College Hoops is here. Finally! (This also means we get more of Gus Johnson! I’m excited!) We know all about Coach Cal’s new colors, Pitino’s “family” issues, and most of the big name players and teams in the country. Plus two Isaiah/Isiah Thomases this year. We’re in for a treat.
Here are some games, names, and predictions to watch out for this year…
There was Durant and Oden. Followed by Rose, Beasley, Mayo, and Love. After a year off, the Freshmen are back. There will be multiple “one-and-done” guys this year. Here are five freshmen to look out for:
1. John Wall (Kentucky): There has already been a great deal of hype surrounding this kid. The 6’4” guard at Kentucky has the ability to take Calipari and company to Indianapolis. Derrick Rose flourished in Coach Cal’s system and I see John Wall doing the same (maybe even earning himself a #1 pick like Rose did in ’08) This kid’s got talent
2. Derrick Favors (Georgia Tech): He’ll be a household name in the ACC before year’s end. Georgia Tech may contend for the ACC title because of Favors. This 6’10” freshman will most likely be a one-and-done and land himself in the top 5 of next year’s draft.
3. Lance Stephenson (Cincinnati): He’s cleared to play. Several schools passed on him due to attitude concerns and off-the-court issues. He’s the next big thing out of Lincoln HS in NYC. It’ll be interesting to see him go up against the tough guard play in the Big East.
4. Avery Bradley (Texas): TJ Ford, DJ Augustin, and AJ Abrams all had great collegiate careers under Barnes. Avery Bradley is next. (The only thing he’s missing is the abbreviated first name.) Bradley can drive, shoot, and defend. He should compliment Damion James nicely for the Longhorns.
5. Xavier Henry (Kansas): He landed at Kansas. Henry was recruited heavily by just about every top program in the country. It’ll be interesting to see if he’ll “accept” being the 3rd option (Collins and Aldrich) on his loaded Jayhawk team. The 6’6” southpaw guard can flat out score and is a deadly shooter.
We know the preseason All-Americans (Collins, Aldrich, Harangody, Singler, Patterson). There are some other names that may not necessarily be under the radar, but they need to have your attention this year.
1. Devan Downey (South Carolina): He can take over a game. He can score in bunches and gives opposing defenses fits. He hasn’t reached the NCAA Tournament yet and that will only make him better this season.
2. Isaiah Thomas (Washington): It must be the name. As a freshman he had 207 free throw attempts last season. What’s that mean? He can get to the rack…quickly.
3. Gordon Hayward (Butler): He’s got Bulldog fans thinking Final Four. Hayward helped the United States win the gold in the under-19 World Basketball Championships.
4. Craig Brackins (Iowa State): If he had any help at Iowa State, he’d be a household name. He averaged 20.2 ppg and 9.5 rpg as a Sophomore last season.
5. Devin Ebanks (West Virginia): He came into his own during the Big East tournament last year as a freshman. A year of experience both in the Big East and under Huggy Bear should help for a breakout sophomore campaign.
Same face, different place. Here are some important coaching changes:
1. John Calipari, Kentucky (from Memphis)
2. Tony Bennett, Virginia (Washington State)
3. Sean Miller, Arizona (Xavier)
4. Anthony Grant, Alabama (VCU)
5. Isaiah Thomas, FIU (no former team)
This year, like every year, features a ton of great non-conference games. Here’s a look at a few games to look out for:
1. Michigan State at North Carolina (December 1st)
2. Kansas at UCLA (December 6th)
3. North Carolina at Kentucky (December 5th)
4. West Virginia at Purdue (January 1st)
5. Louisville at Kentucky (January 2nd)
Butler at Ohio State
Ohio State at Butler (December 12th)
7. North Carolina at Texas (December 19th)
8. Texas at Connecticut (January 23rd)
9. California at Kansas (December 22nd)
10. Washington vs. Georgetown (December 12th)
Here are a few predictions…some are bold, some are not so bold
1. Texas will win the national championship. They have an NBA caliber player in Damion James. Transfer, Jai Lucas, will become eligible mid-December. They have two stud freshmen in Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton (said to be a Paul Pierce clone). They are extremely deep and have a great coach in Rick Barnes.
2. Freshman John Wall will win POY. He’s exciting to watch, and damn good. I think he has what it takes and will flourish in Calipari’s system
3. Butler will make the Final Four. Led by Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard, Butler is this year’s sexy pick to make a deep run into March. I’m buying this.
4. Northwestern will make their first ever NCAA tournament appearance. They just missed the cut last year and will go dancing this year. (Editor: Northwestern lost its best player, Kevin Coble, shortly before this article was set to go on-line.. perhaps the curse of Matthew Ryter??)
5. Paul Hewitt will win Coach of the Year. Thanks to Derrick Favors, Gani Lawal, and Iman Shumpert this team will finish in the top 3 in the ACC. They were last in the ACC last year (2-14) and will be much improved.
Matthew Ryter keeps you up to date on the world of college basketball with his "Ryter's Block" column. What do you think about this story? Post your comments below: