Florida Man: 2021-22 college basketball season preview
The 2021-22 college basketball season is less than two weeks away from tipping off, so now seems like as good a time to preview what’s to come. This week in Florida Man, Rivals.com’s recruiting director Rob Cassidy has a look at some of the teams, players and stories that will shape the season.
Fact or Fiction: Oklahoma will make the NCAA Tournament this season
Rivals Roundtable: 2025 prospects, sleeper teams, predictions
2023 Rankings: Rivals150
NATIONAL CHAMPION PICK: Kansas (+1800 to win the title)
Obviously, Gonzaga enters the season ranked No. 1 for a reason. But if Kansas manages to stay healthy and enter the NCAA Tournament as the battle-tested Big 12 champion, led by proven star Remy Martin, I’ll take the Jayhawks. Martin is suddenly equipped with a level of supporting talent and experience the likes of which he’s never had.
KU returns four starters from last year’s team and will enter March Madness on the heels of a challenging Big 12 slate that should have the Jayhawks peaking. The defense will need to tighten up as compared with last year, sure, but the experience and depth of talent in Lawrence is undeniable.
Currently, there are seven teams with better betting odds than KU when it comes to cutting down the nets, but Bill Self is still Bill Self, and I don’t mind hitching my star to his wagon.
UNDERRATED: Florida State (+2800 to win the national title)
Do I think Florida State will win the national title? No. The Seminoles don’t seem to have the roster for that, but the perpetually undervalued Seminoles are a good bet to finish well above their preseason ranking of 20. Florida State felt undervalued at this time last year and somehow does again now.
Leonard Hamilton is once again armed with trademark length and promising depth. This year, the veteran head coach has a senior-laden roster to boot. Add in the fact that Matthew Cleveland is being a bit skimmed over as a nationally important impact freshman with an NBA ceiling, and the Seminoles once again feel like a team that could outperform expectations. Another Sweet 16 run (or better) could be in the cards if Cleveland quickly adjusts to the college game and Houston transfer Caleb Mills (12.8 PPG in two seasons as a Cougar) takes the next step.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR PICK: Drew Timme
Are there better pro prospects than Drew Timme? Of course there are. That said, it seems almost impossible that anyone will be able to match the numbers the Gonzaga senior is about to post on a title-contending team. Timme is coming off a season that saw him average 19 points and seven rebounds per game and an NCAA Tournament run during which he scored 20.3 points per game.
There seem to be few things short of injury capable of derailing the Timme Train. We here at Florida Man unapologetically stand behind the big-boy bruiser, and It’ll be a joy to watch the 225-pound power forward batter his way to eye-popping numbers and POY honors.
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR PICK: Paolo Banchero
I still think freshman Chet Holmgren will be the top pick in the next NBA Draft because of his incredibly rare skill set, but with Holmgren deferring some to Timme in Spokane, Duke’s Paolo Banchero seems to be set up for success from a hardware standpoint. Banchero is expected to lead a Duke team that will be under the national microscope even more so than usual, based on Mike Krzyzewski’s farewell tour.
Banchero could well lead Duke in both scoring and rebounding this year while leading the Blue Devils to a bounceback year in Coach K’s final season. Nobody is wrestling freshman of the year honors away from the 6-foot-10 one-and-done candidate.
MOST INTRIGUING TEAM: Memphis
Can a team led by two hyper-touted freshmen make a deep tournament run? Will growing pains force it to fall well short of expectations? How much point guard will Emoni Bates play? Is he capable of doing so? Will Jalen Duren be the dominant inside force everyone is expecting him to be?
If Memphis doesn’t make it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament with this roster, will groans about Penny Hardaway grow loud? What’s the Tigers’ ceiling? What’s their floor?
The only certainty is that Memphis is going to be must-see TV, regardless of which direction the season goes.
THE OMNIPRESENT STORY LINE: Coach K's swan song
Legendary Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is hanging it up after the upcoming season. If you somehow haven’t heard that news, don’t worry. You’re about to be reminded … again and again and again. This will be covered from every imaginable angle.
My pet prediction is that we’ll get some sort of manufactured controversy about an opposing player, coach or fan base “not showing enough respect” for the departing legend at some point. Can’t wait.