Football season is very much still in full swing. The weather is starting to change and we are getting some perfect fall weather over the last week or so. However, basketball is right around the corner. In fact, the college basketball season officially tips off in just 10 days. Monday, November 7th will be here before you know it. Preseason Top 5 team Baylor is among the group that will tip off the season at noon EST with a huge slate of games to follow on opening day.
In honor of hitting the 25-day-out mark, we’re touching on 25 of college basketball’s biggest storylines heading into the 2022-23 season. So far, we’ve covered 15 storylines. You can check them out below.
Here are five additional storylines just 10 days away from the college basketball season. Every five days we will release five more headlines and ultimately reach a total of 25 when the season begins on the 7th of November. As Jon Rothstein would say: And Here. We. Go.
It is no secret that North Carolina and Kentucky return a ton of star power and production. We know that Duke and Kansas will always be in the mix. However, every year, there are some mid-major programs that grab the nation’s attention. Excluding Gonzaga from this exercise, let’s take a look at some of the best mid-major programs entering this season.
- San Diego State: The Aztecs have experienced enough sustained success to hardly be considered a mid-major at this point. Head coach Brian Dutcher won 30 games and was in line for a top NCAA tournament seed before the coronavirus wiped away the 2020 Big Dance. He followed it up with a #6 seed in 2021 and a #8 seed last season. However, San Diego State hasn’t advanced in the tournament since 2015. Led by All-American candidate Matt Bradleythe Aztecs enter the season ranked #19 in the AP Poll and have eyes on making it to the second weekend and beyond.
- UAB: Veteran head coach Andy Kennedy has gotten things going down in Birmingham. After going 22-7 in year one, Kenedy’s Blazers finished 27-8 last season. UAB won the Conference USA Tournament as well to earn a #12 seed in the Big Dance before falling to Houston. Jordan “Jelly” Walker will be a household name this season and a frontrunner for C-USA Player of the Year honors. The league will be very exciting once again, but returning three starters plus the addition of LSU transfer Eric Gaines should make the Blazers the favorite.
- Grand Canyon: An influx of talent next to All-WAC First Team performer Jovan Blacksher should once again make the Antelopes an NCAA tournament team. Rayshon Harrison is a high-scoring guard from Presbyterian and Noah Baumann is a 3-point specialist who most recently played at Georgia. There is plenty of talent to work with for head coach Bryce Drew who has gone 40-15 in two seasons at the helm.
- Other Programs to Watch: Dayton, Saint Louis, North Texas, Drake, Furman, Western Kentucky, Liberty, Ioan, Hofstra, South Dakota State.
Upsetting the Old Big East
Gone are the days of the Top 25 battles between Seton Hall, St. John’s, and Georgetown. Jay Wright is no longer roaming the sidelines at Villanova. UConn hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game since 2016. In a lot of ways, the Big East simply isn’t what it used to be. However, an unlikely face has emerged as a preseason Top 10 team. The Creighton Bluejays enter 2022-2023 as the favorite to win the historic basketball conference.
Is this the year that head coach Greg McDermott breaks through and makes a run at the Final Four? Creighton was very young a year ago but surprised people by going 23-12; 12-7 and finishing fourth in the Big East. The Bluejays knocked off San Diego State in overtime in the NCAA tournament before falling 79-72 to eventual national champion Kansas. Returning a strong, young core led by 7’1″ Ryan Kalkbrenner, this team has the makeup of a legitimate contender. Mix in South Dakota State transfer Baylor Scheierman, one of the top players from the portal, and Coach McDermott may have his best team in 13 seasons in Omaha.
Star Freshmen Will Smooth Duke’s Sideline Transition
For the first time since 1980, head coach Mike Krzyzewski will not lead the Duke Blue Devils onto the floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Jon Scheyer era will begin on November 7th featuring a roster littered with new faces. Despite a lack of continuity, Coach Scheyer will have a ton of talent to work with for his first season as the boss in Durham.
While serving as Coach K’s assistant, Scheyer built a reputation as one of the best coaches on the recruiting trail. That culminated in a number one recruiting class that he will get to enjoy now as the head coach. Duke will potentially start four freshmen, including three of the top five players from the class of 2022. 7’1″ center Dereck Lively II heads the group as a potential lottery pick and All-ACC Second Team preseason selection. Versatile 6’6″ wing Dariq Whitehead finished second to Lively in the preseason ACC Rookie of the Year voting. Additionally, 6’11” forward Kyle Filipowski and 6’8″ forward Mark Mitchell are candidates to begin the season in the starting lineup. Reclassified point guard Tyrese Procter is yet another talented newcomer for Coach Scheyer to work with as well as freshman guard Jaden Schutt.
There isn’t a lot of returning production at Duke this season, but the incoming talent is undeniable. Any fans hoping for the collapse of the program in the post-Coach K universe will be greatly disappointed.
Twin Towers Lead the Oregon Ducks
Preseason First Team All-Pac 12 pick Will Richardson is a known commodity in the Ducks backcourt. The addition of South Carolina transfer Jermaine Couisnard will give head coach Dana Altman a very dynamic pair of guards. However, it is the frontcourt that should lead Oregon back to the NCAA tournament. The Ducks will have one of the biggest frontcourts in college basketball.
6’11” center N’Faly Dante is back for his senior season after averaging 8.1 points and 6.3 rebounds per game a year ago. His best ability is availability and he finally stayed healthy throughout last season. Now, he will have a 7-footer playing alongside him in Top 10 freshman Kel’el Ware. He is a long, athletic big man that will run the floor well and protect the rim. Additionally, off the bench, the Ducks have sophomore 7-footer Nate Bittle to add additional size and depth. That massive frontcourt will be a perfect counterbalance to a dynamic, playing backcourt. Expect to see Oregon and Coach Altman dancing once again.
Tennessee’s Talented Backcourt
Anytime you can effectively start two point guards it gives your offense a great base to build from. Zakai Zeigler is coming off of an excellent freshman campaign that exceeded even the loftiest expectations. The 5’9″ playmaker averaged 8.8 points and 2.7 assists per game. Zeigler will have big shoes to fill in the absence of Kennedy Chandler, but the talent is certainly there. Playing alongside him will be veteran Tennessee guard Santiago Vescovi. The lefty shot over 40% from 3-point range last season while averaging 13.2 points and 3.2 assists per game to earn All-SEC honors. Both Zeigler and Vescovi are very good defenders as well.
While Zeigler and Vescovi are the most well-known names nationally, senior Josiah-Jordan James will be the X-factor this season. The veteran left-hander is an excellent two-way, 3-and-D player who averaged 10.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game as a junior. High-scoring Indiana State transfer Tyreke Key and freshman BJ Edwards will add talent and depth to the Volunteers’ backcourt too. Coach Barnes has an elite group of guards to work with and that talent is a big reason why they begin the season ranked #11 in the country.