four since 2004.
There is no question that my Coach of the Year will be Rick Barnes of Texas, providing he can be the glue that holds his very talented, but fragile, Longhorns together. Texas’ depth makes it not only a threat to run the table, but also my National Champions.
Overall, this season should be a great one with all of the fantastic freshmen and marquee match ups, including early games like UNC and Michigan State, as well as later rivalries, such as UNC/Duke and Texas/Kansas.
On a final note, it’s a shame Stephen Curry decided to forgo his senior year because having one more year of the most exciting college basketball player since Michael Jordan would have been the icing on the cake. Anyway, grab your green hat and let’s enjoy another season of college basketball.