College Basketball: 50 Predictions for the 2012-13 Season and NCAA Tournament

Doug Brodess@DougbrodessCorrespondent IApril 4, 2012

College Basketball: 50 Predictions for the 2012-13 Season and NCAA Tournament

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    March Madness 2012 has come and gone, and the Kentucky Wildcats came away winning their school's eighth NCAA championship.

    Along with winning just about every national player of the year award, Anthony Davis was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player.

    Two No. 15 seeds (Lehigh and Norfolk State) beat their No. 2-seeded (Duke and Missouri) opponents.

    The tournament was filled with hard-fought games and spectacular performances.

    You are going to think that I'm a nut for saying this, but...I can't wait for Selection Sunday 2013.

    Looking ahead, here are 50 bold predictions for the 2012-13 season and NCAA tournament. 

UConn Will Not Play in Any Postseason Tournament in '13

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    How's that for coming out of the box with a bold prediction?

    Oh, wait, that's right. The Huskies have been banned from all postseason play following the 2012-13 season as part of the escalating penalties in place for substandard results in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate program.

    The university and the athletic department are appealing the NCAA's decision.

    Even if they can get the decision overturned, the Huskies are going to have significant holes to fill.

    There's a better-than-good chance that Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond will leave school early for the 2012 NBA Draft.

    Alex Oriakhi is transferring in order to play his senior year elsewhere.

    Along with holes to fill on the court, Huskies head coach Jim Calhoun's health is questionable, and his continued status in the program is uncertain.

UCLA Will Make It Back to the NCAA Tournament

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    The best part about the 2011-12 UCLA basketball season is that it's over.

    By the time next November rolls around, the Bruins should be playing in a refurbished Pauley Pavilion.

    Ben Howland will welcome back most of this year's team that went 19-14 (11-7 in the Pac-12), as well as a top-notch Class of 2012 recruiting class, including McDonald's All-American Kyle Anderson.

    Rising juniors Travis Wear (pictured; 11.5 PPG, 5.9 RPG) and his brother, David (10.2 PPG, 6.3 RPG), anchor the UCLA front line.

    If Joshua Smith improves his conditioning, he could become a force in the middle.

    The talent is definitely here. The Bruins should compete for the Pac-12 title and win a game or two in March Madness.

Missouri Should Make It into the Tournament in Their First SEC Season

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    This Missouri team was built to win in 2011-12.

    Even though they had to overcome the loss of Laurence Bowers to a season-ending injury, the Tigers were a talented team with lots of experience.

    First-year coach Frank Haith bids farewell to seniors Marcus Denmon (17.7 PPG, 5 RPG), Kim English (14.5 PPG, 4.2 RPG) and Ricardo Ratliffe (13.9 PPG, 7.5 RPG), who accounted for over half of Mizzou's point production.

    If Bowers can make a full recovery from his torn ACL, the Tigers will have the nucleus of another good team.

    Michael Dixon (13.5 PPG, 3.3 APG) and Phil Pressey (10.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 6.4 APG) form a potent backcourt tandem.

    Haith added four frontcourt players in the recruiting Class of 2012—junior-college forwards Tony Criswell and Quantel Denson, as well as high-school prospects Stefan Jankovic and Ryan Rosburg.

Wisconsin Will Stay Strong Without Taylor

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    Wisconsin was a tough team in 2011-12.

    The Badgers were the No. 1 scoring-defense squad (53.2 PPG) in the nation.

    Bo Ryan's bunch (26-10, 12-6 Big Ten) advanced to the Sweet 16 again this season.

    They will be trying to figure out in 2012-13 how to exist without Jordan Taylor (pictured).

    Taylor, a two-time All-Big Ten performer, will leave a gaping hole in UW's lineup.

    He was one of college basketball's all-time best in terms of assists-to-turnover ratio (3.0 over four years).

    But, Wisconsin has everyone else coming back. They may lack the "big-name" player to lead them, but they will still be every bit as gritty as they always are.

Creighton Will Be Tough Again in '11-12

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    Creighton is far from a one-man team, but it sure doesn't hurt to have a first-team AP All-American like Doug McDermott around.

    McDermott (23.2 PPG, 8.2 RPG) was the No. 3 scorer in the nation.

    The Blue Jays also return Greg Echenique (9.7 PPG, 7.3 RPG) and Grant Gibbs (7 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 5 APG).

    Creighton (29-6) should be ranked in the preseason and will have a good chance of making it to the Sweet 16 in the 2012-13 NCAA tournament.

Texas Will Be Young but Good

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    Texas head coach Rick Barnes and Longhorns fans were glad to hear that Myck Kabongo (9.6 points and 5.2 assists) is returning to Austin in the fall.

    They will be even more excited if leading scorer J'Covan Brown (20.1 PPG) returns for the 2012-13 season.

    UT spent the better part of this past season breaking in a large number of freshman players.

    Barnes will incorporate another dynamic group of newcomers that includes three (one five-star and two four-star) 6'10" recruits.

    Making it at least to the Round of 32 should be no problem for the Horns.

    Update: J'Covan Brown announced that he is entering the 2012 NBA Draft.

Virginia Cavs Are Back...Even Without Mike Scott

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    Mike Scott (pictured) won't be around next year, but the Virginia Cavs will be during March Madness.

    Head coach Tony Bennett led the team back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007.

    Even though the Cavs will certainly miss Scott's production (18.0 PPG, 8.3 RPG), they have plenty of firepower returning and arriving.

    Joe Harris (11.5 PPG) and Jontel Evans (7.3 PPG, 3.8 APG) will form a dynamic backcourt.

    Bennett pulled in the No. 18 recruiting class, which includes three four-star frontcourt players.

Texas A&M Will Be a Solid Tournament Entry in Their First SEC Season

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    One of the most disappointing programs in college basketball this past season had to be Texas A&M.

    The Aggies were picked as No. 19 in ESPN's Preseason Top 25, but finished the season 14-18 overall and ninth place (out of 10) in the Big 12.

    The good news is that A&M will start their time in the SEC with a talented, veteran roster that should be able to turn things back around in 2012-13.

    Seniors Elston Turner (pictured; 13.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.2 APG), Khris Middleton (13.2 PPG, 5 RPG, 2.3 APG) and Ray Turner (9.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG) will anchor the Aggies' attack.

Wichita State Was Built to Win This Year, Will Be Rebuilding Next Year

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    Wichita State has posted an 81-23 record over the last three years, winning the MVC regular-season championship in '11-12 and making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2006.

    But the Shockers were built to win this year.

    Head coach Gregg Marshall is tasked with replacing seniors Joe Ragland (pictured; 13.4 PPG, 3.3 APG), Garrett Stutz (13.3 PPG, 8 RPG), Toure' Murry (12.2 PPG, 3.3 APG), Ben Smith (9.8 PPG) and David Kyles (8.5 PPG). 

    That's a big hole to fill.

Duke Will Be in a Rebuilding Mode in 2012-13

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    Rebuilding in Durham isn't the same as it is in most college-basketball programs.

    Austin Rivers has already announced that he is entering the 2012 NBA Draft.

    Mason Plumlee is gathering information to see whether or not he should come out this season, too.

    Duke will also miss Miles Plumlee's defense and rebounding.

    It is possible that Coach K will have to replace 33 points and 20 rebounds per game.

    Seniors Ryan Kelly (pictured), Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins will try to lead a balanced attack that will still be heavy on shooting threes and light on pressure defense.

North Carolina Will Still Be a Force to Be Reckoned with

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    Very few schools could lose four NBA first-rounders and still be considered a Top 25 team.

    North Carolina is one of those schools.

    As James Michael McAdoo's (pictured) time and role increased towards the end of the season, he began to show why he was considered one of the top big-man recruits from the Class of 2011.

    Roy Williams is hoping he has McAdoo to build around in 2012-13.

    ESPN's Chad Ford currently has McAdoo ranked No. 7 on his Top 100 NBA prospects list.

    Reggie Bullock will confidently step into Harrison Barnes' role on the wing.

    P.J. Hairston, another great offensive threat, will return to launch shots from beyond the arc.

    The Tar Heels should have both Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald back from injuries.

    And Williams is pulling in another Top 5 recruiting class.

    While the impact of losing Zeller, Barnes, Henson and Marshall is huge, UNC will still compete for ACC and national honors.

Watch for Michigan State to Be Right Back in the Middle of It

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    You would think that losing a player of Draymond Green's caliber would set a program back.

    Don't get me wrong. The Spartans will miss his performance and leadership.

    But, the shelves are fully stocked in East Lansing.

    Keith Appling (pictured; 11.4 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 3.9 APG) will be one of the best PGs in the Big Ten.

    Freshman wing Branden Dawson tore his ACL. If he doesn't make a full recovery, head coach Tom Izzo will have his latest five-star recruit (Gary Harris) to plug in immediately.

    The Spartans' front line of Derrick Nix and Adrien Payne are ready to have breakout seasons.

    Izzo also inked a trio of four-star forwards that will add further talent and depth to the Spartans' roster.

Syracuse Will Still Be Impressive

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    Syracuse is losing Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, Scoop Jardine and now, apparently, Fab Melo.

    That's a lot to replace, but don't feel sorry for Jim Boeheim.

    The Orange were one of the deepest teams in college basketball and will return C.J. Fair (pictured), Brandon Triche, James Southerland, Rakeem Christmas, Baye Keita and Michael Carter-Williams in their rotation. Wow!

    Add to that, Boeheim has two outstanding frontcourt recruits in DaJuan Coleman (6'9", 275 lbs.) and Jerami Grant (6'7", 200 lbs.) arriving this fall.

Don't Expect Murray State to Be Racing Through 2012-13

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    Murray State had a magical 2011-12 season.

    Isaiah Canaan (pictured; 19 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.6 APG) led the Racers to the best record (31-2) in school history.

    He will be back for his senior season, but MSU is losing their next three top scorers.

    The Racers may still end up challenging for the Ohio Valley Conference title, but they will not be in the Top 25 mix like they were this year.

Ohio State Will Still Have Lots of Game

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    The Buckeyes' Final Four appearance may determine how good they will be next year.

    Jared Sullinger is entering the 2012 NBA Draft. The question is, will Deshaun Thomas make the same decision?

    Thomas had an exceptional sophomore season (15.4 PPG, 5 RPG).

    He scored 96 points in the NCAA tournament (19.2 PPG) and has shown that he can take over games.

    If Thomas returns, the Buckeyes will still challenge for the Big Ten title.

    Aaron Craft is one of the best defenders in the country.

    Evan Ravenel and Amir Williams may be the future beasts in the Buckeyes' middle.

    Thad Matta has lots of other unproven talent on the bench that, by the time next season rolls around, should be ready to rock.

Marquette Will Miss Crowder and Johnson-Odom, but Not the 2013 Dance

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    The departure of seniors Jae Crowder (17.5 PPG, 8.4 RPG) and Darius Johnson-Odom (18.3 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.7 APG) leaves a gaping hole in the Marquette lineup.

    But, head coach Buzz Williams will have the Golden Eagles right in the thick of things in the Big East and in 2013 March Madness.

    Davante Gardner (9.5 PPG, 5.3 RPG), Vander Blue (8.4 PPG, 4.5 RPG) and Todd Mayo (7.9 PPG) will all step up into primary roles in Marquette's attack.

    Look for incoming freshman Steve Taylor to contribute immediately.

Stanford's Future Looks Bright

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    Johnny Dawkins led the Stanford program one step further towards being respected again.

    Aaron Bright (pictured) and the Cardinal (26-11) won the NIT championship and will be ready to challenge for the Pac-12 title in 2012-13.

    Other than Josh Powell graduating, most everyone else is scheduled to return to campus next year.

    Bright and Chasson Randle form a potent backcourt, and Anthony Brown and Dwight Powell give Dawkins some frontcourt strength.

    The Pac-12 may be one of the conferences that makes the biggest strides in the 2012-13 season.

Drexel Will Be One of the Cinderella Stories to Watch in the 2013 Tournament

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    Write it down. You are hearing it here first.

    Drexel (29-7) will be one of the Cinderella stories in the 2013 NCAA tournament.

    The Dragons won the Colonial Athletic Association regular season, but didn't win their conference tourney, so they were left out of this year's March Madness.

    Drexel will return almost all of their top players and will have a chip on their shoulder all next season, but especially when March rolls around.

    Frantz Massenat (pictured), the Dragons' leading scorer, is a lights-out shooter that you will see come March Madness 2013.

The Hoyas Keep Things Rolling at Georgetown

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    John Thompson III loses Jason Clark and Henry Sims, but returns a strong and deep lineup.

    Hollis Thompson and Otto Porter (pictured) could be the best frontcourt tandem in the Big East in 2012-13.

    Watch for Oak Hill Academy's D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera to make an immediate impact.

Middle Tennessee Won't Blow Their Chances Again in 2013

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    Middle Tennessee had an exceptional 2011-12 (27-7), where they won the Sun Belt regular-season championship.

    Unfortunately, the Blue Raiders tripped up in the conference tournament and ended up on the outside of this year's dance.

    Rising seniors Marcos Knight (pictured; 11.8 PPG, 5.1 RPG), JT Sulton (10.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG) and Bruce Massey (5.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 3.9 APG) will lead the way for MT in 2012-13.

South Florida Will Have Strong D and Very Little O

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    USF didn't have a single player who averaged double figures this last year.

    They averaged 59.2 PPG, good for No. 328 in the nation.

    The Bulls lose their top-two scorers in Augustus Gilchrist and Victor Rudd Jr.

    While South Florida was one of the most stingy defenses in the country (No. 7; 56.6 PPG), the Bulls may not have enough scoring potential to stay in games like they did this year, when they went to the Round of 32.

    As a sophomore, Anthony Collins (pictured) will be counted on to make things happen at both ends of the court.

New Mexico Will Keep the Pace in 2013

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    Steve Alford continues to do a great job at New Mexico.

    He has won over 20 games each of the five years he has led the Lobos.

    This past year, they won the Mountain West (28-7), which is no small feat when you are facing UNLV and San Diego State (whom they beat two times apiece).

    UNM will have to replace Drew Gordon, but Kendall Williams (12.1 PPG) and Tony Snell (pictured; 10.5 PPG) are both competent scorers who can pick up the slack.

Oklahoma Could Surprise Many

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    Lon Kruger was a steadying force for the OU basketball program in his first year in Norman.

    In 2012-13, the Sooners will be a balanced, senior-dominated team that could see five players score in double figures.

    Senior guard Steven Pledger (16.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG) will lead the way.

    Senior forward Romero Osby (12.9 PPG, 7.3 RPG) could be one of the unexpected stars this coming year in the Big 12.

    Oklahoma may not return next season to the most recent glory days, when Blake Griffin was terrorizing college basketball, but the Sooners could be an unexpected team that sneaks up on people.

Memphis May Take a Step Forward

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    The Tigers' leading scorer for the last two seasons, Will Barton. has already announced that he is entering the 2012 NBA Draft.

    But, Memphis may actually take another step forward in 2012-13.

    Josh Pastner is helping the program make progress every year, winning an additional game in each of his three seasons.

    The Tigers will return Joe Jackson (pictured) and Chris Crawford in the backcourt. 

    Mega-athlete Adonis Thomas should be back to full strength at SF.

    Rising junior Tarik Black is ready for a breakout season.

    And Pastner has pulled in another exceptional recruiting class, featuring 6'8", 245 lb. McDonald's All-American PF Shaq Goodwin.

    The Tigers have lost their first game of the NCAA tournament the past two years. Look for them to win a couple of games in 2013 March Madness.

Harvard Basketball Will Be Legit Again in 2012-13

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    Tommy Amaker is doing a fantastic job at building the Harvard basketball program.

    Not only has he elevated the Crimson to the top of the Ivy League, but Amaker has launched the program into the Top 25.

    They beat Florida State and Central Florida early in the 2011-12 season.

    Harvard will continue to be tough, with Kyle Casey (pictured; 11.3 PPG, 5.5 RPG) and Laurent Rivard (9.7 PPG, 2.7 RPG) leading the way.

Washington Could Be Good Or...

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    Washington is used to playing in the NCAA tournament.

    The Huskies won the inaugural Pac-12 regular-season championship, but slipped up in the conference tournament and found themselves in a state of shock on Selection Sunday.

    What Washington fans have been waiting to find out is whether or not Tony Wroten (pictured) and Terrence Ross will return to campus.

    On April 2, Terrence Ross announced that he was foregoing his final two years of eligibility at UDub and entering the 2012 NBA Draft.

    ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla said, "Tony could use another year. That's how I see it. I wonder if others are telling them that."

    If Wroten returns, the Huskies will have a good chance at reappearing in the 2013 NCAA tournament.

    It's just that simple.

    Update: Tony Wroten has declared for the 2012 NBA Draft...things could be tough for Lorenzo Romar and the Huskies in '12-13.

Maryland Could Get a Couple of Wins in the 2013 Tournament

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    It's hard to keep a good coach down.

    After an uneven first year at Maryland, Mark Turgeon will get the Terps back in the dance in 2013.

    Terrell Stoglin, the 2011-12 ACC leading scorer, is returning.

    Nick Faust and James Padgett are both looking for breakout seasons in '13.

    Turgeon was successful in bringing in some excellent players who could contribute right away, including a pair of four-star frontcourt players (Shaquille Cleare and Jake Layman).

    With the departure of both Duke and North Carolina, the ACC race will be wide open.

    Maryland should be ready to compete and use that momentum to potentially win a game or two in 2013 March Madness.

Purdue Will Have a Big Hill to Climb in the Post-Hummel Era

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    It's almost impossible to replace a player like Robbie Hummel.

    Not only was he a four-year starter who averaged double figures each of those seasons, but Hummel brought a leadership dimension to the Boilermaker program that is rare.

    Purdue is also losing their PG of the last four years, Lewis Jackson.

    At the conclusion of this past season, two Purdue players (D.J. Byrd and Kelsey Barlow) were involved in a bar fight and removed from the team.

    Rising junior Terone Johnson (pictured; 8.8 PPG, 3.2 RPG) is the best returning player upon which to rebuild.

    Matt Painter has recruited well again this year. He may have to go with a very young lineup as the Boilermakers try to overcome departures and disarray.

    If Painter gets Purdue back to the 2013 NCAA tournament, he deserves to be the Coach of the Year.

Cal Will Correct Course and Be Back in 2013 March Madness

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    Okay. Technically, the Bears were in the 2012 NCAA tournament.

    It's hard for me to recognize the "First Four" games as part of March Madness.

    It all starts on Thursday, right?

    Cal has some challenges ahead, as they try to replace Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp, who have been mainstays in the program for a few years.

    But Allen Crabbe (pictured; 15.2 PPG, 5.7 RPG) returns as the Bears' leading scorer.

    Justin Cobbs (12.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 5 APG) will have the full run of things.

    6'10" forward Richard Solomon missed 20 games because of injury. If Solomon comes back at full strength, he and David Kravish will make a formidable frontcourt.

Colorado Will Be on the Move Again in 2013

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    Colorado didn't waste any time establishing themselves in the Pac-12 hoops scene.

    Even though the conference was in the midst of a down year, the Buffs took full advantage, winning the conference tournament and stepping into this year's NCAA tournament.

    Don't think that this is a one-time situation.

    Tad Boyle is ready to make March Madness an annual happening in Boulder.

    With Andre Roberson (pictured; 11.6 PPG, 11.1 RPG) and Spencer Dinwiddie (10.2 PPG, 3.6 RPG) leading the way, Colorado is in great shape for the future—especially when you add a great recruiting class that features two outstanding four-star frontcourt players.

Even with a Coaching Change, Watch for Kansas State in 2013

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    K-State head coach Frank Martin left the Little Apple to take the job at South Carolina.

    The Wildcats have hired former Illinois head coach Bruce Weber.

    Weber inherits almost the entire roster that made it to the Round of 32 this past season.

    Five of the top-six scorers will return, including rising senior Rodney McGruder (pictured; 15.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 1.4 APG, 1.2 steals per game).

    McGruder came on strong at the end of this past season, averaging 21.8 PPG.

    Rising senior forward Jordan Henriquez (6'11", 250 lbs.) may be one of the best emerging bigs in the country.

    In K-State's NCAA tournament loss against Syracuse, Henriquez scored 14 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.

    Weber has a good group upon which to build. Keep an eye on K-State.

Temple Will Have to Rebuild in 2013

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    Temple won the Atlantic 10 regular-season title and finished the season with a solid 24-8 record.

    But, the Owls lose two fantastic backcourt players in Ramone Moore and Juan Fernandez.

    The two guards accounted for 28 PPG, seven RPG and seven APG...that's a lot of production to recover.

    Fortunately for Temple, Khalif Wyatt (pictured), the leading (returning) scorer in the A-10 (17.1 PPG), will be back.

    With the Owls looking for someone to emerge, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson (9.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 2.5 APG), Anthony Lee (5.1 PPG and 5.3 RPG) and Aaron Brown (6.6 PPG and 2.1 RPG) are ready to blow up.

    If all the pieces come together, Temple could challenge for the A-10 title again.

Alabama Will Continue to Show Up in March Madness

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    Anthony Grant is doing a great job at Alabama, going 63-39 over his first three seasons in Tuscaloosa.

    The Crimson Tide made it back to the NCAA tournament this year for the first time since 2006.

    Grant runs a tight ship and had to make a tough call in terms of disciplining some key players on the 2011-12 team late in the season.

    But Grant is building the program on a solid foundation and has a good player in Trevor Releford to build around (12 PPG, 3 RPG, 2.8 APG, 2 APG).

    Because of a great recruiting Class of 2011, the Tide should be right in the thick of things in the SEC and dancing in March for some time to come.

Iowa State Won't Drop Back into the Pack in the Big 12

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    Iowa State had a magical year in 2011-12, going 23-11 (12-6 in the Big 12) and beating national-finalist Kansas and Elite Eight qualifier Baylor in-conference and UConn in their opening game of March Madness.

    Unfortunately, the Cyclones are losing their do-everything forward, Royce White, who led the team in scoring (13.1 PPG), rebounding (9.2 RPG) and assists (5.1 APG). White has made himself eligible for the 2012 NBA Draft.

    On top of that, head coach Fred Hoiberg says goodbye to seniors Scott Christopherson (12.5 PPG, 45 percent 3PT) and Chris Allen (11.8 PPG).

    So, Hoiberg will need to replace over half of this year's point production.

    Melvin Ejim (pictured; 9.4 PPG, 6.6 RPG) and Chris Babb (8.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG) are ready to step up.

    But Hoiberg may again get his best production from players looking for a fresh start.

    Utah transfer Will Clyburn and Michigan State transfer Korie Lucious are ready to make an impact on the Iowa State lineup. Both Clyburn and Lucious have the athleticism and ability to help Iowa State instantly.

    Even though the Big 12 will be one of the toughest conferences in the country, the Cyclones could be right in the thick of things in 2012-13.

UNLV Has a Chance of Being Scary If...

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    We will know more in a few weeks whether or not UNLV will be good or scary.

    One of the biggest questions to be answered is whether or not Mike Moser will return or enter the 2012 NBA Draft.

    If Moser (14 PPG, 10.5 RPG, 1.9 APG) comes back to campus, the Rebels could be ready to have their best season since 2007, when they went 30-7 and advanced to the Sweet 16.

    Rising senior guard Anthony Marshall (12.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 4.6 APG) is an excellent backcourt contributor.

    But, two of the better players of this coming year's team may be newcomers to the program.

    Pitt transfer Khem Birch has huge upside. The 6'9" forward could be dominant if he can tap into his deep reservoir of talent.

    Also, incoming freshman Katin Reinhardt (6'5", SG) could be a difference maker from the very beginning of his collegiate career in Vegas.

Butler Will Be Making Life Miserable for Some Big-Time Programs

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    Even though Butler didn't make it to the 2012 NCAA tournament, don't feel sorry for Brad Stevens.

    His Bulldogs were still 22-15 and will be pestering big-time programs again next March as they did the previous two seasons.

    Former University of Arkansas scoring leader Rotnei Clarke (pictured) will be eligible next season and add offensive punch.

    Khyle Marshall is a rising star ready to have a breakout junior season.

    6'11" center Andrew Smith continues to show that he will become a force in the middle.

Pitt Won't Have a Second Disappointing Season in a Row

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    Pittsburgh was one of the most disappointing teams in 2011-12 college basketball.

    The Panthers were ranked No. 11 in ESPN's preseason poll, but they finished the regular season with a 17-16 record, going only 5-13 in Big East play (13th place).

    To put that in perspective, Pitt had only lost 11 Big East games in the last three years.

    Even though the Panthers pulled themselves together enough to win the College Basketball Invitational (CBI), 2011-12 will be viewed as a low point in the recent history of the program.

    In 2012-13, the Panthers will return plenty of talent and firepower, starting with rising senior guard Tray Woodall.

    Woodall (pictured) averaged 11.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG and 6.1 APG. One of the big contributing factors to Pitt's dismal 2011-12 was the fact that he missed 10 games (3-7 during this stretch) because of injury.

    Lamar Patterson (9.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.6 APG) also provides good production.

    One of the bright spots of the Pitt postseason was the emergence of rising junior Talib Zanna (6'9", 230 lbs.). Zanna averaged 11 points and seven rebounds per game in Pitt's six games in the CBI.

    Jamie Dixon has to also be very excited about two incoming players.

    Steven Adams (6'10") is the No. 4 center and James Robinson (6'3") is the No. 5 PG in the recruiting Class of 2012.

    If these two can contribute from the beginning, the Panthers could jump back up into the top half of the Big East as early as next year and be a threat in March Madness 2013.

San Diego State Will Be One of the Best Coming out of the West

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    Very few people out of the Mountain West Conference had any idea that San Diego State was going to be good again in 2011-12. Steve Fisher did a masterful job at moving the Aztecs forward after an exceptional run in 2010-11.

    Good news for SDSU...almost everyone returns next year to a team that went a surprising 26-8.

    Watch for Jamaal Franklin (pictured; 17.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG) to become one of the top wings in the nation in '12-13.

    Along with Franklin, Chase Tapley (15.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 2.2 APG) is another hard-to-handle wing player.

    When you add in Xavier Thames (10.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 4.2 APG), you have one of the best perimeter trios in the country.

    Fisher pulled in a nice recruiting class that will add further depth to this talented roster.

    While San Diego State was knocked out of this year's tournament in their opening game, the Aztecs are primed for a deep run in 2013 March Madness.

Xavier Will Make It to the Sweet 16 for the Fifth Time in Six Years

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    You'd think that with losing a player like Tu Holloway, head coach Chris Mack would be looking at a real challenge next year.

    Not so.

    Xavier is one of those programs that keeps showing up in the late rounds of the NCAA tournament.

    Next year will be no different.

    Rising senior Mark Lyons (pictured; 15.1 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.7 APG) will be one of the best players in the A-10 next season.

    Dezmine Wells is a capable wing scorer who will have a breakout sophomore season.

    The Musketeers have an excellent recruiting class coming in that features three four-star recruits.

Vanderbilt Will Begin to Rebuild in 2013

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    The Commodores had their best chance to make some noise in the NCAA tournament this past season.

    Unfortunately, they came up short in their Round of 32 game against Wisconsin, and any hope of going deep in the tournament was eliminated.

    Kevin Stallings loses as many quality players as any coach in the country.

    While he is likely to still have the SEC's leading scorer, John Jenkins, back for his senior season, he has to figure out how to replace Festus Ezeli, Jeffery Taylor, Brad Tinsley, Lance Goulbourne and Steve Tchiengang.

VCU Officially Loses Its Cinderella Status

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    Shaka Smart has done such a good job at VCU that it's hard to think of the Rams as Cinderellas anymore.

    In 2011, Virginia Commonwealth crashed the dance and made it all the way to the Final Four.

    This year, VCU (29-7) advanced to the Round of 32, only to lose to Indiana by two points.

    While Bradford Burgess will graduate, Juvonte Reddic (6'9", 235 lbs.; 10.6 PPG and 6.8 RPG) will move into the featured role in the 2012-13 season.

Kansas Will Reload on the Fly Again

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    The Jayhawks will lose Tyshawn Taylor and (most likely) Thomas Robinson off of this year's Final Four squad.

    Most programs would be instantly be facing a huge challenge.

    Fortunately for Bill Self, he has a good nucleus returning and a super-strong recruiting class arriving.

    Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Jeff Withey (pictured), Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Kevin Young all return for their senior years.

    But, don't be surprised if you see any of several freshmen challenging for immediate playing time.

North Carolina State Won't Be a No. 11 Seed When They Advance to the Sweet 16

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    The Wolfpack made it into the 2012 NCAA tournament by the skin of their teeth.

    NC State will be one of the best teams in the ACC in 2012-13 and will compete for the best seed that they have seen in a long time.

    Mark Gottfried will return the top-four scorers (C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood and Richard Howell) from his 2011-12 team that surprisingly made it to the Sweet 16 and gave Kansas a run for their money.

    Gottfried has also pulled in an excellent recruiting class that features three four-star recruits.

Florida State Will Be Gritty, Not Pretty

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    Leonard Hamilton has elevated the Florida State program to the point where the Seminoles are a legitmate consideration for the ACC title on an annual basis.

    I mean, when you take down Duke and UNC twice in one season (like the 'Noles did in 2011-12), you have accomplished something.

    FSU loses leading rebounder (Bernard James) and best assist man (Luke Loucks) from their 2011-12 roster.

    But, the 'Noles return their top scorer, Michael Snaer (14.5 PPG, 2.0 APG), who could be one of the top players in the ACC.

    Ian Miller (pictured; 10.9 PPG), Okaro White (7.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG) and Terrance Shannon (8.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG) will lead the way.

    We may see Florida State's two four-star backcourt recruits (Montay Brandon and Aaron Thomas) earlier than expected.

    As long as his teams continue to buy into the idea of "giving it all" on defense and the glass, the 'Noles will be a force in the nation.  

Arizona Will Advance at Least to the Sweet 16

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    Sean Miller has made good progress in rebuilding Arizona basketball.

    Even though the Wildcats (23-12) came up short in making it to this year's NCAA tournament, the future looks very bright for U of A.

    Solomon Hill (pictured; 12.9 PPG, 7.7 RPG) and Nick Johnson (9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.4 APG) return to lead the way.

    But what has Cats fans most excited is the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation.

    Miller pulled in three five-star and one four-star recruit in the Class of 2012. This is the kind of talent that could put the Cats back in a future-title conversation.

    In 2012-13, expect U of A to get to the Sweet 16 or beyond.

Providence May Surprise Some People

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    Friars first-year head coach Ed Cooley's introduction to Big East basketball was not a friendly one. Providence went 15-17 overall with a 4-14 mark in conference play, good for 15th in the league.

    This coming year will be different.

    PC virtually has their entire roster returning from last year.

    The Friars' leading scorer and assist man, rising senior Vincent Council (pictured; 15.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 7.5 APG), was named to the All-Big East third team.

    Rising sophomore LaDontae Henton was a Big East All-Rookie Team selection.

    Guard Bryce Cotton (14.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.3 APG) provides another perimeter scoring threat.

    What adds even further excitement for Friars fans is that Cooley has pulled in the No. 8 recruiting class for 2012 that includes the No. 2 PG in the Class of 2012, McDonald's All-American Kris Dunn.

    The Friars could be the most improved team in the nation in 2012-13.

    You've been put on notice.

Baylor Will Make a Serious Run at the Final Four in 2013

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    Baylor has made it to the Elite Eight in two of the last three seasons.

    Even though it's possible that they will lose PF Perry Jones III to the 2012 NBA Draft, starters Pierre Jackson (13.6 PPG, 5.9 APG), Brady Heslip (10.4 PPG, 45.4 percent 3PT) and Qunicy Miller (10.8 PPG, 4.9 RPG) all return.

    The Bears (30-8, 12-6 Big 12) will miss departing senior forwards Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones, but  head coach Scott Drew keeps on bringing in truckloads of talent to Waco.

    Drew is bringing in the nation's No. 4 recruiting class in ESPN's Class of 2012 recruiting rankings.

Kentucky Could Be Back in the Final Four Again If...

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    John Calipari is bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in the country. Is it possible for him to get the Wildcats back to the Final Four again next year in Atlanta?

    With the likely departure of underclassmen Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Doron Lamb and senior Darius Miller, Kentucky will have lots of holes to fill.

    Marquis Teague (if he returns) and Kyle Wiltjer (pictured) may be the only returning players who saw significant minutes on this year's championship team.

    Calipari has already inked an impressive recruiting class for 2012 and is in the running for several high-profile undecideds, including Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad.

    If Coach Cal can add those two, they could be back to the Final Four again next year.

Indiana Returns to the Final Four for the First Time Since 2002

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    Tom Crean has tirelessly worked to get Indiana basketball back in the national conversation.

    Most of his 2011-12 team (27-9) that made it to the Sweet 16 will return to IU in the fall.

    The one-two frontcourt punch of Cody Zeller (pictured) and Christian Watford will be one of the best in the Big Ten.

    Crean has brought in an excellent recruiting class that features three four-star recruits that will challenge for playing time immediately.

    Don't be surprised if Indiana is one of the teams that make up the 2013 Final Four.

Louisville Cuts Down the Nets in Atlanta?

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    Louisville has the best chance of the 2012 Final Four teams of getting back to the 2013 national semifinals.

    Peyton Siva (9.1 PPG, 5.5 APG), this season's Big East Tournament MVP, will be back to run the Cardinals' attack.

    Gorgui Dieng (pictured; 9 PPG, 9 RPG) has emerged as a shot-blocking force.

    Freshman forward Chane Behanan came on strong during this year's March Madness, averaging 13.2 PPG and eight RPG.

    Wayne Blackshear should make great strides with a full season to develop.

    Louisville will be one tough team to handle in 2012-13.

    Could they be the team that wins it all?

    If the old saying "defense wins championships" is true, then the Cardinals should think about bringing some scissors to Atlanta.