College basketball season is here! Yes the season officially tipped off last Friday, but with the tipoff marathon happening this week, you really feel that the college hoops season has begun. I am in the minority here when I say that I absolutely love college basketball. To me, I would take college basketball any day over the NBA. March Madness is the greatest sporting event known to mankind and I feel like not as many people would disagree with that statement. It’s right up there for plenty of people. We have a lot of basketball to be played though in between now and March though and The Stack is here with a college basketball season preview we hope you demand so let’s get right to “the stack” for today, Wednesday, November 16th:
2016-17 College basketball season preview
The college basketball season is here. The tipoff marathon was fantastic. I love college basketball. The atmosphere, the passion. It’s tremendous. There are some great players. Malik Monk at Kentucky. Grayson Allen at Duke. Frank Mason III at Kansas. The game isn’t as crisp as the NBA, I get it, but I will watch hundreds of more hours of college basketball this season than I will the NBA. I like it that much. We have plenty to get to in this post.
There are a few rule changes this season and they should be changes for the better.
Coaches will now have the ability to call a timeout when a ball is “live after a made basket on an inbound situation.
Double-foul calls are going to rise dramatically this season. Post play physicality and "rebounding displacement" are two huge points of emphasis. The latter is mostly about officials' placement on the floor, but the former is going to take teams and coaches time to adjust. To put it frankly, when a guy with the ball is in the post, he can "shape up" by bending his elbows. He cannot use his arms to prevent a defender from getting around him, though. If that happens, it's now an automatic foul. Alternatively, when a defender in the post "lays" on an offensive player or attempts to put a hand through or go under the offensive player's arm -- it's called "swim-stroking" -- that's a foul. The legal way to defend is to get around the player, to front him or to "three-quarter" him. A single forearm is legal in post area, but a defender can't use a forearm and a hand.
Traveling calls will be on the up and up. It's become normal basketball movement to accept a pass and then take a tiny hop to set/square one's self. That's technically a travel. It will now be called as such.
The Big Ten and MAC will experiment with being able to review block/charge plays and overturn when applicable in the final two minutes of a game.
Offensive players will be granted more natural movement with the ball.
Let’s hope these changes make the game even better. I think they will.
Some schools are not eligible for the NCAA Tournament this year and that is a shame. I don’t think it is too much of a surprise that teams like Alcorn State and Savannah State are on here for academics. Morgan State and North Carolina A&T are also on the list. Southern is also on this list. Hawaii is too, but not for academic reasons. There are a few others I think, but these are the ones on the list for sure.
There were plenty of coaching changes during the offseason. Some of the more notable ones included Jamie Dixon leaving Pittsburgh for TCU. He’s going back to where he played his college ball at. To fill his spot, Pittsburgh hired Kevin Stallings from Vanderbilt who hired Bryce Drew which means no more Drew at Valparaiso. Tubby Smith said adios to Texas Tech and hello to Memphis. That is only because Josh Pastner left Memphis for Georgia Tech. Seeing a domino effect here? Stephen F. Austin was a tournament darling last year and really the past couple of years that they’ve been in the NCAA Tournament and it was only a matter of time before head coach Steve Underwood left. He did in the offseason, heading to Stillwater to coach Oklahoma State. In all, the following schools have new head coaches this year:
Arkansas State, Central Connecticut State, Drexel, North Carolina A&T, Pacific, Prairie View A&M, Santa Clara, UMBC, Wisconsin, San Francisco, Southern Utah, UNLV, Rutgers, Saint Louis, UTSA, Denver, UCF, Cornell, James Madison, Stanford, TCU, Tulane, Portland, UT Rio Grande Valley, Delaware, Wright State, UW-Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Jacksonville State, Western Kentucky, George Washington, Oklahoma State, Wyoming, Dartmouth, Stony Brook, Stephen F. Austin, Columbia, Army, Arkansas-Little Rock, Georgia Tech, Nicholls State, Vanderbilt, UAB, South Dakota State, Valparaiso, Detroit, NJIT, Memphis, Texas Tech, New Mexico State, Northern Colorado, UT-Martin, Canisius
That is a lot of change and upheaval in one season. Will it change any fortunes of the schools and programs this year? Let’s preview the conferences.
A lot of people really seem to like UCONN this and good reason. Despite their 0-2 start, I have no doubt that they will figure things out and make an NCAA Tournament run. Same goes for Mick Kronin at Cincinnati. They way Cincinnati plays defense, I think they just need to find a consistent offensive game and they’ll get it this year. Watch out for SMU too even though they don’t have Larry Brown coaching them. Memphis with Tubby Smith will be better. Tulsa snuck into the tournament last year. I don’t see that happening this year. The rest of the conference, better luck next year.
Teams in: 3 (Cincinnati (conference winners), UCONN, SMU)
Atlantic 10 (A-10)
The A-10 is a deep conference this year. St. Joseph’s was quite the story last year, but this year it is all about Rhode Island. E.C. Matthews is one of the best players in the country and you will find out a lot about him this season, but he must stay healthy. He is coming off of a torn ACL. Who would count out VCU with their havoc defense? Not this guy. St. Bonaventure is going to make an NCAA Tournament push. Dayton will be solid once again and they seem poised to make a deep run into March. I would love to say that Davidson can make it back, but I’m just not sure. George Washington, GW, after their head Mike Lonergan was fired in September, we’ll see how they respond. I wouldn’t count them out. This seems like a four, perhaps five bid league.
Teams in: 4 (Rhode Island (conference winner), VCU, Dayton, Saint Joseph’s)
This is best and deepest conference in the country for sure. We know what Duke has in Grayson Allen and freshman Jayson Tatum and Chase Jeter. If Harry Giles can ever come back healthy, watch out. There are plenty of complimentary guys on this team. They are very deep. UNC returned a lot of talent from last year with Nate Britt, Joel Berry II, Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson. Look for them to make another big run this year. Louisville isn’t going to have a postseason ban this year. Expect Rick Pitino to have the Cardinals playing angry all season long. Pittsburgh has been average the past few years. I don’t see them making it back. Miami (FL) is another team that I don’t think may make it back given what they lost in guys like Angel Rodriguez. Tough to replace guys like that. I haven’t even gotten to Virginia yet. We know they will be back. They play the best defense in the country. I’m not sure about NC State this year though it wouldn’t shock me if they made it in and I love what Buzz Williams has done in building up the Virginia Tech Hokies. I think they find a way to make it to the tournament. And I’ll just say Syracuse for the sake of saying Syracuse.
Teams in: 8 (Duke (conference winners), UNC, Louisville, Virginia, Syracuse, Florida State, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech)
We will stop and end our conversation with the Kansas Jayhawks. They have won 13 straight Big 12 regular season titles. No one is going to beat them. Texas will rival them, because why would I go against my boy Shaka Smart? They will continue to improve in his second season. At some point Baylor is not going to make the NCAA Tournament and have some bad seasons, because of everything that is swarming around them at the university, but they’ll make it back this season. Iowa State is extremely good offensively, but no Georges Niang. Who will step up and fill the void of that level of production? Same goes for Oklahoma losing Buddy Hield. Brad Underwood will do good things at OK State, but is a year away and I like Chris Beard at Texas Tech, but they may not be ending that competitive in the Big 12. Still better than TCU though which will be better. Let’s not sleep on the ole Huggy Bear and West Virginia now either.
Teams in: 6 (Kansas (conference winners), Texas, West Virginia, Iowa State, Baylor, Oklahoma)
Villanova shocked a lot of people by actually coming through and winning games in March. No Arciadacono, but Hart and Jenkins plus some other keys guys and good freshman will be enough to keep Villanova on top. Seton Hall was successful last year and will be once again this year. Xavier is tremendous. Creighton may make a run back at it this year. No Kris Dunn means no tournament for Providence. And it wouldn’t be an NCAA Tournament without Butler right? Georgetown will be a bubble team at season’s end. The rest? Better luck next year.
Teams in: 5 (Villanova (conference winners), Creighton, Xavier, Butler, Seton Hall)
If the ACC is the deepest conference in the country, the Big Ten is a close second. Gotta love Sparty. Yes Michigan State is 0-2 to start the season, but I like Tom Izzo and what he can do. Miles Bridges is a special player. Indiana may have lost Yogi Ferrell, but they have Thomas Bryant and the big guy can play. Maryland will be fine. Purdue will be fine. Penn State will get closer, but not close enough. Northwestern won’t be making their first tournament appearance. I’d like to say something about Minnesota’s postseason chances, but know that just isn’t going to happen. This is going to be a fun conference to watch.
Teams in: 6 (Michigan State (conference winners), Indiana, Wisconsin, Iowa, Maryland, Purdue)
I’m here to profess my love for the Oregon Ducks. The football season was rough, but basketball season should be great. They need to get Dillon Brooks back and healthy by conference play, but if they can just tread water until he gets back in the lineup, this Ducks team is ready to fly regardless of how they looked in that loss to Baylor on Monday. Arizona will be right there to compete with them. They have great talent. Utah is going to have to reload. I don’t see them doing much. Steve Alford has a lot of good talent at UCLA. If he doesn’t make the tournament, he’s as good as gone. Cal was good last year and will be once again. Perhaps Wayne Tinkel can lead Oregon State back to the dance with his son. I feel like Washington will be better too. The Pac-12 is going to be great this season.
Teams in: 6 (Oregon (conference champs), Arizona, UCLA, Cal, Washington, Colorado)
Kentucky. That’s pretty much it. This conference is not what it once was. There is so much talent on Kentucky. It is masking the rest of the conference. Malik Monk, Isaiah Briscoe, the list goes on. Who is going to stop this team? Florida will be pretty good and will get in. I will not pick both Tennessee and Auburn, but will just say Bruce Pearl does enough to get Auburn in. Texas A&M will be good once again. I like Rick Barnes at Tennessee, but they are probably a year away. South Carolina was so close last year. Maybe they get in this year.
Teams in: 4 (Kentucky (conference winner), Florida, Auburn, Texas A&M)
Rest of the picks
American East: Vermont
Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast
Big Sky: Montana
Big South: Winthrop
Big West: Long Beach State
Conference USA: Middle Tennessee State (UAB will be battling for the conference title…don’t sleep on them)
Horizon: Wright State (Wright State head coach Scott Nagy and Oakland head coach Greg Kampe reunite from their Summit League days)
Ivy League: Princeton
Missouri Valley: Evansville (I am even feeling somewhat skeptical of Wichita State and was going to say something blasphemous and go out on a limb and say that Wichita State does not make the NCAA Tournament this year. Shocking right?! I’ll put them in though. MVC gets two).
MEAC: Howard (You need to get to know James Daniel III. He led the nation in scoring last year and will be outstanding again this season and the reason Howard makes it to the tournament).
MWC: San Diego State (I think Boise State might make some noise this year and had Chris Beard stayed at UNLV, maybe he would have done something, but UNLV may be a year away. Marvin Menzies, former New Mexico State head coach is a good coach and will do good things there).
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Southern: Chattanooga (They made the tournament last year…they’ll be back this year and could pull off an upset if they make it to the NCAA Tournament).
Southland: Sam Houston State
SWAC: Texas Southern
Summit: IPFW aka Fort Wayne
Sun Belt: Georgia State (UT-Arlington according to the experts is a team to watch as well).
WCC: Gonzaga (Not going to pick against Mark Few who just knows how to win and lead Gonzaga to the NCAA Tournament. St. Mary’s is going to be much better this year and will get an at-large bid. Maybe watch out for BYU too. It’s those three teams and then everyone else).
WAC: Grand Canyon (You’ve seen enough commercials for this university. Now that they are tournament eligible, they get the job done).
Final Four: Duke, Kentucky, Villanova, Oregon
Why would you not pick Duke with all of their sensational freshman? Plus they still have Grayson Allen which love him or hate him (and most people hate him) is one of the best in college basketball. They get there easily. Kentucky too has reloaded and shouldn’t have a problem. Villanova still has Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins and will get enough help from some freshman and other core players to make a return and Oregon, if Dillon Brooks can come back healthy will use last year’s Elite Eight run as motivation and gain experience from that to make it to the Final Four. Arizona is a good option out there as is Kansas and UNC, but these are the four I’m going with.
Championship game: Duke versus Villanova
Unlike last year, Villanova will not beat a team from the state of North Carolina and they won’t even have to worry about a last second shot to win.
Wooden Award: Grayson Allen
March can’t get here fast enough. Enjoy the college basketball season everyone!
Coming up Thursday: College football weekend forecast plus TNF preview and more.