The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Z_CNHI News Service

February 4, 2014

Schedules may get longer, but basketball season seems shorter

(Continued)

They're here in college one year, gone the next. That’s a tough marketing assignment for those trying to draw fans to the game.

Just take a look at the freshmen now tearing up the college schedule - but don’t wait long.

Kansas features Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, either of whom could be the No. 1 selection in next summer’s NBA draft.

Kentucky might scoff at that with at least four freshmen who could trade Wildcat blue for NBA gold after a brief stop in Lexington - Julius Randle, James Young and the Harrison twins, Andrew and Aaron.

Making that move is their prerogative, and who would turn down a guaranteed contract?

Until then those freshmen and a half-dozen others like them will have a chance at college basketball glory - and we fans will have to enjoy it while we can.

If the NCAA tournament pairings were released today, the top seeds likely would be Syracuse, Arizona, Kansas and Wichita State. The second level would be Villanova, Michigan, Florida and Michigan State.

That probably will change. Injuries alter expectations, and upsets have a way of destroying big dreams.

While losing to California, Arizona sustained another major setback when forward Brandon Ashley broke a bone in his foot, ending his season. The Wildcats weren’t a deep team to begin with. Elsewhere, training rooms at Michigan and Michigan State have resembled an infirmary all year.

Wichita State and Syracuse are the last two unbeaten teams, though how long can that last? No team has had a perfect year since Indiana in 1975-76.

The season was shorter then; the Hoosiers played 32 games. Last year, when Louisville won the championship, the Cardinals played eight more games. The odds of running the table now are much longer.

With a month left in the regular season, followed by conference tournaments, basketball teams are expected to be performing at a higher level. That especially holds true for freshmen, most of whom have now played 20 or more games.

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