Last season’s NCAA Tournament was one for the ages, filled with massive upsets and brilliant performances, capped by an unexpected champion taking down a powerhouse.
But in the days after UConn cut down the nets in Jerry Jones’ football-topia, the adrenaline wore off and college basketball fans were left with a hollow feeling: The next game was seven months away.
Finally, the hoops hangover is over. Teams have been practicing for nearly a month, the first games start on Nov. 14 and the hype is already building.
To gear you up, we’re got a rundown of the best teams, players and a few other things to watch for in the 2014-15 season:
• Kentucky. So good and so deep, the second team in coach John Calipari’s platoon system might be able to win the title.
• Arizona. Sean Miller has become the Calipari of the West when it comes to recruiting. He has a chance to finally get a title with this talented bunch.
• Wisconsin. Bo knows the Final Four now and the Badgers have Frank the Tank returning, along with numerous other pieces from a team that came within a point of playing for a national title.
• Duke. That first-round loss to Mercer was stunning. With the roster Coach K has assembled, nothing short of the Final Four will be a surprise.
• Kansas. The Jayhawks lost two players to the NBA draft and may be even better this year. Bill Self knows how to recruit a little.
• Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin. Can score inside, outside and is motivated by coming up just short in the Final Four last season.
• Marcus Paige, North Carolina. May not be anyone better when the game is on the line.
• Montrezl Harrell, Louisville. Good luck to anyone who gets in the way of this 6-foot-8, 240-pound linebacker in a basketball uniform.
• Fred VanVleet, Wichita State. Calm, efficient, almost always makes the right play as the Shockers’ point guard.
• Jahlil Okafor, Duke. The Blue Devils may forget about Jabari Parker real quick when Okafor gets going.
Top Non-Conference Games
• Kentucky vs. Kansas, Nov. 18. An early test between two of college basketball’s best in Indianapolis. Could find themselves back there in April for the Final Four.
• Duke at Wisconsin, Dec. 3. Another potential Final Four preview.
• North Carolina at Kentucky, Dec. 13. Bluest of blue bloods in the Bluegrass State.
• Michigan at Arizona, Dec. 13. McKale Center will be rocking for this one.
• Kentucky at Louisville, Dec. 27. A rivalry game that never disappoints.
|WHAT TO WATCH FOR|
|And so college basketball returns this weekend, with high hopes from A (Arizona) to Z (the Zags of Gonzaga). Not to be in a hurry or anything, but there are only 17 more weeks until Selection Sunday. So without further ado, we look at some of the storylines to come, by looking at some of what came before.
• Mike Lopresti
• R.J. Hunter, Georgia State. Coach’s son can make it from anywhere.
• Micah Mason, Duquesne. May face fallout from offseason arrest, but can fill it up. He led the nation in 3-point shooting last season at 56 percent.
• D.J. Balentine, Evansville. Was seventh nationally with 22.8 points per game last season.
• Keifer Sykes, Wisconsin-Green Bay. Athletic, fills up the stat sheet and doesn’t shy away from the spotlight.
• Alan Williams, UC-Santa Barbara. Legitimate shot at leading the nation in scoring and rebounding.
• Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech. Left after a successful run at Marquette to try making the Hokies competitive in what will be a brutal ACC.
• Bruce Pearl, Auburn. The Tigers took a gamble hiring Pearl after his three-year show cause penalty expired. He hopes to make the most of the second chance.
• Kelvin Sampson, Houston. See above, only add two years to his penalty.
• Cuonzo Martin, California. Bolted after leading Tennessee to the Sweet 16 last season to take over a program that has some talent, but plays in the deep Pac-12.
• Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette. Wojo gets his first shot at leading a team after being Coach K’s longtime right-hand man.
• 4 — Hall of Fame coaches in the retooled ACC: Louisville’s Rick Pitino, Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina’s Roy Williams.
• 7.7 — Assists per game last season by Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Smith, most of any returning player.
• 10 — Consecutive Big 12 titles by Kansas.
• 19 — Double-doubles by Northeastern senior Scott Eatherton last season, most of any returning Division I player.
• 88.3 — Points per game by VMI last season, best in the nation.