Predicting 2011 tournament contenders
It is not easy to project next year's top teams. Some players leave early and others decide to transfer. Certain developments can always change the landscape of college basketball!
But for now, I am going to take my first crack at it. This is subject to change, of course, as we have a long time until things tip off again in November.
Here we go, baby!
1. Duke: Yes, my friends, I am picking the Blue Devils to repeat as national champions. I am assuming that Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler will return next season. Throw in transfer Seth Curry, the brother of Golden State Warriors rookie Stephen Curry, and diaper dandy Kyrie Irving, and Coach K will have another dynamic team. Plus, the Plumlees will only continue to improve.
2. Ohio State: I am picking the Buckeyes to compete for a national title whether Evan Turner returns or not. Thad Matta will have the likes of William Buford, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale and David Lighty back. Then add one of the premier recruiting classes in the nation, led by Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas. This, my friends, will be the team to beat in a very tough Big Ten.
4. Villanova: I like the job Jay Wright does with the Wildcats. Yes, Scottie Reynolds is gone, but Nova has Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Taylor King, Antonio Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou returning. Keep an eye on 6-foot-6 newcomer Jayvaughn Pinkston from New York City.
5. Purdue: Matt Painter recently received a contract extension and the Boilermakers have a solid nucleus returning, led by E'Twaun Moore, JaJuan Johnson and Robbie Hummel, who should recover from his knee injury.
6. Butler: Brad Stevens' team came so close Monday night, losing to Duke by two in the title game. With Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard all expected back, the Bulldogs will be a contender once again.