Friday, September 28, 2012

Because We Cant Wait for College Basketball Season

I am incredibly antsy for this college basketball season to start. It has been a long offseason that has been  aided by watching old games, but I am ready to see the kind of strides teams and players have made during the summer. I am ready to fill up my DVR to max capacity, watch as many games as possible every night, bombard your twitter feeds with live-tweets, and update this site with brand new content. I just really want to get the ball rolling to where there will be tons of new information each and every week, if not everyday. I am simply unable to contain myself from pouring over the schedule and pinpointing early season matchups that I will be sure to break down. Starting with November 9th, the first day of the season, there are plenty of interesting games. The first night will be no warm up, we will be jumping in head first.

Starting at 5:30, we have Michigan State taking on Connecticut. The main storyline here will be the new face on the sideline, Kevin Ollie, but this is also a chance to see some new faces. Two years ago, I remember watching freshman Jeremy Lamb playing in his first game and hopped on his bandwagon right away. This year it could be one of two freshman shooting guards breaking out - Omar Calhoun of UConn or Gary Harris at Michigan State. Both figure to play key roles in their teams game plans from day one.

It will also be our first chance to see Keith Appling this year. He will be expected to become a playmaker for the Spartans, something he didn't do much of last year. Early returns will be telling for Appling.

In UConn's backcourt, Napier will likely slide over to play more shooting guard this year as Ryan Boatright will be a starter from day one. Napier got off to a good start last year, looking like a draftable player, but faded with the rest of the UConn squad, many believe partly due to his inconsistent play and leadership. Both guards are very talented while having a disadvantage size wise. We will see if Kevin Ollie's knowledge of the point guard position wears off on them.

The final matchup to pinpoint is DeAndre Daniels against Branden Dawson. A battle between two highly touted recruits heading into their sophomore years, Dawson definitely has the physical edge. He could end up dominating if Daniels didn't spend time in the weight room this summer. We will see if Daniels is able to capitalize on Dawson's average lateral quickness and drive to the hoop, I would certainly like to see him more assertive.

Once 7pm strikes, it is time to exercise the remote and make sure your DVR is cleared for another wild season of basketball. Syracuse plays San Diego State, Ohio State faces Marquette, and we get our first looks at both North Carolina and Duke.

San Diego State is lead by star guard Jamaal Franklin, who actually played forward last season for them and with the other 3 starting guards returning, figures to again. It will be interesting to see how the athletically gifted Franklin is able to attack the Cuse 2-3 zone. He's a decent 3-pt shooter, but what I will be looking for is how he facilitates the ball at the top of the key and attacks the zone under control. He has a load of talent and skill to build on if he puts it all together. He has been showing out in open gyms all summer.

For Syracuse, I am really looking forward to seeing Michael Carter-Williams. His passing ability in the few minutes he had last year drew my attention and his size is intriguing. He is a combo guard who needs to find a niche scoring the ball and definitely has the potential to do so. There were questions about him being able to ride the bench all of last year, but he did so without fussing to the media, so now it is his turn to prove he can play.

CJ Fair might have been the most underrated player on last year's team and returns in a bigger role. In the NBA, he is a tweener, but he deserves more recognition at this level. With Joseph moving on, Fair might even get a chance to show off his budding perimeter skills, although a move to full time small forward doesn't appear to be in the cards.

It will be interesting to see how the frontcourt rotation plays out. There may be some small forward minutes available, but for the most part it will be Fair, Sutherland, Coleman, Christmas, and Keita splitting time. Sutherland has proven to be a solid role player deserving of minutes. Christmas was highly touted (although not by me) while under-performing, but it is almost expected he will be handed minutes this year. Keita is solid, but unspectacular - a guy they wouldn't mind keeping on the bench. Coleman is the wildcard who could end up starting on riding the bench most of the year. It depends on what kind of shape he is in. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

In the Marquette and Ohio State game, two of the peskiest defenders in college basketball take the stage in Aaron Craft and Vander Blue. Craft is more of a lockdown guy while Blue uses his athleticism is jump passing lanes and make plays when Marquette goes to the press. Offensively they both need a lot of work, but Craft is much more of a lead guard and leader. Blue will get more of a chance to show some skills with Johnson-Odom gone, but Junior Cadougan should be the main distributor. So far in Blue's career, he hasn't shown the necessary leadership or IQ needed to play the lead guard position.

It will also be interesting to see how Trent Lockett fits into Buzz Williams' system - a system that is night and day to the one Herb Sendek ran at Arizona State.

For Ohio State, there is plenty of NBA talent and simply seeing who gets the minutes will be intriguing. Deshaun Thomas will be the star, but Amir Williams, LaQuinton Ross, and Shannon Scott all have great potential despite hardly playing last season. We will get a good idea of who has stepped up to claim the available minutes left by Sullinger and Buford.

The next wave of games start at 8pm with Georgetown and Florida. Both teams lost its share of talent, but have future first rounders on their hands. Otto Porter is expected to make a big jump from last year and it will be interesting to see how he handles the expectations. He was the perfect role player last year and I like him in that role. This season he will have more pressure on him to score, but it is not what he does best.

For Florida's Patric Young, it is time he earns his reputation and starts dominating inside. His efficiency was good last year, but he remained in the backseat as an offensive player and has yet to be as intimidating as he looks. It is a make or break season for him.

Kenny Boynton had a somewhat make or break year last year and responded positively. Now with the backcourt in his hands again after Beal and Walker left, he needs to show he can continue to be efficient and lead the Gators to a high seed in the NCAA tournament. As a combo guard, he has to go above and beyond to prove himself to NBA scouts.

For the most overlooked game of the day by casual fans, North Texas and Creighton square off at 8:05. At first glance, it is just a battle of two solid mid-majors. But North Texas has projected lottery pick Tony Mitchell and Creighton counters will Doug McDermott, a player of the year candidate. Their games are extremely different - one based on athleticism, the other based on perimeter skills - but they both get it done on the court. A rare high profile game for these two, this game will be packed with NBA scouts and hold more of an impact on a players stock than any other game of the day.

At 8:30, we get to see Kentucky's new team debut as well as the Barclay's Center. They will be facing Maryland, who has Alex Len and a rapidly improving Nick Faust to boast.

It will be UK's freshman first impression on many and Alex Len has a big chance to turn some heads if he can take advantage of Nerlen Noel's lack of fundamentals. Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress are two guys I am looking forward to see playing here more than even Noel or Len. Both have lottery potential.

While those games are digesting, wait until 10pm when Lehigh takes on Baylor. CJ McCollom will have a chance for another big performance against a top team and Isaiah Austin will make his debut. Austin is raw, but talented. He has lottery potential, but we should be able to tell early if he will need another year at Baylor to make a huge impact. McCollom will be going up against a some experienced guards from Baylor, including the ultra-athletic Pierre Jackson so it should be a good test.

To cap off the night into the morning hours, check out UCLA play for the first time at 11pm. If everything goes as planned, it will be Shabazz Muhammad's first game as well. Its a insignificant game against Indiana State, but it will just be interesting to see who is playing and how they all look. What kind of shape is Joshua Smith in?

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