Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Although most fans are going to rush to judgement on whether or not their team has what it takes to compete for this year's NCAA Championship after the first game, it is important to remember that it is a marathon, not a sprint.
Not only will most teams get better with time as chemistry builds and inexperienced freshmen develop awareness and confidence, but marquee players will be added to the mix as they return from suspensions and become eligible after the first semester as mid-season transfers.
There may not be a more exciting player than Marshall Henderson of Ole Miss, who will be suspended for the first three games of the season after failing a drug test. The Rebels are the fourth different team Henderson has played for at the collegiate level and considering he had previously served jail time for violating probation with drug related transgressions, his three-game suspension appears to be as mild as possible. Ole Miss will immediately become a better team once the most polarizing player in college basketball returns.
North Carolina's P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald are still waiting to find out when they will be allowed back on the court this season. Hairston was arrested at a checkpoint in early June for possession of marijuana and driving without a license. The car the junior wing was driving was rented by a convicted felon and party promoter named Haydn Thomas, and a gun was also found on the outside of the vehicle. All the charges from that arrest were dropped in early July which may have led Hairston to thinking he was immune to the rules as he was caught driving 93 mph in a 65 mph zone.
McDonald is being investigated for wearing a designer mouth guard in at least one game last year and appearing in promotional material for the same mouth guard manufacturer. Coach Roy Williams, who has as clean a background as any coach out there, has left it up to the NCAA to make a ruling on both of his players. It is believed the ruling will come not long after the start of the season.
Oregon will be without sophomores Dominic Artis and Ben Carter for the first nine games of the season for selling shoes provided to them by the university. Artis played a key role as a freshman, averaging 8.5 points and 3.2 assists per game.
There are also plenty of teams with guaranteed help on the way after the end of the first semester.
Long Beach State has become an attractive landing spot for transfers and it continued that tradition last winter when it announced former UCLA guard Tyler Lamb would be joining the program. Lamb started all 32 games during his freshman season with the Bruins and averaged 5.8 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists. His numbers are expected to rise when he becomes one of the leaders of the mid-major 49ers after Thanksgiving.
Penn State will get a lift once the second semester rolls around also as former Pittsburgh guard John Johnson will give coach Patrick Chambers a proven winner in his backcourt. Johnson played in all 39 contests for the Panthers as a true freshman before deciding to transfer to University Park. The 6-foot-1 guard is just the second player from the Philadelphia area to earn four all- state honors in a high school career.
Murray State will try to replace standout guard Isaiah Canaan with freshman guard Cameron Payne, who was named Mr. Basketball in Tennessee for his work as an assist machine. Payne may have to fight for minutes once Clemson transfer T.J. Sapp becomes eligible. Sapp started his first seven games with the Tigers before deciding he wanted to return to his home state. If Payne and Sapp mesh well, the Racers may remain a contender in the Ohio Valley Conference.
South Carolina's Frank Martin has an excellent track record of developing his guards into prime time players. Martin will add a potential superstar in Ty Johnson, who left Villanova after 17 games of backing up James Bell and Ryan Arcidiacono. Johnson was considered a top 75 recruit coming out of high school and will get a chance to play immediately for the Gamecocks, who will need all the help they can get to compete with Kentucky in the Southeastern Conference.
A pair of Horizon League teams will get a mid-season boost also. Wright State will have the services of Butler transfer Chrishawn Hopkins after the fall semester. The junior guard averaged 9.1 points and 23.2 minutes for the Bulldogs in 2011-12. Saint Louis transfer Keith Carter becomes eligible at the start of the second semester for the defending conference champion Valparaiso Crusaders. Carter was one of the late Rick Majerus's last highly coveted recruited due to his excellent career at Proviso East High School just outside of Chicago. He is expected to excel in the weaker Horizon League after struggling to earn playing time on the Billikens' top 25 squad right away.
Last but not least, Drake will add 5-9 point guard Jordan Daniels for the second part of the season. Daniels averaged 6.4 points, 2.6 assists and 1.6 rebounds per game during his freshman season at Boston College. He fared even better against tough Atlantic Coast Conference competition with 7.3 points, 2.8 assists and 1.8 rebounds in conference games and led the Eagles in assists on the season.