The college basketball season is officially upon us. Every year the madness cranks up in November with the goal of making it to the Big Dance in March where the madness really happens. The Stack is here to preview the upcoming season with conference winnners, Final Four teams, a winner and more so let's get right to it and preview the 2013-14 college basketball season for today, Thursday, November 7:
2013-14 College Basketball Preview
The 2013-14 college basketball season is upon us. Defending champion Louisville has a target on their backs and they're ready to defend. Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins enters the stage. The best player to hit the hardwood since LeBron James some say. High praise for a guy who has made no bones about it; this will be his only year in school.
Watch out for Kentucky. They've re-tooled after an awful year last year in which they didn't make the NCAA tournament. Not the Final Four or the Sweet 16. The entire tournament. Heck, they got beat by Robert Morris in the first round of the NIT last year. Kentucky! They've got the Harrison twins (Aaron and Andrew). Kentucky is loaded.
What about some of the other powerhouse schools like Duke, Arizona, North Carolina, Michigan State? They'll have something to say about all of this. Of course you have all of the non-conference tournaments, they soft non-conference schedules and some teams that come out of nowhere.
There are plenty of new coaches in new places (yeah I'm talking to you Rutgers, Minnesota, Texas Tech, etc.).
What about some of the stars that shined in March Madness last year? Mitch McGary with Michigan came out of nowhere last year. Florida Gulf Coast, a #15 seed, made it to the Sweet 16. Encore performances? We shall soon see. Of course, these are just a few of the teams, players and storylines to really watch for. There are so many angles, so many predictions, it's almost impossible to get to them all. College basketball is so fun and exciting. Can't wait for it all to tip off.
Teams changing conferences
The college sports landscape has changed drastically with schools and universities heading for greener pastures and better conferences. It is all about the almighty dollar and it has hurt college athletics and no sport has been hurt more in my opinion by this than college basketball. Realignment sucks. Denver is with their third conference in three years (Sun Belt, WAC and now Summit). They're the favorites according to many to win the Summit, though North Dakota State and back-to-back Summit League champion South Dakota State look to have something to say about that. That's going to be an interesting race to watch this year. Some conferences are improving, but more are suffering. Take a look at the WAC. Cal State Bakersfield, Chicago State, Grand Canyon (oh by the way the first for profit school to go D-I) Utah Valley, Texas-Pan America and a couple of others. Talk about down in the dumps. How do they desrve an automatic bid? I love that every conference gets an automatic bid. It's why championship week is so much fun, but this? Awful. This is the biggest problem with college athletics. College basketball is hurting right now, in part due to the one-and-done rule, but also because of moves like this. It stinks. It flat out stinks. College basketball is an awesome game and it is terrible that it's hurting right now. Here are the teams that changed conferences from last year to this year.
- Massachusetts Lowell (New conference: America East) previously not D-I.
- Cincinnati, UCONN, Houston, Louisvlle, Memphis, Rutgers, South Florida, SMU, Temple, UCF (New conference: American) previously from Big East and confernce USA.
- George Mason (New conference: Atlantic 10) previously from CAA.
- Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh (New conference: ACC) previously from Big East
- Butler, Creighton, DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's, Villanova, Xavier (New conference: Big East) previously from the former Big East, A-10 and Missour Valley.
- Charleston (New conference: CAA) previsouly from SoCon.
- Charlotte, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee, North Texas, Old Dominion, UTSA (New conference: Conference USA) previously from Sun Belt, WAC, CAA and Southland conferences
- Oakland (New conference: Horizon) previously from Summit League
- Monmouth, Quinnipiac (New conference: MAAC), previously from NEC
- Loyola (IL) (New conference: MVC), previously from Horizon
- San Jose State, Utah State (New conference: MWC) previously from WAC
- Boston Univeristy, Loyola (MD) (New conference: Patriot) previously from America East and MAAC
- Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist, Incarnate Word, New Orleans (New conference: Southland) previously Independent or non D-I
- Denver (New conference: Summit League) previously with Sun Belt
- Georgia State, Texas State, UT-Arlington (New conference: Sun Belt) previously with CAA and WAC.
- Pacific (New conference: WCC) previously with Big West
- Cal State Bakersfield, Chicago State, Grand Canyon, Texas Pan-America, UMKC, Utah Valley (New conference: WAC previoiusly from Summit League, Independent or non D-I.
Let all of these changes sink in. That is a lot of change from last year to this year and there will be even more changes on the horizon next year. College sports is changing as everyone chases the almighty dollar and pretty soon it will ruin college sports, especially college basketball forever. Again, realignment sucks.
Conference Previews and Predictions
A conference full of misfits. That's what this conference seems like. There is no defending American winner. Louisville is the reigning national champion, but they have to feel out of sorts a bit in this conference. It's a bunch of castoffs. UCONN will be ready after last year in which they were ineligible from postseason play. They'll provide some stiff competition to Louisville as will Memphis. They've got a talented roster and coach Josh Pastner has a good mind for the game. Louisville has lost a lot, but they have talented young players and Rick Pitino knows how to coach. Interesting year in the American, but Louisville will stand strong.
Regular season conference winner: Louisville
The A-10 lost Butler and Xavier, but gained George Mason. Yeah? Butler and Xavier are the bigger subtraction obviously. VCU will be a talented squad once again. Maybe watch out for Dayton. LaSalle remember made it to the Sweet 16 last year so you know this is a talented conference. They'll get three, maybe four teams into the dance including the conference winner...
Regular season conference winner: VCU
Syracuse and Pittsburgh weren't great additions to the football field, but boy are they amazing additions to the conference for college basketball. Jim Boeheim and the Orange are one of the best teams in college basketball. Jamie Dixon has put together a consistent winner at Pittsburgh. All they have to do is go against the likes of UNC, NC State, Florida State, Miami (FL) and Duke. UNC may be taking another step back this year depending on what mindset P.J. Hairston is in. Duke has one of the best freshman in the country in Jabari Parker. Uh-oh! Watch out for the Dukies baby. As always, the ACC will be one of the best conferences to watch from start to finish.
Regular season conference winner: Duke
Andrew Wiggins, welcome to Kansas. There is a lot of pressure being hyped upon this kid. Hope he doesn't crumble under it. I don't think he will. Head coach Bill Self will make sure he takes it easy and makes good decisions. Wiggins may not be the best player in his own conference though. That may belong to Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart who says this will be his last year in school. Watch out for OK State. Tubby Smith will make Texas Tech competitive. Who knows if West Virginia can have a bounceback year? Last year was ugly, especially on the offensive side. Texas will be in the middle of the pack. But in the end, it comes down to two teams...Kansas and Oklahoma State.
Regular season conference winner: Kansas
The new Big East will be very intriguing. The Catholic and private schools decided to make a stand. Now they've formed one pretty amazing basketball conference and adding the likes of Butler and Creighton who just happen to have one of the players of the year in Doug McDermott. The loss of Brad Stevens at Butler will hurt them, but they'll prove to be a worthy adversary. I don't trust Georgetown in the tournament, but they're fine in the regular season. You can easily make a case for five or six teams winning this thing. Only one can though.
Regular season conference winner: Creigton
The Big Ten is filled with a lot of low scoring teams because of all the great defense they play against each other...or is it crappy offense? Anyhow, the state of Michigan is where it's at. Both Sparty and the Wolverines are the dominant teams in this conference. Ohio State and Indiana will make plenty of noise too. The conference could see six teams in when it is all said and done. Purdue likely will improve. Wisconsin will keep playing games in the 40s and 50s. Should be a fun year.
Regular season conference winner: Michigan State
As far as things go in the Pac-12, well they're going to be pretty good...if enough peopl out east pay attention. Arizona should be the favorite, but watch out for teams like UCLA under new head coach Steve Alford. The surprise winner in the conference though may be Oregon. Despite the fact that their home court looks like someone puked on it, they've got a pretty good team. Fun race to keep track of and will go down to the wire.
Regular season conference winner: Arizona
It starts, stops and ends with Kentucky. Sorry folks. It is that simple. Florida's great. They'll make it to the tournament. Alabama is coming along. Can't forget about Missouri. Tennessee and Vanderbilt maybe. But with the wealth of talent from the Harrison twins, Willie Cauley-Stein and the host of other freshman talent, the Wildcats have one thing on their mind...a national championship.
Regular season conference winner: Kentucky
Just for fun, let's talk about another west coast conference...the West Coast Conference. With the likes of Gonzaga, BYU and St. Mary's, this has the makings for another three or four team bid for the conference. Gonzaga is the best mid-major in the country if you can call them that perhaps only behind Butler. Yet somehow, they always seem to struggle. Remember last year when they were a #1 seed and lost in the third round? They almost lost to Southern in their opening game. So let's face it. Gonzaga is good, but not great. They'll still win this conference though.
Regular season conference winner: Gonzaga
The other conference winners
America East: Vermont
Atlantic Sun: Florida Gulf Coast
Big Sky: Montana
Big South: UNC-Asheville
Big West: Long Beach State University
Conference USA: Old Dominion
Missouri Valley: Wichita State
Mountain West: UNLV
Ohio Valley: Belmont
Patriot: Boston University
Southland: Stephen F. Austin
SWAC: Jackson State
Sun Belt: Western Kentucky
WAC: New Mexico State
Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan State
Assuming Kansas and Kentucky aren't on the same side of the bracket, that is the national championship most people would love to see. Wiggins and the Jayhawks against the Harrision twins and the rest of the great young freshman that Kentucky brings in. Though the national championship is still five months away, that would be a great game and as I see it now, a toss up.
Andrew Wiggins- Kansas
Here's to a great season on the hardcourt. Can't wait for March, the best time of the sports year. Enjoy the season everyone and good luck to all of your schools.
Coming up Friday: NFL Week 10 preview and predictions