As Duke rests on top of the college basketball world for now, I begin to think about next year. The 2011 Final Four is set to be played in Houston, Texas, but who will be playing there in the semifinals? Every fan is entitled to their opinion, and I am simply sharing my thoughts.
The first team that I believe will be playing in Houston next April is Michigan State, who will return for a second straight year. Michigan State returns Kalin Lucas, Korie Lucious, Durrell Summers, Delvin Roe, Chris Allen, and Draymond Green. The Spartans also gain an All-American in guard Keith Appling. The only key departure is Raymar Morgan. With this group of players returning, the Spartans have a great core of talent. There is no reason that Michigan State should not contend for a title next year.
The next team that I believe has tons of potential is the Purdue Boilermakers. E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson’s withdrawals from the NBA Draft have put this team in a good position to make a deep run in the tournament next season. The only key departures for the Boilers are defensive-minded Chris Kramer and shooter Keaton Grant. With a healthy Robbie Hummel and Lewis Jackson, Purdue is looking at a very solid lineup. The Boilers also have depth in their bench. Key reserves include Patrick Bade and D.J. Byrd. Purdue has the right stuff to have another successful season.
The third team that I think will be playing in the Final Four is Duke. The Blue Devils will miss the sharpshooting from Jon Scheyer and the inside presence of Brian Zoubek, but I believe Coach K will have another Final Four team in 2011. Kyle Singler’s decision to stay out of the draft greatly helps Duke’s chances of a repeat, but he can’t do it alone. The return of Nolan Smith and the Plumlee brothers will have a large impact on Duke’s performance. Also, Duke gains All-American Kyrie Irving and transfer Seth Curry, brother of Stephen Curry. With all of this talent and Coach K running the show, a repeat is certainly in sight for the Blue Devils.
The final team that slips into my 2011 Final Four is Ohio State. Yes, I realize that three Big Ten teams looks sketchy at the moment, but facts do not lie. Ohio State loses Evan Turner, the Naismith Player of the Year. However, the Buckeyes return David Lighty, Jon Diebler, and William Buford. In addition to those returning starters, Ohio State brings in the top recruiting class. Freshmen Jared Sullinger and DeShaun Thomas lead the class, and they also are expected to bring a new balance to the Ohio State offense. The Buckeyes hope these new options can help them make a run to the Final Four.