Seven long months later, college basketball is finally back.
The 2019-20 season charges out of the starting blocks with a blueblood doubleheader this week and a non-conference slate full of must-see games.
To get you ready, we’ve got a rundown of the top teams, players and early-season matchups in what figures to be another wild ride.
Michigan State. Even with shooting guard Joshua Langford’s foot injury, the Spartans are loaded and aiming for another Final Four run under Tom Izzo.
Kentucky. Coach Cal has another top-10 recruiting class and some veterans to go with the newcomers. Another deep March run could be coming.
Kansas. The Jayhawks were charged with major NCAA violations before the season started. If they’re allowed to play in the NCAA Tournament, they could charge through bracket with what may be coach Bill Self’s deepest roster since the 2008 title team.
Duke. Zion, R.J. and Cam are gone, but the Blue Devils may be deeper and more balanced. They also have Tre Jones back.
Louisville. The Cardinals could go from scandal to title in two short years under Chris Mack. They’re that good.
Maryland. Deep, talented, mature. These Terps are built for a deep March run.
Cassius Winston, Michigan State. Usually isn’t the tallest or most athletic player on the floor. Almost always the best player on the floor.
Markus Howard, Marquette. Lit up defenses with a variety of stepback 3s and crafty drives as a junior. Expect even more now that he decided to come back.
Jordan Nwora, Louisville. Scores in bunches, knocks down 3s, backs down smaller players in the paint, rebounds, snatches steals. Yeah, the 6-foot-8 junior can do it all.
Myles Powell, Seton Hall. Emerged as a star last season. Figure on the trajectory continuing upward.
James Wiseman, Memphis. The 7-1 freshman has been projected as the No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA draft. Until then, expect him to dominate college hoops.
Kerry Blackshear Jr., Florida. The grad transfer from Virginia Tech was a huge get for the Gators.
Utah State. Coach Craig Smith has quickly built a juggernaut in Logan. Keep an eye on volume-scoring guard Sam Merrill.
Saint Mary’s. Randy Bennett has nearly everyone back from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, led by high-scoring guard Jordan Ford.
Virginia Commonwealth. Like lockdown defense? The Rams are for you.
Davidson. Jon Axel Gudmundsson and Kellan Grady are going to make the Wildcats fun to watch, possibly create a buzz not seen near Charlotte since Steph Curry tore through the NCAA Tournament.
Vermont. Dominating Anthony Lamb could lead the Catamounts deep into the NCAA bracket.
Cole Anthony, North Carolina. The son of former NBA player Greg Anthony will slide right into Coby White’s point guard spot ? and possibly do it better.
Vernon Carey Jr., Duke. Another son of a professional athlete ? his father was an NFL offensive lineman ? the 6-10, 275-pound Carey is an intimidating presence inside.
Nico Mannion, Arizona. The heady pass-first point guard will be a big reason if the Wildcats get back to the NCAA Tournament after missing out last year.
Isaiah Stewart, Washington. Broad shouldered, can fly and will bully opponents in the paint.
Anthony Edwards, Georgia. Superbly athletic, can shoot off the dribble, get to the rim, drain stepbacks.
MUST-SEE NON-CONFERENCE GAMES
Michigan State vs. Kentucky, Nov. 5, New York. No. 1 against No. 2 in Madison Square Garden? Yes, please.
Kansas vs. Duke, Nov. 5, New York. No. 3 vs. No. 4 at the Garden will make for one hard-to-top doubleheader.
No. 8 Gonzaga at No. 21 Arizona, Dec. 14. McKale Center is going to be rockin’ when two of the West’s best teams meet.
No. 4 Duke at No. 1 Michigan State, Dec. 3. Blueblood showdown, Izzo vs. Coach K, talent bursting at the seams. Going to be a fun night in East Lansing.
No. 17 Utah State at No. 20 Saint Mary’s, Nov. 29. Marquee game of the mid-major schedules.