College Basketball Insider

Let's look ahead now that we're halfway done with this season

College basketball's regular season started two months ago today (Nov. 9) and will end two months from today (March 9). So we are literally right in the middle of this 2012-13 season, and, I'll be honest, the whole thing has been a bit underwhelming.

Where's something similar to Jimmer-mania? Or Kemba-mania? Or J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison playing video games while competing for a scoring title? Where's that team that seems like it might be an all-time great? Where's that player who is appointment TV?

And where is college basketball's Katherine Webb?

Can we at least get a Katherine Webb!?!

I'm not saying things are bad; things are fine. But college basketball needs interesting storylines to grab the attention of casual fans before the Super Bowl, and there really aren't any storylines good enough to do that.

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Consequently, this season is on track to be one of the most forgettable seasons in recent memory unless the Field of 68 produces another run from somebody like a Butler, VCU or George Mason.

That said, don't get it twisted. Just because there aren't storylines that transcend sports doesn't mean there aren't some worth following. Here are four in advance of the Final Four.

1. Can anybody make a run at an undefeated season?

The short answer is probably not -- because Duke (15-0) is now down a key player for an extended period of time, because Michigan (15-0) plays in a league with four other schools ranked in the top 15, and because Arizona (14-0) wouldn't even be undefeated if not for some questionable officiating. Still, the attempts will be fun to follow. It's fun every season. It was fun with Illinois in 2005 and fun with Murray State in 2012, and it'll be fun with these three teams in 2013 until they inevitably slip up or just get beat.

2. Can Doug McDermott win National Player of the Year?

The Creighton junior's numbers (22.6 points, 7.3 rebounds) will be good enough, and he plays for a good enough team (the Bluejays are 15-1 and ranked 13th). But I'm worried that the average college basketball fan (and folks who vote on these awards) simply won't see him enough. McDermott has 15 regular-season games remaining. None is guaranteed to be on ESPN or CBS. So people will have to look for him to find him, and that's not good considering people are mostly lazy.

3. Can Kentucky make a fourth consecutive Elite Eight?

This might seem farfetched considering the Wildcats are unranked and 0-4 against schools in the RPI's top 50. But you would be foolish to dismiss a team with three lottery picks (Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress) and a point guard (Ryan Harrow) who is averaging 16.8 points and 4.3 assists in his past four outings. In fact, here's my prediction: The Wildcats will win the SEC and make a third consecutive Final Four and fourth consecutive Elite Eight, then reload with a fresh batch of freshmen who will be talented enough to maybe go undefeated next season. (But we'll deal with that last part at a later date.)

4. Can UCLA continue to be fun and successful?

This, I think, is my favorite storyline -- Ben Howland coaching for his job in a way that he's never coached before with a group of players who are limited but entertaining. These Bruins run and try to outscore opponents because they're not that great defensively, which must drive a defensive coach like Howland crazy. Either way, it's fascinating! UCLA has gone from a team losing to California Polytechnic State University to a team on a seven-game winning streak despite losing two players along the way (or maybe because it lost two players along the way). I'm not sure if the Bruins can win the Pac-12. But I'm not sure they can't, either.

Five games I can't wait to see in January:

Five games I can't wait to see in February:

Five games I can't wait to see in March:

  • No. 23 Wichita State at No. 13 Creighton on March 2
  • No. 4 Arizona at UCLA on March 2
  • No. 11 Florida at Kentucky on March 9
  • No. 14 Butler at VCU on March 2
  • No. 1 Duke at North Carolina on March 9

Final thought: Another thing to monitor as this season unfolds is how injuries might affect the national landscape because they've already played a role. The top three teams in the AP poll (Duke, Michigan, Louisville) have already each lost a rotation player for some amount of time, and the nation's leading scorer (Lehigh's C.J. McCollum) will be sidelined at least eight weeks after he had surgery this week to repair a broken foot.

Yes, I know, injuries are part of the game.

But this has been an especially bad season for them to date.

So here's hoping they're less a part of the game going forward than they've been thus far.

 
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