Conference realignment, coaches caught up in a Ponzi Scheme, and stories about conditioning.
Something tells me you’re bored by all that, and ready for one of the most anticipated college basketball seasons in a decade. Whether you’re an ardent fan that’s eagerly awaiting story lines to play out or an NBA fan hoping to be entertained, there’s plenty to look forward to from November to March.
Looking at the national landscape, I’ll weasel my way back over to Beyond the Arc by providing the 10 things I’m most looking forward to for the 2011-2012 college basketball season.
The Game Played on a Boat
SNL Digital Short references aside, college basketball will take center stage on November 11th as North Carolina tips off against Michigan State in the Carrier Classic. It will be the first marquee game this season, and the first time a ship (in ocean water, no less) hosts a sporting event since the last volleyball match your father participated in during his recent Caribbean vacation.
Even better is that basketball aficionado President Barack Obama will be in attendance, and it will be held on the USS Carl Vinson, the aircraft carrier that carried Osama bin Laden’s dead body to a burial at sea.
If that’s not enough, the Spartans and Tar Heels will don one-of-a-kind monochrome army fatigue uniforms that will either hurt your eyes or have you begging for this game to be played every season.
December 3, 2011
On this first Saturday of December, the NBA season tips-off!
Unquestionably, the most anticipated inter-conference battle this season is between North Carolina and Kentucky, featuring more than 10 future pros, a half-dozen or so lottery picks and a few players who could become perennial all-stars at the next level. Naturally, this could serve as a preview of a Final Four or National Championship match-up
If you can’t get excited about these types of match-ups, then you’re not a fan.
The Year of Thomas Robinson
He averaged only 8 and 6 in 14 minutes a game last season, but with the Morris Twins moving on the time is now for junior Thomas Robinson to flex his enormous biceps and live up to all the pre-season fanfare he’s receiving.
I’m thinking the guys over at CBS Sports put a lot of stock into Robinson’s pace-adjusted numbers from a year ago when they named Robinson to their preseason first team All-American. Regardless of the lofty expectations, it will at the very least be fun to see the high-energy forward to see plenty of court time in Lawrence.
The Battle for First Place in the ACC
Until new members Syracuse and Pittsburgh join the conference, it will likely be only the usual two suspects competing for conference supremacy. While North Carolina is unquestionably the favorites, Duke is not far behind, and I’m not convinced that the Blue Devils won’t be in contention for the regular season title when the two teams meet at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 3rd.
My guess is that, head-to-head, it comes down to the Heels’ frontcourt vs. the Devils’ backcourt, and which batch of players produces more.
The Battle for Last Place in the ACC
Equally as intriguing for all the wrong reasons is the three horse race between Boston College, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest for last place in the ACC. The jockeying will be intense.
So who will prevail: Steve Donahue’s nine freshman you’ve never heard of, Jeff Bzdelik’s club that was 11th in the ACC in both offensive and defensive averages last season, or first year head coach Brian Gregory whose starting point guard had more turnovers than assists last season?
The impending intriguing is palpable.
The Ascent of Andre Drummond
By all accounts and a few Google searches from me, the non-recruitnik, Jim Calhoun’s prized freshman is man-child who immediately puts the Huskies in contention to repeat as national champions. His frame and athleticism will remind you of Greg Oden, and the national media will remind you of how he was able to secure a scholarship through the “goodwill” of a Husky role player.
Despite being a freshman with plenty of talent around him, Drummond’s game and demeanor will be under much scrutiny all season. How he responds will be very intriguing.
The Redemption of Renardo Sidney
OK, like, for real this time. Let’s get this kid some run! The Sidney Soap Opera continues this season with plenty of alternate endings awaiting us. A fringe NCAA Tournament team, Sidney – who spent the summer training in Houston with John Lucas – can make or break the Bulldogs season. He’s slimmed down to look like less of a dough boy and allegedly policed himself to keep that weight in check so he can play a full college basketball season. With a promising freshman class and 6’11” UTEP transfer Arnett Moultrie ready to step in and contribute immediately (h/t) @sc101071), there is plenty of opportunity for Sidney to squash many of the preconceived notions that have dogged him for the past two years and help lead the Bulldogs to a successful season.
Smaht Kids Goin Dancin’
Something special could be happening in Cambridge, Massachusetts. No, not the next big thing, but rather the likelihood that the Harvard Crimson basketball team will reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1946. Ever so close last season, Keith Wright and Oliver McNally are back to right last season’s wrong. Wright is probably the toughest player to guard in the Ivy League and, assuming they are one of the 68-teams admitted to the dance, will most certainly be capable to helping Harvard pull off the upset of some vulnerable four-seed.
Ratings, Share, and Our Favorite Sport
Don’t believe the rumblings, the NBA’s players and owners are not going to resolve their contentious labor negotiations any time soon. If you’re looking for a hoops game on TV this winter, you’re likely going to land on one of the college brand.
With more talent amongst the major conferences than a season before and more familiar faces opting to stay on campus for another season, college basketball is perfectly set up for a magical season that will garner national attention and create discussion on airwaves and 2.0 sports websites before Selection Sunday.
It will be fascinating to track the “No Pro Effect,” and the ratings boost it should give nationally televised college games.
Cal’s Cats Winning a National Championship
Yes, Kentucky Wildcat blog bots and spiders, you can post a link to this article exclaiming that I believe your beloved team will win the 2012 National Championship. Go ahead, point 100,000 unique visitors to Beyond the Arc for me. I’d really appreciate it.
While it may be a shortcut to earning page views, UK will cut down the nets in New Orleans to conclude year three of the John Calipari Experiment. It certainly won’t be a cakewalk, but an elite freshman class combined with a returning future pro and a handful of other nice wing men means the most fanatic fans in college basketball will spend the entire month of April and then some drinking rye whiskey to their team’s first national championship since 1998.
Order will have been restored, but please, Wildcat fans, just be sure to enjoy the ride.
Nick Fasulo is the editor of Searching for Billy Edelin. Follow him on Twitter @billyedelinSBN.