By Jake Bolek, Reporter
Photo courtesy of pixabay.com
Welcome back college basketball! The last time we saw you, Virginia was cutting down the nets after beating Texas Tech.
It’s been a long wait, but college basketball’s return is as sweet as greeting a loved one at the airport after they’ve been gone for a while.
The college basketball season officially kicked off Tuesday, Nov. 5 with the Champions Classic in New York City. Two great matchups took place as #3 Kansas played #4 Duke and #1 Michigan State faced #2 Kentucky. Duke and Kentucky came out on top in these games.
Teams To Watch
Michigan State was the preseason #1 team in the nation, and they have some high expectations coming from their Final Four appearance last season. They will be led by Cassius Winston at point guard and Xavier Tillman at center. For Michigan State to succeed this season, they will need to keep turnovers down and utilize the depth of their team.
Kentucky is another high profile team to watch this season, as they are the new #1 ranked team in the nation. Kentucky looked good in their season opener, hitting outside shots and letting their stars shine.
The Dark Horses
Seton Hall is not a team that typically comes to mind as one to watch, however, they were ranked #12 in the nation for the preseason and are led by All-American Myles Powell. All Seton Hall needs to do is stay afloat while Powell is out with an injury.
Memphis is another dark horse team. They have a brand new coach, former NBA star, Penny Hardaway and one of the best recruiting classes in the nation. They are led by freshman James Wiseman at center, who may or may not be currently eligible to play depending on an NCAA investigation involving Wiseman getting money from the school. Even without Wiseman, they can be carried by forward, Precious Achiuwa.
Everyone loves a good underdog story and college basketball is no exception. Some big upsets have already happened this season.
Evansville went to Kentucky and pulled off what could be the upset of the year. They were 25 point underdogs going into this matchup, however, Kentucky was unable to find their spark, making them the team to beat.
Another huge upset was #19 St. Mary’s loss to Winthrop. Only five players from St. Mary’s actually scored that game. St. Mary’s star Jordan Ford, at shooting guard, put up 22 points, but couldn’t convert on a layup at the buzzer. Winthrop’s strength was their bench in this huge upset.
Players To Watch
While there are many great college basketball players, only five players can be selected for the All-American First Team at the end of the season. Although it’s a little early in the year, here are some predictions based on the beginning of the season.
Since basketball has moved to a more guard-heavy rotation, three guards and two forwards will be included in this All-American First Team prediction.
The first guard is Michigan State’s Cassius Winston. Winston will look to become the Big Ten’s all time assist leader by the end of the season. He hopes to lead the Spartans to another Big Ten title and maybe even a national title.
A second guard with a good shot at being an All-American First Team is outstanding freshman Cole Anthony from North Carolina. In Anthony’s first game against Notre Dame, he put up 34 points. Anthony will be one of the best guards in the country with his high scoring ability and willingness to pull down rebounds as a point guard.
The third guard is Tyrese Maxey from Kentucky. Maxey led the Wildcats to a win over Michigan State with the help of his long-range shooting ability. Maxey put up 26 points—off the bench.
Forward Jordan Nwora from Louisville is another good candidate. Nwora is averaging 22 points and nine rebounds for Louisville as they look to contend with Duke and North Carolina in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC).
Finally, to round out the All-American First Team lineup predictions is Penn State forward, Lamar Stephens. Penn State will look to compete in a crowded Big Ten and will need someone to lean on. That man is Stephens. He is averaging 15 points and 6 rebounds while being the focal point of the Nittany Lion offense.
As college basketball is only two weeks into the season, some exciting games have already taken place. It will be interesting to witness the progress of the teams throughout the season leading up to March Madness. Find your favorite teams schedule here and cheer them on in hopes they are the ones to cut down the nets this year.