College Basketball: Although the nets are cut down in April the road to the Final 4 in Atlanta begins now

We are halfway through the college football season and several fans have turned their attention to their basketball programs accepting the harsh reality that a bowl game is not in their school’s future. Traditional basketball powers like Indiana, Kentucky, Kansas, and North Carolina opened Midnight Madness and the start of their first official practices with a big bang. The fan bases from these four programs and many others from across the nation believe that this will be their year to cut down the nets and win a National Championship.

Last season we were treated to memorable buzzer beaters at Duke and Indiana; NCAA investigations and scandals at Syracuse and Louisville; the ending of an era in Connecticut with the retirement of Coach Jim Calhoun; and Anthony ‘uni-brow’ Davis leading Kentucky and a band of future pros to the school’s eighth national title.

Although last year’s season ended with a bang this upcoming season promises to be one that will be nothing short of exciting. Out west once proud programs UNLV and UCLA have assembled their fair share of diaper dandies and college transfers in an attempt to reclaim their dominant ways out west. Despite the potential of both of these programs they both enter the off-season with a ton of question marks.  At UNLV chemistry and the pressure of heightened expectations will be two factors to watch as Coach Rice attempts to build a solid rotation and find minutes for a deep frontcourt.

At UCLA Ben Howland seat has truly begin to warm so the pressure to produce on the court could not be higher. However,the three freshmen one and doners Shabazz Muhammad, Tony Parker, and Kyle Anderson who were expected to return the Bruins to glory are all currently under investigation by the NCAA for improper benefits. To make matters talented but overweight Josh Smith continues to lose his fight with hamburgers leading to an ever-expanding waistline. Too make matters even worse in Westwood, Muhammad who is the same freshman under investigation also injured his shoulder and he may not be expected to return until mid-season.

In the Midwest Kansas promises to be a tough out despite the loses in the back court of Tyshawn Taylor. Ben McLemore has made raves during the summer camp circuits and is expected to team with center Jeff Withey to help Coach Bill Self contend for yet another Big XII Championship.

Although football may still be king in Big X country this year their best chance to capture a national title may lay in Bloomington, Indiana who have been voted preseason number one. Led by presumed number pick in next year’s draft Cody Zeller. Coach Tom Crean has finally assembled a team that can bring a national championship banner back to Hoosier nation, the land of Larry Bird and the infamous movie Hoosiers.  However winning the Big X certainly will not be a cakewalk with a resurgent Michigan team in Ann Arbor & the Hall-of-famer himself in East Lansing.

Reigning NCAA champ, Kentucky Wildcats lose six draft picks from last year’s team but expectations for another title has not be reduced. Coach Calipari has done a masterful job of recruiting replacing lottery picks with future lottery picks and the same is true this year: Nerlean Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, and NC State transfer Ryan Harrow promise to make their debut season a treat for both NBA scouts and Big Blue Nation.

In the ACC the most unlikeliest teams on Tobacco Road has been deemed the preseason favorite, and it’s not Duke or UNC. Led by Coach Mark Gottfried the NC State Wolf pack have had a quick turn around and with the addition of McDonald’s All-American Purvis who was just cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse they promise to be a tough out during tournament time.

As the Maui Tournament and the Coaches v. Cancer Tournament quickly approaches and gives fans the non conference games fans dream of during the Thanksgiving Holiday know the March Madness and all the excitement that ensues is not too far behind. However, whose being fitted for their MARCH glass slipper? Which senior will arise from the smoke of oblivion? Which freshman will get ensnared in the NCAA’s grasp? This college basketball season promises to be a good one. Stay tuned… I know I will – A.Denmark

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