Tha Sports Junkies 101

College Basketball Preview featuring Jay Bilas


I got a chance to listen and talk to Jay Bilas about the start of the college hoops season

A little something different from me on this here website. While I will support and follow the NBA until I die at age 102, I have a soft spot for college basketball, or the NBA’s less talented little brother.

I got a chance to listen in on an ESPN call where Jay Bilas answered questions from the media regarding the start of the college hoops season. He talked plenty about Duke and sprinkled in some good words about the rest of the NCAA.

I’m not mad he talked a lot about Duke. I mean, Bilas played for Duke once upon a time and this year’s team is going to be so damn good. Duke is the No. 1 ranked team coming into the season and they have literally 10 guys that could potentially finagle their way into the NBA. They also have Coach K, which is great for Duke fans, but bad if you follow me on Twitter. Coach K is, in my opinion, the greatest college basketball coach of all time, but he’s corny and his “back-in-my-day” postgame quotes only back that up. (I’ll also gonna go ahead and point out that I’m a Kentucky fan)

I’ll save the rest of my Duke banter for the regular season where I’ll hop on any opportunity I have to poke fun at their expense, even if they go 40-0. Thats just how the internetz has raised me.

Good backcourts are what win you titles in college, quite the opposite from the NBA. Just take a look at UConn’s last two titles. You think Alex Oriakhi won them the 2011 title? Nah man, that was all Kemba (and a little bit of a young Shabazz/Jermey Lamb). 2014 was all Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright (These are actually kind of hard to bring up, as a Kentucky fan). With that being said, the top backcourts this season should be Kentucky, Kansas and Duke. All 3 feature a trio of unbelievable backcourt players (Duke has 4 backcourt studs, if we’re being unbiased) but Bilas thinks Kansas, with Frank Mason III, Devonte Graham, and Josh Jackson are the top tier. It’s hard to argue, especially since Mississippi State transfer, Malik Newman (who has to sit out this year but was a projected one-and-done) is going toe-to-toe with these guys in practice. Thats a lot of talent in the backcourt and a lot of future million dollar contracts. Backcourts win you titles and Kansas has the most talented group out of all of them. Bilas said of Kansas, “You’re looking at another contender” and that backcourt is the main reason why.

I asked Bilas about whether or not he believes we could see a mid-major have their “Wichita State moment”. Teams like St. Mary’s and Rhode Island cracked the preseason top 25 but can they make it deep into the tournament? Bilas said it’s much harder for teams of their caliber to go far into the tournament but a lot of it isn’t their blame. Weak scheduling against poor competition just doesn’t set these teams up for long term success in the tournament. With that being said, Bilas did make it a point to bring up Davidson as a mid-major outside of the top 25 that has enough talent to make it past the second round come March. I don’t know how he knows that but he gets paid paid to know that stuff and I get paid to shove Bud Light’s into ice, so his judgment is much better than mine. I’m a big fan of the mid-major, I remember George Mason in 2006 and Wichita State in 2013 but more so I remember rooting so hard for these teams pull off the upset. Having these teams in the tournament do so unexpectedly well is refreshing and it’s what makes March Madness so special, but you probably know all of this by now.

Bilas covered conferences as whole for a small bit and while he claims that the ACC is undoubtedly the best conference in the country, he says the Pac 12 is not far behind. With Oregon in the top 5 and Arizona in the top 10, along with UCLA and California as legitimate top 25 teams, the Pac 12 may have a case. As far as the SEC goes, its pretty much Kentucky vs. The Rest of the SEC. Florida will be behind Kentucky in the standings this season but it’ll be a nice little gap between the two. Bilas said the SEC “Is improving, it’s just not quite there yet.” which is all you can ask for if you’re an SEC basketball fan. Getting more than 3 teams into the tournament would be some significant progress if you ask me, a sad reality that SEC football fans would rather ignore.

Sorry, Louisville fans, no one even slightly mentioned your team.

While I’m here I’m going to spin this a bit into a Kentucky Wildcats preview. I think Kentucky is extremely talented, even more so than Kansas, and Bilas agreed, saying “Outside of Duke, this is the most talented team in the country.”. He’s right, Kentucky has superb talent at every position, boasting their seventh straight recruiting class that finished either No. 1 or 2. Bilas mentioned how he thought last year’s UK team would attack the basket more but that proved to be untrue due to Jamal Murray’s tendency to create his shot outside of the 3 point line and Ulis being restricted due to his height. This year will be a different story, according to Bilas. “You’re not going to be able to lay off this team quite as much.” Bilas said in regards to their guard play around the perimeter. With John Wall like speed from DeAaron Fox and extraterrestrial athleticism from Malik Monk combined with Isaiah Briscoe’s ability to score at will when he’s near the basket, defenses will have to respect this team’s ability to beat any defender at any time.

Bam Adebayo is the next Kentucky big that should explode onto the NBA scene. Bam is often referred to as Dwight Howard 2.0 and while he is built exactly like him (they even have the same face), I’m not sure I see the comparison in the same way I see Kevin Garnett. I think KG is a better example of Bam. Bam is a already a better shooter than Dwight (which doesn’t take much) but the way he moves around the court so smoothly with such athleticism reminds me more of KG. Then again what do I know, I once said JJ Hickson would be an NBA all star and now I don’t even know which Staples location he works at.

Derek Willis is the veteran for Kentucky and he’s going to be relied on heavily this year to be the main source of 3-point shooting. The perimter shot may be Kentucky’s only “weakness” but Willis is a bonafide sniper at 6’9″ who can run the floor and even block some shots. If you want to look for an X-factor for this year’s Kentucky team, look no further than Derek Willis.

I could definitely go more in depth on this team and include some of the players I left out, like Coach Cal’s son, Brad, who got brutally booed at by my high school (I may or may not have let out one “boo”) during a game against his high school team 5 or so years ago. It was odd, a bunch of 16 year old Kentucky fans booing this kid who was sitting on the bench while his dad is on the other side of the gym. Typing it out makes it sound even worse, but thats my Brad Calipari story.

College hoops starts on Friday and it goes on for like 20 straight hours of games. It truly is the basketball version of Christmas. Don’t miss it.