College Basketball Predictions: 15 Teams That Will Contend for the Title in 2013
I know the season just ended Monday, but it's never too early to start discussing next season.
Numerous talented players will be leaving the college game this offseason, as this year's draft class is expected to be one of the deepest in recent history.
Here's a list of just some of the players who are either graduating. have announced they are leaving college early or are expected to leave for the NBA:
Austin Rivers (Duke), Meyers Leonard (Illinois), Thomas Robinson (Kansas), Tyshawn Taylor (Kansas), Anthony Davis (Kentucky), Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (Kentucky), Trey Burke (Michigan), Draymond Green (Michigan State), Harrison Barnes (North Carolina), John Henson (North Carolina), Kendall Marshall (North Carolina), Tyler Zeller (North Carolina), Jared Sullinger (Ohio State), Dion Waiters (Syracuse), Fab Melo (Syracuse), J'Covan Brown (Texas), Terrence Ross (Washington), Tony Wroten (Washington), Damian Lillard (Weber State)
In order to replace these great players, new talented freshman need to come in and show what they can do. Here are some of the most anticipated freshmen for next season.
Brandon Ashley (Arizona), Isaiah Austin (Baylor), Hanner Perea (Indiana), Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell (Indiana), Archie Goodwin (Kentucky), Mitch McGary (Michigan), Rodney Purvis (N.C. State), Marcus Smart (Oklahoma St.), Steven Adams (Pittsburgh), Kris Dunn (Providence), Ricardo Ledo (Providence), Kyle Anderson (UCLA), Anthony Bennett (Undecided), Devonta Pollard (Undecided), Nerlens Noel (Undecided), Shabazz Muhammad (Undecided)
Here are 15 teams that will be contending for a National Championship during the 2013 season.
15. Michigan Wolverines
Key Players: Tim Hardaway Jr., Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III
2011-2012 Record: 24-10 (13-5)
When I first started working on this list, Michigan was very close to the top five, but the recent rumors that Trey Burke will leave after only one season for the NBA has greatly hurt its ranking and chances of winning a championship.
This team will still have a good mix of talent in Hardaway Jr., McGary and Robinson, though, so the Wolverines can still surprise some teams if they aren't taken seriously.
14. Syracuse Orange
Key Players: Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair and Rakeem Christmas
2011-2012 Record: 34-3 (17-1)
Even though the Orange are losing three of their four leading scorers from this past season, they are so deep that they will still be in contention come next year.
The difference between Syracuse having a good season and a great season will depend on Triche, Fair or Christmas stepping up as the team's go-to scorer.
13. Texas Longhorns
Key Players: Myck Kabongo, Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh
2011-2012 Record: 20-14 (9-9)
The Longhorns may be losing J'Covan Brown, last year's leading scorer in the Big 12, but that may not be such a bad thing for this team.
With the addition of a dominant inside presence in Ridley and Kabongo becoming the primary guard, this Longhorns team should be much more balanced than last season, which should result in many more wins.
12. Florida Gators
Key Players: Kenny Boynton, Patric Young and Erik Murphy
2011-2012 Record: 26-11 (10-6)
Most people expect Brad Beal to enter the draft, but his indecision so far is really costing the Gators valuable recruiting time. With Beal still under scholarship, Florida has all 13 of its allowed scholarships taken. The Gators would need to open one up if they wanted to sign another 5-star prospect such as Anthony Bennett, who still has Florida on his list of schools.
Even without Beal or Bennett, the Gators will bring back three starters and add two 4-star guards to the mix. They will be able to run the same system that got them to the Elite Eight last season, but hopefully it will run a little better.
11. Duke Blue Devils
Key Players: Mason Plumlee, Quinn Cook and Seth Curry
2011-2012 Record: 27-7 (13-3)
This has not been a typical season for Duke and coach Mike Krzyzewski. Not only is Austin Rivers leaving for the NBA draft after only one season with the Blue Devils but Duke only has one player in this year's recruiting class to replace him.
Fortunately for Duke, Rasheed Sulaimon is a McDonald's All-American who will team up with Cook and Curry to form one of the deepest backcourts in college basketball. It's still uncertain whether Plumlee will be back or not, but if he is, this Duke team will have a lot of depth once again.
10. Arizona Wildcats
Key Players: Kaleb Tarczewski, Solomon Hill and Brandon Ashley
2011-2012 Record: 23-12 (12-6)
The Wildcats will be led by the nation's top recruiting class, according to Rivals.com.
Arizona will try and beat teams up with its size since they have two 5-star bigs coming in: 7'0" center Kaleb Tarczewski and 6'8" power forward Brandon Ashley. Hill, their highest-scoring player from last season, is also returning.
These players make up one of the best frontcourts in the country and can be a threat for a title if they quickly learn how to play together.
9. Baylor Bears
Key Players: Pierre Jackson, Quincy Miller and Isaiah Austin
2011-2012 Record: 30-8 (12-6)
The biggest factors for whether or not Baylor should be on this list are the statuses of Perry Jones III and Miller. I predict Jones III will declare for the draft and be a lottery pick, but Miller will return for his sophomore season once he realizes he probably won't be selected in the lottery as well.
If Jackson continues his dominant play, again leads the conference in assists and stays in the top 10 in scoring, expect Baylor back in the Elite Eight and fighting for a National Championship once again.
8. Michigan State Spartans
Key Players: Branden Dawson, Gary Harris and Keith Appling
2011-2012 Record: 29-8 (13-5)
The Spartans will take a big hit when Big Ten Player of the Year, Draymond Green, graduates, but fortunately they have the talent to make up for his loss quickly. There may not be any seniors on the squad next year, but everyone except the freshman will have tournament experience to build on.
The two players who need to step up and fill Green's role if the Spartans want to have a successful season are Branden Dawson and Gary Harris. Both players are lethal scorers who have the ability to take over a game on any given night.
7. North Carolina Tar Heels
Key Players: James McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and Marcus Paige
2011-2012 Record: 32-6 (14-2)
UNC will definitely have the biggest obstacles to overcome next season since they are losing four out of their five current starters. Fortunately, the Tar Heels' roster is loaded with former McDonald's All-Americans: Bullock, McAdoo, P.J. Hairston and, most recently, Paige. It shouldn't take long for them to recover.
If Paige can step into Kendall Marshall's role and get the ball to all of the talented players around him in easy scoring positions, expect to see UNC make a deep tournament run once again.
6. Kansas Jayhawks
Key Players: Perry Ellis, Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey
2011-2012 Record: 32-7 (16-2)
If this season taught us anything, it's that you can never count out a Bill Self-coached team, no matter what the roster looks like. The Jayhawks might be losing Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson and senior leader Tyshawn Taylor, but they will return three starters—all of whom are going to be seniors next season.
With the addition of 5-star recruit Perry Ellis and 4-star Andrew White, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Self take this team, with tons of tournament experience, to another championship.
5. North Carolina State Wolfpack
Key Players: C.J. Leslie, Rodney Purvis and T.J. Warren
2011-2012 Record: 24-13 (9-7)
N.C. State was one of the more impressive teams toward the end of last season. In the ACC tournament the Wolfpack won their first two games against Boston College and Virginia before losing a nail-biter to UNC by only two points. In the tournament, they made it to the Sweet 16, where they battled Kansas and only lost by three points.
With N.C. State's top four scorers from last season all expected to return and a recruiting class that includes three McDonald's All-Americans,—Purvis, Warren and Lewis—the Wolfpack should be the favorite to win the ACC for the first time in a long time.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
Key Players: Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr.
2011-2012 Record: 31-8 (13-5)
The fate of Ohio State's season rests in the hands of star forward, Deshaun Thomas. His frontcourt mate, Jared Sullinger, has already entered his name in the draft. Losing both big men would have been detrimental to the Buckeyes, who currently have zero players committed to come to Columbus next season.
Thomas is staying for another season, though, so the team will return 11 players who now all have Final Four experience. With a point guard like Aaron Craft controlling the tempo and scorers around him like Thomas and Smith Jr., Thad Matta will be looking to win his fourth straight conference title with the Buckeyes.
3. Kentucky Wildcats
Key Players: Doron Lamb, Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress
2011-2012 Record: 38-2 (16-0)
The Wildcats will most likely lose at least four of their five starters to the NBA, but they've shown that won't stop them from dominating again next season.
Kentucky already has two McDonald's All-Americans committed to play for the team next season, Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress, and are still in the running for the top two members of this year's recruiting class, Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad.
After winning the National Championship Monday, it shouldn't be hard for Calipari to convince one, if not both of them, that they need to come to Lexington and make a run at back-to-back championships.
2. Indiana Hoosiers
Key Players: Cody Zeller, Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell and Hanner Perea
2011-2012 Record: 27-9 (11-7)
There's no way to argue that any single player had a bigger impact on their team last season than Cody Zeller did at Indiana. With basically the same exact roster as the previous season, Cody took a team that had only won 8 conference games the last three seasons combined to the Sweet 16 and finished his freshman year with a 27-9 record.
With a recruiting class coming in full of studs, like McDonald's All-American Yogi Ferrell, five-star Hanner Perea and four-star Jeremy Hollowell, the Hoosiers should make an even deeper run in the tournament next season.
Christian Watford could also leave, but he still hasn't made a final decision yet and IU has the tools to replace him if they need to.
1. Louisville Cardinals
Key Players: Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan
2011-2012 Record: 30-10 (10-8)
The top spot on this list belongs to Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals.
This team made it to the Final Four this year and should only improve next year. Unlike most of the other teams toward the top of this list, Louisville has a legitimate senior leader in Siva. It also has the complementary pieces needed to make a deep tournament run, such as defensive specialist Dieng as well as scorers Russ Smith and Behanan.
If the highly recruited Wayne Blackshear can step up and become the player Pitino thought he could be, this team will definitely be one of the favorites once March rolls around next year.