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2012-2013 College Basketball Preview: Part 2

November 14, 2012 Front Page, Sports No Comments

The 24 hours of college basketball tip-off marathon finished up last night, which means the 2012-2013 college basketball season is officially in full force. To get you ready to watch this season’s games, here is part 2 of our college basketball preview. Part 2 features the major BCS conferences and our Sweet 16, Final Four, championship, and awards predictions.

Part 1, which featured the mid, major, and small schools to watch out for this season, can be found (here). And here is part 2 of our yearly college basketball preview:

ACC:

NC State: The Wolfpack look like the most complete team in the ACC. They return four starters from a team that made a run to the Sweet 16 last season. Jr. F C.J. Leslie is starting to live up to the hype that surrounded him when he came to NCST. Leslie will be one of the top players in the country this season. He’s joined by Sr. F Richard Howell who was team’s leading rebounder last season. G Lorenzo Brown should be even better this year as a junior and G Scott Wood is one of the better shooters in the country. The Wolfpack also bring in a recruiting class that includes three All-Americans (Lewis, Purvis,Warren) and all three could contribute right away. NCST should be considered the favorites in the ACC this season as long as they continue to build on their hot streak from the end of last season.

Duke: Even with the loss of Miles Plumlee and Austin Rivers, Duke could be a better team then they were last season, when they were upset by Lehigh in the first round of the NCAA. Sr. F Mason Plumlee who passed on the NBA to return to school, could be the focal point of the offense. Ryan Kelly is a big man who can shoot and Alex Murphy and Marshall Plumlee should provide depth at the position. At guard, Seth Curry will be Duke’s best shooter. G Andre Dawkins has left the team due to personal issues. So. point guard Quinn Cook’s development could be key to just how good Duke is this year. Coach K has all he needs to challenge for the ACC championship as long as they can find production from guard spot, whether it be from Cook, Thornton or someone else. Duke will again be playing in the NCAA tournament come March.

North Carolina: UNC has to replace their four leading starters all whom were selected in the first round of the NBA draft. The last UNC to replace this much missed the NCAA tournament in 2010 but this year’s team should be in the ACC mix again. So. F James Michael McAdoo should be in for a breakout season and will wind up being one of the conference’s best players. G Reggie Bullock is the lone starter who returns. Veteran guards Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald should help out the development of freshman Marcus Paige. UNC will rely on will also need production from freshman forwards Joel James and Brice Johnson. UNC is a work in progress who may rely on McAdoo early but this young team should get better as the season goes on.

Florida State: The Seminoles are another team that must replace four starters from their team last year that won the conference and made the NCAA tournament. Sr. G Michael Snaer leads FSU and should be an all-conference player. Snaer is a shutdown defender whose offensive game has gotten better each season. Okaro White and Terrance Shaw are 6’8″ forwards who will be asked to play bigger roles this season. Sixth man G Ian Miller will also be asked to play more this season as well. The Noles are known for their great defense under Coach Leonard Hamilton and that shouldn’t be any different this season. Hamilton has built a football school into one that now also excels in basketball and the Noles should be NCAA contenders again this year.

Miami: It was a rough first season in Miami for former George Mason coach Jim Larranaga. The Canes were subject to an NCAA investigation and their best player was suspended during the conference tournament. Miami has more talent and depth then they have in a long time and they should contend for an NCAA tournament spot.  At 284 lbs., C Sr. Reggie Jackson could be one of the most dominant players in the league if health. Jackson and Sr. F/C Kenny Kadji form maybe the best frontcourt in the conference. Sr. G Durand Scott is a tough physical guard and So Pg Shane Larkin is quick and plays great defense and should only get better. Coach Larranaga has enough talent in Miami for the Hurricanes to contend and the Canes will be playing post season basketball this year and they hope it’s in the big dance.

Maryland: The Terrapins are a young team with a bright future, but they still should be good enough to challenge for a postseason spot this year. So. 7’1″ C from the Ukraine Alex Len has the talent and athleticism to be a great player and should take a giant leap in his second season. Sr. F James Padgett provides leadership and freshman C Shaquille Cleare is a top recruit. So. G Nick Faust and Jr. Pg Pe’Shon Howard should both continue to improve with more playing time. Freshman guards Sam Casell Jr and Seth Allen should play right away. Coach Mark Turgeon has Maryland headed back to where they were under former coach Gary Williams. The Terrapins will be dangerous for the next few seasons, starting with this one.

Big 12:

Kansas:  KU lost a top five draft pick and a four-year starter at point guard but the Jayhawks are once again the favorites to win the Big 12. Kansas is not only the favorite to win the Big 12, but are also real contenders to win the NCAA tournament. Sr. C Jeff Withey was great in his first season as a starter and should be even better on offense this season. Withey set a record with 31 blocks in the NCAA tournament. Freshman F Perry Ellis should contribute right away. Sr. Elijah Johnson takes over at point guard and he is athletic and a good shooter. Ben McLemore should start at SG after redshirting last season due to and eligibility issues. McLemore could be a future NBA draft pick. Sr. G Travis Releford should build off a good run in last year’s NCAA tournament. Other freshmen will provide Kansas with great depth and plenty of options this season. Kansas has a nice mix of youth and senior leadership to take them far this year. Coach Self reloads not rebuilds and also has one of the best home court advantages in all of basketball.

Baylor: Coach Scott Drew has put together one of the most impressive programs in college basketball. And it’s time to start considering Baylor one of the elite programs in college basketball. Three players from last year’s Elite 8 team were selected in the NBA draft, but the Bears return a lot of talent and a top five recruiting class. Sr. G Pierre Jackson could be the conference’s best player this season and Jr. G Brady Heslip is one of the best three-point shooters in the country. So G Duece Bello is an athletic dunker who should continue to improve as a basketball player. Jr. F Cory Jefferson is long and athletic and could be in for a breakout year. Freshman 7′ C Isaiah Austin is Baylor’s biggest recruit ever and is a future early NBA pick. Austin could be the best freshman in the country, and it could be his only year at Baylor. Freshman F Ricardo Gather should contribute right away as well. Baylor will challenge Kansas this year for the Big 12 title. The Bears are also a lock for the NCAA tournament and their potential there is limitless.

Oklahoma State: Coach Travis Ford could be on the hot seat if he doesn’t get OSU back into the tournament for the first time in three years. OSU has the talent to do so however and it starts with F Le’Bryan Nash. Nash had his ups and downs as a freshman but he showed sparks of why he was so highly recruited. Nash should have a breakout season. So 7′ C Marek Soucek from the Czech Republican and freshman Kamari Murphy could both be solid contributors this season. Freshman G Marcus Smart was an All-American in high school last season and played for the Under 18 American basketball team. Smart should provide leadership and production right away. Guards Markel Brown and Jean-Paul Olukemi provide solid production as well. There is a lot of good recruits & talent for the Cowboys to make it back to the NCAA tournament. Anything else would be a major disappointment and Coach Ford could be out of a job.

Kansas State: New Coach Bruce Weber comes over from Illinois and inherits a talented roster that should play in the programs fourth straight NCAA tournament. Returning leading scorer Sr. G Rodney McGruder is one of the most players versatile in the country. He is joined by speedy PG Angel Rodriguez who should be even better in his second season. Sr. F Jordan Henriquez should be in for a great final season for the Wildcats. Henriquez and McGruder are one of the country’s best veteran inside-outside duos. Coach Bruce Weber wasn’t a popular choice to replace Frank Martin, but he should have a very successful first year. KSU has a talented and deep team that will not only return to the NCAA tournament, but could make a very nice run once they reach it.

Texas: The biggest question mark surrounding Texas is the eligibility of So. PG Myck Kabongo. The Longhorns floor leader is sitting out until the NCAA rules on his eligibility regarding a relationship with an agent. Kabongo could be one of the country’s best point guards. Texas is a very young team, with all their scholarship players being sophomores or freshmen.  Fr. Centers Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh and F Ioannis Papapetrou should play right away. Sophomore forwards Jaylen Bond and Jonathan Holmes should see increased production. Lead returning scorer G Sheldon McClellan and G Julien Lewis are a strong backcourt. Texas are a lock for the NCAA tourney if Kabongo is ruled eligible and could be a dangerous young team. If not, they still should be contenders for a tourney spot.

West Virginia: WVU is in their first season in the Big 12 after leaving the Big East and Coach Bob Huggins and Mountaineers should be competitive right away. Transfer Jr C Aaric Murray (La Salle) is a factor on both ends of the court and could be headed toward an NBA future. He will join Sr. F Deniz Kilici; the Turkish product started all but one game last season. If Kilici and Murray can play well together they will be a strong frontcourt. Juwan Staten, a transfer G from Dayton, was one of the Atlantic 10’s best as a freshman and should be even better at WVU. Another transfer G/F Matt Humphrey (Boston College) should start right away as well. Guards Jabarie Hinds and Gary Browne provide depth. The key to success for WVU this year will be how quick the transfers adjust and jell with the rest of the team. They could have some rough spots early, but WVU should make it back to the NCAA tournament.

Big East:

Louisville: Last year Louisville made a surprise run to the final four after a season filled with injuries and offensive inconsistencies. This season, with four of the top six scorers back, anything less than a return trip to the Final Four should be considered a disappointment for Coach Pitino and company. Sr. PG Peyton Silva has had an up-and-down career, but he is one of the best defenders in the country and a conference player of the year candidate. Jr. C Gorgui Dieng is one of the most complete big men in the Big East. F Chane Behanan and So. G/F Wayne Blackshear will hope to build on their strong end of the season finishes. Jr. G Russ Smith is a solid defender and explosive scorer who could be in for a breakout season, if he can improve on his efficiency. Louisiville is one of the most complete teams in the country. The Cardinals should be considered the favorite to win the Big East and one of the favorites to win the national championship this year.

Syracuse: SU lost four players from last year’s Elite 8 team (three to the NBA) but The Orange should compete for their final Big East title before they move to the ACC next year. Sr. G Brandon Triche is the leader of the offense and the only guard with real experience. So. Michael Carter-Williams and redshirt freshman Trevor Cooney are talented and both could be in for breakout seasons. Talented freshman C DeJuan Coleman should start right away and So. F Rakeem Christmas should start opposite Coleman. C.J. Fair and James Southerland will both provide production from the forward position. The key to Syracuse this season will be the leadership of Brandon Triche combined with the production from their younger & inexperienced players. However, Syracuse is talented enough to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament in their last season as a member of the Big East.

Notre Dame: The Irish surprised many by winning 22 games last season on their way to a NCAA tournament appearance. This year, expectations are high as Notre Dame returns nearly all of their meaningful contributors from last season. Senior forward Jack Cooley is one of the best big men in the conference. F Scott Martin provides veteran leadership and solid defense. Athletic junior guards Erick Atkins and Jerian Grant make up one of the best backcourts in the country. Freshman F Cameron Biedscheid and transfer C Garrick Sherman (Michigan St) should provide solid contribution. Notre Dame has the talent and depth to do well this year, and Coach Mike Brey is one of the most underrated in the country. The Irish are used to being underdogs but this year they should contend for a Big East title and make it back to the NCAA tournament where they could take the next step as a program.

Cincinnati: The Bearcats made it to the Sweet 16 last season, and a third straight trip to the NCAA tournament seems very likely even without the graduated Yancy Gates. Jr. Sean Kilpatrick is one of the best shooting guards in the conference. Sr. Pg Cashmere Wright could be in for a big final season at Cincinnati. Redshirt freshman Shaquille Thomas (Tim Thomas’s nephew) could be an x-factor this season as the Bearcats will look for production in the frontcourt. Jr. F Justin Jackson is a shot blocker but needs to become better offensively. So. F Kelvin Gaines is athletic but must polish his offensive game as well. This is a team that will go as far as their guard play (Kilpatrick and Wright) takes them. However, Cincinnati should make it back to the NCAA tournament without too much trouble.

Pittsburgh: Last season was the first time in Coach Jamie Dixon’s nine years that Pitt didn’t reach the NCAA tournament. This year, Pitt could be back as they return seven of their top nine scorers and two impact freshmen. Pitt is led by Sr. G Trey Woodall who dealt with an injury in the beginning of last season. Pitt will go as far as Woodall takes him. Transfer G Jr. Trey Zeigler (Western Michigan) could have an impact as well. Zeigler, who chose WMU over programs like Duke and Michigan, left WMU when his father the coach was fired. Talib Zanna, Dante Taylor, and Lamar Patterson provide depth at forward. Seven foot tall freshman C from New Zealand Steven Adams is Pitt basketball’s highest rated recruit ever. He could be a future NBA lottery pick. Freshman G James Robinson ranked amongst the nation’s top point guards. If Woodall can play well his entire season, and the freshman are as good as advertised, the Panthers will be back in the NCAA tournament.

Marquette: Not only will the Golden Eagles have to make up for nearly half their scoring with the loss of Jae Crowder and Darius Johnson-Odom, but recently, So. G Todd Mayo (OJ’s brother) was declared ineligible until at least the spring semester. Mayo has said he didn’t come to Marquette to “play school” and had issues before. Coach Buzz Williams will need to get the most out of the guys this season, something he does well. Coach Williams and Marquette will likely make their eighth straight NCAA tournament, but it could be tough at times. Sr. Transfer Trent Lockett (Arizona State) had a solid career at ASU and will need to produce right away with Mayo out. Guards Vander Blue and Junior Cadougan make up a strong backcourt with Lockett. Jr. F Jamil Wilson will be asked to make up for lost production as will big man Davante Gardner.  Hopefully Mayo will be back in the spring, if not, Marquette’s backcourt should be enough to get them back into the NCAA tournament.

Georgetown: The Hoyas lost their three leading scorers from last years’s team, but Georgetown is used to this type of turnover. They also have So. F Otto Porter who has NBA talent and could be in for a breakout season. F Nate Lubick is a solid force down low and forwards Whittington and Hopkins provide depth. Jr. G Markel Starks should man the point again after being benched for a part of last season. Freshmen G D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and F Brandon Bolden could be asked to produce right away for the Hoyas. The frontcourt as always should be fine for the Hoyas but they have questions in the backcourt. Also, Porter is a stud, but he can’t do it alone. The production from rest of the team will determine if the Hoyas make the NCAA tournament or the NIT this year.

Connecticut: Talented but ineligible for this year’s postseason due to NCAA ban because they didn’t meet the NCAA’s new academic requirements.

Big Ten:

Indiana: The Hoosiers are the preseason #1 ranked team for good reason. Indiana returns the majority of their starters, two of which are future NBA draft picks. They also return some solid reserves and top 10 recruiting class. So. C 7′ Cody Zeller could have been a top NBA draft pick, but instead returned to IU and is a Player of the Year candidate. Sr. F Christian Watford is a big man who can shoot the three and also has an NBA future ahead of him. Jr. F Will Sheely also returns. Seniors Jordan Hulls and Victor Oladipo make up a talented veteran backcourt. All-American freshman Yogi Ferrell should contribute right away and he heads an impressive recruiting class brought in by Coach Tom Crean. The Hoosiers are one of the deepest and most talented programs in the country. Anything less than winning a big ten title and a Final Four appearance should be considered a disappointment. Indiana basketball is back.

Ohio State: Jared Sullinger and William Buford are gone from last year’s Final Four team, but the Buckeyes return one of the best defenders and floor generals in the country in Jr. G Aaron Craft. Jr. F Deshaun Thomas is a scorer who could be in for even bigger things this season. Jr. G Lenzelle Smith continues to develop and will be asked to do more this season. Outside of Craft, Thomas, and Smith, OSU is inexperienced but is still deep and talented. Sophomore big men Sam Thompson and Amir Williams will be asked to contribute more this season. OSU has one of the country’s best 1-2 punches in Craft and Thomas, who they’ll be able to ride far this year. How far they go in NCAA tournament depends on production from the rest of the players.

Michigan: Michigan returns three starters from last year’s NCAA tournament team and a team that won the share of the Big Ten title. Most important of these is So. G Trey Burke who could have jumped to the NBA. Burke had a great freshman year and should be even better this season as he matures and turns more into a team leader. Also returning is Jr. G Tim Hardaway Jr who needs to be come more consistent but should have another solid year. The Wolverines have strength in the front court with forwards Jordan Morgan and Jon Horford. A very talented freshman class arrives at Michigan led by Glenn Robinson III, Mitch McGary, and Nik Stauskas, all three of whom should contribute right away. Michigan should be considered a dangerous team this season, capable of making an NCAA tournament run. The program is on the verge of being national championship contenders again, probably next year, if all their pieces return once again.

Michigan State: The Spartans lost one the program’s best players in Draymond Green, but nobody in college basketball rebuilds a roster and coaches them up like Coach Tom Izzo. Jr. G Keith Appling and So. G Branden Dawson will now have to lead the Spartan offense. C Derrick Nix is the team’s only senior and he will need to step his play up and provide leadership in the frontcourt as well. Jr. C Adreian Payne, the team leader in blocks returns as well. So. G Travis Trice will contribute and Freshman G Gary Harris is an All-American who should play and contribute big right away. Michigan State may not have any “big name” players on the roster this season, but Izzo is used to molding teams like this into winners. MSU is a deep team that should get better as the season goes on. They will return to the NCAA tournament again this year.

Minnesota: Expectations are high, as this should be Coach Tubby Smiths’ best team since he arrived in Minnesota. The Golden Gophers return their top five scorers from last season including future NBAer Sr. F Trevor Mbakwe. This team made it to the championship of the NIT last season with Mbakwe injured so they should be even better with him back for his last season. Sr F Rodney Williams played huge in the NIT with Mbakwe out and he could also be headed towards an NBA future as well. So. G Andre Hollins could be in for a breakout season, as he played better and better as his freshman season went on. The other two returning players, Joe Coleman and Julian Welch, make up for a strong starting five. Two freshmen (Ellenson & Buggs) should provide needed depth, and as long as Minnesota stays healthy, they should be headed back to the NCAA tournament this season.

Wisconsin: Coach Bo Ryan and his Badgers have played in the Sweet 16 the last two seasons, and even with star G Jordan Taylor gone, the Badgers should make it back to the NCAA tournament. The Badgers frontcourt is very strong, Seniors C Jared Berggren and forwards Ryan Evans and Mike Bruesewitz are back and they started all 36 games last season. Expected starting Pg John Gasser is out for the season with an ACL injury but redshirt freshman George Marshall and reserves Traevon Jackson and Bren Brust should pick up some slack. Freshman F Sam Dekkar will be one of the conference’s best freshmen. Wisconsin always defends hard and is a tough team to play at home. The Badgers should be dancing again this season even with the loss of Taylor & Gasser.

Pac-12:

Arizona: Coach Sean Miller finally has the Wildcats program back close to elite status and Arizona has the conference’s best blend of veterans and freshmen. Veteran senior leaders F Solomon Hill and G/F Kevin Parrom return. Sr. Transfer G Mark Lyons (Xavier) is eligible right away and is an elite scorer. Sophomores G Nick Johnson and F Angelo Chol both have star power and could be in for breakout seasons. Freshman 7′ C Kaleb Tarczewski and All American forwards, Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley, make up a top five freshman class that should contribute immediately for the Wildcats. Arizona is the not only the most popular pick to win the Pac 12, but some believe they could be a dark horse in the national title conversation. If this freshman class is as advertised, this could be one of the most balanced teams in the country with their mix of veterans and youth.

UCLA: The biggest question surrounding the Bruins this season is the eligibility of the country’s number one recruit Shabazz Muhammad who is currently ineligible and awaiting further information from the NCAA. Even without Shabazz, who will be a top NBA draft pick, the Bruins have the pieces in place for a solid NCAA tournament team. Transfer PG Larry Drew (UNC) will be a key. Freshman G Kyle Anderson is a top 5 recruit who should make a big splash immediately. In the frontcourt, big Jr. C Josh Smith has shown potential but has dealt with issues in regards to staying in shape. Freshman F/C Tony Parker is another elite freshman who should play right away. Jr forwards the Wear twins (David and Travis) will split production and provide depth. The Bruins have solid veterans mixed with an elite freshman class. They should be a tournament team without Shabazz, but if Shabazz is eventually ruled eligible, the sky is the limit for this Bruin squad.

Stanford: The Cardinal hope to build off a strong end of season last year where they won the NIT and Coach Johnny Dawkins believes this team is capable of making a return to the NCAA tournament, which they haven’t been since their 2008 Sweet 16 run. In the backcourt, guards Chasson Randle and Aaron Bright (NIT MVP) hope to build off their strong end of season finishes. Freshman G Christian Sanders could contribute right away. The frontcourt is being rebuilt, but there is a lot of depth. Juniors Powell, Huestis and Gage all return and will be asked to step up production. Freshmen F Roscoe Allen (a high school teammate of UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad) and C Grant Verhoeven could be in for strong playing time as freshmen. As long as the Cardinal can make up lost production in the frontcourt, their guard play will be strong enough for them to contend in the Pac-12 and for an NCAA tournament appearance.

Colorado: The Buffaloes are an interesting team, as they surprised many by not only winning the Pac-10 tournament last year but defeating UNLV in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Colorado returns about half of their offense from last season. F Andre Robinson led the conference in rebounding and played well down the stretch last year. So. guards Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie are the returning leaders from last season and will be asked to play and produce more. The most important key to success will be the production Colorado’s freshman class which is ranked the best in school history. Fs Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson are ready to play right away. Colorado has played great defense and has been strong at home in recent years. This is a program on the rise and the Buffs should be contenders in NCAA tournament again soon, possibly this year.

California: The Golden Bears biggest task will be to replace last season’s Pac-12 player of the year, Jorge Gutierrez, who help guide the team to the NCAA tournament. Coach Mike Montgomery is known for getting the best out of his players but it won’t be easy. Jr. Guards Justin Cobbs and Allen Crabbe make up one of the top returning duos in the conference, but they’ll still need to contribute more this season. So. Transfer G Ricky Kreklow (Missouri) is dealing with a small injury but will be counted on when healthy. Jr. F Richard Solomon adds size, scoring and rebounding but needs to stay healthy to live up to his full potential. F David Kravish played well as a freshman and should be even better as a sophomore. If Cal can find someone who can provide production at the shooting guard position, they have plenty of talent and depth to return to the NCAA tournament.

SEC:

Kentucky: All five starters from last year’s national championship team have moved on to the NBA, but Kentucky, once again, brings in one of the country’s top recruiting class. Coach John Calipari will again try to win a national championship with an extremely talented yet inexperienced group. Freshman F/C Nerlens Noel is the best of the group, he is a defensive force who will continue to improve offensively. Fellow high school All-Americans G Archie Goodwin and F Alex Poythress are very skilled as well. Seven foot tall freshman, C Willie Caulye-Stein played wide receiver in high school and is athletic as they come. Kentucky will benefit from two veteran transfers: So. Ryan Harrow (NC State) and Sr. Julius Mays (Wright St). F Kyle Wiltjer is their top returning player and at 6’9″ is probably the Cat’s best three-point shooter. The Wildcats are the favorites in the SEC and will be playing their best basketball at the end of the year. Kentucky is a lock to make the NCAA tournament and should make a deep run. I don’t think this team is as talented as the one last year to repeat as champions, but a Final Four appearance isn’t out of the question.

Missouri: The Tigers were upset by the #15 seed in the first round of last year’s tournament and they’ve lost five seniors, but the Tigers should be competitive right away in the SEC. Guards Jr. Phil Pressely and Sr. Michael Dixon form a quick and athletic backcourt. Pressely is one of the best point guards in the country. Sr. F Lawrence Bowers returns from injury and he will be joined by transfer F/C Alex Oriahki who started for UConn during their 2011-12 national championship run. Three other transfers will be asked to contribute this season: Sr. G Keion Bell (Pepperdine), So.G Jabari Brown (Oregon), and Jr. G Earnest Ross (Auburn). The quick Missouri offense is loaded at the guard position. The frontcourt lacks some depth, so freshman forwards Ryan Rosburg and Stefan Jankovic could be asked to contribute right away. Coach Frank Haith believes the Tigers have more talent than last season, but it’ll all come down to how well and quick the new transfers adjust.

Florida: UF took a bit of a hit before the season started when Coach Billy Donovan suspended starting PG Scottie Wilbekin indefinitely, but he could play at some point this season. The Gators still have a talented team that will compete in the SEC. Sr. G Kenny Boynton is a veteran scorer and will lead the Gators. Sr. G Mike Rosario joins him in the backcourt. Rosario transferred from Rutgers before last season and struggled a bit, but he should play better in his second season in the SEC. Freshman guards Michael Frazier and Braxton Ogbueze are and could provide production right away. In the frontcourt, Jr. C Patric Young is one of the more imposing players in college basketball. He opted to return to Florida instead of going to the NBA and should continue to improve his offensive game. F Erik Murphy can shoot the three and F Will Yeguette is a solid defensive presence. The Gators without Wilbekin are a NCAA tournament team, and if he returns, the Gators could make a deep run like they did last year when they reached the Elite 8.

Tennessee: Coach Cunzo Martin took the Vols to the NIT last season, his first as coach. This season the Volunteers should be back in the NCAA tournament hunt as they return four starters from last year’s team. Tennessee has a great frontcourt. It starts with So. Jarnell Stokes who was a freshman sensation when he joined the team last January. Stoke should be even better in his second and first full season. He is joined by Sr. F Jeronne Maymon who is a strong force down low especially with rebounding and put backs. Sr. F Kenny Hall is a solid shot blocker. Jr. PG Trae Golden was one of the best in conference last season. Junior College transfer G D’Montre Edwards is an athletic scorer who was brought into to play on the wing. Redshirt freshman G Quinton Chievuous , Jr. Jordan McRae and Sr. Skyler McBee provide depth at guard. The second year of the Cunzo Martin era and the future looks promising for the Tennessee Vols. You should expect to see them back in the NCAA tournament this season.

Arkansas: Second year Coach Mike Anderson calls system “the fastest 40 minutes in college basketball” and the second year could be a good one for the Razorbacks. So. G BJ Young was the top scoring freshmen in the SEC last year and should have an even bigger second season. Jr. F Marshawn Powell returns from knee surgery is an all-conference type of player. Powell and Young are one of the conference’s best duos. Jr. G Mardracus Wade is an efficient 3-point shooter and So F Hunter Mickelson set the freshmen school blocks record last season. Freshman F JaCorey Williams and guards Anthlon Bell and Deuavious Wagner could contribute right away. Arkansas has a good mix of young and veteran athletes for this up-tempo system. The Razorbacks are a program on the rise and should contend this year for their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2008. 

Predictions:

Sweet 16:

Indiana

Louisville

Arizona

NC State

Duke

Creighton

Syracuse

Kansas

Kentucky

Michigan

San Diego State

Michigan State

VCU

Baylor

UNLV

Gonzaga

Final Four:

Indiana

Louisville

Baylor

UNLV

National Championship:

Indiana over Louisville

All Americans: CJ McCollum (Lehigh), Isaiah Canaan (Murray St), Tony Mitchell (North Texas), Doug McDermott (Creighton), Tyler Zeller (Indiana)* Player of the Year

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