The 2016-17 college basketball season kicks off Friday night. Last year we were witnesses to one of the best championship games ever between Villanova and North Carolina. The Wildcats captured their programs second NCAA tourney championship after Kris Jenkins buzzer beater propelled the Cats to a 77-74 victory. This season Jay Wright’s squad opens up at number 4 in the AP Top 25, while the Tar Heels come in at number 6. Know who is at number 1 in both polls? If you guess Duke you are right. My Blue Devils are the best team in the country and the voters know that. Only time can tell what will happen come March Madness.
They say this season is about the freshman. Hasn’t it been like that for the past couple of seasons? Ever since the one and done rule was implanted, you see the real talent stick around for just two semesters. It is the usual suspects with the best recruiting classes in Duke and Kentucky, but it is Kansas freshman Josh Jackson who takes the cake as the best freshman for the upcoming season. The 6’8″ guard is already drawing comparisons to a former Kansas superstar in Andrew Wiggins. With the Jayhawks losing their top ten scorers from last season, look for Jackson to get plenty of opportunities to fill up the stat sheets. Coming in at number two is Lonzo Ball. Will he be the UCLA Bruins savior, or just another highly touted freshman? Can we say both? Ball is one of the 3 top 5 star recruits Steve Alford was able to secure. The Bruins are coming off a 15-17 year in Alford’s third season. With his recruits finally coming up, look for the Bruins to not only be players in the PAC12 but come March as well. Jayson Tatum committed to Duke in July 2015. He has been waiting quite some time to wear a Duke jersey. While his official debut may be pushed back due to a foot sprain, he may be back in time for the season opener against Marist. While he needs work from beyond the arc, his mid range game is already one of the best in the country. If Tatum can follow in the footsteps of Justice Winslow and Brandon Ingram, he may find himself as the number one overall draft pick in the 2017 NBA draft.
Hey Boss, what about those schools that are under the radar and might be players come tourney time like Stephen F Austin from last year? No problem, I got you covered. What would you do if I told you Texas Christian University? Their very own Jami Dixon is coming home. Dixon was once considered one of the better up and coming college coaches in the game, and many thought he would look up upgrade after Pittsburgh, but did anyone think TCU? With Kansas expected to runaway with the Big12, look for TCU to rack up some conference wins and build confidence after a 12-21 season with a record of 2-16 in conference play. Fucking Rick Stansbury. How the hell do you land five star guys in Western Kentucky? The Hilltoppers finished 8th in Conference USA last season and should look to make a jump this season. Watch out for the 2017-18 season when he will have all his players. While Gonzaga deserves plenty of chatter as one of the best mid major programs, do not sleep on St. Mary’s. The Gaels made a push for the tourney last season but fell just short. This season they look to improve their conference schedule, which includes a meeting against Dayton, another top mid major program in the country.
So who is going to win it all? That is easy. I am going to say the Duke Blue Devils because they are my team. Long story short, Christian Laettner is from just outside of Buffalo, he hit the game winning shot on my 3rd birthday, and the rest is history. I am always going to select Duke to be champs in any season preview I do. So there you have it.
As I mentioned in my title, this Friday night has two marquee games to kick off the season in Honolulu, Hawaii at the Armed Forces Classic. This is what makes college basketball so great, the great games and tournaments at the beginning of the season. College football has gotten better about two ranked teams playing opening week instead of a FCS school and winning 100-0. But like I said, college basketball does it right. On Friday night, Michigan State and Arizona kick it off at 7pm following by Indiana and Kansas. All four of these teams are ranked in the top 12 to start the season. So when you get home from work, turn on ESPN, enjoy some solid college hoops to start the season and enjoy the rest of your weekend.
Thank god college hoops are back!