College Basketball: Early Season Thoughts
Throughout the season, myself and Seth Bondroff, will be providing thoughts about the latest news, notes and things going on around the world of college basketball. Conference play began early for some but really, this time of the year is all about the non-conference games. We have some big upsets already, some very good games and a lot of the normal names at the top of the rankings. Here are some thoughts, from both Seth and I, on what we have seen in the early part of the season.
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The Pac 12 got off to an excellent 17-0 start in non-conference games. The conference has been down in recent years but you have to wonder if they are on their way back. They don’t have many highly ranked teams according to Kenpom yet but their time could be coming.
Cole Anthony appears to be the best player in college basketball. We will see what happens with James Wiseman and I think Cassius Winston will win Player of the Year but the best talent appears to be Cole Anthony. Anthony and Wiseman will be battling it out for the #1 pick in June.
The Terps, fresh off of a 30-point win vs Oakland, are off to a predictable 3-0 start. Their non-conference schedule is pretty poor, with a big game against Seton Hall being an exception. Still, if Coach Mark Turgeon doesn’t hold them back, MD should be one of the best teams in the Big Ten and should make a deep run in the NCAA tournament. Led by Jalen Smith and Anthony Cowan, one of the best inside/outside combos in the country, this team looks like it could be in for a special season.
Duke is poised to take the #1 slot after a lackluster 74-63 win vs Georgia St on Friday. This is a talented Duke team and its led by one of the best leaders and defensive players in the country, Tre Jones. They will struggle to score at times and need better outside shooting but they could be very dangerous by the end of the year. They look like they will be a very good defensive team. Right now, they are only going to be #1 by default. They aren’t the best team in the country although they did beat a very good and experienced Kansas team.
The best team in the country is probably Michigan St although the injury to Langford does hurt them. They also lost to Kentucky in the Champions Classic a few weeks ago. Still, they probably have the best combo of experience, coaching, talent and depth in the country. Kenpom currently has them #1, Although I don’t think any rankings mean much right now. They did just beat a very good Seton Hall team in what was probably the best game in the early part of the season. They have a matchup with Duke coming up in a few weeks and they are out in Maui during Feast Week, in what promises to be a stacked tournament.
Speaking of Kentucky, their shocking loss to Evansville at Rupp is still hard to believe. A team that was picked to finish 8th in the Missouri Valley and was a 26 point underdog went into that environment and beat the #1 team in the country. It is as shocking a win as you will see and perhaps the most shocking in college basketball since UMBC beat UVA a few years ago in the NCAA tournament. However, don’t let the loss fool you. Kentucky is loaded and should be able to be one of the best teams in the country and make another deep run. And while this is a more experienced Kentucky team than usual, it is another reminder about tough it is to rely on so many freshman to win you games, no matter how talented they are. It also speaks to the parity around college basketball. Florida St lost to Pitt, who then lost to Nicholls St. In their next game, FSU beat Florida. We will see this all year long.
UVA, the defending champs, are off to a good start and appear to have not lost a step defensively, despite losing Jerome, Guy and Hunter to the NBA. I question if they will be able to score after losing so much though. If they can, they will be in for another deep tourney run in March.
Not many good games coming up this week. The 2K empire Classic at MSG is at the end of the week but outside of Duke, it doesn’t feature much star power although Georgetown could be in a for a solid season. Outside of that, there isn’t too much to get excited about. Of course, Thanksgiving week (also known as Feast Week) will have a plethora of great games for CBB fans (and all you betting enthusiasts) across the country.
As for early Final Four picks, Seth is going with Louisville, Mich St, Maryland and Colorado. I am going with Louisville, Michigan St, Seton Hall and Florida. Enjoy the season everyone, it should be another good one.
A former co-host of Sports Tonight with Rob & Chris on BSL Radio, Rob has interviewed guests from outlets such as ESPN, Sports Illustrated, NBC Sports, CBS Sports, FOX Sports, Baseball Prospectus, Athlon, Sporting News, MLB Network, Brooks Baseball, Baseball Info Solutions, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Sports on Earth, Grantland, NFL Network, FanGraphs, Football Outsiders, ProFootballFocus, etc. etc. The Baltimore native lives in Perry Hall with his Wife Lindsay, and two young sons. He has appeared as a guest on 105.7 The Fan, Q1370, and WNST 1570.