I love the start of each new college hoops season. It is a time to look ahead at the excitement. With that in mind, here are the dazzling dozen things I am looking forward to during the 2013-14 campaign.
1. Diaper dandies
There are a number of stars on the horizon who truly excite me. I look at guys like Andrew Wiggins of Kansas, Jabari Parker of Duke, Julius Randle and the Harrison Twins at Kentucky, Jarell Martin of LSU and Aaron Gordon out at Arizona, and I see instant impact, guys who will make a difference right away. They will be BMOC (big men on campus) right away. Hopefully they will not be one-and-done, instead enjoying college life and waiting for the lure of the dollars from the pros. The college game can use these stars for a while.
2. Transfers making a difference
When you look at rosters all across America, you see a number of names of players who can come in right away and perform at a high level. Some guys had to sit out a year, others benefited from receiving a waiver from the NCAA, granting immediate eligibility. You will see guys like Rodney Hood at Duke, who came from Mississippi State, putting up good numbers and helping their teams. It feels like there are more than ever going to new places and shining.
3. Coaches making moves
Every season we see coaches switching jobs, high-profile guys moving from sideline to sideline. This season is no exception. Out West, it will be interesting to see Steve Alford going from his success at New Mexico to the pressure cooker of UCLA. Across town, Andy Enfield was a Cinderella story at Florida Gulf Coast, making the Sweet 16. Now he has the challenge of putting USC back into prominence. There is Butler, replacing Brad Stevens, now head coach of the Celtics. Can Brandon Miller get the job done in his first season running the show?
4. Life in the ACC
Adding Syracuse, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh to an already-loaded lineup with Duke and North Carolina means there will be plenty of battles ahead. Don't forget about schools like Virginia, Florida State, Maryland ... wow, it is going to be exciting night in and night out. Just think about some of the coaching matchups, too. I cannot wait to see Coach K against Jim Boeheim!
5. Conference realignment shaking up the sport
I look at the new Big East and the American Athletic Conference, and both have intriguing stories. All across America, you need a scorecard to keep track of all of these moves.
6. Stars shining. Every season, you see veteran players coming back to the hardwood and starring. This season, it is a group led by Doug McDermott of Creighton, Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State and Russ Smith of Louisville.
7. Calling fouls
With more emphasis on tight officiating during early scrimmages, there may be an adjustment as hand-checking is not acceptable. I am in favor of anything that will clean up the sport I love.
8. Wide-open race for player of the year
While names like McDermott, Smart and Smith will be prominent, it would not surprise me if somebody comes from out of the woodwork to contend for the honor.
9. Can Louisville defend its national title?
10. Off-court issues
How will players like Marshall Henderson and P.J. Hairston bounce back from off-court issues? There will be a lot of scrutiny on these young men. Hopefully they will learn from their poor judgment and become productive on and off the hardwood.
11. Can Oregon challenge Arizona in the Pac-12?
The addition of Joseph Young from Houston, who was granted immediate eligibility, will make a difference in an already-loaded backcourt. Dana Altman believes his team will contend and Mike Moser will be a factor, too.
12. Teams in new conferences
How will Creighton, Xavier and Butler fare in a new conference? All three are now members of the Big East, and it will be interesting to see the adjustment. That conference will be wide open, with Marquette and Georgetown favored, plus St. John's and Providence improving.