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The favorite: Kansas
Just like the Targaryens reigned for three centuries over the Seven Kingodoms, Kansas has reigned for twelve years (and counting) over the Big 12 and there are no signs of rebellion. The Jayhawks are an experienced team and a tough defensive match-ups for anyone, while on offense they live off their usual high-low combination, penetrations and smart plays. The big question mark for the season is who will run the offense, but coach Bill Self has plenty of options.
Runner up: West Virginia
Who will try to overturn this reign? Enemy number one for the conference throne is West Virginia. The team lost two good rebounders (Devin Williams and Jonathan Holton) but they still have hopes of a great season thanks to a well balanced backcourt and coach Bob Huggins’ press defense, ranked sixth in the nation last year per Kenpom. And it was one of the few teams to grab a win against Kansas last year.
Outsiders: Texas, Oklahoma State, Iowa State
Texas has seven player at roster with less than three years of experience, all of them very athletic and perfect for Shaka Smart gameplan. Coach Brad Underwood found a young core to build on, and he installed an efficient offense that will be pleasing for the eye as well. Coach Steve Prohm still has a team that was mostly built by coach Fred Hoiberg, but it’s the last chance for his players to leave their mark in college basketball. While the first two are long term projects who are supposed to get immediate results, the latter is at the end of its cycle and will soon start a new one.
Stars: Monte Morris (Iowa State, PG, Sr), Johnathan Motley (Baylor, PF, Jr)
Monte Morris is one of the most accurate PG in the Ncaa. He had an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4.23 last season, he can manage the pace and create good looks for his teammates. Jonathan Motley is a great athlete who can attack the paint, crash the boards and protect the rim. He might be an Nba prospect but he is a bit undersized to play center.
Freshmen: Josh Jackson (Kansas, SF), Andrew Jones (Texas, SG), Jarrett Allen (Texas, C)
Josh “The Beast” Jackson is a serious candidate for the number one pick next June. A powerful frame, dangerous when attacking the rim, he has everything to be in the Nba. Shaka Smart will count on two youngsters, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen, both perfect for the havoc system: Jones is a combo guard who will have a size advantage over most of his peers, Allen is an extremely mobile center with a 7-5 wingspan who can run the floor and dominate the boards.
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The favorite: Duke
Tons of hype for the ridiculous amount of talent in Durham. The last college to have such a complete team was the almost-unbeaten Kentucky team. Duke will rely on POY candidate Grayson Allen, a group of freshmen showcasing for the Nba and a small group of experienced players returning to ease the newcomers into the system.
Runner up: North Carolina
The Tar Heel‘s players are still having nightmare about Kris Jenkins, but the team has everything once again to play a great season. Justin Jackson might in the conversation for POY, Joel Berry will replace Marcus Paige on the court, and hopefully in the fan’s hearts, while Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks and freshman Tony Bradley should be capable of holding the fort against anyone in the frontcourt. The only negative so far is the injury to Theo Pilson that will force coach Roy Williams to change his rotations.
Outsiders: Louisville, Virginia, Clemson
Louisville and Virginia have two defensive system that are one the opposite of the other but can still be very effective. Clemson will depend on Jaron Blossomgame, one of the best all-around players in the nation, hoping that he will be enough to reach the Ncaa tournament.
Stars: Grayson Allen (Duke, SG,Jr), Dwayne Bacon (Florida State, SF, So) Xavier Rathan Mayes (Florida State, SG, Jr), Justin Jackson (North Carolina, SF, Jr), Tyler Lydon (Syracuse. PF, So), Jaron Blossomagme (Clemson, SF, Jr)
The ACC is the best conference in the Ncaa and has a ridiculous amount of great players, starting with Grayson Allen, the best player in the Ncaa according to most experts and insiders. And then, of course, there is Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Justin Jackson, Tyler Lydon and Jaron Blossomgame. Plenty of prospects and plenty of fun watching them play.
Freshmen: Jayson Tatum (Duke, F), Harry Giles (Duke, PF), Marques Bolden (Duke, C) Dennis Smith (NC State, PG) V.J King (Louisville, SF), Johnatan Isaac (Florida State, SF) Tyus Battle (Syracuse, SG)
The same could be said for freshmen. Beside Duke’s three Young Devils, three of the best players to play in college basketball this season, there is another candidate for the number one pick in Dennis Smith Jr. and players like wing V.J. King, who will come off the bench, Jonathan Isaac, who will play with Florida State and Tyus Battle, a potentially unstoppable offensive player who will play at Syracuse.
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The favorite: Kentucky
John Calipari recruited another group of freshmen who will move to the Nba next June. In the meantime, they are the favorite to win the SEC and will try to live that One Shining Moment, although they don’t have much of a chance. Starting with the 2014/15 season, Calipari settled for players with huge wingspans, athleticism and size to build a defense that can destroy any offense at college level. On the other side of the floor, their Dribble-Drive-Motion found two great interpreters in Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox.
Runner up: Texas A&M
Despite losing most of the team’s key pieces from last season, Texas A&M is still the biggest competition to Kentucky’s dominance, thanks to a young starting five with one year of experience under their belt.
Outsiders: Florida, Alabama
The arrival of Mike White and Avery Johnson turn Florida and Alabama into two of the most interesting teams of the season. Coach Donovan departure was followed by a transition year, but Florida should get back to the old excellence thanks to a backcourt featuring Kasey Hill and Canyon Barry, transferred from Charleston University. Alabama began last season with two promising wins against ranked teams and a loss in a close game against Oregon, only to collapse in conference play. The chance to have a great season is there, but everything might go south just like it happened last year.
Stars: Isaiah Briscoe (Kentucky, SG, So) Antonio Blakeney (LSU, SG, So)
After a slow first year, Isaiah Briscoe will be the voice of experience at Kentucky and will have to go back to the player he was early on in the season, when he showed he could be good on defense, rebound, attack the paint and set-up teammates when the defense collapsed. Antonio Blakeney will have to carry the team and try to save Johnny Jones‘ job, who wasted Ben Simmons’ talent last year despite having one of the best team in the history of LSU.
Freshmen: Malik Mong (Kentucky, PG), De’Aaron Fox (Kentucky, SG), Bam Adebayo (Kentucky, C), Wenyen Gabriel (Kentucky, PF), Mustapaha Heron (Auburn, SG)
Of course, the Lexington boys are the biggest part of this list, starting with the duo of Malik Monk and De’Aaron Fox, who can complement each other very well, Bam Adebayo, a forward-center with great size and rebounding instincts and PF Wenyen Gabriel, who needs to get stronger but has great hands for his position. Mustapha Heron is a versatile guard with great body control.
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The favorite: Villanova
Despite losing two of the team’s most important players, Villanova kept most of the core that won it all last April. Mikal Bridges is expected to have a season on par with his talent, helping the team to make up for Arcidiacono and Ochefu. Omari Spellman has been declared ineligible, but Hart, Brunson, Jenkins and Booth will do their part as usual.
Runner up: Xavier
The backcourt is returning, but the team’s frontcourt has been overhauled and their effectiveness on the boards is yet to be tested. It’s up to the newcomers to produce, because the backcourt is truly elite for college basketball and worth more than a usually unlucky Sweet 16 appearance. The two freshmen, guard Quentin Goodin and forward Tyrique Jones, might be playing big minutes soon.
Outsiders: Creighton, Butler
Creighton finally found an identity after losing the best player in campus history in Doug McDermott, and now the team leader will be Kansas State transfer Marcus Foster. Butler, on the other hand, lost Roosvelt Jones and Kellan Dunham, but the coaching remains elite and still has a system to rely on.
Stelle: Josh Hart (Villanova, SG, Sr) L.J Peak (Gerogetown, SF, Jr), Trevon Bluiett (Xavier, SF, Jr)
Josh Hart might be collecting awards this season, since he is the heart and soul of the team and he is the man in charge. L.J. Peak and Trevor Bluiett are the two best Nba prospects in the Big East. The former is a great offensive player with good shooting touch and has the ability to get into the paint, while he takes advantage of his long arms on defense to smother his opponents.
Freshmen: Kobe Paras (Creighton, SG)
Omari Spellman would have been the best freshman in the conference, but he is not eligible and Villanova will have to wait for next season to watch him play. It was a complicated summer for Kobe Paras as well, who signed for UCLA and was then forced to withdraw because of his low marks on his SAT. He signed his letter of intent with Creighton.