This week, SI college basketball writer Luke Winn wrote an article claiming 25 fearless predictions for the upcoming season. While at first I planned to write my own piece with 25 new predictions, I figured I could throw out baseless thoughts and nobody would hold my feet to the fire anyway. Like on Baseball Tonight when John Kruk predicted Randy Johnson would win 30 games in 2006 and, when he came up miles short, nobody mentioned it again. Instead, I’ll hold Winn’s feet to the fire and decide whether his fearless predictions will be fact or fiction.
Quick disclaimer: None of these predictions are fearless.
1. We’ll be talking about two freshmen in contention for the #1 pick in the 2009 NBA Draft: USC guard DeMar DeRozan and Ohio State center B.J. Mullens
Fiction: The top two picks in the draft will be DeRozan and Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin. Griffin will emerge as a Tyler Hansbrough clone with more projection for the NBA, featuring advanced post moves and a knack for scoring/passing. DeRozan is an athletic freak who can jump out of the building and has a complete game. Mullens, on the other hand, will prove too inconsistent to be a #1 or #2 overall pick.
2. The Big East will send nine teams to the NCAA Tournament
Fact: Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Louisville, Marquette and Connecticut are locks. Joining those five will be Georgetown, Syracuse, Villanova, West Virginia, and Providence as the tenth team in the dance.
3. Marquette coach Buzz Williams will win more games than any other newly named head coach
Fact: And it won’t even be close. Johnny Dawkins needs to rebuild at Stanford, Trent Johnson is approaching at LSU, and I have faith in Keno Davis at Providence. But none of these teams can match the talent returning for Buzz Williams.
4. Davidson will not be a top 20 team
Fact: Jason Richards is a very underrated loss for this team. They rode a magical carpet ride to the Elite 8, but carrying that success to the next season is very difficult. They’ll march through the Southern like Sherman in Atlanta and figure to be competitive in their hard non-conference slate, peeking into the top-25 a few times during the year.
5. This year’s George Mason will not exist.
Fact: Davidson came close. We won’t see a mid major reach the Final Four for many, many years.
6. The final verdict on Detroit as a Final Four city will be bad.
Fiction: Detroit has always been a quality basketball town. For us bloggers who don’t get to complain about the location from the location, this is completely irrelevant. Give us classic games, please.
7. Purdue will win its first of three straight Big Ten titles.
Fiction: Purdue won’t even take home the crown this season- look for Tom Izzo and Michigan State to be holding the trophy in early March. The Boilermakers finish a close second, though.
8. Illinois and Bruce Weber will beat Indiana twice this year.
Fact: The Illini went through a rebuilding year after losing out on Eric Gordon last season, but expect them to beat up on punching bag Indiana this season, who have completely redefined rebuilding. Demetri McCamey is my breakout candidate for the Big 10.
9. DeMar DeRozan will average more points than O.J. Mayo did his freshman year
Fact: Mayo averaged 20.7 points per game last year at USC. While it’s lofty to predict DeRozan to average any more than that, I’ve been hyping this kid up for long enough and I’m not going to stop now. DeRozan will average 22 PPG for a USC team that doesn’t have an exciting supporting cast, especially if Taj Gibson is as unreliable as he was last campaign.
10. USC won’t get into any trouble for the Mayo scandal
Fact: What happened to the Reggie Bush scandal, too? Did that magically disappear?
11. Watch out for Texas A&M’s Bryan Davis as a breakout post presence
Fact: Davis has the talent and potential to emerge for A&M, and should see more and more shot opportunities with DeAndre Jordan regretfully parting ways and Joseph Jones out of the picture. I need to stop agreeing with Luke Winn.
12. There isn’t going to be a debate: Tyler Hansbrough will be the clear Player of the Year.
Fiction: If Curry averages 28 PPG, even for a small school, his name will be mentioned frequently. Hansbrough is the likely victor, but candidates like James Harden, Tyrese Rice, DeMar DeRozan, Robert Vaden, Luke Harangody and Curry could definitely emerge.
13. VCU’s Eric Maynor will be the second best mid major point guard behind Curry
Fact: Look out for Lester Hudson at Tennessee-Martin, but for higher mid majors, this is obviously true. How are these fearless predictions again?
14. James Harden of Arizona State will turn into a household name
Fact: Harden is a truly remarkable talent with the best slashing and pure scoring ability near the basket of any forward in the nation, someone who can simply take over any game late. Again, fearless? Really, Luke?
15. DeJuan Blair of Pittsburgh will turn into a household name
Fiction: Blair doesn’t have the complete offensive repertoire to take America by storm. This is unless Pitt reaches deep in the NCAA Tournament and Blair turns into a sensation while we watch him smile 85 times per game and hear Jay Bilas gush about how much he’s a “tremendous individual.” We can all look forward to that.
16. Underrated NBA Draft dropout: Lee Cummard of BYU.
Fact: Ignore the fact that Lee Cummard is the perfect name for someone at BYU, and you’ll find a player who can easily repeat as Mountain West Player of the Year. Cummard scores in double figures in all but three games last year and shot 47% from deep.
17. Chase Budinger will help his draft stock by returning, but won’t have a very enjoyable season.
Fact: Losing Brandon Jennings was crippling for Lute Olson. I don’t see Chase Budinger carrying Arizona to any lofty goals this season, and while Jordan Hill is an exciting player, this core isn’t enough to lead the Wildcats anywhere past the second round.
18. Unsung hero for Michigan State this year: Goran Suton.
Fiction: Suton is one of the biggest enigmas in college basketball; he has the size and abilities to take over games in the post, but is often passive and fades every year in conference play. The real reason Michigan State should be feared is explosive point guard Kalin Lucas.
19. No one in the SEC West will challenge Tennessee.
Fact: Wait, these are supposed to be fearless predictions?
20. Australia’s next big contribution will be Ater Majok from Connecticut
Fact: Majok has quite an impressive trial to Storrs: born in Sudan, moved to Egypt and finally made his way to Australia. Like Thabeet was his freshman year, Majok will be very raw and unpolished. I’ll say fact based on Majok staying a few years when he can truly contribute.
21. Duke will miss the Final Four
Fact: It’s the same old story for the Blue Devils- the lack of any dominating inside presence will turn Duke into a shooting team when they can’t afford to be. Unless Lance Thomas or Brian Zoubek decide to change their game this summer, Duke will once again be a Sweet 16 team.
22. Bucks assistant Kelvin Sampson will be booed in the Bucks road game at Indiana
Fact: Does anyone really care?
23. Tyreke Evans will be a far more selfish player than Derrick Rose
Fact: Absolutely positively factual. Evans is a true talent who can run the floor, create his own shot and score in bunches. Rose was a pass-first special point guard, the type of player winning teams always have. At points this year John Calipari will find Mr. Evans very frustrating to deal with.
24. Wisconsin will be ranked again this season
Fact: The defensive system they have in Madison is unmatched and Bo Ryan’s team returns just enough to flirt with the Top 25 at various times this season.
Finally (drum roll please) the most FEARLESS prediction of them all:
25. North Carolina will win the national title.
There you go, folks. Fearless predictions from SI’s own Luke Winn.