Here are three major conferences, read and feedback.
ACC (predicted order of finish and records)
North Carolina Tar Heels (28-2) – UNC possesses all the ingredients to win the national championship this season, mostly due to the fact that their top four players (Hansbrough, Lawson, Ellington, Green) resisted the temptation of the NBA to return to college, unanimously making them the top-ranked team this preseason. Assuming this team can stay healthy, this group of players should be able to give Roy Williams his second national championship in the past five years, simply because the Tar Heels have the best combination of talent and experience.
Duke Blue Devils (25-5) – Duke has had a lot of trouble in NCAA Tournaments recently because Coach K hasn’t had the flashy, star-studded teams that won titles for him in the past. However, this team, led by Henderson and Singler, is a very good one that could get Duke back to where they’ve been when the Blue Devils have had their best success. Even though they’ll be looking up at their in-state rival, North Carolina for the third straight season, Krzyzewski will be able to balance his roster and motivate his players to play hard every night as he has done for a long time.
Miami Hurricanes (22-8) – A program that really came out of nowhere to make the NCAA Tournament last year comes into this season with higher expectations. Their roster is as good as it’s been in a long time, highlighted by talented swingman Jack McClinton. The major issue for Miami will be handling the pressure of competing with UNC and Duke as an elite in the ACC. This is something they haven’t had to since joining this conference, but if coach Frank Haith can work some of the same magic that he did last season, the ‘U’ will be a force to reckon with.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons (21-9) – On paper, this Wake squad looks very dangerous, but their level of success depends upon how quickly this wealth of young players can mesh with each other. The Demon Deacons bring in a star-studded freshman recruiting class, highlighted by five-star forward Al-Farouq Aminu. Second year head coach Dino Gaudio will face the challenge of bringing Wake Forest back to the NCAA Tournament, something the program hasn’t done since the days of Chris Paul. Look for a solid bounce back season for the Deacs.
Clemson Tigers (20-10)
Virginia Tech Hokies (20-10)
Maryland Terrapins (19-11)
Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (17-13)
North Carolina State Wolfpack (17-13)
Boston College Eagles (16-14)
Florida State Seminoles (14-16)
Virginia Cavaliers (11-19)
Big East (predicted order of finish and records)
Connecticut Huskies (27-3) – A UConn team that lost in the first round last season looks to avenge those demons as they come back with one of the best teams they’ve had in a long time. They are fortunate to bring back the young defensive presence in the middle, Hasheem Thabeet, who is surrounded by the talented trio of Adrien, Price, and Dyson. Jim Calhoun’s deep and talented roster ensures that Connecticut will be a national factor with a chance to win both the Big East and national titles this year. Expect this to be a huge year for the Huskies.
Pittsburgh Panthers (26-4) – Another Big East team that suffered a premature elimination from the NCAA Tournament last year comes into this season with a deep, loaded squad led by forward Sam Young and guard Levance Fields. Coach Jamie Dixon, whose teams have been primarily defensive-oriented in recent years, has never won less than 20 games in any season at Pitt, and if Fields can stay healthy, he, Young, and sophomore DeJuan Blair down low can lead the Panthers to the top of Big East and deep into the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish (25-5) – The Irish have failed to make it past the second round in either of the past two NCAA Tournaments, but come into this season with star power that coach Mike Brey has never had before. Harangody, McAlarney, and Jackson are as good as any trio in the conference, and though defense has always been an issue during Brey’s entire tenure at ND, this team is tremendous offensively and can shoot the three with the best of them. Notre Dame is easily another Final Four contender out of the Big East; they will win at least 25.
Louisville Cardinals (24-6) – I was very hard-pressed to not pick Louisville to take home the Big East crown this season. This roster possess everything necessary for a contender: a talented big maen (Clark, Samuels), wing scoring (Williams), sharpshooting guards (Smith, Sosa), and a veteran coach (Pitino).However, this Louisville team has gotten off to a number of slow starts in recent years, not to mention their loss of two talente d bigs in Caracter and Padgett. Either way, the Cardinals have one of most talented and balanced teams in the nation in 2008.
Georgetown Hoyas (22-8)
Villanova Wildcats (22-8)
Marquette Golden Eagles (21-9)
Syracuse Orange (21-9)
West Virginia Mountaineers (19-11)
Providence Friars (17-13)
Cincinnati Bearcats (16-14)
Seton Hall Pirates (16-14)
Rutgers Scarlet Knights (15-15)
St. John’s Red Storm (14-16)
DePaul Blue Demons (13-17)
South Florida Bulls (11-19)
Big Ten (predicted order of finish and records)
Michigan State Spartans (25-5) – The Spartans return five of their top six scorers including Lucas and Morgan, and though they lose backcourt presence in Drew Neitzel, Tom Izzo, one of the country’s best coaches over the past decade, brings in highly regarded freshman forward Delvon Roe to add some scoring and athleticism. The Final Four is in Detroit this year, so it would be appropriate for Michigan State to get there, and even though this team could win the Big Ten, they certainly aren’t a lock to get to Detroit, although it does remain a possibility.
Ohio State Buckeyes (25-5) – If the young talent on this team as coach Thad Matta hopes it does, this is likely the year before the year that Ohio State can be a championship threat. The one issue with this team this year is the lack of balance between young players and upperclassmen, which might hurt them a bit in postseason play. Matta hopes that he can keep freshman center B.J. Mullens for more than one year, unlike he was able to do with Oden and Conley just two seasons ago, and if he does, the Buckeyes will be a definite title contender.
Purdue Boilermakers (23-7) – A young team on the rise that opened a lot of eyes last year returns this season led by the talented duo of Robbie Hummel and E’Twaun Moore. Matt Painter has quietly established himself as one of the premier young coach in the nation by winning at least 22 games in every season but one at Purdue. The Boilermakers may not have enough big men or experienced leaders to win it all this season, but a Big Ten title and a run to the Sweet 16 or Elite 8 are both realistic goals for a team with a tremendous upside.
Wisconsin Badgers (22-8) – Coach Bo Ryan has led Wisconsin to the NCAA Tournament all seven years that he has been coaching there, showing that he can win with any players under any circumstance. His roster doesn’t have the flashiness that it had with stars like Devin Harris and Alando Tucker in years past, but his hard-nosed, defensive-oriented, “grind it out” squads are always among the most consistent in the nation, making it likely that his team will reach the ‘Big Dance’ this year. The Badgers will be what they’ve been under Ryan yet again in 2008.
Illinois Fighting Illini (20-10)
Minnesota Golden Gophers (20-10)
Michigan Wolverines (18-12)
Indiana Hoosiers (16-14)
Northwestern Wildcats (16-14)
Iowa Hawkeyes (14-16)
Penn State Nittany Lions (12-18)
ACC’s Top 10 Players
1) Tyler Hansbrough, F/C - North Carolina, Sr.
2) Ty Lawson, G - North Carolina, Jr.
3) Tyrese Rice, G - Boston College, Sr.
4) Wayne Ellington, G/F - North Carolina, Jr.
5) Jack McClinton, G - Miami, Sr.
6) Gerald Henderson, G/F - Duke, Jr.
7) Greivis Vasquez, G - Maryland, Jr.
8) K.C. Rivers, F - Clemson, Jr.
9) A.D. Vassallo, G/F - Virginia Tech, Sr.
10) James Johnson, F - Wake Forest, So.
Big East’s Top 10 Players
1) Hasheem Thabeet, C - Connecticut, Jr.
2) Luke Harangody, F - Notre Dame, Jr.
3) Sam Young, F - Pittsburgh, Sr.
4) Terrence Williams, F - Louisville, Jr.
5) A.J. Price, G - Connecticut, Sr.
6) Earl Clark, F - Louisville, Jr.
7) Scottie Reynolds, G - Villanova, Jr.
8) Jerel McNeal, G, Marquette, Sr.
9) Kyle McAlarney, G - Notre Dame, Sr.
10) Jonny Flynn, G - Syracuse, So.
Big Ten’s Top 10 Players
1) B.J. Mullens, C - Ohio State, Fr.
2) Raymar Morgan, F - Michigan State, Jr.
3) E'Twaun Moore, G - Purdue, So.
4) Kalin Lucas, G - Michigan State, So.
5) Robbie Hummel, F - Purdue, So.
6) Marcus Landry, F - Wisconsin, Sr.
7) Manny Harris, G - Michigan, So.
8) Kevin Coble, F - Northwestern, Jr.
9) Goran Suton, C - Michigan State, Sr.
10) Jamelle Cornley, G/F - Penn State, Sr.