The last time I touched the magnificent topic of collegiate hoops was three months ago when I gave this past season’s biggest takeaways.
We are three months past the national championship in which Baylor absolutely dominated the then-undefeated Gonzaga Bulldogs, something I did not see coming at all.
Now, we are four months away from a new season, new storylines, and more spectacular moments. With fans expected to be back in the picture, this season could bring an unprecedented level of madness.
Let’s look at some storylines heading into the season.
Drew Timme Returns to Another Loaded Gonzaga Squad
Gonzaga isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Despite the heartbreaking blowout loss for the Bulldogs in the National Championship last season, the Zags still find themselves at No.1 going into the season in multiple “Way-Too-Early” rankings, including mine.
Mark Few loses three key players from his team last year (Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert, and Joel Ayayi), but adds a perennial talent in five-star PF Chet Holmgren and another five-star in SF Hunter Sallis. With the return of Timme at center, Andrew Nembhard at PG, and Iowa State transfer Rasir Bolton at SG, this team is once again at the top of the mountain entering the season. Expect Timme to take home the Preseason Player of the Year honor.
Gonzaga is notorious for their explosive transition game and moving the ball around the half-court. Expect Nembhard to take that step forward this season with a bigger role in the offense, while Rasir Bolton fits their mold perfectly with his explosiveness down the lane and a high basketball IQ.
Marcus Carr to Texas, Two Big Ten Big Men Back to Their Schools, Other Impact Transfers
The transfer portal has seen its fair share of high-end players this offseason. Marcus Carr is taking his talents to Texas, where Chris Beard now reigns in at the helm in his first season at Austin.
Kofi Cockburn sent shockwaves through the CBB world when he announced he was putting his name in the transfer portal. He was heavily linked to Kentucky because of his strong relationship with former Illinois assistant Chin Coleman who now coaches for the Wildcats. Landing Cockburn for Kentucky would’ve made the Wildcats a Top 3 team in the nation, but their sights are set on Jalen Duren.
Duren is now the #1 recruit in the nation for the class of 2022, jumping long-time No. 1 Emoni Bates. A lot of predictions have him going to the G-League, but with new NIL rules and the Wildcats giving him an immediate chance to impact their roster for this upcoming season by reclassifying, the center would elevate Kentucky to new heights.
Cockburn ultimately decided to go back to Illinois, which gives the Fighting Illini a scary P&R duo of PG Andre Curbelo and Cockburn. Even though Ayo Dosunmu is now gone, this team is frankly almost the same team that beat Michigan with Ayo hurt a season ago. As long as the supporting cast elevates the two potential All-Americans, the Fighting Illini should be lethal again next season.
Despite losing almost their entire starting roster from their Elite Eight team last season, Michigan and head coach Juwan Howard look to build off of last year’s success. Elite big man Hunter Dickinson is back after testing NBA waters to mesh with the nation’s best recruiting class this season. Pair both of those with the addition of Sun Belt POTY Coastal Carolina PG Devante’ Jones, and Michigan is once again a threat.
Another huge transfer that looks to have a huge impact is PG Remy Martin. After being named a Preseason First-Team All-American last season at Arizona State, Martin and the Sun Devils were one of the huge disappointments of the season after recruiting the likes of SG Josh Christopher and SF Marcus Bagley to pair with Martin. Remy is now leading the way at Kansas, and Bill Self has a stacked roster going into this season. With SG Ochai Agbaji and three other starters all returning from last season and adding Joe Yesufu from Drake, the Jayhawks should 100% be in the title conversation.
There were two under-the-radar additions that I really liked: Former Rutgers C Myles Johnson to UCLA and former Miami PF Earl Timberlake to Memphis.
UCLA is looking to be one of the scariest teams in the nation. They return every player from a Final Four team while adding a Top-10 rim protector in Myles Johnson. On top of this, they added a Top 10 overall recruit in SF Peyton Watson. Watson is an elite defender and can play three different positions, which provides so much versatility for Mick Cronin. The combo of Johnson and Cody Riley at the 5 is the most lethal center duo in the nation. The Bruins also have a star in Johnny Juzang returning.
This team went blow-for-blow with Gonzaga in the Final Four in one of the most classic March Madness games of all time. If they played Houston or Baylor instead, they find themselves in the National Championship. The Bruins were one half-court buzzer beater away, so expect them to come back with vengeance and a fire under them this season.
Earl Timberlake entered last season as a projected first round pick in this year’s NBA Draft but dealt with injuries the whole year for Miami. After finding a new home in Memphis for Penny Hardaway and new assistant coach Larry Brown, Timberlake provides another element to a top-rated defense while giving the Tigers another playmaker. Memphis is a consensus Top 15 team going into the season. Expect the Tigers to finally give Houston a run for their money in the American Conference this season.