I can honestly say that I have never been more excited for a college basketball season to begin. No March Madness last year was rather disappointing but completely understandable due to the issues surrounding COVID-19 at the time. While we missed out on seeing talents like Payton Pritchard, Obi Toppin and Malachi Flynn compete in the best tournament in the world, this year has plenty of talent of its own.
Down Year For The Blue Bloods
Now before people start roasting me about this, let's look at the numbers from the past two seasons. The blue bloods in college basketball are Duke, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisville, Indiana, North Carolina and UCLA. In 2018, the AP preseason poll had five of those teams in the top 25 heading into the year, including three in the top four. In 2019, the AP preseason poll once against had five of those teams in the top 25 including four in the top five. Now heading into the 2020 season, once again, there are five in the top 25, however, none of them are in the top five overall. Some of these teams had down recruiting years, while others have struggled for a while. according to ESPN, of the top 10 recruits, only two chose a blue blood school, both of whom are going to Kentucky. So with less high-end freshman talent heading to these programs, it makes it tougher for them to be considered pre-season royalty. These rankings could obviously change over time, but do not be surprised if the blue blood schools do not finish in the upper-echelon of college basketball.
Look Out For Small Conference & Unknown Teams
As I stated before the blue blood schools are going to have a down year, which means that teams from smaller conferences have a great opportunity to thrive. For years, Gonzaga has been an elite program but just couldn't get themselves a title. The West Coast Conference dominators begin the year at number one in the AP poll, so expectations will be high there. Then you have programs like Houston, who start the year at number 17 but have a starting lineup littered with upperclassmen. Their conference, the AAC, will also have Memphis and SMU to contend with, so this will be a good conference overall. Then you have teams that may be in big conferences but are not often considered elite in those conferences. Illinois, once considered an elite program, has not made the NCAA tournament since 2012-13 but find themselves at number eight in the preseason polls. Iowa at five, Arizona State at 18 and Rutgers at 24 are all programs that have not seen a lot of success but could be in for huge years. Watch out for some of these schools because while they may not be household names, they may just surprise you.
Big 12 Will Be Must-See TV
Once again the tightest conference this year will definitely be the Big Ten, with seven teams in the top 25 to start the year. But the conference to tune into as far as games go has to be the Big 12. You have Baylor, Kansas, Texas Tech and West Virginia in the top 15, but this conference is also as deep as it has ever been. Texas, at number 19, will be fun to watch, especially with 9th ranked recruit Greg Brown playing for the them. Then you have Oklahoma State, who may not be ranked, but have the potential first overall pick Cade Cunningham on the team. To have four truly elite basketball teams plus two more with top-tier talent means every week there should be a fun matchup to watch. By the time the Big 12 tournament rolls around, we may not know who the favorite is or who will take the conference title.
ACC Versus Big Ten Will Be Unreal Top To Bottom
These two conferences combine to have 10 teams in the AP Top 25 heading into the season, which means we will have some unbelievable matchups at the start of December. From top to bottom these games should be incredible to watch, whether it's North Carolina versus Iowa or Pittsburgh versus Northwestern. Duke versus Illinois will get the most coverage, as Ayo Dosunmu will go up against the Matthew Hurt-led Blue Devils. Louisville versus Wisconsin will be another great game to watch as well as Syracuse taking on Rutgers. The Big Ten won last year's matchup 8-6, but they still trail the ACC 133-106 overall in the series. The ACC is more top-heavy so I like the Big Ten to take it once again. But make no mistake, you need to watch these games.
My AP All-American Team
G - Jared Butler - Baylor
G - Collin Gillespie - Villanova
G - Cade Cunningham - Oklahoma State
F - Corey Kispert - Gonzaga
C- Luka Garza - Iowa
G - Ayo Dosunmu - Illinois
G - Marcus Zeragowski - Creighton
G - BJ Boston - Kentucky
F- Garrison Brooks - North Carolina
F- Jeremiah Robinson-Earl - Villanova
G - Rocket Watts - Michigan State
G - Marcus Garrett - Kansas
F- Trayce Jackson-Davis - Indiana
F - Matthew Hurt - Duke
F- Sam Hauser - Virginia
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