Column: The 2018-2019 College Basketball is upon us; let’s have some fun

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Duke forward RJ Barrett (5) slams a dunk during the first half of an NCAA exhibition college basketball game against Virginia Union, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018 in Durham, N.C. (Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via AP)

Say what you want about Jeff Goodman. On this day, Nov. 5, 2018, he tweeted something that was very succinct yet made me very excited  

 

“College Hoops. Tomorrow.” It is now tomorrow (or later depending on when you read this) and college hoops has returned for another year. The enterprise lacks the posh of the NBA. The quality of play is inferior. The system is corrupt and run by out of touch suits. But college basketball will always be good, to me. I dearly miss ESPN’s 24-hour tip-off marathon, but the season will still get rolling quickly right way with several satiating matchups; the prime course being a No. 1 Duke versus No. 2 Kentucky in the Champions Classic. There is already a lot of preview content, but it is my turn to throw my predictions out into the ether.  

Final Four: Duke, Kentucky, Gonzaga and Virginia 

Yeah, that is three of the best four teams in the country and last year’s number one overall team. Sorry, I think good teams will win.  

National Champion: Kentucky 

A lot of are people are drooling over Duke’s collection of supreme talent, but Kentucky is not far behind. More importantly, I think their pieces fit better and they have more experience. 

Preseason All-America:  

R.J. Barrett, FR, G/F, Duke 

Cam Reddish, FR, G/F, Duke 

Ethan Happ, SR, F/C, Wisconsin 

Eric Paschall, SR, F, Villanova 

Markus Howard, G, JR, Marquette 

National Player of the Year 

R.J. Barrett, FR, G/F, Duke 

Barrett is the guy in college basketball this year. There is a critique of his outside shot, but I suspect it comes from those whose eyes tend to drift towards the NBA. His polish, athleticism and proven track record of being a gamer and winner will serve him well in Durham. Reddish has tremendous talent, perhaps more than Barrett. There is concern about his motor, but again, that may be a concern for June. His talent will overwhelm in my opinion. Paschall is going to be a jack-knife for a great Villanova team. And I like that Happ and Howard are returning Wiconsin’s two premier programs to national relevance with gaudy stat lines and memorable performances. 

Four Overrated 

  1. Carsen Edwards: I actually really like his game, but the diminutive guard is being listed first team everywhere. He was very good for a strong Purdue team last year, but the Boilermakers are weaker, and he is going to bear a larger burden. Not a good recipe in my eyes. 

  2. Rui Hachimura: If I like Edwards, I love (and have loved for a while) Gonzaga’s Hachimura. The Japanese wing is a physical specimen and a neat story, but I think that story and the fact that is sort of a curio has generated too much conversation. The raw potential is there, and some production has been as well, but everyone asserting he is an All-American and lottery pick seems premature. 

  3. Tennessee: The Volunteers are an across-the-board top 10 team. Why? Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield are standouts, but I don’t think they are good enough to take a team to an Elite Eight. Lamonte Turner is a quality player, but I don’t see the supplementary players that make up a top ten caliber team 

  4. Cincinnati: The Bearcats are not a projected top 25 team, but many expect them to be on the periphery, dominate the American to an extent and return to March Madness. Mick Cronin definitely has a consistent system, but I think the talent falls short this year. Cane Broome and Just Jennifer are too limited; what makes people think Jarron Cumberland is taking the leap from superb role player to main guy? 

Four Underrated 

  1. Ky Bowman: It is a shame Jerome Robinson left, because the Eagles were going to soar this year. They still might. People know Bowman is good, but I don’t think they know how good. He is a phenomenal athlete and competitor whose shot is better than his numbers last year. I expect him to make First Team All-ACC despite the conference being loaded. 

  2. Darius Garland: Barrett, Reddish, Zion Williamson, Nassir Little and Romeo Langford are all catching their deserved spotlight for being top diaper dandies. Garland, because of his height and school choice is not. But the dude killed in the toughest AAU, high school and other amateur settings. He has produced consistently, and even though his upside is not as high as those aforementioned, the output so far has been. He is going to take the Commodores places this year. 

  3. Arizona: The FBI scandal hurt. Losing to Buffalo did as well. Recruiting fell off a little bit. Yet the narrative I am seeing is Arizona is out of it this year. Not so fast. Their roster is still littered with former top 100 recruits. Chase Jeter was bad at Duke but he is not definitely spoiled goods. Emmanuel Akot would have been a top 25 freshman if he didn’t reclass. They brought into two high caliber recruits to couple with the multitude they already have. They are going to exceed expectations. 

  4. Luwane Pipkins: New England bias strikes again. There are good yet relatively unknow players across the country. Pipkins is the one I know because of his proximity, but a greater billing is warranted. He scores, he defends, he is flashy and UMass is a sleeper in the A-10 this year. If you wanted to be entertained, watch Pipkins.  

Final Thoughts 

Soccer is called jogo bonito, or “the beautiful game.” A nickname for college basketball that is not. But the passion, talent and sheer scope of the sport make it an incredible product. If you want highlights you can find it. If you want tactical execution there are many coaches and programs in supply. Off the court intrigue and drama is readily available. The sport gets a bad rap from some, but those people are just too jaded for whatever reason. The 2018-2019 season has a supple talent base, blue blood contenders fighting with a couple enigmas and should be great. I hope you’ll give it a watch.


Matt Barresi is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at matthew.barresi@uconn.edu.

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