The password for the 2013-14 college basketball season is change.
Or maybe it’s realignment.
How about confusion?
Unless you have a truly photographic memory, you would be advised to keep some cheat notes handy regarding what teams are in which conferences. Take the Associated Press preseason Top 25 poll: Four teams are in new conferences — three in the American Athletic (Louisville, Memphis, Connecticut) and one in the Atlantic Coast (Syracuse).
Yes, three of those teams used to be in the Big East, remember? Now the onetime power conference consists of the seven Catholic schools that stayed together, joined by Creighton, Xavier, and Butler.
As for the old Big East teams, Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Notre Dame moved to the ACC, which shouldn’t be confused with the AAC, which has Connecticut and Cincinnati along with one-year residents Louisville (heading next year to the ACC) and Rutgers (leaving for the Big Ten).
However, this is not too complicated when you compare it to the Western Athletic Conference, which lost seven schools and picked up six. Then there’s Conference USA, which added four former members of the Sun Belt Conference, two from the Western Athletic Conference, one (Charlotte) from the Atlantic Ten, and another (Old Dominion) from the CAA.
In all, 21 of the nation’s 32 Division I conferences have made changes. The 11 that have stood pat are the Big 12, Big Sky, Big South, Big Ten, Ivy League, Mid-American, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Ohio Valley, Pac-12, SEC, and Southwestern Athletic.
And a special salute to NJIT, which saw its conference (Great West) fold and thus becomes the only independent of the nation’s 351 Division I basketball teams.
Here’s a small sample of what else is going on as the 2013-14 college basketball season gets underway:
Before he even set foot on a college basketball court, 6-foot-8 freshman Andrew Wiggins of Kansas was being compared to Le Bron James and Kevin Durant as well as former Jayhawk legend Wilt Chamberlain (really?). Many have put Wiggins on their preseason All-American team, and some predict he’ll win national player of the year honors and become a No. 1 overall NBA Draft choice.
Marcus Smart, the sophomore guard from Oklahoma State and a national player of the year candidate himself, can’t help but wonder what the heck is going on.
“I’m saying, ‘How can you be the best player in something you haven’t even played yet?’” Smart said in the Dallas Morning News. “I’m not saying he’s not. I’m not saying he can’t.
“But I’m saying if he was like me … don’t give it to me, at least let me earn it.”
To his credit, Wiggins is trying to cool down the hype.
“I’ve got a long way to go before I can be compared to LeBron and Durant,” he said. “I think it’s unfair to compare me to someone of that caliber.”
Wiggins isn’t the only freshman expected to rocket upon this college basketball season.
Kentucky has five rookies who could make an impression — Julius Randle, Dakari Johnson, James Young and brothers Aaron and Andrew Harrison. Jabari Parker of Duke has been mentioned as being on the same level as Wiggins. You also have Aaron Gordon at Arizona as well as Florida’s Kasey Hill and Indiana’s Noah Vonleh.
The expectations are enormous, and the coaches would like everyone to calm down.
“Let them get on the court,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.
New rules, just like the old rules
Coaches across the country are steeling themselves in anticipation of the stricter enforcement of current rules that cover defending the player with the basketball and our favorite, the block/charge call.
When it comes to guarding, a defensive player will be called for a foul if he puts a hand or forearm on the opponent with the ball, puts two hands on an opponent, jabs an opponent with his hand or uses an arm bar to impede the ball handler’s progress.
As for the block/charge call, it’s simple: When the offensive player begins his upward motion to pass or shoot, the defender must be in legal guarding position.
Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said he liked the block/charge call “because I felt people were just running under guys and falling down like bowling pins, and I didn’t like that.
“But if we want to make this into a complete nonphysical game, I worry that is going to mean longer games, boring-er games,” Izzo added. “Is it going to up scoring? Are people going to play more zone? But we’ll adjust and officials will adjust.”
Where’s the nearest Denny’s?
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim ignited a small firestorm last winter when he insinuated that Denny’s were the only restaurants to be found in ACC cities.
But he’s in the ACC now, and whether he eats at Denny’s or Hardee’s or Sonny’s Barbecue, he is coaching a team that should contend with old mainstays Duke and North Carolina for the conference title.
“They’re jokes,” Boeheim said of his cracks about Denny’s. “People sometimes think I’m serious, and I’m not. They’re just jokes.
It’s just like the ACC Tournament. I don’t care where they play it. I don’t go out, I don’t shop. I try to coach the game and get ready for the next day.”
The Orange, who made the Final Four last season, lost some big-time players in current 76er Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche and James Southerland. But they have smooth forward C.J. Fair returning while guard Tyler Ennis leads a fine freshman class.
Notable changes during the offseason:
UCLA — Steve Alford
Southern California — Andy Enfeld
Rutgers — Eddie Jordan
Butler — Brandon Miller
Hofstra — Joe Mihalich
Minnesota — Richard Pitino
Northwestern — Chris Collins
Texas Tech — Tubby Smith
The Real Top 10
2. Michigan State
9. Oklahoma State
Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Doug McDermott, Creighton
Russ Smith, Louisville
C.J. Fair, Syracuse
Aaron Craft, Ohio State
Games to watch
Here are the 10 best games on the schedule before Jan. 1.
Tuesday: Michigan State vs. Kentucky in Chicago, 7:30 p.m.; Duke vs. Kansas in Chicago, 10 p.m.
Saturday: Ohio State at Marquette, 1 p.m.
Dec. 3: Indiana at Syracuse, 7:15 p.m.; Michigan at Duke, 9:15 p.m.
Dec. 4: North Carolina at Michigan State, 9 p.m.
Dec. 10: Kansas at Florida, 7 p.m.
Dec. 14: Arizona at Michigan, noon; Kentucky at North Carolina, 5:15 p.m.
Dec. 28: Louisville at Kentucky, 4 p.m.