Ah yes, how ironic that one of the free Wikimedia Commons images was Barrack Obama filling out his March Madness Bracket… Let’s stray away from politics on this… Tomorrow is the ARRIVAL (yes, I’m watching that film and yes, you should see it too) of College Basketball!!!!!!!
As you can already tell, I absolutely love college basketball. This year, I procrastinated/didn’t get around to a comprehensive preview. Thus, I decided to do something more succinct and cool – 30 Shots. The 30, well, I guess it could be in tribute of the shorter 30-second shot clock, or it could be a tribute to one of my favorite college players ever (and my favorite power forward) – Julius Randle!!! Kidding aside, I’m going to shoot up 30 predictions, things to be excited about, wishes and just miscellaneous information that should give insight on this upcoming year.
Starting with the Preseason #1 and Favorite…
1. Though the 2016-17 Duke and 2014-15 Kentucky comparisons will loom all-year long, will Duke be healthy/at full strength and how many games will they lose? My prediction – Duke will lose to Kansas in the Champions Classic, lose at Florida State (UPSET ALERT), and at Virginia, and wins the ACC Tournament, head into the NCAA tournament 31-3, and are the overall #1 seed.
2. The ACC will be really, really, really, REALLY good, but – they won’t break or tie the record for NCAA tournament bids set by the 2011 Big East (with 11). There are 15 teams in the ACC – I’d imagine Boston College, Wake Forest and Georgia Tech aren’t making it. Though the other 12 could realistically be in the tournament, I imagine some will cannibalize each other – someone has to be a bottom feeder. I see the ACC getting 9 bids – with those 3 teams above missing it, as well as… Notre Dame and Miami, who lost a lot of seniors to graduation, and Pittsburgh.
The Other Top Five Teams
3. Villanova will look good in the regular season – but won’t get past the Sweet 16. The curse of being the defending National Champion will continue. They will, however, be a 1-seed (first defending champ to do so since 2010-11 Duke).
4. Where will Kentucky get it’s outside shooting? Isaiah Briscoe probably hoisted a LOT of jumpers and I’m sure he’ll improve. Is Derek Willis the best outside shooter on this roster? Kentucky will still be more talented and better-coached than the majority, if not all, the teams they play. They’ll be the only national title contender in a weak SEC. BUT, Kentucky will have a few SEC losses, which won’t look good.
5. The two 1-seeds that round out the top-5, Kansas and Oregon, I project will be 2-seeds and win their respective conferences. Not really bold – how’s this? Josh Jackson will turn more heads at Kansas than Andrew Wiggins did due to the intensity he plays with. Not bold enough? Both teams will have at least 6 losses heading into selection Sunday and in March 2017, that will land them 2-seeds. My guesses for those losses would be: Kansas – Kentucky, (Duke is a huge possibility but let’s say they win that given prediction #1), UNLV, @Iowa State, @Oklahoma State, @Texas, @Baylor (Big 12 Tournament). For Oregon – One loss at Maui, @Baylor, @UCLA, home loss to Arizona, @California, @Colorado.
Who is vulnerable to what?
6. This has been touched upon and honestly, potentially overblown but, I foresee Duke having an issue guarding quick pesky guards. That’s why I think they will lose to Kansas. The point guard this year, Frank Jackson, is not a “traditional” pass-first point guard, he’s more of an athletic attacker and that’s fine – the dude’s talented. But, there’s no true point guard depth to back him up and so they will throw guys like Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, to handle the ball. Thus, I see pesky quick point guards giving them problems when they are trying to contain them.
Defying Expectations… for better or worse…
7. I see UCLA being a 5-seed and a solid team. But, some people need to halt their expectations. They have a bevvy of guards and I think people underestimate the potential for awkward chemistry. Furthermore, I see Lonzo Ball staying more than 1-year due to him not quite being the “Point God” that he’s projected to be.
8. Gonzaga heads into the preseason ranked 14th and I see them in contention for a 1-seed.
9. I see West Virginia being the team ranked in the preseason that misses the NCAA Tournament.
Random Instinctual or “Hunch” Predictions
10. Creighton will be a Sweet 16 Team – look out for Marcus Foster to play fueled with motivation and Mo Watson.
11. Jack Gibbs will average over 25 points per game and Davidson will be an NCAA tournament team.
12. Kentucky and Kansas will be the two best defensive backcourts – De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, and Isaiah Briscoe for Kentucky, and Frank Mason plus Devonte Graham for Kansas.
13. Michigan State and Arizona have been depleted by injuries and eligibility concerns, but they will both be in the Sweet 16. I trust Tom Izzo and Sean Miller. That being said, I don’t think either wins their conference. In March, you sometimes just need a good coach.
14. Wichita State will still be an NCAA Tournament Team and a fun team to watch post-VanVleet and Ron Baker.
15. Melo Trimble and Nigel Hayes will have bounce back years.
16. The Pac-12 will have a better showing in March than last year, while the Big 12 will take a step back in terms of March performance. Don’t sleep on Shaka though.
17. Jaron Blossomgame will be the premier all-around perimeter player who plays with a high IQ and defends at a very high level.
18. Washington will be in the “First Four” and will give the world a reason to watch the games in Dayton. My heart really wants a Washington-NC State First Four Game (Fultz vs Dennis Smith please).
19. Florida State will be the League-Pass team that the casual fans won’t know about until they are in the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament.
20. This National Player of the Year race will be wide-open but in the end, two candidates will split the 6 major POY awards. Not sure who the two will be, but I see a 3-3 split.
What do we want in the tournament?
Here, I’ll combine what I would lose my mind to see in the NCAA tournament.
21. Kansas-Wichita State in the Round of 32. If Kansas is a 2, I could see Wichita as a 10 to play Kansas again.
22. Kentucky and Louisville already play their annual “Battle of the Bluegrass” on December 21st, but can we see this in the NCAA tournament again a la 2012 and 2014? This time, in the Elite Eight – with a trip to the Final Four on the line. If Kentucky is a 1 seed (Spoiler for #28), this can realistically happen with Louisville as a 2 or 3 (I see them as a 3).
23. Duke-Maryland in the Elite Eight? This isn’t impossible – Duke as the overall #1 seed, Maryland either as a 6 or a 3 (if they outdo expectations), Melo Trimble and the supporting cast get hot at the right time, and Duke-Maryland play in the Elite Eight.
24. UCLA – Indiana as a 4-5 game. Steve Alford vs his alma mater, but a fast-paced game with two very storied programs and two coaches who, though Crean’s job is safe, aren’t exactly beloved by the fan bases.
25. Duke-Syracuse in the Sweet 16 – 1 vs 5? I can’t be the only person who remembers those 2014 games…
26. Dayton-Arizona. Miller vs Miller…. Or maybe Dayton-Ohio State?
27. The Duke-Kentucky Title game we deserve. No explanation needed.
Last-second, last-minute, instinctual predictions
28. 1-seeds: Duke, Villanova, Kentucky, Gonzaga.
29. Final Four: Duke, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Oregon.
30. National Champion: Kentucky, over Duke.