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College Basketball Season Preview Mailbag: Everything You Want to Know Before the Season

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We’re one day away from college basketball. One day away from people getting irrationally upset that a 19-year old kid screwed something up for their favorite piece of laundry and I for one, can’t wait. As always there’s intrigue as we head into the season, with this year being the race for the No. 1 draft pick, a freshman class that we may not get to see all of due to FBI investigations, race for National Player of the Year and about 10 teams that can truly be seen as national title contenders.

So with it being one day away, I opened Twitter up to questions that you want/need to know before the season gets going. Here are the best ones I feel I like answering.

There are a couple of different options here. I’m going to set the premise of having at least 4 players in the rotation that are juniors or seniors as ‘veteran’ teams. So, from there, five teams jump out to me. They are Cincinnati, Xavier, Seton Hall, St. Mary’s and Notre Dame. All of those teams can get there for different reasons and I’ll touch on them more in depth later. But, Seton Hall has a four deep senior class that can score. They don’t need to rely on just one player and have that depth that you need in the NCAA Tournament. Notre Dame is going to be one of the best offensive teams in the country. St. Mary’s is a super efficient team that can dictate tempo. Xavier has the best scorer in the group in Trevon Bluiett and we saw what happens when he gets hot in the NCAA Tournament. Cincinnati is incredibly balanced, can really defend and should be able to score with most teams in the country this year.

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They are going to be more uptempo. This is a team, not just because of Broome, that can really get up and down the floor. The thing with Caupain is his style fit what Cincinnati/Mick ran for years. That slow it down, play a half court game and work for an open shot. This year they have Broome at point, wings in Cumberland/Evans and bigs in Washington/Clark that can really get up and down the court and are honestly better playing at that tempo than a slow it down game. The turnovers are a concern for Broome, but you can bet at Cincinnati he’ll never have a chance to compile that many turnovers, because Mick has a short leash for that. The other big change is you’re going to see someone else have to step up and hit the big shot late in the game. Caupain excelled at that during his time at Cincinnati and while I think it ends up being Evans, the first time there’s a shot that needs to be made it will be interesting to see where Cronin goes.

These games are at Xavier, at UCLA, neutral vs Florida and home vs Mississippi State. Not exactly the easiest stretch but doable for a variety of reasons. I think you can automatically put a win at home against Mississippi State. The Bulldogs will be improved, but UC should win that game by 10+. I’m going to say there’s a loss at Xavier, simply because it’s on the road. As of today that’s one of those games where whoever is playing at home I’d pick to win. So you’re 1-1 with games at UCLA and neutral vs Florida. Both of those teams have some questions in terms of health/suspensions. I’m going to say Cincinnati beats UCLA because they’ll be able to play Thomas Welsh 15 feet out where he normally kills teams. Then the game vs Florida is one of the more intriguing nonconference games. Both teams have high expectations and are pretty similar. I just really like the defense that Mike White has and I think you can see Chris Chiozza/KeVaughn Allen make Cane Broome uncomfortable in that game. So I’ll go 2-2 with wins at UCLA and vs Mississippi State. 3-1 is very realistic though.

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As of now I’m going to say no. They are going to be a bubble team again but I’m not sure where they make the jump at. Right now Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson are going to miss some games due to impermissible benefits. Okogie is a key piece for this team, especially on the offensive side of the ball. If they lose to UCLA, that’s not going to help them when it comes to bubble talk time. Then in the ACC, I just don’t know who they are better than. They are going to finish somewhere in the 7-10 range, which might not be enough this year to get in with a bump in other conferences.

So there are a couple I like. On Friday you have Campbell at Penn State, Iona at Albany and Yale at Creighton. On Saturday you have Illinois State at FGCU and St. Francis (PA) at St. Mary’s. Then on Sunday games to watch would be UMass at Harvard, Vermont at Kentucky and Yale at Wisconsin, Princeton at Butler too.

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I never really understood this question and Tommy is not the first person to ask it. Why exactly are we questioning Villanova this year? The more I talk to some guys on their staff and get a feel for their team the more I want to put them above Kansas at No. 4 in my preseason rankings. They have a top-5 player in the country in Jalen Brunson. They have the guy who led Nova in scoring in the title game in Phil Booth coming back. They have one of the best defenders in the country in Mikal Bridges. They have a breakout star in Donte DiVicenzo. They have Eric Paschall returning who provides a bigger body. They get Omari Spellman into the fold, who from what I’ve told has been an excellent passer, which will just open up even more stuff offensively. This team is deep, experienced and super talented. They are clearly the best team in the Big East and I see 0 value in picking against them.

Another thing I absolutely hate is people knocking Kansas for NCAA Tournament failure. The NCAA Tournament is an absolute fluky event. All it takes is one game and you’re eliminated. They had that last year in the Elite Eight against an Oregon team that was a preseason top-5 team. If you go back the last decade, Kansas has been an average seed of 1.5, which is crazy. That says more to me than constantly losing in the Sweet 16 or Elite Eight. Go back to when Calipari took over Kentucky since he’s one of the three listed here. Kansas has lost three Elite Eight games, one of those was to Villanvoa. They lost in the Sweet 16 to Michigan the year the Wolverines made the title game. Kansas has lost a lot of close games in the NCAA Tournament, so it’s not like they are doing something wrong. Shit, before the last two years you could question what Roy was doing since it was six seasons in between Final Four trips. These things just happen.

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Can they? Sure. But, they aren’t better than Michigan State. Minnesota is the second best team in this conference and return pretty much everyone from last year’s surprise team. That said, this conference is Michigan State and then a pretty large jump down to Minnesota and a group of some other teams. Now in the Big 10 anything can kind of happen simply due to the inbalanced schedule, but I wouldn’t pick Minnesota to win it.

I still don’t think Troy Brown from Oregon is being talked about enough. He’s an absolute star and will be the reason Oregon is a top-25 team this year. He can do a little bit of everything and in terms of value to team, there might not be a freshman more valuable than Brown is to Oregon. Another team that’s flying under the radar is Lindell Wigginton from Iowa State. He’s going to be a name that makes his way on to draft boards and gets talked about a surprise freshman.

Again, I stress this all the time. Asking if a team can make a tournament run is absolutely stupid until you see the bracket. The NCAA Tournament is based solely on matchups. Can they? Sure. Would I bet on them doing it? No. They are a decent team, now that they get everyone back healthy. But, the A-10 this year. It’s not like winning the A-10 three years ago. I think the A-10 is a 3-bid max league this year. Even if they win the A-10 you’re looking at likely a 6 seed at best.

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I think the Mountain West ends up being a 2 bid league with Nevada and San Diego State as the two picks to get there. UNLV is a team that is going to surprise people this year. Brandon McCoy is absolute stud who is going to live up to expectations. I think they finish fourth in the MWC behind Nevada, San Diego State and Boise State. Another guy to keep an eye on for UNLV is Jordan Johnson – the Milwaukee transfer. His last year at Milwaukee he averaged 12 points and 8 assists a game. His passing ability combined with McCoy’s talent is going to lead to wins.