Some big storylines have already been written around college basketball this year, and we haven’t even gotten through all of the early season tournaments.
Duke University has already established itself as a title contender with two impressive wins over top five opponents. Duke is led by senior forward Mason Plumlee, whose per game averages of 19.7 points and 10 boards have lifted the Blue Devils to victories over No. 8 ranked Kentucky, No. 5 ranked Louisville and No. 4 ranked Ohio State.
The star-studded University of Michigan is another team that has impressed early. Led by preseason All-American guard Trey Burke and the ever-improving Tim Hardaway Jr., the Wolverines looked poised to build off of a regular season Big Ten title last year, their first since 1986. While competing in arguably the toughest conference in the nation, one that is represented by five ranked teams-including public enemy number one Indiana University-they will surely be challenged in the second half of the season. Winning the NIT Season Tip-Off Tournament was definitely a nice start, though.
As far as NBA prospects go, no one player has emerged from the pack yet to show they deserve to be the top pick in June’s draft. This time last year, it was already clear that New Orleans Hornets forward Anthony Davis would be the consensus top choice, so it should be interesting to see who rises above the rest of the crop heading into the bulk of non-conference play.
Some names to keep an eye on include Indiana sophomore center Cody Zeller, another pre-season All-American who could have been a lottery pick had he left school after his freshman campaign. He leads the top-ranked Hoosiers in scoring and his defensive game appears more polished.
Another prospect to watch only has three collegiate games under his belt, but has already made headlines for all the wrong reasons. UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad was held out of the Bruins’ first three games due to NCAA violations stemming from recruiting expenses, but he has already shown the country why he was held in such high regard coming out of high school. While the Bruins have struggled in the early going, including a home loss to lowly Cal Poly last weekend, he has put up point totals of 15, 21 and 15, notching a double-double in his latest contest.
A third major candidate for the No. 1 spot is Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel, a player who will seemingly never be able to step out of the shadow cast by the former Wildcat Davis due to their similar styles of play. A defensive stalwart, Noel will need to up his offensive game if he wants to join Davis as the second straight top pick out of Kentucky.