College Basketball 2011-12: Top 20 Schools With Something to Prove
College basketball season is still five months away, but it’s never too early to start thinking about next season’s contenders and diaper dandies.
Although you are probably sitting by the pool, discussing Major League Baseball and the NBA Finals, here are 20 college basketball teams with something to prove next season.
20. Xavier Musketeers
The Xavier Musketeers will be heavy favorites to win the Atlantic 10 Conference in 2011-12.
With a good batch of returning talent, led by Tu Holloway, the Musketeers will likely make their seventh straight NCAA Tournament.
19. Baylor Bears
The 2011-12 Baylor Bears should have a formidable frontcourt, with Perry Jones and freshman Quincy Miller.
Baylor could be a sleeper in the Big 12 Conference next season.
Photo courtesy of: midwestsportsfan.com
18. Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Gonzaga Bulldogs have become one of the more consistent basketball programs in the country, under Mark Few.
Gonzaga will be looking to make its 14th consecutive NCAA Tournament.
Elias Harris and Robert Sacre will likely be doing the majority of the scoring next season for the Bulldogs.
17. Wisconsin Badgers
The Wisconsin Badgers’ hopes of a successful 2011-12 season will hinge on the efforts of Jordan Taylor.
Taylor was named to the All-Big Ten First Team as a junior last season.
16. UCLA Bruins
The UCLA Bruins will have two holes to fill in their lineup, after Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee entered this month’s NBA Draft.
Although the losses will be hard to overcome, the Bruins’ season should be salvageable, playing in the weak Pac-10 Conference.
15. Cincinnati Bearcats
Last season, the Cincinnati Bearcats won 26 basketball games. With their four best players returning, they will look to exceed last year’s win mark.
The Bearcats are led by Yancy Gates, who led the team in scoring last season.
14. Florida Gators
The Florida Gators are dangerously thin in the paint, after losing their entire starting frontline from last season.
On the other hand, Florida has tremendous backcourt players.
The Gators have Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker returning for their junior and senior seasons, respectively.
Also, Florida has freshman Bradley Beal, one of the top recruits in the nation.
13. Villanova Wildcats
Dominic Cheek and Maalik Wayns provide the Villanova Wildcats with a solid backcourt combo.
The difference between the Wildcats having a good season and a really good season will be the production of Isaiah Armwood and Maurice Sutton.
12. Missouri Tigers
Under new coach Frank Haith, the Missouri Tigers return their top six players next season.
Including Laurence Bowers and Marcus Denmon, the team’s two leading scorers.
11. Pittsburgh Panthers
The Pittsburgh Panthers took a sigh of relief when Ashton Gibbs decided to return to school for his junior season, after initially declaring for the Draft.
The combination of Gibbs, Travon Woodall and Nasir Robinson will keep the Panthers competitive in the always-tough Big East Conference.
10. Louisville Cardinals
After the Syracuse Orange, the Louisville Cardinals have the most talented roster in the Big East Conference.
The Cardinals’ biggest strength is their perimeter play, led by Kyle Kuric and Peyton Siva, two of the team’s top three scorers from a year ago.
9. Kansas Jayhawks
The Kansas Jayhawks lost many of their core players from last season to the NBA Draft.
Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson will likely keep the Jayhawks near the top of the Big 12 next season.
8. Duke Blue Devils
After the departure of Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler and Kyrie Irving, the Duke Blue Devils likely won’t be as formidable as they were the last two seasons.
With that being said, Mason and Miles Plumlee, Austin Rivers and Seth Curry should keep the team in the top 20 throughout the season.
7. Memphis Tigers
The Memphis Tigers will begin the 2011-12 season with some of the best freshmen in the country.
Memphis’ freshman class will be led by Tennessee native Adonis Thomas.
If the newcomers can mesh, the Tigers could be dancing deep into March.
6. Connecticut Huskies
The Connecticut Huskies will have one of the better frontcourts in the Big East Conference next season with Tyler Olander, Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith.
Also, Jeremy Lamb, the team’s likely leading scorer, returns for his sophomore season.
5. Butler Bulldogs
The Butler Bulldogs will have a hard time recovering next season, after losing Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack in back-to-back drafts.
However, after consecutive NCAA Championship Game appearances, it would be silly to count out the Bulldogs when March rolls around.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Ohio State Buckeyes made it to the Sweet Sixteen last season, before falling to the Kentucky Wildcats.
Jared Sullinger, the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, will be back to cause more havoc in the paint.
Aaron Craft and William Buford also return for the Buckeyes.
3. Syracuse Orange
The Syracuse Orange look to have a powerhouse team next season.
Much like the Kentucky Wildcats, they have a good combination of experience and talented freshmen.
Scoop Jardine and Rakeem Christmas will be two players to watch next season for Syracuse.
2. Kentucky Wildcats
The Kentucky Wildcats have a brilliant combination of returning talent and promising freshmen..
The Wildcats will return Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller from last season’s Final Four team.
Additionally, the Wildcats have added Marquis Teague, Mike Gilchrist and Anthony Davis, three of the top high school players in the country.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels
After making a run to the Elite Eight last season, The North Carolina Tar Heels should have one of the top five teams in the country next season.
The Tar Heels have five returning players as their projected starting lineup: Harrison Barnes, Dexter Strickland, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Kendall Marshall.
Anything short of Final Four appearance would be a disappointment for North Carolina.