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Silver lining for Raptors fans

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  • Silver lining for Raptors fans

    *Note this thread will be moved to Lockout and Raptors in a day or two*

    If the lockout goes on for a long time, there is a very good silver lining for basketball fans and hardcore Raptors fans: US College Basketball. The 2011-12 NCAA season is looking to be one of the most exciting in years. Regardless of how the draft ranking are arranged, the Raptors look to be a lottery team with only a 31 win average over the last 3 seasons.

    Keeping Hoops Fans Busy

    I've heard some people say December, others January, and the most pessimistic analysts have thrown out the idea that there might not be any season at all. No matter how you shake it, there's a very strong likelihood that that we're not going to have an appropriate portion of NBA entertainment on our plates this year. That means those of us that are admittedly addicted to basketball are going to have to find other outlets.

    So what are those outlets, and how do we eek enjoyment out these particular Plan B's? Obviously, college basketball will go on as scheduled, and there are more legitimate NBA prospects in the field this season than there have been in quite a few years. There's also the D-League, which will reportedly go on unimpeded these year, and international hoops, which may include an unprecedented number of NBA players.

    Why should we care about college, D-League, and foreign ball? For starters, that's where literally every NBA player eventually comes from. Secondly, there actually are some stories worth following in all those leagues.

    Expect most of the attention head towards college, though, where all sorts of teams hold plenty of interest for those looking to find an escape in the absence of the NBA. Kentucky might be the most exciting to watch, as they've got just a huge smattering of players that could end up in the League someday. Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones are the most notable, but Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist, and Doron Lamb could all end up drafted, too. Not that Kentucky doesn't always end up with loads of draftees, but this year's group seems particularly stellar.

    North CarolinaHarrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, and John Henson all are returning this year after flirting with the idea of the draft, while new recruits James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston make the team even more ridiculously deep with talent.

    As for Duke, they may have lost Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith, and Kyle Singler in the most recent draft, but they usher in plenty of really good new recruits, most notably Austin Rivers and Quinn Cook, both of whom have NBA potential. Plus, with three Plumlees, none of which are multiples, there's a fun dynamic forming there where like 20% of the roster is related to one another.

    Baylor's got two top-five draft picks for 2012 on the same team in Perry Jones and Quincy Miller, Syracuse will be good with awesomely-named guys like Rakeem Christmas, Scoop Jardine, and Fab Melo leading the charge, and UConn will try to defend their title without Kemba Walker (which I think we all know is pretty unlikely).

    And these are just the players and teams we know will be good. There are always some surprises, too, which means you've all just been given an introduction to non-NBA basketball for the upcoming several months. We've got to have some sort of basketball to watch, right? Luckily, college hoops should be especially entertaining this year if you can find it in yourself to care about the NCAA. Even those of you that haven't in the past might just have to dig in.

    As bad as the lockout will be for the NBA, it could potentially be very good for college basketball, and it's good for the rest of us that we've at least got some high-level hoops to enjoy in the meantime.

    Read more NBA news and insight:
    It will be interesting to see who becomes the next Derrick Williams as well - i.e. a current college player who becomes a beast this summer.