Only 18 days remain until the start of Midnight Madness and officially, the start if the 2013-14 NCAA Basketball season. To get ready for the season and get ourselves amped up, here are 18 fearless predictions for the upcoming season.
1. Andrew Wiggins will be unstoppable
Ok, maybe this one isn’t so fearless but we aren’t talking just really good here, we’re going Kevin Durant at Texas levels of dominance. Wiggins is one of the most athletic players to go to the NCAA in a long time, he has amassed an almost Lebron level type of hype thanks to his terrific hops and overall basketball athleticism.
The areas where people feel Wiggins needs to improve are in his shooting skills and his defensive fundamentals. The biggest thing about those criticisms is that they are done mostly because they are needed. While Wiggins may not be the best shooter in the world, he can certainly hold his own from anywhere on the court.
If Wiggins were on a team full of scrubs, he would still be an absolute force on his own. The best news for Kansas basketball fans is that Kansas is not a team full of scrubs, Other than Kentucky’s recruiting class, Kansas has possible the deepest recruiting class of 2013. Wiggins will be playing with some excellent players that should both complement him and free up a lot of open court for Wiggins to work in.
By the end of the season, Wiggins sweeping the player of the year awards will come as no surprise after he puts the entire NCAA on blast.
2. Kentucky will have a good season but will be hurt by a lack of ball handling
It’s impossible to debate that the Kentucky Wildcats have an absolutely loaded recruiting class. Julius Randle and the Harrison twins will be ready to have big impacts instantly. While Dakari Johnson may need some time to adjust, he will be a defensive force and will be allowed to slowly add some playing time behind Willie Caulie-Stein. Same goes for James Young who will likely be playing off the bench and adding what he can to the offense as he improves his skills for the future.
Combined with Caulie-Stein and Alex Pothyress, the Wildcats have an insane amount of talent at most positions that should position them for a really high seed in the NCAA tournament.
By far their biggest weakness could prove to be their downfall. Outside of Andrew Harrison, Kentucky lacks a player who can take over controlling the ball and sharing the shots between all of the wing scorers Kentucky promises to have. If Andrew Harrison struggles to play the position, coach Calipari will have to find a way to create an offense that doesn’t rely on a primary shot creator and that could be a huge challenge.
3. Michigan State is being underrated as a National Championship contender
For a team that is returning all of their key players save for Derrick Nix, the Michigan State Spartans are not being discussed nearly enough as a contender. If there is one thing everyone knows about Izzo coached teams, it’s that they are always well prepared. On a team that should not be playing many minutes to their freshmen, this will be even more of a truth.
The biggest catalyst for the Spartans will be Keith Appling who is an absolute monster on defense. While he may not be flashy as an offensive player, he gets the job done and is a great creator for his teammates. Combined with his ability to shut down almost any player in the country on the perimeter, he will ensure that the Spartans are a tough and scrappy team every time they take the court.
On offense, in addition to Appling, the hope is that Gary Harris takes extra strides off an excellent first year and that Adreian Payne continues to stretch defense with his shooting ability on the three point line.
While they may not be able to go all the way, there should be no doubt that the Spartans should be looked at as a dangerous threat. While they are in a tough conference, I have them pegged as taking the Big 10 and playing themselves to a one or two seed.
4. Steve Alford will have a tough first year at UCLA
After leaving New Mexico and leaving some people a tiny bit upset at his departure, Steve Alford has put a big spotlight on himself entering his first season at UCLA. The once great program has taken a few hits as of late with their recent struggles both on the court and in their recruiting decisions and Alford is expected to curb that trend immediately.
The issue for the coach is that he has been left with a team he largely did not recruit. His one big freshman coming in this season is Zach Lavine who should be a pretty good player in time but won’t be an impact performer from day one.
The Bruins will look to rely on Jordan Adams’ scoring ability and Kyle Anderson to carry the offense. Outside of those two, the Bruins will be weak in the scoring department and while the Wear twins, Travis and David, seemed to come on strong at the end of last season, they have fallen into a habit of under-performing every season of their career thus far.
While Alford should be given a fair chance to create his own team before he is judged, the UCLA fans expect big things immediately. They are tired of the losing trend that has fallen onto the campus and Alford has been pegged as they savior, if he struggles in his first season, it won’t be a good start for his coaching career at UCLA.
5. Once PJ Hairston takes the court again, he will dazzle
We have all said our share about Hairston’s questionable decisions over the course of the summer, there are no questions that PJ Hairston can play basketball. For his bad choices, he has been flung through the mud by both media and fans alike, most people have pretty much forgotten the fact that he can actually play.
The thing about sports is that they create an island, a way to isolate yourself from everything else. It allows for players to set everything else aside and just play to the best of their ability. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before, Kobe Bryant, Dany Heatley and Ben Roethlisberger have all played some of their best games facing a lot of pressure.
For UNC to be contenders, they will need Hairston to produce and in my eyes, there is no doubt that he will. If Hairston can prove he can be a big time scorer for the Tar Heels, he could still create a spot for himself in the NBA draft, which many people have already decided he will not be a part of.
That’s all for the first part, tune in tomorrow for part 2 of my fearless predictions!