College Basketball: Time to get Serious | January 10, 2013
With College Football finished for another season, and with Alabama celebrating their second consecutive National championship, it is time for the hardwood stars to return to national prominence having fallen off the radar during the Bowl season.
The opportunity returns with teams taking on inter-conference teams as it is nothing but conference opponents between now and early March where titles are decided and resumes become poured over more before the selection committee decide whether you are eligible for the NCAA tournament and March Madness.
The big privileged conferences – ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, Pac 12 and SEC – are guaranteed of at least 3 spots each. Dependent upon the depth of each conference this may alter; the Big 10 currently has six ranked teams in the Top 25 – Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Ohio State. All of these teams will be expected to make the dance, along with possibly Wisconsin. Yet the depth of the Big 10 means that any win is of more significant value based upon the high ranking of the opponent.
This is in stark contrast to the SEC whose quality is significantly weaker than that of other divisions. Despite being the National Champions, Kentucky has struggled to get the best out of their new freshman yet despite losses to top teams; Notre Dame and Louisville, they are seem to be turning the corner. The class of 2012 was a once-in-a-lifetime class with Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist; unfortunately Nerlens Noel and Anthony Pyreess are slowly making strides towards improving. Florida seem to be the big dog this year with Billy Donovan pulling strings as always, currently 11-2 they will be hard to beat due to the resolute defence and play of Kenny Boynton. Missouri will be as strong as ever in spite of losing a starting squad to the NBA; Frank Haith is a good coach, this year he has Laurence Bowers as his top scorer, although he has just suffered a knee injury which may well be sidelined for some time.
PAC12 was meant to be stronger after just one team went to the tourney last year, Arizona is shouting loudest so far and looks good ranked at #4 so far; UCLA stuttered at the beginning yet are slowly getting stronger as are Oregon and Washington.
The Big 12 is all about Kansas again, going for their 9th consecutive conference title under Bill Self who seems to have a real superstar in Ben McLemore who is gaining votes for National Player of the Year consideration; his performance in the conference home opener v Iowa State 33pts (10-12 FG, 7-7 3pt FG) was impressive and he drilled a 3 pointer to tie the game at 79 before the Jayhawks rode the momentum to win easily in OT.
The contenders remain Baylor (10-4) who have the freshman Isaiah Austin (7′ 1″) at centre who is maturing rapidly; as well as Kansas State Wildcats, Oklahoma State Cowboys and Oklahoma Sooners.
The Big East is entering its last season in its current form before Syracuse and Pittsburgh leave for the ACC next year. Currently Syracuse and Louisville stand at 15-1 and 14-1 respectively. Notre Dame (14-1) and Marquette (11-3) are knocking on the door, but as shown by the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden in recent years, the last two winners Connecticut and Louisville both had to win to get into the tourney, both then went onto the Final Four.
Duke remain perfect at 15-0 and atop the ACC rankings; highly touted North Carolina State are 13-2 and with CJ Leslie running riot on both ends of the court watch out. Yet you have to feel for North Carolina, who have talent yet are currently 10-4 and need to get some wins to be considered for the tournament. As there are some great mid-major sides who are having stellar years – Creighton, Butler, Wichita State, VCU and Indiana State.
My Conference predictions: ACC – Duke;
Big Ten – Indiana;
Big East – Louisville;
Big 12 – Kansas;
Pac 12 – Arizona;
SEC – Florida