What We’re Thankful For 2013: The Dagger

With Thanksgiving upon us, each Yahoo Sports blog is taking stock of what they're thankful for while also providing menu suggestions and a sport-specific viewing guide for when you hit your couch. Share what you're thankful for on Twitter with the #YSBThanks hashtag or in the comments below. Have a safe and happy holiday!

This year's freshman class: In the one-and-done era of college hoops, a season is often defined by how good the freshmen are as much as anything else. This year's class is as deep and as star-studded as any in recent memory, which explains why there's more early buzz for this season than usual. The headliners are Kansas' Andrew Wiggins, Kentucky's Julius Randle, Duke's Jabari Parker and Arizona's Aaron Gordon, but there are numerous under-the-radar guys worth a peek too. LSU's Jordan Mickey, BYU's Eric Mika and Cal's Jabari Byrd are a few who have made an immediate impact elsewhere.

Marcus Smart: If most players in Smart's position would have bolted for the NBA last spring, college basketball should be extremely grateful the Oklahoma State star forged his own path. The sport will be much richer this season for Smart passing on the chance to be a NBA lottery pick and returning to school to try to improve his own game and lead the Cowboys deep into March. Smart has confirmed his status as a national player of the year candidate during the first three weeks of the season, averaging 21 points, 4.0 rebounds, 4.2 steals and 3.6 assists. The Big 12 title chase between Smart's Cowboys and Andrew Wiggins' Kansas team should be among the most compelling conference races in the nation this winter.

A resurgent Pac-12: Covering college basketball from the Pacific Time Zone has sometimes been challenging the past few years because the West Coast's marquee league hasn't produced much of national relevance. Aside from an unexpected Elite Eight run from Arizona and bursts of competence from Colorado, Cal and UCLA, the league did little to distinguish itself from 2010 to 2012. Last year ended on an uptick with four NCAA bids and Oregon and Arizona both reaching the Sweet 16, and now the league appears poised to reestablish itself as one of the nation's best. Seven Pac-12 teams reside in KenPom's top 50, with Arizona boasting Final Four-caliber talent and Oregon, UCLA, Cal and Colorado among the many challengers to the Wildcats.

March mayhem: Want to know what makes the college hoops postseason so much more intriguing than college football's? The possibility that a little-known program from an unheralded conference can get scalding hot at the right time, topple a couple of juggernauts and take center stage during the sport's showcase month. That can't ever happen in college football. It does almost every year in hoops. There has been talk of the richest programs in college athletics breaking away from the NCAA and forming their own association, but thankfully most administrators appear to recognize the danger for college basketball in such a move. Any decision that separates college basketball's sharks and minnows threatens the charm and appeal of the NCAA tournament.

• Chicken Biscuits from Sunrise Biscuit Kitchen in Chapel Hill.
• Reuben from Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor
• Ribs, brisket and pulled pork from Dinosaur Bar-B-Que in Syracuse
• A basket of fried chicken from Gus's Fried Chicken in Memphis
• Hush puppies and catfish from the Catfish Hole in Fayetteville
• Chocolate chip cookies from Diddy Riese Cookies in Westwood Village

• Oklahoma State vs. Purdue, 12 p.m. EST (Old Spice Classic quarterfinals)
• Wake Forest vs. Kansas, 12:30 p.m. EST (Battle 4 Atlantis quarterfinals)
• Xavier vs. Iowa, 7 p.m. EST (Battle 4 Atlantis quarterfinals)
• Creighton vs. Arizona State, 11 p.m. EST (Anaheim Classic quarterfinals)

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