Expectations are high for Izzo and the Spartans
The 2010-11 college basketball season is being billed as one of incredible parity.
Next season's potential NBA lockout motivated a lot of the NCAA's star players to leave early, even more than in past seasons.
The result for college basketball is a season in which very few teams have proven stars (especially upperclassmen stars) on their respective rosters. A lack of experienced talent makes predicting the season even tougher than usual.
Uncertainties aside, there are plenty of teams coming into this season with a lot of hype.
Which teams will meet or exceed their high expectations? Which teams will fail to live up to their preseason hype?
Click through to find out.
Kyle Singler (left) and Nolan Smith (center) headline a talented Blue Devil squad
In a season when few teams have one proven star, the Blue Devils have two.
Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith will do a lot to alleviate the loss of starters Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek.
Singler and Smith had brilliant seasons last year on their way to an NCAA title. As seniors, both are expected to compete for first-team All-American status and lead a talented Blue Devils squad to another Final Four.
Duke has a lot more in its arsenal than its senior stars.
Freshman point guard Kyrie Irving might be the most-talented point guard in college basketball—he's that good.
Adding sharpshooters Seth Curry (who led all NCAA freshmen in scoring two seasons ago) and Andre Dawkins in the backcourt, along with Irving and Smith, gives Duke one of the most explosive and offensively-potent backcourts college basketball has seen in a while.
The Blue Devils are solid in the frontcourt as well, though not as solid as they are in the backcourt.
Mason Plumlee is expected to have a big sophomore season, and his older brother, Miles, looks poised to continue the steady development he displayed last year. A bulkier Ryan Kelly and versatile freshman Josh Hairston fill out the Blue Devils' front line. Singler will certainly see significant time at the power forward position as well.
The Blue Devils have NBA talent, experience, leadership and depth at every position.
They will certainly live up to their hype as one of the most dominant teams in the NCAA this season.
Jon Diebler (left) and William Buford (right) are just two of the reasons Ohio State is a contender
There is no way to overstate the impact of losing a player like Evan Turner—he was the best player in the NCAA last year.
Turner is gone, but everyone else who played significant minutes last season is back for the Buckeyes.
William Buford, Jon Diebler and David Lighty give coach Thad Matta a lot of returning experience and talent to build his team around.
Add a top-five recruiting class that features stud forward Jared Sullinger to all that returning talent and the Buckeyes have all the makings to be one of the best teams in the country.
Sullinger is one of the more NBA-ready freshman coming into college basketball this season. He's a man-among-boys type who plays aggressively around the basket. He'll have a big impact from day one.
Ohio State might have some growing pains as it adds so many freshman and loses a player of Turner's caliber. But they won't last long.
By the end of the season this team will be one of the toughest in nation.
If Kalin Lucas makes a full recovery, the Spartans will be tough to beat
Kalin Lucas' torn Achilles in the NCAA tournament last year was tragic. Although the Spartans nearly made the NCAA championship game for the second straight season, there's no telling what would have happened if Lucas would have been playing.
Fortunately for Michigan State, it looks as though Lucas is coming along for the upcoming season. The Spartans expect him to be ready by the time the season officially begins, although it will likely take a while for him to be back to 100 percent.
Korie Lucious, last season's backup point guard, had some problems in the offseason with a DUI and minor knee surgery. But he'll likely be available by the Maui Invitational. Lucious is good enough to give Lucas some breathing room as he gets back into top form, and top-50 incoming freshman point guard Keith Appling will help ease Lucas' transition back as well.
The Spartans return every significant contributor from last season, other than Raymar Morgan, who graduated, and Chris Allen, who was recently dismissed from the team. Durrell Summers, Draymond Green and Delvon Roe are all expected to step up as three of the most talented upperclassmen in the Big 10.
Coach Izzo brings in a solid class of freshmen headlined by Appling and Adreian Payne, one of the top incoming big men in the nation.
The last few months have probably been a bit bumpy for Izzo's taste, but there is no denying the amount of experience, depth and talent the Spartans will field this season.
Lucas' health is still a question (we've already seen Robbie Hummel's injury reoccur), but if he stays healthy, the Spartans will be a title contender once again.
Chandler Parsons and Kenny Boynton look to get the Gators back to the Final Four
Last season's Florida team got the Gators back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since they won back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
This season, the Gators return six of their top seven players from last year including five players who averaged double figures in scoring.
Kenny Boynton, Chandler Parsons, Erving Walker, Alex Tyus and Vernon Macklin give Billy Donovan a core of talented and experienced players hungry to get Florida back to the later rounds of the NCAA tournament.
On top of returning so much production, Florida brings in McDonald's All-American big man Patric Young to bolster the Gators' frontcourt. Florida also adds freshman Casey Prather, a talented small forward who will likely get some burn right away.
With so many top teams working to replace key players from last season, the Gators are one of the few big-name teams in the country bringing every starter back. The fact that they add a player like Young to all of their returning talent is just the icing on the cake.
It's been a while since the Gators were looked at as one of the top teams in the country, but this squad has what it takes to get them back in the spotlight.
Malcolm Delaney is one of the most underrated players in the nation
If there is one team that is poised to vastly exceed its expectations, it's Virginia Tech.
The Hokies barely cracked the preseason top 25. But don't expect their relatively low ranking to last for long.
Seth Greenberg's squad brings back virtually everyone from last year.
Malcolm Delaney, the ACC's leading scorer last season, is back for his senior season. He emerged into a star last year, and there is no reason to think he won't be one of the premier guards in the nation.
Jeff Allen and Dorenzo Hudson give Delaney two highly-productive players to help share the load.
Allen has averaged close to a double-double for three years now, and with the frontcourt talent in the ACC depleted after last year, he'll have a shot to shine in conference play and gain confidence heading into the NCAA tournament.
Dorenzo Hudson had a breakout season last year that didn't get talked about a lot. He showed that he can put a lot of points on the scoreboard (he had 41 against Seton Hall). But he disappeared at times too. Things really came together for him at the end of last season as he earned a third-team All-ACC selection.
The Hokies didn't make the tournament last year (they should have), but they will be a top 15 or better team this season.
Corey Fisher is expected to do big things this season, but will it be enough?
Things unraveled down the stretch for Villanova last season, but that hasn't stopped the hype from building for the Wildcats this season.
It's not hard to understand why Villanova is expected to do big things by many.
Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher give Jay Wright two of the best guards in the Big East, and Antonio Pena is a talented and productive upperclassman as well. Talented-but-raw big man Mouphtaou Yarou should progress as well.
But are the Wildcats truly a borderline Top 5 team?
They lost first team All-American Scottie Reynolds to graduation after last season. Reynolds was their leading scorer and the go-to guy in tough situations.
While Stokes and Fisher are great players, they aren't going to replace Reynolds. Neither have the ability to create their own scoring opportunities the way that Reynolds did.
Simply put, the Wildcats don't have a player that can replace Reynolds, and they don't have a supporting cast that is good enough to make up the difference without him.
Villanova will be a good team this year. But the Wildcats aren't going to live up to their preseason billing.
John Henson didn't live up to the hype last year. Will this season be different?
Last year's North Carolina season was a debacle, but the arrival of the nation's top recruit, Harrison Barnes, has people predicting big things for UNC this year.
Currently the No. 8 team in the nation, the Tar Heels are looking to erase last year from memory and get back to being one of the top teams in the nation.
This isn't the year that happens.
Barnes is a star, for sure. It wouldn't be a surprise if he was one of the top-five scorers in the ACC. But even if he puts up 25 points a game like Kevin Durant did as a freshman, the Tar Heels don't have enough talent around him to go deep in the NCAA tournament (don't forget that Durant had D.J. Augustin, A.J. Abrams, and Damion James with him, and the Longhorns lost 10 games).
Roy Williams' team lost six players from last season because of graduation (Marcus Ginyard, Deon Thompson), the NBA draft (Ed Davis), transfer (the Wear twins) or dismissal from the team (Will Graves).
It lost three starters, the top-three scorers and right around 70 percent of both their scoring and rebounding. All in all, the Tar Heels return a grand total of 23 points per game.
That's not to say they don't have talent. Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Dexter Strickland and Reggie Bullock are all very talented players. They are also young players (Zeller is a junior, but he missed significant chunks of his first two seasons with injuries) with virtually no NCAA tournament experience.
The Tar Heels have very few shooters, a dangerously thin frontcourt, major questions at the point guard position and only 10 total scholarship players.
They won't be in the NIT this year, but they are far from a Top 10 team.
John Calipari has another top recruiting class, but no carryover from last year
You have to give John Calipari credit—the man can recruit.
Kentucky brings in its second-consecutive No. 1 recruiting class this year (they'll probably be No. 1 next year too) with guys like Brandon Knight, Enes Kanter, Terrence Jones, and Doron Lamb filling the void left by the Wildcats' mass exodus to the NBA draft last year.
The problem for Kentucky is that they don't retain any experience or leadership from last year.
When John Wall, Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins came to Lexington last season, at least they had someone like Patrick Patterson to set the tone and provide some upperclassmen leadership. This year, the Wildcats are totally starting from scratch.
While Brandon Knight is a great player, he isn't Wall. He might score more points than Wall, but he won't command the constant attention of defenses or single-handedly set the pace of games the way that Wall did.
Enes Kanter is every bit as good as Cousins (though the two are totally different players), but there are major question marks surrounding his eligibility as an amateur athlete.
Kentucky won't be a bad team by any stretch of the imagination, but they won't live up to their preseason rank either.
The good news for Kentucky fans is that there are a few guys on this year's team who might just stick around for a sophomore season.
The Morris twins give this team some continuity, but that's about where it ends
The Jayhawks were one of the best teams in the country last year, no matter what happened in the NCAA tournament. They definitely deserved their preseason No. 1 ranking last year.
How they managed to get a preseason No. 7 ranking this year is baffling.
Marcus Morris is back and could have a really solid year. Tyshawn Taylor should develop into a productive player as well. But after those two, there's not a lot of production coming back to Lawrence.
Freshman star Josh Selby is currently waiting to see if he'll be eligible to play this year. He had academic and amateur-status questions raised this summer. The academic issues have been resolved, but it could take some time for the NCAA to decide on whether or not he is cleared to play.
Even with Selby, Kansas has major holes to fill. It lost superstars Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry after last season. Aldrich and Collins were experienced players who could dominate games, and Henry was the Jayhawks' most talented player.
Selby is the only big recruit they bring in to fill the void left by those players, and he isn't even guaranteed to play.
Anytime you have a season as uncertain as this season seems to be, the name on the front of the jersey is going to generate some bumps in the rankings. But No. 7 in the nation? No way.
Without Selby, Kansas isn't a Top 25 team. With him, they still aren't a Top 10 team.
Kris Joseph is back for the Orange, but the rest of the team is too green.
Last season's Syracuse Orange was a great team.
Wesley Johnson was a superstar, Andy Rautins was clutch and Jim Boeheim put all the pieces together wonderfully.
The Orange's success last year has set the expectations high this season, giving Syracuse a Top 10 ranking heading into the start of the season.
Last year's team was definitely one of the best 10 teams in the nation, but they lost a lot.
Johnson is gone. He was one of the best players in the country and a matchup nightmare for every opponent.
Rautins has graduated and taken his leadership and great shooting touch with him.
Big man Arinze Onuaku is gone as well. He was a productive presence in the paint night-in and night-out.
Syracuse still has Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph. They were both solid contributors last year.
They also bring in one of the better big men in the freshman class in Fab Melo. He'll help fill Onuaku's shoes.
But who is going to replace Johnson's production or Rautin's shooting and leadership?
It's those questions that make Syracuse a little sketchy as a Top 10 team.