By Steve Silverman
The Blue Devils will start off as the No. 1 team in the nation, and is there any doubt that Mike Krzyzewski knows how to handle high expectations? There may be a lull or two around mid-season, but Duke will get off to an excellent start and get up to a peak level at tournament time.
Grayson Allen, Marvin Bagley III and Marques Bolden will lead the way, while Trevon Duval, Gary Trent Jr. and Wendell Carter will quickly take on key roles.
It’s difficult not to love Arizona with key players Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins, Dusan Ritic and Parker Jackson-Cartwright all returning.
You may be saying that the loss of Lauri Markkanen (Chicago Bulls) is going to hurt, but Sean Miller’s team is loaded.
Bridges lead candidate for player of the year
If Miles Bridges had listened to his coach, he would not be wearing the Green and White of the Michigan State Spartans this year.
Instead, Bridges decided to forego Tom Izzo’s advice of moving on to the NBA, and he returned to East Lansing to lead the Spartans in 2017-18.
The Spartans have a legitimate chance to be a Final Four team this year, and Bridges has a chance to win player of the year.
Bridges averaged 16.9 points per game a year ago, along with 8.3 boards and 2.1 assists while shooting 38.9 percent from beyond the arc.
He is the total package, as he is complete an offensive player as fans will see this season, and you know he can play defense because he is doing his business for the fundamentally insistent Izzo.
Here’s our top five player of the year candidates heading into the 2017-18 season.
1. Miles Bridges, Michigan State
2. Jalen Brunson, Villanova
3. Allonzo Trier, Arizona
4. Marvin Bagley III, Duke
5. Bonzie Colson, Notre Dame
On the rise
Keep your eye on the Seton Hall Pirates if you want a team that is going to rise up and join the elite as the season progresses.
The Pirates are 23rd in the AP poll, and they haven’t won an NCAA tournament game since 2004. However, Coach Kevin Willard has a team full of ballers, including rebound king Angel Delgado. He has a chance to punish opponents with his work on the boards and Desi Rodriguez and Khadeen Carrington are two offensive stars. The Pirates have the ability to move the ball around, and they will do better than the experts believe they will.
Here’s a look at five programs who could exceed expectations this year.
2. St. Mary’s
3. Texas A&M
Knight refuses to fade away
Bob Knight has been out of the basketball limelight since the end of the 2014-15 season when he parted company with ESPN.
He hasn’t been in the coaching dodge since 2007-08, the last of his seven seasons with the Texas Tech Red Raiders. He was a Hall of Fame coach during his tenure at Indiana from 1971 through 2000.
Knight never tried to hide his disagreeable personality and refused to apologize when his antics got him into trouble during his run at Indiana. He was often criticized for his blunt approach that regularly spilled over into being brutally crude.
Knight was recently on the TV show “Undeniable with Joe Buck,” and it was not just a benign look back at the way it was.
Instead, he made pointed criticisms of John Wooden, for the way the legendary coach allowed Sam Gilbert to recruit players to UCLA.
Gilbert was the man who was able to get big-name high school stars to UCLA. While other schools like North Carolina, Kentucky and Kansas struggled to stay close to the Bruins, UCLA had a never-ending supply of stars during the 1960s and early ‘70’s.
While Wooden stayed above the fray, Gilbert made sure the top players got what they needed.
Knight is not the first to criticize the legendary coach, and he may have a point. Still, it’s somewhat bothersome that the issues are being raised by a man who often made it a point to demean his players and others who questioned his ways.
Knight has not mellowed in his retirement, and it’s doubtful that ever will.