The time has finally come for college basketball fans. The 2010-2011 College Basketball season is now here and on Monday there will be three top 25 teams in action. No. 4 Pittsburgh, No. 16 Illinois and No. 25 Texas will all head to the hardwood to kick off their seasons. Although they might not have intriguing opponents, it is still a chance for fans to get a glimpse of three of the top ranked teams in the country.
Pittsburgh has been one of the best teams in the country over the past decade and they will begin their season hosting Rhode Island. The Panthers should look forward to another successful season this year as they return four starters. Ashton Gibbs is back after averaging 15.7 points per game a year ago and was named the Big East’s Most Improved Player. Joining him in the backcourt is Brad Wanamaker (12.3 ppg). He also was a presence around the rim and hauled in 6 rebounds per game last season. The front court will be anchored by forward Nasir Robinson and center Gary McGhee. The Panthers have both the quickness in the backcourt and size in the paint that will be a plus this season. Not to mention, one of the best shooters in the country in Gibbs.
Illinois will host UC Irvine on Monday. For the first time since the 2004-2005 season, the Illini fans should feel really good about their team. They are loaded with a ton of experience and athleticism and return all five starters. They will be led by first-team all Big-Ten point guard Demetri McCamey, not to mention a great recruiting class that includes McDonald’s All-American forward Jereme Richmond. After ranking 144th nationally with 67.8 possessions per game, the Illini will use their athleticism to push the ball this season according to head coach Bruce Weber. So fans should be ready for Illinois to play exciting basketball this season.
The Longhorns will begin their season hosting Navy. Texas will need to forget about last season where they started off 17-0, only to lose 10 of their last 17 games to be successful this season. Chemistry could be a problem this year after losing three starters to the NBA from last year’s team. J’Covan Brown and Jordan Hamilton will likely be their biggest offensive threats, but will need to be more consistent this year. But finding the right combination could take a few games and that will need to come soon if they are to get off to a good start like a year ago.
Looking ahead to the 2011 NCAA Tournament, Pittsburgh has their odds set at 20/1 to win it all according to NCAA Basketball sportsbooks. Illinois will have their odds set at 22/1, while Texas has their odds set at 20/1.