by Billy Toohey
Finally, after a long and awaited several months, college basketball has returned. Back are the upsets, the thrilling finishes, and the alley oops. However, one of the things that is most exciting to me is there is always a chance for every single team to win on any day.
As we begin this 2012-2013 NCAA Division 1 college basketball season, we see clear favorites, and dark horses for the NCAA tourney. We also see some very intriguing early season tournaments that happen during Thanksgiving.
After these tournaments conclude, most teams across the nation will continue their out-of conference schedule before beginning grueling battles with conference enemies and rivals each and every night. By the time we blink next, it will already be March and the crazed basketball junkie like me and millions of others will be filling out brackets like nobody’s business.
I absolutely cannot wait for this season to start, and I am not alone in saying that statement. I have come up with my early season predictions, which I do every single year before this wonderful season takes off. I will now begin with my player of the year pick, followed by my sleeper team, along with who I think will be able to make it out of the dog pile come the first weekend in April, the Final Four, to eventually become College Basketball’s crowned jewel.
If you have no idea who this man is by now, or what school he plays for, you should emerge from that cave you have lived in for over a year now. My player of the year this season will be Doug McDermott out of Creighton University. Doug is a straight beast. He takes over games and can score at will. Additionally, he has the ability to become a defensive force inside the paint and on the perimeter. He is an opposing coach’s nightmare; the only way to stop him on offense is to raise the hoop while he shoots or try and quadruple team him.
Last season, he swept the nation by storm; in fact, his high school teammate Harrison Barnes was not even mentioned in the same breath as an NCAA 1st team All-American at Small Forward at season’s end last season.
Creighton falls under my category as the surprise team of this season, just as Butler was a back-to-back Final Four team a few years ago; this Creighton team has all the makings to do the same thing Butler achieved in 2010 and 2011. They have a tremendous coach in Greg McDermott, Doug’s dad, who will be teaching everyone across the country how to Dougie by the end of the season.
My Final Four this season should not surprise anyone here: Indiana, Duke, Kansas and Florida are my teams that will be remaining come April; with Indiana defeating the Duke Blue Devils for the National Title game.
Duke is team with tremendous depth, and a great Coach in Mike Krzyzewski. It’s only fitting to put them in the Final Four. Last season was hugely disappointing for Blue Devils fans as they lost to Lehigh in the first round. Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly will be in charge of leading this Duke team to the Promised Land again. The Cameron Crazies will be rocking and roaring every home game, hopefully Duke feeds off of that energy this season to provide Coach K. another memorable season.
Rock, chalk, Jayhawk! The Kansas Jayhawks are a very interesting team this season, as they will be relying heavily on their big man, Jeff Withey to carry the load. Alongside Jeff will be the three guards Travis Relaford, Elijah Johnson, and Ben McLemore providing key scoring opportunities. This year’s version of the Jayhawks is much different than in years past, however they have enough where they can equalize what they have been able to do recently, and that is get to the Final Four. Every season seems to store magic for the boys from Lawrence, Kansas.
The Florida Gators will be led by Patric Young, Kenny Boynton Jr. and Mike Rosario. This trio is lethal and has the ability to become National Champions. Their coach Billy Donovan will no doubt have his Gators ready to accomplish big things by the start of the season, and GatorNation will be looking forward to seeing their team dance into the Final Four.
Cody Zeller is far and away one of the best players in the country alongside Doug McDermott, and surrounding Cody are the other four starters from last year’s Sweet16 team who surprised the nation at how well they jelled as a team. They went from 12-20 in 2011, to 27-9 last season, losing to eventual National Champion Kentucky in the NCAA tournament. They have the talent, they have the coach, and they have the experience to achieve something great. Hopefully they can put it all together and make the entire NCAA wonder who’s your Daddy?