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Your Must-Read Guide on the Current College Basketball Season

Your Must-Read Guide on the Current College Basketball Season

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On March 13, 2020, the NCAA canceled its March Madness Tournament due to Covid-19 concerns. At that moment, you could hear every bookie from Vegas to Ashtabula scream. The second biggest gambling event of the year was no more.

College basketball junkies now faced a late winter of slush, snow, and nothing to watch on television. In its place, networks ran classic NCAA Basketball games. For some, it meant re-living the heights of your favorite schools. For others, heartbreak.

Though these classic games were novel for a week, maybe two, they couldn’t compare to the thrill of live games.

After a long wait, NCAA Basketball is back! Check out this guide to learn what to watch for in this unique season.

Covid-19 Concerns

Back in March, there was too little known about the Covid-19 virus to continue play. Now that doctors and scientists know more about its symptoms, how it spreads, and how to better contain an outbreak, play resumes.

Like all other sports, professional or collegiate, there are strict guidelines in place. The NCAA recommends student athletes and essential personnel be placed in a Tier 1 bubble.

The athletes and essential personnel like coaches in this bubble will be tested three times a week on non-consecutive days. This allows for easier contact tracing and control of outbreaks.

For road games, this bubble will travel on chartered jets or cars. Meals will be pre-packaged or room service, while no more than 30 people from each university will be on the road.

If you’ve spent your quarantine watching sports, you know college league basketball will look different. There will be no Oakland Zoo at University of Pittsburgh home games. The Duke Cameron Crazies will be far less crazy.

In many places, there may not be a crowd at all. Like the NHL and MLB, games in states that enforce strict crowd restrictions will play in an empty arena.

The marching bands and crazy fans add so much atmosphere to a game. Without them, games will feel different. A lot of schools will lose their home-court advantage, and that will change how you bet.

Click here to read more about how to navigate this new sports betting environment.

Big 10

Though last season’s shortened season didn’t allow this conference to flex its muscles in post-season play, the Big 10 proved to be the deepest of all the Power 5 conferences. Multiple schools had a legitimate Final Four shot.

With perennial college hoops powerhouses like Michigan State and Indiana, some of the most competitive and compelling college basketball will be played in this conference.

Universities like Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin look to challenge the throne of Tom Izzo’s Spartan squad. Young, up and coming programs like Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio State could pull off major upsets in conference play.

One team to keep an eye on is Rutgers. They boast a team chock full of returning upperclassmen. This experience and skill will give the top-flight teams in this conference a challenge night after night.

ACC

If you’re talking about college basketball, no three letters spell it better. This is the conference of classic basketball teams like the Duke Blue Devils, North Carolina Tar Heels, and the North Carolina State Gamecocks.

Conference expansion brought in power schools like Syracuse, Louisville, and Pitt. Make no mistake, history shows that the ACC houses some of the most elite talent on the best teams.

Though a deep conference, most years Duke and North Carolina reign dominant. This season presents an ACC that’s more balanced and less top-heavy as both these schools look headed for a down period.

Don’t be fooled, though. On any night, Duke and North Carolina can turn it on, but will their diminished talent be enough to topple teams like Virginia and Florida State? Most likely no.

The top of the conference this season revolves around 2019 champion Virginia and the Florida State Seminoles squads. They boast enough returning talent to shake the rest of the conference to its core.

Middle of the pack teams like Duke, North Carolina, and Syracuse all have hall of fame coaches that can scheme with the best of them.

On the bottom tier, one team to watch is the Pitt Panthers. In Jeff Capel’s third year as head coach, this former top Duke assistant might be ready to take the next step.

Though they don’t have the talent to compete with the big dogs night after night, a talented player like Justin Champagnie with a hot hand could carry them to a few shocking upsets.

Big 12

This conference is deep with Final Four contenders. Like last year, Baylor remains at the top of the heap. Teams like Kansas, West Virginia, Texas, and Texas Tech all stand ready to knock them off.

With an overabundance of talented basketball teams, this will be the conference for diehard college basketball fans and handicappers alike to watch.

Baylor remains the cream of the Big 12 crop with stars like Jared Butler and Davion Mitchell. Right behind them are West Virginia and Kansas squads loaded with firepower and defensive muscle.

The middle of the pack teams like Texas, Oklahoma, and Oklahoma State have enough talent to put up a fight and pull off a shock or two in the conference tournament. They are all teams that could make a March Madness run.

The bottom of the conference boasts teams with talented head coaches like Jamie Dixon at TCU. No stranger to elite basketball from his days at Pitt, Dixon is a proven winner who’s defensive strategy can give any of the top teams fits.

Big East

If you’re a longtime college basketball fan, you remember the glory days of the Big East Conference. The years before conference realignment saw weekly wars between powerhouse teams like Syracuse, UConn, Pitt, and Georgetown.

With its recruiting base set in the heart of New York City’s toughest neighborhoods, the Big East brand of college basketball was more fist-fight than fast-break. If you were to get a rebound, you earned it through attrition.

Many experts feared the end of this once great conference when Pitt, Syracuse, Louisville, Rutgers, and West Virginia departed. Over the years, the reborn Big East held its own and is set for a rebirth of elite college basketball.

With five of the last six Big East crowns in their trophy case along with two recent NCAA Tournament wins, Villanova remains the beast of the east.

With coach Jay Wright at the helm, this school continues to be a recruiting factory of elite talent. Look for Nova to flex its muscles once again.

Seton Hall is a close second-best Big East team, led by guard Myles Powell. Powell is the most dynamic player in the conference. He is proof that in the college game, all it takes is one player to turn a program around.

Programs like Xavier, Marquette, and Georgetown form the middle of the Big East pack. While talented in their own right, no expert believes they present a true challenge to Big East supremacy.

Pac 12

Once known as the “Conference of Champions,” the Pac 12 dominance over the sport suffered in recent years. After coach Ben Howland left UCLA, the once premier program stagnated.

Without the luster of the Bruins, the Pac 12 took a huge hit to their credibility as a power conference. That’s about to change. Second-year head coach Mike Cronin is set to bring about a return to glory for this once fabled program.

Armed with a bevy of returning scoring talent, Cronin added some much-needed talent through the transfer portal. Expect UCLA to reign supreme in the Pac 12, as well as a contender for a deep March Madness run.

Behind UCLA, Oregon and Arizona State look to make a push toward post-season relevance. Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley’s roster has the young talent to shock the upper-echelon, but they are a season or two away from maturity.

On the bottom end, the Pac 12 doesn’t boast a ton of talented teams. Oregon State AD Scott Barnes continues to let the program languish in mediocrity after almost killing the Pitt Basketball program with the miserable Kevin Stallings hire.

Other bottom-feeder programs like Washington State and Cal show little signs of improvement. If you’re a hoops fan on the east coast, the only advantage of Pac 12 basketball is that it’s on late at night.

2020-21 College Basketball

Thanks to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, this college basketball season is unlike any other. College hoops without the bands and the rowdy fans won’t be the same. That doesn’t mean it won’t be fun. There will be plenty of great matchups.

If you’re a handicapper, you may have to adjust your situational strategy thanks to a loss of traditional home-court advantage. Still, expect teams like Virginia, UCLA, Wisconsin, and Villanova to put on one heck of a show.

For more college basketball and fantasy league insights, check out the rest of our site.

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