The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Sixty-eight predictions entering the new college hoops season

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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College basketball season tips off Monday night when St. John's hosts William & Mary in the opening game of the 2011 2K Sports Classic. To celebrate the end of the offseason, here are 64 65 ... wait ... 68 fearless predictions for the new season.

1. Expect plenty of chatter about a potential undefeated season for North Carolina if the Tar Heels emerge from their Dec. 3 game at Kentucky undefeated.

2. Ignore it. As good as the Tar Heels are and as mediocre as the middle of the ACC is, North Carolina will lose at least two regular-season games.

3. The highly touted 2012 recruiting class Tom Crean has landed will keep him employed at least one more year whether Indiana makes the NCAA tournament or not.

4. A coach who won't make it? TCU's Jim Christian. The Horned Frogs will opt for a fresh start entering their first season in the Big 12 in 2012.

5. Two guys who will make Wooden Award voters look foolish for omitting them from the 50-man watch list: Washington's Terrence Ross and Cincinnati's Yancy Gates.

6. In either of its two matchups with Rice, Houston's basketball team won't match the 73 points its football team put up against the Owls.

7. By February, Alabama will stop bemoaning Saturday's football loss to LSU just long enough to wonder, "Hey, when did we get good at basketball?"

8. Auburn fans will continue to view March as the month when spring football begins.

9. Selection Sunday once again will be stressful for Virginia Tech. This time the hard-luck Hokies finally sneak into the NCAA tournament.

10. It will be obvious by Thanksgiving weekend that 6-foot-10 David Wear lacks the lateral quickness to defend opposing wings.

11. Nonetheless, stubbornness will prevent UCLA coach Ben Howland from abandoning his plan to play Wear at small forward until at least Christmas.

12. No matter what NCAA tourney seed Vanderbilt gets, the Commodores will be a popular upset pick in the opening round. {YSP:MORE}

13. The ACC's second-longest streak of consecutive NCAA tournament appearances will end at four because Clemson lacks sufficient scoring punch.

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14. One team TV executives will regret not giving more airtime: Iowa State. The intriguing, transfer-heavy Cyclones don't make a single Big Monday appearance.

15. For the first time since 2006, the Missouri Valley Conference will land multiple NCAA bids. Wichita State, Creighton and Indiana State are all capable.

16. Vanderbilt has a better roster than Alabama, but the Tide will parlay a soft conference schedule into finishing ahead of the Commodores in the SEC.

17. Kansas' streak of seven consecutive Big 12 championships will end this season, but the Jayhawks will remain in the race until the final week of the season.

18. Concerns about the ability of Florida's four guards to share the ball? Overrated. The Gators will be a fixture in the top 10 all season.

19. How Kansas State fares will hinge on forward Jamar Samuels bouncing back after regressing last season. He must provide an interior complement to a strong backcourt.

20. The thunderous ovation Missouri State's Kyle Weems gets on senior night will stamp out any lingering regret over rebuffing offers to transfer from Kansas or Oregon.

21. UConn will enter Big East play undefeated ... but untested. Best nonleague opponent the defending champs face? Take your pick of Florida State or Harvard.

22. The three transfers who will make the biggest impact this season: Iowa State's Royce White, Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie and Florida's Mike Rosario.

23. The idea that the NBA lockout increases interest in college basketball will be overblown. What helps college basketball is so many recognizable stars returning.

24. Storyline you'll be sick of by Christmas, Part I: How a late eight-inch growth spurt transformed Anthony Davis from unknown 6-3 guard to the nation's top recruit.

25. Storyline you'll be sick of by Christmas, Part II: How newly svelte Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger shed 20 pounds and lowered his body fat in the offseason.

26. Storyline you'll be sick of by Christmas, Part III: Hey, did you know North Carolina only became good last season when Kendall Marshall entered the lineup?

27. The national championship game will be more aesthetically pleasing in 2012 than 2011. Realistically it can't be worse, right?

28. The most emotional moment of Stanford's season will be the ovation forward Andy Brown receives when he returns from three ACL tears in 18 months.

29. About the only thing that can derail North Carolina or Kentucky from 30-win seasons is an injury to their starting point guards. Neither have a capable backup.

3o. It will turn ugly quickly for Frank Haith if Missouri underachieves. A recent Kansas City Star poll showed 78 percent of fans wanted him fired before his first game.

31. If CBS executives don't already regret not keeping Gus Johnson, they will in March when there's an outcry among fans irate he's not calling the NCAA tournament.

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32. As early losses mount against the likes of Pittsburgh, Kansas, North Carolina, Louisville and Xavier, Long Beach State will face questions about over-scheduling.

33. The 49ers will shake off a rough start, however, to win the Big West and send off its talented senior class with a long-awaited NCAA tournament bid.

34. Best conference race few will pay attention to: Iona and Fairfield in the MAAC. Neither will earn at-large bids, but both are capable of delivering a first-round scare.

35. The last time neither North Carolina nor Duke won or shared the ACC crown was when Wake Forest won the 2002-03 title. That streak will continue this year.

36. Unlike the past few years, no Final Four team will come from outside the preseason top 25. This will be a year for college basketball's titans to flex their muscles.

37. The Pac-12 champion will have at least four league losses. Too many of the top teams have obvious flaws for any of them to be dominant.

38. The Big East will not match last season's 11 NCAA tournament teams, but eight or nine is very plausible and 10 isn't entirely out of the question.

39. Big East team likely to exceed preseason expectations: Villanova. The key will be how much impact Dominic Cheek and JayVaughn Pinkston make.

40. Big East team likely to disappoint: West Virginia. Do the Mountaineers have enough scorers to complement Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones?

41. Even though the national spotlight will shine elsewhere post-Jimmer, BYU will return to the NCAA tournament thanks to a formidable frontcourt.

42. ACC breakout star: Michael Snaer, Florida State. With Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen having departed, the highly touted junior's opportunity has arrived.

43. A-10 breakout star: Darien Brothers, Richmond. Considering the Spiders lost their four other best players, Brothers will have to be excellent for them to be competitive.

44. Big East breakout star: Scott Martin, Notre Dame. The 6-foot-8 forward will be able to take more than 8.2 field-goal attempts a game this season.

45. Big 12 breakout star: Will Spradling, Kansas State. The sophomore guard showed flashes of excellent shooting and decision-making behind Jacob Pullen last year.

46. Big 10 breakout star: Keith Appling, Michigan State. Kalin Lucas' explosive heir apparent is so unselfish that Tom Izzo often has to encourage him to shoot more.

47. Mountain West breakout star: Anthony Marshall, UNLV. Already a top slasher and defender, Marshall will blossom if his jump shot becomes more of a threat.

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48. Pac-12 breakout star: Terrence Ross, Washington. The high-scoring 6-foot-7 sophomore will pick up where he left off during the postseason last year.

49. SEC breakout star: Patric Young, Florida. Young's opportunity to justify his hype has arrived with Florida's other top frontcourt players all departing.

50. The suspension Xavier's Kenny Frease served the first week of October will turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the 7-footer. Word is he already looks more focused.

51. Having three freshmen declared ineligible will keep St. John's out of the NCAA tournament. The Johnnies lack depth and experience, a bad combination in the Big East.

52. Decision to stay in school that will look smart: Thomas Robinson, Kansas. He can play himself into the lottery instead of being a fringe first-rounder last June.

53. Decision to stay in school that will be questioned: Perry Jones, Baylor. Will the 6-11 forward's potential again make him a top-five pick if he's not dominant as a sophomore?

54. Your 2012 women's Final Four: Notre Dame, Tennessee, Baylor and Stanford.

55. Anyone who doubts Herb Sendek's intention to push the ball will be wrong. With or without Jahii Carson, Arizona State will run in hopes of capitalizing on its athleticism.

56. Addition by subtraction, Part I: Stanford's sophomore class will develop faster in the long run without Jeremy Green, who shot with no conscience last year.

57. Addition by subtraction, Part II: The departure of troubled Jereme Richmond and last year's underachieving senior class will give Illinois' young talent a chance to blossom.

58. Addition by subtraction, Part III: Concerns about Baylor's backcourt are legit, but the Bears will at least exhibit better shot selection due to LaceDarius Dunn's departure.

59. Football schools which will have more success on the hardwood than the gridiron this school year: Ohio State, Florida and Florida State.

60. Basketball schools which will have more success on the gridiron than the hardwood this school year: Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Illinois.

61 Best team in the New York Metro Area this season: Iona, believe it or not. The trio of Scott Machado, Mike Glover and Arizona transfer MoMo Jones will be formidable.

62. Sorry, Northwestern. This isn't the year. The trio of John Shurna, Drew Crawford and Luka Mirkovic will fall short of leading the Wildcats to their first-ever NCAA bid.

63. The drought will end, however, at Harvard, which boasts the most talent in the Ivy League. The Crimson have not been to the NCAA tournament since 1946.

64. It will take time for Austin Rivers to limit his turnovers and improve his shot selection and effort on defense, but the Duke guard will still be a threat to score 20 every night.

65. Arizona will look ordinary in November and December as players adjust to new roles post-Derrick Williams, but the Wildcats will meet preseason expectations by Pac-12 play.

66. How much progress Baylor makes will depend on its point guards. The Bears can win the Big 12 and contend for the Final Four if newcomer Pierre Jackson excels.

67. Utah and Colorado combined to lose their first eight Pac-12 football games. With both their basketball programs also rebuilding, the transition will be just as rough in hoops.

68. At least half of these preseason predictions will probably be wrong. The most fun part of college basketball is that it always defies expectation.

- It will be obvious by Thanksgiving weekend that 6-foot-10 David Wear lacks the lateral quickness to defend opposing wings.
- Stubbornness will prevent UCLA coach Ben Howland from abandoning his plan to play Wear at small forward until at least Christmas.
- No matter what NCAA tourney seed Vanderbilt gets, you'll have no clue whether to pick them to make the Final Four or to lose in the first round.
- Football schools who will have more success on the hardwood than the gridiron this school year: Ohio State, Florida and Florida State.
- Basketball schools who will have more success on the gridiron than the hardwood this school year: Wake Forest, Georgia Tech and Illinois.
- The highly touted 2012 recruiting class Tom Crean has landed will save his job at least one more year whether Indiana makes the NCAA tournament or not.
- A coach who won't make it? TCU's Jim Christian. The Horned Frogs will opt for a fresh start entering their first season in the Big 12 in 2012.
- Two guys who will make Wooden Award selection voters look foolish for omitting them from the 50-man watch list: Washington's Terrence Ross and Cincinnati's Yancy Gates
- In either of its two matchups with Rice, Houston's basketball team won't match the 73 points its football team put up against the Owls.
- By February, Alabama will stop bemoaning Saturday's football loss to LSU just long enough to wonder, 'Hey, when did we get good at basketball?"
- Auburn fans will continue to view March as the month when spring football begins.
- Selection Sunday once again will be stressful for Virginia Tech. This time the hard-luck Hokies will finally sneak into the NCAA tournament.
- The ACC's second-longest streak of consecutive NCAA tournament appearances will end at four because Clemson lacks sufficient scoring punch.
- Now recovered from the fractured wrist that hampered him last season, Washington State point guard Reggie Moore will regain his aggressiveness and thrive.
- One team TV executives will regret not giving more airtime: Iowa State. The intriguing, transfer-heavy Cyclones don't make a single Big Monday appearance.
- For the first time since 2006, the Missouri Valley Conference will land multiple NCAA bids. Wichita State, Creighton and Indiana State are all capable.
- Vanderbilt and Florida both have better rosters than Alabama, but the Tide will parlay a soft conference schedule into finishing ahead of one of those two in the SEC.
- Kansas' streak of seven consecutive Big 12 championships will end this season, but the Jayhawks will remain in the race until the final week of the season
- Concerns about the ability of Florida's four guards to share the ball? Overrated. The Gators will be a fixture in the top 10 all season.
- How Kansas State will fare will hinge on forward Jamar Samuels bouncing back after regressing last season. He must provide an interior complement to a strong backcourt.
- The most emotional moment of Stanford's season will be the ovation forward Andy Brown receives when he returns from three ACL tears in 18 months.
- The thunderous ovation Missouri State's Kyle Weems gets on senior night will stamp out any lingering regret over rebuffing offers to transfer from Kansas or Oregon.
- UConn will enter Big East play undefeated ... but untested. Best non-league opponent the defending champs face? Take your pick of Florida State or Harvard.
- The three transfers who will make the biggest impact this season: Iowa State's Royce White, Mississippi State's Arnett Moultrie and Florida's Mike Rosario.
- Storyline you'll be sick of by Christmas, part I: How a late eight-inch growth spurt transformed Anthony Davis from unknown 6-3 guard to the nation's top recruit.
- Storyline you'll be sick of by Christmas, part II: How newly svelte Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger shed 20 pounds and lowered his body fat in the offseason.
- Storyline you'll be sick of by Christmas, part III: Hey, did you know North Carolina only became good last season when Kendall Marshall entered the lineup?
- About the only thing that can derail North Carolina or Kentucky is an injury to their starting point guards. Neither have a capable backup.
- It will turn ugly quickly for Frank Haith if Missouri underachieves. A recent Kansas City Star poll showed 78 percent of fans wanted him fired before his first game.
- If CBS executives don't already regret not keeping Gus Johnson, they will in March when there's an outcry among fans irate he's not calling the NCAA tournament.
- As early losses mount against the likes of Pittsburgh, Kansas, North Carolina, Louisville and Xavier, Long Beach State will face questions about over-scheduling.
- The 49ers will shake off a rough start, however, to win the Big West and send off its talented senior class with a long-awaited NCAA tournament bid.
- Best conference race few will pay attention to: Iona and Fairfield in the MAAC. Neither will earn at-large bids, but both are capable of delivering a first-round scare.
- The last time neither North Carolina nor Duke won or shared the ACC crown was when Wake Forest won the 2002-03 title. That streak will continue this year.
- Unlike the past few years, no Final Four team will come from outside the preseason top 25. This will be a year for college basketball's titans to flex their muscles.
- The Pac-12 champion will have a minimum of four league losses. Too many of the top teams have obvious flaws for any of them to be dominant.
- The Big East will not match last season's 11 NCAA tournament teams, but eight or nine is very plausible and 10 isn't entirely out of the question.
- Big East team likely to exceed preseason expectations: Villanova. The key will be how much impact Dominic Cheek and JayVaughn Pinkston make.
- Big East team likely to disappoint: West Virginia. Do the Mountaineers have enough scorers to complement Truck Bryant and Kevin Jones?
- Having three freshmen declared ineligible will keep St. John's out of the NCAA tournament. The Johnnies lack depth and experience, a bad combination in the Big East.
- We will all give thanks in March that college basketball decides its champion with a playoff rather than a poll.
- Even though the national spotlight will shine elsewhere post-Jimmer, BYU will return to the NCAA tournament thanks to a formidable frontcourt.
- ACC breakout star: Michael Snaer, Florida State. With Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen having departed, the highly touted junior's opportunity has arrived.
- A-10 breakout star: Darien Brothers, Richmond. Considering the Spiders lost their four other best players, Brothers will have to be excellent for them to be competitive.
- Big East breakout star: Scott Martin, Notre Dame. The 6-foot-8 forward will have to take more than 8.2 field goal attempts a game this season.
- Big 12 breakout star: Will Spradling, Kansas State. The sophomore guard showed flashes of excellent shooting and decision-making behind Jacob Pullen last year.
- Big 10 breakout star: Keith Appling, Michigan State. Kalin Lucas' explosive heir apparent is so unselfish that Tom Izzo often has to encourage him to shoot more.
- Mountain West breakout star: Anthony Marshall, UNLV. Already a top slasher and defender, Marshall will blossom if his jump shot becomes more of a threat.
- Pac-12 breakout star: Terrence Ross, Washington. The high-scoring 6-foot-7 sophomore will pick up where he left off during the postseason last year.
- SEC breakout star: Patric Young, Florida. Young's opportunity to justify his hype has arrived with Florida's other top frontcourt players all departing.
- The suspension Xavier's Kenny Frease served the first week of October will turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the 7-footer. Word is he already looks more focused.
- Decision to stay in school that will look smart: Thomas Robinson, Kansas. He can play himself into the lottery instead of being a fringe first rounder last June.
- Decision to stay in school that will be questioned: Perry Jones, Baylor. Will the 6-11 forward's potential again make him a top five pick if he's not dominant as a sophomore?
- Your 2012 women's Final Four: Notre Dame, Tennessee, Baylor and Stanford.
- Anyone who doubts Herb Sendek's intention to push the ball will be wrong. With or without Jahii Carson, Arizona State will run in hopes of capitalizing on its athleticism.
- Addition by subtraction, part I: Stanford's sophomore class will develop faster in the long run without Jeremy Green, who shot with no conscience last year.
- Addition by subtraction, part II: The departure of troubled Jereme Richmond and last year's underachieving senior class will give Illinois' young talent a chance to blossom.
- Best team in the New York Metro Area this season: Iona, believe it or not. The trio of Scott Machado, Mike Glover and Arizona transfer MoMo Jones will be formidable.

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