Sweet 16 Prognostications
Duke Blue Devils – With Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith back to welcome the guy many already consider to be the nation’s top point guard, frosh Kyrie Irving, expect the Dukies to be as good, if not better than their National Championship team of a year ago.
Seton Hall Pirates – With Binghamton native and village idiot, Bobby “Gonzo”, gone-zo, it’s about time this talent-laden team, lead by one of the nation’s top pure scorers, Jeremy Hazell, and rebounding machine, Herb Pope, got off the schneid and made it to the Dance, and maybe a Sweet 16. This, of course, is all contingent upon the health of Pope, who collapsed last April and had to be taken to a hospital – he is still awaiting clearance to play.
Ohio State Buckeyes – Yes, they lost the Wooden Award winner and No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft, Evan Turner, but they return 4 starters and add monster power forward, 280 lb. Jared Sullinger, to the mix.
Missouri Tigers – A bit of a sleeper team, perhaps, with exactly zero household names on its roster, the Tiggers will rely on depth and veteran leadership, as well as the skills of super frosh forward, Tony Mitchell, to make noise all season in the ultra competitive Big 12.
Michigan State Spartans – Tom Izzo does it again with one of the top backcourts in the nation as well as a freshman center who will prove to be a major “Payne” (Adreian Payne, that is) for the rest of the Big Ten.
Colorado Buffaloes – The nation’s best guard tandem – Alec Burks and Cory Higgins – will ensure that Colorado finally makes it back to the Dance.
Kentucky Wildcats – While his methods might be suspect or downright illegal, John Calipari is flat out the best recruiter in college basketball and this year’s class proves no different. He has another starting five on the way, including no less than 4 top 25 recruits. Look for him to make another serious run at disproving those who say you can’t win with a crop of “one and dones”.
Butler Bulldogs – Yes, they lost Gordon Hayward to greener pastures, they return nearly everyone else including blue collar workhorse, Matt Howard, and do everything guard, Shelvin Mack. Though they certainly won’t be taking anyone by surprise this season, look for them to be a tough out come March.
Purdue Boilermakers – With arguably the top frontcourt in the nation, Hummel and the boys will battle the Spartans all season for Big 10 supremacy, and might just battle them for it all in Houston on April 4th.
Virginia Tech Hokies – The Hokies, lead by, arguably, the nation’s premier all-round guard, Malcolm Delaney, will leave the NCAA selection with no choice but to give them a bid, and a good one, come tourney time.
Kansas State Wildcats – Look for preseason All-America candidate, Jacob Pullen, to lead the ‘Cats to their second consecutive Elite 8.
Tennessee Volunteers – Obnoxious head coach, Bruce Pearl, will prove that last year’s run was no fluke as he returns the dynamic Scotty Hopson, and plugs in super frosh forward, Tobias Harris, for the departed Wayne Chism.
Florida Gators – With all five starters back and super frosh power forward, Patric Young, entering the fray, Billy Donovan looks for his 3rd National Championship in six seasons.
Baylor Bears – While the Bears finally fulfilled some of their potential last season, don’t expect them to lose much of a step with All-American guard, LaceDarius Dunn, on the outside, and the fella many figure to be the first big man taken in the 2011 NBA Draft, forward/center Perry Jones, on the inside.
Syracuse Orange – With a couple of McDonalds’ All-Americans in Fab Melo and Deon Waiters joining a returning cast that features 4 prominent players, look for Boeheim to make another deep run in March. Then again, expectations are higher to start this season than they were last, which is always a recipe for disaster for Orange fans.
Illinois Fighting Illini – Illinois returns its top 6 players and adds the services of one of the nation’s best recruiting classes; not to mention they will be one of the nation’s biggest teams and be lead by the nation’s premier distributor, Demetri McCamey.
1st Team All-Americans
C Fab Melo, Syracuse (7-0, 265, Fr.) – The most highly regarded 7-footer ever recruited at the ‘Cuse.
F Robbie Hummel, Purdue (6-8, 226, Sr.) – The heart and soul of what might be the best team in the country when it’s all said and done.
F Harrison Barnes, UNC Tar Heels (6-7, 215, Fr.) – See below.
G Jimmer Fredette, BYU Cougars (6-2, 195, Sr.) – The best non-“power conference” player in the nation . . . despite the stupid name.
G Josh Selby, Kansas Jayhawks (6-3, 183, Fr.) – The player I predict to be the nation’s most exciting; at least the one I would pay the most to watch.
F/C JaJuan Johnson, Purdue (6-10, 216, Sr.) – Long and lean with a bevy of moves, JJ is the perfect compliment to the blue collar Hummel.
F Lavoy Allen, Temple Owls (6-9, 225, Sr.) – An absolute do-it-all big man underneath, and the main reason Temple will be a legit Sweet 16 threat.
F Kyle Singler, Duke (6-8, 230, Sr.) – Probably the preseason favorite for the coveted Wooden and Naismith Awards.
G Cory Higgins, Colorado (6-5, 190, Sr.) – One half of the nation’s best backcourt tandem.
G Brandon Knight, Kentucky (6-3, 183, Fr.) – The next in a long line of super guards recruited by silver tongued Calipari.
F/C Kenneth Faried, Morehead State Eagles (6-8, 225, Jr.) – Flat out the best player in the country no one has heard of.
F Trey Thompkins, Georgia Bulldogs (6-10, 247, Jr.) – The definition of “power forward”.
F Terrence Jones, Kentucky (6-9, 230, Fr.) – Silky smooth, yet explosive, he might prove to be the most exciting forward in the nation.
G Alec Burks, Colorado (6-6, 185, So.) – The other half of the nation’s premier backcourt tandem.
G LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor (6-4, 205, Sr.) – Will be the straw that stirs the drink in Waco this season.
C Keith Benson, Oakland Golden Grizzlies (6-11, 221, Jr.) – The second best player in the country no one’s heard of.
F John Shurna, Northwestern Wildcats (6-8, 215, Jr.) – Think of him as the Midwest’s version of Kyle Singler.
F Tracy Smith, North Carolina State Wolfpack (6-8, 247, Sr.)
F Herb Pope, Seton Hall (6-8, 236, Jr.) – Let’s hope he’s healthy.
F Derrick Williams, Arizona Wildcats (6-8, 240, So.)
G Talor Battle, Penn State Nittany Lions (6-0, 170, Sr.) – The nation’s best “little” man; lead the team in rebounding at barely 6’0”.
G Malcolm Delaney, Virginia Tech (6-3, 190, Sr.) – Might be the nation’s best pure scorer.
National Player of the Year:
Harrison Barnes, UNC – Will bring the Tar Heels back, be the nation’s best player, and probably be the top pick in the 2011 Draft.
C Melo, Syracuse
F Jones, Kentucky
F Barnes, UNC
G Selby, Kansas
G Knight, Kentucky
Top 5 Backcourts
1 Colorado – Higgins, Burks, Shannon Sharpe, Nate Tomlinson
2 Michigan St. – Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Keith Appling
3 Duke – Smith, Irving, Seth Curry
4 Kentucky – Knight, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller
5 Georgetown – Austin Freeman, Chris Wright, Jason Clark
Top 5 Frontcourts
1 Syracuse – Melo, Rick Jackson, Kris Joseph, DaShonte Riley, C.J. Fair
2 Purdue – Johnson, Hummel, Travis Carroll, Sandi Marcius
3 Kentucky – Enes Kanter, Jones, Eloy Vargas
4 NC State – Smith, C.J. Leslie, Scott Wood
5 Florida – Young, Vernon Macklin, Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus
Top 5 Conferences
1 Big Ten
2 Big 12
4 Big East