Picking the 2018-19 conference races and the Final Four

College Basketball Preview 2018-19

We will start with conference by conference analysis and predictions along with picking some of the best mid majors individually. I will also give my Final Four picks. Let’s get to it. Check out my Big 12 preview here.

ACC

Duke is the sexy pick out of the ACC this year, but I don’t think they’re the team to beat. The North Carolina Tar Heels are my pick to win the conference this season. UNC is returning forward Luke Maye, forward Cam Johnson, guard Kenny Williams, and its bench makes it the deepest team in the ACC. This conference is going to take a step back this season, I think. Louisville isn’t going to be as good, nor will Notre Dame or Miami. Virginia should be a pretty solid group again, but I doubt they’ll be good enough to be one seed (which may be a good thing for them, considering UMBC and all). It seems like there will be a lot of middle of the road teams in the ACC this season.

Conference Champ: North Carolina

Biggest Question: Who will be Duke’s fifth starter? I want an actual answer to this.Will it be four-star recruit Joey Baker? Could it be sophomore Alex O’Connell? Forward Javin DeLaurier??? This is mostly why I didn’t pick Duke to win the conference. They have a shallow bench and four starters.

Sleeper Team: Virginia Tech

Big East

I have to take Villanova in the Big East. The Wildcats seem to be just a step above the rest of the conference. Xavier will be a competitor as well, and I think Marquette will have a solid 2018-19, too. Nova will likely be the Big East’s best chance at a Final Four as usual. The entire conference might be taking a step back this year if I’m being honest, though. There certainly will be a few tournament teams, but I don’t see anyone making too big of a splash.

Conference Champ: Villanova

Biggest Question: Is this the year Creighton beats Kansas in the Sweet 16? It certainly could be. I truly thought the Jays would get that win last year but no, that honor was given to another Big East squad.

Sleeper Team: St John’s. Yeah, you heard me.

Big Ten

Michigan State is the pick out of the Big Ten and I don’t think it’s very close. The Spartans will most likely start all upperclassmen this season and have three four-star recruits coming in. They won’t be quite as good as they were during the regular season last year, but look for Tom Izzo and Sparty to make another solid run. Otherwise, Minnesota is a veteran team, and Maryland has a five-star recruit (Jalen Smith) on the roster, as does Indiana (Romeo Langford). Purdue is a lot younger than they have been in recent years; the Boilermakers look destined to take a step back. Ethan Happ and Wisconsin looks like they might have a bounce-back season though; they should contend for the NCAA tournament. Michigan will be average and the rest of the league will be around there or worse.

Conference Champion: Michigan State

Biggest Question: How many games does Michigan State win the league by? It’s going to be a lot. This conference is so average compared to previous iterations. MSU should absolutely run through the Big Ten this year. Fans in East Lansing should be very excited.

Sleeper Team: Nebraska

Big 12

Full preview HERE.

Pac-12

Arizona is going to be somewhere between irrelevant and bad. Oregon, while young, pulled in a very nice recruiting class. Peyton Pritchard and Paul White are the upperclassmen for the Ducks. USC and Arizona State will be teams to watch in the Pac 12 race, though. UCLA would have been a lot more interesting with Shareef O’Neal, but we hope his surgery goes well and that he makes a speedy recovery. Our prayers are with him. Nevertheless, the Bruins plan to factor in the conference race as well. This should be an interesting, if top heavy, league to follow.

Conference Champ: Oregon

Biggest Question: How does Sean Miller still have a job? He offered to pay a recruit $100,000. AND HE’S STILL THERE. Impossible. He should have been fired months ago.

Sleeper Team: Utah

SEC

Kentucky is stacked to the tune of four five-star recruits, all of whom are inside the top 25. That’s along with graduate transfer from Stanford Reid Travis, who was the most sought-after free agent on the college basketball market this year. The Wildcats might be the second best team in America behind Kansas to start the year. Close behind Big Blue, though, is Tennessee. The Vols return… everybody important. This is a make or break year for Tennessee. They have Final Four-level upside. LSU and Vanderbilt both put together nice recruiting classes, though I am much higher on the Tigers. Florida should be interesting as always. Missouri will be worth watching because why not?

Conference Champ: Kentucky

Biggest Question: Will the SEC finally solidify itself as a competitive basketball conference? It’s been on the cusp for a couple years now and was actually impressive last season. Will they be good again? Difficult to say, but they certainly won’t be bad.

Sleeper Team: Mississippi State

Six Mid Majors to watch

Buffalo: A senior laden team who beat Arizona last season. This team shouldn’t be short on confidence.

Davidson: Kellan Grady and Jon Axel Gudmundsson are a lethal combo in the backcourt for the Wildcats. Could be a fun year.

Nevada: They’re loaded with upperclassmen, and they have an incoming five-star recruit. Nevada is legit.

Gonzaga: Possibly a national title contender. The Zags will have a dominant regular season once again.

Loyola-Chicago: Clayton Custer is back for another run with a great team. Last year might have been lightning in a bottle but this year’s team will be very good.

Western Kentucky: Charles Bassey gives the Hilltoppers their second five-star in as many years. WKU is fairly experienced with some talented youth. That’s a recipe for winning.

Final Four

Kansas: The deepest and most talented team in the nation. KU is poised to have a special season.

Kentucky: The second deepest and most talented team in the country. PayPal Cal always has good teams. Unless he doesn’t.

Nevada: They’re my “let’s get wild with it” pick of the year. They’re talented, deep, and experienced.

North Carolina: UNC is deep and talented also. A running theme for my Final Four picks. Luke Maye is going to have a shot at a national title once again.

Call me a homer, but I have to take Kansas. They’re 2014-15 Kentucky levels of loaded. It’s crazy, and it will be so much fun to watch. That makes Kansas my official 2018-19 national champion prediction. It’ll be fun to look back at this when Duke cuts down the nets after blasting Kansas in the Elite Eight.

Landen Fields

I’m a junior in high school. I’m also homeschooled, which gives me the ability to watch ESPN all day. I love the Jayhawks, and I love to write about them. I’m also a huge fan of Star Wars, Marvel, and action/sci-fi movies. I hope to have a career in sports media one day, and I am grateful for this first step into a larger world.