Have you only watched a few minutes of college hoops since Gordon Hayward's buzzer beater bounced harmlessly off the rim at the end of last year's national title game? Is the only thing you know about this season that some baby-faced kid named Jimmer is lighting up the scoreboard?
Then this is the post for you.
Since the day after the Super Bowl is traditionally the time that many sports fans begin to reacquaint themselves with college basketball, we thought we'd make it easy for you this year.
Consider the eight storylines below a Cliff Notes edition of the 2010-11 college hoops season that should get you up to speed on everything from the top title contenders, to the biggest surprise teams, to who this year's Butler might be.
1. Will Duke repeat?
The Blue Devils began the season amid whispers that an undefeated season wasn't too far-fetched before freshman point guard Kyrie Irving sustained college basketball's most oft-discussed toe injury in December. Irving's absence and a lack of production from Duke's big men contributed to January losses to Florida State and St. John's, altering the national perception of the Blue Devils dramatically. No longer is Duke a heavy favorite to repeat. Now they're merely one of a group of teams that appear capable of a Final Four run.
2. If not Duke, then who?
The easy answer is Ohio State. The Buckeyes are the lone remaining unbeaten team in the nation thanks to the inside-outside combination of national player of the year candidate Jared Sullinger and sweet-shooting guards Jon Diebler, William Buford and David Lighty. Besides the Buckeyes, there are a handful of other teams with the talent to make a title run. Surging Texas has won eight in a row, one-loss Kansas may have the nation's deepest roster and Pittsburgh headlines a group of seven Big East teams currently ranked in the top 20.
3. Have the bluebloods bounced back?
If fans of North Carolina, UCLA, UConn and Arizona had to shield their eyes as those teams missed the NCAA tournament last season, it's now safe for them to open them again. Kemba Walker has propelled UConn into the top 10 for most of the season, rebuilding Arizona has emerged as the surprise Pac-10 favorite and North Carolina and UCLA both appear headed back to the NCAA tournament. The lone straggler among the group is Indiana, which is still languishing near the bottom of the Big Ten in year three of Tom Crean's tenure. Patience in the Hoosier State has been impressive so far, but next year it may run thin.4. Who are the nation's surprise teams?
The most pleasant surprise has to be San Diego State, a program that has never won an NCAA tournament game before. The Aztecs earned their first-ever national ranking in November and then have soared to as high as No. 4 in the country, winning 21 of their first 22 games thanks to a veteran roster, an emerging star in NBA prospect Kawhi Leonard and unprecedented fan support. Besides the Aztecs, several other teams have come from nowhere to crack the top 20. UConn was expected to struggle to make the NCAA tournament, Texas had a legion of doubters after collapsing down the stretch last season and Louisville is 17-4 even though many believe this is the least talented Cardinals team of Rick Pitino's tenure.
5. What about the biggest disappointments?
Headlining this list are Michigan State and Kansas State, two preseason top five teams that may miss the NCAA tournament despite starting the year with aspirations of a championship. The Spartans are just 13-10 and have lost five of six. The Wildcats are 16-8 yet remain under .500 in Big 12 play. The greatest similarity between the two programs is the turmoil both have endured. Between Tom Izzo's near departure and the dismissal of guards Korie Lucious and Chris Allen, Michigan State's tumultuous summer has spilled into its season. Kansas State appears to be suffering from a crisis of leadership, with Wally Judge and Freddy Asprilla leaving the program and Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly sitting out a combined nine games earlier this season for accepting extra benefits.
6. Who's the nation's strongest conference?
Many thought the Big Ten might lay claim to this title entering the season, but a season-ending knee injury to Purdue's Robbie Hummel and the unexpected struggles of Michigan State and Illinois opened the door for another league. Into that void stepped the Big East, which currently boasts seven top 20 teams and could put as many as 11 into the NCAA tournament. The lone knock on the Big East is that it lacks an elite team besides Pittsburgh, which has a history of flaming out during the second week of the NCAA tournament. Can someone from the group of Pittsburgh, Villanova, Syracuse, Notre Dame, UConn or Georgetown make the Final Four? We'll see.7. Is the Pac-10 still the weakest conference?
Perhaps, but it's nowhere near as awful as last season. Whereas it took a late surge from Washington for the Pac-10 to even get two teams into the NCAA tournament last year, this year the conference appears likely to get at least three bids and perhaps as many as four. Arizona has ridden conference player of the year favorite Derrick Williams to the top of the standings, Washington still appears on track to earn an NCAA tournament berth despite three straight road losses and UCLA has quietly won 13 of 16 games. The team with the best chance at the potential fourth bid is Washington State, which defeated Gonzaga and Baylor in non-conference play.
8. Who's the favorite for national player of the year?
A three-way race has emerged between UConn guard Kemba Walker, Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger and that Jimmer Fredette kid you may have heard about. The favorite is probably Fredette, who has become the face of this college basketball season by leading the nation in scoring at 27.6 points per game and propelling BYU into the top 10 in the polls. Walker catapulted UConn back to relevancy with a brilliant Maui Invitational and then two clutch game-winning shots in January, but he's tailed off a bit against Big East teams that are sending two and three defenders at him. And Sullinger has gone from freshman of the year candidate to player of the year candidate by establishing himself as the best low-post player in the nation by far.
- Kemba Walker
- Jared Sullinger