College basketball is back

Fans excited for the return of the sport following COVID hiatus


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Senior Iowa Hawkeyes center Luka Garza flexes after an and-one bucket in a game against Penn State. The preseason National Player of the Year has led the Hawks to a fifth overall ranking in the preseason AP Poll. “I don’t think there’s any way he can work harder,” said Head Coach Fran McCaffery. “He’s the hardest working player I’ve ever met.”

Carson Fox, Staff Reporter

With every new winter comes a new college basketball season. Many fans were left unsatisfied when the 2019-20 season was cancelled right before March Madness due to COVID-19. After eight months of preparation and planning, the 2020-21 NCAA basketball season is finally on the horizon. 

The pre-season AP Top 25 poll was just released, marking the teams to watch as the season goes on. The Big Ten stole the show in the poll, clocking in half of their conference (seven teams) inside the Top 25, more than any other conference. The list was led by the Gonzaga Bulldogs, who finished last season at #2 behind the Kansas Jayhawks.

The Jayhawks, ranked sixth, have an opening day game set between them and Gonzaga to kick off the season. Zaga is led by seniors Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi, one of the most experienced duos in the country. With incoming five star guard Jalen Suggs on the way, the scoring punch for their squad is deadly. The Bulldogs have another tough matchup ahead in mid December, facing off against the fifth ranked Iowa Hawkeyes.

The Hawkeyes stand atop the stacked Big Ten to start the year. Last year, Iowa battled through an extensive amount of injuries to still finish 20-11 and 25th in the country, an optimistic ranking at the time for the Hawkeyes. Fast forward eight months and they return their entire starting lineup including preseason National Player of the Year, senior center Luka Garza. Among the starters are Jon Rothstein’s best “glue guy” in the country, redshirt junior Connor McCaffery. Providing the scoring is one of the best three point trios in the country, sophomore guard CJ Frederick, fifth year senior guard Jordan Bohannon, who didn’t play in most of the 19-20 season due to a hip injury, and one of the best guards in the country Joe Wieskamp.

The race to the highest ranking in the Big Ten was tight, with the Wisconsin Badgers and Illinois Fighting Illini coming right behind the Hawkeyes at seventh and eighth. Illinois, led by junior guard Ayo Dosunmu and sophomore center Kofi Cockburn had some incredible games with the Hawkeyes, including a 72-65 Hawkeye win in Iowa City in February and a 78-76 Illinois win that came just five days before the COVID lockdowns had struck the world. Wisconsin was picked by many to lead the Big Ten over Iowa, as the Badgers return all five starters from a team that won the Big Ten regular season title last year.

The ACC doesn’t seem as tough as it usually does with only four teams in the Top 25 and the fourth ranked defending national champion Virginia Cavaliers. The North Carolina Tar Heels are back at 16th, following the loss of their NBA lottery prospect Cole Anthony but after gaining the top recruiting class in the country. Their rivalry with Duke will be heated this year, as they are both major players in the conference once again. 

The Creighton Bluejays are in front of the Big East to start the year, with their highest preseason ranking in program history at 11th. The Jays are the only team not from a power five conference inside the Top 25. They finished seventh last season after winning the Big East regular season and being set up for a two or three seed before the cancellation.

The Pac 12 has some competition this season as well. The Oregon Ducks, UCLA Bruins and Arizona State Sun Devils all landed spots in the poll, with the old rivalry between UCLA and Oregon likely to be renewed after a rough season for the conference as a whole last year, aside from powerhouse Oregon. The Pac 12 will have underdogs like the USC Trojans and Stanford Cardinal ready to make a run, too, with the young rosters filled with talent expected to make a possible Cinderella run late in the season.

The Big 12 is in its top two spot as usual. With the Baylor Bears, who finished fifth last season, clocking in at second in the country. Kansas is behind at sixth, and their matchup with Gonzaga could likely land them in the top three with a win. The Texas Tech Red Raiders and West Virginia Mountaineers round out the conference with the 14th and 15th placings in the poll.

After eight long months of waiting and losing an entire March Madness tournament, the entire college basketball fanbase has been awaiting this time period all season. NCAA basketball is back, and many are excited to see what team will get their one shining moment.