Written by: Tre LyDay – Staff Writer (@trelyday03)
College basketball is back, and it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I’m going to toot my own horn here, but when it comes to college basketball I’m rarely ever wrong. If you’re looking for all the gut wrenching, heart pounding, non-stop action you’re body can handle, then college basketball is the sport for you. The preseason AP polls were just released, and the usual suspects were at the top of the rankings. Today however, we will be looking at who I think will be conference champs at the end of the season in the power five conferences.
Big 12: Kansas
No brainer here, you didn’t really think i was going to pick someone else did you? The last time they didn’t win at least a share of the conference, the Oakland Raiders were getting cheated out of playoff win in New England. Last season there was actually doubt as to whether they would win the conference, both before the season, and during conference play. This year, I don’t think there will be any doubts. They bring in the number one recruit in the country Josh Jackson, and pair him with what was already a top three backcourt tandem in Frank Mason and Devonte Graham. Now they have quite possibly the ultimate trifecta. So much so that Bill Self is slowly but surely coming around, and leaning toward a four guard offense, and if they get the chemistry down, and shoot like we know they can good luck guarding this team. As usual Bill Self likes to put together the most difficult non-conference schedule you can dream up. Their first two games will be against 11th ranked Indiana and then top ranked Duke. The streak won’t stop here though, and it’ll be 13 straight Big 12 titles.
Big 10: Wisconsin
I could have picked Indiana, I could have picked Maryland, I even could have picked Michigan State, because we all know Tom Izzo can really work his magic in East Lansing. I’m putting my faith in the Badgers though. Why, you may ask, because they get everyone back including my favorite big man of last years NCAA Tournament Ethan Happ, who learned from the one and only Frank Kaminsky. I even picked them to make a deep run in the tournament last year (I even have the proof if you want it). Wisconsin has never been the shooting team, but they know how to play defense, and in the Big 10 you had better play defense otherwise you won’t succeed. Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes, Vitto Brown and Ethan Happ will lead this team to glory. All they really want is a deep tournament run, and you had better believe I’m all in on this squad.
Four the fourth year in a row I am picking the Virginia Cavaliers to win their conference, and they’ve only let me down once before. Forget the fact Duke brought in Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles. Virginia is one of the best defensive teams I’ve ever seen in my life, and this year they have the offensive talent to back it up. As long as Tony Bennett is the head coach of Virginia I honestly can’t see myself picking another team to win this conference. If weren’t for some ridiculous circus shot by Grayson Allen (which was a travel) they would have three consecutive conference titles. London Perrantes will be asked to do what he does best, facilitate and play defense, but he might need to score more this year which he is fully capable of doing. As long as this team plays defense like we’ve come to see then they’ll be right there at the end.
As much as it pains me to say this, the Kentucky Wildcats are going to win their conference, but they better be careful. Texas A&M will be good once again, but South Carolina, Georgia and Vanderbilt are getting better every day. In the end though this is far and away the weakest conference among the power conferences. Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo will be the head guys, because we all know Kentucky is predicated on the success of their prized freshman recruits. Calipari can’t complain about his schedule being too tough to start, because they play literally no one until the Champions Classic against Michigan State. Then they don’t play anyone until their annual bout with UCLA. Kentucky should really run away with this conference, but I will get a major kick out of it if they somehow blow this, and don’t win the conference.
I have not the slightest clue as to who will win this conference. I’m only picking them, because in my mind I feel like I’m required to pick someone. Sean Miller and Arizona like to shoot themselves in the foot every year, Utah will defend, but I’m not sure if they can score enough points. Two teams you can’t sleep on are Cal and UCLA. Bryce Alford who is in what feels like his eighth year at UCLA, will lead his team to a surprise season, well at least it won’t be a surprise to me. Oregon’s conference title chances rest on the health of Dillon Brooks who had foot surgery in the offseason, and as we’ve seen before these foot injuries can be really tricky. You can’t come back too soon otherwise you’ll find yourself hurt again. If he’s healthy then I think they’ll come out ahead, if not then this conference is fair game.