So far we are 6 weeks into the College Basketball Season and there are only a few things that we know for sure. First, we have no dominant team in the sport, there are several very good teams, but each has a glaring weakness that will need to be fixed come tournament time. Second, the most exciting players in the nation, Trae Young and Marvin Bagley III, are 19 and 18 years old respectively. Third, Kansas may actually not win the Big 12 for the first time since LeBron James was in the second half of his rookie season in the NBA. We are facing a wildly exciting conference season and tournament ahead, so we’ll bring you up to speed on everything college basketball as well as the surprise teams in the NCAA this year.
Below are three teams that can win it all, what they need to improve, and the next group of “everyone else” that could make a run to the Final Four.
First, preseason #1 Duke may have the best offense in the entire country. They have arguably the best player in the country in Bagley III and senior leadership in Grayson Allen to provide experience in conference play and into March. The problem is that they can’t defend. At all. They just gave up 96 points to an unranked NC State team in a loss. Coach K needs his guys to commit to the defensive side of the floor if they want to be sitting atop the ACC at the end of the year and feeling good going into the Big Dance.
Michigan State, the most recent number 1 team to go down, has one of the most talented frontcourts in the country. Between Miles Bridges, Nick Ward, and Jaren Jackson Jr. there is enough firepower to take anyone down. The problem is, their best player, Miles Bridges, is playing out of position. Tom Izzo needs him at the 4 spot, and to rotate Ward and Jackson Jr. at the 5 spot. It is where Bridges will be most effective and won’t fall in love with shooting the 3 too much.
Villanova may have the least to fix. Their one loss came to Butler, where the Bulldogs shot 60% from the field and a ridiculous 68% from 3. Outside of this game, Jay Wright’s team has been solid defensively, but continuing that trend is what will benefit them come March. If they defend, they are as good as anyone in the country.
This season being included in the “everyone else” category may be the best place to be. These teams have the talent and coaching to get them to the Final Four, but something still feels off before I can include them in the premiere group above. First, West Virginia is taking care of business and has one of the toughest Point Guards in the country in Jevon Carter. Their press will always be difficult to play against, but I am curious to see how they do in a strong Big 12. Second, Virginia. The Cavaliers will never be a sexy choice come March since they have only reached one Elite Eight. But they could be on top of the ACC come season’s end with dominant defense that was shown against North Carolina in their win against the Tar Heels. Third, North Carolina. It just feels wrong to leave them out, but they need to figure out their frontcourt rotation. Fourth, Arizona. The scariest comments of the year for a coach to make were made by Sean Miller this past weekend saying he can’t get this group to play for him. If that changes, the talent is there to make a run. Also look out for Wichita State, Arizona State and Purdue to be strong over the next few weeks, giving them momentum going into the tournament.
The National Player of the Year conversation is between two superstar freshman. Trae Young may be the most exciting player to watch, dazzling with his shooting and passing abilities that have been compared to Stephen Curry. Marvin Bagley III has become the first player EVER playing for Coach K to average 20 ppg and 10 rpg. That alone is impressive, but also the fact that he is dominating every game he plays in after reclassifying to be a part of this freshman class makes it even more impressive. Whenever these guys play, you should make sure you have your eyes on the TV because they are can’t miss entertainment.
The mystery in the Big 12 will allow you to see more and more of Trae Young. The mystery isn’t necessarily how to stop Young, but it’ll be can Kansas actually not win the regular season conference title? Right now, the Jayhawks have lost 2 games at Allen Fieldhouse which is less likely to happen than Lavar Ball getting out of the news cycle anytime soon. There are a lot of solid basketball teams in the conference, some mentioned above with West Virginia, Oklahoma, as well as Texas Tech and TCU. Will Self figure out how to make it 14 straight or will the impossible happen?
College basketball is a wonderful disaster right now. With the top tier of talent using true freshman regularly, upsets are bound to happen based on inexperience. But, it is absolutely amazing to watch. Stay tuned.