I hate the off-season. It’s pretty lame ain’t it? Waiting for six months without being able to watch a certain sport stinks. But the off-season does give college basketball fans plenty to think about, predict, and the usual stories about recruiting, transfers, etc. So here are some scattered thoughts about different teams and conferences:
- Rumors are swirling that the ACC may be looking to move their conference tourney to the best basketball city in the world in the near future. The move would either put the tournament at Madison Square Garden or Barclays Center. As an ACC fan, the speculation regarding the move thrills me. But, I do think that the Big East Tournament should continue to be played at MSG both for tradition’s sake and because I sincerely expect the Big East to continue to be an elite college basketball conference. A Big East Tournament at any other location would be, in my not so humble opinion, a travesty of titanic proportions. If the ACC Tourney was played at MSG at a different time than the Big East’s, that would be fine by me, but I really think the ACC should have its eyes set on the Barclays Center. I am by no means a huge fan of Barclays, but the arena’s location is perfect and I think its aggressively grandiose exterior and interior and its theater style ambiance might fit nicely with what will likely be a yearly epic of a conference tournament.
- On the subject of the Barclays Center, I am quite excited about next season’s Brooklyn Hoops Winter Festival. On December 28th, St. John’s will play Columbia, BC will play VCU, and Kansas State will play Tulane. As a BC fan, I am thrilled that Eagles will be taking on an elite caliber team like VCU in the non-conference. The St. John’s-Columbia game will also be delightful. The Red Storm seem poised to have a break out season and Columbia will have a chance to give what should be an excellent Ivy League a big win (I’ll get to the Ivy in a sec). Plus, it’s an intra-city rivalry and those are always fun. The Tulane-K-State matchup will likely be quite one-sided however, as Tulane’s two best players from last season, Josh Davis and Ricky Tarrant are transferring. Still, I now know where I want to spend my Christmas!
- Our dear friends at Harvard will enter next season as a fringe top 25 team. Harvardfan94 is enjoying this immensely. But the entire Ivy League should also be really strong. I’m talking all-time strong. In 2011-12, the Ivy League probably had its best season ever as Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Yale all had terrific seasons. The league as a whole took a step back last season, although it was still better than you might expect. Harvard had another dream type season which included their first ever NCAA Tourney win. Princeton also rolled to another solid season, led by star Ian Hummer. Yale meanwhile managed to be competitive despite the loss of dynamite big man Greg Mangano to graduation. Their performance reaffirmed my view that Yale coach James Jones is one of the best and most underrated in all of college hoops. But that was last season, and now the Ivy League is gearing up for what likely will be the best year for the conference ever. Harvard will of course lead the charge for the league. With highly touted big Zena Edosomwan coming in to provide help in the paint, experienced and talented vets Brandyn Curry and Kyle Casey returning to the team, (they missed last season after being implicated in Harvard’s controversial academic cheating scandal) and young stars such as Wesley Saunders and Siyani Chambers returning, it is easy to see why expectations are high for the Crimson next year. The whole league should also be good from top to bottom. Yale should be really solid and could pose a serious threat to Harvard. They made visible improvement throughout last season which culminated with a nice three game winning streak. The Bulldogs will miss sniping 2 guard Austin Morgan, but all-around stud Javier Duren appears poised for a breakout junior season and fellow junior Armani Cotton, who has NBA size, should also be excellent. Probably the most important Yalie next season will be Justin Sears who was tremendous as a freshmen last season. He could emerge as an Ivy POY candidate. Cornell should also be successful. The Big Red added some serious size in David Onuorah and Tim Higgins. With multi-dimensional forward Shonn Miller and the strokity Nolan Cressler returning, Cornell should have their best season since the Steve Donahue days. Brown also should be strong, despite the graduation of guard Matt Sullivan. With guard Sean McGonagill at the helm, the Bears, who won four of their final five games this past season, will at least be competitive. Princeton meanwhile loses Hummer, but they always seem to manage to find a way to win games. Somehow I doubt they will be an easy out for anybody this season. Penn will also be better. Dartmouth, ehhhh… not so much.
- One of the biggest stories in the college hoops world the past few weeks has been the one surrounding Andrew Wiggins’ choice of school to attend. Wiggins, who has been getting Lebron James comps for a while now, decided to bring his NBA ready game to Kansas, where Jayhawks fans can finally stop mourning the losses of Ben McLemore and Jeff Withey and start looking forward to the Wiggins
eraseason. The phenom from Canada is considered by most to be the best player in a class that includes Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, and Andrew Harrison. KU also landed Wayne Seldon earlier in the recruiting season, so they have to feel good about where they stand. Bill Self’s staff at Kansas may not have landed the same number of 5* guys as John Calipari at Kentucky–who might just have put together the best recruiting class ever–but they did land the biggest recruit of them all, and that should put KU inside of or near the top five entering next season. If Wiggins is half as good as people expect, the Jayhawks might end next season playing on Monday night.
- Another story that has been catching my eye every time I hit up espn.com is the one about DePaul’s new arena. I think it is very cool that the Blue Demons are moving their venue into the city, but they can’t possibly think the move will boost their fledgling basketball program by itself. Now, if Oliver Purnell could put together a half decent recruiting class, that would help a whole lot more. I recognize that the idea is that the new facility will attract recruits, but I’m not sure how many kids are going to be enticed to join one of the worst big-time college basketball programs simply because they built a new arena. I guess when you’re a team like DePaul, you do anything you can to get the attention of recruits.
Look for more college basketball off-season notes and thoughts as we slowly creep towards next season!