College Basketball 2010-2011:Who will Challenge Duke Blue Devils?
Kyle Singer is staying, and will join his senior and future co-captain Nolan Smith in leading a different kind of Duke team in a bid to repeat as National Champions.
The Blue Devils have clearly been anointed as the team to beat by most, but winning one championship is hard enough—back to back is even harder.
There will be plenty of teams chomping at the bit to knock Duke off its pedestal next year, most will be familiar faces, but some will be fresh and new.
So who will take on the champs and challenge them for supremacy in 2010-2011?
Imagine a scenario where a team is ranked in the Top 10 early, hits a rough spot, but turns on the magic toward the end of the season.
If you are thinking of someone other than Sparty then you'd be wrong. With the exception of having three fewer title trophies than Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo is probably the best postseason coach in the game.
Next year he will have almost the same team he has had the last two seasons; and they only made it to the Final Four.
With a guy like Kalin Lucas returning to lead the show, expect the Spartans to make a push for early season and late season top billing over the Blue Devils.
The Wildcats are losing just about everybody from this year's Elite Eight squad. But wait, don't forget they have John Calipari as the coach.
If anyone can reload a team faster I have yet to see them. The only problem is whether Calipari actually has the coaching acumen to push five or more freshman to actually win the title
Having a heady player like incoming point guard Brandon Knight certainly won't hurt their cause. He may not be quite as good as John Wall, but he will probably listen better and if he has enough of a supporting cast the Wildcats could once again be a force to be reckoned with.
Butler was the feel-good story of 2010, but could they really make themselves a consistent presence in the world of the elites in college basketball?
My guess is if Gordan Hayward comes back that Butler will once again be making some noise out of the Horizon League.
Coach Brad Stevens' job recruiting got a lot easier. He proved he could take a small team to the biggest of dances and his Butler Bulldogs could reap the recruiting benefits.
For now if the core of that team stays intact why shouldn't they be able to make another run?
The Baylor Bears showed they were an athletic team against the eventual National Champs, but could they make themselves a stable figure in the Big 12 and the nation?
It helps that coach Scott Drew can continue to rely on a guy like LaceDarius Dunn who will return.
Joining him is a good recruiting class that could help him challenge the likes of Kansas and Texas for the Big 12 title as well as Duke for national prominence.
Besides John Calipari does anyone really recruit any better than Thad Matta?
The man has landed some of the top recruits in the country year after year, and led them as far as the National Championship game only to see the talent leave early year after year.
The same scenario is working out again with the departure of Evan Turner. But do not fear Buckeyes, Matta is bringing in Jared Sullinger, an explosive and talented freshman.
If he mixes with the veterans this could be another good year in Columbus.
The Tar Heels and their fans will be spending this summer trying to convince themselves that this past season was an aberration.
The good news for them is that one of the top recruits in Ames, Iowa's Harrison Barnes is coming in next year.
While Barnes is certainly seen as a savior, it is odd that North Carolina would need one after winning the title just one year ago—he can't do it alone.
The key will be whether Roy Williams can develop a point guard to run his vaunted up-tempo style of play. Larry Drew II struggled a lot and took a lot of criticism along the way.
I'm not so sure that incoming freshman Kendall Marshall will be the second coming of Raymond Felton or Lawson either. He is good, but not that good.
If Roy can find some outside production to go with the inside force of John Henson and Tyler Zeller then North Carolina will find itself in a much more familiar position near the top next to their dear friends from eight miles down the road.
Those Not Forgotten
It is easy to forget about the teams like Kansas, Kansas State, and Syracuse; teams that had great years, but disappointing finishes.
The problems facing these teams include, graduation, and early departures for the NBA. Can these teams rebuild or reload fast enough to make an impact in 2010-2011?
Those questions won't be answered until next fall or maybe even next spring. One thing for sure is that if next year is anything like this season then who knows what could happen.
After all who thought Duke would win a national title?