It’s a dead week for college hoops, so let’s take inventory of the first month. Actually, let’s take a trip down memory lane and see what’s been happening based on my predictions starting in the summer.
Let’s catch up on some storylines that I thought were big heading into the season and the storylines to follow for the next month of the season. Back on October 2, I gave the seven storylines everyone had to keep an eye on heading into the season. Follow me @barstoolreags for all your college hoops talk the rest of the year.
Let’s see how they are still standing up:
1) There’s not a dominant team
Yeah, that’s still incredibly true. If you ask 10 people who the best team in college basketball is right now you’ll probably get 5-6 different answers. Some still believe it’s UNC with two losses, some would say Michigan State or Oklahoma, while others would give Kansas or Kentucky the nod. It’s going to be that way all year as no team will break away from the rest as we saw a year ago. Keep an eye on this going forward as there are still a ton of intriguing nonconference games left, which kick off again this Saturday.
2) How the 30 second shot clock changes the game
The 30 second shot clock hasn’t really changed the game because teams are still playing at a fast pace, with an average possession of just 16 seconds. What you are seeing though is more 3’s attempted – on pace for a record year. Obviously the biggest thing people are talking about with ‘new’ rules isn’t a new rule, but the emphasis on freedom of movement. It’s cleaning up the game and sure people want to complain about free throws, but it’s been a better game overall. There’s been a better flow watching the teams get up and down and a lot less handchecks. I’d like to see a little more leeway in the post, but overall the refs are doing what they are supposed to.
3) Top prospects not going to bluebloods
This has been the hot topic this week with LSU sucking ass to start the season. Right now LSU doesn’t look like a NCAA Tournament team, which would leave Ben Simmons, arguably the most talented player in the country out of the Madness. He’s going to be the No. 1 overall pick, so the idea that a blue chip recruit can’t get drafted high by going to a ‘non-basketball’ school is thrown out the window. However, if LSU, Mississippi State, UNLV and Cal all miss the tournament will the next batch of kids want to go to a program where winning isn’t there?
4) Where does Wisconsin go?
Before the season started I asked if Bo Ryan is really going to retire. We know the answer to that now as he went quietly into the night. So, where does Wisconsin go from here? Obviously Ryan’s goal is to get assistant coach Greg Gard the head coaching job, but that’s probably not in the best interest in the school. You have to make the call to Tony Bennett, who has a ton of ties to the program (i.e. his dad coached there and he played at Green Bay). You also have to take a look at Bryce Drew and Archie Miller, who are the best young coaches in the game. Personally I’m setting the odds at Bennett 10/1, Gard 15/1, Drew 25/1 and Miller 40/1.
5) Possible sanctions for major schools
We saw the change in sanctions for Jim Boeheim, having to serve his 9 game suspension immediately. We saw the sanctions at SMU (a top-20 team with ease) having to miss the postseason, which is a huge storyline going forward. UConn and Cincinnati fans should be lucky that they can get the automatic bid now (they’d still make it, but just better on the resume). The Louisville story has been quiet as of late and almost hardly talked about. However, that’s going to come back to light sooner than later because of Katina Powell talking to the NCAA. We’re still waiting to hear if anything comes from the UNC investigation (a shit show in its own right) but that won’t happen until 2016. Either way there is some shit that will still go down this season.
6) What can Shaka Smart do at Texas?
Well, he can beat UNC that’s for sure. Heading into the season I thought Texas could be a fringe top-25 team because of Isaiah Taylor in Smart’s system but they struggled out of the gate losing to Washington. They still look like a NCAA Tournament team and Smart is already reaping the benefits of being at Texas. Granted it’s early but he has the No. 9 recruiting class coming in next season. That win for UNC is a big staple win early in the career that can help this season stay on track.
7) Will Iowa State succeed under Steve Prohm?
This answer is pretty simple. They are a top-5 team in the country right now with two guys making All-American cases in Georges Niang and Monte Morris. Not to mention the Cyclones get Deonte Burton in a couple weeks who provides much needed defense on the wing and depth to a team that only goes about seven deep right now. Everyone is going to be scared to guess they’ll go far in March because of last year, but the way they are playing (outside of the first half of Iowa) they look like a Final Four contender.
So, what is there to look for once finals are done with?
1) Can Xavier Compete in the first two Big East games?
Xavier is the talk of the country right now thanks to the 10-0 start and nine of those wins being by double digits. However, on New Year’s Eve the Big East schedule takes off with Xavier going to Villanova for a noon game. Then on Saturday the Musketeers host Butler. Those two games will say a lot about Xavier, who should be undefeated heading into conference play. If they win or keep it close on campus against Nova, this team should prove to more people it’s legit.
2) The Big 12
The Big 12 is again playing like the best conference right now. Oklahoma is the best team in the country with Iowa State, Baylor, West Virginia and Kansas all top-20 teams. Then there’s Texas and Kansas State, who are looking like NCAA Tournament teams. However, everyone remembers the disaster that was March for the conference last season. I don’t think we’ll see that happen again, but will people be scared at the window to bet those teams?
This past week has been fucking brutal for injuries. Duke lost big man Amile Jefferson for an undisclosed amount of time. North Carolina lost center Kennedy Meeks for at least two weeks. Iowa State lost starting guard Naz Long for the season. All three of these teams are Final Four capable teams that will now have to adjust. For Duke, it’s time for big time recruit Chase Jeter to step up and we’ll get to see him in action early this Saturday against Utah’s Jakob Poeltl. Iowa State has Marquette transfer Deonte Burton becoming eligible after the first semester, but they now lose the depth with the transfer. Matt Thomas will need to step up in the meantime to bridge the gap. Unfortunately injuries are a major part of the game, but who can get through this the easiest will say a lot come March.
ICYMI: Episode 10 of Storm the Court, where we breakdown how there are no great teams this year and Shaka Smart: