November 4, 2019
One of the things that excites me about each new college basketball season is the arguments about the creme de la creme. Who is the best of the best?
There are always debates, like who is the preseason Player of the Year, the premiere diaper dandy, or the best conference in America?
I love these discussions and have strong opinions. It is never easy to do this and I’m sure fans of several conference will disagree with my choices.
Do you rank a conference based on the top teams? Do you go from top to bottom to determine strength? Do you evaluate the conference’s star power? It is a combination of factors which leads to great conversations, baby! Remember, this is a preseason evaluation. As the year goes on, we will get a true indication of how teams progress. There will be shocks, players coming from nowhere who become PTP’ers, prime time players.
In reality, the true evaluation of conferences come in the postseason. You take all the facts together and analyze the strengths and weaknesses.
Let’s have some fun as I give you my thoughts on the top 10 conference in America, with a breakdown of each one.
Vitale’s PTP’er: Jordan Nwora, Louisville
Vitale’s Diaper Dandy: Cole Anthony, North Carolina
Vitale’s Game to Circle: Duke at North Carolina, Feb. 8
What I’m watching: This conference has four of the top 11 teams in the ACC preseason poll. Duke and North Carolina always get the spotlight, but keep an eye on a talented Louisville team. Chris Mack has done a great job rebuilding and this team is loaded and deep. You know a league is strong and deep when Syracuse is picked eighth in the league preseason poll.
Vitale’s PTP’er: Kerry Blackshear, Florida
Vitale’s Diaper Dandy: Anthony Edwards, Georgia
Vitale’s Game to Circle: Kentucky at Florida, Mar. 7
What I’m watching: With the addition of transfer Kerry Blackshear, Florida will challenge Kentucky in the SEC race. The ‘Cats have reloaded with Khalil Whitney and Tyrese Maxey. How will Tennessee fare without Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield? Auburn should be tough again with good size up front. Georgia will be improved under Tom Crean as diaper dandy Anthony Edwards shine. Mississippi has a pair of veteran stars and could compete as well.
- Big Ten
Vitale’s PTP’er: Cassius Winston, Michigan State
Vitale’s Diaper Dandy: Rocket Watts, Michigan State
Vitale’s Game to Circle: Michigan State at Maryland, Feb. 29
What I’m watching: While the Spartans are preseason #1, Maryland will be on Michigan State’s heels. Anthony Cowan will have a solid season. This league is deep with eight contenders for NCAA bids. Illinois will be much improved. Purdue will be solid despite losing Carsen Edwards. Wisconsin will be fine despite losing Ethan Happ. Penn State could break through with a lot of experience returning.
- Big 12
Vitale’s PTP’er: Uduoka Azubuike, Kansas
Vitale’s Diaper Dandy: Jahmius Ramsey, Texas Tech
Vitale’s Game to Circle: Kansas at Baylor, Feb. 22
What I’m watching: Texas Tech lost a lot of talent from last year’s Final Four team. Can they rebuild and contend again? Kansas fell from the top spot in the league standings and is hungry to return to the top. Azuibuike’s return, along with Devon Dotson makes them the favorites. Baylor will be tough with Tristan Clark returning from an injury-plagues season.
- Big East
Vitale’s PTP’er: Myles Powell, Seton Hall
Vitale’s Diaper Dandy: Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova
Vitale’s Game to Circle: Villanova at Seton Hall, Mar. 4
What I’m watching: After earning just four NCAA bids last year, this league will be a lot stronger. While many have Seton Hall and Villanova battling for league supremacy, keep an eye on a dangerous Xavier team with Naji Marshall leading the way. Marquette returns Markus Howard, and Georgetown, Providence and Creighton can all make noise.
Vitale’s PTP’er: Jarron Cumberlad, Cincinnati
Vitale’s Diaper Dandy: James Wiseman, Memphis
Vitale’s Game to Circle: Memphis at Houston, Mar. 8
What I’m watching: Penny Hardaway’s young Memphis team has created a buzz with Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa. Houston will be right up there with Quentin Grimes, the transfer from Kansas, declared eligible. Cincinnati will be in the mix under first-year coach John Brannen as Mick Cronin left for the UCLA job. South Florida has a lot of returning talent and could surprise.
Vitale’s PTP’er: McKinley Wright, Colorado
Vitale’s Diaper Dandy: Nico Mannion, Arizona
Vitale’s Game to Circle: Oregon at Arizona, Feb. 22
What I’m watching: The league will bounce back. Arizona has reloaded with several diaper dandies, including starters Nico Mannion and Josh Green, plus transfers Max Hazzard and Jermarl Baker. Washington has top-flight diaper dandy Isaiah Stewart. Oregon has Peyton Pritchard back and will contend. All eyes will be on Mick Cronin at UCLA. USC added a pair of diaper dandies and could surprise.
Vitale’s PTP’er: Jordan Ford, St. Mary's
Vitale’s Diaper Dandy: Anton Watson, Gonzaga
Vitale’s Game to Circle: Gonzaga at St, Mary’s, Feb. 8
What I’m watching: Once again, it is a two-team race between favorite Gonzaga and St. Mary’s. The Zags may be a little bit deeper, though Killian Tillie is already hurt again. This is a league with a lot of individual talent that does not get enough national respect. BYU’s Yoeli Childs is a star. Ford is an outstanding all-around players. Charles Minlend of San Francisco is worthy of praise. The Gaels and Zags battle for #1.
Vitale’s PTP’er: Kellan Grady, Davidson
Vitale’s Diaper Dandy: Jameer Nelson Jr., George Washington
Vitale’s Game to Circle: Davidson at VCU, Feb. 7
What I’m watching: Davidson and VCU are the favorites in the league. Both have experienced starters returning and that makes a difference. Kellan Grady should average 20 ppg. this season. A dangerous sleeper is Dayton, which returns forward Obi Toppin, last season’s A-10 Freshman of the Year.
- Mountain West
Vitale’s PTP’er: Sam Merrill, Utah State
Vitale’s Diaper Dandy: KJ Hymes, Nevada
Vitale’s Game to Circle: Utah State at San Diego State, Feb. 1
What I’m watching: Utah State is the clear-cut favorite and Craig Smith’s team could go to the Sweet 16. Sam Merrill is on numerous All-America lists and he can flat-out shoot the rock. San Diego State, Nevada, Boise State and Fresno State figure to be competitive but are probably shooting for second in the conference standings. Keep an eye on Steve Alford in his first season at Nevada.