2008-'09 College Basketball Preview: Big 12/Pac-10/SEC
Big 12 (predicted order of finish and records)
Oklahoma Sooners (26-4) – A program that was in shambles just a few years ago is now a contender to win it all. Coach Jeff Capel quickly turned around the mess he inherited and now leads a team featuring one of the nation’s power forwards in Blake Griffin, his brother Taylor, and dynamic freshman guard Willie Warren. Granted, the Sooners only got to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last year, this team has lots more experience and now knows how to win. They could win the Big 12 and make noise in postseason play this as soon as this year.
Baylor Bears (18-12)
Missouri Tigers (17-13)
Oklahoma State Cowboys (17-13)
Kansas State Wildcats (16-14)
Texas Tech Red Raiders (15-15)
Nebraska Cornhuskers (14-16)
Iowa State Cyclones (12-18)
Colorado Buffaloes (11-19)
UCLA Bruins (26-4) – In my opinion, the Pac-10 is America’s second best conference, and it will be won once again by UCLA. Ben Howland has lost tons of players over the past three seasons (Farmar, Afflalo, Westbrook, Love), and still has managed to reach the Final Four in each of those seasons. This team certainly has the talent to reach that special place once again, led by great point guard Darren Collison, explosive swingman Josh Shipp, and one of the nation’s best recruits, Jrue Holiday. The Bruins still have all the pieces in place to win the national title.
Washington Huskies (20-10)
Washington State Cougars (19-11)
California Golden Bears (17-13)
Oregon Ducks (16-14)
Stanford Cardinal (14-16)
Oregon State Beavers (9-21)
SEC (predicted order of finish and records)
Tennessee Volunteers (25-5) – Bruce Pearl has been one of most consistent coaches in the nation, and he makes up for the loss of sharpshooter Chris Lofton by bringing in impact newcomer Scotty Hopson. Junior forward Tyler Smith is the Vols’ best player, and could be the conference’s top offensive threat. If this roster stays healthy, and the freshmen develop according to plan, Tennessee can undoubtedly advance to past the Sweet 16 for this first time in school history. Picking another team to win the SEC would be a big mistake this season.
Florida Gators (21-9)
Vanderbilt Commodores (19-11)
South Carolina Gamecocks (14-16)
Georgia Bulldogs (13-17)
LSU Tigers (22-8) – LSU seems to be the unanimous pick to win this half of the SEC, so I’ll go along with it. The hiring of new coach Trent Johnson should help to eradicate two awful seasons following their Final Four appearance of 2006. They hope to recapture some of the magic of 2006 with several players who are still on the team, Garrett Temple and Chris Johnson. They can’t be any worse than they were last season, but a coaching change is usually a good thing for a team that needs motivation. LSU should get back to the tourney this season.
Alabama Crimson Tide (20-10) – Former All-American point guard Ronald Steele is finally healthy after missing most of the last two seasons, a major positive sign for this Alabama squad, who also features Alonzo Gee and talented freshman JaMychal Green. This is a make-or-break season for head coach Mark Gottfried, who hasn’t made the NCAA Tournament since 2006, or the Sweet 16 since 2004. The good news is that Gottfried has the roster to win this year, and receive a contract extension, which I think will be the likely result.
Mississippi Rebels (17-13)
Mississippi State Bulldogs (16-14)
Auburn Tigers (13-17)
Arkansas Razorbacks (11-19)
Gonzaga Bulldogs (23-7) – The Zags have one of college basketball’s best rosters with as many as three first round NBA draft picks (Pargo, Daye, Heytvelt) on it. Mark Few, who has been the coach of this great mid-major contender for a number of years now, led this team to 25 wins yet again last season, and though they suffered a first-round exit at the hands of Davidson, Gonzaga will easily win their conference, the WCC, and coast into the NCAA Tournament with a dreams of making a deep run as they've in years past.
1) Blake Griffin, F - Oklahoma, So.
2) A.J. Abrams, G - Texas, Sr.
3) Damion James, F - Texas, Jr.
4) Sherron Collins, G - Kansas, Jr.
5) Josh Carter, G/F - Texas A&M, Sr.
6) James Anderson, G - Oklahoma State, So.
7) Curtis Jerrells, G - Baylor, Sr.
8) Leo Lyons, F - Missouri, Sr.
9) LaceDarius Dunn, G - Baylor, Sr.
10) Connor Atchley, C - Texas, Sr.
1) Darren Collison, G - UCLA, Sr.
2) James Harden, G/F - Arizona State, So.
3) Chase Budinger, F - Arizona, Jr.
4) Josh Shipp, G - UCLA, Sr.
5) Jon Brockman, F - Washington, Sr.
6) Taj Gibson, F - USC, Jr.
7) DeMar DeRozan, F - USC, Fr.
8) Jordan Hill, F/C - Arizona, Jr.
9) Jrue Holiday, G - UCLA, Fr.
10) Patrick Christopher, G - California, Jr.
1) Tyler Smith, F - Tennessee, Jr.
2) Patrick Patterson, F/C - Kentucky, So.
3) Nick Calathes, G - Florida, So.
4) Devan Downey, G - South Carolina, Jr.
5) A.J. Oglivy, C - Vanderbilt, So.
6) Jarvis Varnardo, F - Mississippi State, Jr.
7) Alonzo Gee, G/F - Alabama, Sr.
8) Chris Johnson, C - LSU, Sr.
9) Chris Warren, G - Mississippi, So.
10) Marcus Thornton, G - LSU, Sr.
1) Stephen Curry, G - Davidson, Jr.
2) Robert Vaden, G/F - UAB, Sr.
3) Jeremy Pargo, G - Gonzaga, Sr.
4) Lester Hudson, G - Tennessee-Martin, Sr.
5) Tyreke Evans, G/F - Memphis, Fr.
6) Derrick Brown, F - Xavier, Jr.
7) Austin Daye, F - Gonzaga, So.
8) Patrick Mills, G - St. Mary's, So.
9) Eric Maynor, G - VCU, Sr.
10) Lee Cummard, F - BYU, Sr.
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