68 Preseason Questions Heading into the 2020-21 Season

Posted by Matthew Eisenberg on November 25th, 2020

We have come a long way since we last saw live college basketball action. It was an unforgettable March morning when the sports world came to a screeching halt. Now, seven long months later, COVID-19 remains a threat to the future of the sport, but it looks to charge on.

College Basketball Was Last Seen on Life Support in March (USA Today Images)

In a season full of uncertainty, there remains hope and optimism for fans, players, and coaches alike. In a year of the unpredictable, perhaps college basketball sees the unexpected as well. After all, Gonzaga has landed a top-five recruit and the preseason AP poll does not have either Duke or Kentucky in its top five for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

With the start of the season beginning in various locales around the country today, here are 68 questions I have for the season ahead.

QUESTIONS ON THE PRESEASON TOP 25

  1. With all that Gonzaga must replace, how ready will freshman Jalen Suggs be? Gone are four double-digit scorers from Gonzaga’s 31-2 team a season ago, including the team’s leading scorer and WCC Player of the Year Filip Petrušev. Enter Jalen Suggs, the highest-ranked freshman Mark Few has ever landed. Suggs will play a pivotal role in running an offense and distributing the ball to the likes of Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi and Drew Timme.
  2. Returning most of its core, will a hot start catapult Baylor into a favorable position come March? After winning 26 games last season, Baylor returns each of its top three scorers, including the pair of Jared Butler and MaCio Teague. Both players averaged more than 13 points per game and made at least 60 three-pointers. Baylor has a chance to pad its resume early with as many as three games against top-10 teams all within the opening 10 days of the season.
  3. Will Villanova’s Jeremiah Robinson-Earl take a big step forward this season? Villanova returns much of its roster from last season, but does need to replace the production from departed leading scorer Saddiq Bey. As a freshman, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl averaged 10.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game — he struggled in Villanova’s seven losses, however, scoring just 8.1 points per game and shooting just 28.3 percent from the field.
  4. How big of an impact will Sam Hauser make on the Virginia offense? After losing the core of its National Championship team, Virginia struggled offensively last season, finishing the year with an offensive efficiency ranking of 234th, a full 232 spots lower than the previous season. After sitting out last season, Marquette transfer Sam Hauser is eligible and will add a much needed shot-maker for Tony Bennett’s squad. Virginia must replace over 41 percent of the team’s points per game departed between leading scorer Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key.
  5. While Luka Garza shines brightest, might the return of Jordan Bohannon be Iowa’s difference maker? With Big Ten Player of the Year Luka Garza returning and talented shooters Joe Wieskamp and Connor McCaffery back, the Hawkeyes are destined to again be an immensely talented team. Getting Jordan Bohannon back for a fifth year, though could be what the team needs to make a deep March run. Bohannon has made 40.6 percent of his 372 three-point attempts in Big Ten play and will get plenty of open looks with the talent that surrounds him.
  6. Bill Self is a magician, but how can even he replace the production of Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike? In Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike, Kansas losses a pair of consensus All-Americans, the NABC Defensive Player of the Year, and 31.8 points, 14.6 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game. Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett each showed promise at times, but neither was consistent throughout the entire season.
  7. Will the returning experience of Wisconsin give the Badgers an advantage in the Big Ten? If experience wins games, Wisconsin will be a very strong team in 2020-21. The Badgers return five of their top six scorers from last year’s team, all of whom are seniors. Greg Gard’s squad finished last season playing as well as anyone in the conference, having rattled off eight consecutive wins to end the season.
  8. Will Illinois find a way to be more consistent on the road? The Fighting Illini head into the season led by the talented duo of Kofi Cockburn and Ayo Dosunmu, both of whom have been selected to the preseason All-Big Ten team. Their 13 conference wins a season ago were the most by an Illinois team since it went 15-1 in 2004-05. Last year could have been even better had Illinois found a way to not implode in the second half in games away from the State Farm Center.
  9. The likes of Bagley, Barrett, Zion, Vernon Carey and Cassius Stanley all shined bright in their first year at Duke; will Duke have the trend of freshman stardom carry the team again? Matthew Hurt and Wendell Moore were the perfect complementary pieces to Vernon Carey, Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley a season ago. Now, though, they serve as the leading returning scorers for the Blue Devils. Coach K will again need a freshman trio to take control of the team. Duke brings in another set of five-star recruits in Jalen Johnson, Jeremy Roach and D.J. Steward.
  10. Will it be the freshman or the incoming transfers that make a bigger impact for Coach Cal’s Kentucky team? To the surprise of no one, Kentucky brings in a loaded recruiting class led by a trio of five-star recruits. In typical Kentucky fashion, Brandon (BJ) Boston and Terrence Clarke are capable of carrying the Cats for long stretches. They’ll get plenty of help, though, from eligible transfers Davion Mintz (via Creighton) and Olivier Sarr (via Wake Forest).
  11. Can Creighton duplicate its Big East success from a season ago? Greg McDermott’s Creighton team returns five of the team’s top six scorers from a group that owned an adjusted offensive efficiency ranking of third in the nation. Creighton’s biggest struggles last season came in games in which Marcus Zegarowski was inefficient from the field, so keep an eye on his shot selection.
  12. What will sophomore Santiago Vescovi’s impact be for Tennessee this year? After arriving on campus after the season started, Santiago Vescovi had moments where he shined for the Volunteers and at other times looked like a freshman. Vescovi shot 36 percent on 100 three-point attempts and possessed a quality assist rate. He must cut back on turnovers, though, having turned the ball over three and a half times per game.
  13. Quite simply, how does Michigan State replace all that Cassius Winston brought to the floor? The floor general, the heart and soul, the former conference player of the year, and an all-league performer from a season ago is gone. Rocket Watts showed flashes at the end of last season, averaging 17.8 points per game over his final four games, but he needs to improve upon a 28 percent three-point shooting mark. Joey Hauser’s presence will provide an additional scorer for a Michigan State team that also loses Xavier Tillman.
  14. Can a trio of transfers offset what Texas Tech lost between Moretti and Ramsey? Last season Chris Beard used transfers TJ Holyfield and Chris Clarke as key pieces alongside Davide Moretti and Jahmi’us Ramsey. This season, Beard is hoping Mac McClung (Georgetown), Jamarius Burton (Wichita State), and Marcus Santos-Silva (VCU) can provide a similar spark via the transfer market. Each player heads to Lubbock coming off of a season averaging at least 10 points per game for their former team.
  15. Will West Virginia’s defense remain elite and carry the Mountaineers to a successful season? In the 2018-19 season, West Virginia had an adjusted defensive efficiency ranking of 135th. Last season, Bob Huggins’ team held opponents to 15 fewer points per 100 possessions en route to posting an adjusted defensive efficiency ranking of third in the nation. The defense carried a team which still turned the ball over at an alarming rate and missed far too many shots. With Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe back again, however, it’s a Mountaineers team that has the potential to be the best defensive squad in the country.
  16. Will the growth Garrison Brooks showed last season carry over to this season for North Carolina? While many teams had their season cut short by COVID-19 last March, North Carolina’s had already come to an end after an ACC Tournament loss to Syracuse finished off a disappointing 14-19 season. Through the team’s first 13 games, Garrison Brooks averaged 12.3 points per games, but over his final 19 games, he logged 19.9 points per game. With Armando Bacot returning beside him, the duo can form a tough frontcourt for opposing teams to deal with.
  17. What will the addition of Cameron Tyson to the Houston rotation mean to the Cougars offense? In the 2018-19 season at Idaho, freshman Cameron Tyson broke both the school’s and Big Sky’s freshman three-point record with 106 makes. The Cougars return their top two scorers from last season, along with three players who made at least 40 from behind the arc. After sitting out last season, Tyson will provide another bucket-getter for a talented Houston squad.
  18. Can Arizona State’s deep and talented backcourt carry a team lacking size up front? What Arizona State lacks down low, the Sun Devils more than make up with firepower from the guard and wing positions. Joining the returning fiery duo of Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge on the preseason all-conference team is five-star recruit Josh Christopher. In addition, Bobby Hurley’s team adds the nearly 18 points per game Holland Woods scored for Portland State a season ago. That quartet is as talented as any, but all stand under just 6’5″. With Romello White transferring out, the Sun Devils do not return a single player who averaged more than 3.5 rebounds per game.
  19. What is the key to Shaka Smart making it through another season at Texas? Last season’s nine Big 12 conference wins was the second most in Shaka Smart’s five seasons at Texas. The Longhorns, however, turned the ball over at a rate higher than any of Smart’s previous years in Austin. It was a contributing factor to having Texas rank as the least efficient offense in conference play. With the team’s top five scorers returning, perhaps continuity will lead to more offensive success and keep Smart in Texas beyond this season.
  20. Oregon is full of talent, but is that enough to replace Payton Pritchard? Payton Pritchard was one of three players in the country to average at least 20 points, five assists and four rebounds per game a year ago. Like Texas Tech, the Ducks bring in three transfers who have each previously averaged scoring at least 10 points per game in Amauri Hardy, LJ Figueroa and Eugene Omoruyi.
  21. How much pressure will be on freshman Scottie Barnes to carry Florida State this season? Scottie Barnes, a consensus top-10 recruit, decided to stay in-state when he picked Florida State. Having lost three of the team’s top four scorers, two of whom were drafted among the top 11 of this year’s NBA Draft, Barnes has an opportunity and Florida State has a need for the freshman to meet the high-expectations he brings to Tallahassee.
  22. Will the growth UCLA showed under Mick Cronin to end last season be there at the start of this season? Home losses to Hofstra and Cal State Fullerton had Bruins fans up in arms early in the Mick Cronin era. But after a 1-3 Pac-12 start, things suddenly clicked. The Bruins then went 11-3 down the stretch and were squarely on the bubble heading into the final weekend of the season. It’s a team that returns all of its core, including Chris Smith, while also adding Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang.
  23. Will Ohio State have another season where they adhere to the saying, “live by the three, die by the three?” When it came to last season, 35 percent was a key indicator for the Buckeyes. When the team made more than that percentage of its three-point attempts, they went 17-1; whereas, when they hit fewer than that clip of their three-point attempts, the Buckeyes were just 4-9. The same was true defensively where Ohio State finished 16-3 when they held opponents to under 35 percent shooting from deep and just 5-7 when teams eclipsed that mark.
  24. Will returning most of last season’s roster help Rutgers see the offensive improvements the team needs? The Scarlet Knights return six of the seven players who averaged at least 6.7 points per game from a season ago. Rutgers has increased its Big Ten win total from three to five to 11 over the past three seasons. Steve Pikiell’s team has played consistently good defense over these years, but has seen dramatic rises in offensive efficiency over this time frame. With all that returns, Rutgers has a chance to take another step forward in the Big Ten and nationally.
  25. Will Michigan’s Franz Wagner show similar year-to-year growth as his brother and former Wolverine Mo Wagner? After averaging 7.4 points per game through his first 10 games, Franz Wagner finished the year averaging 13.2 points per game in mostly Big Ten play. His older brother, Mo, showed steady improvements each year at Michigan, if Franz follows in his footsteps, he and the senior trio of Eli Brooks, Chaundee Brown and Isaiah Livers can lead Michigan to another strong season.

POWER CONFERENCE TEAMS WITH INTRIGUE AND QUESTION MARKS

  1. NCAA investigations aside, just how warm is Sean Miller’s seat at Arizona? Five Level I NCAA violations, including lack of institutional and head coach control is enough to put a coach on a hot seat, but when combined with a team that underperformed last year, has a mere .500 record in the Pac-12 over the past two seasons, pressure on Sean Miller appears to be at an all-time high. After relying on freshman last year, Miller is hoping a pair of transfers can lead the way with the arrival of James Akinjo (Georgetown) and Terrell Brown (Seattle).
  2. After a disappointing season a year ago, how will the Florida Gators look this season? Mike White’s team was a consensus preseason top-10 team last season, but the team had trouble coming together and never met those expectations. Gone are Kerry Blackshear and Andrew Nembhard, but talent does return in the pair of Keyontae Johnson and Noah Locke. Last year was the first time a White-coached Florida team finished outside of the top 25 in adjusted defensive efficiency rankings, finishing the year at a disappointing 61st.
  3. Can Indiana win enough in conference play to have a successful season? Over the last two seasons, Indiana has a 19-3 record in the non-conference season, while finishing just 17-23 in Big Ten play. Conference play road tests have been especially harsh on Indiana as the Hoosiers are just 5-15 over the past two seasons.
  4. How big of a jump will the move from Radford to Louisville be for Carlik Jones? Last season, Carlik Jones was the only player in the nation to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists per outing. The Big South Player of the Year has previously played against a couple of ACC opponents in the past, including games against Clemson and Maryland his sophomore year in which he showed an ability to play well against stiffer competition.
  5. Can freshman Cameron Thomas fill the void behind the arc at LSU left behind by the departure of Skylar Mays? While LSU returns three double-figure scorers from a season ago, they did lose Skylar Mays’ team leading 16.7 points per game, as well as the 13.3 PPG of Emmitt Williams. Top 25 recruit Cam Thomas, described by many as a “smooth scorer” should be an important piece for Will Wade’s team right from the start.
  6. Can Notre Dame turn things back into the right direction? Last season, with seniors TJ Gibbs, John Mooney, and Rex Pflueger combining to make 94 starts, a 20-12 record felt like a major disappointment as the Irish finished last year with zero wins against the KenPom top 50. A program that last reached the NCAA Tournament in 2017, Mike Brey is throwing his team straight into the fire with a non-conference schedule that includes Michigan State, Ohio State, Kentucky and Purdue.
  7. Will the Syracuse zone and defensive efficiency have a resurgence this season? Syracuse finished last season with a defensive efficiency ranking of 116th, a far cry from the standard set by most Jim Boeheim coached teams. While Elijah Hughes has left, the Orange return four other players who have combined to make 126 starts. With a slight improvement on the defensive end, Syracuse is a team that should see itself back in NCAA Tournament contention.
  8. Can Eric Musselman continue to work magic as a coach for Arkansas team that has a lot to replace?: Eric Musselman’s first year in Fayetteville saw the Razorbacks return to winning 20 games. They are a team looking to replace the team’s three-leading scorers, each of whom averaged at least 14 points per game. The “Muss Buss” will be aided by a bevy of transfers including Justin Smith (Indiana), Vance Jackson (New Mexico), and last season’s Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year Jalen Tate (Northern Kentucky).
  9. Can Oklahoma sneak up and challenge for a top-four spot in the Big 12? Picked sixth in the preseason conference coaches poll, Oklahoma returns four of its top five scorers including the pair of Austin Reaves and Brady Manek, each of whom averaged more than 14 points per game. Lon Kruger also adds Umoja Gibson to the mix, who averaged 14.5 points per game and made 86 three-pointers a season ago at North Texas.
  10. Is NC State flying too far under the radar in the ACC? Yes, NC State did lose its two leading scorers, but it’s a team that brings back a pair of seniors who averaged more than 10 points per game last year, as well as the never shy Braxton Beverly. Consistency will be the key for a team that beat Duke, Virginia and Wisconsin a season ago, but also went 0-4 against the trio of Boston College, North Carolina and Virginia Tech, three teams that were a collective 20-40 in ACC play.
  11. Can St. John’s find a way to succeed offensively in Big East play? The Red Storm entered Big East play 11-2 last season before ultimately finishing the year 17-15. It was a St. John’s team which finished with the 323rd-best team effective field-goal percentage in college basketball. As poor and inefficient of an offense as they were a season ago, they must improve this year with the likes of their top two scorers from a season ago no longer on the team.
  12. Can Georgetown take a step forward or is the Patrick Ewing era in danger of coming to an end soon? From injuries to players leaving the program to seven straight defeats to end the season, last year was a disaster for the Hoyas. Patrick Ewing has now finished at 5-13 in league play twice and above .500 overall just once. Georgetown has finished league play with a bottom two defensive efficiency in each season in DC, and with Mac McClung and Omer Yurtseven gone, Ewing faces quite the challenge of righting the ship in the nation’s capital.
  13. Can DePaul do the unthinkable and end its streak of 16 consecutive missed NCAA Tournaments? Before last season’s DePaul team finished Big East play 3-15, they finished the non-conference part of the season 12-1 with wins over Iowa, Minnesota and Texas Tech. Leading scorer Charlie Moore returns and is joined by transfer Ray Salnave who averaged 14.5 points per game at Monmouth last season. Salnave should help a team that in conference play ranked last in effective field-goal percentage, turnover rate and three-point percentage.

QUESTIONS ON SOME OF THE NATION’S IMPACT FRESHMAN

  1. With a postseason ban in place on Oklahoma State, what will top recruit Cade Cunningham’s season look like? The past five top recruits in the country have had mixed success, with R.J. Barrett and Josh Jackson having strong campaigns, whereas the likes of James Wiseman, Michael Porter, and Skal Labissiere all falling short for varying reasons. This year, Cade Cunningham, the #1 recruit in the country, stuck with his commitment to Oklahoma State even after his team was given a postseason ban. The regular season will be Cunningham’s time to shine.
  2. A year after freshman Onyeka Okongwu shined bright, what will Evan Mobley’s impact be on the Trojans? Onyeka Okongwu was a force on both ends of the court for USC a season ago, leading the team in points, rebounds and blocked shots per game. This year, Andy Enfield adds top-10 recruit Evan Mobley to his roster. The seven-footer is described by many as a plus-athlete whose presence will especially be felt on the defensive side of the court.
  3. Is Ziaire Williams the missing piece Stanford needs to return to the NCAA Tournament? After winning 20 games for the first time under Jerod Haase, the Cardinal bring back much of last year’s team while also adding the highly-regarded Ziaire Williams. As a senior at Sierra Canyon, playing alongside the likes of B.J. Boston and Bronny James, Williams averaged 15 points and eight rebounds per game while taking home the Los Angeles Times Player of the Year award.
  4. After only getting three games out of James Wiseman last year, what can Memphis expect from the highly touted Moussa Cisse this seaosn? Moussa Cisse decided to stay local and commit to the Memphis program. After getting just three games out of James Wiseman last year, Penny Hardaway is hoping Cisse can bring the goods for an entire season. The freshman is an elite rim-protector and someone who should be a force on the frontcourt for the Tigers.
  5. What will Makur Maker’s freshman look like after deciding to go to Howard over the likes of Kentucky and UCLA? Maker shocked many recruiting pundits when he picked the path of attending Howard over the blue-blood programs that had pursued him. “I just dare to be different,” said Maker about his decision. An NBA talent in the MEAC, Maker is forging a new path, a path that will have eyes glued to him each night he hits the floor.
  6. What should college basketball expect moving forward with the competition from the G-League for recruits? The creation of the NBA G-League developmental team has led to some of the top recruits in the nation deciding against playing college basketball. The likes of Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga and Daishen Nix deciding to go that route cost some coaches time and agony with losing recruits, but questions remain about the impact it will have on the game as a whole. Will more recruits bail on college as time moves forward, or will this just allow for different players to emerge as college stars?

THE BIGGEST QUESTION MARK OF THE SEASON: COVID-19

  1. The elephant in the room that needs to be asked, will there be a full 2020-2021 season or will COVID-19 break basketball hearts again? The morning of March 12, 2020, feels like an eternity ago — it was the day when the college basketball season completely shut down. From playing conference tournament games to facing the end of the season in the blink of an eye. While this season is set to begin, getting though March and the 2021 NCAA Tournament is far from a guarantee.
  2. With the recent news of the NCAA’s plans to play the entire NCAA Tournament in or around Indianapolis, do certain teams pick up a new advantage? Without COVID-19, the 2021 NCAA Tournament would have had teams playing through Regional sites such as Brooklyn, Memphis, Denver and Minneapolis. That said, the NCAA recently announced plans to hold the entire tournament within the confines of Indianapolis and the surrounding areas. With teams not gaining geographical advantages and potentially playing without fan support, could Midwest teams gain an advantage?
  3. With the NCAA already relocating the NCAA Tournament, what will conference tournaments look like come early March? Beyond the NCAA Tournament being played in a centralized location, perhaps individual conferences will follow suit. The possibility of moving conference tournaments from a neutral site to on the campus of a school could play a major impact on which teams end up with automatic bids.
  4. Cancelled games are inevitably going to happen, what impact will they have on resumes and teams? The comparing of resumes in March will be interesting when taking note of all the cancelled games, many of which will not be rescheduled. It will be interesting to see how the committee handles similar teams that potentially could have quite a difference in number of games played.
  5. While players fall into a category of lower health threats to the disease, what effects might COVID-19 have on the veteran coaches across the country? Mid-November brought the news that Jim Boeheim tested positive for COVID-19. Boeheim, 76 years of age, is one of those premier coaches whose age puts them at a greater risk than the players. While a player might be able to recover quickly, there remains great uncertainty of what a positive test to those coaches, espeically those north of 70 (Leonard Hamilton, Mike Krzyzewski, Roy Williams) could mean.
  6. Players and teams will inevitably face COVID-19 challenges, but for those that must rest players while still playing games, will deeper, more experienced teams gain an edge ? Players missing time and being forced to isolate from a team will present unique obstacles for many teams. Perhaps it benefits teams with deep, experienced benches in the short term, but perhaps young, inexperienced teams could use these challenges to increase playing time for young players while also increasing the depth of the squad.

QUESTIONS FOR THOSE COACHING IN A NEW PLACE

  1. After five consecutive 24-win seasons, how will East Tennessee State fare with a new roster and new coach? In Steve Forbes’ five years at ETSU, the Buccaneers won at least 24 games in each season. Former assistant Jason Shay takes over a team that went 30-4 last year, but with a roster that does not return any of its top eight scorers from that squad.
  2. Grand Canyon University disappointed in Dan Majerle’s final season, but can they have a resurgence in Bryce Drew’s first year? After four consecutive 20-win seasons, Grand Canyon went just 13-17 in Dan Majerle’s final season leading the way. After disappointing at Vanderbilt, Bryce Drew returns to the mid-major level where he had previously excelled. The Antelopes bring back the WAC Freshman of the Year, Jovan Blacksher, who averaged 10.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game in his first year.
  3. After being away from college basketball for several years, what will Rick Pitino’s return look like at Iona? Rick Pitino was last on the sideline of a college basketball game in 2017. His return to the game finds himself with a pair of MAAC Preseason Second Team selections in Isaiah Ross and Asante Gist. Pitino has won at least 20 games in each of his past 15 seasons as a college coach.
  4. The sudden firing of Pat Chambers leaves Penn State with a new coach; can Jim Ferry keep the Nittany Lions trending in the right direction? For the first time in over 20 years, Penn State basketball has won 20 or more games in two of its past three seasons. Off the court issues required the school to go in a new direction and bringing in Jim Ferry after Pat Chambers was fired. Ferry last coached at Duquesne in the 2016-17 season, and, in his five years with the Dukes, Ferry’s teams finished with more than 13 wins just once.
  5. Can Steve Forbes find success at Wake Forest after winning year in and year out at ETSU? The Danny Manning era at Wake Forest came to an end last season with little success to show for it, and Steve Forbes looks to replicate the success he had at ETSU in the ACC. With ETSU, the Buccaneers were a top-100 defense in three of his five seasons, a side of the ball that Manning’s Wake teams often struggled with. Forbes brings guard Daivien Williamson with him to his new team.
  6. With limited time between the firing of Gregg Marshall and the start of the season, how will Wichita State perform under the new leadership of coach Isaac Brown? After a run of eight NCAA Tournaments in a nine-year stretch, Gregg Marshall’s tenure at the helm came to a crashing end after considerable off-court troubles were discovered. Former assistant Isaac Brown takes over on short notice with a team that does not bring back its top three scorers.

QUESTIONS ON THE NEW TEAMS ON THE BLOCK

  1. Can Bellarmine take a successful D-II program and have immediate success in the Atlantic Sun? Bellarmine was one of the premier programs in the Great Lakes Valley Conference over the past 10 years. They enter D-I basketball coming off of a 20-win season, their 12th in a row. On offense, Bellarmine shot over 40 percent from beyond the arc and were disruptive on the defensive end with over seven steals per game.
  2. Can the duo of Hunter Schofield and Frank Staine help Dixie State announce its presence at the D-I level this season? Schofield and Staine join Dason Youngblood as three returning players who started at least 28 games on last season’s 23-7 team. Schofield was the only player in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference to finish the season ranked in the top 10 in scoring, rebounding and field-goal percentage. This is a Dixie State squad that could find itself in the top half of the WAC in its first season.
  3. Wait a second, who is the coach at Tarleton State? With Tarleton State’s debut at the D-I level comes the return of former Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie. Gillispie last coached at this level in the 2011-12 season at Texas Tech before being let go for allegations of player mistreatment. Trouble has always followed Gillispie, but he does bring experience and a knack for program-building. He’ll need that experience to guide a team that won 18 games a season ago and does not return its top three scorers.
  4. After a 30-1 season last year, can UC San Diego have Merrimack-type success in year one at the D-I level? The Tritons of UC San Diego become the eighth University of California school to join the D-I level. UCSD is coming off of a 30-1 season in which it finished the year ranked third in the final D2SIDA rankings. They averaged 12.6 made three-pointers per game, while shooting better than 40 percent from deep. Returning to the team is 5’11” All-American guard Tyrell Roberts who averaged over 19 points per game and made 111-of-240 three-point attempts.
  5. If college basketball is all about the student-athletes, why does the NCAA continue to impose the postseason ban on teams that transition to D-I? When Merrimack beat Central Connecticut on February 27, it clinched sole possession of the NEC regular season title. With that, their season came to an end due to the NCAA’s postseason ban on team’s transitioning to the Division I level. Among the countless puzzling rules the NCAA has, this is near the top of the list that needs to change. If any of the four teams making the move to this level earn what should be a postseason berth, they unequivocally should be allowed to play.

QUESTIONS ON GROWING TRENDS IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL

  1. Will the trend of decreased offensive efficiency continue this season? According to KenPom data, the national average efficiency total was at its lowest in a stretch of the past seven seasons. With limited off-seasons, questions about COVID-19 breaking up the rhythm of the season, the upcoming season could see the ongoing decline of offensive efficiceny continue.
  2. Will college basketball continue to see a decline of free throws being attempted? The Division I free-throw rate last year fell to 32.6 percent, the lowest it has been in over 30 years. The game has invariably changed and the reliance on shooting from deep has correspondingly led to a decline in getting to the line. Another consequence of COVID-19 could be the return of trips to the foul line. With fewer summer practices working on defense and perhaps worse conditioning, perhaps college basketball sees more fouls called.
  3. Will we see three-point percentages get worse again this season? Last season’s average NCAA three-point field-goal percentage was 33.3 percent, the lowest of any season recorded by KenPom data going back to the 1986-87 season. The average sat at 35 percent two and three years ago, respectively. Whereas ten teams made at least 40 percent of their three-point attempts five seasons ago, only BYU did last season.
  4. Will offense return to the Big 12? Four of the top-10 defensive efficiency teams came from the Big 12 last season. With terrific defense came subpar offense. In league play, the Big 12 became the first power conference to post a conference-wide offensive efficiency of under 1.0 point per possession since the Big 12 did it in the 2002-03 season.
  5. Will Pac-12 teams find a way to win on the road in conference play? In conference play, Pac-12 home teams won 70.4 percent of their games, the second-best mark of any conference a season ago. Of the 32 home losses, 13 came via the bottom three teams in the league. Put simply, Pac-12 teams really struggled to get wins on the road. With the race for a league-title appearing to include a handful of teams, winning on the road could be what separates the teams at the top.
  6. Will replay continue to ruin far too many end of games? The balance between getting the call right and repeatedly going to the monitor for far too long continues to be a problem for college basketball referees. These stoppages kill any flow late in games and far too often leave calls still being questioned. After hearing complaints from seemingly everywhere last season, here is hoping the NCAA has spent the off-season finding some way to fix this issue.

67 DOWN, 1 TO GO…

  1. With all that being said, what should you expect this coming season? It’s college basketball, the unexpected should be the expected. I will leave you with the following bold predictions. Duke will not make it past the Round of 32; one of Houston or Oklahoma makes a run to the Sweet 16; one of Arizona State or UCLA makes a trip the Elite Eight, Iowa makes the title game, but it’s Gonzaga who cuts down the nets.
Matthew Eisenberg (121 Posts)


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