Initial thoughts: How good is Maryland really? We’ll get an early indicator here. The Terrapins open against Arizona State with a potential date with Iowa State in the final.
Terrapins fans have been waiting to see some results from the Mark Turgeon era. Instead they’ve dealt with drama, most recently a rash of four transfers including point guard Seth Allen that has put Turgeon squarely on the hot seat just three seasons in.
The pressure should abate this year, the Terps' first in the Big Ten, as Turgeon has his best shot at an NCAA tournament bid. Despite the transfers, he has a host of talent returning, anchored by Dez Wells, and a top-10 recruiting class. Freshman Romelo Trimble, a combo guard, could be the answer to a lot of the Terps' questions, especially if he can fill in at the point for Allen.
Turgeon isn't alone feeling the pressure. Alabama's Anthony Grant has it, too. The Crimson Tide was just 13-19 last year and even without Trevor Releford, Grant has to figure out a way to do better this year.
Herb Sendek isn't under the same sort of scrutiny, but he, too, is rebuilding after losing three transfers plus point guard Jahii Carson. The Pac-12 is fairly open this season and if four junior college players can come together quickly, Sendek might be in decent shape.
Why you'll want to watch: Iowa State. Sorry to take the fun out of this one, but this is the Cyclones' tourney to lose. A final matchup against Maryland could prove tricky, but Iowa State is the easy favorite.
The best news in this offseason for Cyclones fans was the non-news. Fred Hoiberg stayed put. A hot commodity on the coaching wish list, especially among NBA GMs, Hoiberg opted to stay with his alma mater, which is huge. Replacing him wouldn't be impossible but darned close.
Mixing transfers with his own recruits, Hoiberg has rebuilt Iowa State into a serious Big 12 and national threat. The Cylcones lost to eventual national champion UConn in the Sweet 16 but did so without Georges Niang, who broke his foot.
Hoiberg said he funneled the better part of his offense through the big man, mostly because Niang can pass like a point guard. Without him, Iowa State had to regroup on the fly.
Niang will be back for the start of the season, a leaner version of himself. He has lost 25 pounds and thinks it will help him defensively and rebounding, areas where the Cyclones will need help now that Melvin Ejim has graduated.
Niang won't be alone. He'll have help in the form of -- what else? -- more transfers. Bryce Dejean-Jones comes in from UNLV and Abdel Nader from Northern Illinois. Both, along with returning guard Monte Morris, should mean that Iowa State picks up where it left off last season.