Robinson Report- 10/11/19
Updated: Feb 19
The College Basketball season will tip off in less than a month, bringing about the excitement of non-conference play as we wind down 2019. There are many storylines to focus on and new freshmen to meet that will surely dominate the new season of college hoops. In this week’s Robinson Report, we’ll be going over 5 early season College Basketball storylines in part one of my preseason college basketball coverage.
Tom Izzo and When it Matters Most:
Tom Izzo is a national treasure, and you can make the argument that when it comes to best coaches this decade, he’s up there right next to Roy Williams and Coach K, and you can even go as far as saying he deserves to be #2. But when it matters most in the NCAA tournament, he only has one championship to show for it, and numerous heartbreaking defeats in the Final Four, National Championship, etc. This year they’re going to again be heavy favorites and could quite possibly be the #1 team in America majority of the season. Guys like Joshua Langford, Rocket Watts, Cassius Winston, Aaron Henry and Xavier Tillman are going to be huge pieces for Izzo, and this team is going to make another deep March Madness run, but the question will be can Tom Izzo get it done when it matters most.
The Hype Surrounding the 2019-2020 Memphis Tigers:
Penny Hardaway recently made headlines saying that his Memphis Tigers team will win the national championship, even after Penny and Co. went 22-14 and lost in the second round in the NIT last season. What Penny thrived at during the offseason was the recruiting trail, and with him and Mike Miller at the helm, they brought in the #1 recruiting class in 2019. They have the number one overall recruit James Weisman, Precious Achiuwa from Montverde Academy in Florida, they stole Boogie Ellis from Duke and Coach K, landed a solid transfer from Florida in Isaiah Stokes, and grabbed Lester Quinones from IMG Academy. They play an incredibly easy non conference schedule, and the American Athletic Conference will be a cakewalk. This could either be a Sweet Sixteen and further team, or they could get a 2 or 3 seed out the gate and lose in the round of 64 or 32.
Louisville’s New Recruiting Class:
Speaking of impressive recruiting classes, Louisville and Chris Mack are about to have an impressive 2019-2020 season. After the whole Rick Pitino fiasco, this could be the best season they’ve had after years of mediocrity since the 2013 championship run. Mack will know what he has with his players during the non-conference portion of their schedule when they play Michigan and new Head Coach Juwan Howard, last year’s National Runner-Up Texas Tech, and the yearly rivalry against John Calipari and the Kentucky Wildcats. He brought in the 12th best recruiting class in the nation which is very high for Louisville, and with guys like Samuel Williamson and Josh Nickleberry, Louisville has become a dark horse to challenge Duke, UNC, and Virginia to win the ACC.
The Impact of Overseas Players Not Joining CBB:
Every year the main focus in the college basketball world is which freshman will make an impact and how they will make a run to the tournament. Last year it was guys like Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Ja Morant, and Tyler Herro coming to the forefront of the national stage. While there are numerous top freshman to watch and I will make a deeper dive in part two of this coverage, there is equal importance on who isn’t playing in college basketball this season. In the past, we have seen guys like Darius Bazley and Terrance Ferguson not play college basketball and still get drafted into the NBA (Thank you OKC?) and potentially make an impact in the league. This year, there is going to be a lot of coverage on those who aren’t playing college basketball. LaMelo Ball, the youngest of the three ball brothers will be playing overseas in Australia while maintaining the hype as a top three, if not number one overall selection in the 2020 NBA Draft. Jimma Gatwech, who made headlines this summer in the AAU circuit for his high-flying dunks, recently transferred to CORE4 Academy in Atlanta, GA and will be entering his name in the 2020 NBA Draft. And R.J. Hampton, who re-classified into the 2019 class and was a 5-star recruit with offers from Kansas, Memphis and Texas Tech, decided to play basketball overseas with the New Zealand Breakers before he will go pro himself. With everything that is happening with the NCAA and the Florida and California state bills benefitting player likeness, this may be the first step in the new wave of high school prospects declining to play in the NCAA and play professional basketball before coming into the NBA.
Duke Basketball Post Zion Williamson:
One of the bigger storylines heading into the season is Duke Basketball after R.J. Barrett, but more specifically, after Zion Williamson. Even though it is Coach K and Duke University, there will be a little bit less coverage on a day-to-day basis because of Zion Williamson leaving to become the #1 overall pick for the New Orleans Pelicans. Still, even after the two dynamic freshman left, this is still a Duke roster that will compete. Coach K was HOT on the recruiting trail, and before he began his dominance in the 2020 recruiting class, he got some stellar players in the 2019 class that could prove to be even better than the team that went to the Elite Eight last March. Wendell Moore, Cassius Stanley, Vernon Carey and Matthew Hurt are the next freshman up for Coach K, bringing a good balance of size and athleticism to the table. Most of these new freshmen are big men, and to balance the size they brought in, the returning players in Durham bring excellent guard play. Tre Jones and Jordan Goldwire are two outstanding guards that will continue to provide Coach K with Depth and Productivity. Not to mention, Alex O’Connell, Jack White, Joey Baker, and Javin DeLaurier are all returning for the Blue Devils to also bring depth and value to this team. This Blue Devils team is stacked from top to bottom, and they have one of the toughest schedules in recent memory. Neutral court games against Kansas and either Texas or Georgetown who are two scrappy teams, and traveling at Michigan State in East Lansing are going to be tough tests for Duke. Not to mention a tough slate of ACC games with teams that are going to be ready to jump at their throat. This could be a better team than last season, but the question will remain if Mike Krzyzewski can win with hyped, dynamic freshmen.