68 Preseason Questions For The 2019-20 Season

Posted by Matt Eisenberg on November 5th, 2019

Before a team can reach its ultimate goal of cutting down the nets in early April, it must find a way to become part of the field of 68. With the start of the season fast approaching, here are 68 questions I have for College Basketball Nation.

The Top 25: Questions On The Nation’s Best Teams

Tom Izzo Welcomes Back the Nation’s Most Accomplished Player (USA Today Images)
  1. With all that Michigan State is missing to start the season, might it end up being a blessing come March?
    Josh Langford is out for a while; Kyle Ahrens is dealing with an injured ankle; Joey Hauser’s status remains in the hands of the NCAA. This opens up playing time for freshman Rocket Watts and sophomore Gabe Brown. With Cassius Winston, Xavier Tillman and Aaron Henry, Sparty has plenty of elite talent on the court. These injuries just allow it to get young players even more experience in meaningful non-conference games.
  2. Can Immanuel Quickley carry over an impressive exhibition season into the regular season for Kentucky?
    After scoring more than 10 points in only six games last season, Quickley scored a team-best 16 and 15 points in Kentucky’s two exhibition games. Without Tyler Herro, Keldon Johnson and PJ Washington around, Quickley’s ability to shoot from deep could be critical for Kentucky.
  3. Is Udoka Azubuike really the type of player that can carry Kansas throughout the season?
    While Azubuike has been named preseason Big 12 Player of the Year, he does not come without flaws. He committed more than five fouls per 40 minutes in each of the last two years, and is a career 39.4 percent free-throw shooter. He is extremely talented, but can he carry the load?
  4. Can Tre Jones become the leader of a less talented but perhaps more balanced Duke squad?
    Without Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish, Duke must replace more than 55 points per game from last year’s team. The return of Tre Jones gives Coach K a floor general and an elite defender, but after shooting 26.2 percent from deep as a freshman, Jones went 0-of-6 from long range in Duke’s exhibition games.
  5. Will Louisville find ways to win on the road this season?
    The Cardinals were a team that went 1-3 away from home in last season’s non-conference schedule and then went 4-5 on the road in the ACC, including losses at Pittsburgh and Boston College. A team that returns a lot of talent, including Preseason ACC Player of the Year Jordan Nwora, needs to win away from the Yum! Center to have the season it hopes for.
  6. While Kerry Blackshear and Andrew Nembhard are getting all of the attention, is Noah Locke Florida’s most important player?
    Locke averaged 14 points per game in Florida’s first 11 SEC games last season, but just 5.5 PPG over the Gators final 13 contestes. He is a floor spacer and someone who could benefit on kickouts after voluminous Blackshear offensive rebounds.
  7. At Maryland, can Jalen Smith fill the shoes of Bruno Fernando?
    Bruno Fernando had 15 double-doubles last year in Big Ten play. A ferocious rebounder and rim presence on defense, Fernando was the heart and soul of the Terrapins. Jalen Smith had just three double-doubles in his Big Ten games — there’s enough around Smith to replace Fernando’s scoring, but Smith must do a better job at rebounding.
  8. How much action should Gonzaga reasonably expect out of Killian Tillie?
    After missing 22 games with an injury last year, Tillie begins the season questionable with a knee injury. For a team that needs to replace four key players from last year’s team, the Zags really need the talented and experienced Tillie to be on the floor.
  9. Freshman phenom Cole Anthony is North Carolina’s most talented player, but are transfers Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce UNC’s most important players?
    With North Carolina’s top five scorers departed, the Tar Heels need to replace plenty of scoring and experience. Freshman All-Everything Cole Anthony is the known, but it is transfer newcomers Christian Keeling (Charleston Southern) and Justin Pierce (William & Mary) who could be the difference-makers. These are two proven scorers at the college level who are now surrounded by a lot more talent.
     
  10. Will Villanova’s defense return to its old standard?
    Villanova finished Big East play with a defensive efficiency that ranked fourth last season in the Big East. It was the first time in four years that Villanova did not have the conference’s best defensive efficiency during the Big East season. Will it return?
  11. Who will be the toughest player for Virginia to replace?
    Will it be the decision making of Ty Jerome, the shot-making of Kyle Guy or the defense and scoring of DeAndre Hunter? This is a trio that collectively played in 214 games over the past two seasons. Tony Bennett’s squad will be put to an immediate test with an ACC season-opener at Syracuse.
  12. Can Sandro Mamukelashvili take another leap forward in being Seton Hall’s second option behind Myles Powell?
    Mamukelashvili averaged just 2.6 points and 1.9 rebounds per game in just under 10 minutes per contest as a freshman. Last season, he raised those totals to 8.9 PPG and 7.8 RPG in 29.4 MPG. The next step for Mamukelashvili is to improve upon his 28.8 percent three-point percentage in Big East play (52 3PA).
  13. What type of growing pains will Texas Tech’s defense go through with an influx of freshman and transfers?
    After consecutive seasons with a top-five defensive efficiency ranking, Texas Tech must replace six of its eight players who averaged at least 10 minutes per game last season. How will senior transfers Chris Clarke (Virginia Tech) and T.J. Holyfield (Stephen F. Austin) fit in and understand Chris Beard’s defensive standard?
  14. Will Memphis’ group of elite freshman gel as a team or will there be a “me not team” approach?
    The nation’s top recruiting class belongs to Memphis and Penny Hardaway. A pair of 5-star recruits and five 4-star recruits bring tons of talent to Memphis. Can Hardaway get his precocious talent to buy in and play as a cohesive team on both ends of the court?
  15. Will UNLV transfer Shakur Juiston be a difference-maker for Oregon?
    Including Bol Bol, the Ducks’ top four rebounders are gone from last year’s squad. Juiston averaged 10 boards a game at UNLV two seasons ago and 8.8 per contest last year in just eight games. Additionally, Juiston put up 14.6 points per game in 2017-18, an addition that could go a long way toward helping Payton Pritchard run the offense.
  16. Will Baylor’s Jared Butler do a better job of protecting the ball?
    As a team, Baylor finished last season ranked 257th nationally in turnover rate. Jared Butler logged a season turnover rate of 20.7 percent, which increased to an even higher 24 percent in Big 12 play. In league play, Butler committed three or more turnovers in 11 games. With Makai Mason gone, the sophomore could be handling the ball at an even higher rate this season.
  17. What type of impact will Neemias Queta’s knee injury have on Utah State?
    Mountain West Freshman of the Year and Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Neemias Queta suffered a knee injury and his return is unknown. Sam Merrill can carry the Aggies early, but mid-November tests against LSU and Saint Mary’s become much more difficult without Queta available. A lingering injury could cost the Aggies several non-conference marquee wins, adding pressure to Mountain West play.
  18. Which point guard will have a bigger role with Ohio State this season?
    No Buckeyes returnee averaged more than two assists per game last season, and freshman DJ Carton and junior CJ Walker are both in contention to start at point guard. Carton, a top-40 recruit, scored 15 points, but more importantly dished out five assists while only committing one turnover in Ohio State’s exhibition win. Walker, a transfer from Florida State who redshirted last season, has two years of ACC experience under his belt.
  19. How will the new three-point line impact Xavier’s offense?
    The Musketeers return four players who averaged 10 or more PPG. Three of those players made 40 or more three-pointers, but Naji Marshall and Quentin Goodin each did so on sub-30 percent shooting. The NCAA is moving the three-point line from 20 feet, 9 inches to 22 feet, 1.75 inches, just so you know.
  20. Can St. Mary’s get a few key non-conference wins that have escaped them the past few seasons?
    Over the last two seasons, the Gaels have gone 2-5 against KenPom top 100 teams during non-conference play. This season, Saint Mary’s has five games on its schedule against preseason top-100 teams, beginning on opening night against Wisconsin. Saint Mary’s is a very good team, but an automatic bid out of the WCC is never a guarantee given that Gonzaga lives in the same neighborhood.
  21. Is Arizona back or is Tucson filled with more hype than hope?
    Following a 17-15 transition season, Arizona is ranked in both the preseason AP and Coaches polls. They add talented freshman Nico Mannion and Josh Green along with graduate transfers Max Hazzard (UC Irvine) and Stone Gettings (Cornell), as well as Jermari Baker (Kentucky). Returnees Chase Jeter, Dylan Smith and Ira Lee have all shown flashes, but each has been inconsistent while at Arizona. There’s ultimately a lot of “ifs” with this team that Sean Miller needs to answer.
  22. With Tremont Waters and Naz Reid gone, are Skylar Mays and Javonte Smart ready to carry the offensive load?
    Waters and Reid led LSU in scoring last season, each averaging more than 13 points per game. The Tigers managed to earn two SEC wins last season without Waters in the lineup (vs. Tennessee and Texas A&M) — in those games, Smart and Mays combined to score 80 points.
  23. What will Purdue’s offense look like this season?
    Approximately 46 percent of Purdue’s field-goal attempts last season were three-pointers, the 32nd-highest rate in the country. The trio of Carsen Edwards, Ryan Cline and Grady Eifert combined to make 285 of those shots, but each of those players is now gone. With fewer proven shooters on the roster, Matt Haarms should see even more defensive attention in the post.
  24. With Jared Harper and Bryce Brown gone, is J’Von McCormick ready to lead the Auburn backcourt?
    Harper and Brown combined to score 30.1 points per game last season, making 239 threes and dishing 308 assists. In his first year at Auburn, J’Von McCormick scored in double-figures just once prior to the NCAA Tournament. He did so twice during the tournament. In the Tigers’ exhibition win over Eckerd, McCormick dropped in a team-high 20 points.
  25. Can VCU find a way to knock down a better percentage of its three-point attempts?
    Last season, VCU shot 30.5 percent on its three-point attempts, ranking among the bottom 20 nationally. It was the Rams’ worst team three-point percentage since the 1999-00 season. In their two regular season conference losses and in Atlantic 10 Tournament loss, VCU went a combined 13-of-56 (23.2%) from deep. In an exhibition win over Virginia State last week, the Rams made an improved 13-of-33 (39.4%) from beyond the three-point line. Which is more representative?

Familiar Faces in New Places: Questions On First Year Coaches

Nate Oats Takes Over at Alabama (USA Today Images)
  1. Will Nate Oats be able to jumpstart the Alabama offense?
    In Avery Johnson’s four years at Alabama, the Crimson Tide never cracked the top 100 in offensive efficiency. In each of Oats’ last three seasons at Buffalo, the Bulls posted a top 40 offensive efficiency rating. While transfers hurt Alabama’s depth in year one of his regime, the Tide return two players who averaged more than 10 points per game a season ago.
  2. Will Eric Musselman fix the Razorbacks’ defensive rebounding woes of the Mike Anderson era?
    Under Mike Anderson, Arkansas had an opponents’ offensive rebounding rate that ranked among the bottom 50 five times (in eight years) and bottom 100 an additional two times. Last season’s Razorback squad came in ranked 347th overall and last in the SEC during league play. Musselman’s Nevada squad was among the top 40 in the nation in the same category. This could be a key to instantly improving Arkansas’ defense.
     
  3. Will John Brannen’s transition from the Horizon League to the AAC be a smooth transition?
    John Brannen takes over at Cincinnati where he inherits a team that includes AAC Player of the Year Jarron Cumberland. While at Northern Kentucky, the Norse went 0-11 against power conference opponents.
  4. Is the roster or the inexperience of Juwan Howard a bigger challenge for Michigan?
    Michigan’s three leading scorers are gone, and that group of Ignas Brazdeikis, Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews also accounted for 55.8 percent of the team’s three-pointers. While Isiah Livers made 52 three-pointers (42.6%) a year ago, there are concerns about the rest of the roster. Excluding Livers, the Wolverines made just 5-of-23 three-pointers in their exhibition win. Juwan Howard gets his first head coaching gig and replaces a coach who was widely regarded as one of the nation’s best tacticians.
  5. Can Buzz Williams keep on winning — this time at Texas A&M?
    Buzz won at Marquette. Buzz won at Virginia Tech. Can Buzz win at Texas A&M? With the Aggies’ three leading scorers back, he certainly has a good foundation. Williams needs to find a way to reel in TJ Starks, however, who made just 28-of-125 three-point attempts last season and logged 14 games with four or more turnovers.
  6. Can Mick Cronin quickly turn things around in Westwood?
    Mick Cronin made each of the last nine NCAA Tournaments while at Cincinnati. During that time, UCLA missed the Dance three times and lost in the “play-in” game once. UCLA has no clear cut top option to score, so Cronin needs big things out of freshman point guard Tyger Campbell. Bruins fans will be pleased just to see some fight and tenacity out of this bunch.
  7. Is Virginia Tech’s Mike Young ready for the ACC?
    Young spent the past 17 seasons coaching at Wofford, leading the Terriers to a perfect Southern Conference record last season and an NCAA Tournament win over Seton Hall. Of course, Young had Fletcher Magee at Wofford and takes over a Virginia Tech squad that doesn’t bring back Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Kerry Blackshear or Ahmed Hill. The ACC typically doesn’t go well for less talented rosters.
  8. What will Belmont basketball look like without Rick Byrd?
    For the first time since the 1985-86 season, the Bruins will be without longtime head coach Rick Byrd. After six seasons at Lipscomb, Casey Alexander makes the two-mile journey from Lipscomb to Belmont. Alexander’s first year is made easier by the return of OVC Freshman of the Year and All-OVC First Teamer Nick Muszynski and Grayson Murphy, the OVC leader in assist-to-turnover ratio as a freshman last season.
  9. Does Buffalo’s Jim Whitesell have the toughest job of any first-year coach of a team that made the NCAA Tournament last year?
    The former Loyola (Chicago) coach takes over a team that had great success under Nate Oats. It is a team, however, that lost 46.9 points per game from CJ Massinburg, Nick Perkins and Jeremy Harris. Junior guard Jayvon Graves is talented, but needs to show more consistency right away.

A Look Around the Country: Questions Abound As the Season Begins

Bobby Hurley Needs to Keep Improving His Defense (USA Today Images)
  1. Will Bobby Hurley continue the recent trend of getting more and more out of his Arizona State defense?
    Arizona State’s defensive efficiency ranking went from 257th in 2017, to 123rd in 2018, to 64th last season. Improvements continued in opponents’ offensive rebounding rate which increased by 3.5 percent last season. Now the Sun Devils must find a way to do a better job of keeping opponents off of the foul line, an area in which it ranked among the bottom 50 schools last season. With Remy Martin, Romello White and Rob Edwards back in the lineup, an efficient Arizona State offense could be its defense’s best friend.
  2. Will Butler’s defense return to a level that sends the Bulldogs back to the Dance?
    Last season, Butler finished with a defensive efficiency ranking of 123rd nationally, its first time posting a ranking outside of the top 100 since finishing 166th in 2005-06. Butler’s drop in defensive efficiency helped play a major role in the Bulldogs missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five seasons. Returning three players who started over 30 games a season ago, the Bulldogs will have plenty of experience — they just need to perform better.
  3. Can Clemson’s offense return to where it was in the three seasons prior to 2018-19?
    Clemson has finished each of the past two seasons with a top 15 defensive efficiency ranking. That puts the Tigers in a category with only five other schools (Duke, Houston, Michigan, Michigan State and Virginia). On the offensive end, however, the Tigers dropped to 106th nationally (driven by turnovers) after logging a top-50 ranking from 2016-18. This is an offense that does not bring back any of its three double-figure scorers from a season ago.
  4. Is McKinley Wright the most important Pac-12 player this season?
    The Colorado guard played most of last season with a torn labrum that required offseason surgery. Even with the injury, Wright averaged 13 PPG, 4.9 RPG and 4.8 APG. The talented guard is now fully healthy and will undoubtedly play a huge role in revitalizing the Colorado offense.
  5. Will this be Bob McKillop’s best Davidson team since Steph Curry was there?
    Davidson returns five players who started 30 or more games last season, including conference Player of the Year Jon Axel Gudmundsson & All-Atlantic 10 1st Teamer Kellan Grady. In addition, the sophomore pair of Luke Frampton and Luka Brajkovic give the Wildcats excellent secondary scoring options, which makes this a very dangerous mid-major team.
  6. Can Patrick Ewing keep turning things around at Georgetown?
    After going 19-14 (9-9 Big East) last season, including four conference losses by five or fewer points, the Hoyas return sophomore guards James Akinjo and Mac McClung while adding NC State transfer Omer Yurtseven. Georgetown enters the season with no opponents on the schedule with a KenPom preseason ranking outside of the top 300, a change from having played 10 such opponents over the past two years.
  7. Does the addition of Jaylen Fisher make Grand Canyon the favorite in the WAC?
    Grand Canyon has made the WAC title game in each of the past two seasons, and in each of those appearances, the Antelopes lost to New Mexico State. This season, Dan Majerle’s squad adds TCU transfer Jaylen Fisher, whose presence on the roster gives it another scorer and deadeye shooter to try and overcome the nemesis Aggies.
  8. Can this season’s Harvard team be one of Tommy Amaker’s best?
    The Crimson made an appearance in the Ivy League title game a season ago despite being a year where Bryce Aiken battled injuries and Seth Towns (16 PPG in 2017-18) did not play at all. In addition to adding a healthy Towns with Aiken, Harvard also brings back its six highest scorers from a season ago. There is depth and talent aplenty at Harvard this season.
  9. Can Houston find a way to replace the dynamic duo of Armoni Brooks and Corey Davis?
    Brooks and Davis were Houston’s two leading scorers a season ago, combining for more than 30 points per game. Along with that pair, Kelvin Sampson no longer has two other key contributors who started more than 30 games a year ago.
  10. Ayo Dosunmu and Giorgi Bezhanishvili might be Illinois’ best players, but is Trent Frazier the team’s most important player?
    Dosunmu led the team in scoring and Bezhanishvili did a terrific job at rebounding much of the season, but the play of Frazier will be crucial this season. Frazier made a team-high 80 threes at a 40.6 percent clip, but that rate fell to 34 percent in Illinois losses. In a recent exhibition win, Frazier scored 13 points while making 3-of-5 from deep. A consistent year for Frazier could help the Illini get back to .500 in the competitive Big Ten.
     
  11. Can Archie Miller’s Hoosiers find a way to shoot the ball better this season?
    Indiana’s 27.5 percent three-point shooting in league play was the second-worst mark of the Big Ten over the past five seasons. Ranked outside of the top 300 in both three-point and free-throw conversion rates, Indiana could not leverage an improved defense to enough wins. After February 1, freshman guard Rob Phinisee made just 7 of his 35 three-point attempts.
  12. Will he or will he not? The unknown status of Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon…
    As October began, Fran McCaffery said Iowa was planning as if Bohannon would not be joining the team because of a hip injury. As November begins, it is still unclear whether Bohannon will be with Iowa this season, although he is supposed to be in an exhibition game lineup tonight. Without the services of Bohannon, Iowa will lean on Joe Wieskamp and Luke Garza, but this is a team that becomes much more dangerous if Bohannon can play.
  13. Everyone knows Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton, but is fellow sophomore Rasir Bolton Iowa State’s most important player?
    Another case of a team’s best player maybe not being its most important is at Iowa State. While Haliburton is a potential All-American, Penn State transfer Rasir Bolton is a secondary scorer who can take much of the pressure off of Haliburton. As a freshman last season, Bolton averaged 11.6 points per game and shot 36.1 percent on 144 three-point attempts.
  14. After winning an NCAA Tournament game a season ago, is Liberty positioned to do so again this season?
    With Co-Atlantic Sun champ Lipscomb losing head-coach Casey Alexander to Belmont and team leaders Garrison Mathews and Rob Marberry to graduation, Liberty enters the season as the clear favorite in the Atlantic Sun. The Flames return First Team All-Conference players in Scottie James and Caleb Homesley along with two others who started more than 30 games. Barring injuries, Liberty is a very dangerous mid-major team once again.
  15. Will Marquette be a “one man band” or can Koby McEwen step in to complement Markus Howard?
    With Joey and Sam Hauser having moved on from Marquette, there’s a lot of pressure on Steve Wojciechowski to find consistent scorers beyond Markus Howard. Utah State transfer Koby McEwen sat out last season but is set to join the team this year. McEwen averaged 15.6 points per game in his final year at Utah State and made over 60 three-pointers — with 11 games of 20 or more points, he’s someone capable of spelling Howard.
  16. Will a tougher non-conference schedule have NC State better prepared for the ACC this season?
    Last season, NC State had the easiest non-conference schedule in college basketball — sitting at 12-1 entering ACC play, everything seemed set up for a big year. A 9-9 conference season later and the Wolfpack found themselves on the wrong side of the bubble. This year they’ll get non-conference tests with Memphis, Wisconsin and Auburn — and with a bunch of juniors and seniors back in the lineup, this team has no excuses.
  17. Was last season just a blip on the radar for Mike Brey and the Irish?
    Notre Dame has now missed consecutive NCAA Tournaments for the first time since the 2005 & 2006 seasons. In Brey’s first 18 years at Notre Dame, the Irish owned an average offensive efficiency ranking of 21.2 — but last year they dropped all the way to 105th. Notre Dame will get a healthy Rex Pflueger back to go with John Mooney and TJ Gibbs — the latter of whom slumped to just 31.8 percent on his three-point attempts, down from the 40.4 percent he shot as a sophomore.
  18. What type of impact will Oklahoma’s newcomers make for the Sooners?
    The Sooners began last season 11-1 before stumbling to a 7-11 record in Big 12 play — the drop was driven by Oklahoma logging an offensive efficiency of 111.1 on the season, but just 99.1 in league play. Wichita State transfer Austin Reaves is now eligible and should help. He averaged over eight points per game while shooting over 40 percent from deep two seasons ago. Oklahoma also adds freshman guard De’Vion Harmon, who scored 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting in the Sooners’ exhibition win.
  19. Can Providence find an offense to go with what was the Big East’s best defense?
    No Big East team had a better defensive efficiency in league play a year ago than the Friars. Unfortunately for Ed Cooley’s bunch, the Friars also owned the conference’s worst two-point, three-point, and free-throw percentages. Experience is on their side, however, as Providence returns six players who started at least 15 games last season.
  20. Is Buddy Boeheim capable of going from role player to one of the go-to guys in Syracuse?
    With Syracuse losing four of its top six scorers from last year, Elijah Hughes and Buddy Boeheim will need to carry much heavier roles for the Orange this season. While Hughes started in all 34 games and averaged 13.7 PPG, Boeheim started in just five games and averaged 6.8 PPG. The coach’s son scored 10 or more points just three times in Syracuse’s first 20 games, but he was a double-figure scorer seven times over the final 14 games.
  21. Can Jamie Dixon keep things rolling at TCU?
    Dixon decided to stay at TCU after being strongly considered at UCLA. Under his direction, the Horned Frogs have won 20 or more games in each of the past three seasons. An 11-1 start last season ended with a 7-11 Big 12 record and a trip to the NIT semifinals. While TCU had a defensive efficiency of 95.2 on the season, it ballooned to 106.6 during conference play. TCU’s defensive efficiency has ranked eighth or worse during conference play in each of the program’s seven seasons in the Big 12. A big improvement in that area seems to be what’s missing.
  22. Can Tennessee freshman guard Josiah-Jordan James help replace all that the Volunteers lost in the offseason?
    Gone from Knoxville are the 48.8 points per game that Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield and Jordan Bone contributed last season. Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden will lead the backcourt, but the 6’6″, five-star recruit point guard James is someone who can be a plug-and-play type for Bruce Pearl. In Tennessee’s recent exhibition win, James tallied 10 points, seven assists and five rebounds.
  23. Will Shaka Smart win enough on the road to stay in Austin beyond this year?
    After going 20-13, (11-7 Big 12) in his first year at Texas, Shaka Smart’s subsequent Longhorn teams have not finished .500 or better in league play. Last season’s 21 wins were the most for him at Texas, but it still was not good enough to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament. After beginning conference play with a win at Kansas State, Texas went just 1-7 on the road the rest of the way, with six of those losses coming by five or fewer points.
  24. With a new athletic director set to take over at USC, what does Andy Enfield need to do to last beyond this year?
    While the majority of fan attention at USC is on the football team and Clay Helton, Andy Enfield enters this season in a precarious position. In six seasons at USC, Enfield has made the NCAA Tournament just twice (2016 and 2017). Coming off of a 16-17 season and a sub-.500 record in Pac-12 play, there is a lot of pressure for him to win now. Freshman Isaiah Mobley and Onyeka Okongwu make a dangerous frontcourt along with returnee Nick Rakocevic.
  25. Can Vermont continue its recent success and become the best mid-major no one is talking about?
    Vermont is coming off of back-to-back 27-win seasons and has gone a stellar 45-3 in the America East over the last three seasons. The America East’s unanimous Player of the Year and conference leader in both scoring and rebounding, Anthony Lamb, returns this season. The clear favorite in the league, this is a team that will get non-conference shots against St. John’s, Virginia and Cincinnati this season.
  26. Will Bob Huggins find a way to have West Virginia bounce back this season?
    West Virginia’s four conference wins last year were the fewest number of conference wins of any team in Bob Huggins’ long career. In the first year post-Jevon Carter, West Virginia turned the ball over at a rate of 21.3 percent, 320th in the nation. After four straight years of owning a defense that ranked either first or second in forced turnover rate, the Mountaineers fell to 166th last season. For success next season, West Virginia’s defense must improve.
  27. What will Wisconsin’s offense look like without Ethan Happ?
    Happ led the Big Ten in possession usage for each of the past two seasons, and only trailed Cassius Winston in the league in assist rate. He was a Mr. Do It All for the Badgers. Greg Gard’s squad returns a backcourt duo of D’Mitrik Trice & Brad Davison, but in the Badgers’ exhibition win, five different players logged two or more assists.

Rule Changes And Other Things To Look For

A Longer Three-Point Line Will Likely Push Conversion Rates Down
  1. What will be the effect of the new three-point line?
    The national average of three-point attempts per field-goal attempt has increased for each of the past five seasons — from 34.2 percent in 2015 to 38.7 percent last season. With the increase in attempts, the NCAA decided to push back the three-point line from 20 feet, 9 inches to 22 feet, 1.75 inches. College teams have made 34.57 percent of their attempts over the past decade — will that change given a deeper line?
  2. What will be the impact of the new rule regarding the shot clock following an offensive rebound?
    Instead of resetting to 30 seconds, the shot clock will reset to just 20 seconds following an offensive rebound. Will players be accustomed to the new rule from the start? Will it lead to more teams attacking the rim immediately after a rebound rather than kicking the ball out?
  3. Will we see referees enforce rule 10-4.1, aka the flopping technical?
    Under rule 10-4.1, referees can give a Class B technical to a player if he is caught flopping after a warning has already been given. Will this lead to offensive players being more aggressive knowing defensive players can be penalized for potential flops? Will defenders still be willing to flop until warned? This change only works if referees are ultimately willing to give those warnings and, ultimately, a technical foul.
  4. Will the FBI make any appearances during the season?
    The FBI made headlines last season with its investigation into paying of players via coaches and shoe associates. Since the various offseason trials, the investigation has lulled, but might it resurface again during the season? Will more recruits past or present face eligibility questions? It’s a giant shadow over the sport that is not going away.
  5. What are the best early season tournaments this season?
    – Empire Classic: A four-team tournament at Madison Square Garden which includes the potential of a Duke vs. Georgetown match-up in the final.
    – Maui Invitational: A potential second round match-up between blue-bloods Kansas and UCLA is a nice appetizer for the potential final matchup of #1 Michigan State vs. #2 Kansas.           
    – Battle 4 Atlantis: Myles Powell, Cole Anthony and Tyrese Haliburton headline a tournament which also includes Gonzaga, Oregon, and Michigan.
  6. Will the Big East see its tournament presence double next March?
    Last season the Big East placed four teams in the NCAA Tournament and four teams in the NIT. That NCAA Tournament showing was a drop from six teams the year prior and seven in the 2017 Tournament. While each of the NIT teams have question marks, they are all capable of playing their way into this season’s NCAA Tournament. This is a conference that could dominate the #8-#12 seed lines next March.
  7. Can the Pac-12, the Conference of Champions, make a resurgence?
    The Pac-12 has has placed just three teams into the NCAA Tournament in back-to-back seasons, and in 2017, two of those teams were eliminated prior to the Round of 64. While there might not be a Pac-12 team capable of cutting down the nets this season, it’s a conference that could send five teams dancing with good health.
Matthew Eisenberg (83 Posts)


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