A football nut’s 5-minute guide to catching up on college hoops
FOX Sports South offers a college basketball primer for the perpetually restless, high-intensity sports enthusiast who’s undergoing a mild bout of TV depression … now that only three games remain on the NFL calendar (one after Championship Sunday).
Unless you also count the Pro Bowl — and we’re not.
As such, here’s a five-minute guide for assimilating back into the college hoops universe — especially for those who think Marcus Smart (Boston Celtics), Andrew Wiggins (Minnesota Timberwolves), Jabari Parker (Milwaukee Bucks) and Julius Randle (Los Angeles Lakers) are still playing for Oklahoma State, Kansas, Duke and Kentucky, respectively.
Our goals here are twofold:
1. The guide will pique your interest for the homestretch of the college season, leading up to the crescendo of March Madness.
2. The guide will help you survive any barstool debates, or arguments, that might arise with friends or strangers while consuming hoops on TV.
The following 50 schools are the strongest bets — as of Jan. 16 — to lock up at-large bids for the NCAA tournament, should they fall short of securing automatic berths during the conference tourneys:
No. 1 Kentucky (15-0, 3-0 in SEC) and No. 2 Virginia (15-0, 4-0 in ACC) are vying to join Indiana (1975 and ’76), UNLV (1991) and Wichita State (2014) as the notable schools to enter the NCAA tournament with an unblemished record.
Here’s how the Wildcats and Cavaliers compare to the ’91 Rebels (starring Larry Johnson, Stacey Augmon, Greg Anthony, Anderson Hunt) and ’14 Shockers — prior to the NCAA tourney.
**BYU, the nation’s highest-scoring team (86.7 points per game), are 0-2 when tallying 70 points or less (losses to Utah and Pepperdine). The Cougars, who currently run third in the West Coast Conference — behind No. 3 Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s — are 13-3 when rolling for 75-plus points.
**Coincidence or not? Kentucky and Gonzaga have the nation’s deepest frontcourts … and both the Wildcats and Bulldogs have already notched 10 victories of 15 points or more.
**Grand Canyon University, the only for-profit school at the Division I level, won’t be eligible for postseason tournaments for another three seasons. But that hasn’t been a deterrent for the current Antelopes squad (coached by Dan Majerle), which remains one of two unbeatens in WAC play.
**Neither Minnesota (0-5) nor Penn State (0-4) have won in Big Ten play this season … but there’s tangible reasons for optimism here:
a) Of the Gophers and Nittany Lions’ nine league losses, six had a spread of five points or less.
b) Nebraska suffered through an 0-4 start in Big Ten action last season, before rallying for an 11-7 conference record and invite to the NCAA tournament.
Through 16 games, Williams (17.1 points, 11.8 rebounds per game) has already notched 10 double-doubles, while shooting 50 percent or higher seven times.
We referenced Seattle and Jacksonville earlier, two of the opening-weekend venues for the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Here’s the full state of sites, covering all seven rounds: