Another basketball season is about to begin, which means it is time for TJ Corbs to publish his annual College Basketball Season Preview.
Some quick predictions:
Final 4: Villanova, Duke, Michigan State, Pittsburgh
Player of the Year: Corey Fisher, Villanova
Freshman of the Year: Kyrie Irving, Duke
Coach of the Year: Mike Kryzeweski, Duke
National Champion: Villanova
First Team All America:
Corey Fisher, Villanova. Finally out of Scottie Reynolds' shadow, it is time for the kid from the Bronx, New York, to shine. They call him Fisher Price because he toys with people on the playground.
Kailin Lucas, Michigan State. An experienced leader with multiple Final 4's under his belt. There is not a coach in the nation who would pass on this team leader.
Kyle Singler, Duke. A national championship under his belt, Singler must adjust to being the man with Duke's 2010 leader, Jon Scheyer, no longer on the team.
JaJuan Johnson, Purdue. Expect Johnson's production to pick up with the loss of Hummel.
Trey Thomkins, Georgia. The big man is the best player in the SEC.
The Top 10:
1. Villanova - Jay Wright's most complete team, featuring the best backcourt in the nation, is the team to beat this year. Scottie Reynolds and Reggie Redding are gone, but Villanova has sophomores and former McDonald's All Americans Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek to fill the talent void at those positions, with seniors Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes poised to fill the senior leadership void. A lot of people are picking Duke as their No. 1, but this journalist is going with the Wildcats from the Maine Line. Nova's replacements for their lost seniors are very talented and a little more seasoned and tested than Duke's replacements, giving Villanova the edge when March comes around.
2. Duke - The defending champions are going to be really good. Kyrie Irving is an explosive guard out of Kevin Boyle's St. Patrick's High School in New Jersey, and may become a legend in the short time he spends in Carolina. Duke returns three starters, including Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, but John Scheyer's leadership, grit and hustle will be missed. You cannot underestimate a dirt dog like Scheyer's impact on a championship team.
3. Pittsburgh - Jaimie Dixon returns another talented, and hard working cast of players to the steel city. No players oozing NBA potential, no superstars, just a great coach with a great system and players who believe that if they work hard and follow the coaches orders, good things will happen. Dixon has had some solid teams in the past, but always fell short of the tournament's final weekend. This is the year Pitt fans can extend their season into April.
4. Kansas State - Fear the beard. Jacob Pullen is back, and things should be fun this season in Manhattan, Kansas. This is a very experienced team that knows how to win in hostile environments and how to perform under pressure. Do not expect this team to let up against lesser opponents, and expect this team to go far in March.
5. Kansas - Last year's consensus No. 1 showed just how fragile a season can be with a second round exit last March. This year's team, led by Philadelphia's Morris twins, should learn from last year's let down and respond with another strong season for coach Bill Self.
6. Michigan State - The most consistent coach in the nation, Tom Izzo, has another talented crew. I have moved this team down a peg from where other national journalists have picked the Spartans, as Michigan State always seems to take a little time finding itself during the first half of the season. But I fully expect to be penciling Michigan State into the third weekend of my brackets. Kailin Lucas is one of the top PGs in the nation.
7. Syracuse - Syracuse lost Wesley Johnson and Andy Rautins, but don't sleep on the Orange. Syracuse had one of the best benches in the nation last year, and now it is time for players such as Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine to step up on the national stage. Rick Jackson is joined by freshman phenom, Fabricio Melo, a 7 foot center.
8. Purdue - Just how big is the loss of Robbie Hummel for the Boiler Makers? This journalist thinks the core of the team is strong enough to withstand the loss of Hummel, and Purdue will still play like a top 10 team this year.
9. Temple - Too many people are sleeping on the defending Big 5 Philadelphia champions. Temple has been to three straight tournaments. While they have not advanced past the first round of the tournament under Fran Dunphy, they made the transition from bubble team to tournament lock last season. This season, expect Temple to emerge as the team to beat in the Atlantic 10 and pick them to play in the second weekend of the dance. Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez make up a tremendous one two punch. Let us all hope Temple fans take the time to show up to some games this year. For more on Temple fan apathy, please read this Bleacher Report article: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/486762-college-basketball-temples-fan-apathy-is-shockingly-bad
10. Georgetown - Austin Freeman and Chris Wright make up a talented backcourt, and you know Georgetown has the frontcourt horses to compete. How Georgetown replaces Greg Monroe is the big question for the Hoyas this year.
Sleeper team of the year: Wagner. Danny Hurley built an empire at New Jersey's St. Benedict's High School, and he will now jump into the college ranks as he attempts to turn Wagner into a force in the northeast corridor. Danny's brother and top assist man in NCAA history, Bobby Hurley, joins the coaching staff. Wagner is already outrecruiting other local schools such as Rutgers, Seton Hall and Saint Joseph's (PA), and it will not be long before Wagner is whooping these teams on the court. Wagner fans have named their student session the Otterhound Pound due to their ferocious support of the team.
Coaches on the Hot Seat:
Phil Martelli, Saint Joseph's (PA). 2004 seems like a long time ago as Saint Joseph's (PA) piles up losing seasons. The schedule has become incredibly weak, and the fans are losing interest. Saint Joseph's (PA) had to cancel midnight madness this year due to lack of fan interest. For more on Phil Martelli, please read this Bleacher Report article: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/483203-college-basketball-coach-phil-martelli-of-saint-josephs-pa-on-the-hot-seat
Mick Cronin, Cincinnati. From 1993-2005, Bob Huggins took the Cincinnati Bearcats to the NCAA Tournament every season, a run of fourteen years. Mick Cronin has been at Cincinnati for five years, he has not taken the team to the NCAA Tournament once. You can do the math.
Jim Calhoun, UConn. What? Calhoun on the hot seat? This has nothing to do with on court performance and everything to do with off court issues. UConn ranks dead last in the Big East in graduation rates, and Calhoun's culture of criminal activity in his program coupled with the recent admission of cheating has some people in Connecticut wondering if the Calhoun headache is really worth it? For more on Calhoun's issues, please read this Bleacher Report article: http://bleacherreport.com/articles/486244-college-basketball-uconn-admits-cheating-calhouns-criminal-culture