64 Absolutely Fearless Predictions For The 2018-19 College Basketball Season
by 7 August 2018, 2:19 PM
64 quick-hitting predictions for the upcoming college basketball season.
It is August, and college basketball programs have just started official preseason practices. So, why not just go all-in on some fearless, bold and random quick-hitting predictions—in no particular order—to make things interesting.
1. Kansas wins 15th straight Big 12 regular-season title
This take isn’t that hot, but I had to start somewhere.
Kansas might have lost Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, and Malik Newman, but it returns Udoka Azubuike, Lagerald Vick, and Marcus Garrett, and adds Quentin Grimes, Devon Dotson, and David McCormack—all ESPN100 recruits.
After sitting out this past season for transfer rules, Dedric Lawson (averaged 19.2 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.1 blocks, and 1.3 steals as a sophomore) and his brother K.J. Lawson (averaged 12.3 points and 8.1 rebounds as a sophomore) from Memphis can play this season. This is the same for Charlie Moore, who averaged 12.2 points and 3.5 assists as a freshman at California.
Oh, yeah, and Bill Self still coaches the Jayhawks.
2. Romeo Langford leads the nation in scoring
When Romeo Langford, who was no. 5 in the ESPN100, announced he would stay home to play for the Hoosiers, every Indiana fan rejoiced. He has the potential to score 40 on any given night, and I think he will hover at about 27 to 31 points per game.
Langford, a freshman, has a niche for scoring. That is what he does—he gets buckets. This season, he could easily be the most must-watch player (other than R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson) especially as an one-and-done NBA talent.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqpTW-VeUp0
3. Dedric Lawson wins Big 12 Player Of The Year
A 6-foot-9 forward, Dedric Lawson has an extremely versatile game.
Lawson, a redshirt junior, has the ability to stretch the floor, knocking down three-pointers, make mid-range jump shots and also battle in the paint. Lawson showed at Memphis that he has a high motor with his rebounding and defensive abilities.
Freshman guard Quentin Grimes could potentially take this award, as well.
4. Indiana makes the NCAA Tournament
Romeo Langford will be the catalyst, but Juwan Morgan, Jerome Hunter (no. 67 in the ESPN100), coach Archie Miller, and the rest of the Indiana Hoosiers’ squad will build around his talents. Indiana would make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.
5. LSU transforms into a Top 25 team
Since he was hired as the LSU coach, Will Wade has recruited impressively.
Last season, four-star freshman Tremont Waters, who averaged 15.9 points, 6.0 assists and 3.4 rebounds, turned into one of the most entertaining players to watch. This season, he will be joined by five-star power forwards Nazreon Reid (played in the McDonald’s All-American Game) and Emmitt Williams, four-star point guard Javonte Smart, and four-star power forward Darius Days.
This season will be tough in the Southeastern Conference, but LSU should improve significantly and make a solid seed in the NCAA Tournament.
6. Penny Hardaway makes Memphis relevant again
Penny Hardaway led Memphis (State, at the time) to the Elite Eight in 1992, and now he is the newest coach for the program. Memphis hasn’t been the same since John Calipari left for Kentucky, and it hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2014.
Memphis has its core returning and an okay recruiting class, but the AAC shouldn’t be amazing this season and the Tigers won 21 games last season. Memphis will be fun and it could squeak into tournament. Things could change quickly for the program if ESPN no. 1 James Wiseman, a center from Memphis, signs.
7. Sagaba Konate will improve offensively
Sagaba Konate, a junior, will be the highest-returning scorer for the West Virginia Mountaineers, so coach Bob Huggins might want him to carry more weight offensively. Konate will always have his defense and rebounding to fall back on, but he has improved his footwork and low-post game. He could be on his way to a double-double, along with 3.5 blocks per game.
8. Charles Matthews becomes an All-Big Ten First Team player
A former five-star small forward, Charles Matthews has come a long way since not playing at Kentucky. Matthews, now a redshirt junior, helped Michigan reach the national championship game this past season and he has continued to stay underrated offensively and defensively. That could change quickly in his second season with coach John Beilein. He could average about 20 points per game with a solid rebounding numbers.
9. North Carolina will be better than last season
Yeah, the North Carolina Tar Heels lost some key players and leaders—Joel Berry III and Theo Pinson, who combined to average 27.4 points, 10 rebounds, 8.3 assists, and 2.3 steals per game—but there is a lot returning and coming in.
Luke Maye, who went from a walk-on, to hitting a game-winning buzzer beater in the NCAA Tournament to beat Kentucky, then to averaging 16.9 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, returns. Cameron Johnson, a 6-foot-8 transfer guard from Pittsburgh, is back for second graduate season; he missed a few games and started slow because a torn meniscus in his left knee, but Johnson finished strong, averaging 12.4 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. There is also Kenny Williams, who continues to improve and shoots 40% from the three-point line and averaged 11.4 points per game.
North Carolina also has a big-man trio in Sterling Manley, Garrison Brooks, and Brandon Huffman who reaches their potential in addition to other improving role players. And I still haven’t mentioned five-star small forward Nassir Little, five-star point guard Coby White, or four-star small forward Rechon Black. Little and White played in the McDonald’s All-American Game and have a knack for scoring.
There is also coach Roy Williams (who now has the North Carolina basketball court named after him).
10. Michigan State somewhat declines
Michigan State still has Tom Izzo as its coach and a solid core, but losing Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. to the NBA Draft—and not having an amazing recruit class—could make things tough. Nick Ward, Cassius Winston, and Joshua Langford could improve significantly, though.
11. Oregon wins the Pac-12
I don’t think Oregon coach Dana Altman receives enough credit for his coaching and recruiting ability when he does such a masterful job. In his eight seasons, Altman hasn’t won less than 21 games and has won more than 30 twice, including the Ducks’ trip to the Final Four 2017.
Although the 2017 squad is probably the best overall team, this season’s recruiting class is just unbelievable. To go with Payton Pritchard, Paul White, Victor Bailey Jr., and Kenny Wooten this season, Altman signed five-star center Bol Bol, son of Manute Bol, five-star forward Louis King, near five-star point guard Will Richardson, four-star forward Francis Okoro, who reclassified from the 2019 class, and four-star forward Miles Norris.
Not to mention, Ehab Amin, a guard from Texas A&M Corpus Christi and arguably the top transfer (and a graduate transfer, at that), decided to play for Oregon after he changed his mind about going to Nevada this season. Amin averaged 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 3.4 steals as a junior.
Oregon is certainly the team to beat in the Pac-12.
12. Zion Williamson will make the SportsCenter Top 10 extremely often
Duke has Zion Williamson listed at 6-foot-7 and 280 pounds. Oh my, that is scary!
13. SEC becomes arguably the toughest conference, and it could potentially send 12 to the NCAA Tournament
The SEC a basketball conference? Yes, this season, at least.
Tennessee, Kentucky, and Auburn will be at the top of the conference, but Florida, Missouri (returning Jontay Porter), and Mississippi State (returning its entire squad) will be right up there. LSU, which will be talked about has a stellar recruiting class, Alabama (with Avery Johnson), Arkansas, and Texas A&M will have something to say near the top, too, while Georgia (with Tom Crean as its new coach) and Vanderbilt could improve quickly.
Vanderbilt, which went 12-20 last season? Yes. Vanderbilt is bringing a top recruiting class with five-star point guard Darius Garland, five-star power forward Simisola Shittu, and four-star shooting guard Aaron Nesmith. This conference will certainly be interesting, but it could wear itself out.
14. Nevada dominates the Mountain West, and it earns a no. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament
Nevada and coach Eric Musselman have made things happen quickly.
After all previously transferring to Nevada, redshirt juniors Caleb Martin, Cody Martin, and Jordan Caroline had an opportunity to test NBA waters and did, but they decided to return to Nevada. Last season, the Wolf Pack advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA Tournament before losing by one point to Cinderella story Loyola (Chi.).
Caleb Martin ~ 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists
Jordan Caroline ~ 17.7 points, 8.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists
Cody Martin ~ 14.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists
Nevada did lose key senior Kendall Stephens, who averaged 13.1 points, but it gains Old Dominion transfer Trey Porter, who averaged 13.2 points and 6.2 rebounds as a junior, and nearly a five-star center Jordan Brown, who played in the McDonald’s All-American Game, scored 26 points, and grabbed eight rebounds. Lindsey Drew, a now-senior guard who averaged 8.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 4.3 assists, will also return. Drew missed the end of the season because a torn Achilles.
This season will be bright for Nevada with its talent.
15. Tennessee rivals Virginia for best defensive unit
Virginia is the clear-defensive powerhouse, but according to ESPN, Tennessee—who returns basically its entire roster from an SEC regular-season championship season—finished the season no. 6 in defense.
16. Saint Louis wins the A-10
As many squads in the Atlantic 10 decrease in talent, Travis Ford brings in an impressive recruiting class to Saint Louis, including four-star power forward Carte’Are Gordon.
17. Reid Travis wins SEC Player Of The Year and propels the Kentucky Wildcats
In my opinion, with the addition of graduate transfer Reid Travis, a former five-star, this Kentucky squad has the potential to be John Calipari’s best since the 2012 team with Anthony Davis that won the national championship. Travis is a beast, and at Stanford he showed that, averaging 17.4 points and 8.9 rebounds as a redshirt sophomore and 19.5 points and 8.7 rebounds as a redshirt junior.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMbokxcRSBk
Yes, Kentucky lost a few players—as always—to the NBA, but it returns forward P.J. Washignton, guard Quade Green, and center Nick Richards, who were all five-star talents. Not to mention, the Wildcats add four five-stars in forward Keldon Johnson, E.J. Montgomery, Ashton Hagans, and Immanuel Quickly, and four-star Tyler Herro. Don’t forget—Calipari is actually an extremely skilled coach.
18. But Tennessee barely wins the SEC again and earns a no. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament
Tennessee and coach Rick Barnes return the entire roster (minus some bench players) from a squad that won the SEC this past season, including the intimidating Grant Williams (returning SEC Player of the Year) and Admiral Schofield duo. It also adds four-star forward D.J. Burns from the recruiting class. It will be a Tennessee, Kentucky, and maybe Auburn—which did actually tie with Tennessee for the SEC regular-season title, but its best player transferred—race for the top spot in the conference.
19. Marquette’s Markus Howard averages at least 25 points
Last season, Markus Howard averaged 20.4 points per game and scored 52 points against Providence on the road. Without teammate Andrew Rousey on the team, Howard (who will be a junior) will have even more opportunities to score.
20. Gonzaga earns a no. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament
Gonzaga returns Zach Norvell Jr., Killian Tillie, Rui Hachimura, and Josh Perkins, all of whom averaged in double-figure points and all promising NBA talents. Corey Kispert, who made strides as a freshman, returns, and Brandon Clarke, a transfer from San Jose State who averaged 17.3 points and 8.7 rebounds as a sophomore, is eligible. Mark Few, who is an unbelievable coach and evaluator of talent, also brings in 6-foot-11 center Filip Petrusev, who was No. 56 in the ESPN100, and four-star shooting guard Greg Foster Jr. in the recruiting class.
21. So will Kansas
22. Same with Duke
23. North Carolina will as well
24. Nassir Little becomes an instant star for North Carolina
After scoring 28 points in the McDonald’s All-American Game, Nassir Little was named the MVP. Little will bring a spark to Chapel Hill, alongside Coby White.
25. Duke recruiting class will be better than advertised
No. 1 R.J. Barrett, no. 2 Zion Williamson, no. 3 Cameron Reddish, No. 17 Tre Jones (brother of Tyus Jones), and No. 41 Joey Baker—this, according to ESPN standards, is arguably the greatest recruiting class in history. No team has ever signed the no. 1, no. 2, and no. 3 in the ESPN100 in the same season, but Duke did that and also signed a five-star point guard and a four-star power forward.
How could this be better than advertised, you say? It is because most people are only looking at dunks from Williamson. Barrett comes in as one of the best overall high school recruits in history, playing for the Canadian National Team and even single-handedly beating Team USA before; Reddish is a top-NBA prospect; and Jones has unbelievable point-guard qualities, like his older brother. Williamson is more than a dunker, too, and this class is better defensively than the previous.
26. Loyola (Chi.) nears 30 wins again
Sister Jean and the Loyola (Chi.) Ramblers were the story of March Madness last season—until Michigan knocked them out in the Final Four, of course. Loyola (Chi.) loses Donte Ingram, Aundre Jackson, and Ben Richardson, but it returns Clayton Custer, Marques Townes, and Cameron Krutwig.
Loyola (Chi.) has a stellar coach in Porter Moser and playing in the Missouri Valley won’t be the toughest. Don’t expect it to make a significant run in the NCAA Tournament, though.
27. Big Ten might send eight to the NCAA Tournament
Michigan, Purdue, Michigan State, Nebraska, Indiana, and Maryland, with its Jalen Smith and Aaron Wiggins duo, should be in. Ohio State and Penn State could be in, and there is an outside chance Wisconsin, Minnesota, or Illinois could get in the mix.
28. Western Kentucky goes undefeated in Conference USA
Although Western Kentucky will be without Justin Johnson, Darius Thompson, and Dwight Coleby, it returns Taveion Hollingsworth and Lamonte Bearden and will add Charles Bassey, who was no. 18 in the ESPN100 and the third-ranked center in the class. Middle Tennessee, Old Dominion, and Marshall will have something to say about this, but Western Kentucky was phenomenal down the stretch and in the National Invitational Tournament, even upsetting Oklahoma State in Stillwater.
29. Arizona struggles, but it gets into the NCAA Tournament
Trying to combat losing DeAndre Ayton, Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins, Dusan Ristic, and Parker Jackson-Cartwright won’t be easy for the Arizona Wildcats and coach Sean Miller.
Arizona has a chance, though. Its role players will have to improve significantly, Duke transfer Chase Jeter will have to return to his high school form, while Samford graduate transfer Justin Coleman, who averaged 13.5 points, 6.6 assists, 2.4 rebounds and 1.2 steals as a junior, will have to step in quickly. Four-star recruits Brandon Williams and Devonaire Doutrive (both gurads) will have to adapt quickly, as well. Sean Miller is a stellar coach, so it is possible.
30. Fletcher Magee will shoot 50% from the three-point line
Fletcher Magee helped lead Wofford to an upset win against North Carolina in Chapel Hill and shot 48.4% from the three-point line last season, so it is possible. Magee isn’t just a shooter—he is a volume shooter, who averaged 22.1 points per game.
31. Arizona State does serious damage, including upsetting Kansas in back-to-back seasons
Arizona State and coach Bobby Hurley are up to something, man. His roster shows it. The non-conference schedule, which includes Mississippi State, Nevada, Georgia, Vanderbilt and Kansas, shows it, too.
Arizona State might have lost Tra Holder, Shannon Evans, and Kodi Justice, but it will return every other player, including spark plug Remy Martin, Romello White, De’Quon Lake, Mickey Mitchell, and Kimani Lawrence, a four-star who missed most of the season with a foot injury. It will also add a sneakily impressive recruiting class and two stellar transfers who are both now eligible.
Hurley brings in easily his best recruiting class starting with Luguentz Dort, a five-star Canadian who has gone toe-to-toe with R.J. Barrett in All-Star games and could win Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. Averaging about 23 points, seven rebounds, and five assists, he reminds me of Russell Westbrook.
This class rounds out with almost five-star talent Taeshon Cherry, who decommitted from USC, four-star Elias Valtonen, a shooter from Finland, and 7-foot-1 center Uros Plavsic.
Next, here are the transfers: Rob Edwards, a guard from Cleveland State who averaged 16.5 points and 4.5 rebounds as a sophomore, including a 28-point performance against Kentucky, and Zylan Cheatman, a forward and former ESPN100 player from San Diego State who averaged 9.1 points and 6.3 rebounds as a sophomore and has extreme-jumping ability and a high motor.
32. ACC could have 10 teams in the NCAA Tournament
This wouldn’t be anything new to the Atlantic Coast Conference. It will be tough to get more than 10, though, unless Notre Dame, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Wake Forest, and Pittsburgh have a season I don’t really expect.
33. Mike Daum comes close to winning the Naismith Award
Mike Daum averaged 15.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game as freshman, 25.1 points and 8.1 rebounds as a sophomore, and 23.9 points and 10.3 rebounds as a junior. Daum decided to return to South Dakota State; it would be difficult for him to win it, but I think it is possible because his numbers could potentially be about 27 points and 12 rebounds per game.
34. Carsen Edwards or Romeo Langford almost win it, too
Many people believe Carsen Edwards is a candidate to win the award for Purdue, as do I. He will be the only starter or key player returning from a 30-win Boilermaker squad, too. Edwards averaged 18.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.8 assists per game as a sophomore, including a career-high 40 points at Illinois.
He has the tools the score like Romeo Langford, but the best overall will win the Naismith award this college basketball season.
35. However, R.J. Barrett wins it
I have watched R.J. Barrett play many times – whether it be in high school for Montverde, which was the best team (because of him), for the Canadian National Team, or in various All-Star game settings – and there is something different about this kid. He has the tools, basketball IQ, and more.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwQLQqNmquA
36. Every 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament will lose by at least 20 points
37. Michigan wins the conference tournament, again, but this time it also wins the Big Ten regular-season title
In my opinion, John Beilein—you can look at when he was at Canisius, Richmond, West Virginia and Michigan—is an elite college basketball coach. Beilein took Canisius and Richmond to the NCAA Tournament, he took West Virginia to the NCAA Tournament, and he has had the most success at Michigan, taking it to the NCAA Tournament many times, including a trips to the national championship game (2013, when Trey Burke’s block was clean, and 2018).
This season, the Big Ten is solid but in flux at the top. Beilein and Charles Matthews have the skills to lead this Michigan team, despite it losing some key players, back to the top and to a deep NCAA Tournament run. This Michigan team, even the young players, are experienced now (watch out for Jordan Poole), and there is a steady recruiting class coming in with three four-stars.
38. Georgetown’s Mac McClung will turn heads
It might not seem like it, but Mac McClung will dunk on anyone with no fear.
39. Kentucky freshman Tyler Herro will show he has a Devin Booker-like game
40. Virginia earns a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but it isn’t able to advance to the Final Four
41. Nebraska makes a name for itself
Nebraska and coach Tim Miles, with the return of James Palmer (averaged 17.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.0 assists), and Isaac Copeland (averaged 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds) could find themselves near the top of the Big Ten this season and in the NCAA Tournament. Last season, Nebraska had a 22-win season and narrowly missed out on going to the NCAA Tournament.
42. Vanderbilt instantly improves
43. Demontrae Jefferson averages at least 25 points per game and gets Texas Southern to the NCAA Tournament, again
He might be little, but Demontrae Jefferson doesn’t care. Jefferson averaged 23.3 points, 4.6 assists, and 3.1 rebounds as a sophomore.
44. South Dakota State goes undefeated in the Summit League
Matt Mooney transferred from South Dakota, but South Dakota South still has Mike Daum.
45. Harvard makes the NCAA Tournament
46. Kenny Wooten becomes Jordan Bell 2.0
Watching him as a freshman last season, I saw Kenny Wooten show flashes with his athleticism and willingness to go get the ball offensively and, especially, defensively. He averaged only 6.4 points and 4.5 rebounds, but he played only 19.8 minutes per game. Wooten also, impressively, still averaged 2.6 blocks per game. He has 22 games with multiple blocks, 11 with at least four and five with five or more, including a seven-block performance against Washington.
47. Villanova wins the Big East, but it is really close
Villanova and coach Jay Wright are defending national champions, winning twice in three seasons, but it has lost so much talent and leadership. Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Omari Spellman, and national championship game hero Donte DiVincenzo all left early for the NBA Draft.
Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, a 2016 national championship game hero (other than Kris Jenkins), are back while Villanova also brings in five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly and four-star forwards Cole Swider and Brandon Slater in the recruiting class. Wright has also brought in a graduate transfer from Albany (NY), Joe Cremo. Cremo averaged 17.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 4.1 assists this past season. All that said, I think the Wildcats will fall off a tad but still manage to be a really stellar squad.
This season in the Big East things are really jumbled. Many teams will be around the same record. Although many of the top teams lost key talent, every team, except for probably DePaul, has a shot at making the NCAA Tournament.
48. Nevada leads the nation in offensive efficiency
49. Shamorie Ponds wins Big East Player of the Year
Shamorie Ponds averaged 17.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 2.1 steals per game as a freshman at St. John’s. As a sophomore, he averaged 21.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2.3 steals, proving he is a bucket-getting player and a workhorse. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an improvement in each category.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUThidnKnQw
50. Quentin Grimes becomes a gem for Kansas
Playing for Team USA, Quentin Grimes has proved he will be a force in Lawrence, Kansas.The Best Player on Team USA?? Quentin Grimes SHOWED OUT All Week at the Nike Hoop Summit!
51. Mike Boynton coaches Oklahoma State to the NCAA Tournament
As a first-year head coach last season, Mike Boynton, who played at South Carolina and is from Brooklyn, made many impressions from the Oklahoma State faithful. After Jawun Evans decided to go to the NBA after his sophomore season, Brad Underwood randomly left after a season for Illinois, and Athletic Director Mike Holder hired his assistant, Boynton, many OSU fans weren’t too pleased with the decision, thinking the program could have hired someone else or someone better.
Funny thing is many of those same fans wanted Doug Gottlieb, now-FOX Sports analyst and former Cowboy point guard, to be the coach. Little did they know, Boynton was actually a unbelievable coach not only for his ability with the X’s and O’s but also for his knack for relating with players and building relationships. In his first season and on senior night in Gallagher-Iba Arena, Boynton became the first coach to sweep a regular-season series against a Bill Self-coached Kansas team. KU entered that game having won 102 straight regular-season conference home-and-homes. Iowa State was the previous team to sweep KU, back in 2000-01.
During that season and now, fans in Stillwater have a different mindset. However, the Cowboys were snubbed by the NCAA Selection Committee and missed out on the NCAA Tournament. They went to the National Invitational Tournament, winning against Florida Gulf Coast and Stanford before finishing the season 21-15.
Lindy Waters, Cameron McGriff, Thomas Dziagwa, and walk-on Trey Reeves are the only returning players, but Boynton has bolstered his lineup with transfers and his five-man recruiting class (Kentrevious Jones, former Xavier commit, Maurice Calloo, Isaac Likekele, Yori Anei, and Duncan Demuth). Curtis Jones, a transfer from Indiana, and Michael Weathers, a transfer from Miami (OH) are joined by USC-Upstate graduate transfer Mike Cunningham to finish out the roster. Weathers, who averaged 16.7 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1.4 blocks as a freshman, is said to be the next solid Oklahoma State guard.
We will have to wait and see, starting in November. This season Boynton also bolstered the non-conference—which was the reason OSU didn’t make the big dance last season—with games against Minnesota, Tulsa, Houston, Nebraska, and South Carolina, as well as placement in a tournament with a first-round matchup against Memphis and potential games against Villanova, Florida State, and/or LSU. With the improved roster and schedule, OSU has an increased chance and opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament in Boynton’s second season.
52. USC’s Bennie Boatwright wins Pac-12 Player of the Year
53. If not, UCLA’s Kris Wilkes wins Pac-12 Player of the Year
54. Cincinnati still wins the AAC, and Cane Broome improves
55. Baylor and Iowa State will be improved, but they will miss out on the NCAA Tournament
I have—from the Big 12—Kansas, West Virginia, Kansas State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, TCU, and Texas in the tournament field, but Baylor, Iowa State, and Oklahoma will miss out. As Trae Young leaves, there go Oklahoma’s chances, but for Baylor and Iowa State, they will be interesting.
Baylor loses many key players while returning a few, but it brings in a pair of four-star players, and Makai Mason, a transfer from Yale, will be eligible to play this season. The last time Mason was healthy, he led Yale to an upset victory against Baylor in the NCAA Tournament. Now, Mason, who averaged 16 points per game as a sophomore, will be a key player for the Bears.
For Iowa State, it returns its core—except for Donovan Jackson—and adds an underrated four-star prospect in Talen Horton-Tucker from Simeon Career Academy, the famous high school basketball program in Chicago. He, Nick Weiler-Babb, and Lindell Wigginton create an interesting and promising frontcourt for the Cyclones.
56. St. John’s makes the NCAA Tournament
Shamorie Ponds, Marcus Lovett, Marvin Clark, and Justin Simon all return, while Mustapha Heron, who averaged 16.4 points and 5.3 rebounds, and was the best player on a 26-win Auburn squad, transfers in and eligible (hardship waiver).
Some people might forget, but St. John’s beat Villanova, the future national champions, and Duke last season.
57. Daniel Gafford averages a double-double for Arkansas
With Jaylen Barford and Daryl Macon gone, Daniel Gafford, a sophomore, becomes the go-to player. A 6-foot-11 forward, Gafford averaged 11.8 points and 6.2 rebounds last season as a third option, electrifying crowds with windmill dunks. This season a double-double is not only possible from Gafford, but also it is needed.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r43NDgHvfxs
58. Kansas State uses last season’s NCAA Tournament run as motivation
Playing with a limited Dean Wade, the Kansas State Wildcats, which finished 25-12, advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Kansas State also had its starting point guard Kamau Stokes miss a chunk of the season with an undisclosed knee injury.
Although Bruce Weber didn’t bring in a stellar recruiting class, he has his entire roster returning not only a year better but also healthy. Freshman guard Cartier Diarra found a groove while Stokes was sidelined; coming into next season, Kansas State will be a veteran-led group with a lot of experience.
59. Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Florida State, and Clemson will battle for fourth in the ACC
Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia will battle atop the ACC standings, but fourth place will be a free-for-all that N.C. State and Miami (FL) could also potentially have a say in. All these squads finished the season with at least 21 wins, didn’t lose so much production—other than Miami (FL)—and will bring in a couple of other pieces.
I give the edge to Syracuse because it returns Tyus battle, who averaged 19.2 points per game; Oshae Brissett, who averaged 14.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game as a freshman; and Franklin Howard, who averaged 14.4 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per game, and has a grind-it-out style. Syracuse, which finished 23-14 last season and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen after almost not making the NCAA Tournament, won 16 games by 10 points or less, including its first three tournament matchups.
60. March Madness will be unbelievable again
61. Gonzaga, Kentucky, and Nevada fall short in the NCAA Tournament
62. Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, and Oregon advance to the Final Four
63. Roy Williams and North Carolina beat Duke to win the National Championship
64. I am not the greatest with predictions, but I feel confident about many of these takes (and, obviously, my mindset could change throughout the season)
How great would a Tobacco Road Rivalry matchup in the national championship game be, though? Amazing.
Edited by Jazmyn Brown.
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