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This year’s title is Kentucky’s to lose. Why do I say that?
Let’s start with the number 9.
That is how many McDonald’s All Americans John Calipari has playing for his team this year.
You know how many NBA teams have nine McDonald’s All Americans playing for them?
One–the Charlotte Hornets.
With a front-line of (Olathe’s own) Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Trey Lyles, Marcus Lee, and a backcourt of the Harrison twins (who led the team to Final Four during their freshman year–think about THAT), Kentucky is the hands down favorite to take the championship this year. People from Syracuse, Durham, Chapel Hill, and Lawrence ain’t gonna wanna hear that but it’s the truth.
If you are a hoops fan, this is the year to just watch for the players (There won’t be much drama–hate to say it). This draft could be just as deep as last year’s–if not deeper. The majority of those lottery picks will be coming from two programs, Duke, and Kentucky.
Kansas will be good of course, they reloaded after losing Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. Cliff Alexander stands to become the next Thomas Robinson, and Kelly Oubre is a great replacement at the wing. Wayne Selden will be returning to have an even bigger impact as the leader of that team. Perry Ellis will continue to quietly put up his double-doubles.
The biggest question (again) will be at point guard. Conner Frankamp, Frank Mason, and newcomer Devonte Graham will all get chances to handle the rock. I’m curious how much improvement we will see from Frankamp, Mason and former “Mr. Georgia Basketball” Brannen Greene. There is also some hype surrounding this new kid from the Ukraine, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (though I do wonder how an 16 year old from a war torn country will handle being away from his family). I’ve seen his highlights and I like what I saw from him (I was really impressed when I played with him on NCAA basketball on X-box–he was the only one who could consistently hit 3’s).
If you look at the Jayhawks roster, you’ll see that they are still pretty young, with only one senior on the team–benchwarmer Christian Garrett. If anyone other than Rick Barnes coached the University of Texas basketball team, I’d say the Horns were ripe to pluck the Big-12 title away from Bill Self. Texas will be entertaining to watch though, with Cameron Ridley, Isiah Taylor and newcomer Myles Turner as the top stars. Barnes will figure out a way to lose at least 3 games they should win this season.
If anyone is close enough to snatch that streak from KU, it is Fred Hoiberg and Iowa State. The “Mayor” always seems to get the best out of his players, and not in a Tom Izzo “scream at the players until he’s hoarse” kind of way. Iowa State will miss DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim, but don’t sleep on the Cyclones. They could easily grab second place in the Big 12 standings.
I just looked at Duke’s stacked roster for the year and was tempted to write up a quick blurb about them, but then again what is there to say? They’ll blow through the ACC with that loaded roster and put up points against every team they face. They’ll win 20 plus games and lose maybe 5 (one of them to Carolina of course), and then they’ll get knocked out in the Elite Eight (yawn). Wake me up for the next lacrosse court case, otherwise I don’t wanna hear shit about Duke University.
Don’t sleep on the boys out of the Missouri Valley Conference–Wichita State. Sure they lost CleAnthony Early, but they return Tekele Cotton, Ron Baker, and Fred Van Fleet, along with coach Gregg Marshall. they won’t go undefeated this year, but they will still “play angry” and win their conference (and could go deep into the tournament depending on who they draw).
Living back on Tulsa time, I am right in the middle of things. I can catch a few Jayhawks’ games up in Allen Fieldhouse, down in Texas, or right here in Oklahoma. I’m honestly more excited about the NBA this year (again), but I have a couple of games circled this year. I want to be there in person for the KU-ISU game in Lawrence, KU-Texas is worth a drive up as well, and on December 5th, Florida visits Kansas for what should be a pretty hype affair.
Depending on what you are looking for, it will be a pretty entertaining year. There will be tons of draft hype, and there will be some good games for sure. If you are hoping for somebody other than Kentucky to win this year, you’ll more than likely be disappointed. Otherwise just enjoy it for what it is. If you saw how close Kentucky came last year to winning it all, then it won’t surprise you to see the Harrison boys and Alex Poythress cutting down the nets in April.
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