With just about 24 hours to go before the world of College Basketball tips off for the 2014-15 season, ole Woody Smalls thinks it high time to let you all in on his gift of prognostication.
At times it’s more of a curse than a gift; with all those voices in this head talking and all. But at the end of the day the level of expertise drowns out the crazy. Most days.
After all, for a prediction to be bold it must be a little nuts, right?
So with no further ado, let’s jump right into Woody Smalls’ 10 Bold College Basketball Predictions
No. 10 – Duke Blue Devils are set up for a special season
Alright, that is not like an earth shattering revelation. But the power house from Durham is always better when they have a dominant big man to balance their love of all things 20 feet away from the rim. And the Blue Devils have that in Jahlil Okafor. Yes, he might be a freshman but his skill set has very few equals with in the ACC. The more confidence this kid gets early you can pretty much guarantee Duke is going to be there when it comes time to hoist a trophy in March and April.
No. 9 – Mercer Bears are not a one and done
The Mercer Bears made their mark on the college basketball world with a tremendous upset over Duke in last year’s tournament. Normally that is a nice story for one year and then that team returns to the abyss of mid-major world. But there is something special about Bears’ head coach Bob Hoffman. Mercer lost everything from last year’s team, but a solid recruiting class along with some transfers and Juco additions has this team ready to prove they are here to stay. Watch out for freshman Jordan Strawberry, son of former MLB great Darryl Strawberry.
No. 8 – Arizona has the best and worst team in college hoops
A lot of folks are picking the Arizona Wildcats to cut down every net they get a chance to this season – and for good reason because they are loaded. But watch for the other side of the story in the Arizona State Sun Devils. Their level of basketball might be the worst of any team in the nation this season.
No. 7 – The SEC is not just a football conference
Yes, the SEC does have the Kentucky Wildcats and the Florida Gators to hang their hats on year in and year out, but don’t sell the rest of the conference short this season. This year’s SEC is loaded from top to bottom and will beat up each other a good bit in conference action this season. Mike Anderson finally has the Arkansas Razorbacks back to the 40 Minutes of Hell era while Frank Martin and Mark Fox have the South Carolina Gamecocks and Georgia Bulldogs back to power form. Kentucky is not going to walk through the conference to the tournament for sure.
No. 6 – Joel James is the most important player in college basketball
Look, this guy is not trying to say he is the player of the year or anything but there is no one player as important to one team as Joel James is to the North Carolina Tar Heels. He came in as a major project and still is. But if he does realize his potential, this gives UNC a big man like no other in the game. If James averages more than 15 minutes a game, this will be a special season for Roy Williams and his young Heels.
No. 5 – Player of the Year is…
Who the heck knows! For the first time since 2002 not a single player in the final All-American First, Second or Third Teams returns or is the same to start out the next season. The good news is that this is going to make the new season a special one. There are going to be some great games and a lot of individual performances for us to enjoy. The ACC seems to have the best chances just due to the volume of fresh faces getting hype. But not even the great Carnac the Magnificent can predict this one.
No. 4 – The ACC is King Once Again
There is no doubt you can knock the ACC for underachieving in football. You can even make a hard case they lost their crown as the top college basketball conference. But 2014-15 will change all of that. From the top to the bottom any team can play with and beat any other team in the land. Now the Virginia Tech Hokies are not going to be anything to write home about. But conference schedules that feature the Syracuse Orange, Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Duke, North Carolina, Virginia Cavaliers, Pitt Panthers and Louisville Cardinals are ones that no other team can compare to.
No. 3 – Texas Longhorns are Final Four ready
Rick Barnes might have his best team since Kevin Durant left Austin. The Longhorns are big, deep and very talented. The best news is they are a team without a true defined superstar like Durant was. Texas will get a chance to possibly battle Syracuse during the first week and have a date with destiny at Kentucky on Dec. 5. This team will be battle-ready to face any challenge come March.
No. 2 – The Big 10 is more like a four
The Big 10 loves to talk how great they always are. But when was the last time they were actually a champion at anything beyond maybe wrestling and underachieving? When all is said and done, look for the B1G to be last of the four major conferences this season. Nothing hot and sexy about this conference this year.
No. 1 – Georgia State Panthers are this year’s Cinderella
Yes. Georgia State. Not the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets or Georgia or the before mentioned Mercer. The Panthers won 25 games last season and missed out on the NCAA Tournament after losing in the Sun Belt Title Game. State returns basically everyone and has added Kevin Ware (yes, the shattered leg kid from that Louisville team). They are big, deep and very talented and they will get a chances to show the country what they have on Monday as they square off with No. 14 Iowa State Cyclones.
*Section Photo credit to Streeter Lecka, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Mark L. Baer, USA Today Sports