Ridiculously Early 2010 Final Four Picks
Things just wrapped up in Detroit for the 2009 Final Four, but that does not preclude sports fans from looking ahead to the 2010 season. Plus, making ridiculously early and borderline uneducated picks, in hopes that you will one day be able to brag about it, is really what being a sports writer is all about.
This slide show will take you through my four picks for the 2010 Final Four in Indianapolis. Who will get in?
In 2008, the Kansas Jayhawks brought home a national title to Lawrence, Kan. for the first time since 1988.
In the 2008/2009 season, people were certainly not expecting another Kansas Final Four berth, since they lost all five starters from their national title team. However, Kansas was stronger than most expected, and they ended up claiming the Big 12 regular season crown and advancing to the Sweet 16, where they lost to eventual national runner-up Michigan State. This rebuilding garnered Bill Self AP Coach of the Year honors.
I am predicting that both Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich return to Kansas next season. If this is the case, Kansas will return all five starters for the 2009/2010 season.
Missouri will be Kansas' biggest threat for the Big 12 title with Oklahoma's Griffin departing for the NBA draft.
The Syracuse Orange finished the 2008-09 season 28-10, runner-up in the Big East Tournament, and wins over top teams like Memphis, UConn, and Marquette. Syracuse's season eventually ended in the Sweet 16 against Oklahoma.
With many experts thinking that Jonny Flynn will return for his junior season, the Orange will likely return all five of their starters from the 2008-09 season. In addition, Syracuse will return sixth man Andy Rautins, and Iowa State transfer Wesley Johnson will also be eligible this season.
Yes, things are certainly looking good for Syracuse, who, in addition to a strong roster, have one of the nation's best coaches in Jim Boeheim.
The toughest challenge for Syracuse, however, will be the Big East Conference. While UConn and Louisville may not be as strong in 2009-10, several other Big East teams will be improved.
Overall, the Orange have all of the pieces necessary for a title run. They have the players, coach, experience, tradition, and conference to put together a championship season.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons
While many analysts and fans will be picking Duke to make the Final Four, I believe fellow ACC member Wake Forest will be headed to Indianapolis.
Like Kansas, Wake Forest was a young team this season, and it showed. While they managed to win games against ACC powers North Carolina and Duke, they were inconsistent in games against the middle of the ACC.
With the return of honorable mention All-American Jeff Teague, Wake Forest will return all five of their starters from the 2008-09 season, and with North Carolina likely dropping off a bit due to graduations and the draft, Wake has a strong chance of winning the ACC.
Their up tempo style of basketball, which is quite similar to the Missouri offense that gave teams fits, will prove to be too much for many teams to defend. This will result in Jeff Teague heading home to Indianapolis in what will likely be his final season in a Wake Forest jersey.
OK, I will admit that the Trojans are somewhat of an outside pick for the Final Four, but I had to go out on a limb a little.
Tim Floyd and the Trojans are coming off of a 22-win season that included a Pac-10 Tournament title and a first-round NCAA tournament upset of Boston College.
In addition, the Trojans were just one point shy of beating the Oklahoma Sooners earlier in the season.
To the relief of the Trojan faithful, Tim Floyd decided not to take the head coaching job at the University of Arizona. That alone should give a bit of an insiders view into the potential Floyd believes this Trojan team has.
In addition to the return of Floyd, USC will return all four of their 30-plus game starters next season, as well as Leonard Washington who started 13 games.
With Arizona in a rebuilding stage and Arizona State's James Harden declaring for the NBA Draft, the Trojans will have a great chance at claiming both the regular season and tournament Pac-10 crowns.
While I don't think it's likely the Trojans will be a one seed in the tournament, I do think Tim Floyd's strong coaching and exciting style of basketball his Trojans play earn them a ticket to Indianapolis.