Sideline Sports Report College Basketball Season Preview Roundtable

It was a long and rocky road to get here since the NCAA Tournament was canceled, and it will continue to be a rocky road as we try to get to the next one in March, but college basketball is finally here and starts tomorrow. While it won’t look the same, or be as certain as it has in the past, the energy and magic of college hoops is an unstoppable force, and will be in our lives almost every day for the next 4.5 months. Our writers sat down and discussed how we think the season is going to look.

SSR Preseason All Americans

Alex JansenBen JansenDylan KellyRyan Kelly
Luka Garza*Luka Garza*Luka Garza*Luka Garz*
Jared ButlerJared ButlerColin GillespieBJ Boston
Jeremiah Robinson-EarlCade CunninghamCade CunninghamCade Cunningham
Corey KispertAyo DonsunmuMarcus ZegarowskiColin Gillespie
Ayo DonsunmuSam HauserAyo DonsunmuRemy Martin
* denotes Unanimous Selection

Conference Champions

AAC:

Alex: Houston
Ben: Memphis
Dylan: Houston
Ryan: SMU

Atlantic 10

Alex: Richmond
Ben: Saint Louis
Dylan: Dayton
Ryan: Dayton

ACC

Alex: Virginia
Ben: UNC
Dylan: Duke
Ryan: Virginia

Big 10

Alex: Illinois
Ben: Wisconsin
Dylan: Iowa
Ryan: Iowa

Big 12

Alex: Baylor
Ben: Baylor
Dylan: Kansas
Ryan: Kansas

Big East

Alex: UConn
Ben: Villanova
Dylan: Creighton
Ryan: Villanova

Mountain West

Alex: Boise State
Ben: San Diego State
Dylan: San Diego State
Ryan: San Diego State

Pac 12

Alex: Arizona State
Ben: Stanford
Dylan: UCLA
Ryan: Arizona State

SEC

Alex: Kentucky
Ben: Kentucky
Dylan: Kentucky
Ryan: Kentucky

WCC

Alex: Gonzaga
Ben: Gonzaga
Dylan: Gonzaga
Ryan: Gonzaga

Surprise Team

Alex: UConn. The Huskies return to the Big East being led by a Naismith Award Watch List player and potential All American in James Bouknight. Bouknight will do it all for the Huskies with help from Howard transfer RJ Cole, who averaged 20+PPG in his 2 seasons at Howard. With the rise of Isaiah Whaley at the end of last season, a talented recruiting class, and the momentum of being back in the Big East, UConn has the pieces to make a run that may surprise some people this year

Ben: Saint Louis. In the Atlantic 10, everyone and their mother has been talking about Dayton and Obi Toppin for the last 12 months. But now its time to talk about the team who pushed them to their limit not once, but twice last year. The Bilikens return all five of their starters, and 92% of their minutes from last year, good for fifth highest in the country. Among those players Jordan Goodwin, Hasahn French, and Javonte Perkins appeared on All-A10 teams, with Perkins taking home 6th Man of The Year honors. This is a group that quietly went 23-8 last year, bringing back nearly that whole team. In a season where practices and games can be lost at any given moment, experience is at a premium, and Saint Louis has it. This team’s stock is gonna grow exponentially, and they will appear in the Top 25, maybe even Top 15, at some point this season so get on the train before we run out of room.

Dylan: Alabama. Alabama is an intriguing team to keep your eye on this season. The big question mark is whether or not Jahvon Quinerly (a.k.a. Jelly JQ) can live up to his 5-star potential. If his backcourt mate, 5-star freshmen guard Joshua Primo can prove to be a one-and-done talent, then Alabama will be a force in the SEC and will be a team to lookout for come March.

Ryan: Iona. Despite signing Rick Pitino to be their next head coach, most people think the current Iona roster is too inexperienced to be a legit team this season. However, the Gaels bring back three of their five starters (Asante Gist, Isaiah Ross, and Dylan Van Eyck) this season, and between them and the talented recruits that Pitino has brought in, expect Iona to run through the MAAC and if they’re playing basketball heading into the postseason, who knows what kind of noise they can make in March.

Final Fours and National Champions

(Champions in bold and italics)
Alex: Gonzaga, Baylor, Illinois, Virginia.
Starting off with my national champion Baylor, they return an incredibly talented backcourt with my all-American pick Jared Butler paired with MaCio Teague. They were very much in the mix to make the final four last season before being shut down, with a similar roster they’ll be right back there this year. Illinois also carries an All-American pick of mine, Ayo Dosunmu who returned back to Illinois and passed up the NBA Draft like teammate Kofi Cockburn. This star duo gives Illinois the best team they’ve ever had and will make a push at the final four. The biggest lock for the final four is Gonzaga, you simply can’t hide from Mark Few. In my opinion this is his best team with Corey Kispert who will land on an All-American and star recruit Jalen Suggs. The biggest question is do they have what it takes to finally win it all. Like Gonzaga, it’s never easy with Jay Wright at Villanova, bringing back Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was massive who will be paired with Collin Gillespie who will be a strong leader. Both will have chances to be All-Americans this season and find themselves with a chance at a national championship. All four teams will be lead by all-Americans but ultimately I think Baylor has the most around their all-American to get it done.

Ben: Duke, Wisconsin, Villanova, Baylor
As I’ve already stated in my surprise teams section, I think experience is the key factor in determining what teams will be good, and what teams will be great in this pandemic ridden season, and all of these teams have that. Duke is led by arguably the greatest coach of the modern CBB era, Wisconsin returns all of their experience, and Baylor returns a majority of their roster from last year’s surprise season and now faces having heavy expectations. However, none of them compare to Villanova, when it comes to a combination of experience and talent Jay Wright’s Wildcats are second to none. With only one freshman on the roster, this team is made up of basically everyone from last year’s 24-7 team, which was quite underwhelming for what they’re accustomed to. In my opinion this will be the best starting five in the nation, and that mix of talent and experience, along with a coach who has won 2 of the last 3 national titles is enough to sell me on Villanova cutting down the nets once again this upcoming season.

Dylan: Iowa, Gonzaga, Villanova, Kentucky.
I think the experience in both the Iowa and Villanova programs has the potential to bring them to the final four this season. Gonzaga also returns a few players who played major minutes along with top new recruit Jalen Suggs. Gonzaga has an out of conference that will test them immediately and should prepare them early for competition they could face in March. As for Kentucky, John Calipari brought in yet another tremendous recruiting class that has potential to be potent once they get comfortable with one another.

Ryan: Kentucky, Iowa, Gonzaga, Virginia
Kentucky’s starting lineup will be all freshmen, and some people might doubt them because of this, but I think that the top level talent the Wildcats are bringing into their program this season will allow them to overcome their youth and compete for a National Championship. Iowa is the opposite of Kentucky in that they have a ton of experience throughout their starting lineup, and I have no doubt that Luka Garza is going to have a monster season and lead them on a deep postseason run. Gonzaga, on top of having multiple returning impact players, welcomes in 5-Star combo guard Jalen Suggs, who might just be the final piece Gonzaga needs to win a National Championship. Lastly, the Virginia Cavaliers, led by junior point guard and national champion Kihei Clark, have a great system and their championship pedigree will bode well for them as we enter this unprecedented college basketball season.

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