John Dunne comes to Marist after 12 years as the head coach at St. Peter’s. The Red Foxes are looking to bounce back after a 6-25 season and last place finish in the MAAC.
67. The Jacksonville Dolphins and Sophomore guard JD Notae
JD Notae averaged 15.4 PPG, 4.7 RPG, and 1.9 APG as a freshman guard for the Dolphins. He will lead a Jacksonville team that returns several key contributors in what should be a competitive Atlantic Sun Conference.
66. Mike Daum’s Senior season for the South Dakota State Jackrabbits
Daum is one of the best players in all of college basketball. He averaged 23.9 PPG and 10.3 RPG while shooting 42.5% from long range. He is looking to give the Jackrabbits a signature NCAA tournament win in his final year.
65. D’Marcus Simonds’ Junior season for the Georgia State Panthers
While a relatively unknown player, Simonds has legitimate NBA potential. He chose to return to school following a 21.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.4 APG stat line and an appearance in the NCAA tournament as the Sun Belt champs. Georgia State can compete as long as he is running the offense.
64. TJ Holyfield and Stephen F. Austin’s Lumberjack Press
Holyfield has been a consistent piece of the Lumberjacks recent success in the NCAA tournament ever since he was a freshman. He is the program’s all-time leader in blocked shots and is coming off a Southland Conference Tournament MVP performance. SFA and their fast paced in your face press are looking to make their 5th NCAA tournament in 6 seasons.
63. The Australians on St. Mary’s
The Gaels have 5 Australians on their team, 2 New Zealanders, 3 Europeans, and 5 Americans.
62. UMBC when everyone knows their name
UMBC did the impossible and now everyone knows their name. Can they shine in the national spotlight?
61. All 5’ 9” of the Campbell Fighting Camels’ Chris Clemons
Chris Clemons is one of the best scorers in college basketball coming off a season in which he averaged 24.9 PPG and will work to get this Camels team over the hump.
60. Jon Elmore running Dan D’Antoni’s offense at Marshall
Marshall was able to upset Wichita State in last season’s NCAA tournament thanks to Dan D’Antoni’s offense which averaged 83.8 points per contest. The team loves shootouts and is more than equipped to handle them. Jon Elmore has one more season to show his masterful ability to orchestrate the Thundering Herd.
59. The Citadel Bulldogs play shootout games
The Citadel lost a lot of games last year (11-21 record), but scored a lot of points (82.5 PPG). They’re a team that loves to press and run which makes for entertaining mid-major basketball.
58. Tevin Mack suit up for the Alabama Crimson Tide
Mack showed flashes at Texas but ultimately left due to a suspension during his sophomore season. He is capable of scoring in bunches as a 6’ 6” wing which Alabama will need if they hope to replace Collin Sexton.
57. The Sophomore season of Cal’s Darius McNeill
As a freshman, the guard from Westfield, Texas led Cal in minutes played, assists, and 3-point shooting. I’m interested to see how he progresses in his second season.
56. A Kavell Bigby-Williams and Tremont Waters pick and roll
Tremont Waters was a killer at times last year. The end of the game at Texas A&M was enough evidence. He gets some help this year. Kavell Bigby-Williams has experience in the Final Four from his time at Oregon and plays above the rim on both sides of the floor.
55. Carlton Bragg play at his third school
The former 5-star recruit is now at his third stop. Going from Kansas to Arizona State to New Mexico, it is yet to be determined if his potential can translate to production.
54. Travis Steele take over for Chris Mack at Xavier
Xavier promoted from within following the departure of Chris Mack. Can Xavier remain in the conversation as a contender?
53. Chris Mack take over for Rick Pitino at Louisville
Louisville has turned the page on the Rick Pitino drama and is ready to move forward with Chris Mack. Louisville has a loaded non conference schedule and must replace the top 3 scorers from a year ago. V.J. King is the key for this team.
52. Ethan Happ’s post moves
Wisconsin is coming off a disappointing season but featured several young guys. Ethan Happ is the best big man in the Big 10 and leads a fundamentally sound Badger roster.
51. Tom Crean coach the Georgia Bulldogs
Tom Crean is a great coach. He rebuilt Indiana during his time there and was let go irrationally. Crean has created energy and excitement for the Georgia program and fans. I think he can make Georgia relevant.
50. CJ Massinburg and the Buffalo Bulls
The MAC is there for the taking. Buffalo dominated Arizona in the NCAA tournament last year. Their best player returns.
49. Year 2 for Mike Hopkins at Washington
Hopkins brought the 2-3 Zone with him to Seattle and has a real opportunity to make Washington into a winner during his second season. He has an experienced group that carries continuity and talent from the returns of Noah Dickerson, Jaylen Nowell, Matisse Thybulle, and David Crisp.
48. Davidson’s Backcourt
Kellan Grady, Jon Axel Gudmundsson, KiShawn Pritchett, and Luke Frampton are a sharpshooting mid-major backcourt that will keep Davidson’s 3-point shooting style of play alive and give the Wildcats a chance in the A-10.
47. Cayman Islands Classic
A field of Akron, Boise State, Clemson, Creighton, Georgia, Georgia State, Illinois State, and St. Bonaventure is sneaky competitive. Clemson and Illinois State always defend at a high level, Georgia State has D’Marcus Simonds, Georgia has Tom Crean, Creighton has Greg McDermott, St. Bonaventure made the NCAA tournament last year, and Boise State finished 2nd in the Mountain West last year.
46. Maui Invitational
Arizona, Auburn, Duke, Gonzaga, Illinois, Iowa State, San Diego State, and Xavier bring the premier programs together for the competitive tournament in Hawaii.
45. Battle 4 Atlantis
Butler, Dayton, Florida, Middle Tennessee State, Oklahoma, Stanford, Virginia, and Wisconsin compose the field in the Bahamas.
44. NIT Season Tip-Off
Kansas, Louisville, Marquette, and Tennessee gather in Brooklyn. All big names and noteworthy teams that could make noise in March.
43. Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational
Michigan State, Texas, North Carolina, UCLA in Vegas on Thanksgiving. May have to take a break from football to watch these historic programs on the hardwood.
42. Michigan and Michigan State playing twice in the regular season
The Big 10’s poor scheduling prevented the home and home series from being played last season. This rivalry is must watch and deserves to be protected.
41. Kansas vs Kentucky on January 26, 2019
Talent vs Talent, Blue Blood vs Blue Blood
40. Kansas State at Marquette on December 1, 2018
Kansas State makes a living on defense; Marquette survives on defense
39. Gonzaga at North Carolina on December 15, 2018
In a rematch of the 2017 NCAA Title Game, Gonzaga gets to test themselves against a top team. The frontcourts will be showcased.
38. Duke vs Kentucky on November 6, 2018
Battle of the 1 and Dones
37. Tennessee vs Louisville on November 21, 2018
Early in the season, we’ll get a chance to see if Tennessee can use last year as momentum and the difference Chris Mack has made on Louisville in short time.
36. Nevada at Loyola-Chicago on November 27, 2018
Two teams that embrace positionless basketball, expect a high scoring game from 2 programs worth keeping an eye on.
35. Michigan at Villanova on November 14, 2018
Rematch of 2018 NCAA Title game minus most of the key players from both teams.
34. The Big 10 Tournament not being at Madison Square Garden
Last season the Big 10 created all sorts of problems for itself by trying to impede on the Big East’s territory of Madison Square Garden. The scheduling problems shouldn’t be there this year and the tournament is back in the midwest where it belongs.
33. Daniel Gafford jump
Go watch some of the Razorback Forward’s highlights.
32. What Shaka Smart does with his Texas team
It is year 4 for Shaka Smart, can he deliver on the expectations that Texas fans had for him when he arrived in Austin.
31. Bol Bol and the Oregon Ducks
Oregon finished as a middle of the road PAC-12 team last year but adds a strong incoming recruiting class headlined by Bol Bol, the son of Manute Bol. Payton Pritchard is an underrated player and Victor Bailey Jr. could breakout.
30. Jordan Howard score the basketball
The brother of Marquette’s Markus Howard averaged 25.1 PPG last year for the Central Arkansas Bears.
29. Oklahoma play without Trae Young
Oklahoma made the NCAA tournament last year simply because Trae Young was on their roster and could generate some excitement. The 27.4 PPG scorer is in the NBA now and will force the Sooners to adjust. It could be a tough season in Norman.
28. Lindell Wigginton as a Sophomore at Iowa State
Wigginton went for 16.7 PPG as a freshman for the Cyclones. A member of the Big 12 All-Newcomer team, the Canadian should boost his NBA draft stock this year.
27. If Houston can build on last season
Rob Gray made Houston a tough team last year and it took a miracle for Michigan to knock them out of the NCAA tournament. Can guys like Corey Davis Jr. and Armani Brooks keep the culture alive for the Cougars?
26. Jordan Murphy lead Minnesota
Minnesota has had ups and downs over the career of Jordan Murphy. He has consistently played hard and led the Gophers. Murphy is an all-conference level talent capable of recording a double-double anytime he plays.
25. The return of Aubrey Dawkins
Former Michigan Wolverine Aubrey Dawkins will play under his dad at UCF. He has had a long road after sitting out due to transfer rules and then suffering a season ending injury at the start of last year. I’m excited to see Dawkins back on the floor.
24. Ky Bowman carry Boston College
Jerome Robinson leaves Ky Bowman to carry the load for Boston College. The explosive guard should be up the task after averaging 17.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG, and 4.7 APG as a sophomore and being an assist away from dropping a 30 point triple-double against Duke.
23. Clemson play defense
Brad Brownell has an outstanding defensive team. He went into 2017 on the hot seat and came out with an extension. The Tigers return the core of their Sweet 16 Team and can play with the big boys in the ACC.
22. Buzz Williams sweat through his shirts
It is always enjoyable to watch Buzz Williams on the sideline and even more enjoyable when he has a quality team at his disposal. Justin Robinson can be an All-ACC player and Nickeil Alexander-Walker is coming off a nice freshman season in the backcourt. Kerry Blackshear and Chris Clarke are strong pieces to a thin frontcourt. The Virginia Tech Hokies will be in the hunt of the ACC.
21. West Virginia without Jevon Carter
“Press” Virginia won’t have Carter for the first time in forever but Bob Huggins won’t change a thing. Esa Ahmad and Sagaba Konate pair for a frontcourt built on brute strength.
20. R.J. Barrett and the growth of Canadian Basketball
Sure, RJ Barrett will be the most talked about freshman, but he also represents a recent rise in Canadian basketball talent. Guys like Lindell Wigginton, Oshae Brissett, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Elijah Mitrou-Long, Ignas Brazdeikis, and Jackson Rowe will all be vital to their team’s success and come from north of the border.
19. Tyus Battle and the Syracuse 2-3 Zone
Tyus Battle decided to return giving Syracuse all five starters back on the floor. The 2-3 zone will have a go-to scorer and should have the Orange safely in the tournament conversation as opposed to recent years.
18. Loyola Chicago try to do it all again
Clayton Custer is a composed point guard, Marques Townes is a versatile wing, and Cameron Krutwig is an efficient back-to-the-basket big man. The Ramblers should be able to carry last season’s success into this year. I’m expecting big things.
17. Luke Maye collect double doubles
Maye has earned everything in his college career. He was a hero against Kentucky two seasons ago and has become the Tar Heels’ unquestioned leader. He gets one more go around in Chapel Hill.
16. Virginia bounce back from last season
Virginia was good enough to at least make a deep run last year. They play elite defense and have a scorer in Kyle Guy. You know what you’re going to get out of the Cavaliers in the regular season. I want to know if this team has used the upset loss to build the mental toughness required to respond to the critics.
15. The Gonzaga frontcourt
Killian Tillie, Rui Hachimura, and Brandon Clarke are a frontcourt that no team in the WCC can hope to contain. In fact, few teams in the country will be able to hold their own against this versatile group. Mark Few will have a contender once again in Spokane.
14. Chris Beard’s face turn red
The Red Raiders made the Elite Eight in a sensational second season for Chris Beard. He’s as intense a coach as there is but he gets the most out of his team. Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens are two very nice transfers that will help replace five seniors and Zhaire Smith. Jarrett Culver will become the focal player for this team.
13. The Butler Way
Losing Kelan Martin could hurt this Butler team. It will be up to Kamar Baldwin to take over as the primary scorer but he does have some help. Sean McDermott is a sharpshooting wing and Jordan Tucker transfers from Duke with plenty of hype. Butler always plays as a team and that gives them a chance against anyone.
12. Marquette play defense
Markus Howard averaged 20.4 PPG for a team that averaged 81.3 PPG. The Golden Eagles can score with anyone they play but the problem is the defense that gave up 78.5 PPG. If Steve Wojciechowski can get anything out of his defense, Marquette can compete. Transfers Joseph Chartouny and Ed Morrow should help in that aspect.
11. Shamorie Ponds returning to lead an intriguing St. John’s team.
Could St. John’s make the tournament? Shamorie Ponds, Justin Simon, and Marvin Clark all return for Chris Mullin but this time the reinforcements roll through. Former MAAC freshman of the year Mikey Dixon, Former Gamecock Final Four member Sedee Keita, and potentially standout guard Mustapha Heron are all eligible to play.
10. Carsen Edwards lead a Purdue team that lost so many key pieces.
I’ve seen Carsen Edwards play since he was a junior in high school at Atascocita in Texas. He will be an NBA player. If Purdue is able to win games this year, Edwards will be a big reason why.
9. Kansas State after an Elite 8 run
Kansas State made the Elite Eight despite the absence of Dean Wade during the postseason. Barry Brown, Xavier Snead, and the rest of the team is back with another offseason under their belts. The Wildcats defend and move the ball on offense. The battle for Kansas will be competitive.
8. Tennessee when they’re expected to compete
The Volunteers have high expectations after coming out of nowhere in 2017. Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams headline a roster that returns its entire rotation and will be ready for Kentucky.
7. Kentucky play with an experienced leader
The Wildcats were able to add Reid Travis in the offseason, who grad transferred from Stanford. Travis averaged 19.5 PPG and 8.7 RPG as the face of the Cardinal. More importantly, he provides the leadership and experience Kentucky often lacks and could be the piece Coach Calipari needs to get his group of 5-Stars over the top.
6. Kansas load up with transfers
Dedric and K.J. Lawson plus Charlie Moore are all proven college stars that could propel Kansas to improve despite key losses of Graham, Mykhailiuk, and Newman from the Final Four team. The Jayhawks also return Lagerald Vick, Silvio DeSouza and Udokah Azubike while adding Quentin Grimes. Kansas should continue to control the Big 12.
5. The Michigan Wolverines replace the guys who solidified the program
Moe Wagner, Duncan Robinson, and Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman were part of the core that won back to back Big 10 Tournament Championships and solidified Michigan as a national basketball contender. Can guys like Jordan Poole, Jon Teske, and Isaiah Livers step into larger roles? Can freshman Ignas Brazdeikis, Brandon Johns, and David Dejulius contribute right away? Zavier Simpson and Charles Matthews are the leaders of this team that is already being overlooked. John Beilein will have his team ready for March.
4. The Nevada Wolfpack run the floor
Nevada and their army of transfers will run teams to death. Eric Musselman has a legitimate final four team with Cody and Caleb Martin plus Jordan Caroline returning along with the additions of Tre’Shawn Thurman, Corey Henson, Jazz Johnson, Nisre’ Zouzoua, Trey Porter, Jordan Brown all ready to have an immediate impact. This may be the most exciting team to watch this season.
3. Juwan Morgan
Juwan Morgan is ready to dominate in his final year at Indiana. He put the Hoosiers on his back last season. He willed his team to an 80-77 OT win against Notre Dame with a 34 point and 11 rebound performance. I think Morgan will be competing with Edwards for Big Ten Player of the Year. This guy works as hard as anyone and is worth watching anytime he takes the floor. He also gets De’Ron Davis back from injury and will share the court with Romeo Langford.
2. Andrew Jones returning to the basketball court after his battle with cancer.
Andrew Jones overcame Leukemia. It will be phenomenal to see him back on the court for Texas. He is a fighter that deserves to be cheered for. Unfortunately, a foot injury may hold him out for some time, but once he takes the court, it will be the best story of the year.
1. Villanova’s “Rebuild”
Villanova lost the core guys that won 2 national championships. Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVincenzo, Mikal Bridges, and Omari Spellman are all gone. The Wildcats will “rebuild” with Joe Cremo transferring in and Jahvon Quinerly. Jay Wright will show the program’s ability to reload this year.
Photo Credit: https://ftw.usatoday.com/2018/03/iowa-state-lindell-wigginton-dunk-video-photo