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65 things to watch during the 2009-10 season

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Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for FOXSports.com. Check out his Yardbarker blog. MORE>>
 
   
 
With the start of the 2009-10 campaign upon us, we'll give you 65 storylines to watch: 1. Kansas is the consensus No. 1 team in the land to begin the season, and Bill Self's team is loaded with talent. However, the Jayhawks have had their share of off-the-court issues lately. Will this result in a lack of focus and derail the Jayhawks from making a national title run?

2009-10 preview

Roy Halladay Can't wait for the college hoops season to start? We get you ready for 2009-10 with our preseason guide.
2. How will new Kentucky coach John Calipari mesh the old with the new? Patrick Patterson, Darius Miller and Perry Stevenson must figure out a way to co-exist with the new guys in Lexington — freshmen John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Darnell Dodson and Daniel Orton. 3. NBA great Isiah Thomas takes over at Florida International. He has already made a splash on the recruiting trail, but will anyone pay attention after Nov. 9, when FIU plays in Chapel Hill against the defending champs to tip off the college hoops season? 4. How far down has the Pac-10 fallen? It's clearly at the bottom among the BCS conferences this year. There's a legitimate chance Arizona — a team with senior point guard Nic Wise and a bunch of freshmen who signed late with new coach Sean Miller — can realistically vie for third place in the league. That's when you know the conference has taken a significant hit. 5. There's also a chance Arizona's streak of 25 consecutive NCAA tournaments — the longest current streak in the country — could come to a halt. 6. Calipari didn't exactly leave the cupboard full for new Memphis coach Josh Pastner. They'll still have a chance to compete for the league crown thanks to the fact that Duke transfer Elliott Williams is eligible this season, but the Tigers are awfully thin this year. 7. Can Butler pull a George Mason and get to the Final Four? With talented sophomore Gordon Hayward and bruiser Matt Howard in the post, the Bulldogs have as much of a chance as just about anyone not named Kansas, Kentucky or Texas. 8. Cincinnati freshman Lance Stephenson was cleared to play last week and certainly has the talent to be a dominating player, but several schools passed on him due to attitude concerns and amateurism questions. 9. While Stephenson has been cleared, fellow frosh Renardo Sidney remains in limbo. The Mississippi State talented big man, if given the green light by the NCAA, could be the missing piece for the Bulldogs to make a deep run in the Big Dance. 10. Who will win the National Player of the Year? It's wide open this season. Here are a handful of viable candidates: Sherron Collins (Kansas), Cole Aldrich (Kansas), John Wall (Kentucky), Willie Warren (Oklahoma), Kyle Singler (Duke). 11. John Wall comes into Kentucky with all the hype. Will he live up to it and maintain his status as the guy with the inside track to be the No. 1 pick in June's NBA Draft? 12. Can North Carolina mount a respectable defense of its title? The Tar Heels lost Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green and Bobby Frasor from last season's title team. Larry Drew II is a major step down from Lawson, and Roy Williams' club doesn't have a knock-down perimeter shooter, either. 13. Bob Huggins hasn't been to the Final Four since his early days at Cincinnati. This might be the year he returns. In just his third season at West Virginia, Huggins has a team that could get to Indianapolis. 14. Duke will have to make a significant adjustment. The Blue Devils have been small over the past few years, but now coach Mike Krzyzewski finds himself with a shortage of guards. In fact, so much so he brought recruit Andrew Dawkins in a year early. 15. Georgia Tech has a chance to go from worst to first. The Yellow Jackets finished in the cellar of the ACC a year ago, but with the return of Gani Lawal, the addition of freshmen Derrick Favors and Mfon Udofia and point guard Iman Shumpert with a year under his belt, they should make a significant leap. 16. Robbie Hummel's back. The versatile Purdue forward played with a back brace for much of last season. If he stays healthy, there's no reason the Boilermakers can't make a legitimate Final Four run. 17. How far will Pittsburgh tumble? The Panthers lost four starters and their fifth, Jermaine Dixon, is coming off two foot surgeries. Jamie Dixon's best coaching job would be to keep the Pittsburgh's streak of NCAA tournament appearances alive. 18. No one will fully admit to it, but there were issues with Georgetown's chemistry last season. Jessie Sapp and DaJuan Summers are history — and JT3's team should be back dancing this March.
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19. Bobby Gonzalez has his most talented team since taking over at Seton Hall, but the key will be whether guys like Herb Pope and Keon Lawrence, who both sat out last season after transferring into the program, buy into the team concept and stay out of trouble. 20. Following in the footsteps of Jonny Flynn isn't an enviable situation. That'll fall to either Scoop Jardine or freshman Brandon Triche. Neither is as good as Flynn, but can they be good enough to get the Orange back to the NCAA tourney? 21. Vanderbilt is flying under the radar, but Kevin Stallings' team has all the pieces: a talented low-post scorer in A.J. Ogilvy, a veteran point guard in Jermaine Beal, an athletic wing in Jeffery Taylor and a big-time shooter in John Jenkins. 22. Villanova's leadership. The loss of Dante Cunningham is vastly underrated and not just for his ability to score in the paint. He, along with Dwayne Anderson and Shane Clark, were terrific leaders, and that's my biggest concern with Jay Wright's Wildcats this season. 23. Last season, Alabama's Mark Gottfried and Georgia's Dennis Felton didn't make it through the schedule. Will there be any coaches let go in the middle of the year? 24. This season, the Atlantic 10 will be as wide open as it has been in a while. Dayton and Xavier are expected to battle for the top spot, but don't count Richmond and La Salle out. 25. Who will be the face of college basketball? It has been an easy question to answer the past few years with guys like Tyler Hansbrough, Stephen Curry and Blake Griffin. It's not so clear-cut this season. 26. After Rick Pitino's turbulent offseason, it'll be interesting to see what happens with his Louisville team this season. It's also worth watching whether the court case involving the woman with whom he had an affair will be postponed until after the season. 27. Who is the nation's elite point guard? Right now, there are three guys that come to mind: Sherron Collins (Kansas), Kalin Lucas (Michigan State) and John Wall (Kentucky). 28. The Evan Turner Experiment in Columbus. Ohio State coach Thad Matta, in an effort to get his five top players on the court, has moved the 6-foot-8 Turner to point guard. If Turner can run the team effectively, the Buckeyes have a chance to go deep in the postseason. 29. If Bruce Weber's freshman guards, D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul mature quickly, there's no reason why the Illini can't be in the mix for the Big Ten title. 30. Minnesota coach Tubby Smith has suspended his most talented freshman, Royce White, and he's also waiting on the status of talented junior college big man Trevor Mbakwe, who has a December court case for allegedly hitting a woman. 31. Will Indiana be relevant again? My guess is the Hoosiers are still a year or two away from making serious noise in the Big Ten, but Tom Crean has added a quality freshman class and should be able to close to gap somewhat this season. 32. Who will handle the point for Texas? A year ago, the Longhorns didn't have many options to run the team. They tried Justin Mason and settled on Dogus Balbay. Now, Rick Barnes has added freshman J'Covan Brown and Florida transfer Jai Lucas, who becomes eligible after the first semester. 33. Free Willie! Now that Blake Griffin is gone, it's Willie Warren's show at Oklahoma. Warren is extremely talented, but he needs to mature and do more than just score for the Sooners. 34. Now that John Calipari left Memphis and didn't leave the Tigers with much, Conference USA is wide open for a change. Tulsa is the favorite, but teams like UTEP and Houston, who were basically playing for second the past few years, have a chance to win the league. 35. What a Caracter: Former highly touted high school star Derrick Caracter, who flopped at Louisville, will be eligible in mid-December for UTEP. Can he take advantage of this opportunity? 36. Is the Missouri Valley strong enough to be more than a one-bid league? I think so. Northern Iowa is the preseason favorite, but Creighton has a chance, Illinois State brings back its best player and Southern Illinois will be much better than a year ago. 37. BYU coach Dave Rose battled cancer in the offseason but has been given the go-ahead to coach the Cougars, who have two of the league's top players and a good chance to win the Mountain West. 38. If you get a chance, watch Washington guard Venoy Overton defend. He makes it awfully difficult for teams to get into their offense. 39. I'm more interested to see what happens to USC off the court and see if they get hit with any NCAA sanctions. On the court, new coach Kevin O'Neill has some talent in his starting unit but virtually no depth. 40. Former Arizona assistant Mike Dunlap has gone to Eugene, where he'll help Oregon coach Ernie Kent. Dunlap is a terrific X's and O's guy, and this may be as significant a coaching addition as there is in the nation. 41. Ben Howland and the Bruins are somewhat of an enigma after losing so much (Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday, Josh Shipp and Alfred Aboya). UCLA needs its new backcourt of Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson, who sat and watched last season, to adjust quickly. 42. Can the Florida Gators get back to the Big Dance after a two-year hiatus? Nick Calathes left early to play in Greece, but the Gators brought in talented freshman Kenny Boynton. He'll be a difference-maker.
43. A year ago, injuries ravaged Andy Kennedy's Ole Miss team. Chris Warren and Eniel Polynice are back healthy, and Terrico White got a chance to show what he could do with those two out. With all three in the fold, the Rebels have a chance to be a top 25 team again. 44. I can't wait to see Mississippi State's Jarvis Varnado and John Riek on the court together. Varnado is the nation's top returning shot-blocker, and Riek is a 7-foot-2 freshman who, when healthy, is a monster on the defensive end. 45. X-factor? Xavier Henry, Kansas' highly touted freshman, is extremely talented, but will he become the consistent third scorer the Jayhawks need in order to cut down the nets in April? 46. Bo Ryan has led Wisconsin to the NCAA tournament every year since he took over. The Badgers don't have a ton of depth, and the streak could come to a halt this season. 47. The Big East was stacked a year ago, but the league is mortal this season. With teams like Pittsburgh, Marquette and Providence turning over, it'll give programs such as Seton Hall, St. John's and Cincinnati a chance to crack the top half of the league. 48. Everyone knows about Gonzaga, Butler and Xavier. Who are the other teams outside of the BCS leagues to watch? Siena can get an at-large, and, once again, keep an eye on Western Kentucky. 49. Which league will get the most bids come Selection Sunday? It's not an easy question to answer. My gut says the SEC, which could get as many as seven. 50. The SEC East will be the toughest division in college basketball. You've got Kentucky, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, South Carolina and Florida — all five could be top 25 clubs at some point in the season. I feel bad for new Georgia coach Mark Fox, who will almost certainly be the cellar-dweller in the SEC East this season. 51. You have to watch Bruce Pearl and the Vols because you just never know what out-of-the-box idea the Tennessee coach will come up with next. 52. Chris Wright, squared. Two guys with the same name are vital to their respective teams' success. Dayton's Wright is a high-flying forward and arguably the best player in the A-10, while Georgetown's version must do a better job of running the Hoyas this season. 53. If Indiana transfer Jordan Crawford and redshirt freshman Mark Lyons gel quickly in Xavier's backcourt, the Musketeers won't miss a beat. 54. Trust me when I say Delvon Roe was more than just an athletic rebounder before he suffered a major knee injury his senior season of high school. Roe is still working his way back — both physically and mentally. If he gets back to his old form, Michigan State could return to the national title game. 55. Maryland coach Gary Williams has Greivis Vasquez and just about everyone else back. Now, he has added a pair of freshman big men in Jordan Williams and James Padgett. Will the Terps return to the NCAA tournament? 56. Get to know Darius Morris. You probably don't know the name, but those in Ann Arbor are crossing their fingers and hoping the Michigan freshman can step in and become a solid point guard from Day One. 57. Ater Majok could hold the key to how far UConn goes this season. The Huskies have guards with Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson appears ready to put it all together, but Majok and freshman Alex Oriakhi will need to solidify the inside spots for Jim Calhoun's team. 58. Kentucky's backcourt duo of John Wall and Eric Bledsoe can get to the basket, but my guess is they'll see plenty of zone defenses this season. That means the Wildcats will need to be able to shoot the ball, and Darnell Dodson is the team's most accurate deep threat. 59. North Carolina sophomore Ed Davis has to become a dominant player after being a role guy last season. If that doesn't happen, it may be a long year in Chapel Hill. 60. Pitino vs. Calipari. On Jan. 2, these two former friends (now foes) will go at it in what will once again become one of the fiercest rivalries in all of sports. 61. Emotional New York point guard Edgar Sosa has had an enigmatic college career, but Pitino has heaped praise on the senior floor leader. If he can show consistency, the Cardinals could be a tough out. 62. Wesley Johnson went for 34 in Syracuse's exhibition loss to Le Moyne, but can he acclimate himself into Jim Boeheim's zone as quickly as he can put the ball in the basket? The Orange will be able to score points, but defense may be the issue. 63. Gonzaga has gone to the Big Dance for 12 consecutive seasons, and the streak will likely extend to 13. However, there are plenty of new faces in Spokane after Mark Few lost Jeremy Pargo, Austin Daye and Josh Heytvelt from last season's team. 64. Notre Dame's Luke Harangody returned to school. Now, the question is whether he can carry the Irish to the Big Dance in his final season. 65. Wake Forest was No. 1 in the nation in the middle of last season before the free-fall that culminated with a first-round NCAA tournament loss to Cleveland State. Jeff Teague and James Johnson left early to the NBA, but Al-Farouq Aminu is back. If these guys play together, it may make up for a team that isn't quite as talented as a year ago.
Tagged: Michigan State, Kansas, Michigan, Purdue, Florida International, Siena, Western Kentucky, Mississippi Valley, Wake Forest, Cleveland State, Clemson, Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Butler, Southern Illinois, Duke, Northern Iowa, Gonzaga, Creighton, Maryland, Illinois State, UTEP, South Carolina, Tulsa, UC-Davis, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, La Salle, Xavier, Kentucky, Georgia, Dayton, Mississippi State, Florida, Marquette, Mississippi, Memphis, Houston, Notre Dame, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Providence, West Virginia, Syracuse, Louisville, Richmond, Villanova, Oregon, Arizona, Connecticut, UCLA, Washington, Georgetown, George Mason, Seton Hall, Davidson, Oklahoma, Brown, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Texas, Iowa, Howard, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota

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