College Basketball: 10 Biggest Summer Storylines Still to Be Worked out
With the college basketball season fast approaching, some storylines have yet to be played out. From a strong incoming freshmen class sure to help their respected teams to previously dominating teams with question marks, the season will surely be an intriguing one to watch.
Problem is, there's some question as to what's going to happen before the actual season starts.
Can Kentucky continue with its dominance without having any of their starting five back from last year? Also, who is this mysterious teen you see in this picture? If you don't know now, you surely will by the end of the college basketball season.
Where Will Jabari Parker Go?
"The best high school player since LeBron James is..."
Yeah, that's how good he is and how much hype he is going to get. With Parker still unsure of where he wants to go, Scott Powers of ESPNChicago.com says he won't rush his decision either. Recruited by nearly every school in the world, this upcoming senior from Chicago Simeon Career Academy (yes, the same place Derrick Rose went to school) has narrowed his list down to 10 schools.
Look for that list to shorten by the fall, with BYU staying near the top of the list due to his beliefs in Mormonism. He will be recruited heavily and looks to have the ability to put an entire team on his back as LeBron due to his tremendously structured game.
I mean, he's apparently the next LeBron James...hopefully he doesn't take his talents to South Beach.
Kentucky Basketball: Rebuild or Repeat?
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With the starting five from last year's national championship team gone, what will John Calipari and Kentucky ever do to stay out of mediocrity? Oh yeah, just get commits from the top recruits again!
Kentucky gobbled up arguably the top recruit in the 2012 class by receiving a commit from 6-10 C/PF Nerlens Noel to go along with the great signing of 6-8 SF Alex Poythress and 6-4 SG Archie Goodwin, giving them one of the strongest recruiting classes in the nation.
Is that enough to make it back to the Final Four? Questionable. But the return of sharpshooter Kyle Wiltjer will only help.
Look for a few bumps and bruises along the way, but a return to March Madness seems almost certain...just don't hold your breath for anything more, Kentucky fans.
The Coaching Carousel in College Basketball
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Ah yes, the return of Larry Brown to the coaching world. A face that will always remind New York Knicks fans of mediocrity and grief (have things really changed?). Countless colleges and universities will have new coaches heading their program this upcoming season, but the most prominent name is, of course, Larry Brown.
While he may not be the flashiest name to have come back or switched coaching positions during this past year, he is the one with the greatest pedigree and experience. He'll head a SMU program that hasn't done much in recent years, but will provide publicity to the program which, in the long-run, may provide the school with better recruits. I mean, when was the last time anyone has spoken about SMU basketball? Well, now we are.
With Larry Brown off his couch, coaches like Seth Greenberg and Isiah Thomas (oh, Knicks) are back on theirs. Greenberg was fired after having success with Virginia Tech, but never enough to dethrone the Duke's and North Carolina's of the world. Also, Bruce Weber, mainstay at Illinois, left to take over the job at Kansas State, where Frank Martin recently left. Martin accepted the job at South Carolina.
Whew, only forty more coaches to talk about.
Recruiting Changes Sure to Change the Landscape of College Basketball
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The NCAA recently adopted new rules that will now allow coaches to send unlimited texts and unlimited calls to recruits after they have finished their sophomore year of high school. Not only that, but they will also allow coaches to send private messages to kids via social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Yeah, like college sports weren't already full of question marks and bad decisions.
These coaches can now send as many smiley faces and bribes as they want, as long as the NCAA doesn't find out, that is. The NCAA must believe that this will cut down on third parties getting inter-mingled and connected with these kids, but just imagine a young, impressionable kid receiving a text from a Roy Williams or Bill Self. This sounds like it will be a lovefest. No one knows how it will turn out, but it's sure to be interesting. At least it's the coaches in the heads of the kids, not another third party or "friends".
SEC Is as Strong as Ever
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Not only does Kentucky continuously grab recruits and always get richer regarding basketball talent, but Missouri seems to be on the rise as well.
Although they were disappointed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament at the hands of Norfolk State, they look to rebound with the return of guards Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon, to go along with the successful transfers of Alex Oriakhi (previously of UConn), Jabari Brown (6'5" guard transferring form Oregon) and bouncy guard Keion Bell (Pepperdine). Look for Missouri to continue on with their success from last year, as they have the shooting and athletic ability to do so.
South Carolina didn't get any major recruits or transfers this season, but they did get one of the top coaches in college basketball to sign on with them. The fiery Frank Martin was persuaded to leave Kansas State, a school in which he helped to rebuild, to join a school not known for its basketball prowess. The hiring was quite surprising and also the best of the offseason. He'll bring his fire, tenacity and desire to win to a school that looks to build something from scratch, a la Kansas State from a few years back.
What Does Kansas Have to Do to Return to the Promised Land?
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Get this: Kansas has won eight straight Big 12 titles. But that's not it...they want more.
After losing the national championship game to Kentucky, Kansas then lost their top two players, Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, to the NBA.
But fear not Kansas fans! The return of center Jeff Withey, guards Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford and a solid recruiting class headed by 6-8 PF Perry Ellis (not the wallet), have Kansas looking to continue their unbelievable success. They should be favored to win the Big 12 again due to the loss of Perry Jones III and the quintessential Quincy's at Baylor. And with Kansas State reeling and Texas being nothing more than an enigma at this point, it is almost a sure thing.
Big East Swan Song
Well, what a long, strange trip it's been my friends. After the 2012-13 season, a couple of the biggest names in the Big East, its mainstays, are leaving for greener pastures. Syracuse, Pittsburgh and West Virginia are leaving to different conferences, while the incoming programs—Houston, SMU, and Central Florida—are not nearly as enticing or exciting.
The power conference of the Big East, which was a year-in, year-out power, will be disbanded by these teams, virtually ending its dominance in the gathering of NCAA Tournament spots and Final Fours over the past decade or so.
They became college basketball's foundation, but will soon become something hardly recognizable after the season so enjoy it while you still can.
Who Is the Nation's Top Player?
Over the past decade, the nation's top players have consistently been freshmen and sophomores, with this year being no exception. While Kentucky may arguably have the better class, headed by center Nerlens Noel, UCLA has the best player.
Shabazz Muhammad is a 6'6 swingman who simply fills up the box scores. His skill-set is reminiscent of James Harden—especially being a lefty—but exceeds Harden's athletic ability and speed. Muhammad plays a very smart and cerebral game, methodically taking apart his opponents in a variety of ways.
With an already NBA-ready body, mature offensive game and passing capabilities, look for Muhammad to carry UCLA on his back and far into the NCAA Tournament this year. I'll say it now, watch out.
The Return of Indiana
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Tom Crean and Indiana has been steadily building up the Indiana name over the past two seasons. Seemingly gone a few years ago, its resurgence last year shows that they are back.
With one of the best players in the nation in Cody Zeller (younger brother of former North Carolina Tar Heel Tyler Zeller), they have built a strong team that could conceivably be named the top in the nation.
Crean was brought to Indiana to rebuild a storied program, one built by the dedication and fire of Bobby Knight. The rebuilding steadily progressed over the better part of three seasons, but now Indiana is looked at as being a team with large expectations.
They pushed Kentucky on two occasions last year, scaring the eventual national champions in the Sweet 16. This year, they look for more. With Zeller and nearly everyone else back and a strong recruiting class, Indiana will undoubtedly be looking for a national championship.
New Underclassmen Draft Deadline
Underclassmen have always had the entire summer to gather, accumulate, listen and pinpoint their stock for the NBA Draft—sometimes waiting until June rolled around, before pulling their name out or keeping their name in the pool of players allowed for consideration in the draft itself. Choosing to hire an agent signified their intentions to stay in the draft and became a huge risk, knowing that if they were not drafted, they had little chance to make it in the NBA.
Their decision-making will have to be even quicker now.
The new deadline to make a decision on a player's draft stock must now come by April, due to the fact that coaches and management of both the NBA and college teams are tired of waiting to move forward or stand still regarding their players.
While it may not be fair for the players, the decision-making process must be more rapid and streamlined. This rule change goes hand-in-hand with the rule of now allowing texting and contact with recruits after their sophomore year of high school—testing players minds and predisposing them to the harm that bad information may cause.
It should be interesting to watch as the college season goes on and the top players continue their meteoric success.