Headline: Does Dunk City have an encore?
Storyline: Florida Gulf Coast was the story of last year’s NCAA Tournament but can they repeat? The Eagles have a new coach but return four starters from the squad that took the country by storm. Replacing emotional leader Sherwood Brown will be difficult but point guard Brett Comer, forward Chase Fieler and Bernard Thompson return to show that Dunk City is more phenomenon and less trending fad.
Keep an eye on: Mercer and South Carolina-Upstate are the two likeliest contenders to FGCU. Mercer had hoped to take the reigns of the conference after Belmont left for the Ohio Valley but fell victim to the Eagles and are hoping to take their team one step further this season. South Carolina-Upstate returns the league’s two-time leading scorer in senior guard Torrey Craig who is looking to lead his school to its first NCAA Tournament.
Headline: Does Kansas finally get knocked off the Big 12 throne?
Storyline: The Jayhawks have won at least a share of the conference title nine straight years and some say this is the best recruiting class coach Bill Self has ever had. Led by the country’s top recruit Andrew Wiggins and joined by center Joel Embiid and guard Wayne Selden, Kansas is super young but super talented. Right on their heels however is Oklahoma State and the nation’s best returning player in Marcus Smart and a Baylor team loaded with experience that has to replace Pierre Jackson at the point.
Keep an eye on: Iowa State returns one of the country’s most versatile players in sophomore Geores Niang and the conference’s best rebounder, senior Melvin Ejim. Add to them perhaps the most impactful transfer in the country DeAndre Kane who enters the Cyclones’ back court after a successful career at Marshall. Fred Hoiberg has a squad that could be a real deciding factor in who wins the Big 12 in 2014.
Headline: The Catholic 7 and their new cohorts hope to start a new Big East tradition.
Storyline: How do Butler, Creighton and Xavier adjust to the new competition and how much of an impact can they make in order to make the Big East their home and not just additions to the group that broke off from the old Big East?
Keep an eye on: St. John’s is now experienced under coach Steve Lavin and the Johnnies have the likes of D’Angelo Harrison and Jakar Sampson to help lead them back to the NCAA Tournament.
Headline: Another year Another Big Sky battle between Montana and Weber State.
Storyline: Montana has been one of the best teams in the country during the month of February the last few seasons , but has failed to reach the NCAA Tournament since 2007. Last year they became the first team from the Big Sky to win 30 games and return a nice nucleus to continue that success. Montana won the league last year but lost leading scorers Will Cherry and Mathias Ward but return senior guard Kareem Jamar to lead the charge towards a repeat.
Keep an eye on: North Dakota returns four starters led by 19-point scorer Troy Huff who along with his veteran team mates should mount a pretty good challenge for Weber State and Montana.