12. Tyler Ennis will have a terrific freshman season
Call it a Canadian bias but this writer believes that Ennis could be one of the best 2013 recruits outside of the big names like Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker. As a point guard, Ennis will come in expected to replace Michael-Carter Williams and will have to play a big role for the Syracuse Orange from day one.
The biggest question surrounding Ennis for the longest time was his ability to put up points at higher levels of play. After playing in the World Under 19s for Canada, that is no longer a question. With Wiggins unable to participate in the tournament, the brunt of the offense was left to Ennis who led the tournament in scoring and put on some dazzling display for a Canadian contingent that had a great performance.
At Syracuse, he won’t be the primary option but his ability to create for others will be on display and he will definitely catch defenders off guard with his foot speed and creativity on offense. With Ennis at the helm, Syracuse won’t miss a beat.
13. Marshall Henderson will do something Marshall Henderson-like
This one is definitely not a prediction that leaves me out on a limb. While Ole Miss’ Henderson is currently suspended indefinitely, word on the street is that he will eventually be re-instated by the team. Henderson will certainly say all the right things about how he has changed but once a decision doesn’t go his way or he has a bad game, expect a Henderson like outburst on camera.
At this point expecting change from Henderson becomes similar to expecting Kevin Garnett to stop being so intense, it just isn’t going to happen.
14. Semi Ojeleye is going to have some devastating highlights
A four star Duke prospect, Ojeyele has one of the highest vertical leaps, not just in the NCAA, but probably in the world. Whatever court time he is allotted with the Blue Devils, he will spend them crushing down massive dunks and beautiful alley oops in a decidedly not Duke fashion.
As for the Blue Devils themselves, they will be a deep and scary team that definitely has the potential to go all the way if they can mesh together their returnees and new players.
15. There will be no FGCU like team this year
Cinderella runs are amazing to watch. Seeing a low seeded team bond together and take down the NCAA giants are a great way for networks to draw ratings and get people talking about March Madness. Last season, FGCU’s run was easily one of the most exciting things, for the casual fans, to happen to the NCAA in ages.
All that being said, it doesn’t happen every year and this year, it won’t. The NCAA is incredibly top heavy with a lot of teams having very strong claims at the NCAA championship. The top 25 will be absolutely loaded with talent when upper classmen and the extremely skilled recruiting class is blended together on their appropriate teams.
Sure there may be a 10 beating a 7 but this year will not feature a very low seed advancing late into the tournament.
16. Northwestern will continue to miss the dance
The only member of a BSC conference to never make the NCAA tournament will continue its streak this year. Northwestern had a bad conference season last year, going 2-14, and considering their recruiting class this year, nothing will change.
At this point it is almost comical how unfortunate Northwestern is when it comes to putting together teams. Having come close to making the dance a few years ago, they have since backtracked to their struggling ways. A fresh change needs to be made by the school and a re-branding should be in order, the Wildcats are a team that has a losing tradition and for them to have any success, that will need to change.
17. Without Brad Stevens, Butler will struggle
This is no condemning of Brandon Miller’s future success as a head coach. Miller was picked because the Bulldogs brass believed he was the best man for the job and that very well could be the truth. Having been part of the team as an assistant coach prior to stepping into the job is also an asset that should help him going forward.
That being said, the Butler team that Miller is now coaching is completely a Brad Stevens team. He put the roster together with his system in mind, a system that has worked so efficiently at finding certain types of players and plugging them into roles. Stevens operated at Butler similarly to how Gregg Popovich drafts and signs players to play specific roles in San Antonio for the Spurs.
While Miller certainly understands the general way in which Stevens wanted his team to play, there will be intricacies that there would be no way he could ever think of. In that same vein, while the players know Miller, he has never been their head coach before and it will be an adjustment period for them.
Combine the new coaching changes with Butler’s move to the Big East, where the competition will be stiffer, Butler will have a stiff challenge ahead of them if they are to make the NCAA tournament once again.
18. The winner of the 2013-14 championship will be…
Honestly, this season is one of the toughest years to make a final prediction. As mentioned above, the NCAA is top heavy this year, with a number of teams having a legitimate chance at going all the way.
If Kentucky is able to mesh their incoming talent with the guys that stuck around from last season, they will unquestionably have the most all around talent in the nation. At this point though, that could be a big if. Every player has been saying all the right things but it’s much easier to say that egos will be put aside than actually doing it. What will happen the first game James Young feels he didn’t get enough burn? Or whenever Dakari Johnson has to sit a whole half because Willie Cauley-Stein is having a good game?
It’s a similar situation in Kansas where Wayne Selden is going to have to accept that he is the second option after Andrew Wiggins. Selden is one of the most talented wings in the nation and would surely be the best player on mostly any other team. The combination of Wiggins and Selden could be one of the best in the NCAA if they find the necessary chemistry. If that happens, Kansas is a good a bet as any to go all the way.
Then you have the teams that are mostly returning all of their veterans like the Duke Blue Devils. Duke keeps most of their key contributors from last season and adds Jabari Parker who should be one of the best freshmen in the nation. Parker comes in ready to contribute immediately and has a very natural skill set that should fit in naturally at the NCAA level. In terms of depth, Duke is probably as deep as anyone in the nation at every position and they pose a real threat at the NCAA championship.
Similarly, the Michigan State Spartans enter the season having only lost Darrick Nix. Coach Tom Izzo knows how to prepare his squads and having a bunch of returning players means that the team will already understand the plays and be ready to go all out from day one. Keith Appling is a seriously underrated threat both offensively and especially defensively and he will be the anchor that holds down the ship in East Lansing.
There are also a bunch of other teams with legitimate shots at the trophy. UNC is always a threat, especially if PJ Hairston comes back and plays at a high level, Arizona has a great shot and Syracuse is always a contender. As well, Louisville always has to be in contention, especially considering that they are the current champions. They have earned that respect.
Ultimately it’s a crapshoot and because I want to be able to say I told you so, I am going to go ahead and pick Michigan State. Izzo has come close in the past and he has what could be his best team in a few years. In this writer’s opinion, the veteran leadership and supreme coaching will take them all the way.
Now everybody can save this and send me e-mails to ridicule me when Sparty gets upset in an early round because I hexxed them.