By Jack Shapiro ’19
College basketball has officially tipped off with many teams looking for a strong and winning season. Many new players will add lots of talent to the veteran teams that look to compete in this year’s tournament.
Last year, Villanova ended the season as the NCAA National Champions with North Carolina as the runner up while Syracuse and Oklahoma made it to the final four.
The Duke Blue Devils are favorites in the ACC conference. Duke has many young athletes that are stepping onto the court this season including Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum, who are in the top three of ESPN’s 100 rating. The Blue Devils also have junior guard Grayson Allen who is the projected conference and player of the year according to Sports Illustrated. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is leading the team with five NCAA Championships and 13 ACC Championships. The Blue Devils appear to be the team to beat in the ACC.
Along with Duke, the Kansas Jayhawks are also expected to have big success this year. As the projected Big 12 Champions, the Jayhawks have a strong backcourt with newcomer Josh Jackson, who is the number two ranked, recruit looking to have a breakout season. Senior guards Frank Mason and Devonte’ Graham along with sophomore forward Carlton Bragg will be accounting for most of the Jayhawks scoring this year. Head coach Bill Self is looking to lead the Jayhawks to his thirteenth straight Big 12 regular season championships, as well as another number one seed in this year’s NCAA Tournament.
The Kentucky Wildcats and Coach Calipari are looking forward to an impressive season. According to ESPN’s 100 rating, the Wildcats signed five of the nation’s top 25 high school players. Along with Kentucky’s commits, they will have four freshman and two sophomores on their roster. On Kentucky’s roster, the Wildcats have four freshman and two sophomore on this year’s roster. As stated by, Sports Illustrated, Kentucky’s guard Malik Monk is projected to be both the SEC’s player of the year and Newcomer of the Year. Last season, Kentucky defeated Texas A&M in the SEC Championship but lost to Indiana in the round of 32 in the NCAA tournament.
In the Pac-12, the Oregon Ducks and Arizona Wildcats look to be top of their conference this year. The Ducks are coming off an amazing and surprising season as the former Pac-12 Champions and runner ups of the west division in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Last year Arizona fell in the Pac-12 Championship semifinals to Utah. Arizona lost to Wichita State in the first round of last year’s March Madness.
This year the Ducks look to stay on top. With a veteran group of players and a new freshman point guard, Oregon looks as if they have a bright future. Dillon Brooks, the Ducks top players is coming off a summer of rest due to a foot injury.
Arizona is looking to bounce back after an off-season. Although the Wildcats lost three of their starters, coach Sean Miller made up for that by signing two top 25 high school players Kobi Simmons a guard and Rawle Alkins at forward. Arizona’s future looks bright but they face tough competition with in-conference games against the UCLA Bruins and the aforementioned Ducks.
The Big Ten will have a battle for first place as the Wisconsin Badgers are highly ranked this year with the trio of Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes and Ethan Happ who are all veterans from last year’s team. Although the Badgers were upset early in the Big Ten Tournament, they still advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in last year’s March Madness. This season Wisconsin will have lots of competition between Purdue and Indiana.
The Purdue Boilermakers may give Wisconsin a run for their money. Although coach Matt Painter was unable to sign a top 50 recruit, the team has a large veteran class including juniors P.J. Thompson, Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards who will be recording most of Purdue’s minutes. Last season the Boilermakers were upset in the first round of the NCAA tournament against Little Rock.
Indiana is also making a strong case to win this year’s Big Ten conference. After losing star point guard Yogi Ferrell, the Hoosiers will have to find a new point guard. Coach Tom Crean will be in good hands with a strong offensive squad including James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson at the guard position and Thomas Bryant and OG Anunoby in the post. Indiana finished last year’s NCAA Tournament strong after upsetting Kentucky and going on to the Sweet Sixteen.
This year there are many strong teams that will competing against one another. Both Kentucky and Duke look as the leading teams in basketball with many others trailing behind them. Teams including Indiana and UCLA are sure to cause some emotion down the road.