The first week of the college basketball season is now behind us, and to say that there have been some surprising results would be an understatement. Though it is still very early, the thinking that granting players freedom of movement between programs would destroy mid-major competition was seemingly misplaced. Here are some observations and predictions after the first full week of the season.
College Basketball Season
Observation: The ACC is still down
Heading into the season, the ACC was thought to be a bounce-back candidate after a season that saw only the Duke Blue Devils maintain any sort of consistency. North Carolina made a run to the finals but was not without their questions during the 2021-22 season. Virginia was not good and exited the tournament early, while Florida State and Louisville were not their typical selves. Wake Forest won 25 games but didn’t really play a tough enough schedule and failed to earn an at-large while Virginia Tech needed an ACC Tournament championship to punch their ticket.
Early indicators are that while North Carolina, Duke, and Virginia are once again among the nation’s best, the rest of the league offers little. Louisville and Florida State are a combined 0-5 with losses to Bellarmine, Troy, Wright State, Stetson, and Central Florida. Boston College just fell at home to the University of Maine, while Pittsburgh was destroyed at home by West Virginia. The Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech played to a halftime tie at home with division two Clayton State before needing a Miles Kelly bucket with four seconds left to defeat Georgia State.
The jury is still out on Miami (FL) and Virginia Tech, but we should know more about the ‘Canes by the end of November while the Hokies’ schedule really kicks it up a notch in the first two weeks of December.
Prediction: Oregon will not make the tournament
On paper, Dana Altman’s team looks like a typical Oregon squad, but the product has not been great. Yes, they were able to dominate Florida A&M, but the Rattlers are a legitimate contender for the worst team in the nation. The loss to UC-Irvine isn’t exactly embarrassing, but it really shouldn’t happen, especially at home.
Former top 40 recruits Will Richardson has never really developed into the college star, some predicted as injuries have almost certainly played a part. Quincy Guerrier has the talent to be an absolute superstar but has only scored seven points and grabbed nine rebounds in his 52 minutes played thus far. N’Faly Dante has been excellent for the Ducks, but someone needs to step up and give the big man some help.
Observation: John Calipari is playing chess
So often, people will cast a disparaging light upon coaches without recognizing that some guys are playing chess while others think the game is checkers. John Calipari set the bar in college basketball when he started bringing in superclasses every single season and reloading. Duke quickly followed suit when Jeff Capel joined the staff in 2011, but it’s always been Coach Cal that seems to galvanize his youth to make huge strides over the course of the season.
Now, Calipari has switched it up yet again. With so many programs looking to the transfer portal to backfill their rosters, Kentucky is now building almost hybrid rosters with top prep recruits and all-american type transfers. Last season it was star Oscar Tsciebwe, Kelan Grady, and Sahvir Wheeler, along with top recruit TyTy Washington.
This season, Big Blue Nation brought in scoring machine Antonio Reeves from Illinois State to play alongside CJ Frederick, who missed all but one game last season after transferring in from Iowa. They join Tshiebwe and Jacob Toppin, though the former has yet to appear, along with stud freshmen Cason Wallace, Ugonna Onyenso, and Chris Livingston. It will be interesting to see how Calipari subtly changes it up to gain an advantage in the seasons to come.
Prediction: This season is Bobby Hurley’s last at Arizona State
Duke Blue Devil legend Bobby Hurley was already on the hot seat heading into the season, and he has done nothing to cool off his hindquarters so far. The one-time Belle of the Ball in Tempe is just 27-32 over the last two-plus seasons and just took an ugly loss to Texas Southern on Sunday.
The Sun Devils defeated Tarleton State in the season opener, but it wasn’t pretty, as they had to sweat out a 62-59 final tally. They looked to have figured things out in game two against Northern Arizona and led by 35 points at one time before allowing the Lumberjacks to cut the lead to eleven late in the second half.
Despite not playing a team within the Kenpom top 200, Arizona State ranks 252nd in effective field goal percentage, 273rd in offensive turnover percentage, and 107th in opponents’ offensive rebounding percentage. Those numbers likely won’t translate well once the Sun Devils reach conference play.