Atlantic Coast, Conferences, SEC

NCAA Men’s Basketball 2019-20 Season Preview

NCAA Men’s Basketball 2019-20 Season Preview

The 2019-20 NCAA men’s basketball season gets underway November 5 with a March-like lineup. Preseason No. 3 Kansas takes on No. 4 Duke and second-ranked Kentucky faces No. 1 Michigan State. It sounds more like a Final Four than the State Farm Champions Classic to begin the season. Who knows? A long five months from now, it just might come down to the preseason top-4.

The Best

It should be no surprise that blueblood programs like Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and Louisville are among the preseason top-10. The Spartans with legendary head coach Tom Izzo come in at No. 1 with player of the year candidate Cassius Winston leading the way. Winston averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 assists per game last season. He returns along with 6-9 Xavier Tillman (10.0 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Nick Ward (12.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg), and Josh Langford (15.0 ppg).

Kentucky head coach John Calipari reloads with another crop of 4- and 5-star recruits to make the Wildcats a favourite to win the SEC again. Kansas has the best big man in the country in 7-footer Udoka Azubuike and Mike Krzyzewski has another crop of young talent at Duke. Don’t forget Louisville whose Jordan Nwora could be the ACC Player of the Year this season.

The Defending Champs

Virginia won its first national championship a year ago and said goodbye to most of its talent from a year ago. With Tony Bennett’s Pack Line defense in play, anything is possible but the Cavaliers will likely be in a rebuilding mode. Most experts see Virginia as finishing no higher than fourth in the ACC this season. With Duke, Louisville, and North Carolina all in the preseason top-10; fourth place is probably about right.

Best Conference

With three of the top nine teams in the preseason AP Top 25, the ACC is finally back. Duke, Louisville, and North Carolina are all potential Final Four teams in 2020. The conference is also deep with Clemson, N.C. State, Florida State, Virginia Tech, and Syracuse are all likely 20-game winners and potential NCAA tournament teams.

Surprise, Surprise

Last year, Utah State finished 28-7. This year, the Aggies return the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, the Freshman of the Year, and the Defensive Player of the Year. Oh, and they will have one of the biggest teams in the country.

Sam Merrill averaged 20.9 points and 4.2 assists on his way to the MWC Player of the Year award. Neemias Queta, at 6-11, returns as the conference Defensive Player of the Year. He averaged 11.8 points, 8.9 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game. Utah State also returns four starters and 7-2 Kuba Karwowski, 6-11 Trevin Dorius, and 6-10 Klay Stall. That type of talent and size might make them a favorite to crash this year’s NCAA tournament ball.

No More Blues

Year 1 of the Penny Hardaway regime went about as well as expected. Memphis went 22-14 and finished fifth in the American Athletic Conference standings. Hardaway, the former Memphis and NBA star, took his first team to the NIT where the Tigers lost in the second round.

In Year 2, more is expected especially with the recruiting class Hardaway brought in this year. Seven-footer James Wiseman is a future NBA lottery pick and should help Hardaway return the Memphis program to the nation’s elite.


Each year, college basketball fans are treated to a handful of tournament upsets from the likes of teams not normally on the sport’s radar. A few years ago, it was Loyola-Chicago that kept the dream of the Cinderella alive. Who will it be in 2019-20?

The previously mentioned Utah State Aggies could fit into that category as could New Mexico State. Auburn made it to last year’s Final Four but only after the Tigers survived the Aggies in Round 1. Head coach Chris Jans returns four starters from the defending WAC champion as well as Johnny McCants who missed most of last season with an injury. NMSU went 30-5 last year and finished 11th in offensive rating and second in rebound percentage in the nation a year ago.

Another Cinderella that could get to the big ball is Harvard. Last year’s Ivy League co-champion returns all five starters and welcomes back junior Seth Towns who missed all of last season with an injury. Towns was the Ivy League Player of the Year in 2017-18. Head coach Tommy Amaker’s squad is talented and deep and will likely improve on last season’s 19-12 finish.

Player of the Year Candidates

Most experts believe Michigan State’s Winston will end up the nation’s player of the year. The Spartans point guard is a senior who is the on-court leader of Izzo’s program. Not only can he score, but Winston makes all of his teammates better when he is on the floor.

Marquette’s Markus Howard is about as electric as they come. Howard is just 5-11, but he can shoot 3s from anywhere on the floor. Howard averaged 25.0 points per game and shot over 40 percent from behind the arc. He’ll be right up there with Winston in the player of the year race.

New 3-Point Line

Speaking of 3-pointers, the NCAA decided to move the 3-point arc for the second time in just over a decade. This year, NCAA Division I basketball will use the same 3-point distance as is used in FIBA (International Basketball Federation) competitions. The arc measures 22-feet-1.75-inches from the center of the basket.

The NIT used the new arc in each of its last two tournaments in order to give the NCAA enough data to make a decision. The NCAA decided to go ahead and make the change but don’t look for any glaring differences this season. Moving the line back 16 inches will have a negligible effect on the game.

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