50 things to know about the college basketball season
Everything to get you set for college hoops, including what the Big Ten is doing to its postseason tournament.
Duke starts the season on top, which generally hasn't been good. Miami, led by a local kid, thinks it's something special, and Wichita State is making the American even greater.
You'll want to lace up the sneakers even tighter, because there are lots of eggshells being walked on as the feds continue to poke around college basketball.
It'll be '80s night at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 9, so zip up your Members Only jacket and get set for 50 things to know about the coming season.
* The University of Washington not only lost star Markelle Fultz, but also watched most of the best recruiting class in school history disappear when coach Lorenzo Romar was fired after going 9-22. Michael Porter Jr. and Blake Harris went to Missouri, Daejon Davis is at Stanford, and Mamoudou Diarra went to Cincinnati.
* Porter could be the overall No. 1 pick next year. His dad is a former assistant to Romar, and is now an assistant to Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin. His younger brother Jontay graduated high school early to join them at Missouri. Porter also has two sisters (Bri and Cierra) who play for Missouri's women's basketball team, which is coached by his aunt, Robin Pingeton.
*New coach Patrick Ewing will bring Georgetown into Madison Square Garden to play St. John's on Jan. 9. The Johnnies, of course, are coached by Chris Mullin, who was a frequent rival of Ewing's during their college days in the 1980s.
*The Hoyas are picked to finish ninth in the 10-team Big East and are coming off consecutive losing seasons for the first time in more than 40 years.
*Iowa freshman Connor McCaffery originally was going to redshirt this season and play baseball. Those plans changed when backup point guard Christian Williams decided to transfer. McCaffery now will play basketball for his father, former La Salle High star Fran McCaffery, who is starting his eighth season in Iowa City.
*Louisville is ranked 16th and is, for now, eligible for postseason play, despite a federal bribery investigation involving recruit Brian Bowen. Kentucky fans waiting to spew vitriol when Louisville visits on Dec. 29 would do well to remember their school's own scandal from the late 1980s, which nearly resulted in a death penalty. Those in glass arenas shouldn't bust stones.
*Louisville will be led by David Padgett, who played for the Cardinals from 2005-08 and has never been a head coach. He was promoted from assistant after head coach Rick Pitino was fired.
*We could have written 50 things to know about the scandal, which exploded on Sept. 26 and ensnared numerous programs and players. Assistant coaches were indicted and some players — such as Bowen and Alabama's Collin Sexton — have not been cleared to play by the NCAA, which seemingly is waiting to see how the FBI's fraud and bribery cases play out. It's ugly and will get worse as the sordid details emerge.
[Archives/Mike Jensen: The feds have made it clear, they're not done.]
*North Carolina's Joel Berry, the Most Outstanding Player of last season's Final Four, will miss the start of the season with a broken hand. He lost a video game against teammate Theo Pinson and a team manager and punched a door.
*The defending champion Tar Heels are ranked ninth in the AP preseason poll. They've been 33-7 each of the last two seasons. In 2016, they lost the national title game to Villanova on Kris Jenkins' three-pointer. Last season, they beat Gonzaga to win the title.
*Top-ranked Duke opens with a home game on Friday against Elon, the opponent last year when Grayson Allen tried to trip Phoenix guard Steven Santa Ana.
*This is the second consecutive year and the eighth time overall under Mike Krzyzewski that the Blue Devils have been the preseason No. 1. The only time they went on to win the national title was in 1992, the year Christian Laettner hit that miracle shot at the Spectrum to get them into the Final Four.
*Freshman Marvin Bagley III will wear the No. 35 previously retired in Danny Ferry's honor. Ferry gave his blessing. Bagley is likely headed to the NBA after this year, so he'll wear it for only about six months.
*The web site NBADraft.net projects that nine of the first 10 picks in next June's draft will be incoming college freshmen. In order: Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri), Marvin Bagley III (Duke), DeAndre Ayton (Arizona), Mohamed Bomba (Texas), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Michigan State), Lonnie Walker (Miami), Wendell Carter (Duke), Kevin Knox (Kentucky) and Collin Sexton (Alabama). The only exception is Slovenia's Luka Doncic.
*South Carolina endowed a scholarship in the name of Sindarius Thornwell, who led the Gamecocks to their first Final Four last season. Thornwell is a reserve for the Clippers.
*Minnesota has all five starters back and its highest preseason ranking (No. 15) in 24 years. The Gophers also added Isaiah Washington, the New York state player of the year, who is poised to continue the tradition of great New York City point guards – although he'll be the first to do so collegiately in Minneapolis.
*Miami's roster has two kids from Florida, two from Pennsylvania, two from Australia, two from Maryland, and one each from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire, North Carolina and New Zealand.
*"I think this is going to be a season to remember," said Miami senior Ja'Quan Newton, who played at Neumann-Goretti. "We're just so deep and talented." Newton is 137 away from 1,000 career points at Miami. The Hurricanes are 13th in the AP poll, the highest preseason ranking in school history. They've never been to the Final Four.
*La Salle plays Miami in Reading on Nov. 22 in what essentially is a showcase game for the Hurricanes' Lonnie Walker, who starred at Reading High.
TOP NON-CONFERENCE GAMES
*Where the local teams were picked in their respective preseason conference polls: Villanova, 1st (Big East); Saint Joseph's, 3rd (Atlantic 10); Penn, 4th (Ivy); Temple, 7th (American); Drexel, 9th (Colonial); La Salle, 9th (Atlantic 10).
*Maryland's Kevin Huerter, a small forward last season, will be asked to play in the backcourt more often this season. To help the transition, Huerter is copying some of the fundamentals and techniques often used by Villanova's guards, according to the Washington Post. Villanova was among the schools also considered by Huerter, a sophomore from Clifton Park, N.Y.
*Seton Hall is expected to be Villanova's top competitor in the Big East. Pirates center Angel Delgado led the nation in rebounding and was second in double-doubles last season. He considered entering the NBA draft, but a lukewarm reception by the pros, plus some occasional pleading from the student body, made him decide to return for his senior season.
*Bruiser Flint is an assistant at Indiana under first-year coach Archie Miller.
[Video: Bruiser Flint's introductory news conference via IndyStar.com]
*Miller won an average of 25 games at Dayton in each of the last four years. He replaced Tom Crean, who failed to get Indiana into the NCAAs last year despite wins over Kansas and North Carolina in November.
*Gonzaga lost four of its top six scorers, including behemoth Przemek Karnowski, and was not picked to win the West Coast Conference for the first time in 17 years. That distinction went to St. Mary's.
*"In our minds," St. Mary's senior forward Calvin Hermanson said, "Gonzaga is still the team to beat after [we lost] to them three times last year."
*Karnowski (7-1, 288) was last year's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar winner as the nation's top center. He was not drafted and signed over the summer to play in Spain.
*Villanova is playing in the Bahamas over the Thanksgiving holiday and could play Arizona on Friday, Nov. 24. Arizona, which saw assistant coach Book Richardson indicted in the FBI probe, is ranked No. 3.
*Note to both schools: The Bahamas is a foreign country, so keep your hands in your pockets if you go to the mall.
*NCAA president Mark Emmert's response to a recent poll, sanctioned by his organization, which found 79 percent of people think major colleges put money ahead of the student-athletes: "I can't think of anything right now that 79 percent of Americans would agree on, but they agreed on that … Those are numbers that should cause us a lot of anxiety."
*Ohio State pried coach Chris Holtmann from Butler with an eight-year contract valued at $3 million per year plus incentives. Two weeks later, the University of North Dakota gave coach Brian Jones a four-year extension with a base salary of $140,000 per year.
*No real hefty rules changes this season. The coaching box is expanded from 28 to 38 feet and the shot clock is reset to 20 seconds if a defensive team commits a non-shooting foul with less than 20. Talk of going to four quarters or moving back the three-point line never gained enough traction.
*Tip of the cap (and gown) to Connecticut, which registered a perfect score in the annual academic progress rate. The Huskies were banned from the 2013 NCAA Tournament in Kevin Ollie's first season after a series of poor APR scores.
*Notre Dame star Bonzie Colson is enrolled in the College of Arts and Letters and did some stage acting in high school. A 6-6 senior, his biggest role will be improving on the 18 points and 10 rebounds he averaged in his breakout season a year ago.
*The highlight of 14th-ranked Notre Dame's non-conference schedule is a trip to second-ranked Michigan State on Thursday, Nov. 30. That's a 7 o'clock game. The Redskins play at Dallas that night at 8:30 p.m.
*Texas freshman Mohamed Bamba is as intriguing off the court as he is on it. He played his high school ball at Westtown, a school run by Quakers in Chester County, and is impressing Longhorns coaches with his leadership, intellect and curiosity. ESPN analyst Jay Bilas told the New York Post, "He's got a little bit of David Robinson in him." If you know your history, that's a major compliment.
*Bamba was cleared of any wrongdoing by the NCAA after his brother, Ibrahim Johnson, posted a nasty video on Facebook in June accusing Bamba of accepting gifts and money during his recruitment. Bamba and Texas could play top-ranked Duke on Nov. 24 in a preseason tournament.
*The Dallas Cowboys have a 91-acre complex in Frisco, Texas (25 miles north of Dallas) that includes a 12,000-seat indoor arena. Conference USA will hold its postseason tournaments there in 2018 and 2019.
*The Ivy League's abbreviated four-team postseason tournament is returning to the Palestra and will be held March 10-11.
[Archive: Reaction to last year's Ivy League Tournament at the Palestra]
*Mike Rhoades is VCU's fourth coach in three years. Shaka Smart jumped to Texas two years ago and Will Wade was hired by LSU after going 26-9 last season for the Rams. Jimmy Martelli (Phil's son) is VCU's director of basketball operations.
*New Mexico's home court has switched from WisePies Arena to Dreamstyle Arena as one corporate donor replaced another. To college hoops fans everywhere, especially in Albuquerque, it will always be known as The Pit. Imagine if Penn monkeyed around with renaming the Palestra.
*Utah Valley, which has been in the WAC now for five seasons, opens Friday at No. 5 Kentucky and Saturday at No. 1 Duke. If that isn't enough, its third game is Tuesday in Pocatello, Idaho, against Idaho State.
*Tired of getting an inferior NCAA Tournament seed by rolling through the Missouri Valley Conference, Wichita State jumped to the American Athletic Conference. Valparaiso moved to the MVC and IUPUI filled Valpo's void in the Horizon League.
*"I'm excited, I'm anxious, I'm nervous, I'm scared, I'm all of those things," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall told the Wichita Eagle. "Fear is a great motivator." The Shockers return their top eight scorers and are ranked seventh, their highest preseason mark since 1981.
*Temple hosts Wichita State at the Liacouras Center on Thursday, Feb. 1 – three days before the Eagles play in Minneapolis.
*The Final Four is in San Antonio this season (March 31 and April 2) with the regionals in Boston, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Omaha, Neb. Selection Sunday is March 11.
*The Big Ten will play its tournament at Madison Square Garden the week before Selection Sunday, which is causing some major scheduling headaches. Most notably, teams are playing two conference games in early December because the conference season is a week shorter.
*"I think to be able to play at the Garden in New York City was important and made a strong statement about just who we are and what our presence was in the region," said associate commissioner Mark Rudner.
*The Big Ten is at MSG from Feb. 28-March 4. The Big East will be in there March 7-10. In between, on March 6, the Rangers host the Winnipeg Jets. Sounds like a fun time to be a worker at the Garden.
*Would love to see St. Joe's make a push for an NCAA Tournament bid. It would be a heck of a way to send out athletic director Don DiJulia, who is retiring at the end of the academic year after 50 years in college athletics. DiJulia, as coach Phil Martelli put it, "made St. Joseph's a better place."