Setting the Stage for Conference Play

CBB Conference Play

As the College Football season creeps closer and closer to its end, College Basketball is nearing the center stage. With conference play getting into the swing of things, let’s take a look at each favorite in the power conferences heading into the thick of the regular season.

ACC

Favorite: Duke

Even after the Blue Devils fell to the Hokies on Saturday, without Grayson Allen, they still remain favorites.

It remains to be seen if Coach K’s team will ever be at full strength this year. But even if they aren’t, they have too much talent not to be the favorites,. Even with a 0-1-conference record. Grayson Allen may mean much more to the team than I originally thought, but I think the X-factor now becomes Harry Giles. Duke needs him to be the elite-level player they thought they were getting heading into the season. If he never reaches that point, a lot of the load will be left on Amile Jefferson’s shoulders. And, Chase Jeter’s.

In the Hunt: North Carolina, Louisville, Virginia, Florida State, Virginia Tech.

Big East

Favorite: Villanova

The Wildcats not winning the Big East would be a pretty big upset. That’s not to say the conference is a joke. Rather, the Wildcats are just too loaded. They may not have the depth, but their seven-to-eight man rotation is the nation’s best, with POY candidate Josh Hart leading the way.

In the Hunt: Xavier, Creighton, Butler.

CBB Conference Play

Big Ten

Favorite: Wisconsin

This should be a close race throughout, but I’d like to believe the Badgers’ experience and consistency gives them the nod by March. The Bronson Koenig-Nigel Hayes-Ethan Happ trio is starting to look like the best of it’s kind in the conference. And, they’ll all start to get national recognition soon enough. However, this isn’t the deepest Badger team we’ve seen in past years. An injury to its core three could prove very costly.

In the Hunt: Purdue, Maryland, Michigan State, Indiana.

PAC 12

Favorite: UCLA

This happens to be one of the deeper years the PAC 12 has had recently. But that doesn’t really matter, because UCLA just may be too good. Yes, they did fall in a thrilling game against Oregon on the road last week, but this team just has too much. Lonzo Ball is sure to be a Top-10 pick. Meanwhile TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton are all outscoring the future lotto pick. Plus, Aaron Holiday has been the best sixth man in the nation so far. The conference is the Bruins’ to lose.

In the Hunt: Oregon, Arizona, USC.

SEC

Favorite: Kentucky

This is a similar situation to UCLA. The Wildcats are loaded. Malik Monk is slowly becoming a household name after his 47-point showing against North Carolina. And, De’Aaron Fox looks like the second coming of John Wall on the fast break. Bam Adebayo is as good as the hype, and Isaiah Briscoe provides a calming veteran presence amongst many young freshmen. The difference between the Wildcats’ situation and the Bruins’ is that the SEC doesn’t really have a solid second-place contender. As usual for Calipari’s crew, it’s title or bust.

In the Hunt: Florida, Texas A&M.

CBB Conference Play

Run it Back

Saturday, December 31st: No. 20 Florida State 60 — No. 12 Virginia, 58

Finally, it’s time to take the Noles seriously in something other than football. They would nearly land Andrew Wiggins a few years back. And, that would have been something to take very seriously—but they fell just short. Dwayne Bacon isn’t Wiggins, but he sure can play. Virginia would have no answer for Bacon, who scored 29 points with six three-pointers. Virginia would hang around, but London Perrantes and company would struggle all night and ultimately fall short. Now that Florida State has notched it’s biggest win to date, all eyes will be on them and their 14-1 record when Duke travels to Tallahassee on January 10th.

Week Ahead

Let’s look at the best games from the upcoming week…

CBB Conference Play

Tuesday

No. 14 Wisconsin at No. 16 Indiana—7 p.m. ET, ESPN

Best game of the night features the two best teams in the Big Ten so far. Should be a fun one.

Texas A&M at No. 8 Kentucky—9 p.m. ET, ESPN

Probably the second- or third-best team in the SEC, the Aggies will try and shut down the electric Wildcat backcourt.

Wednesday

No. 1 Villanova at No. 13 Butler—6:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

The defending champs take their talents to the Hinkle Fieldhouse as the scrappy Bulldogs try to hand them their first loss of the season.

No. 6 Louisville at No. 24 Notre Dame—9 p.m. ET, ACC Network

Bonzie Colson, the undersized star for the Irish, will look to see if he can out muscle the large, physical big men of Louisville.

Thursday

California at No. 2 UCLA—9 p.m. ET, ESPN

Matchup to watch in this one? Ivan Rabb versus the UCLA frontcourt. Rabb, a top-ten recruit a year ago, will look to boost his draft status with a nice performance against the loaded Bruins.

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