This weekend marks the opening of the 2017-18 NCAA men’s basketball season. Plenty of storylines will drive the action this season, with the national spotlight squarely on North Carolina, the defending champions, and their challengers. This is your go-to guide for what to know about this season:
Defending Champions: North Carolina
The real question UNC will have to deal with will come from frontcourt production, as the trio of Justin Jackson, Isaiah Hicks, and Kennedy Meeks is gone.
Senior Joel Berry II will miss the first couple of weeks due to injury, so the Tar Heels will play almost no starters from last season’s championship run to begin the season. Roy Williams and the Heels will have their hands full combating a tough non-conference schedule that includes games against Stanford, Michigan, Tennessee, and Ohio State. With Berry out indefinitely, the addition of Jalek Felton, No. 28 on the ESPN 100, should provide the team with some backcourt scoring.
Freshman to Watch: Mo Bamba (Texas)
Coming off a disappointing 2016-17 season in which they won a grand total of 11 games, Texas won big this summer by signing the highly touted Mohamed Bamba. Bamba, the 5-star recruit rated No. 3 in the ESPN 100, has been considered the biggest recruit to join Texas since Kevin Durant. The 7’ center can do it all: score inside, shoot 3’s, defend inside, rebound, and block at a high level. Projected to immediately start in Shaka Smart’s defensive-minded Longhorns squad, Bamba will establish himself as a Wooden Award candidate early.
Team to Watch: Duke
Grayson Allen returns for his senior year, yet that storyline has been completely overlooked in light of the phenomenal recruiting class Coach K brought in. Having signed four of the top eight recruits, including No. 1 overall recruit Marvin Bagley III, Duke look positioned to challenge the defending champs and conference rivals UNC.
Also Watch: Michigan State, Oregon, Notre Dame, Kansas
Coach to Watch: Patrick Ewing (Georgetown)
Returning to his alma mater, NBA Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing brings tenacity to a Georgetown team that tended to underperform under John Thompson III. Highly regarded as an associate head coach for the Charlotte Hornets, Ewing could quickly bring the Hoyas back to national prominence.
Best Conference: TBD
College basketball has been noted for its parity across the conferences, with the past ten champions hailing from the Big 12, SEC, ACC, American, and Big East conferences. The Big 12 consistently sends 70-80% of its teams into the Tourney; the ACC has produced the most champions in the previous decade; the Big Ten has plenty of powerhouses; and the Big East holds so much history and prestige that Villanova winning it all two years ago shouldn’t really count as a Cinderella story. With the emergence of smaller and mid-major conferences, like the AAC, Atlantic 10, and Missouri Valley, into the national spotlight, college basketball will only get more unpredictable and fun to watch.
Who will be the Top Pick in the 2018 Draft?
Freshmen Michael Porter (Missouri), DeAndre Ayton (Arizona), Bagley (Duke), and Bamba (Texas) will all be frontrunners for the No. 1 spot in the upcoming 2018 NBA Draft. However, plenty more contenders will surely emerge for this prestigious honor. Michigan State forward Miles Bridges has been considered a strong favorite for the Wooden Award despite just being a sophomore. The most intriguing prospect, however, won’t even play in the States this year. Slovenia’s Luka Doncic has turned heads as an NBA-ready star in the European circuit—despite being just 18 years old. The guy plays impressively against great talent twice his age, and he won the 2017 FIBA Eurobasket Tournament alongside his Slovenian teammate Goran Dragic.
What are looking forward to this season, and who do you think will have the biggest impact on a contending team? Sound off below in the comments below. Also, be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter: @PowerRank_More, subscribe to our YouTube channel, and follow us on our Instagram page for all of the latest information from Power Rankings and More.
Published on 11/11/17 at 8:00 AM EST.Share this post on:
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