The 2006-2007 college basketball season is upon us, and the state of college basketball is as promising and crazy as ever following last year’s Final Four featuring the Cinderella squad, George Mason University.
This year, college basketball will offer fans the usual excitement and unpredictability that has become synonymous with the sport. Here is The Campus Press’s in-depth look at the upcoming college basketball season.
Following last year’s surprising run to the national title, the Florida Gators entered the season with all five starters back. Set up for a repeat, right? Think again. The last back-to-back national champions in men’s college hoops were the Duke Blue Devils in 1991 and 1992. Billy Donovan’s Gators have already lost twice in this young season, reflecting the difficulty of a repeat. Don’t look for the Gators to be able to defend their title given the parody and difficulty of college basketball.
TALENT, TALENT, TALENT!
The NBA’s age limit is really boosting the influx of talent at the college level. Because players are no longer allowed to declare for the NBA draft until their 19th birthdays, guys have to play in college for at least one year before heading off to the NBA. The much-scrutinized rule implemented by NBA Commissioner David Stern has provided a spark for college basketball. With more talented young players playing in college rather than going straight to the NBA, college basketball fans are the beneficiaries.
MID-MAJORS HERE TO STAY?
When George Mason defeated Connecticut to make its first appearance in the Final Four last season, many power conference advocates simply viewed it as an abnormality. But don’t underestimate the staying power of mid-majors such as George Mason. Gonzaga is proof that once a smaller school manages a few runs deep into the NCAA tournament, they can sustain credibility and status. Butler already won the preseason NIT this season, and many other mid-majors, such as Winthrop, have pulled off upsets. Look for the NCAA tournament selection committee to give more credence to mid-majors schools during selection time this March.
It could be a very cold winter at the Coors Events Center for the CU men’s basketball team. After losing to in-state rival Colorado State this past weekend, lame-duck head coach Ricardo Patton and his Buffs are off to a porous 3-6 start. The Buffs will have to win their three remaining non-conference games to avoid having a losing non-conference record for the first time since 1988-89.
Patton, who announced his resignation (effective after the current season) prior to the start of the season, is going to have his hands full with a team that includes eight scholarship freshmen. Unfortunately for Buffs fans, perhaps the most exciting storyline to follow for the team this year will be Athletic Director Mike Bohn’s selection for his new head coach for next season.
G- Dominic James – Marquette
G- Ronald Steele – Alabama
F- Tyler Hansbrough – North Carolina
F- Glen “Big Baby” Davis – LSU
F- Joakim Noah – Florida
G- Marcus Williams – Arizona
G- Arron Afflalo – UCLA
F- Alando Tucker – Wisconsin
F- Nick Fazekas – Nevada
C- Greg Oden – Ohio State
G- Daequan Cook – Ohio State
G- Javaris Crittenton – Georgia Tech
F- Brendan Wright – North Carolina
F- Kevin Durant – Texas
C- Greg Oden – Ohio State
G- Mike Conley – Ohio State
G- Ty Lawson -North Carolina
F- Chase Budinger – Arizona
F- Darrell Arthur – Kansas
F- Spencer Hawes – Washington
TOP 5 MID-MAJORS*
1. Wichita State- Sweet 16 team last year that lost only one starter and plays in the very underrated Missouri Valley Conference. Has taken down Syracuse and LSU on the road.
2. Butler- Won the preseason NIT and defeated Notre Dame, Tennessee, Indiana and Gonzaga.
3. Nevada- Nick Fazekas has first-round potential after evading the Buffs as a graduate of Ralston Valley High School in Arvada.
4. Missouri State- Another team from the Missouri Valley that is loaded with talented players; they just barely missed out on the tournament last March.
5. Air Force- Some would argue the team doesn’t qualify as a mid-major, but they’re not in a power conference, so they stay here. Head Coach Jeff Bzdelik would be a coup for Mike Bohn and company.
*Gonzaga is excluded from this category since it is now a perennial Top 25 program.
FINAL FOUR PICKS AND NATIONAL CHAMPION