10 things to know about college basketball
by Eric Prisbell, USA TODAY Sports
Now that the lights have officially gone out on football season, it’s time for much of the country to re-introduce itself to a sport called college basketball.
Don’t worry if you have not seen the histrionics of Ole Miss’ Marshall Henderson or the high-rise flat top of Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel. No worries if you didn’t know Gonzaga and Butler are back among the nation’s elite, while blue-blooded programs North Carolina and UCLA struggle for consistency.
Brace yourself this February as you once again begin contemplating brackets and bubbles: Scoring is down, uncertainty is up. And as you leave the NFL behind, here’s your post-Super Bowl catch-up, 10 story lines that are shaping this unique season:
1. Is this the most wide-open season of the century?
No offense to Indiana, Michigan and Florida, because there are a handful of very good teams. But there is no great team in the mold of 2009 North Carolina, 2007 Florida or 2012 Kentucky. And no offense to Creighton’s Doug McDermott, Michigan’s Trey Burke or Indiana’s Cody Zeller, because there are several very good players nationwide. But there is no transcendent player in the mold of Kevin Durant, Derrick Rose or Anthony Davis.
Already parity has come full circle, with Indiana, the preseason No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll, back at the top this week. But does anyone think the game of musical chairs atop the polls is finished? Didn’t think so. This NCAA tournament figures to be as unpredictable as any this century.
2. Last call for the Big East tournament as we know it?
The dismantling of the historic Big East conference seemed inevitable in this age of football-driven realignment and money-grabbing mega-conferences. But the decision by the league’s seven Catholic schools in December to unite and leave only hastened the breakup of what we remember of the 34-year-old league.
Though many details regarding the timing of their departures and the composition of the new league remain foggy, the clock is ticking on the Big East as we know it. As it is, one icon, Jim Calhoun, is already retired and UConn is ineligible for the … [For more on 10 things to know now that college basketball is suddenly relevant, click here.]