With a New Year upon us, it’s always necessary to recount the past year and make – better yet keep – a few promises to ourselves. Likewise, college basketball surely could use a few resolutions for 2011. Here’s a shortlist of what I believe will be the burning questions of the 2011 NCAA hoops scene, all while recapping some of the big storylines from 2010.
Busted by the law
Unfortunately, 2010 was the year of the sanction, and some of the biggest fireworks have resulted in teams shrouded in a choking smoke of NCAA violations.
It wasn’t only players, either. Tennessee head coach Bruce Pearl will miss the first eight SEC contests in 2011 for sour recruiting practices, and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo was suspended a game because the school hired an “individual associated with a prospect” for a summer basketball camp – a small secondary violation but a violation nonetheless.
Kansas’ prized freshman, Josh Selby, surrendered the first nine games of the Jayhawks’ season after receiving improper benefits. And coming off a suspension that saw Renardo Sidney sit on the Mississippi State sidelines for his entire freshman campaign, the skilled big man got into a scrum with teammate Elgin Bailey in the stands while watching a tournament in Hawaii.
“I’m very sorry for this incident,” Sidney said in a statement after getting into the fight with Bailey. “I had no intention of this ever happening. I apologize for embarrassing my family, all the Mississippi State fans, my teammates and coaches. I will learn from this and move on.”
Move on, indeed. Fingers crossed that the lead stories of 2011 will highlight what happened on the court, not off of it.
The obvious storyline in 2010 was the Butler Bulldogs galloping Cinderella-style through the NCAA Tournament before losing to Duke in the NCAA Championship game. Pray to the basketball gods that 2011 will continue the trend of more parity and more upsets that the beginning of the ongoing season number has seen.
Tennessee has been the epitome of the night in, night out competitiveness. The Volunteers dropped games against teams like the Oakland Golden Grizzlies out of the Summit league but came out victorious against savvy tournament-bound teams like Villanova and Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, little-guy Montana of the Big Sky Conference has taken down two Pac-10 teams, but who knows if that’s saying more about Montana or the Pac-10? Either way, such unpredictable play has been common throughout every league thus far.
Champagne glasses are raised to keep the upsets coming.
Stars out of alignment
For various reasons, 2010 saw fans robbed of viewing potential NBA talents playing at their respective universities.
Let’s start with Sidney. He’s an immense talent that has been hampered by bad decisions, both by himself and as Jeff Goodman of FOXSports.com writes, by those around him.
But he’s gone from a player who many said was the top high school prospect in the 2009 recruiting class to anonymity aside from his off-court issues. For his sake, Sidney learns from his most recent mistakes, because the college basketball world would be better off if he made some New Year’s resolutions of his own – you know, like learning about sportsmanship, accountability and maturity.
Meanwhile, Duke freshman Kyrie Irving, ranked No. 1 in DraftExpress.com’s 2011 Mock Draft, is now lost indefinitely to a toe injury. Will the Blue Devils be robbed of watching such a talented kid if he decides to enter the NBA Draft? Will Sidney ever make it back onto the court? The answer will hopefully be “yes” on both accounts.
Walker’s award to win
Luckily, there’s also some guys that are playing unbelievable basketball, and I can’t wait to see how the Player of the Year race shapes up.
Will UConn’s Kemba Walker run away with the Naismith Award? The junior out of the Bronx is averaging 27 points, five rebounds and four assists per game for the Huskies. Oh, and he’s also a pick-pocket defender with a 2.4 steals per game average.
Among Walker’s challengers for POY are Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger (18 points, 10 rebounds) and BYU guard Jimmer Fredette (24 points, four assists, three rebounds), both of whom will dictate how far their teams go into the NCAA Tournament.
What are your New Year’s resolutions for college basketball?
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