Yes, we're back.
And we know what you're thinking.
Quit with the bold predictions.
And perhaps a quitter would do just that after predicting Louisville would beat Kentucky by double digits in their 2014 NCAA tournament matchup (the Wildcats won) or this 2016 gem: "National title? North Carolina won't even make the Sweet 16." Well, the Tar Heels reached the title game and only lost on a deep, last-second 3 from Villanova's Kris Jenkins.
But we also pointed you toward Gonzaga's run last season and Oregon's trip to the Final Four without the injured Chris Boucher.
We're empowered by our hits and motivated by our misses. (Also, remember these are bold predictions. "Duke will win the national title" or "Kansas will win the Big 12" doesn't qualify.)
So here we go again.
Here are 10 bold predictions for the 2017-18 college basketball season.
1. Kentucky won't win the SEC
Under John Calipari, Kentucky's best teams have compensated for their mediocre 3-point shooting with an elite offensive rebounding rate. The 2014-15 squad shot under 35 percent from beyond the arc and failed to crack the top 50 inside the 3-point line (51.2 percent). But that 38-1 team also snatched an outrageous 38.5 percent of its missed shots, eighth in the country, per KenPom.com. In 2017-18, this is a young Wildcats team that lacks the clear physical advantages and maturity to dominate the offensive glass and the shooters to minimize the significance of excelling in the paint. The injuries to Jemarl Baker, perhaps the best 3-point marksman on the squad, and Jarred Vanderbilt, the versatile forward, could bleed into SEC play, where a group of strong contenders awaits. That hurts. Overall, Kentucky's challenges could send the program back to 2012-13, when the Wildcats couldn't buy enough 3-pointers or snatch enough offensive rebounds to avoid a trip to the NIT. This is definitely an NCAA tournament team but not a certain conference champion.
2. Hello, Gary. The leading scorer on Duke's roster will not be named Grayson or Marvin
Yep, it sounds crazy. Grayson Allen is back and Marvin Bagley III joins this excellent roster. But Duke has elevated the No. 3 talent on its stacked squads in recent years. Who expected Luke Kennard to become the offensive catalyst and a first-round pick last year? Tyus Jones won Most Outstanding Player for the national title team in 2015. This year? Look for Gary Trent Jr., the 6-foot-5 McDonald's All American and son of former NBA standout Gary Trent, to compete with Bagley and Allen for the team scoring title this season. He's a fluid playmaker and a mismatch for most wings in college basketball. He'll get to the free throw line often and play a vital offensive role for Mike Krzyzewski this season.
3. The most exciting freshman in America will play for Miami this season
In October, Miami stars Ja'Quan Newton and Bruce Brown gushed about freshman Lonnie Walker, a five-star wing ranked 14th in the 2017 class by ESPN.com. They said the flashy fast-break-artist inspires dunk contests in practice. He's the must-see player on the roster, a player who will light up South Beach and the nation this season with his acrobatics. Might not know him now. But he's the highlight reel the game needs.
4. Minnesota and Richard Pitino will end the drought, win the Big Ten
Last fall, Pitino entered what seemed like a season to save his job. In May, however, he signed an extension through the 2021-22 season after leading the Gophers to the NCAA tournament. A five-game losing streak ruined Minnesota's Big Ten title hopes, but the Gophers finished strong and played top-25 defense all season. Pitino, the league's reigning coach of the year, brings back his best players from last season (although the Eric Curry season-ending knee injury damages the team's interior depth) and adds intriguing talents Isaiah Washington and Davonte Fitzgerald. Michigan State is the clear favorite in the Big Ten, and the pool of contenders includes Minnesota, Purdue, Northwestern, Maryland and Michigan. It's never easy in the Big Ten. But Pitino could lead Minnesota to its first conference championship since 1997, a title the school vacated due to NCAA violations.
5. David Padgett will sign a multiyear deal midseason to stay with the Cards and lead the team to the second weekend of the NCAA tournament
Padgett, whom Louisville players backed as a replacement after the school removed Rick Pitino, is inexperienced. But he has a top-10 roster with or without Brian Bowen, whose lawyer claims is innocent and naive to the bribery scheme that disrupted the program. Expect Padgett, who has handled this turbulent chapter with class, to pull a Steve Fisher and lead Louisville on a deep run into the NCAA tournament, a journey that includes a new multiyear deal to keep his job as Louisville's head coach.
6. Two non-Power 5 players will earn first-team All-America nods
Make room on those All-America lists for South Dakota State's Mike Daum and Saint Mary's Jock Landale. Get to know them. Daum, a 6-foot-9 forward who finished with 17 points and seven rebounds against Gonzaga in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season, put up wild numbers a year ago: 25.1 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 41.8 percent from the 3-point line, 87 percent from the free throw line. The 6-11 Landale (16.9 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG, 63 percent inside the arc) is the best big man you have not seen. Yet. That won't last. They're both coming for first-team All-America accolades in 2017-18.
7. Don't mess with Texas! Every Power 5 program from the Lone Star State (and SMU) will make the NCAA tournament
That's right. You get a bid, Mohamed Bamba and Texas. And you get one too, Texas A&M, Baylor and Texas Tech. We didn't forget you, Shake Milton and SMU. And we see you, NIT champ TCU, home of Slovakian superstar Vladimir Brodziansky (14.1 PPG, 2.1 BPG). You're going, too! Should be a fun year for the whole state. In college basketball, at least.
8. The Golden State Warriors Effect? Teams will set a record for most 3-point attempts
In 2012-13, the year before Steph Curry made his first NBA All-Star appearance and led the Warriors on a shooting spree that changed the NBA, 38 Division I college basketball teams finished with 700 or more 3-point attempts. Last season, 144 college squads attempted 700 or more. That's a ridiculous increase in a four-year stretch. College basketball's love of the 3-ball is connected to the NBA's. And this season, we'll see a new record for most 3-pointers collectively attempted in a season.
9. Gregg Marshall will win coach of the year and finally leave Wichita State
He's always a contender. But this season's field is stacked. Mike Krzyzewski is guiding a national title favorite. Tom Izzo could win the Big Ten and reach the Final Four again. Plus, Landry Shamet and Markis McDuffie continue to deal with foot injuries that could force them to miss the start of the season for Wichita State. But the Shockers will overcome those early hurdles, win the American Athletic Conference crown and reach the Elite Eight under Marshall, achievements that will warrant every reputable national coach of the year award. And then, Marshall will finally receive an offer too good to reject and make a move to a Power 5 school after leading Wichita State to prominence few could have imagined prior to his arrival.
10. Good basketball won't remove the cloud over the sport
Every coach in the country has repeated the same phrase since the FBI unveiled a corruption scandal that rocked the sport in September: "We just need to start playing games." And the games will help. They'll give us a distraction from the real distraction hindering the sport right now. But the FBI's "We have your playbook" message suggests this is far from finished. No matter what happens on the court in 2017-18, college basketball will fail to separate itself from the lingering off-court drama.