The 2018-19 NCAA college basketball season is slated to begin this week. From now until April, we’ll be following along, closely watching. But instead of just box scores and highlights, we’re going to profile a player from each class, plus one additional story. With TSFJ and the help from Josh Naso , we present to you The Sports Fan Journal’s Box And One.
Freshman: Bol Bol, Oregon
There will be plenty of time to talk about all of Duke’s incoming freshmen. But for the preview post, let’s split the difference between known commodity and unheralded player. Bol Bol, son of former NBA player Manute Bol, is a 7’3″ forward/center for the 14th-ranked Ducks. He moves so fluently, showing capability of taking defenders off the dribble. He is proof of how much basketball has expanded globally and evolved in skill. I hope he can develop into the player he wants to be. Look for him to be a force in the PAC-12.
Sophomore: Daniel Gafford, Arkansas
Last year’s freshman class was one of the best in recent history. As a number of those guys migrated to the NBA, a few have stayed around to play college ball for at least one more year. Daniel Gafford showed a lot of potential for the Razorbacks, averaging 12 points and seven rebounds per contest. He had a season high of 25 points against Fresno State and shot 60.5% from the field in his first year. The SEC is tough, as will be discussed later in this post, but Gafford will give Arkansas a good shot at another NCAA tournament berth.
Junior: Markus Howard, Marquette
If you’re a heavy follower of college basketball, you already know about Markus Howard. If you have not been following closely, then be introduced to one of the best shooters and scorers in the country. Howard upped his scoring from 13 points per game to 20, while still managing to shoot 40.4% from three. Howard erupted for 52 points and 11 threes in an overtime win against Providence. The next game, he totaled 37 in a loss to eventual champion Villanova. He’s not just one of the best players in the Big East, his game stacks up against anyone’s nationwide.
Senior: Charles Matthews, Michigan
John Beilein was blessed with Matthews after the 6’6″ guard transferred from Kentucky. After sitting out the 2016-17 season, Matthews played well for a talented Michigan team that played for the national title, tallying 13 points per game while starting all 41 of those games. The Wolverines are going to need his leadership, as a lot of that talent from last year has moved on. But Matthews certainly has the game to step up and bear that burden.
Kentucky has run the SEC in basketball for most of the years the conference has existed, and especially since John Calipari became coach of the Wildcats. While they are certainly deserving of another year as preseason favorites to win the conference, there is a lot of depth here. Arguably the second-best conference from top to bottom, there are more good teams outside of Kentucky. Tennessee, Auburn and LSU are also ranked in the top 25. And that doesn’t include Florida, Arkansas and Texas A&M, who were all NCAA Tournament teams last year. Kentucky may be the cream of the crop, but this is assuredly a quality crop of teams all the way through.
Week One done. Enjoy the season and we’ll see you next week.
Poemer. 8-time Hug Champion. Pick&Roll Enthusiast. Guardian of Logic and Tact. Apocalypse’s good Brother. Collector of muted souls for Mt. Filtermanjaro.
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