Early takeaways of the college basketball season
Quite simply, basketball is back in full swing. As the Lakers and Bucks dominate in the pros, the 351 Division 1 college basketball teams have progressed through the first month of their season. Between the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, the Maui Invitational, and the random matchups that make up the non-conference portion of the schedule, we have seen plenty of intriguing, high profile games that should be good indicators for the remaining stretch of the season. However, with all of these big games, what are we to make of them? Though plenty of injuries and unexpected twists have already rattled the college basketball world, let’s review the three biggest storylines of the young season.
- There are no juggernauts. Last year, we saw Zion Williamson and the Duke Blue Devils dominate every part of the court. We saw Cassius Winston lead the Michigan State Spartans to a 25-6 record in a competitive Big Ten. Most importantly, we saw an experienced Virginia team redeem themselves with a national championship. This year, though, those teams that have looked so dominant in years prior have already begun to slip. Even before conference play, 22 of the country’s top 25 teams have all garnered at least one loss. Needless to say, it seems like there isn’t a safe game this year.
- The Big Ten is the best conference. Last year, the ACC was far and away the best conference, clinching three of the #1 seeds at the end of the season. This year, though, the Big Ten has taken the college basketball world by storm. Ohio State has humiliated opponents, beating Villanova and North Carolina by a combined 50 points. Michigan emerged in the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, knocking off North Carolina and Gonzaga in consecutive nights. Maryland joins these two teams in the AP Top 5 as well. With the fearsome squads of Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, and Penn State to round out the conference’s tough competitors, don’t be surprised to see a Big Ten team cutting down the nets at the conclusion of the season.
- The madness has started early. Coach Calipari of the Kentucky Wildcats and Coach Krzyzewski of the aforementioned powerhouse at Duke are arguably two of the best college basketball coaches. Ever. Yet, despite powerful recruiting and title hopes, these two coaches share one commonality this season: losses to unranked, non-Power 5 teams at home while being ranked #1 in the AP poll. In fact, as of Dec. 9, teams ranked in this #1 slot are only 6-4 on the year, with Louisville and Michigan State picking up those other two losses. Coincidence? Maybe. However, this historically poor start by these top teams spells one clear message: March is going to be fun this season.
The season is young and players are still trying to find their personal rhythm as well as their team chemistry. As the calendar turns to January, we will enter into the conference schedules for these teams, where the real fun will begin. So far, though, one thing has been pretty cut and dry: college basketball is back and is shaping up as one of the best seasons in years.