What to watch for in '09-10, from A to Z
School is out. Draft names are in.
In an effort to help seamstresses worldwide who are busily stitching names across the backs of jerseys (our condolences to whoever draws Parakhouski), we offer the A to Z of players -- and one team -- whose names we'll come to know in 2009-10:
A is for Cole Aldrich, whose decision to return to Kansas put the rock back in the "Rock Chalk Jayhawk" and gives KU fans a legit reason to dream of their second national title in three seasons.[+] EnlargeAP Photo/Frank Franklin IIBattle led PSU to the NIT title with wins over Notre Dame and Baylor at Madison Square Garden.
B is for Talor Battle, the best player too many people have never heard of. Battle led Penn State to the postseason NIT title, which was great for the Nittany Lions but not so much for Battle's Q rating. If the guard, who dropped 29 in a win at Michigan State, ends PSU's eight-year NCAA tournament drought, he'll finally get his name in lights.
C is for the dreariness of a Curry-less season. Steph is headed to the NBA and Seth is sitting out after transferring from Liberty to Duke. Is it too much to ask their sister, Sydell, to jump-start her collegiate eligibility at the age of 14?
D is for Ed Davis. Ole Roy Williams is gonna have a tough time selling the "woe is Carolina" line with the return of the sophomore forward. A lot of folks thought Davis could have been a top-five pick in this year's draft -- this off averages of 6.5 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game. Imagine what will happen when he gets playing time.
E is for Osiris Eldridge. The Illinois State guard was never going anywhere. Still, the official word that he was coming back was welcome. The most outstanding player at the Missouri Valley tourney and a two-time first team all-conference selection, he anchors a Redbirds team with a lot of new faces.
F is for Derrick Favors. Generally rated one of the top two or three freshmen in the country, Favors makes Georgia Tech instantly better. And Paul Hewitt's bench seat instantly hotter. Expectations are high again for the Yellow Jackets.
G is for Keith "Tiny" Gallon. He's not Blake Griffin. Repeat, he is not Blake Griffin. But the rookie is a skilled big man who has people in Oklahoma rightfully believing that the Sooners aren't heading south any time soon.
H is for Robbie Hummel. The Boilers aren't babies anymore. They've been upstart surprises and hunted favorites. Now they're simply seasoned veterans, and with Hummel back -- and more importantly, his back back -- Purdue will be impossible to ignore.
I is for Isaiah Thomas. His namesake is back in the game, but it will be Isaiah with the A who will be making headlines. With help from passer extraordinaire Abdul Gaddy, the Washington backcourt will be electric.
J is for Damion James. The Kansas coronation may face an in-house pothole. When James elected to return to Texas, the deep and talented Longhorns served notice that neither the Big 12 nor the national title has been decided.
K is for Kansas. The Jayhawks earn the distinction as the lone team mentioned in this alphabet soup because they also earn the distinction as the preseason No. 1.
L is for Lance Stephenson. Clearly many coaches aren't the win-at-all-costs, risk-taking fools we thought they were. How else to explain the still-unsigned, radioactive Stephenson? As the season nears and the pressures mount, it will be interesting to see if anyone bites or if he takes his talents across the pond.
M is for Ater Majok, the Connecticut Huskies' wild card in more ways than one. Presuming he doesn't bolt for Europe -- which remains a possibility, Jim Calhoun told the Hartford Courant -- the freshman will help UConn retool after some big losses (literally, in the form of Hasheem Thabeet). Then again, Majok also has been linked to former manager-turned-agent Josh Nochimson, so if he stays in Storrs that sticky NCAA investigation could get stickier.
N is for Nic Wise. After a drama-riddled two seasons, Arizona fans welcomed the calming good news that Wise is returning to school. With him back on the court, the Wildcats' odds of continuing the nation's longest NCAA tournament streak just got a whole lot better.
O is for A.J. Ogilvy. He could be the first Commodore to make it in the NBA in a long time, but the good news for Vanderbilt fans is that it won't be happening this year. The Australian center's return for his junior year makes Vandy a team to watch.[+] EnlargeJesse Bowman/US PresswireLast season, Pondexter and the Huskies won their first outright Pac-10 title since 1953.
P is for Artsiom Parakhouski. A selection on the all-name squad, the Radford big man also returns to school as the reigning Big South Player of the Year. He averaged 16.2 points per game, and with Seth Curry bolting the league for Duke, Parakhouski could help Radford to back-to-back NCAA appearances.
Q is for Quincy Pondexter. Twice named the team's most improved player, the junior forward is another reason Washington is a team to watch in a weakened Pac-10 (yes, this is two for U-Dub, but you try finding another I and Q).
R is for Raymar Morgan. After he was diagnosed at midseason with walking pneumonia and mono, Morgan's numbers dwindled precipitously, falling by 10 points, and then a broken nose in March only furthered the tumble. A healthy and stronger Morgan puts Michigan State in the Big 10 driver's seat.
S is for Renardo Sidney. The freshman, along with fellow newcomer John Riek, could be the answer for Mississippi State -- or the beginning of a laundry list of questions in Starkville, maybe even some coming out of NCAA headquarters.
T is for transfers. The waiting is over for Notre Dame and Villanova. The Irish get Ben Hansbrough, Tyler's little brother from Mississippi State, and Scott Martin from Purdue. The first is a strong outside shooter, the second a versatile scorer. Taylor King, a former McDonald's All-American who goes from Duke to Villanova, gives the Wildcats a much-needed outside shooter.
U is for Edwin Ubiles. Losing Kenny Hasbrouck hurts, but the explosive Ubiles was the leading scorer for Siena, which beat Ohio State in Dayton in the NCAA tournament and then gave top-seeded Louisville quite a scare. Add Ryan Rossiter, Alex Franklin and Ronald Moore to the mix, and the Saints have four of their five starters back, good enough to win the MAAC and frighten the big boys yet again.
V is Greivis Vasquez. He is a simmering cocktail of potentially disruptive emotion, but he also put up a triple-double on North Carolina. Vasquez's return means eight of Maryland's top nine scorers are back and the vultures will need to find another place to feast. Gary Williams isn't going anywhere.
W is for John Wall. The top incoming freshman gives Kentucky Final Four cred and John Calipari the latest in a line of talented point guards (Derrick Rose begat Tyreke Evans begat Wall) to mold into a top draft pick.
X is for Xavier Henry, aka the one that got away. Henry was targeted for Memphis, which means he should currently be wearing Kentucky colors. Instead, the freshman bucked the trend when he chose not to follow Calipari to UK and instead headed to KU, alma mater to his mom and pop. As if the Jayhawks weren't loaded enough.
Y is for Mouphatou Yarou, a top-20 prospect whose learning curve could well determine just how good Villanova is going to be. Jay Wright has talented guards. Imagine that. It's the big men who need a boost. Dante Cunningham was the most productive big man in Wright's tenure on the Main Line. He's gone, but if Yarou can learn quickly, the Cats could be looking at another Final Four run.
Z is for Tyler Zeller. At least the Cameron Crazies won't have to change their chants (presuming Zeller travels every time), as the sophomore steps into the shoes worn by the man whose first name he shares and whose game he hopes to offer a good karaoke impression of.
Dana O'Neil covers college basketball for ESPN.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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