Folks, arguably the “most wonderful time of the year” is here.
..No, I don’t mean Christmas.
It’s hoops season. Just when you thought the NBA season was going to be great with all the off season moves and new Nike deal, college basketball has officially started and isn’t disappointing either!
The college basketball start has been one of epic and historic fashion. There has never been 2 top-5 matchups this early in a season. There also has never been a cumulative non-conference schedule like we are seeing. So many teams are scheduling tough, road or neutral site games early in the season. This has made the viewing and diversity within standings and conference much higher.
The new college basketball is something to be excited about. Aside from scheduling, we have top recruits also going to some smaller, lesser known schools historically for hoops, which helps the overall game. Guys like Porter Jr. at Missouri, Collin Sexton at Alabama, and Trae Young have all made huge impacts on your non-“Blue Blood” Schools.
Guys at these schools have exploded onto the scene and are still demanding the national spotlight that they would have if at a Kentucky or Duke. This is great for college basketball, as the transparency throughout teams makes conferences better, games better, and the individual star matchups each night that much better. A great example of this is Texas. A team that hasn’t been relevant since Rick Barnes in he early 2000s, Shaka Smart has his guys playing at a high level and with high level talent like Mo Bamba. This was a guy who could have went ANYWHERE, and he chose Texas.
Keeping this in mind, schools like Texas have already given top teams fits this early. Both losses, the Longhorns could have beat both Duke and Gonzaga in early season tournaments.
Now, onto the big dogs. Here’s no question the Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, and Villanova teams of college basketball haven’t missed a beat. Duke is better than ever and has more freshman too. Kentucky is the youngest team in basketball (surprise!), but are still going to be just fine come tourney time.
I know it’s early, but Marvin Bagley III is no question the real deal. The kid can flat out play and wants the ball every single time down he floor. NBA scouts are drooling over this guys talent, inside and out. He’s my early season MVP thus far, as he’s done nothing but keep Duke and bring them back into games.
Now, the conferences. Coming up I will have a conference breakdown, going over teams and standings, but the conferences individually have as much talent as we’ve ever seen. The Big East And ACC are the two best in my opinion. Your 5th and 6th best teams are liable to be second weekend teams come tournament time. And we all know how the selection committee loves the ACC!
Expect some surprisingly good teams from the SEC this year. We all know UK is the team everyone sees out of this conference, but teams like Alabama, Arkansas, Texas A&M. and Florida are all playing quality basketball. There is a legitimate hand this year that Kentucky may not be the conference champ, both regular season and conference tourney.
The Big 10 is the conference surprising to me. The top tier to middle tier teams is not as fluid as the rest of the country. Once the Minnesota and Michigan State teams are in, I couldn’t even guess who may be after.
My guess? I don’t have one! There is too much good basketball still being played for me to get a good inkling on how this year will shake out. My thoughts?
1. The ACC is TOUGH. I mean, what the hell is new? Every year this is the case, and every year we see another ACC team go deep in the tournament.
2. The SEC is not a Football only conference. There are quality teams up and down that conference we will see in March. Mark my words, 6-7 teams will be dancin’ in March from that conference.
3. The Freshman are taking over college. While everyone is talking who should or shouldn’t be paid and how long kids should stay in college, more and more top freshman are playing high-level basketball and showing why the one-and-done rule should be evaluated
Be excited for the opportunity that presents us, basketball fans! I am biased, but the Xavier Musketeers look like one of the best teams in the country. And along the way, I’ll be watching other teams and other games enjoying the beauty that is basketball. (I say this now as I watch Mo Bamba and the Longhorns!)
Enjoy what we have this year, because one way or another we are more than fortunate to have this much great basketball to watch!