The best college basketball writer in the business sees a pretty exciting season on the horizon for the three major local schools.
1. INDIANA. The next step in Tom Crean’s Hoosier Revival is to chase a national title, and this team is the best of a watered-down field of contenders. IU returns 84.7 percent of its scoring, including savvy sophomore center Cody Zeller, a Wooden Award candidate, and also brings in Rivals.com’s No. 2-ranked recruiting class. The two X-factors: Whether or not rising senior Christian Watford stays in school, and how smoothly five-star point guard Yogi Ferrell can make the transition to running a college offense.
2. LOUISVILLE. Power forward Chane Behanan is poised for sophomore stardom, and he and shot-swatting Senegalese Gorgui Dieng could help the Cardinals reprise their status as the nation’s most efficient defense. The Peyton Siva-Russ Smith backcourt won’t generate high-percentage offense, but as long as they lock down on D, they’ll run away with the Big East title.
3. KENTUCKY. Calipari’s reloaded lineup will feature N.C. State transfer Ryan Harrow at point and stretch-forward Kyle Wiltjer as a primary scoring option. This ranking presumes that the Wildcats land Noel as their defensive centerpiece; if Muhammad also comes on board, they vault to No. 1, and next April, I’ll probably be making another Kentucky Montage.