With no NBA, bring on college hoops
College basketball: What we are looking forward to this coming season
No hoops for you? Not so fast.
While the NBA remains on extended leave, that leaves the college game for us hoopheads to feast on from now until at least Thanksgiving (until at least Dec. 1, to be precise).
So start circling the big dates on the college calendar, starting with the Carrier Classic on Nov. 11.
Not sure what else to look for from the 35-second-shot-clock kids? Read on.
Danny Chau, Hardwood Paroxysm: The new (and improved?) Baylor Bears. On paper, Baylor is easily the most athletic team in the nation. Returning sophomore standout Perry Jones and top recruit Quincy Miller will dominate the headlines, but Baylor's new backcourt of Pierre Jackson and Deuce Bello should also feature prominently in highlight reels.
Tom Haberstroh, ESPN Insider: Basketball, really. But putting the obvious aside for a moment, a silver lining of the NBA lockout is that it spooked away some NBA-ready players like Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes, Terrence Jones and Perry Jones from entering the draft so soon. Now, we get to see NBA talent in action -- something we can't say about Kyrie Irving's world.
Mark Haubner, The Painted Area: Not only is there a fairly deep pool of 10 to 12 quality draft prospects in college hoops this year, but 16 of Chad Ford's top 20 overall are conveniently consolidated in six programs (North Carolina, Kentucky, Connecticut, Duke, Baylor, Florida). I'll be focused on those teams, plus a dash of Jared Sullinger.
Bret LaGree, Hoopinion: Though the single-elimination tournament and recruiting are irrevocably ascendant in college basketball culture, I nostalgically welcome the return of the home-and-home regular-season schedule to the Big 12. A true regular-season conference championship can't match winning a national championship, but it's both a worthy accomplishment and a far more realistic annual goal.
Ian Levy, Two-Man Game: The high-level talent pool is as deep as any season in recent memory. With so many top freshmen returning for their sophomore seasons, teams will have the benefit of experience and cohesion as well as talent. It should be an exciting year of heavyweight slugfests.
Keith Lipscomb, ESPN Fantasy: Can't wait to see the improvements Sullinger, Barnes and Terrence and Perry Jones have made, as well as how freshmen like Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis will impact the national title picture. This could be one of the best regular seasons in the past decade, and you know the Big Dance never disappoints.
Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: I love how evident the strategies of individual coaches are at the college level. As player ability declines, the team's philosophy becomes increasingly important and coaches become increasingly experimental. That dynamic creates these fascinating clashes between teams with wildly different styles. The system-versus-system matchups always intrigue me.
Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes Of Hell: I'm looking forward to rediscovering college basketball a little. NBA blogging is an every-night-of-the-week job, with few days off. It'll be nice to engage with the exuberance and atmosphere of college sports on the hardwood again for a while, even if it only lasts a month or so.
Spencer Wellesley Percy, Queen City Hoops: Although this lockout has brought me to my knees in basketball depression, college basketball is just around the corner and will surely ease some of the pain. What I will be looking forward to most is scouting the future NBA prospects out of my favorite conference, the ACC. Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Austin Rivers, Michael Snaer and C.J. Leslie, just to name a few.
Michael Schwartz, Valley of the Suns: The freshmen. The draft class of 2012 has been widely hailed as a special group thanks to a crop of elite freshmen who make up seven of the top 10 picks in NBADraft.net's latest mock. This college season we will begin to see which freshmen differentiate themselves as potential franchise saviors.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: On Dec. 1, if the pros aren't back to work, I'm going to Wichita State to see the Shockers play host to my beloved Cal State Fullerton Titans in honor of the late, great Ozell "Hoppy" Jones who played at both schools before making it all the way to the NBA as a fourth-round draft pick.
David Thorpe, Scouts Inc.: No shock here, I'm excited to see how the draft class of 2012 performs because it includes some real gems from 2011 who (wisely?) went back to school. When combined with a potentially stellar freshman class, the NBA draft of 2012 might enrich more teams with All-Star talent than any draft in recent memory. Oh, and the power teams are absolutely loaded now, too.
Justin Verrier, ESPN.com: Repeat bids. Blue bloods looking and playing like blue bloods again. Jim Calhoun yelling at things. Andre Drummond dunks. How many top-10 recruits John Calipari can fit into one starting lineup. Andre Drummond in a Rip Hamilton facemask. College atmospheres. And above all else, actual basketball games. And Andre Drummond.