It’s all about the freshman phenoms.
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 5, 2018
The 2018-19 college basketball season has an abundance of storylines, but with the No. 4 Blue Devils and No. 2-ranked Wildcats setting off the season, those teams will be the talk of college hoops.
Here are three storylines that will dominate college basketball this week and probably for the rest of the season.
Freshman Sleeper Nassir Little
A slew of hotshot freshman will rule the college landscape again.
Oregon’s Bol Bol looks ready to take it to the competition after hitting 49 percent of his threes in Nike’s EYBL circuit and stroking 83 percent from the foul line. Indiana’s Romeo Langford will have a lot of freedom in the Hoosiers’ offense. Don’t forget Kentucky’s shooting forward Keldon Johnson.
Arch-rival UNC might not have the total manpower that Coach K possesses, but they do have Nassir Little who will have to pick up the scoring slack for the departed Joel Berry Jr and is more than up to the task. UNC hasn’t had a top-five NBA draft pick since 2005 (Raymond Felton and Marvin Williams), and Little is on a mission to change that.
John Calipari Goes Back To The Future
The one-and-done king John Calipari supposedly has his best Kentucky Wildcats team since the 2012 title team. There’s a belief that the team is at least as good as the 2014-15 team that went undefeated and failed to win it all. Calipari brings in elite recruiting classes loaded with future NBA first-round picks every year, but this year, several freshmen chose to bypass the draft and return to Kentucky, combing a No. 2 recruiting class with some rare experience.
The freshmen are a problem; 6-3 Ashton Hagans, 6-6 Keldon Johnson, 6-3 Immanuel Quickley, 6-5 Tyler Herro, 6-4 Zan Payne and 6-10 EJ Montgomery. But Calipari also has sophomores Quade Green (6-0), Nick Richards (6-11) and PJ Washington (6-8) back.
This is the first season in a long time that Calipari won’t have to babysit and coach with a pacifier. In addition, Stanford grad transfer Reid Travis is an experienced fifth-year senior with mad skills as he was a first-team All-Pac 12 selection last year. He’s the kind of veteran leader that Calipari has lacked in his tenure at Kentucky. Calipari may finally have the balance he’s been looking for to make a title run.
What would @2ReidTravis2 tell the freshmen before Tuesday's game?
"Just have fun with it. It's the first game. It should be an exciting time. You should be enjoying it more than worrying about mistakes and things like that. Just understand that it's one step in a long process." pic.twitter.com/lhOGFDB1Yh
— Kentucky Basketball (@KentuckyMBB) November 4, 2018
Can Coach K Find Shots For Three Potential Naismith Award Winners?
Speaking of mighty Duke, Coach K might have the top three players in the country on his team and they are all freshman. Coach K has an embarrassment of talent, but his acumen will be tested to the limit as he tries to figure out a system that keeps all three future pros happy and breeds a winning chemistry come March. All of these guys have a shot at becoming the third freshman to win the Naismith Trophy, joining Kevin Durant (2007) and Anthony Davis (2012).
Williamson is the early projected No. 1 pick in the draft, but not much separates these guys as far as pure talent is concerned. Williamson’s size and his ability to play small makes him an intriguing prospect.
Was really impressed with Zion Williamson's court vision when watching Duke's summer tour and preseason action. Maybe the most underrated part of his game. Full Scouting Video: https://t.co/FauNs33uVo pic.twitter.com/j8biOdDzsg
— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) October 31, 2018
A big man with Williamson’s multiplicity of skills, strength, and athleticism to match won’t get a real test until he’s suiting up for the pros next season.
— Zach Braziller (@NYPost_Brazille) November 5, 2018
It will be a wild ride as these freshman duel it out for supremacy this season.