School is out for summer!
Well, almost, as most college students are either studying or taking final exams to conclude their spring semester.
It’s hard to believe that it has been a month since the NCAA men’s national basketball champion was crowned. The minute after the trophy was hoisted, everyone wanted to know the favorites for next season.
Let’s take a look at the possible contenders in the national championship chase for the 2010-11 season.
Duke Blue Devils
The Duke Blue Devils know a little something about repeating as national champions, as they did it before in 1991-92. Mike Krzyzewski is blessed with another experienced returning squad, and if you add a talented freshman class, that could equal them becoming a Final Four contender for next season.
Coach K will count on Kyle Singler to lead them in his senior season, and joining him in the backcourt will be junior transfer Seth Curry from Liberty University. He is an excellent shooter, but question marks remain if he is athletic enough to assume the point guard role for the Blue Devils.
If Curry falters, expect freshman PG Kyrie Irving to step in the lineup. He is a speedy ball-handler that can easily push the ball upcourt well in Duke’s transition game.
The graduation of C Brian Zoubek will leave a gaping hole on the front line. Sleek recruit Joshua Harrison will need a full season in the weight room (he stands at 6’8” and only 193 pounds) before he can be expected to play physical in the tough ACC conference.
Coming into next season, the Syracuse Orange will miss the clutch performance and leadership provided by G Andy Rautins, C Arinze Onuaku, and F Wesley Johnson. But if the impressive incoming freshman class meshes well with the remaining talent, they could contend for another Big East regular season title.
The frontcourt could be their strength, as Kris Joseph, Rick Jackson, and McDonald’s All-American C Fabricio Melo could develop into one of the nation’s best. Questions still exist about the Orange's projected starting backcourt, as it all hinges on Brandon Triche meshing with Scoop Jardine.
Their bench depth will be aided by three talented recruits (G Dion Waters, F C.J. Fair, and shot-blocking C Baye Moussa Keita), who all have the potential to make a significant impact next season.
North Carolina Tar Heels
Lately, the worry for North Carolina’s program isn’t with pending graduations, but instead with defections to the NBA. This year is no different, as Tyler Zeller, Ed Davis, and John Henson all have been linked to the upcoming NBA Draft.
Next season, Larry Drew will still be around to handle the point guard chores, and his backcourt partner will be Justin Watts, who played only three minutes in his freshman season. Head coach Roy Williams feels Watts has the potential to play big minutes for the Tar Heels next season.
An upgrade on the front line is needed, and unfortunately only one of their incoming recruits (Harrison Barnes) plays the forward position.
Clearly, head coach Matt Painter has re-established the Purdue Boilermakers as contenders for a national championship on a yearly basis. It all began with his first recruiting class, and now that talented group, including Keaton Grant and Chris Kramer, will be graduating this May.
Painter will be looking to replace his team leaders, and good news for Boilermaker fans, they have quality replacements ready for next season. The talented duo of Lewis Jackson and E’Twaun Moore will handle the starting guard positions, and they will be backed up by a pair of top-flight recruits in Terone Johnson and Anthony Johnson, who are excellent off the dribble.
If the Boilermakers’ frontcourt can stay healthy (Robbie Hummel recovering from knee surgery) and return to school (JaJuan Johnson undecided on next season), they could have one of the most talented teams in the country.
Coming into last season, the Kansas Jayhawks were the preseason No. 1, but next season they could become your sleeper choice to win it all.
They’re losing two talented players on the roster, as G Sherron Collins and C Cole Aldrich have entered their names into the NBA draft. This will create a problem on the front line, as the Jayhawks simply don’t have anyone as talented to replace Aldrich for next season.
Their talent will not be barren, as Kansas will have Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar in their starting backcourt. Also, don’t be surprised if key shooting guard recruit Royce Woolridge and point guard phenom Josh Selby provide much-needed offense off the bench.