3 Big Trends of College Basketball

NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Virginia
USA Today Sports

The Road to March Madness is taking its December detour. As top NCAA men’s basketball teams face tough nonconference foes this Saturday, Dec. 19 with league play just around the bend, ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla points out three big trends.

The season of the senior continues… “I describe this current class of college seniors as ‘They’ve been good enough to lead, but they haven’t been good enough to leave [for the NBA],’” Fraschilla says. “There are more veteran players spread around the power conferences. This year—unlike any year recently—the depth of upperclassmen will negate the very talented freshmen who have arrived.” He singles out point guard Yogi Ferrell, whose Indiana Hoosiers take on Notre Dame; guard Malcolm Brogdon, whose Virginia Cavaliers host Villanova (Saturday, noon/ET, ESPN2); and guard Marcus Paige of North Carolina, is back on the court against UCLA after missing the early season with an injury (1 pm/ET, CBS).

…but there’s a new crop of one-and-dones. Kentucky (which meets Ohio State, 3:30 pm/ET, CBS) and Duke (which takes on Utah, noon/ET, ESPN) “are lapping the field at the moment from a recruiting standpoint,” Fraschilla says. But they have a short window to make use of their talent. The Wildcats have two freshmen “likely to have their names called early in next June’s NBA draft” in forward Skal Labissière and guard Jamal Murray, while the Blue Devils brought in guard Luke Kennard and forward Brandon Ingram, also expected to join the pros next year.

Parity should prevail. “There is no dominating team at this point, like Kentucky a year ago,” Fraschilla says. “There are six or seven teams we’d consider elite, with another 25 that have a chance to get to the Final Four.” Sounds like the second half of the season will be quite a (road) trip.