Well it is about time that college basketball is back at center stage. Now that the Super Bowl has come and gone it is nice to have everyone joining us.
Each team is about halfway through conference play, just a month away from the league tournaments. The landscape is pretty clear (including the bubble), so here is where the sport stands as we reset the season.
Front Runners for Player of the Year:
Zion Williamson, F, Duke
Even if you have been under a rock for the first three months of the season, you've heard of Zion Williamson and there is a good reason why. He is undoubtly the most electric player in college basketball this season. Perhaps, the most electric since Kevin Durant.
Every time Duke plays, it is must-see television because of Williamson. He's lived up to the hype and has not disappointed once. It's hard to say that of an 18-year-old.
He's a lock for 20 points and a Sportscenter worthy dunk in every game. No one can matchup against him and the biggest question surrounding his talent is when will he shut it down to prepare for the NBA.
If Williamson does not win Player Year, it will be an upset.
R.J. Barrett, F, Duke
If it wasn't for Williamson, it might be a runaway contest for R.J. Barrett. His season has been just as impressive as Williamson's.
Barrett, with his ability to shoot the three, is likely a better NBA prospect over his teammate. But despite being better in several statistical categories, Barrett will be second-fiddle to Williamson this season.
Both should be the No. 1 and No. 2 picks in the NBA draft and are the most dangerous post duo in the country.
Markus Howard, G, Marquette
At 5-11, Markus Howard has been a huge performer for a Marquette team that was waiting to jump to the next level. At any moment he can rattle off 10, 12 points in a row, flipping a game on its head.
Three times this season he's scored 40-plus points, including a 53-point highlight reel performance against Creighton.
If you have not watched a Marquette game this season, find one to squeeze into your calendar.
Grant Williams, F, Tennessee
Grant Williams is the face of the top team in the country. He's a ball hawk, can shoot and leads his team in nearly every statistical category - and that is as a forward on a 3pt-happy team.
He's similar in style to Barrett, but there isn't a superstar flying around above him on the roster.
Game of the Year (so far): Duke vs. Gonzaga
This is a no contest. At the time it seemed like the rest of the college basketball season was going to go downhill after this Nov. 21 game.
Duke was flying around with a formidable NBA starting-five and some were guessing that the Blue Devils might not lose a game all year. Gonzaga was playing like a stereotypical mid-major with a chip on their shoulder and looking overmatched.
But the Zags never folded and threw the first punch of the contest. Nearly every possession the Blue Devils looked like the pendulum was swinging their way and Gonzaga responded every time.
It culminated with Barrett being blocked on a game-tying shot in an 89-87 victory for Gonzaga.
Rui Hachimura matched up with the two superstars from Duke, Barrett and Williamson. They combined for 45 points. Hachimura had 20.
If the National Championship Game is anywhere close to the level of this matchup, we're in for a show.
Ja Morant, G, Murray State
There is not a better mid-major sophomore in college basketball. Ja Morant has turned the Murray State Racers into the dangerous team that scores 82 points a night.
And he is responsible for over 34 of those points through his points and assists.
Ignas Brazdeikis, F, Michigan
No one expected Michigan to return as a national championship contender this season. And no one expected Ignas Brazdeikis to be the guy to be carrying them at this point in the season.
They lead the Big Ten. A four-star freshman is leading them there.
Chris Clemons, G, Campbell
To some he's not a breakout star. He's been putting up ridiculous numbers for three years now.
As a 5-9 senior for the Campbell Camels, he's leading the country in scoring with 29.2 ppg.
Teams you need to watch:
Buffalo has the experience, played in the tournament a year ago and will receive a moderate seed in the tournament if they keep it up.
They have impressive early season victories over West Virginia and Syracuse, but some silly losses hurt their resume.
The Bulls will not be one of the Final Four contending teams, but no one will want them on their side of their bracket.
One of the early season favorites has diminished the past several weeks, mainly because they play in the Mountain West. The Nevada Wolfpack have five starters that all could start on a high-major team and, if they all are playing to their potential, might be the best in the country.
They will be a popular pick to go far into the tournament this season.
Every year a Power 5 team with a star player will take advantage of an upset, i.e. Michigan. The Badgers have the 2018 Wolverines written all over them. Ethan Happ helps too.
When you have a guy like Howard that can score at-will you can win any contest. Clear a path for Marquette and they will take care of business against teams seeded below them.
Four teams that can't win the National Championship:
Too many injuries and they have an offense that only relies on their 3pt game. It does not bode well for a team looking to make a run.
Hard to say this about a team that always wins one of the biggest conference championships of the year, but the Jayhawks without Udoka Azubuike look like just a good team.
Betting against Carsen Edwards is not a good strategy, but there is a severe drop-off after him on their roster. No depth for the Boilermakers.
They're good yes, but there is not enough to justify having them go far in the tournament. Sure they beat Gonzaga at a neutral site, but if you have them going far you could look foolish.
Virginia: A lock to make the tournament and they will go a lot farther than they did last year. They have a talented offense to match their defense.
Virginia Tech: A great year for the Hokies and they will be in barring a massive collapse.
Maryland: Should be in the tournament, not exactly sure want to think of them.
Georgetown: Their victory over St. John's gave them some bubble action, but they need to make statements to be in serious consideration.
VCU: A border-line at-large team and is more than capable of winning the A-10 Tournament in March.
George Mason: Sitting at second place in the A-10, the Patriots are looking to make some noise this season. They started conference play at 7-1.
UMBC: After a slow start, the nation's favorite underdogs reeled off five straight and are a contender in the America East conference.
Old Dominion: The Monarchs are atop Conference-USA and are 12-1 in their home building.
Radford: Remember these guys? The ones that knocked off Notre Dame and Texas? They've lost some bad games since then but are the face of the Big South Conference.
Liberty: It will be a true shame if they do not make the tournament, either as an at-large or by winning the Atlantic Sun. The Flames only have five losses this season.
Norfolk State: Undefeated in the MEAC, they are currently in line for the automatic bid.
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