With fall upon us that means the college basketball season is right around the corner. There are many interesting storylines as the season gets ready to tip off. We’ll have you covered for the entire season here at sports-glutton.com. We kick off our coverage with our 2nd annual College Basketball Alphabet.
Atlantic 10– You could argue that the Atlantic 10 was the most competitive conference in the nation last season. Six teams (Dayton, Saint Louis, VCU, Saint Joseph’s, George Washington, UMASS) secured bids to the NCAA tournament. Furthermore, UMASS, VCU, George Washington, and Saint Louis were all ranked in the Top 25 at some point last season. Bottom line, this conference is as good as any in the country.
Badgers Resurgence- If you want a simple explanation of the Badgers Final Four run last season look no further than Points per Possession. Once a grind it out offensive team, Bo Ryan flipped the switch on his offensive philosophy last season. After finishing outside the Top 100 in PPP in 2012-13 (1.04-116th), the Badger jumped to 5th in the nation in 2013-14 (1.16). With four returning starters this season, sky is the limit in Madison.
Cat Scratch Fever– Expectations are high in Lexington and Tucson, as they should be. The USA Today Coaches Poll has Kentucky (1) and Arizona (2) as the top two teams to open the season. Both teams have huge holes to fill within their rotations. Coach Calipari lost Julius Randle and James Young, whereas, Sean Miller lost Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson. As always, Coach Calipari is blessed with talent, as his roster has nine McDonald’s All Americans. Coach Miller’s team has arguably the most size and athleticism in the nation. These will be two teams to watch throughout the season.
Dunk City- Louisville head coach Rick Pitino had to be ecstatic to learn that forward Montrezl Harrell would be returning to school for his junior season. Few players accumulated as many easy buckets (easy=dunks) as Harrell did last season. As a matter of fact, his 97 dunks last year were a Louisville single season record. Take a look at Harrell’s FG% chart from the last two seasons:
Efficient Offenses– Last season marked only the 3rd time in the last ten years that a team finished outside the Top 5 in Points per Possession and went on to win the national championship. Ironically, UCONN captured two of those titles while being outside the Top 5 in PPP. Still, if you are an efficient offense that scores at a high clip, recent history is on your side.
Flying High–The Dayton Flyers march to the Elite Eight last season is what makes college basketball the greatest thing going. Following a rough patch in late January, the team came together to play some of their best basketball down the stretch (13-3 to close season). The loss of Devin Oliver, Vee Sanfrod, and Matt Kavanaugh certainly hurts, but head coach and Archie Miller should have them primed for another tournament berth.
Glass Cleaner- Entering his final season, UCSB center Alan Williams has developed into one of the premier rebounding big men in the country. Last season, Williams 11.5 RPG led the nation. He also led the Big West conference in total rebounds (322), offensive RPG (3.8), and defensive rebound percentage (27.3). He grabbed 15 or more rebounds on nine separate occasions last season.
Here to Stay- The Virginia Cavaliers 30 win season a year ago was no fluke. Since taking over the program back in 2010, head coach Tony Bennett has increased the Cavs win totals every season (15, 16, 22, 23, 30). Like his father before him, Bennett’s teams are predicated off of defense. Last season, UVA held their opponents to 55.7 PPG (tops in the nation).
Mr. Jefferson– For as good as Aaron Gordon was during his freshman campaign, the Wildcats really don’t figure to lose too much production with the ultra talented Hollis-Jefferson. Similar to Gordon, RHJ uses his immense athletic ability to wreak havoc on the defensive end of the floor. His quick lateral movement enables him to guard on the perimeter. RHJ definitely played his best basketball down the stretch last season, evident by his NCAA Tournament run. In the Wildcats four games (Weber State, Gonzaga, San Diego State, Wisconsin), Jefferson average 14 points per game, all while shooting nearly 70% from the floor (69.6%).
Coach K– Raise your hand if you remember the classic basketball video game from Sega Genesis? To this day, it still might be the greatest sports game ever released. I can’t tell you how many backboards I broke on that game with Corliss Williamson. To show just how old I’m getting, this game was released back in 1995. Heralded incoming Duke freshman Jahlil Okafor was born in the same year.
Levert’s Turn– If Nik Stauskas was the most improved player in the country last season, LeVert might very well have been the 2nd most improved. The Pickerington, Ohio product used an offseason conditioning program (along with Stauskas) to add 20 pounds of muscle from his freshman season to his sophomore. His productivity last season was immense, as he increased his minutes (+24), points per game (+10.6), FG% (+12.5), 3FG% (+10.6), and FT% (+26.7) all over his freshman numbers.
Mustang Revival– Head coach Larry Brown has done wonders for the Mustang program. The team’s 27 wins last season were the most since the 1987-88 season. That success translated into the fourth largest increase in men’s basketball attendance, evident by the team’s 18-1 home record. Even though the team missed out on an NCAA tournament berth last season, they will get a chance to improve upon their success on a national stage. The team will play 22 nationally televised games this season.
Nucky’s Fate- Ok, this has nothing to do with college basketball. However, as a big Boardwalk Empire fan, I must say that I’m anxious to find out Nucky Thompson’s fate. The acclaimed HBO series comes to an end on Sunday night.
Old Faces in New Places– This offseason saw some high profile head coaches leaving programs, as well as returning to the college basketball landscape. Although the return of Bruce Pearl (Auburn) might have been the biggest news story nationally, I will have my eye on the following coaches:
- Cuonzo Martin (California)- Tennessee fan base seemed to push him out, a move they might arguably regret. Martin is coming off a 24-13 record with the Vols, including a trip to the Sweet 16.
- Danny Manning (Wake Forest)- After only two seasons in Tulsa, Manning is ACC bound. The former #1 overall pick (1988) helped guide the Golden Hurricanes to their first NCAA bid since 2003.
- Kelvin Sampson (Houston)- Perhaps the most “under the radar” hiring of the offseason. Sampson brings a proven track record to the Cougars (Final Four trip in 2002-Oklahoma). Unfortunately, he also brings baggage (NCAA sanctions)
- Steve Wojciechowski (Marquette)- The long time Coach K disciple gets his first head coaching gig. He’ll be tasked with replacing the ultra successful Buzz Williams
- Ernie Kent (Washington State)- The former Oregon head coach will try and work his magic in Pullman. During his 13 years at Oregon, Kent won over 230 games, including two Elite Eight appearances.
- Buzz Williams (Virginia Tech)- Hokie nation has to be ecstatic to land Williams. During his seven year tenure at Marquette, Williams won over 66% of his games coached, including three straight Sweet 16 appearances (2010-13).
Pauley Pavilion- On July 30th, an estimated 20 million gallons of water flooded the UCLA campus. The legendary arena’s hardwood floor was ruined, as was the team’s training and weight rooms. As of mid-October, the team still has not been able to practice on the new floor. I guess if head coach Steve Alford’s team gets off to a slow start this season, we’ll know the reason.
Quick Trigger- BYU senior guard Tyler Haws knows how to fill up a stat sheet. The reigning WCC player of the year is one of the most lethal scorers in the nation. He eclipsed twenty or more points 14 times, thirty or more points 6 times, and forty or points 1 time last season. He enters the season with 1,944 total points scored in his career. Only Jimmer Fredette (2,599) has more total points scored in program history, a record that seems destined to be broken by Haws.
Ram Power- You’d be hard pressed to find a program as successful as the one Shaka Smart has built in Richmond, Virginia the last couple of years. Under the tutelage of Smart, the program has averaged over 27 wins the last five seasons, including an average RPI in the low 30s. Smart is well known for using unique ways to get his team mentally and physically prepared to start the season. Last preseason, he had his team partake in Navy Seal training. If you haven’t seen the footage, it’s definitely worth a look:
Staten Statement- Juwan Staten enters his senior season as one of the premier point guards in all the land. The Bob Cousy Award finalist from a year ago, averaged 18.1 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 5.8 APG. His 2.8 assist/turnover ratio ranked in the Top 35 nationally, as did his minutes per game (37.3-16th). Staten is one of four returning starters to head coach Bob Huggins Mountaineers team. His superior play should help the team improve upon their disappointing 2013-14 season (17-15).
Tarkanian’s Rebels- This college basketball season will mark the 25 year anniversary of one of the most dominant teams in recent memory. Tarkanian compiled a roster that included standout players such as Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony, Anderson Hunt, George Ackles, Moses Scurry, David Butler, and Travis Bice. Their incredible season culminated in a 30 point victory versus Duke in the title game.
UCONN- You have to hand it to UCONN head coach Kevin Ollie, his team isn’t dodging anyone with their non-conference schedule. The Huskies have marquee non-conference games scheduled with Texas, Duke, Florida, and Stanford. The real question for UCONN is how do they replace Shabazz Napier; a player who was responsible for over 25% of the team’s scoring a year ago.
Van Vleet– There are few players I enjoy watching more than Wichita State point guard Fred Van Vleet. His ability to efficiently run the Shockers offense looks way too easy than it should. Few players in the nation generated a better assist/turnover ratio (4.0-8th) than the former Rockford, Illinois prospect. The chart below better illustrates just how impressive Van Vleet was the last two years:
Roy Williams- With all the turmoil that has surfaced the last two seasons in Chapel Hill (Hairston incident & Academic misconduct allegations), head coach Roy Williams has allocated a lot of his time for non-basketball activities (namely defending his program). Still, the 2014-15 season brings a new sense of excitement in Chapel Hill, as this might be the Tar Heels most talented roster since the Zeller, Marshall, and Barnes group. Led by all-world guard Marcus Paige, Williams will look to guide his program back atop the nation’s elite programs.
X-Factor– Cornhuskers Terran Petteway enters his senior season as one of the nation’s best. The 6-6 swingman out of Galveston eclipsed double figures in 30 out of his 32 games played last season. His 18.1 points per game led the Big 10 conference. His quickness on the perimeter, as well as his willingness to constantly attack the rim, led to 204 free throw attempts (also tops in the conference). Petteway’s play helped the Cornhuskers secure their first NCAA tournament berth since the 1998 last season. We expect him to be in the conversation for national player of the year this season, as he is simply that talented.
Replacing Young– Head coach Billy Donovan will be hard pressed to replace one of the biggest “spark plugs” in college basketball the last couple of seasons. Patric Young’s presence on the court was always bigger than his statistics. He was a true leader that anchored one of the best defenses in the nation. His ability to defend guards on pick-and-roll plays was second to none. Michigan transfer Jon Horford is expected to replace Young at the center position in 2014-15.
Zebra Concerns- Straight from the 2014-15 NCAA Rules book, here are three major points of emphasis entering the season (as described in the rules book):
- Handchecking- The rules committee is concerned that various types of handchecking on a player with the ball drastically reduces the dribbler’s ability to beat his man to create scoring opportunities.
- Freedom of Movement- This concern relates to a player’s freedom to move with or without the ball. Defenses are being allowed to make illegal contact on offensive players far too often. Basically, the officials need to do a better job of calling penalties on physical plays that prevent offenses from getting in their desired sets.
- Block/Charges Plays- There are two points of emphasis here 1.) a defensive player moving forward toward the dribbler in an attempt to establish initial legal guarding position outside the restricted area, and 2.) the defender not establishing initial legal guarding position on plays involving airborne shooters/passers.
Thank you to statsheet.com for supplying the charts on this post
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