2016-2017 Season Preview, with Many Unanswered Questions Affecting The Sport

The usual “transient” nature affecting men’s college basketball each autumn season, as veteran CBS Sports announcer Jim Nantz mentioned years ago in the Stories from the Final Four book is certainly ringing true as the sport enters its’ 79th season of play on Veteran’s Day, Friday November 11 with five games.

Transfers aplenty and yet, the familiar names everyone loves to hate are at the top of the preseason polls

Led by Preseason Player of the Year in guard Grayson Allen, Duke is hoping he will carry a mantel similar to that of what Bobby Hurley provided for the Blue Devils a quarter century ago.  Duke received 58 of 65 first-place votes according to the first Associated Press poll.  Kentucky again is back in the mix ranked second, followed closely by Kansas, Villanova, and guard heavy Oregon rounding out the top five.

Some schools will benefit with new talent and help tournament rich schools like Gonzaga and Memphis go on deep tournament runs come March.  Names to look out for early in the season include:

Nigel Williams-Goss, Jordan Mathews, and Jonathan Williams, Gonzaga.

Austin Nichols, Virginia. Former forward out of Memphis forward can be similar to what Ralph Sampson was in the early 1980’s–that is he can score in bunches, rebound in key situations, and help be a rock for the defense that was near the top in some key categories in the always tough ACC.

Shannon Evans, Arizona State.  Tra Holder should enjoy spending quality time in the Sun Devils’ backcourt.  Time will tell if this team will gel come Pac-12 conference time and the likes of Washington, Oregon, and UCLA loom on their schedule.

Marcus Foster, Creighton.  Stepping into the shoes once made famous by Doug McDermott, this former Kansas State guard can make the Blue Jays dangerous in the Missouri Valley as a partner with Mo Watson, Jr.

Andrew White, Syracuse.  A graduate transfer from Nebraska should help Jim Boeheim a veteran who can score and rebound, a la like a Rony Siekaly was in 1986-1987.

Top Five Games To Watch:

Michigan State vs. Arizona, November 11 ESPN as part of 75th anniversary tribute to attacks on Pearl Harbor, 7 p.m.  For new Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Tom Izzo, it is always about proving people wrong.  Once again, I had them finishing fifth in the Big Ten and were poised to cut down the nets in Houston last April.  But losing in the first round in Saint Louis ended the excellent career of Denzel Valentine and the likes of 6’7″ forward Miles Bridges are looking to etch their names as Spartans legends of the future.

Princeton at BYU, November 14 at 10 p.m. as part of annual Tip-Off Marathon, ESPN2.  With the Ivy League finally gearing up for their first ever post-season tournament come March 12 and 13, winning in a hostile environment like in Provo could be huge.

Kansas vs. Duke, November 15 shortly after weekly CFP rankings are released around 9:30 p.m., Madison Square Garden in New York ESPN.  The State Farms Champions Classic features the top four winningest programs in the sport and will the game live up to its’ billing?

Kentucky vs. Louisville, December 21 at 7 p.m. ESPN.  Possibly the last hurrah for Rick Pitino, pending the NCAA’s future ruling on the sex scandal that rocked the campus earlier this decade?  This will be four days after the Wildcats participate in the third annual CBS Sports Classic in Las Vegas, this time against North Carolina.

Kansas at Kentucky as part of the SEC/Big 12 Challenge, Saturday January 28 at 6:15 p.m. ESPN.  Two of the most storied programs in a possible Sweet 16/Elite Eight preview.  A number one seed could be riding on this game.

Big Z’s All Names Team

  • Lonzo Ball, point guard UCLA
  • Chris Boucher, power forward Oregon
  • Carlton Bragg, Jr. power forward Kansas
  • London Perrantes, point guard Virginia
  • Malik Monk, shooting guard Kentucky

Mid-Major Schools To Keep Watch For

Belmont, Creighton, Gonzaga, St. Mary’s, Rhode Island, and San Diego State head the list of some schools to keep an eye on during the season.

With 10,500 games to decide who will receive the 68 coveted bids come Selection Sunday, March 12, 2017–it will be interesting to see how topsy-turvy this season will turn out to be.

But what you can expect from me again are three popular features:

Song of the Day–where I will highlight an independent rock artist past or present depending on how the games turn out and the ebb and flow of competition.  Each artist will also include their album title (when applicable), record label and official street date when it hit both online and virtually via popular media players such as Spotify, Rhapsody, and Apple Music.

Under the Microscope–to return in January as I put three schools under closer scrutiny on a weekly basis.  Those blogs will have me gathering key information from polls related to the RPI rankings and other key statistical data and come up with an educated guess as far as a general percentage of which schools are in and which schools could be out in my mind.

NCAA Tournament and Final Four Preview–to be in your inboxes on Sunday evening, March 12 and sometime during the week of March 27, respectively.

Plus, hopefully other cool goodies if and when I get some time as I had to take a much needed breather after blogging for 16 consecutive days during this past Summer Olympics from Rio de Janiero, Brazil.

Hope the games turn out to be fun and interesting.  Like I have done the first three years in this blog, I only plan to chronicle any upsets and some of the glamour matchups that dominate the non-conference portion of the schedule and all of those preseason holiday tournaments that dot the college basketball landscape from November 21 right up to Christmas Day.

My first update will feature Bryce Drew’s first game as coach of Vanderbilt as they play at the Naval Academy in the Veteran’s Classic against Marquette that will air on CBS Sports Network on Friday night, 6:30 p.m. Eastern time.

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