Top 11 N 1 things to watch this NCAA season (Part 1)
The cliché often used to describe the NBA Season is that it’s a ‘grind, a marathon’. In the case of College Basketball, I don’t think there’s a question that the season is much more like a sprint. Ironically enough, it’s this Friday that the College Basketball marathon takes place to launch the season. A month and a half and before we know it, we’ll be in conference play. Another 1.5 months, there’s the conference playoffs. Sprint indeed!
I have 11 thoughts on interesting topics in college basketball to preview the season with a bonus bullet point about 2018, therefore the title 11 N 1. Each thought comes along with along with a key question and video. It will split into two parts with Part 2 to follow-up this Thursday.
1. Louisville performance
After a major scandal broke out last year, Louisville’s performance will be under the microscope. After last year’s self-imposed post-season ban, the Cardinals will be looking to be back in contention this season. On his newly debuted podcast, Scout.com’s Evan Daniels was describing how Rick Pitino told him at a team practice this could one of his best shooting team yet. Quinton Snyder and Donovan Mitchell will need to show good improvement for that to happen. I’m not sure this team quite as good as their AP #5 rank just yet, but I do think that the motivation to make last year a distant memory and a competitive ACC will make them a team to watch all season.
Q : Can they make consistent long-range shots all year?
Dennis Smith (NC State) and Markelle Fultz (UW) are the top 2 point guards that will certainly grab headlines all year. At a 6’4″, 195lbs, Fultz combination of leadership and all-around guard play has him as the no.1 prospect across multiple draft boards. On the other hand, Smith is the most explosive and athletic of the two. He might also benefit from a bit more help at NC State, bringing hopes for a deeper post-season run. We can’t forget De’Aaron Fox at Kentucky who will have to run the once-again high powered freshmen Wildcats. His athleticism and willingness to share the ball should mesh well with guys like Bam Adebayo and his shot-making level will go a long way in determining the wildcats fate in February and March. Finally, the most crafty and exciting of this class of freshmen PG is Lonzo Ball from UCLA. The question for him will be how he fares in running a half-court offence as his passing and wizardry in the open court is breathtaking. He might be the most exciting college player by season’s end.
Q : Who’s the best defender from this list by season end?
3.Lauri Markkanen and Omer Yurtseven (matchup for Omer 91)
I think more often than not European players coming over to the NCAA get short-changed in the game evaluation. I believe both these players have a serious shot at being drafted in the lottery and even in the Top 10. Lauri Markkanen’s combination of shooting and size is perfect for a combo forward and his athleticism makes his potential all the more tantalizing. Even though Arizona lost Ray Smith to a tragic knee injury and and Alonzo Trier to suspension, Markkanen will have to step up in a big way and should get plenty of scoring touches this season. After attending Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Camp back in February 2016, I can tell you that Yurtseven was one of the most dominant players at the event. He even scored 91 points in a Turkish U18 game back in the summer for crying out loud. A back-to-basket centre with good fluidity, good touch, improving lateral quickness and good IQ, he is loaded with potential. After his suspension, his growth and readiness when conference play starts along with his growing chemistry with Smith will define NC State’s season.
Q : Which player is ranked higher across draft boards by June 27th, 2017?
The recent saying has been that ‘Canadian basketball’ is on the rise and we are producing more and more NBA talent as a nation. Sorry to pump everyone’s breaks but this might be a down year in terms of high-level draft prospects. Dillon Brooks is Canada’s best hope to change that. Along with fellow Canadian and Montreal native Chris Boucher, Brooks’ versatile game is perfect to lead the Ducks to greater heights this year. After averaging 16.7pts-5.4rbs-3.1ast last year, a decent uptick across the board could lead Oregon Ducks to championship contention and Brooks to legitimate National Player of the Year (NPOY) status.
Q : Is his defensive versatility simply a team defensive asset or a legitimate tool to being a good NBA player?
5.Villanova title defence
After that incredible championship game with Kris Jenkins’ shot to be remembered for generations to come, the loss of seniors Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu will certainly leave a hole in Villanova’s leadership group. Consensus among writers is that Josh Hart along with Duke’s Grayson Allen are 2 of current favourites for NPOY consideration. Hart had a solid season last year, exploding with a clutch performance in the national championship game with 20 points. He will have to continue to expand his game and be a good defender for the Cats to get back to Final Four. Villanova nation will certainly hope their collective reaction to the season is happier then 2016 national championship coach Jay Wright’s!!
Q : Can Josh Hart consistently be a high-level playmaker and ball-handler for this team?
6.Devonte Graham’s growth
Graham time at Kansas can be defined as steady progress. After coming in in 2015, Graham played very little his freshman year before a notably increased role this past year. As a secondary ball-handler and scorer alongside freshman Josh Jackson and senior Frank Mason, Graham picked his spot and provided good shooting (%) and ball-handling. He has a nice frame and good IQ that helped establish himself as a very good defender. With sky-high expectations in Jayhawks country, Graham’s growth will go along establishing the Jayhawks’ ceiling. His 3&D potential is most definitely on NBA scouts’ radar and his performance will directly impact if he’s sure-firer 1st round pick or not.
Q: Can he vault himself into the conversation as best player on the Jayhawks?
Piece by Josué Sédjro – Twitter: @JoshuaHemsky