College Basketball Preview
Grab yourself a GameDay vodka cocktail and settle in. Not only has football season reached its pinnacle, but the college basketball season has just begun its trek to March Madness. This is another wide-open year in college basketball with the impact of the transfer portal. Unlike college football, where the same handful of schools are always favorites to make the playoffs, the beauty of college basketball is the unpredictability of March.
We’re going to look ahead at the season for each of our partner schools, and give you some insights into what to expect when they finally hit the court this season. This is a not a power rankings of these teams, so we just put this list in alphabetical order.
It’s all about the defense for the Gators this season as coach Mike White was aggressive in raiding the transfer portal for excellent defenders. Phlandrous Fleming Jr. is a two-time Defensive Player of the Year in the Big South and Brandon McKissic was the Summit League Defensive Player of the Year last season. They are added to a core of returners led by Colin Castleton, who had a team-best 6.4 rebounds and two blocks per game a year ago. However, Florida didn’t ignore offense when recruiting the players off the transfer portal. Fleming led Charleston Southern with 20.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last season, and McKissic was UMKC’s leading scorer with 17.2 points per game last season while shooting nearly 43% from behind the arc. Castleton scored 12.4 points per game last season and the Gators also added Penn State’s leading scorer last season, Myreon Jones, who averaged 15.3 points per game.
If we were to ask you which three teams have advanced to the Sweet 16 in each of the last three NCAA Tournaments, how long would it take before you guessed Florida State? Indeed the Seminoles are one of the three teams on that list, but the Seminoles’ only returning scorer is veteran guard Anthony Polite leading at 10.1 points per game. Malik Osborne is now tasked with leading a young Florida State squad that will heavily feature freshmen in the rotation. Five-star recruit Jalen Warley joins the backcourt along with four-star wing Matthew Cleveland as Florida State looks to keep up its run of success under coach Leonard Hamilton.
The nucleus of last year’s Hurricanes squad returns this season, which is a giant positive, but it’s a newcomer who is stealing all the headlines. Charlie Moore is at his fourth school in his college career, but his experience should help bring along this core group to jump into the middle of the conference and possible NCAA Tournament berth. Leading scorer Isaiah Wong is back after averaging 17.1 points per game last season, the fifth-most in the ACC a year ago. The other two starters returning are Oklahoma transfer Kameron McGusty, who averaged 13.3 points per game last year for the Hurricanes, and Anthony Walker, who averaged 9.6 points per game last year. Combined, there are 45 seasons of college basketball experience on the Miami roster, for the Hurricanes to exceed expectations.
South Carolina returns two of its three leading scorers from last season, and Frank Martin is trying to reestablish the Gamecocks’ physical brand of basketball. Keyshawn Bryant averaged 14.4 points and 5.4 rebounds last season while Jermaine Cousinard averaged 10.1 points per game and led the Gamecocks with 54 assists last year. Those two will need to lead a group of veteran newcomers that Martin added to turn the tide in the SEC. AJ Wilson from George Mason and James Reese V from North Texas arrived as graduate transfers, while Chico Carter Jr. transferred from Murray State and Erik Stevenson arrived from Washington as two experienced guards. Both of whom played critical minutes as role players for their respective teams. That is the type of player who can thrive in Martin’s system because they do all the little things for a team to be successful.
It was a busy offseason for Buzz Williams in an attempt to rebuild a program that underwent a massive overhaul thanks to the transfer portal. Quenton Jackson is Texas A&M’s leading returning scorer at 10.4 points per game and Andre Gordon is next at 8.2 points per game. The challenge for Williams was filling the roster around those two players as his nucleus. He was able to attract Marcus Williams from Wyoming after Williams was named Mountain West Freshman of the Year last season. Tyrece Radford, who started all 18 games last season for Virginia Tech and Aaron Cook, a highly-effective junior-college scorer, who made 45.7% of his 3-point attempts. Texas A&M also added Ethan Henderson from Arkansas, Jalen Johnson from Mississippi State and Henry Coleman transferred from Duke. This is arguably Williams’ most talented team out of his three seasons at the helm.
Mark Adams has large shoes to fill at Texas Tech in the wake of Chris Beard’s departure, but he is ready to hit the ground running with a lot of inherited talent from last season. To keep the Red Raiders near the top of the Big 12, Adams added a veteran-laden transfer class. Although Terrance Shannon Jr. is the top returning scorer averaging 12.9 points per game last season, the scoring burden will be distributed across a lot of explosive scorers in this transfer class. Davion Warren averaged 21.2 points per game last season at Hampton, Bryson Williams arrives from UTEP where he averaged 15.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last season and Kevin Obanor, who had three double-doubles in the NCAA Tournament last season at Oral Roberts and finished the year averaging 18.7 points and 9.6 rebounds per game. In addition, Adonis Arms averaged 10.4 points per game last year at Winthrop to round out this group at Texas Tech.