College Basketball 2012-13 Preview | November 1, 2012
In 2012, there was an air of ordainment about the Kentucky Wildcats under the tenure of John Calipari, who finally won his first National Championship. There was a certain level of symmetry about Calipari winning his first title, by defeating Bill Self and Kansas Jayhawks (Self won his first title by defeating Calipari’s Memphis Tigers featuring Derrick Rose in 2008).
With Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist running rough shod over a less than firing on all cylinders Jayhawks in the title game, the Wildcats won with relative ease.
Now the new season begins in early November, with expectations high for the unknown quantity of the entire sport nationwide. With so many College stars leaving for the NBA after one and done (a situation the NCAA/NBA need to address and fall into line like the NFL does – two years minimum) seasons, there is no supreme talent that stands out in a unique program. Even last season Anthony Davis as a freshman was an unknown quantity himself.
This year, the cream seems to be spread a lot more evenly across the nation with top teams returning starters and one of the best recruiting classes in recent memory means sleeping giants awaken.
UCLA – have acquired the No.1 player in the recruiting class, Shabazz Muhammed and Kyle Anderson, the No.5 ranked player in the same class. However, both are dealing with NCAA investigations into eligibility as to whether they received improper benefits from agents. On October 31st, Anderson was ruled eligible by the NCAA, after they investigated the relationship between Anderson’s family and NBA agent Thad Foucher, who had Anthony Davis on his portfolio last year.
These investigations were unnecessary distractions for coach Ben Howland who endured a miserable 2012 season when they finished 19-14 (11-7 Pac12). The Pac 12 suffered in general last year with only one team – Washington – representing them at the NCAA tournament as Conference champions. Yet expect the dynamism of UCLA to bring national attention back to the West coast which has not had much since the days of the Lopez twins at Stanford and OJ Mayo at USC.
Indiana – The almost universally acknowledged No.1 ranked side are expected to dominate the also weak Big 10 who only had Michigan State (under Tom Izzo with Draymond Green) gain national exposure last year. Indiana return Cody Zeller, tipped to be the Player of the Year in his Sophmore year and Christian Watford, the senior Forward. Anticipate those two to do the majority of scoring and rebounding with senior Jordan Hulls to dish out the assists.
Whilst the Big10 conference is tough with five teams ranked in the preseason Top25 – Indiana,Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Wisconsin – Indiana’s non-conference schedule is pretty poor. They play only one ranked side (#11 North Carolina) and two other notable sides, Georgia and Butler on neutral sites. To remain #1 until the first conference game at Iowa on New Year’s Eve, the Hoosiers better be perfect or face a drop. Can Zeller and coach, Tom Crean, handle these levels of expectation for a team that was 27-9 last season and did not make the tournament.
Other names to consider as always are the Kentucky Wildcats who have another break out star in Nerlens Noel who has the potential to be as explosive as Davis was last year; and Calipari’s machine of getting five fresh faces and getting them to play to the best of their ability. They have a great non-conference schedule, playing Duke on a neutral site, at Notre Dame, vs Baylor and at Louisville on Dec 29th which could be a match-up between 1 and 2 ranked sides. What a game to end the year.
Kansas under Bill Self will be gunning for an 9th consecutive Big 12 title, which on paper may have got easier due to Missouri leaving for the SEC, yet you gain the tenacious West Virginia, and still have the battles with Texas, Kansas State and Oklahoma to contend with. Kansas’ non-conference schedule is brutal with games vs Michigan State, vs Colorado, vs Richmond, at Ohio State and vs Temple. Whilst a lot are played at Allen Fieldhouse, the tests facing a roster of 8 freshman featuring Perry Ellis, Ben McLemore as wells as returning Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey still mean the Jayhawks will be a force to be reckoned with.
Louisville – Rick Pitino did wonders with his young side last season, to gain momentum in winning the Big East tournament and then to reach the Final Four before succumbing to Kentucky. Built of defense first, and fast break points to utilise turnovers, the Cardinals were a tricky team to situate in the shake up come post-season and surprised many as they ranked 155th in scoring offence. Yet the return of PG Peyton Siva (the only senior) and a lot of the starting rotation means the Cardinals are favourites to win the Big East again.
Yet as we know with College Basketball, such expectations are hard to maintain and until we reach conference play it is hard to watch rankings and assess teams who are of major quality playing sub-par low level mid-division also rans; did not even get a chance to mention Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse, Florida, Creighton.