Big 12 (predicted order of finish and records)
Kansas State Wildcats (26-4)
Outside of the Dukies, K-State might be the best team in the nation. Getting to the Final Four was a great achievement for Frank Martin’s squad, but their sights should be set higher with first team All-American Jacob Pullen leading the way, complemented by talented depth in the frontcourt.
No longer having the luxury of Denis Clemente may hurt the Wildcats in terms of backcourt stability, but there should be no problems for this team come tournament time in 2010-11.
Kansas Jayhawks (25-5)
A close second to Kansas State and another perennial national elite, Kansas is still a contender to reach the Final Four even after losing Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry in a year where they were upset in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Talented recruit Josh Selby makes the Jayhawks an instant contender for the conference title, as they seemingly are every year. Outside of the one recent championship, they always seem to disappoint in a big spot, a stigma that Bill Self hopes to shake off.
Baylor Bears (24-6)
From rags to riches, Baylor has gone from the Big 12’s laughingstock to one of the best teams in the nation. Only one win away from the Final Four last year, the Bears got instant attention and should be considered an equal to either of these top two teams.
The great LaceDarius Dunn has some more help on the way in the person of a talented freshman, Perry Jones. Losing both Curtis Jerrells and Ekpe Udoh is definitely a challenge, but one that should be overcome by Baylor this season.
Texas Longhorns (22-8)
Texas is talented enough to compete with any team in this league. They are seemingly loaded with talent, but in all of the seasons since the departure of Kevin Durant, Rick Barnes’ squads have never meshed properly and been bounced early on.
Some of the mainstays return from seasons past, but this year, their success will hinge on the play of top freshmen Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson. They’re a tournament team, but maybe not one that can challenge for a title.
Missouri Tigers (21-9)
Colorado Buffaloes (19-11)
Texas Tech Red Raiders (17-13)
Oklahoma State Cowboys (15-15)
Texas A&M Aggies (15-15)
Oklahoma Sooners (14-16)
Nebraska Cornhuskers (13-17)
Iowa State Cyclones (12-18)
Pac-10 (predicted order of finish and records)
Washington Huskies (22-8)
The Pac-10 is a disaster of a basketball conference, but its best team is Washington. They are the clear favorite despite losing leading scorer Quincy Pondexter and have a loaded backcourt led by Isaiah Thomas and Abdul Gaddy.
A late run that propelled Washington to a conference tournament win, a No. 11 seed in the tournament and advancement to the Sweet 16 was a tough road for the Huskies. This season, they shouldn’t have trouble at all advancing to the tournament’s late rounds.
UCLA Bruins (21-9)
Getting off to a terrible start, much like last year’s North Carolina team, doomed UCLA’s tournament hopes, as this perennial contender fell short of the Big Dance, a rarity for this program. Malcolm Lee, Tyler Honeycutt and Reeves Nelson make up one of the better trios in the Pac-10, not to mention the addition of freshman center Josh Smith.
The point guard situation looks to be troublesome, but this core of talented players won’t let Ben Howland miss the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row.
Arizona Wildcats (20-10)
A team that finished fourth in the Pac-10 fell short in a conference that only earned two NCAA Tournament bids, but its only loss was Nic Wise, and in a conference that should be better, they should be able to earn a bid. A streak of decades' worth of consecutive berths ended last season, but this Arizona squad is led by Derrick Williams and coached by Sean Miller.
This Arizona team has voids to fill, but in a league this shallow, they are good enough to be a postseason team.
Arizona State Sun Devils (19-11)
In a league that may only earn three bids, teams like Arizona State and Washington State will be on the bubble come Selection Sunday. The Sun Devils have a shot, and though they may not keep their 20-win season streak alive, they have a substantial amount of talent, led by Ty Abbott and Rihards Kuksiks.
Their frontcourt deficiencies are glaring, but the coaching jobs of Herb Sendek have gotten ASU by in a number of past seasons; hopefully, this one can follow suit.
Washington State Cougars (18-12)
USC Trojans (17-13)
Stanford Cardinal (16-14)
California Golden Bears (15-15)
Oregon State Beavers (13-17)
Oregon Ducks (11-19)
SEC (predicted order of finish and records)
Kentucky Wildcats (23-7)
A freshmen-led team that fell short of the Final Four last season comes into 2010-11 with a new cast, once again mostly comprised of freshmen. They replace John Wall with Brandon Knight and DeMarcus Cousins with Enes Kanter, not to mention John Calipari’s other top recruits, highlighted by Doron Lamb.
Players like DeAndre Liggins and Darius Miller should play bigger roles this season en route to Kentucky winning the SEC, earning a high tournament seed and making a deep postseason run.
Florida Gators (22-8)
After consecutive titles, it has taken Florida a few years to get back to its usual winning ways. Billy Donovan’s team comes into this season led by Chandler Parsons, Kenny Boynton and Vernon Macklin, just to name a few. They return every relevant player from an NCAA Tournament team and definitely have closed the gap between themselves and Kentucky.
Though this team may not have the talent of the Joakim Noah, Al Horford and Corey Brewer days, the Gators should chomp all the way to late March.
Georgia Bulldogs (21-9)
Not much was expected from Georgia last season, but expectations are a lot higher this season with a ton more talent and experience. Two future pros on Mark Fox’s roster, Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins, form the clear centerpiece of Georgia’s team, and if this Bulldog team is anything, it will certainly be fun to watch.
It’s not as if Kentucky and Georgia are dominant forces who are going to run away with this conference, so if Georgia contends, it won’t be much of a shocker.
Tennessee Volunteers (21-9)
Vanderbilt Commodores (18-12)
South Carolina Gamecocks (16-14)
Mississippi State Bulldogs (20-10)
It will be tough for any of the SEC West teams to challenge any of the superior teams in the divisional counterpart, but Mississippi State is a solid team that looks to make the NCAA Tournament once again.
Renardo Sidney looks to make an immediate impact after his suspension is lifted, as Rick Stansbury’s team is probably the best team in this conference’s half, and when they are at full strength, they will have no problem tearing through the SEC West on their way to the tourney.
Ole Miss Rebels (17-13)
Alabama Crimson Tides (16-14)
Arkansas Razorbacks (16-14)
LSU Tigers (14-16)
Auburn Tigers (12-18)
Others to Watch
Butler Bulldogs (25-5)
This team would have been something special and a favorite to return to the championship had Gordon Hayward had been a returnee rather than a departure. The nucleus of Shelvin Mack, Matt Howard and Ronald Nored make Butler the far and away favorite to win the Horizon League and gain a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Brad Stevens continues to be one of the nation’s top young coaches, and after the job he did last year, there is no excuse to overlook Butler in the national title picture again.
Gonzaga Bulldogs (25-5)
Perennially overlooked and given no respect, Gonzaga comes into this season with one of the top teams in the nation, led by its star, Elias Harris, along with the returning Robert Sacre and Steven Gray.
Even though they fell short to a good St. Mary’s team last year in the WCC Tournament, they still kept their heads above water come NCAA Tournament time. This is the year that Harris truly breaks out, as Gonzaga will win another WCC title and make a nice run in the tournament.
BYU Cougars (23-7)
BYU is certainly the favorite in the Mountain West and is led by one of the nation’s top scorers, guard Jimmer Fredette, who alone will give BYU a chance against any team.
Their non-conference schedule isn’t too deadly, and outside of tests against UCLA and Arizona, BYU is good enough to gain the respect of the selection committee and propel themselves into a middle seed in the NCAA Tournament, but the Cougars will go as far their one-man show does.
Big 12's Top 10 Players
1) Jacob Pullen, G - Kansas State, Sr.
2) LaceDarius Dunn, G - Baylor, Sr.
3) Marcus Morris, F - Kansas, Jr.
4) Perry Jones, F - Baylor, Fr.
5) Josh Selby, F - Kansas, Fr.
6) Curtis Kelly, F - Kansas State, Sr.
7) Mike Singletary, F - Texas Tech, Sr.
8) Alec Burks, G - Colorado, So.
9) Kim English, G - Missouri, Jr.
10) Cory Joseph, G - Texas, Fr.
Pac-10's Top 10 Players
1) Isaiah Thomas, G - Washington, Jr.
2) Derrick Williams, F - Arizona, So.
3) Klay Thompson, G - Washington State, Jr.
4) Tyler Honeycutt, F - UCLA, So.
5) Nikola Vucevic, F - USC, Jr.
6) Reeves Nelson, F - UCLA, So.
7) Ty Abbott, G - Arizona State, Sr.
8) Matthew Bryan-Amaning, F - Washington, Sr.
9) Jeremy Green, G - Stanford, Jr.
10) Rihards Kuksiks, G/F - Arizona State, Sr.
SEC's Top 10 Players
1) Scotty Hopson, F - Tennessee, Jr.
2) Trey Thompkins, F - Georgia, Jr.
3) Travis Leslie, G - Georgia, Jr.
4) Chandler Parsons, F - Florida, Sr.
5) Brandon Knight, G - Kentucky, Fr.
6) JaMychal Green, F - Alabama, Jr.
7) Enes Kanter, F - Kentucky, Fr.
8) Renardo Sidney, F - Mississippi State, So.
9) Chris Warren, G - Mississippi, Sr.
10) Jeffery Taylor, F - Vanderbilt, Jr.
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