College basketball is right around the corner, and in a season that seemingly has endless storylines, it is wide open for anyone to win. As we near the season here are some of the biggest storylines to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Big Faces in New Places
This past offseason saw several big names coaches moving on to new programs with many high-profile jobs becoming available. The largest change of note was the sudden departure of Roy Williams from North Carolina with Hubert Davis taking the reins from the legendary hall of fame coach after the Tar Heels lost in the first round. Davis had been an assistant coach on the team since 2012 and will come into a team that is going into the season ranked 19th overall in the AP poll.
Along with North Carolina, two of the biggest names in the Big 12 changed coaches, with Chris Beard being hired at Texas Tech and Porter Moser taking over at Oklahoma. Beard is coming off a phenomenal five year stretch at Texas Tech with Beard taking the program to new heights with four tournament appearances including two Sweet 16 appearances and a national championship experience. After securing several key transfers, including star combo guard Marcus Carr, the Texas Longhorns will be ranked fifth overall in the AP poll to begin the season and will look to contend for a national championship immediately.
Porter Moser will take over at Oklahoma after the longtime coach Lon Kruger retired in the offseason with Moser coming off an incredible stint as the head coach of Loyola. Moser led Loyola to two incredible runs including a final four appearance in 2018. After a disappointing 16-11 record and beginning the season off as unranked the Sooners will have some work to do to get back to where they were several years ago when they were consistently competing for the Big 12 championship.
A Season of Redemption
Entering last season Duke and Kentucky were of course popular picks to compete for and win the national championship with both schools bringing in top five recruiting classes with several key transfers. The season of course did not turn out that way, Duke finished the season with a 13-11 record as the Blue Devils missed the tournament for the first time since 1995; the longest streak in the NCAA for making the tournament until this past year. Issue after issue arose for the team, including star player Jalen Johnson leaving roughly midway through the season in a year that is one of the worst in the Mike Krzyzewski era.
Kentucky did not fare any better, as the Wildcats had arguably the worst season in school history after finishing an abysmal 9-16. It was of course the worst season of the John Calipari era, and the Wildcats never seemed like a tournament team at any point for more than a game at a team struggling to beat any team they played.
The Wildcats and Blue Devils immediately went to work this offseason as the teams changed much of their rosters with both schools bringing in top five recruiting classes. Duke most notably brought in number two overall recruit Paolo Banchero who is going to compete to be the first overall pick in the NBA next year. Kentucky will be led by junior Keion Brooks Jr after a season in which he averaged 10.3 points and 6.8 rebounds a game. Duke and Kentucky will enter the season ranked as ninth and 10th respectively in the AP poll as the two face off on the first night of the season on November 9th in the Champions Classic.
The Return of Fans
Last season along with just about every sports league saw the absence of fans almost entirely with few to no fans in attendance. There was of course a rise in attendance during the tournament that was forced to be held entirely in Indiana due to safety concerns. This year with most schools lifting mask mandates and allowing higher amounts of fans, home court advantages will return with most games being ghost towns and road wins essentially not being a factor. We will also get back to normalcy in the tournament and get to see the tournament spread out through the country and bring back an electricity that makes college sports so great and March Madness among the best exhilarating postseasons to watch in a sports professional or college.
The Last Dance
In early June Mike Krzyzewski sent shockwaves throughout the sports world as he announced that the upcoming season will be his final season as the head coach of Duke. Krzyzewski has coached at Duke for the past 41 years and has turned Duke into one of the best programs in college basketball amassing 1,170 wins overall as a head coach becoming the winningest head coach in college basketball history along the way to go along with five national championships, most recently in 2015. The hall of fame coach not only forever changed college basketball but also coached for the United States Olympic winning three gold medals for the team as a head coach in Olympic play. With a revamped roster and extra motivation to improve coming off such a disappointing season, I expect Duke to be in the heat of the ACC and national championship race. Throughout the season expect this to likely to be one of if not the biggest storyline with this season serving as a farewell tour for the legendary coach as he looks to cap off one of the most legendary careers in the history of college basketball with one last national championship.