Senior Brett Lundgren attended St. Ignatius prior to La Salle.
On his weekends, Brett enjoys playing and watching sports. His favorite teams are the...
A Look at This Year’s Men’s College Basketball Season
November 30, 2022
Earlier this November, the men’s college basketball season got underway with many of the top teams in action. Over the first months of the season, there are a number of tournaments where fans will have their first look at the top recruits, transfers, and returning players who are all aiming to lead their teams to victory.
As the season progresses, the storylines and flow of the season reaches a climax in March as the conference tournament and NCAA tournament start. The NCAA tournament has been given the name March Madness and it’s often associated with wild upsets and crazy finishes each year. The term was first used by Henry V. Porter in 1939 and used in conjunction with the famed tournament in 1982 by Brent Musburger.
Science teacher Mr. Ryan Kain is an avid college basketball fan and has been following the game for over 15 years.
“March Madness, besides the World Cup, is the greatest sporting event,” Mr. Kain said. “You have people who are just so die-hard passionate about their teams.”
English teacher Mr. Greg Larson is also a periodic fan of the game and has been following it when he can since middle school. His favorite part about March Madness is its unpredictability. “I love that it’s one and done, I also hate that it’s one and done,” Mr. Larson said.
Mr. Larson had a creative metaphor to define March Madness and the range of strong emotions it can bring. “Watching the tournament is like living at the airport, where people are being separated from each other and they’re feeling just such intense pain,” Mr. Larson said. “But also people are coming back from military deployment, and they’re feeling euphoria.”
Freshman Godwin Toku also shared a similar sentiment about how enjoyable March Madness is. When following March Madness, there is a certain element of the tournament that he loves watching each year. “Definitely seeing the upsets,” Toku said. “Seeing a sixteen seed beat a first seed or something like that [is really enjoyable].”
One game that comes to mind for Toku as a particularly exciting upset was on March 16, 2018 when the hungry UMBC Retrievers knocked off the Virginia Cavaliers. This upset shocked the world as it was the first time a one seed had fallen in the first round. What made this game even more special was the fact that the Retrievers had won by 20 points, in a 74-54 resounding victory.
Although it was a few years ago, Mr. Larson still remembers that night.
“I still think about [the] UMBC Retrievers that knocked off Virginia,” Mr. Larson said. “Moments like that are insane.”
As fans prepare for this year’s tournament in the spring, there are a couple of players and teams to be aware of along with a local team look that will inform you more about what to keep an eye out for.
Players to Watch
Third-year guard Nijel Pack will have a new role this year hoping to bring the eager Miami Hurricanes to another deep March Madness run. The proven transfer will have the opportunity to take the Athletic Coast Conference (ACC) by storm with a strong backcourt. Paired with Isaiah Wong, Pack looks to help this Hurricane team build on last year’s success and wreak havoc on a top-heavy ACC.
Last year, Nijel Pack proved himself as a guard who could produce, putting up 17.4 points per game with a 45.5% shooting average from the floor for Kansas State University. This didn’t translate to much success with the deep Big 12 though. The Wildcats finished with an unimpressive 6-12 record in conference and failed to make the NCAA tournament.
Nijel Pack is looking to make a big impact on the Hurricanes this upcoming season. Last year, the Hurricanes ended very well, making a surprise run to the Elite 8 before falling short to the eventual champions, the Kansas Jayhawks. Pack seems to be building great chemistry with his new squad this year, putting up 13 points per game during his first months in the orange and green.
As the season progresses, look for Pack to make a splash impact and potentially lead the Hurricanes to another dangerous run in the Spring.
Six-foot two guard, Marcus Sasser, is aiming to build on the Cougar’s achievement from last season and yield his team success. The highly-ranked Houston Cougars have high expectations that Sasser will carry the team to a win.
Last year, Sasser scored at a high rate, averaging 17.7 points per game. The Cougar’s success followed suit, ending their season with a 50-44 loss to the Villanova Wildcats in the Elite 8. This was a very impressive postseason run considering the five-seeded Cougars had just knocked off the loaded Arizona Wildcats who were the top seed in the South region.
If the Cougars were to make the Final Four this year, they would have quite the home-court advantage. This year’s Final Four will take place in Houston, Texas at NRG stadium. The Cougars are currently ranked first in the AP poll and it is entirely plausible that they may make it, contingent on Sasser dominating at a high clip and the rest of the Cougars playing well on both sides of the ball.
Last year, the Bulldogs came into the NCAA tournament as the top seed with extremely high expectations. They fell short in the Sweet Sixteen to the Arkansas Razorbacks. Timme was superb for the Bulldogs during their tournament run last year, averaging over 27 points per game over their three games.
This year, Timme will potentially bring the Bulldogs over the March hump where they have failed to meet expectations in previous years. He will take a greater leadership role in the absence of Chet Holmgren, who was drafted second in the last NBA Draft to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Timme started off the season strong, averaging 20 points per game and 7.4 rebounds per game through his first seven. As the season gets going with the remainder of their non-conference schedule and West Coast Conference play, Timme hopes to lead the Zags so that they can finally fulfill their stout tournament expectations.
After his season ended last year, Tshiebwe made the surprise decision to return for another year, as most analysts had him pegged as headed to the upcoming draft. This decision saw their team stock skyrocket with such a talented player remaining with the team.
Last year, Tshiebwe averaged 17.4 points with 15.1 rebounds per game. These outstanding numbers lead to the highly-coveted Wooden Award. An especially impressive performance last year was when Tshiebwe accounted for 21 points and 22 rebounds in an overtime win against Mississippi State on Jan. 25 of last year.
However, the personal success that Tshiebwe enjoyed last year didn’t exactly translate to the postseason success he and the rest of his Wildcat teammates were hoping for. 2-seeded Kentucky fell to the 15-seeded St. Peter’s Peacocks in a thrilling overtime upset. Kentucky failed to bring their A-game that night and as a result were on the crushing end of a March Madness Cinderella run for the ages.
This year, Tshiebwe and the rest of his Wildcats are aiming to go further in the tournament. With the help of Antonio Reeves and Sahvir Wheeler, Kentucky is determined to prove itself as a team that can avenge its embarrassing upset from last season.
Junior forward Jalen Wilson will also be poised for a larger role this year, as the leader of the defending-champion Kansas Jayhawks last season. Wilson was the leading rebounder for the Jayhawks last year but will have to prove himself as more of a scorer this year with Ochai Agbaji and Christian Braun each being taken in the latest NBA Draft.
Last season, Jalen Wilson was a solid player for Head Coach Bill Self and the Jayhawks. Wilson averaged 11.1 points and 7.4 rebounds for Kansas in his 2021-2022 sophomore campaign. He wasn’t primarily a scorer but proved useful on the boards and defensive end. His effort helped Kansas to a championship-bound run that finished victorious in New Orleans.
This year, Wilson will have to be more aggressive and dependable on the offensive end for Jayhawk Nation. In his first eight games, Wilson has averaged 22.8 points and 8.9 rebounds which is a good sign for coach Self. He has also had the help of standout freshman Gradey Dick, who has averaged 15.4 points in his opening games. Dick was a highly ranked and sought-out recruit who was 21st in his class, according to 247 sports.com and their TOP247 rankings. With the help of Dick and other supporting players, Wilson will be set for a very nice season. He and the rest of the Jayhawks will be aiming to be the first back-to-back champions in over a decade.
Teams to Watch
The Razorbacks will be looking to build off their success from last season with a highly-ranked freshman. Joining an already talented roster, number one-ranked, freshman guard Nick Smith Jr. has high expectations for the season. Head Coach Eric Mussellman hopes to build chemistry quickly with this squad, as the Razorbacks have the chance to be a special team. Along with returning guard Ricky Council IV, this roster — rightfully so — has extremely lofty prospects. Their efforts carried them to the Elite 8 where they fell to the Duke Blue Devils. This team has sky-high potential to make a long run in this year’s tournament, with the chance to make an appearance at the Final Four in Houston.
As a historically successful program, the Hoosiers have a chance to spend the majority of their season at the top of the Big 10 standings which hasn’t happened a lot in recent years. In their previous season, the Hoosiers snuck into the tournament as a 12-seed where they fell to the Saint Mary’s Gaels.
This year, the Hoosiers could build off their March Madness bid from last year with the help of Trayce Jackson-Davis. The senior forward will have a lot of eyes on him from around the college basketball community. Averaging 18.3 points and 8.1 rebounds last year, this Hoosier team has their eyes on making a March run. The Hoosiers entered the year ranked number 13 in the AP top-25 rankings and are looking to build up their resume to help them land a high seed in the spring.
North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels had a very successful season last year. As an 8 seed, Head Coach Hubert Davis led his team to the National Championship and lost by only three points to the aforementioned Jayhawks. They even led by 15 points in that game and most likely would have won with a healthy Armando Bacot. Bacot was favoring an ankle injury that impacted his ability to play at full strength.
The Tar Heels’ highlight from last season is their victory over long-time rival Duke Blue Devils in the Final Four, effectively ending coach Mike Krzyzewski’s prolific career. In that game, the Tar Heels were led by Caleb Love’s efficient shooting and leadership which spurred them to a National Championship appearance.
The Tar Heels hope to build off of last year’s spectacular season. With a lot of their talent and scoring from their March Madness run returning, the Tar Heels have the eyes of many in the College Basketball community to make it back to that title game in April.
TCU Horned Frogs
The Horned Frogs have an important season ahead of them with a talented roster that can make a real impact on college basketball. With Head Coach Jamie Dixon at the helm, the Horned Frogs have the opportunity to make a surprise Final Four run that will shock fans.
Last season, the Horned Frogs made the NCAA Tournament as an eighth seed with a record of twenty wins and twelve losses heading into the big dance. They were knocked out by the top-seeded Arizona Wildcats in a sensational overtime finish.
This year, the Horned Frogs are led by a powerful duo in Mike Miles Jr. and Emanuel Miller who each can score well when given starting minutes. Of last year’s roster, Miles Jr. and Miller are in the top three when it comes to points and minutes. This duo will need to prove that they can produce big plays and lead the Horned Frogs through a tough Big-12 conference schedule. If so, they will have the opportunity to get a high seed in March (due in part to a stacked resume) and possibly make a run to Houston in April.
The Bruins have a very impressive team this year with another year in the Mick Cronin campaign that is chock full of potential. Led by Tyger Campbell and Jaime Juaquez Jr, the Bruins have the chance to prosper in their PAC-12 schedule and set themselves up for a nice run in March.
Last season, the Bruins made it to the Sweet Sixteen before falling to the previously mentioned Tar Heels who would go onto the National Championship. The four-seeded Bruins had their eyes on the Final Four, which they had made in the 2020-2021 season. In their Final Four game, they found themselves on the bitter end of a heart-wrenching game-winner from Jalen Suggs of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. The sour taste that these March Madness losses gave the Bruins will for sure be motivating for returning players this season.
As mentioned earlier, the Bruins will need a lot out of their two stars: Jaime Jaquez Jr. and Tyger Campbell. The returning pair played extremely well last season, averaging 13.9 and 11.9 points per game, respectively. Mick Cronin will need a lot out of these two starters in order for the Bruins to make it back to the Final Four like two years ago.
A Local Look
The Ducks are vying for a tournament bid this year after failing to appear last year.
In their non-conference schedule, the Ducks had key matchups against Houston, UConn, and Michigan State but couldn’t answer the call and dropped all three. The Ducks were able to respond after those tough losses by pulling out a win against Villanova to conclude their week at the Phil Knight Invitational.
As the Ducks get going with their conference schedule, they will have a couple of talented PAC-12 foes that will be tall tasks for this Duck team. Teams such as the Bruins and the Arizona Wildcats will be competitive games which could add a lot to a tournament resume come Selection Sunday.
Oregon State Beavers
The Beavers also have their season underway with important matchups that can prepare them for conference play.
They had a huge Thanksgiving game as a part of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament which revealed a lot about this team. The Beavers played the Duke Blue Devils on Thanksgiving day in Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Portland, OR, and lost in a close game by a score of 54-51. While the result will end up in the loss column, the Beavers’ ability to compete with blue blood should give a sense of hope for Beaver Nation. The Beavers weren’t able to build off of that promising showing because they lost their next two games of the tournament.
As the Beavers advance out of their non-conference schedule, they will also face a difficult PAC-12 schedule with a lot of opportunities to advance their resume come springtime.
Senior Brett Lundgren attended St. Ignatius prior to La Salle.