During any sports season, I like to look back and reflect on stories and thoughts that may or may not have come to fruition. I especially like it when those ideas seemed like such sure-fire locks -- things like, in college basketball, "of course Kentucky is back after a down year."
So, I present my current "for sure" list — things that appeared to be without question back on Nov. 1 and Jan. 1, compared to where things sit as the college basketball calendar dives into the last full month of regular season play.
1. Andrew Wiggins is the toast of college basketball. While some other teams have added serious freshman star power, the Division I basketball world is Wiggins' oyster. He's going to dominate from the first day out, and KU is going to be hard to stop even if the rest of the Jayhawks' young supporting cast -- including Wayne Selden and some 7-footer named Em-bay-ed or Em-bed or something -- struggle to learn Bill Self's system.
2. The Kentucky Wildcats (and North Carolina Tar Heels, kinda) are back! Boasting their own unstoppable freshmen forces, John Calipari's Wildcats are going to avenge a 21-12 season from a year ago and regain their dominant form. In Chapel Hill, Roy's boys also will shake off a mediocre 25-11 campaign and also show that last year's overall lack of toughness was a fluke.
3. Julius Randle, Jabari Parker, and Wiggins are going to spend all season fighting over who gets to be the next LeBron James. This trio is going to dominate every minute of every game they play in. Nobody in college, or half of the NBA, is good enough to hang with them, and it is a debate over whether it's more important for these types of guys to coast through a season without injury rather than try to lead their team to a NCAA Championship.
We also thought we knew:
5. San Diego St. isn't getting a single vote in the AP poll, and it shouldn't.
Then, a couple of months later ...
1. The Big 12 title is going to run through ... Ames ... or Waco ... or Stillwater. Definitely not Lawrence (again). I mean, have you seen what the Cyclones, Bears and Cowboys are doing? Points flow like water. Scott Drew is
somehow suddenly coaching toughness, and Marcus Smart is lighting up threes more than his flops do message boards. The Kansas St. Wildcats have appeared to figure things out after a rough start also. Meanwhile, KU looks downright awful at times and will until Bill Self wises up and stops playing Naadir Tharpe.
2. The Missouri Tigers are sooo underrated. At 11-1, with the lone loss a 65-64 decision to Illinois, Frank Haith's Tigers are Top 25 material, with a darn good win over the UCLA Bruins. People who left Jabari Brown off of preseason awards lists are looking like the fool.
3. Watch out, Arizona. Colorado is here to stay. The Colorado Buffaloes are 11-2, with a win over No. 6 Kansas, and Spencer Dinwiddie looks unstoppable. Throw in a little (or a lot) of that Tad Boyle doggedness, and the Buffs look like they're the real deal.
We also thought we knew:
4. Forget a bracket, someone from the B1G 10 should be awarded the NCAA Championship right now. At Nos. 3, 4, and 5 in the AP Poll, Ohio St., Wisconsin and Michigan St. are a combined 37-1 and are going to smash everybody come March.
5. Michigan is done without Mitch McGary. The Wolverines were 4-4 with McGary in the lineup before he went down for good. How in the world are they going to be able to compete at the highest level without Mr. March?
And now, just 30 days later ...
1. Joel Embiid is the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. We know his name now, don't we? While Wiggins has been perfectly reasonable in his NBA warm-up season, Embiid has at times made people forget Wiggins is on the floor. At the beginning of the season, Gary Parrish, of CBSsports.com, said Embiid had the tools to possibly be the top pick in the draft ... in 2015. Embiid's current production level ain't got no time for that.
2. Kansas is going to win the Big 12 regular season title. Again. Make it 10 in a row for KU, an absurd, won't-ever-be-done-again streak once it's broken. The Jayhawks looked lost and staggered in December, only to rip off seven straight wins to start conference play. Other schools like to remind people that they, too, shared a piece of the title with Kansas at different times along that 10-year stretch. Other schools mark that as a major accomplishment, and they should, but you'll have to excuse KU if it can't remember off the top of its head which year your school managed to get to the top once or maybe twice during the decade's last run.
3. The ACC is top heavy & needed the Big East's help to do it. Could you imagine what the ACC conversation would look like right now if Pittsburgh and Syracuse weren't in the conference? Virginia has a reasonable 16-5 record, but the jury's still out considering those losses include sometimes dreadful defeats to VCU, Wisconsin, Green Bay and Tennessee.
We also think we know:
4. The SEC is at an all-time low. If Florida wasn't holding up its end of the bargain at 18-2, you're looking at a conference that would have to trot out Kentucky, Ole Miss and Missouri as its heaviest hitters. That lineup strikes fear into nobody serious from the power conferences.
5. The Wichita St. Shockers and San Diego St. Aztecs are going to lead a mid-major charge through March. Well, we think so anyways. Their records will be pimp cane flashy in a month, but we'll have to see what the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee does with their seeds ... and subsequent draws.
To end, I'll leave you with this, and let you decide if it helps at all to shape the college basketball season's narrative (I don't think so): Despite a season that seems to have had so many twists and turns, only three schools have been ranked No. 1 in the AP Poll: Kentucky, Michigan St. and Arizona.
Five others have received votes for the top spot: Syracuse, Duke, Kansas, Louisville and a had-to-be-drunk, Week 4 single vote for Oklahoma St. (which still had Michael Cobbins then, but still ... really?)