NCAA Men’s Basketball 2017-18 Season Preview
The new season of NCAA D1 college basketball is nearly upon us and, after a truly eventful few months of the offseason, it’s shaping up to be one of the most exciting season’s in recent history. After a phenomenal 2017 National Championship game–which saw the Tar Heels of North Carolina secure a title win over Gonzaga (redeeming themselves after a 2016 buzzer-beater loss to Kris Jenkins and Villanova)–college ball fans were left wanting even more. Luckily, the eight-month wait is nearly over and we’ll soon see if UNC has what it takes to make a third straight title game, or if two new teams will get a shot at a National Championship.
When Does the NCAA 2017-18 Season Start?
The regular season will open on Friday, November 10 with the first early season tournament, the 2K Sports Classic, kicking off on November 16. The majority of the first month of the season will include small tournaments and showcases like the Classic. Others include the Hall of Fame Tip Off (November 18-19), and the Maui Invitational (November 20-22).
For your favorite team’s entire schedule and tickets, make sure to check out our college basketball page on SeatGeek.
What to Watch For
With 351 teams spread out of 32 conferences, we could write a doctorate dissertation-length article about storylines and things to watch for over the next few months, but for your sake, we’ll just stick to a couple of the ones that are likely to have the most impact on the NCAA season.
Rick Pitino Fired by Louisville Amidst Scandal
After extensive investigations into allegations of corruption, bribery, and other rules violations over the past few seasons, head coach Rick Pitino was officially let go. These latest investigations, sparked by an alleged $100,000 payment to the family of new – and unexpected – recruit Brian Bowen, have been vehemently denied by Pitino but the damage to his former team has been done. Only time will tell how much this hurts Louisville’s legacy, but for now, it’s up to interim coach David Padgett to keep his team afloat.
LaVar Ball and UCLA’s “Relationship” Continues
If you’re like many basketball fans, both NCAA and NBA, you’re a bit exhausted by outspoken sports dad LaVar Ball. Father of former UCLA point guard – and current Los Angeles Lakers guard – Lonzo Ball, he’s been in the spotlight a lot lately, especially after pulling his youngest son out of high school in favor of home schooling. Well, the middle son, LiAngelo Ball, is following in Lonzo’s footsteps and playing for UCLA in the upcoming season. Surely, we’ll hear LiAngelo’s father speak out many, many times over the course of the season, as his antics make for fantastic media coverage.
Chris Holtmann from Butler to Ohio State
After three successful years at Butler University, head coach Christ Holtmann was tapped by THE Ohio State University to take over the program after the athletic department let long-time coach Thad Matta go. Problems with recruiting, along with a couple of disappointing seasons in a row, led to Matta’s surprising firing. Holtmann will have his work cut out for him, as a weak roster will make it tough to finish above .500, let alone make it to the NCAA Tournament.
Butler, meanwhile, stayed in-house and hired former player LaVall Jordan to take over Holtmann’s position. He’ll have a solid roster to work with, giving the team a good chance to make the Tourney once again, but nothing comes easy as a small school in the Big East.
Can UNC Repeat?
After two straight NCAA title games – and the championship last season – the Tar Heels will have their work cut out for them if they want to have a third straight shot at cutting down the nets. The good news for the Heels is that eight lettermen return from the title-winning squad last season. This includes starting point guard Joel Berry II, Theo Pinson, Kenny Williams, and big man Luke Maye. Graduate-transfer Cameron Johnson will add a spark to the team after coming over from the University of Pitt, while freshman Jalek Felton should provide an important presence on the perimeter.
Coach Roy and his Heels will have a solid team this season, but do they have enough to repeat at National Champions? It certainly won’t be an easy ride, especially with a powerhouse like Duke in the same conference.
Rivalries to Watch
With 32 conferences, there’s rarely a dull night in college basketball, and there’s usually at least one rivalry game to watch. Don’t ever sleep on the big ones like the ACC’s Duke vs. North Carolina, the Big East’s Villanova vs. Butler, or the “Battle for the Bluegrass” between Louisville and Kentucky (that one should surely be interesting considering the storyline we mentioned above).
Here are a few others you should watch (or grab tickets for if you’re in the areas):
- Indiana vs. Purdue
Cincinnati vs. Xavier (Crosstown Classic)
Michigan vs. Ohio State
Kentucky vs. Florida
North Carolina vs. Kentucky
Duke vs. Maryland
When Does the NCAA Tournament Begin?
Hey, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. We have a lot of fantastic basketball to watch for the next five months. But, since you asked, the 2018 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament will commence with the First Four games on March 13 and 14, 2018. The first round of the tournament will start a couple days later, on March 15.
Who are the Favorites to Win the National Championship?
It’s always tough to pick a favorite when it comes to the National Championship, as the tournament always has some unexpected upsets and underdog stories. However, I think there are four teams that have the best chance at winning the 2018 title.
Yes, they lost a few youngsters to the NBA Draft, but a late commitment by five-star recruit Marvin Bagley makes this team just as, if not more, dangerous than a year ago. If veteran Grayson Allen can keep his temper, and his tripping issues, in check, then Coach K’s 38th Duke squad has a fantastic chance at winning the title. (Shop Duke tickets.)
Did you watch this team last year? Maybe not, if you weren’t on the west coast, since PAC-12 games are often on very late. The Wildcats are a phenomenal team and will return most their major players from a year ago. Allonzo Trier will see the floor for an entire season unlike last year and he’ll be alongside Rawle Alkins and Dusan Ristic, who were fantastic for Arizona. (Shop Arizona tickets.)
Just like Duke and Marvin Bagley, Kentucky got a late addition to its already top-tier recruiting class. Five-star recruit Kevin Knox committed to John Calipari’s squad back in May and the McDonald’s All-American should make a huge impact immediately. At 6’9” and 215, he could easily be the next Malik Monk. Along with seven other five-star recruits, Knox and UK should grab an SEC title and make a serious run at the National Championship. (Shop Kentucky tickets.)
Sure, Bill Self’s crew lost star freshman Josh Jackson and senior Frank Mason to the NBA Draft, but Kansas returns four of its top scorers, as well as adding a five-star recruit in Billy Preston. With Self’s ability to coach his young players and quickly gain their respect, this should be a dangerous Jayhawks team. (Shop Kansas tickets.)
Who Will Be This Season’s Consensus Player of the Year?
OK, this is a bit tougher to answer than our MVP award predictions for our other sports previews. Why? Because several organizations sponsor player of the year awards in college basketball. There’s the Naismith College Player of the Year, the Associated Press College Basketball Player of the Year, the John R. Wooden Award, the Oscar Robertson Trophy… you get the picture. In recent seasons, there’s been little discrepancy between these awards, with the nation’s top player winning most, if not all of them (Kansas’ Frank Mason III won all six POY awards last year).
While there are a few freshmen, such as Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr., who should make big splashes in the NCAA this season, I can’t see a first-year winning most of the player of the year awards. As far as I’m concerned, Arizona’s Allonzo Trier is set up for major success and a shot at a bunch of awards. He plays in the high-scoring PAC-12, meaning he’ll get a lot of scoring chances. He plays on a team that has a legitimate shot at a deep tournament run. And he’s a junior with experience. Despite only playing 18 games a year ago, he averaged 17.2 point per game shooting nearly 40% from behind the arc.
Honorable Mentions: Duke’s Marvin Bagley Jr., Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr., Michigan State’s Miles Bridges
There you have it, our slightly-too-long NCAA basketball season preview. Can you tell we’re excited for the upcoming year? For information on your favorite college team as well as links to tickets all year, make sure to keep an eye on your SeatGeek app!