College Basketball Future, Predictions, and Opening Night Picks
Kentucky and Duke are reloaded and look to return to March Madness after an uncharacteristic lackluster season for both blue bloods. Gonzaga retools with Chet Holmgren, who many believe is the consensus #1 pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.
Regular Season Conference Winners:
ACC: Duke +230
In Coach K’s last year, the Blue Devils are returning Wendell Moore, Jeremy Roach, Joey Baker and Mark Williams who all project to be significant rotation players this season. Duke brings in #2 prospect Paolo Banchero and #9 prospect AJ Griffin, along with projected first round pick in Trevor Keels and Theo John via the transfer portal. The returning experience and incoming talent combines to be the deepest team the Blue Devils have compiled in quite some time. Combined with significant departures for Louisville, Virginia, and Florida State as well as UNC’s first year under head coach Hubert Davis, Duke seems like a no brainer.
Big 10: Michigan +270
The Wolverines return two starters in 5th year guard Eli Brooks and player of the year candidate in center Hunter Dickinson. Dickinson was largely dominant during big games last season and projects to display increased range with his jumper. Michigan adds the #2 recruiting class with knockdown shooter Caleb Houstan. Devante Jones, who averaged 19 ppg for Coastal Carolina last season, will add proven scoring to the Wolverine starting 5.
Big 12: Texas +220
Chris Beard enters his first year in Austin by adding transfers Marcus Carr, Devin Askew, Christian Bishop, Tre Mitchell and Timmy Allen who averaged a combined 71 ppg last season. Carr, Bishop, Allen, and Mitchell should be starting along with senior Courtney Ramey, who averaged 12 ppg on 37% shooting from three for the Longhorns last season. With few returning members other than Ramey and Andruw Jones, the experience of this squad should lead them to the regular season Big 12 title. Devin Askew looks to live up to the hype he had entering his lone season at Kentucky and can thrive in a bench role on this team.
Pac 12: Oregon +300
This is a huge year for Dana Altman as he reups his roster with transfers, in typical Oregon fashion. Senior Will Richardson will be joined by transfer De’Vion Harmon in the backcourt. Richardson shot 44% from three over the last two seasons and Harmon brings defense and off-ball scoring to the table. Jacob Young brings speed, interchangeability, and 14 ppg from his time at Rutgers. Quincy Guerrier will use his length to anchor the defense, with Eric Williams returning as the lone starter from last season’s team.
Last year was Gonzaga’s year to win a title for Mark few. Even though they are the favorite and boast Chet and Drew Timme as stars this season, their lack of dynamic guards compared to last season makes the Zags at +650 have little value. UCLA returns most of their key pieces and opens the season at #2 and +1500 to win it all. They were an #11 seed that got hot during the tournament and probably won’t live up to the hype. It is unlikely Villanova can ride Colin Gillespse coming off of an injury to win another title.
Michigan +1200, Duke +1500, and Alabama +2000 are the picks to win it all this year. With a long season and crazy tournament ahead, its worth spreading a few units on each of these team. Similar to the Wolverines and Blue Devils adding top prospects and transfers to experienced pieces, Alabama returns Second Team All-SEC member Jaden Shackelford and SEC Tournament MVP Jahvon Quinerly. They add #15 prospect JD Davison and #35 Charles Bediako as incoming freshmen. Davison will add athleticism and the ability to attack the rim as a lead-guard and will be able to share the ball-handling duties well with Quinerly. JQ’s pace of play will keep opposing defenses on their toes. Adding Noah Gurley (15 ppg) to Bediako will make a strong frontcourt for the Tide. Nimari Burnett was one of the most-sought after transfers in the country and will be more athleticism and experience off the bench.
Teams Worth a Sprinkle:
Oregon teams typically make noise in March and this feels like a year Dana Altman and company can finally break through. The talented transfers combined with returning members of last year’s team should make for another interesting Ducks team come tournament time.
Eric Musselman is one of the best coaches in college basketball at recruiting transfers. The Razorbacks will likely start four transfers in Chris Lykes, Trey Wade, Stanley Umude, and Au’Diese Toney, who all put up numbers at their previous stops in the NCAA. Conor Vanover will man the middle and should add stretch shooting to starting 5. JD Notae and Davonta Davis will provide experience with the team’s system off of the bench, as they combined for just over 21 ppg for Arkansas last season. Teams always buy into the MussBuss’ system and will do the same this year.
Opening Night Picks:
State Farm Champions Classic
Kansas (-4) vs Michigan State (over/under: 143)
Despite the preseason turmoil of Jalen Wilson getting suspended and the beef between newcomer Remy Martin and coach Bill Self, this Jayhawks team has a lot of talent. Remy Martin has his NBA career on the line after a poor performance last season. Although on the smaller side, he projects to be the lead scorer in the backcourt. Dajuan Harris was second in assists last season and will be the main distributor. Sharpshooter Christian Braun and Ochai Agbaji will man the forward spots, with David McCormack down low. MSU has little returning production from an underperforming team last year. Its unclear whether Coach Izzo will remain with the game’s starting 5 but the uncertainty doesnt bode well for the Spartans. Early season matchups tend to lean towards teams with more experience. Rock Chalk. Kansas -4
Duke (-1.5) vs Kentucky (over/under: 148.5)
Uncertainty surrounds both teams’ starting 5s for the early part of the season. Coach Cal adds a bunch of transfers, Sahvir Wheeler, Oscar Tshiebwe, CJ Frederick, Kellan Grady and 5-star TyTy Washington. Wheeler, Washington, Grady, Tshiebwe and Deion Brooks will likely be the starting 5, with Brooks being the only returning WIldcat. Duke will roll out Roach, Moore, Griffin, Banchero and Williams. Similar to the other game, more experience within the system will give Duke the edge here in what is basically a pickem game. Kentucky did not fare well with a roster full of transfers last season and this game feels eerily similar to the game that featured Zion Williamson leading the Blue Devils to a 30 point win over Kentucky. Duke -1.5