Michigan State is ranked No. 1 in the preseason for the first time in school history, though Duke and Kentucky entered November as the consensus betting favorites. Shaquille O’Neal’s son is healthy again (thank God), Penny Hardaway is building something interesting down in Memphis, and there’s a “fresh” face in Louisville.
The season kicks off with a tasty ESPN doubleheader on Tuesday involving the top four teams in the AP preseason poll. Here’s some stuff to gnaw on until Kansas-Duke tips off at 7p.
*Note: Odds via DraftKings, Nov. 1 ... Wins are regular-season only, not including conference or postseason tournaments.
♦ Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble, a three-year team captain at St. Joseph’s by way of Neumann Goretti, had one basket in 18 minutes off the bench in an exhibition game for No. 5 Louisville. “He’s just got to get his feet under him,” Cardinals coach Chris Mack said of Kimble, who is playing as a grad-transfer.
♦ Kimble will see a familiar face on Dec. 3 when Michigan visits Louisville. Former St. Joe’s coach Phil Martelli is an assistant at Michigan under first-year coach Juwan Howard.
♦ Duke has another terrific freshman class with center Vernon Carey Jr. (6-10, 270) inheriting Zion Williamson’s uniform number, 1. Carey’s dad (6-5, 340) was an offensive lineman for the Miami Dolphins from 2004-11.
♦ James Wiseman, a 7-1 center and the jewel of Memphis’ freshman class, did not play in the preseason because of an ankle injury. Wiseman will be one of five freshman starters once he’s healthy. He’s expected to be a top-5 NBA pick in June. The Tigers’ only regular-season game against American Conference rival Temple is Feb. 5 in Memphis.
♦ Jerry Stackhouse (Vanderbilt) and Juwan Howard (Michigan) are among the new coaches this season. Stackhouse was an assistant with the Memphis Grizzlies last season. Howard was an assistant for the Miami Heat for six years.
♦ A little tavern trivia. Top five scorers for the Sixers during the 1990s: Clarence Weatherspoon (6,867 points), Hersey Hawkins (4,946), Allen Iverson (4,829), Charles Barkley (3,579) and Stackhouse (3,416).
♦ Seton Hall was picked by league coaches to win the Big East, the first time they were a preseason favorite in 19 years. A reminder: New Jersey prohibits wagering on Jersey schools or college games played within the Garden State.
♦ Gonzaga has one returning starter, junior forward Corey Kispert, and still is ranked No. 8. Killian Tillie, who might have gone into the NBA if he hadn’t sprained his ankle at a predraft workout, has had trouble staying healthy.
♦ Kansas, the preseason No. 3, is being investigated by the NCAA for recruiting violations that could threaten their postseason eligibility.
♦ North Carolina, which goes out to Spokane to play at Gonzaga’s 6,000-seat arena, will use freshman Cole Anthony at point guard. Head coach Roy Williams called Anthony the “quarterback” of the offense, as opposed to a pure scorer. Anthony is the son of Greg Anthony, who was a similar-type point guard for some wildly talented UNLV teams 30 years ago.
♦ Oregon, which rode a wonderful 10-game winning streak into the Sweet 16 before losing to Virginia, was the media’s pick to win the Pac-12. Watch Colorado, though. The Buffs won 23 games last year and have all five starters back.
♦ Dec. 13 will be the one-year anniversary of UCLA forward Shareef O’Neal’s open-heart surgery. O’Neal, Shaq’s 6-9 son, was one of the top recruits out of a high school a year ago. “Every time I play, I still think about it," he told the Los Angeles Times. "Every time I look in the mirror, I have this giant scar on my chest [that’s] going to be there forever.”
♦ The Bruins, now coached by Mick Cronin, were picked eighth in the Pac-12 preseason poll, They have an interesting game on Dec. 21 when they play North Carolina in Las Vegas.
♦ Penn State’s Lamar Stevens (Roman Catholic/Haverford High) was named preseason all-Big Ten and is on the 20-man watch list for the Karl Malone Award as the nation’s best power forward. He needs 554 points to surpass Talor Battle (2007-11) as the Lions’ all-time leading scorer. Stevens has topped 600 each of the last two seasons.
DraftKings’ over/under regular-season wins for the City Six:
CBSSports.com ranks all 353 Division I teams prior to the season. Here’s how they see the locals: Villanova 17, Penn 98, Temple 99, La Salle 238, Drexel 241, St. Joseph’s 263.
When’s Selection Sunday? March 15.
Where’s the Final Four? Atlanta, April 4-6.
Where are the Regionals? New York/East (March 27/29), Houston/South (March 27/29), Indianapolis/Midwest (March 26/28), Los Angeles/West (March 26/28)
Any significant rules changes?
♦ The biggest is the moving of the three-point line from 20 feet-9 inches to 22 feet-1.75 inches, like in the international game. It’s 21 feet-7 & 7/8 inches in the corners. (It’s actually 6.75 meters in the corners, but we Americans gave up trying to learn the metric system decades ago. We must get laughed at for “7/8 inches.”)
♦ The shot clock on offensive rebounds resets to 20 seconds, as opposed to the full 30 and coaches can call timeouts in the last two minutes of regulation/overtime as long as his team has possession.
Top contenders in the top leagues with odds courtesy of DraftKings:
♦ G: Cassius Winston (unanimous), Sr., Michigan State
♦ G: Markus Howard, Sr., Marquette
♦ F: Jordan Nwora, Jr., Louisville
♦ G: Myles Powell, Sr., Seton Hall
♦ C: James Wiseman, Fr., Memphis
♦ Immanuel Quickley, appropriately named Kentucky guard.
♦ Rocket Watts, Michigan State guard whose first name is Mark.
♦ Loudon Love, top player for Horizon League-favorite Wright State; could also be a ‘70s rock band.
♦ Stone Gettings, Arizona forward; what happened to those who went to Loudon Love concerts.
♦ Precious Achiuwa, Memphis freshman who stole the show at the McDonald’s All-American Game.
Jersey-licensed PointsBet sportsbook has Michigan State (-110), Kentucky (-105), Duke (+100) and Kansas (+125) as the leaders to land a No. 1 seed. Villanova is +200.
“It’s one of those weird things that breaks my heart.”
-- Michigan State coach Tom Izzo upon learning that popular senior guard Josh Langford will be out until at least January with another foot injury.
“We had a ton of NBA scouts come in and every one … says this looks like an NBA team. I think it is one reason why we haven’t practiced long and I have kept practices kind of lighter than in the past, because of how big and physical we are.”
-- Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard, whose team plays at Villanova on Feb. 8 and hosts the Wildcats on March 4.
“When I first met him, I was in awe."
-- James Wiseman, a freshman and projected NBA lottery pick next year, on new coach Penny Hardaway
“I knew you have to recruit, but all the work that comes behind the recruiting, like I haven’t talked on the phone in years. What we all do now is just text, right? Or email. I’ve been on the phone sometimes with recruits for like 30 minutes … You’ve got to do a real good job with your text game, too. A lot of kids like to text.”
Michigan’s Juwan Howard, who is in his first year as a head coach at any level.