Vitale's early Final Four picks


When the Final Four concluded in the Motor City and North Carolina cut down the nets as national champions, I was asked to look ahead and give my top five for the 2009-10 season. At that point my list was as follows:

  1. 1. Kansas

  2. 2. Duke

  3. 3. Syracuse

  4. 4. Purdue

  5. 5. Michigan State

Well, a lot has happened since that night. I didn't know then which players would leave early, whether any big-name players would transfer, etc. Jonny Flynn declared for the NBA draft and signed with an agent. John Calipari went to work and brought in an amazing recruiting class. Now Kentucky belongs in the mix.

It is time for my updated look at the teams that should be playing in Indianapolis at the Final Four next season. This is subject to change down the road as things can happen. Players can pull out of the draft, for instance.

1. Kansas. I am staying with the Jayhawks at numero uno because Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins are returning to Lawrence. Aldrich got better and better this past season, developing into a dominating force on the interior. Collins gives the Jayhawks a tremendous perimeter player. The addition of Xavier Henry and the return of the Morris twins give the Lawrence rock, chalk, Jayhawk faithful a reason to feel good.

2. Kentucky. Calipari has done an amazing job. Think of the lineup with terrific talent and athleticism. When you add John Wall, arguably the best incoming guard, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe, Jon Hood and Daniel Orton among others, that marks a big-time upgrade. Wall could do for Kentucky what Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans did in their one-and-done seasons at Memphis under Calipari. The Wildcats also have Patrick Patterson returning, and he will be better with the stronger supporting cast. Now if Jodie Meeks comes back, pulling out of the NBA draft, the debate over No. 1 will start all over again.

3. Duke. I know Gerald Henderson signed with an agent, but the S&S guys (Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer) are returning. Mike Krzyzewski also signed a couple of big-time recruits in Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee. Look for big things from Nolan Smith and Eliot Williams in the backcourt.

4. Michigan State. Tom Izzo has a way of getting the most out of his people. He has a nice nucleus returning, led by the premier player in the Big Ten, speedy guard Kalin Lucas. I think we will see more consistency out of Raymar Morgan while Delvin Roe, Durrell Summers, Chris Allen and Korie Lucious will contribute.

Those are my early picks for next season's Final Four. Right now I like this foursome, though there's likely to be news that could affect this list.