The 2018-19 NCAA college basketball season is underway with hundreds of men's and women's teams trying to capture our attention spans. From now until April, we'll be following along, closely watching. But instead of just box scores and highlights, we're going to profile a player from each class, plus one additional story. With TSFJ and the help from Josh Naso, we present to you The Sports Fan Journal's Box And One.
Freshman: Romeo Langford, Indiana. For a player like Romeo Langford, Indiana's upcoming game against Duke in Cameron Indoor Arena on Tuesday could be his breakout game, announcing himself as a talented freshman on the same level as his counterparts in Durham. But Langford, an Indiana native, is already on the radar of most NBA scouts. The 6'6" guard is projected to be a lottery pick in next year's Draft. Blessed with ideal NBA wing size and a steady pace to his game that takes most teenagers years to acquire, he certainly gives the Hoosiers a chance to upset Duke.
Sophomore: Tremont Waters, LSU. I have a personal appreciation for small guards with a ton of game and the massive belief in themselves. This describes Tremont Waters perfectly, as the 5'11" lead guard for the LSU Tigers is one of the best sophomores — if not players — in the country. He has helped LSU to a 5-2 start, averaging 11 points and six assists. Yes, those numbers are down from his freshman year, but his game has matured since then, playing much more patiently while still maintaining that necessary confidence to dominate at his size. The evidence of his growth showed up over the summer, as he dominated several Pro-Am games. Waters scored 60 at the Hartford Pro-Am, even adding a few dunks that day.
Junior: Carsen Edwards, Purdue. Carsen Edwards isn't as small as the previously mentioned Waters, but he is one year older and has taken a massive leap from even his stellar sophomore year. Edwards is putting up 25 points per game, shooting 41% from three. The 19th-ranked Boilermakers are 5-1, and Edwards is one of the biggest reasons why. In a loaded Big Ten Conference, he's going to have to play this well if Purdue wants to contend for the conference crown this year.
Senior: Sophie Cunningham, Missouri. Sophie Cunningham could have chosen a higher-profiled school. But the Columbia-born guard decided to stay close to home and attend Mizzou. At 6'1", Cunningham is a big guard that is the Tigers' leading scorer. She's on the Naismith Award Watch List with good reason, and she is a huge part of why the Tigers are ranked 21st in the nation.
And One: So the NCAA has introduced a new way to quantify the worthiness of teams to make the NCAA Tournament called NET. In an effort to replace the mostly-confusing formula that is used to figure out RPI, the governing bodies have decided to use NET. The first rankings came out this week and... they are still very puzzling.
The NET opens with Ohio State at the top. Other highlights include Duke at #6, Loyola-Marymount at #10 and Kentucky coming in at #61. NET, short for, "NCAA Evaluation Tool," takes into account a lot of factors to determine just how good a team is. An article on CBS Sports defines it in short as, "...a blend of results-based statistics and predictive algorithms." While this means that there will hopefully be less subjectivity in the selection process, there is still a Selection Committee. What that means is the NET is a tool and not the determining factor for choosing teams for At-Large Tournament bids. There is still room for human judgment and thus, room for subjectivity and possible human error. Maybe the NET will properly bear out as the season progresses, but this is certainly a baffling start to its use.
Two weeks into Box and One, and we're still in the zone. Enjoy college basketball, folks.
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