6 bold predictions for the rest of the college hoops season
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With conference play approaching and the first month of the college basketball season in the books, theScore predicts what will transpire the rest of the way.

Cole Anthony wins Player of the Year

This prediction may not be that bold seeing as Anthony was listed on several preseason award watch lists, but consider that only three freshmen have ever won the Naismith College Player of the Year - Zion Williamson, Anthony Davis, and Kevin Durant. And, unlike Anthony, none of them played as a guard.

The 6-foot-3 New York City native put college basketball on notice in North Carolina's first game of the season, setting a Tar Heels record for points (34) in a freshman debut. The son of former UNLV star and NBAer Greg Anthony can score from anywhere, whether he's putting it on the floor or hitting from outside with his unorthodox shot release.

Anthony will almost certainly be in the NBA next season, but he's poised to leave his mark on a national championship contender and the NCAA as a whole.

Washington reaches Final Four

Washington head coach Mike Hopkins is brewing something special in Seattle just two years into the job. The Huskies are coming off a Pac-12 regular-season title and returned to the Big Dance last season after an eight-year hiatus.

Hopkins' prowess on the recruiting trail has compensated for the Huskies losing their top four scorers from the previous campaign. Washington was the only school to land two top-10 2019 recruits in Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels. The five-star freshmen stepped right into the starting lineup and have shown flashes of their NBA lottery potential.

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McDaniels is a wiry wing who can put the ball on the floor and create for himself on the perimeter. Meanwhile, Stewart is a bruising big man capable of scoring and facilitating from the post. Both players' length and athleticism fit seamlessly into Washington's 2-3 zone defense, which has helped the team limit opponents to 59.7 points per game.

Strong guard play has also contributed to the Huskies' early success. Junior Nahziah Carter seems to have a highlight-worthy dunk every night and is shooting 50% from downtown. Kentucky transfer Quade Green has been steady at the point, distributing the ball effectively in transition and pick-and-roll situations.

Washington might be young and inexperienced, but it certainly boasts the talent to reach the Final Four.

Dayton's a 2nd-weekend team

Dayton's run to the Maui Invitational championship game confirmed a lot about the team. First and foremost, the Flyers are defensively sound, individually and collectively. The mid-major school limited Georgia's potent offense to 61 points in their opening contest. Potential No. 1 pick Anthony Edwards had his worst game for the Bulldogs, posting just six points on 2-of-10 shooting while committing three turnovers. Virginia Tech - fresh off an upset of then third-ranked Michigan State - was then held to just 62 points against Dayton in their semifinal matchup.

The Flyers were just as impressive offensively during the Maui Invitational, averaging 84.3 points and 17.0 assists while shooting 51.7% from the floor, including 44% from deep.

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Sophomore forward Obi Toppin is elevating up draft boards with his versatile skill set. He can operate in the post with his back to the basket, step out from distance, and run the floor in transition.

The Flyers have all the ingredients to reach the Sweet 16 in March and can find confidence in taking No. 4 Kansas to overtime in the Maui Invitational final.

Pac-12 gets 6 NCAA Tournament bids

The Pac-12 embarrassed itself in 2018-19. It posted the worst December record by a major conference in 20 years and failed to have a single school in the AP Top 25 poll for eight consecutive weeks.

The "Conference of Champions" was fortunate to see three teams get into last year's Big Dance after Oregon won the Pac-12 Tournament and Arizona State received an at-large bid.

This year's NCAA Tournament, however, should feature a bevy of Pac-12 schools. Colorado, Arizona, Washington, and Oregon are all currently ranked, while USC, Oregon State, Stanford, and Arizona State appear March-worthy.

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Trojans forward Onyeka Okongwu is an early Pac-12 Freshman of the Year candidate, and we've previously rated Beavers star Tres Tinkle among the best players in college basketball. The Cardinal boast one the country's stingiest defenses, ranking within the top 15 in points allowed. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils nearly toppled the defending national champion, losing by three points to Virginia in the final of last week's Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

The bottom line is that wins in Pac-12 play will carry more weight this season and could be difference-makers as teams build their resumes.

Duke loses on 1st weekend of tourney

Yes, we listed Duke as one of five teams that could win the national championship this season. But the schadenfreude when the Blue Devils are knocked out of March Madness supports entire cottage industries.

Last year, Duke had one of the top freshman recruiting classes in college basketball history and lost in the Elite Eight. The one-and-done era has proven a tricky balancing act for Mike Krzyzewski, with his 2014-15 squad featuring Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow producing its only applicable title.

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With Duke starting as many as four freshmen this season, experience is again a talking point. Point guard Tre Jones is the Blue Devils' unquestionable leader, but he's not a lights-out shooter. Duke has been a No. 1 seed in the Tournament bracket 14 times in its history, and it could be again in March. A 16-1 UMBC-style upset may be a stretch, but if the Blue Devils draw a hungry squad in the Round of 32, look out.

Texas fires Shaka Smart

Smart was one of the hottest head coaching prospects available when Texas pried him away from VCU in 2015. The 42-year-old had led the Rams to five straight NCAA Tournament berths, including a Final Four run as an 11th seed during his second year on the job in 2011. Smart's 163 wins at VCU are tied for the second most by a head coach in his first six seasons in Division I history, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

His four seasons at the helm in Austin haven't been as fruitful. The Longhorns have no wins in two trips to the Big Dance. Smart's had no problem attracting highly rated recruits, securing the commitments of future NBAers Jarrett Allen, Jaxson Hayes, and Mo Bamba. Despite that talent, Texas has finished no higher than fourth in the Big 12 regular-season standings.

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The Longhorns are off to a promising 6-1 start and already have a signature road win against then-No. 23 Purdue. But a strong regular-season won't be enough to save Smart's job if the school continues to disappoint in March.

6 bold predictions for the rest of the college hoops season
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