New Year's resolutions for college basketball's top teams

Profile Picture: Nick Roush

January 1st, 2020

As the calendar turns from 2019 to 2020, college basketball programs across the country have an opportunity to start fresh in conference play. Some need dramatic changes more than others to make a successful run in March.

Louisville: Find Jordan Nwora in big games

Chris Mack’s best player is never at his best in big moments. The biggest critique of his game after two seasons, he returned for one more year to prove to NBA scouts that he can be an alpha dog on the hardwood. That has not been the case through non-conference play.

Nwora led UofL in scoring in every single game, until the Cards traveled to Rupp Arena. Searching for just their third win over John Calipari in the last decade, Nwora was a complete no-show. He hit 2-of-10 shots for only eight points in the 78-70 overtime loss. That kind of performance is becoming more of the norm against good, physical teams. In a loss to Texas Tech he was 4-of-16 for 14 points; against Michigan it took him 23 shots to score 22 points; and he was only 6-for-19 in a six-point win over Akron.

Louisville isn’t built to succeed long term without consistent contributions from Nwora. Fresh Kimble (12 points) and Steven Enoch (18 points) provided enough in Lexington to come back and force overtime, but that is more of an exception to the norm. Nwora needs to wake up in 2020 when his team needs him most.

North Carolina: Leave injuries behind in 2019

The Tar Heels can’t get out of their own way on the injury front. First, Armando Bacot went down early in the season with an ankle injury. Leaky Black and Garrison Brooks also missed time with ankle injuries. All of those pale in comparison to Cole Anthony’s absence.

The frontrunner for National Player of the Year underwent knee surgery in mid-December. An injury that typically takes four-to-six weeks to heal, Anthony could return in time to close out conference play. That’s if Anthony actually returns to play. A future top ten draft pick, most outsiders would not criticize the freshman for focusing on his future instead of sacrificing for North Carolina. For the Tar Heels to salvage their season, they need Anthony healthy in a hurry.

Indiana: Forget about the 2010s

Once upon a time, the Hoosiers were nation’s top college basketball program. Over the last decade, the mighty have fallen to new depths. Sure, they won a couple of Big Ten Regular Season Championships; big whoop. That should be the norm. In one decade they have only two Sweet 16 appearances. It’s not getting any better anytime soon. They’re losing to average Arkansas teams at home. Surely, the 2020s can’t be worse than the 2010s for Indiana fans.

Auburn: Keep on rolling

Bruce Pearl’s run to the Final Four in 2019 was no aberration. Even though the Tigers lost Bryce Brown, Jared Harper and Chuma Okeke, they haven’t missed a beat. Auburn is 12-0, entering the 2020 calendar year as the last undefeated basketball program in the Power Five. Austin Wiley is averaging just shy of a double-double (10.8 points, 9.5 rebounds per game), Samir Doughty leads the team in scoring 16.4 points a game while Isaac Okoro is making 57.1 percent of his field goals inside. The Tigers have yet to be truly tested. We’ll see how they respond in the New Year.

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