1. Thanks to the return of star veterans like Grayson Allen and Amile Jefferson, as well as the nation's No. 1 recruiting class, Duke received 58 out of the 65 first-place votes cast in the preseason Associated Press Top 25. That was more than enough to make the Blue Devils the preseason No. 1 team for an eighth time. That number ties them with UCLA for the second-most preseason nods for the top spot, and puts them one behind arch-nemesis North Carolina.
The bad news for Duke? The last seven preseason No. 1 teams have wound up falling short of their ultimate goal. The team at the top of the AP top 25 in week one hasn't been there at the end of the season since North Carolina won it all in 2008-09.
2. Before 2014, no team had entered the NCAA Tournament with an unblemished record since UNLV achieved the feat in 1991. Now it's happened twice in the past three seasons, with Wichita State winning its first 35 games in 2014-15, and Kentucky making it all the way to the Final Four with a 38-0 record before falling to Wisconsin the year after that.
The trend died last season when no team made it through January without suffering at least one loss. The last unbeaten standing, somewhat ironically, was an SMU squad that was ineligible to participate in the postseason.
While 40-0 remains a ridiculous goal for any college basketball team to achieve, it remains something that hoops fans are fixated on each season until all 351 teams have been toppled.
3. No team made more 3-pointers last season than North Florida, which connected on a whopping 411 of its 1,002 attempts from beyond the arc. The Ospreys won the Atlantic Sun's regular season title, but were walloped by 33 in the conference tournament semifinals by eventual champion Florida Gulf Coast.
4. Just one of the 15 players who were honored as Associated Press All-Americans for the 2015-16 season are back for another year of college basketball. Preseason ACC Player of the Year Grayson Allen, a third team AP All-American last season, is the lone returnee.
5. Even though the "First Four" has been fairly controversial and often mocked since its inception in 2011, proponents of tournament expansion don't hesitate to point to the fact that a team that has started its tournament run in Dayton has advanced to the second round of the main draw in each of the last six seasons. That trend continued last season when Wichita State knocked off Vanderbilt and Arizona before falling to Miami in the second round. The First Four has also produced three Sweet 16 squads and a Final Four team in VCU. Once again this winter, all those "last four in" projections won't deserve the grief they'll undoubtedly get.
6. Perhaps the most intriguing coaching move of the offseason was Tubby Smith going from Texas Tech to Memphis (the program Josh Pastner had just bolted from to take the gig at Georgia Tech). If Smith can lead the Tigers into the NCAA Tournament, he'll become the first head coach in the history of the sport to lead six different programs (Memphis, Tulsa, Kentucky, Georgia, Minnesota and Texas Tech) to the Big Dance.
7. Five teams have been to each of the last 18 NCAA Tournaments. They are:
Kansas (27 straight)
Duke (21 straight)
Michigan State (19 straight)
Gonzaga (18 straight)
Wisconsin (18 straight)
Louisville had the seventh-longest streak of consecutive tournament appearances before it announced a self-imposed postseason ban on Feb. 5 of last season. The Cardinals may have to deal with additional NCAA sanctions at some point i time, but it appears those sanctions won't have any effect on their 2016-17 season. That's good news for a top 15 Cardinal team that owns a pair of potential breakout sophomore stars in guard Donovan Mitchell and forward Deng Adel.
8. No Pac-12 team besides UCLA has crashed the Final Four since 2001, but that could all change this year. Oregon returns the bulk of team that earned a No. 1 seed and advanced to the Elite 8, Arizona -- so long as injuries and potential suspensions don't ruin things -- has the pieces to finally get the monkey off Sean Miller's back, and there's serious NBA talent on the rosters of Cal, USC and Washington.
Pac-12 after dark is going to be worth staying up for this winter. Start adjusting your internal clocks accordingly.
9. No. 10 seeds had been 0-9 in regional finals before Syracuse pulled off a stunning comeback against ACC brethren Virginia last March to become the fourth double-digit seed ever to crash the Final Four. Unfortunately for the Orange, history did repeat itself in the national semifinals, as Jim Boeheim's team did what the three double-digit seeds before them had done, and lost by double figures.
Thanks to the return of Tyler Lydon and the addition of a stellar group of newcomers, it won't be as much of a shock this year if Syracuse is still playing on the final week of the season.
10. It's been exactly 10 years since college basketball's last repeat national champion. Billy Donovan's 2006-07 Florida Gators returned stars Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer from their title team the year before, and predictably were the overwhelming favorites at the start of that season. Despite a few late-season slip-ups, they ultimately lived up to the hype, earning the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and defeating Greg Oden's Ohio State Buckeyes in the national championship game.
Life has been less kind to defending champions since then. Since Florida's back-to-back titles, no reigning king of college hoops has made it past the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament in the succeeding season. In fact, four of those nine defending champions haven't even made it to the NCAA Tournament the year after they cut down the nets.
That streak appears in danger this season with Villanova returning three starters, all of who scored in double figures last season, from its 2015-16 championship squad. Leading that group is preseason Big East Player of the Year Josh Hart, and March Madness legend forever Kris Jenkins.
Have we showed the shot yet? We should probably show the shot.
It's so beautiful every time.
11. Since the field expanded to 64 teams in 1985, 11.3 is the average total number of the Final Four seeds over the past 31 tournaments. Last season it was 15 thanks to 1-seed North Carolina, 2-seed Villanova, 2-seed Oklahoma and 10-seed Syracuse.
12. One of the most impressive and well-known streaks in college basketball is Kansas' current run off 12 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles. Led by all-everything freshman Josh Jackson, the Jayhawks are a clearcut favorite to pick up No. 13 this season. If that happens, it would tie them with UCLA for the longest run of consecutive regular season conference titles in college basketball history.
13. Despite the NCAA Tournament being an event defined by crazy upsets as much as anything else, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament tends to do quite well. Since the committee began assigning a No. 1 overall seed 13 years ago, three of those teams have wound up cutting down the nets at the end of the tournament -- Florida in 2007, Kentucky in 2012 and Louisville in 2013. The tournament's top seed had made it to at least the Final Four in each of the past four seasons before Kansas fell to eventual national champion Villanova in the Elite 8 last season.
The benefits of being the pre-tournament favorite will grow even greater this season, with a new rule that will allow the No. 1 overall seed to choose the location of its first and second round games. This means that the handful of teams in the mix to be a No. 1 seed will look at the eight opening weekend sites and let the selection committee know which one it prefers before Selection Sunday.
14. The Mountain West Conference is coming off an embarrassing season in which it failed to send multiple teams to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001. To add insult to injury, the league's lone representative in the Big Dance, Fresno State, was dealt a 14-seed by the selection committee, the worst ever given to the Mountain West's tournament champion.
The conference will hope to bounce back with a return to form from league flag bearer San Diego State, and potential overachieving campaigns from Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado State.
15. By the time next March rolls around, it will have been 15 years since Indiana last made it past the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. The Hoosiers won the Big 10 regular season title a year ago and made it to the second weekend of the Big Dance for the third time under Tom Crean, but were bounced by top-seeded North Carolina in the regional semifinals. Crean once again has a roster loaded with talent that could get the Hoosiers over the hump and into the Elite 8.
16. Could this be the season a 16 seed finally stuns a No. 1? Probably not, as No. 1 seeds are now 128-0 all-time against 16 seeds, and all four of the games from last season's NCAA Tournament were uneventful. Still, it's a topic of conversation heading into each March, and will be again in 2017.
17. The last 140 times Duke and North Carolina have played, at least one of them has been ranked in The Associated Press Top 25. The last time neither was ranked by the AP was on Feb. 27, 1960, and even then, North Carolina was No. 12 in the coaches' poll. The last meeting where neither was ranked in either poll was Feb. 25, 1955. In all, UNC has owned a national ranking in 1110 of the past 137 meetings with Duke, and the Blue Devils have also been ranked in 90 of those matchups.
In evidence that might strike a stronger chord with those not impressed by deep history, either Duke or North Carolina has been a No. 1 or a No. 2 seed in every NCAA Tournament since 2004, and one of them has been a top seed in all but two of those big dances. If you want to go back a little further for an even more insane statistic, every Final Four played from 1989 to 2001 except one featured the Blue Devils or the Tar Heels. The two teams have also combined to win eight of the last 25 national championships.
The first of two meetings between these two arch-rivals will take place on Feb. 9 in Durham.
18. It would appear as though Bo Ryan's plan to worked perfection.
The legendary Wisconsin coach stepped aside in the middle of his 33rd season and handed the reigns to longtime assistant Greg Gard, the man he'd wanted to tab as his heir apparent. Gard made the gig his to keep by leading the Badgers to an 18th straight NCAA Tournament, and a fourth straight trip to the Sweet 16, the longest such streak in the country.
Now, with Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig both back in Madison, Gard has a preseason top 10 squad with legitimate Final Four aspirations.
19. Even though North Carolina fell to Villanova in the national title game, the ACC set a new record for wins by a conference in a single NCAA Tournament with 19 last season. The league, which has five teams ranked in the top 20 of the Associated Press preseason top 25 and five more receiving votes, appears to have chance to challenge that total in 2017.
20. West Virginia, which will start the 2016-17 ranked No. 20, was terrific at turning over their opponents last season, but also struggled to hold onto the ball themselves. The habit wound up being their undoing as the Mountaineers gave the ball away 22 times in a 70-56 upset loss to 14th-seeded Stephen F. Austin in the NCAA Tournament's first round.
On the plus side, the performance did lead to this tremendous postgame comment from Bob Huggins:
"I don't know why anybody would waste energy pressing us. We'll throw it to you regardless. That would be a waste of energy really. We're very charitable. We're one of the most charitable groups in college basketball. The second straight game we've turned it over 20 times."
21. For the first time in a decade, the annual rivalry game between Louisville and Kentucky will be played before Christmas and on a weeknight. The Cats and the Cardinals will meet at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 21 inside the KFC Yum! Center. John Calipari will be going for his ninth win in 10 tries in the Battle of the Bluegrass.
22. As is the case with every college basketball season, 2016-17 will bring with it some rule changes. The alterations aren't nearly as severs as the ones we saw a year ago, but they will likely lead to a noticeable increase in the number of double fouls and traveling violations called. Also, the MAC and the Big 10 are going to be able to review block/charge calls that involve a player being in the "restricted arc" during conference games.
For a comprehensive breakdown of all the rule tweaks this season, spend 22 minutes watching this video:
23. The Ron Baker/Fred VanVleet era at Wichita State has come to an end, and with it perhaps comes the end of one of the greatest runs we've ever seen from a mid-major program.
The Shockers crashed the Final Four in 2013, carried a perfect record into the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament, humiliated regional power Kansas on their way to the 2015 Sweet 16, and won two more games in the Big Dance a year ago. In all, the program tasted defeat just 23 times over the past four years.
With Baker and VanVleet both suiting up for NBA teams this season, Gregg Marshall's reputation for being one of the best coaches in the game will be put to the ultimate test. He'll rely heavily on sophomore forward Markis McDuffie, who was the Missouri Valley Conference's Freshman of the Year last season.
24. Iowa State's Monte Morris, the preseason Big 12 Player of the Year and a preseason first team AP All-American, is about to wrap up one of the better careers we've ever ever seen from a college point guard.
As a freshman, Morris broke the NCAA record with a 4.79 assist-to-turnover ratio, which included a remarkable 6.9 assist-to-turnover ratio in Big 12 play. He nearly broke his own record a year later, leading the nation for a second consecutive season with a with a 4.63 assist-to-turnover ratio by dishing out 176 assists and committing just 38 turnovers. He assumed more of a scoring role as a junior, averaging a career-best 13.8 ppg. That didn't weigh down his distribution numbers, however, as Morris finished 2015-16 averaging a career-best 6.9 assists per game, a total which was the eighth-best in Division-I.
Thanks almost entirely to Morris' return, the Cyclones will begin the season ranked No. 24 in the AP top 25.
25. How to make college basketball's opening night more of an event has long been a topic of debate for fans of the sport. While it's still not going to overshadow football, opening night for the 2016-17 will feature each and every top 25 team taking the court, the first time that's ever happened on day one. Highlighting the slate will be an Armed Forces Classic doubleheader featuring No. 3 Kansas taking on No. 11 Indiana, and No. 10 Arizona facing No. 12 Michigan State.
26. This season will mark the 10th year of the so-called "one and done" rule, which has been a lightning rod for criticism since its inception by NBA decree in 2006. Given the amount of attention it has received, it's hard to believe that there have been just two teams -- Kentucky in 2012 and Duke in 2015 -- that have won the national championship with at least one "one and done" player on their roster.
27. This is the first time since 2012-13 that Kentucky has started a season not ranked No. 1 in at least one of the two major polls. The Wildcats, who are No. 2 in the preseason AP top 25, are coming off a season in which they went 27-9 and failed to make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time under John Calipari (discounting 2013, when they missed the tournament entirely).
Still, the return of Isaiah Briscoe and the addition of yet another absolutely loaded recruiting class should have the Wildcats in a position to make a run at national title No. 9. Even if that doesn't happen, UK's absurd combination of size and athleticism might make them the most entertaining team in America.
28. He may not be a household name, but no player in college basketball scored more points in 2015-16 than Howard's James Daniel, who poured in nearly 28 points per game for the Bison. The reigning scoring champ is back for his senior season, but could miss his team's high-profile November games against the likes of Georgetown, Maryland, Michigan and Marquette because of a high ankle sprain.
29. It's been 29 years since two teams from the same conference (Kansas and Oklahoma) met in the national championship game. With the ACC placing three teams in the AP's preseason top eight and five teams in the preseason top 20, it's not overly difficult to envision a pair of teams from that conference duking it out on the final Monday of the season.
30. Two teams in Division-I failed to win a single conference game last season: Chicago State out of the WAC, and Boston College from the ACC. The Eagles went 0-19 in conference play and enter this season still looking for their first victory in the 2016 calendar year. After defeating New Hampshire 72-67 in overtime on Dec. 30, 2015, BC went on to lose its next 19 games, leading to this heartbreaking quote from senior Dennis Clifford after the team's loss in the ACC Tournament.
Afterward, Clifford was asked what his best memory of playing college basketball will be. He choked up and put his head down, pausing for more than 20 seconds. When he looked back up, his face was red, his eyes were welling.
His answer: "Going out to eat."
31. The 2016-17 campaign might technically start on Friday, but for most fans, the unofficial start of every season has become the ESPN tipoff marathon. The schedule for this year's marathon, which begins on the evening of Nov. 16 and concludes about 31 hours later, is headlined by a Champions Classic showdown between Duke and Kansas.
Here's the full lineup for this year's event:
|Mon, Nov 14||6 p.m.||No. 4 UConn at No. 15 Florida State (women)||ESPN2|
|8 p.m.||No. 6 Texas at No. 10 Stanford (women)||ESPN2|
|10 p.m.||Princeton at BYU||ESPN2|
|Tue, Nov 15||Midnight||San Diego State at Gonzaga||ESPN2|
|2 a.m.||Green Bay at Pacific||ESPN2|
|4:15 a.m.||Florida Atlantic at Hawaii||ESPN2|
|6:30 a.m.||Niagara at Hartford||ESPN2|
|8:45 a.m.||Winthrop at Manhattan||ESPN2|
|11 a.m.||Longwood at Stephen F. Austin||ESPN2|
|1:15 p.m.||Dayton at Alabama||ESPN2|
|3:30 p.m.||No. 5 Oregon at Baylor||ESPN2|
|7 p.m.||State Farm Champions Classic (Madison Square Garden, New York): No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 12 Michigan State||ESPN|
|9:30 p.m.||State Farm Champions Classic (Madison Square Garden, New York): No. 1 Duke vs. No. 3 Kansas||ESPN|
32. Peer pressure has finally gotten the best of the Ivy League, which this season will hold a postseason conference tournament for the first time in its 61-year history. The Ivy had previously been the only conference out of the 32 in Division-I which awarded its regular seaso champion the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Of course the Ivy couldn't just do a normal conference tournament like everybody else. Instead, the league's tourney will include only the top four teams from the final regular season standings. Two semifinal games will be played at The Palestra in Philadelphia on March 11, with the championship game played the next night at the same location.
33. It's been an odd year for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. First, there was his 2015-16 team having one of the most successful seasons in program history, and his star senior, Denzel Valentine, being named the Associate Press Player of the Year. Then there was that same team losing to Middle Tennessee State in arguably the biggest upset in the history of the NCAA Tournament. And then finally, there was Izzo being inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame back in September.
Now the attention in East Lansing shifts to a 2016-17 Spartan team that's as difficult to project as any in the country. Izzo returns a handful of good, not great past contributors and the highest-rated recruiting class he's ever landed, but that's not typically the way the Spartans operate. Having said that, freshman forward Miles Bridges, who is expected to shoulder a significant portion of the scoring load left behind by Valentine, dropping 33 points in the team's first exhibition game has already gone a long way towards easing any fears about Michigan State potentially taking a step back.
34. While the Maui Invitational is technically entering its 32nd year of existence, the event's roots actually date back 34 years ago, when top-ranked Virginia was shocked by Chaminade on Dec. 23, 1982. The Silverswords then upset a pair of other Division-I powers the next season, sparking the advent of the annual event. Now, the Maui remains college basketball's most visible early season tournament, even with the recent emergence of the Battle 4 Atlantis and other bracketed tournaments in late November.
The 2016 installment of the tournament will run on Thanksgiving week from Nov. 21-23, and will feature the loaded field of North Carolina, Connecticut, Oklahoma State, Georgetown, Oregon, Tennessee, Wisconsin and host Chaminade.
35. There are 351 college basketball programs that will compete in Division-I this season, and only 35 of them have ever won the NCAA Tournament. Four teams ranked in the preseason AP top 15 -- Xavier (7), Virginia (8), Gonzaga (14) and Purdue (15) -- will be looking for their first national title.
36. Yale snagged 36 rebounds in its 79-75 upset of Baylor last March, a stat which led directly to the best postgame press conference moment of the tournament.
37. It will be hard for the 2016-17 regular season to top the November-February madness we saw a year ago.
Last season, teams ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press Top 25 were beaten a grand total of 74 times, the highest total in the history of the poll. Top five teams suffered a total of 37 losses, 21 of which came at the hands of unranked teams. No. 1 teams weren't immune to the madness, either, as five of them fell before the season hit February, something that had not taken place since 1949.
38. It's been 38 years since DePaul last won more than two games in the NCAA Tournament, but that doesn't make us love them any more less. Here's to another season of upset wins and ... players storming the student section?
39. One of the 39 changes that the college basketball powers-that-be have made over the last two years involves making sure that two of the NCAA Tournament's top five teams don't have to meet until at least the Final Four. Here is the exact wording for that procedural change:
While teams from the same conference will remain in separate regions, the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee may now consider moving the team seeded fifth on the overall list out of its natural geographic area to avoid the best of the No. 2 seeds being placed in the same region as the top overall team.
It seems like a fairly obvious move -- the team which has played better than all others for the past four months should be protected to the point that it doesn't have to face one of the four other best teams in the country before the national semifinals. The bigger issue is that the fact that this even has to be addressed at all is a direct reflection of the tournament's biggest problem, which is that the old s-curve method of seeding has been abandoned in favor of giving geographical preference to teams seeded on the top four lines.
40. Despite winning 28 games last season, the Monmouth Hawks were one of the four teams occupying at-large bid spots 37-40, which means they were one of the first four teams left out of the tournament on Selection Sunday. The Hawks, who are the preseason favorites in the MAAC, have more than enough pieces returning to exorcise those demons in 2017. They also have the lovable antics of the bench mob, and one of our favorite mid-major rivalries with Iona.
41. Don't be surprised if no player in college basketball scores more points than Davidson's Jack Gibbs this season. The man dropped 41 points with Steph Curry sitting courtside last year.
42. At 72, Syracuse had the worst RPI of any at-large selection in NCAA Tournament history when they earned a No. 10 seed on Selection Sunday last year. The Orange then played their way into the Final Four and ended 2015-16 with an RPI of 42.
43. Forty-three is the minimum number of times you should have listened to the radio call of Northern Iowa's buzzer-beating win over Texas in the first round of last year's tournament.
44. Gonzaga was a good minute against Syracuse away from making the Elite 8 for a second straight season. Despite losing big man Domantas Sabonis to the NBA Draft, the Zags figure to be in prime position to make yet another run in March, thanks in large part to the presence of Washington transfer Nigel Williams-Goss. As a sophomore for the Huskies in 2014-15, Williams-Goss averaged 15.6 points and 5.9 assists per game, while shooting 44.2 percent from the floor.
45. Saint Mary's will start the season with a top 20 national ranking a year after being left out of the tournament despite a 27-5 record and a Ken Pomery ranking of 34. For comparison's sake, the best Ken Pom ranking for a team left out of the 2015 field was Florida at No. 45.
46. Everyone knows about Duke-North Carolina and Kentucky-Louisville, but what is college basketball's third-best rivalry? There seems to be no clarity on the debate, and there are no shortage of worthy contenders.
Here are the dates of some of the better "non-big two" rivalry games this season, including Cincinnati and Xavier, whose campuses are located just 4.6 miles apart:
Villanova vs. Saint Joseph's (Dec. 3)
Iowa State at Iowa (Dec. 8)
Wisconsin at Marquette (Dec. 10)
Georgetown at Syracuse (Dec. 17)
Illinois vs. Missouri (Dec. 21)
Kansas vs. Kansas State (Jan. 3 and Feb. 6)
Gonzaga vs. Saint Mary's (Jan. 14 and Feb. 11)
Xavier at Cincinnati (Jan. 26)
Arizona vs. UCLA (Jan. 21 and Feb. 25)
Michigan State vs. Michigan (Jan. 29 and Feb. 7)
Ohio State at Michigan (Feb. 4)
Indiana vs. Purdue (Feb. 9 and Feb. 28)
47. After two teams went dancing for the first time in 2016, we are now left with 47 eligible Division-I programs that have never made it to the NCAA Tournament. The most infamous among that group are the only five original Division-I members that have never made the tournament: Army, The Citadel, William & Mary, St. Francis Brooklyn and Northwestern.
48. There will be a record 48 "early season tournaments" in college basketball this year. You can check out the dates, locations and fields for all 48 right here.
49. Forty-nine is the number of times you are required to sing "One Shining Moment" between now and the first game on Friday. No more, no less.
51. The number of times this season that the Providence Friar will haunt your dreams.
Providence Friar plotting out which soul he'll take next. pic.twitter.com/sUhQPJEpKy— Cory Smith (@RCorySmith) March 20, 2016
52. College basketball's "big six conferences" (the power five plus the Big East) went a combined 52-35 in the NCAA Tournament, with only the Pac-12 (4-7) failing to produce a winning record.
53. The best dunker in college basketball? There are plenty of worthy candidates out there, but give me Texas' Kerwin Roach.
He might be serving an early season suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules, but just watch that 53 times (or so) until he returns.
54. It's been 33 years since Virginia last crashed a Final Four, and had been 21 since the Cavaliers made a regional final before last season. Tony Bennett's UVA squad came oh so close to breaking both streaks, but a stunning second half collapse against Syracuse allowed the Orange to move on to Houston. Despite losing All-American Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia will start 2016-17 ranked in the nation's top 10 once again, and has dreams of getting over the hump and into the final weekend of the season.
55. The number of times we're going to be thinking about Wayne Selden's Uncle Anthony this season.
56. Preseason big 10 Player of the Year Nigel Hayes, who has been at Wisconsin for what feels like 56 years (that's bad, I know), is poised to be the voice of the NCAA student-athlete this season. There's no one better suited for the role.
57. UCLA lost 17 games last season, including three to arch-rival USC by a combined 57 points. The extremely disappointing campaign resulted in head coach Steve Alford returning a previously agreed-upon one-year extension to his contract that was set to keep him in Los Angeles through the 2020-21 season.
If Alford, who has still never coached a team past the Sweet 16, hopes to remain in Westwood that long, he's going to need an immediate turnaround spearheaded by do-everything freshman Lonzo Ball. Averaging a triple-double, the 6'5 Ball spent his senior season of high school leading Chino Hills High to a perfect 35-0 record and the No. 1 spot in virtually every set of national high school basketball rankings. His addition should allow Bryce Alford, the coach's son, to assume his more natural role of pure shooting guard, and give the Bruins a better shot to effectively play the up-tempo style that the elder Alford prefers.
58. Last season was a pretty fantastic one for buzzer-beaters. Here's hoping we get to experience at least 58 of these between now and early April.
59. It's been six years since the Washington Huskies heard their names called on Selection Sunday, a streak star freshman and potential No. 1 NBA Draft pick Markelle Fultz hopes to help end.
Fultz has been referred to by some as "this year's Ben Simmons," which might not exactly be a term of endearment. Simmons did wind up as the top pick in the draft, but his brief stay at LSU included far more negatives than positives. The Tigers appeared disinterested for most of the second half of the season, gave an embarrassing performance against Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament, finished the year 19-14 and declined an invitation to the NIT. Simmons has since admitted that he didn't attend class during the spring semester, and blasts the NCAA in a new documentary where he refers to his one season of college basketball as "a waste of time."
Fultz is about as talented a player as there is in the country, but with that gift comes added pressure on Lorenzo Romar -- who has a career win percentage of 59.5 over two decades as a head coach -- to handle the awkward situation of coaching a player who will likely be a multi-millionaire in a few months better than Johnny Jones did at LSU last season.
60. College hoops fans wondered how the shortening of the shot clock and the other rule changes would affect Virginia's vaunted halfcourt defense last season. The Cavaliers did allow almost 10 more points per game last season than they had in 2014-15, but their allowed average of 60.1 ppg was still the second-lowest total in Division-I, ranking behind only Wichita State.
Tony Bennett's team is again loaded with length and size, and this year you can toss in some added depth for good measure. Don't be surprised if UVA reclaims the top spot for just about every chartable team defensive statistic.
61. The number of Crean Faces you're going to see between now and the first days of spring.
They say if you stare directly at Elite 8 Crean Face for more than five seconds, you die ... but only if he's the coach of Indiana. Maybe this is the year we get to test the legend.
62. Statistically speaking, Villanova may have had the most impressive run to a national title in the history of the tournament last season. The Wildcats produced the highest field goal percentage ever for a champion (58.2 percent), they shot 64.9 percent from the field in their two Final Four games, and tournament MOP Ryan Arcidiacono hit 71 percent of his twos and 62 percent of his threes during the Big Dance. Even with Arch gone, there's a reason so many people think the Wildcats have the best chance to repeat of any champion we've seen over the past decade.
63. Xavier set nearly every school record imaginable last season, but a pair of miracle threes from Bronson Koenig sent them home with a 66-63 loss in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Musketeers return nearly every key contributor from that team, and as a result, they'll begin the season ranked No. 7 in the AP top 25. The X-men have played their way into the Elite 8 twice in the last 13 years, but have still yet to make it to a Final Four. Reigning USBWA national Coach of the Year Chris Mack is hoping that fact will be altered in a few months.
64. Perhaps the most important change of last season -- at least for the sanity of college basketball fans and media members alike -- was that the "round of 64" and "round of 32" going back to being called the "first round" and the "second round." The "First Four" -- which had ridiculously been referred to as the first round of the tournament, confusing the absolute hell out of everyone -- is now known simply as the "First Four" or "opening round."
65. Owning an 0-35 all-time record, the Northeast Conference is still the only Division-I league to have never tasted victory in the NCAA Tournament. Fairleigh Dickinson, the NEC's representative last year, was pasted 96-65 by Florida Gulf Coast in the First Four.
66. Everybody knows about the frequency of the 12/5 upset in the NCAA Tournament, but how about some love for the work the No. 13 seeds have been putting in over the past decade? At least one 13-seed has won a game in the tournament in seven of the last nine years, a trend which continued last season when Hawaii notched its first tournament win ever with a 77-66 triumph over Cal.
67. The approximate length, in feet, of Jalen Adams' shot that forced a fourth overtime in UConn's AAC Tournament quarterfinal game against Cincinnati.
The shot kept the Huskies' (ultimately realized) NCAA Tournament dreams alive, as they went on to defeat the Bearcats in the fourth extra frame. More will be expected from both Connecticut and Adams in 2016-17.
68. The number of teams that will have a shot at winning six (or seven) straight games to claim a national title come Selection Sunday. Still, and always, the best postseason in all of sports.