Welcome to part two of our fearless predictions, make sure to read part one as well.
6. Mitch McGary will struggle to match his NCAA tournament
Last season, Mitch McGary went from being a highly touted freshman, to a struggling player coming off the bench and eventually turned in a stellar NCAA tournament. The way McGary ended the season left a lot of Michigan fans hoping that he would be the corner stone to another strong Wolverines squad this season.
While he will certainly have a better regular season than he did as a freshman, McGary will not put up incredible numbers. The biggest difference from this year compared to last year’s tournament run is that he won’t have Trey Burke or Tim Hardaway Jr by his side. Both players were good scorers that commanded defensive attention and allowed McGary to blend in until it was time for him to score. With both players gone, a large portion of the offense will have to be produced by McGary, something he has yet to have to do in the NCAA.
Losing Burke is also a hit for McGary because the former was great at setting up his teammates, including McGary. The big man is not a player who can really create his own shot and thrives off of hustle plays and transition offense. It remains to be seen how he will really perform in a half court set that relies mostly around him.
7. Florida is a dangerous team… especially with Chris Walker
As far as we know right now, Chris Walker is not eligible for the fall semester. This means that he will only be able to join the team in December for the winter semester. While losing him certainly hurts the Gators, they are a deep and talented with or without him.
The catalyst for the team will be incoming freshman Kasey Hill, a point guard with extreme quickness and skill. Both a good scorer and play maker, Hill displays a lot of natural leadership qualities that should go a long way towards taking control of the locker room.
Without Walker, it is tough to see them overtake the Kentucky Wildcats for the top spot in the SEC but if he does return in time for conference play, the Gators could just as easily take the top spot in the SEC as the Wildcats could.
8. Rhode Island is a dark horse to watch for
In the NCAA, an experienced scorer can carry a team a long by himself. Recent examples of this are CJ McCollum at Lehigh and Damian Lillard at Weber State. For the Rams, they could potentially have that kind of guy in Xavier Munford.
Munford is a high volume shooter who will be a senior next season and knows he will have as many shooting opportunities as he chooses to take. If he can get his average into the 20s and play some ball dominating offense, Rhode Island could find themselves surprise players in the Atlantic 10.
The Rams also did a good job recruiting, picking up a power forward in Hassan Martin who can come in and give them a much needed boost in rebounding. Their other recruit, EC Matthews, is a guard who should help provide some scoring punch and allow more freedom for Munford.
Of course this doesn’t mean that they have a shot at winning anything, in fact they very well could miss the big dance, all this means is that for the first time in a good while, Rhode Island has a definite possibility of making it to the NCAA tournament.
9. Jabari Parker will be a one and done
This appears to be split down the middle when it comes to what people think will happen. A lot of fans and analysts believe that Parker wants to be at Duke for a few years and doesn’t plan on leaving after only a year, another handful of people think he is only at Duke because he has to be and will bolt after a year.
While this is a tough call without having seen him play a single minute of NCAA play, we think Parker will be a one and done. There is no doubt the talent level is there for the big man and he won’t be afraid to show it once he hits the court. In terms of ability, there are very few players who will be able to do what Parker can from day one.
It may be true that Parker wants to be at school for a while and enjoy the experience but he also knows the money he stands to make once he goes pro. The possibilities of an injury being just around the corner has to be in his mind too, no one wants to give up a multi million dollar pay check for free.
Ultimately no one will know until his freshman season is over but assuming he shows that he has the skills to go top five in next year’s draft, the odds are slim that Parker will spend more than one season in Durham.
10. Louisville’s road to a conference championship will be easier than ever
Other than UConn who should be a team headed back to the NCAA tournament this season, Louisville should have an easy time within their own conference. Thanks to re-alignment, Syracuse, Georgetown and Marquette have left the building. The new American Athletic Conference is much weaker and far less imposing.
While they will only spend one year in the conference, the Cardinals should be looking to run the table while they are there. Should they somehow manage to lose the conference crown, it should be looked upon as a disappointment by everyone involved with the team. Ultimately, Louisville vs. Uconn basketball tickets will be in demand as that game may decide the regular season conference winner.
11. Oregon and Arizona will compete for the Pac 12 crown
At Oregon, also known as Transfer U, they have been retooling on the fly for the last few years, picking up one year transfers almost every season. This year was no different with Joseph Young, whom they are trying to have declared eligible right away.
Outside of young, power forward recruit Jabari Bird is expected to be a big time performer from the get-go for the Ducks. Returning in the form of offense fire power are the guard duo of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. The Ducks are always well coached and prepared which is why they work so well as a unit and they should not change.
As for Arizona, they are counting on a combo of freshman forwards to help keep the Wildcats at the top of the Pac 12. Aaron Gordon, a power forward with amazing athleticism and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a small forward who does everything well and should be one of the best all around players in the country.
Both players were highly ranked and promise to give Arizona one of the best front courts in the nation. Gordon’s high leaping acrobatic style has been compared to Blake Griffin and he alone will get the fans excited for this upcoming Wildcats season.
That wraps up part two but make sure to check in again tomorrow for the final part to our trilogy of predictions.