We are less than 24 hours until the start of the college basketball season. Don't let all the negative news out there deter you. We have 126 games involving a Division I team scheduled as of this moment for tomorrow. ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY SIX GAMES. That's awesome. That's what gets me up in the morning, in a couple of ways. This year more than ever shit is going to be all over the place. But games are being played. A season is happening. So as is tradition here is your yearly preview with everything you need to know.
There is no Ivy League and Patriot League for now
The Ivy League completely cancelled their season. We're not going to rehash it because we're going positive vibes only this season. But just a reminder no Ivy League and Patriot League is going conference only. Why does this matter? Because the NCAA Tournament now has one more at-large team with no Ivy League. That could be a mid-major that we always hear is on the bubble and deserves a chance. You get an extra chance this year.
There is a clear top-3 to start the season
Not a hot take but the tier 1 teams entering the year are Gonzaga, Villanova and Baylor - in that order for me. Gonzaga is loaded. Again, not a hot take. But they have the highest recruit in school history in Jalen Suggs, who is going to be a top-10 pick. They have NBA talent in Joel Ayayi and Corey Kispert. They have Drew Timme, who is everyone's breakout player and a future pro. For Nova they have Collin Gillespie, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Jermaine Samuels who everyone knows. They also return Justin Moore, who I actually think is going to end up being the most important player for them. Every year we see a Nova guard/wing take a jump. That's him this year. They also get Caleb Daniels a transfer from Tulane, who can really score and the Nova coaches won't stop talking about.
The rest of the title contenders
For me true title contenders are teams that I wouldn't be surprised to win a title. There is a difference in that, Final Four teams, etc. My title contenders outside of the top-3 in no order: Kentucky, Virginia, Illinois, Houston, Texas Tech, Wisconsin and Kansas.
Luka Garza is the preseason NPOY but I'm out on Iowa
I've talked about Iowa before and they can make a Final Four. But this team can't defend. We know who Iowa is. They are awesome on offense and have to run a zone defensively to hide Luka Garza. I get that Jordan Bohannon is coming back after redshirting last year due to injury, but that means minutes are going away from younger players too. They were 97th in the country defensively last year. You don't win a title with that. There's really only been one team that's been bad defensively to win a title and that was 2015 Duke. Oh, not to mention they essentially had a historical defensive run in the NCAA Tournament. Iowa can't do that. I still think they are a top-15 team, but not a top-5.
Duke is a Final Four type team for me. I think Jalen Johnson has potential to be the star, but that's what this team is. A bunch of unsure potential. Do you really trust Wendell Moore or Matthew Hurt to be an All-American type player? I don't. They lose Tre Jones who was so damn important for them. I know they Patrick Tape from Columbia, but I preach this all the time. Transfers that are up-transfer (low-major to high-major) more often than not don't work out the way it's planned. Stats are always down due to competition. They'll be able to shoot this year but outside of Moore I really question how good they can be defensively.
Here are my futures from last months:
All lines are from Barstool Sportsbook, but here are some of my favorite conference title picks
AAC - Houston (+175)
ACC - Florida State (+300)
Pac-12 - Oregon (+435)
Wichita State and Penn State are rolling with interim coaches this year
Both Gregg Marshall and Pat Chambers were fired or 'resigned' due to abuse allegations. Both happened with less than a month until the season preventing them from hiring anyone for this season. Instead they promoted an assistant coach to an interim coach. Take that into consideration for early season betting.
The Big 10 has a chance for 11 or 12 bids
I know it sounds crazy for a league to get double digit bids in the NCAA Tournament, but the Big 10 is that deep this year. I don't love the top as much as some others outside of Illinois and Wisconsin, but that middle is loaded. You look at Iowa, Michigan State, Michigan, Indiana, Rutgers, Minnesota, Maryland, Penn State, Ohio State and Purdue. They all can make the NCAA Tournament. Now will they get all of them? Of course not. But 10 or 11? Absolutely.
Streaks can be broken
The streaks I’m talking about are the Big 10 not winning a title since 2000 (Michigan State) and a west coast team not winning a title since 1997 (Arizona). It’s pretty shocking to see those numbers and see the talent that has gone through the Big 10, Pac-12 and Gonzaga since that time. This year there are legit chances to see this streak ends with Gonzaga, Illinois and Wisconsin. People love to harp on you can’t win a title with a young team, at some point you have to say you can’t win a title if you play in the Pacific Time Zone. *Note, I’m completely joking and think both statements are ridiculously dumb.
10 Mid-major teams that you need to know
Note I'm talking true mid-majors here. Not the A-10, MWC, etc. These are teams that can win a game in the NCAA Tournament. Loyola Chicago, Northern Iowa, Western Kentucky, Furman, Murray State, Vermont, Old Dominion, North Texas, Georgia State, Louisiana Tech.
The best player in college basketball won't have a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament and it's bullshit
I'm talking about Cade Cunningham here. The freshman decided to stay at Oklahoma State when they were banned from the NCAA Tournament - mostly because his brother is still on staff making $200,000 or so and not because of good cafeteria food. It sucks. Cunningham is fucking awesome. Oklahoma State should be an NCAA Tournament team. Mike Boynton recruited well and brought back guys that would have them in the top half of the Big 12. Luka Garza might be preseason NPOY, but Cunningham is the best player in the country.
Coaches on the hot seat
These are the coaches that need to have a good season: Richard Pitino (Minnesota), Shaka Smart (Texas), Dave Letaio (DePaul), Josh Pastner (Georgia Tech), Tim Jankovich (SMU) and Jim Christian (Boston College).
Yes, UConn is back in the Big East and no it doesn't guarantee success
Yes this is the first year UConn is back in the Big East. It feels right. They are a Big East team. But a lot of people are guaranteeing success for them year 1. Uhh, why? Sure James Bouknight is an All-American candidate, but it's not like UConn is coming off a great year. They could very well miss the NCAA Tournament and it wouldn't be the huge failure for UConn. They are a middle of the pack Big East team that's all pretty even. The biggest thing they have going though besides Bouknight being a potential star is they have guys who know their role. If Cole can take the jump from Howard to UConn it's even better. They have big guys who protect the rim and know offensively what to do. They have some shooting. But UConn is back in the Big East so celebrate that.
Apparently top-10 lists on Barstool matter now:
8. Texas Tech
Yes, the season is going to happen
Perhaps the question I get asked the most and yes the season is going to happen. We're going to have an NCAA Tournament. Listen to coaches and AD's across the country. They talk nonstop about how important it is to have one from a financial standpoint. That's why they are putting it all in one city. Money matters in the NCAA. There will be games being cancelled and teams paused for positive tests. But there will be a bunch of games every day. That's what matters.
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24 hours to go. Drop your hottest take to me on Twitter.