The college basketball season is less than a week away as teams are finishing up their exhibition season, and we thought it’d be fun and informative to discuss some of the big storylines we’ll be following throughout the 2021-22 season.
Coach K Farewell Tour
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski, 74, is considered the “GOAT” by many in the sport. Coach K has been the head coach at Duke since 1980 and is easily the most recognizable face in all of college basketball. Duke University formally announced Jon Scheyer as the next head coach of the men’s basketball program in a press conference at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The Duke of Durham will coach his last season in the lead chair. Being the face of the sport for better than four decades, K has experienced unrivaled success during his era.
Coach K has a whopping 1,097 wins, five national championships, 12 Final Fours, 15 ACC Men’s Tournament Championships, and 12 ACC regular season titles on his distinguished résumé. Only UCLA’s “Wizard of Westwood,” John Wooden, won more titles in men’s college basketball, but he didn’t have Krzyzewski’s three Olympic gold medals as coach of the USA men’s basketball team
Winston Salem State head coach Cleo Hill Jr presents Coach K with a plaque honoring him in his final season as head coach at Duke. pic.twitter.com/ezyjU2dcYz
— Carolina Blitz (@KeepBlitzin) October 30, 2021
Pretty sure he’d like to forget last season where his team didn’t qualify for the NCAA Tournament and even had star player Jalen Johnson opt out in-season to prepare for the NBA draft.
In typical Coach K fashion, he’s reloaded with three five-star recruits (Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin and Trevor Keels). The new talent influx and senior captain Wendell Moore Jr. should have the Dukies right back in national championship contention.
The continued development of sophomore point guard Jeremy Roach, the 2020 No. 4-ranked point guard in the country from Virginia’s Paul VI High, is also crucial to a championship farewell for Coach K.
John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats Look for Redemption
Last season was one to forget in Lexington, as the “Big Blue Nation” fans watched their beloved Kentucky Wildcats finish the season 9-16. It was Coach Cal’s worst season since his first year (1988-’89) as a Division I coach at UMass, where his Minutemen finished 10-18.
The 2020-21 Wildcats struggled in many areas, but the lack of a true point guard really hurt Cal’s guys. With five-star lead guard Ty Ty Washington and former four-star Georgia point guard Sahvir Wheeler handling the ball, the Cats will be a well-oiled machine on the offensive end. Adding former West Virginia big man Oscar Tshiebwe will help the frontcourt. Expect a big turnaround, with the Wildcats winning the SEC and being a very high seed in the NCAA Tourney.
Kentucky's John Calipari secured an $86 million "lifetime" contract. But is he worth everything the Wildcats have given him?
Read the contract details here. https://t.co/rKHWSzguy1
— The Shadow League (@ShadowLeague) June 17, 2019
Is This The Year Mark Few And Gonzaga Finally Cut The Nets & Party In “The Kennel”?
The Zags were 40 minutes away from becoming an undefeated national champion, and then they ran into some bullies from Waco, Texas, called the Baylor Bears. Baylor physically dominated the highly skilled but finesse Bulldogs, thwarting their hopes of becoming the first undefeated team since the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers.
Mark Few lost some elite talent from that team to the NBA draft in Jalen Suggs (Orlando Magic) and Corey Kispert (Washington Wizards). But the cupboard is hardly bare, with Drew Timme, Andrew Nembhard and Anton Watson all returning to Spokane. Couple that with the addition of Chet Holmgren, the class of 2021 No. 1 overall high school basketball recruit, and things are looking up for the Zags again.
Handful of signature Chet Holmgren highlights during his preseason debut with Gonzaga. Coast-to-coast takes, easy shooting stroke, ability to beat his man off the dribble… pic.twitter.com/4r6h32c2oO
— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) November 1, 2021
Penny Hardaway Has An Abundance of Talent At Memphis
Penny recruited his butt off. Now, can he put it all together?
The Memphis Tigers are loaded with talent, but having Hardaway as your head coach will always keep your team in the news. The pressure to win will be there.
From his Foamposite sneakers to his playing days for the Orlando Magic, Penny is a legend and a well-respected one in this hoops game. His name alone attracts top talent, as evinced by him landing two top-five recruits in Jalen Duren and Emoni Bates.
He also added top 100 hoopers in Johnathan Lawson and Josh Minott. The sleeper to his recruiting class is getting transfer Earl Timberlake, a do-it-all guard who reminds one of former Duke player Justise Winslow. Winslow did all the dirty work in leading the Blue Devils to the 2015 national title as a freshman. Timberlake could have similar impact.
It’s time for Penny’s recruiting prowess to lead to a deep March Madness run.
Which Transfer Will Have The Biggest Impact With His New Team?
The transfer portal in collegiate sports has never seen so much movement. Now, with the new NIL rules in place, which allow players to make money off their name, image and likeness, the player movement has increased.
Remy Martin (G, Kansas) The Jayhawks added the former Arizona State guard, and, yup, he’s named after the cognac brand. But for some reason he wasn’t able to strike an NIL deal with his namesake.
He instantly gives a very good Jayhawks team — with four returning starters and seven of its top eight players from last year’s round-of-32 team — Final Four and national championship hope.
"I tell people all the time I don't know why I do certain things that I do, but I know that it's for the love of the game."#Kansas guard Remy Martin talked about his fiery personality. He says it comes from a love for the game and a desire to entertain the crowd. #KUbball pic.twitter.com/XN38jVZYPh
— Mitchel Summers (@WIBWMitchel) November 4, 2021
Martin was named First Team All-Pac 12 following his junior and senior seasons and Second Team as a sophomore in Tempe. He brings averages of 19 points and five assists per game with him.
Marcus Carr (PG, Texas) New Longhorns head coach Chris Beard came home after a very successful stint in Lubbock where he had the Texas Tech Raiders one possession from a national championship win in 2019.
Ranking the top 100-plus impact newcomers for the 2021-22 season:
1. Paolo Banchero
2. Chet Holmgren
3. Marcus Carr
4. Emoni Bates
5. Remy Martin
6. Patrick Baldwin Jr.
7. Jabari Smith
8. Oscar Tshiebwe
9. Jalen Duren
10. TyTy Washington
The rest ⬇️https://t.co/8pLGbhXowL
— Jeff Borzello (@jeffborzello) November 1, 2021
Fresh off a third-team all Big Ten selection, the dynamic playmaker is a 20-point and five-assist guy who gives coach Beard another high quality guard to put alongside returning starters Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey. Texas won the Big 12 conference tourney but lost in the opening round of the NCAA Tourney.
James Akinjo (PG, Baylor) The defending national champions lost a ton following their first men’s basketball national title in school history.
Gone are Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell, who anchored the best and toughest backcourt in college basketball a season ago.
Getting a quality point guard like Akinjo is huge for Scott Drew. A bit of a nomad, as this will be Akinjo’s third school in four seasons (Georgetown and Arizona), he performed admirably at both, even securing First Team All-Pac 12 honors out in Tucson last season.
Walker Kessler (C, Auburn) This move from UNC to being under the tutelage of Bruce Pearl should do wonders for his confidence and game.
Timmy Allen (F, Texas) Chris Beard landed some guys in the portal, and adding Allen via Utah gives him a guy with a lot of intangibles and scoring pop.