In 2018-19, small ball is no longer a trend. It's a revolution.
Villanova sparked the current movement by winning two championships in the last three years with shooters at every position. And now coaches who never deviated from traditional lineups are using quintets that don't feature any true centers.
That shift will define the season.
Last week, Duke started its season at the Champions Classic with three freshmen -- Zion Williamson, Cam Reddish and R.J. Barrett -- who cannot be called anything but versatile players with guard skills. The Blue Devils committed just four turnovers in a 34-point win over Kentucky.
Kansas beat Michigan State in the Champions Classic with 6-foot-9 Dedric Lawson running point guard while gobbling rebounds in the paint. Bill Self has called the Memphis transfer the best passer he's ever coached.
North Carolina won a national title with one of the biggest lineups in college basketball in 2017. This year, Roy Williams will veer from the "old school" way and utilize lineups with 6-8 shooters Cam Johnson and Luke Maye that do not feature two true big men.
Wisconsin's Ethan Happ, a 6-10 forward, had 12 assists in his first game this season. The Buffalo team (C.J. Massinburg had 43 points) that upset West Virginia on Friday started four guards. In a season-opening win over Kennesaw State, Dean Wade was the only Kansas State starter 6-9 or taller, and he made 44 percent of his 3-pointers last season.
Duke's dominant win over Kentucky in the Champions Classic only magnified the small-ball wave.
"They made shots, they passed the ball to each other, they attacked at the rim," John Calipari said about Duke after the game. "We only created four turnovers. Now, either they're a great handling team or we're not doing enough defensively. We had one steal. Those three are good enough that they're not running a whole lot of stuff. They're just getting them in situations where they can create for each other, and they did a great job of it."
Here are my picks for the upcoming week:
Stanford at North Carolina (ESPN2, 7 p.m. ET)
When Reid Travis transferred to Kentucky, Jerod Haase was surprised to lose the All-Pac-12 star. But even when the Cardinal had him, the team still failed to play top-100 offense, something that must change if the program plans to compete in the Pac-12. North Carolina's Luke Maye, Cam Johnson and Nassir Little will anchor Roy Williams' squad in a tight ACC race.
Prediction: North Carolina 85, Stanford 72
Result: North Carolina 90, Stanford 72
Wisconsin at Xavier (FS1, 6:30 p.m. ET)
Ethan Happ withdrew from the NBA draft after Magic Johnson and other NBA execs told the double-double machine to evolve into a more versatile player who can defend and play multiple positions at the next level. Maybe he listened: Happ had 12 assists in Wisconsin's season-opening win over Coppin State, a promising start for the Badgers. But Travis Steele has a respectable collection of players who manned reserve roles under Chris Mack and now seem positioned to blossom under Mack's former assistant.
Prediction: Xavier 69, Wisconsin 68
Result: Wisconsin 77, Xavier 68
Penny Hardaway might put together the top recruiting class in the country in 2019 if he can convince James Wiseman, the No. 1 prospect in America, to stay home. He'll rely on Kyvon Davenport, Jeremiah Martin and freshman Alex Lomax in a good matchup against Will Wade and LSU, which owns the No. 5 recruiting class in the country on ESPN.com. Naz Reid, the prize of that class, already looks like the real deal.
Prediction: LSU 75, Memphis 68
Result: LSU 85, Memphis 76
Patrick Ewing seems more comfortable entering his second year as the head coach of his alma mater. And Jessie Govan, through the team's first two games, is justifying the preseason hype. But Illinois believes freshman Ayo Dosunmu, who had 18 points in a season-opening win over Evansville, could lead a reboot of the program under Brad Underwood.
Prediction: Illinois 78, Georgetown 72
Result: Georgetown 88, Illinois 80
Michigan at Villanova (FS1, 6:30 p.m. ET)
Lithuanian-Canadian wing Ignas Brazdeikis, who has made 50 percent of his shots inside the arc and 87 percent of his free throws, looks like the right fit and another solid wing for a Michigan squad that lost Mo Wagner after last year's loss to Villanova in the national title game. Villanova lost three first-round picks and Jalen Brunson, the reigning Wooden Award winner, after its title run, but Phil Booth and Eric Paschall could emerge as All-Americans on another Villanova team that might contend for the national title.
Prediction: Villanova 80, Michigan 71
Both teams could compete for their respective conference titles. They're a pair of squads that might not command the national spotlight in November but could enter January as two serious threats in league play. Markus Howard scored 37 points and finished 7-for-10 from the 3-point line in Marquette's 33-point win over Bethune-Cookman on Saturday. Five-star freshman Romeo Langford has missed six of his first seven 3-pointers, but he's 11-for-13 inside the arc for the Hoosiers. Howard and Langford are two of the most intriguing players in America right now.
Prediction: Indiana 78, Marquette 76
Even without Chris Clarke, a projected starter who is currently serving an indefinite suspension, Virginia Tech remains a legit Top 25 team with a chance to advance toward a potential matchup against Purdue or Wichita State in the Charleston Classic. But Ball State made 47 percent of its 3-pointers in a loss to the Boilermakers last week. Virginia Tech can't look beyond James Whitford's squad, which upset an unsuspecting Notre Dame team a year ago.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 75, Ball State 72
Result: Virginia Tech 73, Ball State 64
Danny Hurley would endear himself to Connecticut fans with a win over old Big East foe Syracuse at Madison Square Garden in the 2K Empire Classic this week. Getting the most out of his inaugural season rests on the continued improvement of Jalen Adams. But Syracuse is stacked with Oshae Brissett, Tyus Battle and possibly Frank Howard, who has been dealing with a leg injury.
Prediction: Syracuse 72, UConn 71
Result: UConn 83, Syracuse 76
Bol Bol is an intriguing 7-foot-2 freshman with an ambidextrous skill set. But we won't know Oregon's full potential until five-star freshman Louis King returns in December from a knee injury. Tyler Cook and the Hawkeyes might catch the Ducks at the right time in the 2K Empire Classic.
Prediction: Iowa 81, Oregon 77
Result: Iowa 77, Oregon 69