Why Kentucky will not go undefeated 

December, 22, 2014
Dec 22
2:48
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Karl-Anthony Towns, Tony ParkerAP Photo/Nam Y. HuhKarl-Anthony Towns and Kentucky dominated UCLA last weekend in Chicago.
CHICAGO -- It was as dominating of a 20-minute stretch as I’ve ever seen, and trust me when I say I’ve seen some one-sided contests (I covered AAU basketball for years). UCLA had yet to score nearly eight minutes into the game, and the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats were ahead 24-0.

The fat lady may as well have begun to sing, because it was over.

Kentucky’s resume now includes a pair of current top 10 teams in Kansas and Texas, another top 25 club in North Carolina and also a UCLA team that features an NBA lottery pick.

But the ‘Cats aren’t running the table.

With all due to respect to my colleague Dan Dakich and the others that have pegged this team as one that won’t have a single blemish, I’m not buying it.

Nation's top 20 breakout players 

December, 19, 2014
Dec 19
12:14
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Justin AndersonAmber Searls/USA TODAY SportsVirginia guard Justin Anderson has doubled his scoring average from last season.
Last season, Nik Staukas, Terran Petteway and Fred VanVleet had breakout seasons. Sure, people were aware of Stauskas, but few thought he’d become a college star. Petteway was anonymous when he transferred from Texas Tech to Nebraska, but he led the Cornhuskers to the NCAA tourney. VanVleet came out of nowhere to emerge as one of the best point guards in the nation.

Here are 20 guys who are following in the footsteps of the above and enjoying breakout seasons thus far:


Justin Anderson, 6-foot-6, F, Jr., Virginia Cavaliers

2014-15: 15.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 59 percent 3-point shooting, 27.3 MPG
Last season: 7.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 29 percent 3-point shooting, 21.5 MPG

Anderson started a handful of games last season for the Cavaliers and was a nice piece, but now he’s emerged as Tony Bennett’s best player. He’s doubled his scoring average and is shooting the lights out from beyond the arc.


Willie Cauley-Stein, 7-0, C, Jr., Kentucky Wildcats

2014-15: 10.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.6 BPG, 24.5 MPG
Last season: 6.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.9 BPG, 23.8 MPG

The numbers don’t tell the entire story of Cauley-Stein’s progress over the past year or so. He’s averaging 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds in the three biggest games of the season against Kansas, Texas and North Carolina.

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Nation's top 5 midseason transfers 

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
10:25
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Semi OjeleyeLance King/Getty ImagesFormer Duke forward Semi Ojeleye is being looked at by schools including Wisconsin and Kansas.
There were nearly 700 total transfers in college basketball last season, with about 60 or so coming on the midseason transfer list. In 2014-15, we’re already at 60-plus midseason transfers, and it’s not even Christmas.

I’m not quite sure any of the guys listed below will put up 19 points and grab nine boards in their debut with their new school, as was the case with former Indiana big man Luke Fischer, a member of the midseason transfer list last season. Fischer nearly put up a double-double Wednesday night in his first game with Marquette.

However, the following are a handful of guys who can certainly make an impact wherever they opt to go. I've also put the full list of transfers below.

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Revisiting preseason expectations 

December, 15, 2014
Dec 15
10:42
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Jahlil OkaforMike McGinnis/Getty ImagesJahlil Okafor's early play was not a surprise -- but Duke's decisive takedown of Wisconsin was.


We've now passed the one-month mark of the 2014-15 season, and at this point the preseason hype has all but given way to in-season reality. With opinions crystallizing, I wanted to look at back at how my own expectations have been either confirmed or denied:

NOT SURPRISED...

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New UK lineup, other big starter changes 

December, 12, 2014
Dec 12
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Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress, Aaron HarrisonJoe Robbins/Getty ImagesWithout Poythress (22), Willie Cauley-Stein, Dakari Johnson and Aaron Harrison will have it tougher.

John Calipari finally has a valid excuse to scrap the platoons. With forward Alex Poythress suffering a season-ending torn ACL in practice Thursday, Kentucky’s head coach can do what he should and would have been doing all along -- if he weren’t so concerned with keeping everyone happy.

Play the best players as much as possible.

The loss of Poythress, who was a member of the starting unit alongside the Harrison twins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Willie Cauley-Stein, should eventually mean that the platoons are a piece of history.

Now we examine Kentucky’s potential new-look starting lineup, along with every other Top 25 starting lineup, and what changes could be made.

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Picks for ACC/Big Ten Challenge 

December, 1, 2014
Dec 1
1:24
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Frank KaminskyKevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsFrank Kaminsky and Wisconsin will have a mighty challenge against Duke on Wednesday.

The ACC was dominant against the Big Ten for the first decade of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, but the Big Ten responded by winning the challenge three straight years before the two leagues split the dozen matchups the last two seasons. The B1G is off to a strong start in this year's event, with Nebraska and Rutgers making the league 2-0 headed into Tuesday night .

Below (and updated after Monday's action), I give my picks for each game in this year's ACC/Big Ten Challenge, ranked in order of game quality. I also let you know where Kelly Oubre's lack of playing time and production sit among elite freshmen over the past decade (you may be surprised to know which elite freshman was the most productive through the first six games). And I reveal my 10 Observations from the past 10 days (or so) in New York at the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic and the NIT Season Tip-Off.

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Picks for Thanksgiving week games 

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
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Ryan Arcidiacono, Treveon GrahamUSA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesRyan Arcidiacono and Treveon Graham square off in a highly anticipated Monday matchup.
With two weekends of the 2014-15 college basketball season in the books, opinions about teams and players are beginning to crystallize.

Kentucky is indeed as good as we thought they could be. Kansas, Syracuse and the defending champion UConn Huskies have some work to do. Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos (23 assists without a turnover in four games) is back to his pre-injury form and Duke’s talented freshman group (Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow) looks downright frightening.

As we head into Feast Week, new narratives will be formed and some opinions are bound to change. Here’s a look at the games, teams and players I’ll have my eye on as the college basketball calendar creeps toward December.

For more, be sure to check out ESPN Insider's PickCenter.


Monday


7 p.m. (ESPNU) -- Villanova Wildcats vs. Virginia Commonwealth Rams

This is a battle of top-25 teams, and the winner should get Michigan on Tuesday at the Barclays Center. The question will be whether Ryan Arcidiacono can handle the Rams' relentless defensive pressure.

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Syracuse could be in trouble 

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
12:06
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Kaleb Joseph and Jim BoeheimRich Barnes/Getty ImagesSyracuse coach Jim Boeheim will be counting on consistency from freshman guard Kaleb Joseph.
NEW YORK -- It’s just three games into the season, and Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange have a freshman point guard and a bevy of players thrust into new roles due to the departure of Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant and Baye Moussa Keita.

The knee-jerk reaction following Thursday night’s loss against a California team picked to finish closer to the bottom of the Pac-12 than the top would be to say that the Cuse is NIT-bound this season.

It’s not off base.

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Picks for the Tip-Off Marathon 

November, 17, 2014
Nov 17
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While the 2014-15 college basketball season technically tipped off this weekend, the season really gets underway with the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. It starts Monday night with the in-state battle between Miami and Florida in Gainesville, and runs through Tuesday evening.

For the general public, the season might not begin until January when conference play starts. But for the wiseguys out in Vegas, early-season college basketball is the time to clean up on weak spreads. Below is the first of a weekly column I’m starting this year to give you my perspective on every game, with useful notes and nuggets.

Since you'd ask if we didn't, we'll include the the lines. But remember: These are the lines at the time of writing. For this, some of the Tuesday lines haven’t been released yet, but check back later for the Champions Classic doubleheader between Kentucky-Kansas and Duke-Michigan State.

And for other betting coverage at ESPN, check out the new ESPN Chalk section.

7 p.m. (ESPNU) -- Miami (FL) Hurricanes at Florida Gators

The Gators will be without talented sophomore big man Chris Walker for a second game, and this would have been an area that Billy Donovan could have taken advantage against a lackluster Hurricanes group. Donovan also will have a banged-up Dorian Finney-Smith. If Finney-Smith plays, it’ll be with a broken bone in his non-shooting hand.

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Preseason Injury Watch for 2014-15 

November, 14, 2014
Nov 14
12:38
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DavisMichael Hickey/Getty ImagesIndiana's Devin Davis is out indefinitely after sustaining head injuries.
College hoops gets started Friday, and there are plenty of players who won’t be able to take the court for the beginning of the season. Indiana has four, but there are others who are injured, suspended, still waiting to get word from the NCAA or have already been deemed ineligible by the NCAA.

Here’s the most comprehensive preseason injury report you’ll find anywhere; updated intel from all but three of 340 programs. If I forgot anything or anyone, please email me at goodmanespn@gmail.com.

Note: Teams are listed alphabetically, by league. *** indicates still waiting on information.

ACC

Boston College: Darryl Hicks (ACL) is hopeful of returning for league play. Lonnie Jackson (calf) and Kyle Caudill (knee) are both out for a while.
Clemson: None
Duke: None
Florida State: None
Georgia Tech: None
Louisville: Shaqquan Aaron (NCAA) has not been cleared yet.
Miami: Ivan Cruz Uceda (NCAA) won’t be eligible until Jan. 13; Davon Reed (leg) is out indefinitely.
North Carolina: Luke Davis (stress fracture) out for four to six weeks.
NC State: None
Notre Dame: None
Pittsburgh: Cameron Wright (broken foot) is out for about three more weeks.
Syracuse: DaJuan Coleman (knee) is out indefinitely.
Virginia: London Perrantes and Evan Nolte have been suspended for the season opener against JMU.
Virginia Tech: None
Wake Forest: Daniel Green (recovering from ACL) is out indefinitely.

American

Central Florida: None
Cincinnati: None
UConn: Omar Calhoun (sprained knee) is day-to-day. Rodney Purvis (NCAA) will miss the season opener.
East Carolina: None
Houston: Mikhail McLean (broken foot) expected to return in late November; L.J. Rose (broken foot) expected to return in late December.
Memphis: None
SMU: Markus Kennedy (academics) will miss the first semester.
South Florida: Ruben Guerrero (groin) is questionable for start of season.
Temple: Jaylen Bond (ankle) is day-to-day. Jesse Morgan (transfer) and Devin Coleman (transfer) are both sitting until the second semester.
Tulane: None
Tulsa: None


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My picks for 2014-15 All-American teams 

November, 10, 2014
Nov 10
10:00
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Kaminsky, Paige, NiangGetty ImagesFrank Kaminsky, Marcus Paige and Georges Niang could all land on All-America teams.
Usually it’s not nearly this difficult to come up with picks for preseason All-America teams and national player of the year. Maybe it’s because nearly all the top players in the country from a season ago either graduated (i.e., Doug McDermott, Shabazz Napier and Russ Smith) or left early for the NBA draft (i.e., Jabari Parker, Nik Stauskas and Nick Johnson).

The incoming freshman class didn’t come in with the same juice as the Class of 2013, which boasted Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle.

That makes for no shortage of uncertainty when it comes to trying to predict a 2014-15 All-America squad. But that's not going to stop me. Here are my first-, second- and third-team All-Americans, along with a mid-major All-America squad. I'll start things off with my picks for player, freshman and coach of the year

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Best, worst nonconference schedules 

November, 7, 2014
Nov 7
11:36
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Kevin Ollie and Billy DonovanBob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsKevin Ollie and Billy Donovan have their teams facing challenging out of conference competition.
A year ago, Kansas was the undisputed King of the nonconference slate -- at least when it came to any contending team. The Jayhawks have once again put together another challenging nonleague schedule, but it’s not nearly what it was a year ago.

The directive came from outgoing SEC commissioner Mike Slive for his programs to play people prior to SEC play, and two heeded his advice.

Remember, it’s not just who you play, but also where you play them. A road win against a top-25 team is every bit as meaningful as a home victory over a top-5 team.

I went through every single nonconference schedule, basically looking for any team of note and came up with the best and worst. I’ll also give out some hardware, including the All-Cupcake Award.




Top nonleague slates


1. Florida Gators

Billy Donovan and the Gators did a nice job putting together the most difficult schedule among the top 50 teams.

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Rick Barnes, Frank Kaminsky & Jim BoeheimGetty ImagesThis could be a good season for Rick Barnes and Frank Kaminsky -- but maybe not for Jim Boeheim.
With the season less than two weeks away, it’s time to unveil my season predictions. A year ago, I called UConn clipping the nets in April, Wichita State going undefeated through the regular season and Doug McDermott winning National Player of the Year honors.

Actually, I didn’t predict any of those -- but that won't stop me from making some bold predictions for the 2014-15 campaign:

1. The Streak will finally end in Lawrence.

Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks have won the Big 12 regular-season title for the past 10 seasons, but this time around it’ll be the Texas Longhorns who claim the league crown.

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Michigan will surprise in Big Ten 

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
9:20
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Derrick Walton Jr., Jonathan HolmesAP Photo/Morry GashDerrick Walton knocked down 41 percent of his 3-point attempts last season.
John Beilein returns just four players with legitimate college basketball experience. The Michigan Wolverines lost their star, Nik Stauskas; his top running mate, Glenn Robinson III; along with every big man most fans are even aware of: Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary and Jon Horford.

At first glance, you'd think the 2014-15 season will be a major rebuilding year in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I mean, who would ever anticipate that Beilein could lose three NBA picks in one year and remain competitive nationally? He's built this program since his arrival, but that's a huge hit for anybody.

However, instead of a major drop-off, I believe the Wolverines can become Wisconsin’s top threat for the Big Ten title and a contender to

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Nation's 10 most underrated teams 

October, 27, 2014
Oct 27
9:00
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Bobby PortisAP Photo/Gareth PattersonBobby Portis and Arkansas could be one of the SEC's best teams this season.
The USA Today coaches poll was released last week, and numerous publications have already put out their preseason top 25 for the 2014-15 campaign.

Personally, I'd go with Colorado and Notre Dame as my picks for underrated teams heading into the season. Tad Boyle is a heck of a coach, and though he lost Spencer Dinwiddie early to the NBA, he has more than enough talent back in the fold -- and he didn't have an injured Dinwiddie for the second part of the past season, anyway. The Irish were a mess a season ago, but it was their initial season in the ACC, and they went through plenty of adversity with the loss of standout guard Jerian Grant in December. Grant and Pat Connaughton are back, and look for Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste to make significant jumps.

But that's enough of my thoughts on the most underrated teams in college hoops this season. My latest "coaches poll" takes into account college coaches' opinions on which teams are being overlooked.

Note: All of these coaches were polled and quoted anonymously.

1. Arkansas Razorbacks: They didn’t lose much from a team that nearly made the NCAA tournament a season ago. They return one of the best big men in the country in sophomore Bobby Portis, as well as leading scorer Rashad Madden and key contributor Michael Qualls.

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