Is it March Yet? 2013-2014 College Basketball Preview

By Jared Bursky

In a one-word answer, no it is not March yet. But it is mid-November, with last night signaling the start of the 2013-2014 NCAA Basketball season. This season begins a major transition in the landscape of college basketball, highlighted by a bevy of compelling storylines.

Starting Lineup: 5 Major Storylines Entering the Season 

5.   New Rule Changes

Well, one thing is clear, the NCAA likes to see scoring, scoring, and also, scoring. The two most noticeable changes are:

  1. Hand checks will be officiated tightly, the defender may not impede on the offensive players space by using their hands to affect the player’s right to a spot.
  2. Block/Charge: The defense must be set in position to take a charge prior to the offensive player taking off into the air. Late slide-ins are illegal (sorry Duke).

These rule changes are clearly geared towards improving offensive output. Will games now be a painfully slow free throw competition? We will see, but what we do know is that tough physical teams will be forced to change their style of play, or at least modify it.

4.   The New Look Big East and the New American Conference

Boy, not seeing the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden will be unusual. The division of the Big East took away one of the most iconic and consistent powerhouse conferences in college basketball. Rivalries like Georgetown and Syracuse will no longer be seen twice a year like we are accustomed to. However, do not sleep on these two conferences. Sure, the break up of such high quality talent will make it tough for these new look conferences have the same impact of the old Big East, but do not be fooled, there is potential here. Here is a look at the new Big East and the brand new American Conference:

Big East                                             American

Butler                                                  Cincinnati

Creighton                                          Connecticut

DePaul                                                 Houston

Georgetown                                        Louisville

Marquette                                            Memphis

Providence                                            Rutgers

Seton Hall                                          South Florida

St. Johns                                                   SMU

Villanova                                                 Temple

Xavier                                                         UCF

Butler, Creighton, Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova, Xavier, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Louisville, Memphis, Temple. Each of these teams has consistently shown up in the top 25 rankings over the past few years. There is no lack of talent in these new conferences. Expect these conferences to have some success.

3.   Syracuse to the ACC

Which will be the best conference in college basketball this season? The ACC certainly has the potential to be by adding Syracuse, along with Notre Dame and Pittsburgh. Syracuse has been a college basketball powerhouse for the past decade, starting in 2003 with Carmelo Anthony. They have been a mainstay in the Top 25 and have made several appearances in the Top 10, many of them lengthy. Although North Carolina has been a bit inconsistent over the past three years, the talent is always there. Along with Duke, Maryland, and revived programs at Miami (FL) and NC State, the ACC has the firepower to be one of, if not the best conference in America.

2.   The Diaper Dandies

C’mon, you didn’t think I was going to leave out Dicky V, right? Dick Vitale and college basketball is a marriage. You mention one without the other, and something seems off. But he is not the only one that has eyes on the freshman class this year. ALL EYES are on the freshman, particularly the Kentucky Freshman. Here are my top 5 freshmen to watch out for:

Tyler Ennis (PG: Syracuse) 6-2, 180: My sleeper Frosh. Jimmy Boeheim is likely to hand the key to the offense over to the young point guard right away. Ennis is the perfect Syracuse zone product. He is extremely good on the fast break, and as a result of steals and long rebounds created by long shots; the zone will allow Ennis to shine.

Aaron Gordon (F: Arizona) 6-8, 210: Air Jordan is about to become Air Gordon in Tucson. Gordon can fly, period. He is a relentless rebounder and hustler who always seems to be around the rim. Despite an evolving offensive game, his versatility along with his physical and mental tools can allow him to be not only just a top freshman, but also a top player in the country. The Wildcats rebuilding process with coach Sean Miller been over for a few years now, and the new guy can bring them to their ultimate goal; a national championship.

Julius Randle (PF: Kentucky) 6-9, 225: Beast mode. Randle is a skilled big man with the ability to play with his back to the basket or to face up. He is unique with his left-handed release and can also jump out of the gym. Is he the next great Kentucky big man? It seems so. This guy will make a big impact for this young team. The go to guy on the top ranked team in the nation, there is not much else to say. NBA general managers are already crossing their fingers that Randle will end up in their organization.

Jabari Parker (F: Duke) 6-8, 220: While Andrew Wiggins has stolen the spotlight as the can’t miss prospect out of high school, Parker for a long time was considered “the guy” in the class of 2013. Out of Simeon HS (Chicago), the same school as Derrick Rose, Parker can do it all. He is not an elite athlete, but when healthy he can do everything. He can defend, put it on the deck, go in the post, anything. You name it, he does it. Derrick Rose praised him saying that he was far beyond Rose’s level during his high school career. Not too shabby I guess. Bottom line, this guy will produce at a high rate, and will be the man with shooters and athletes around him. Look for Duke to be a title contender with Parker as the focal point.

Andrew Wiggins (SF: Kansas) 6-7, 205: Okay, lets get one thing straight, NOBODY, and I mean NOBODY, is LeBron James. In fact, nobody is in the same universe as LeBron James. Wiggin’s potential skyrocketed as his high school career wore on. A physical freak of nature, Wiggins is now considered the “Next LeBron.” Easy there. Wiggin’s offensive game is based on his tremendous athleticism, but he needs to improve his mid range and long range jump shot. Don’t let this fool you though. This guy is for real. The favorite to be the number one pick in next June’s NBA draft, Kansas will try to make another run to the final four in 2013-2014, this time on Wiggins’ back.

Andrew Wiggins will take this season to prove that he is the real deal (Via Jeff Jacobsen/Kansas Athletics)

Andrew Wiggins will take this season to prove that he is the real deal (Via Jeff Jacobsen/Kansas Athletics)

1.   NBA Draft Prospects

It is sad that the season has not even started and yet we are talking about next year’s NBA draft. However, with the upcoming draft class touted to be the best since the LeBron James draft, it is impossible to not talk about it. Here are some of the top prospects from each class entering the 2013-2014 season:

Andrew Wiggins (SF: Kansas) 6-7, 205 – freshman

Julius Randle (PF: Kentucky) 6-9, 225 – freshman

Aaron Gordon (F: Arizona) 6-8, 210 – freshman

Andrew Harrison (G: Kentucky) 6-5, 200 – freshman

Marcus Smart (PG: Oklahoma State) 6-4, 220 – sophomore

Gary Harris (SG: Michigan State) 6-4, 210 – sophomore

Glenn Robinson (SF: Michigan) 6-6, 210 – sophomore

Isaiah Austin (C: Baylor) 7-1, 220 – sophomore

James McAdoo (PF: UNC) 6-9, 226 – junior

Jarnell Stokes (PF: Tennessee) 6-9, 256 – junior

Mitch McGary (C: Michigan) 6-10, 263 – junior

LeBryan Nash (G/F: Oklahoma State) 6-7, 220 – junior

Doug McDermott (F: Creighton) 6-8, 223 – senior

Adreian Payne (PF: Michigan State) 6-10, 215 – senior

Russ Smith (PG: Louisville) 6-0, 186 – senior

Shabazz Napier (PG: Uconn) 6-0, 180 – senior 

Extra News and Notes

  • #1 Kentucky and #2 Michigan State battle Tuesday November 12th in Chicago, the earliest in a season that #1 and #2 have met.
  • Transfers bound to make big impact this year: Rodney Hood (Duke) and Mike Moser (Oregon).

Predictions

Player of the Year: Marcus Smart (PG: Oklahoma State)

Coach of the Year: Shaka Smart (VCU)

Final Four:

Kansas: Led by Andrew Wiggins, Bill Self and the Rock-Chalk Jayhawks return to the final four.

Oklahoma State: Get to know Marcus Smart, he will be a top 5 pick in next year’s draft, and will lead the Cowboys to the final four.

Michigan State: The most complete team in the nation with talent, experience and depth, With Tom Izzo, it is tough to bet against them.

VCU: Shaka Smart is good, very good, but so is his team. This one might be better than the one that made the final four a few years ago.

Champion: Michigan State

______________________________________________________________

Jared Bursky is a freshman Physical Education major at SUNY Cortland. He was a Captain and starter for his high school basketball team and is pursuing coaching basketball at either the high school or college level. He roots for the Isles, Yanks, Jets, and Knicks but his favorite sport to watch is college basketball. You can follow him on twitter at @jbhoops10

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