Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Ridiculously early picks

In the news, it looks like IU may only be losing Rob Vaden with Mike Davis. Picking up 6-6 Juco Power Forward Mike White, and (maybe) keeping AJ Ratliff are definite plusses for new coach Sampson, but if he pulls off the coup of keeping DJ White, Indiana fans may not have to wait a year to return to the Big Dance. I was sure DJ was gone, but the injury and Coach Sampson seem to be combining to keep DJ thinking before he jumps, and that's a really terrible thing for Mike Davis.

Not that we should feel sorry for Davis, who's got beaucoup bucks and a nice coaching gig in his home state, and should have the pressure to field a NCAA team off of him for this year at least.

But since everyone else is posting early early predictions without any knowledge of NCAA early entries, transfers, ineligibilities, and all other news that makes the offseason impossible (especially after this wacky season) I might as well too.

1. Florida

Five returning starters and a top recruiting class? I honestly wouldn't bet that they'll repeat, but on paper they've certainly got what it takes to be on top of the pile.

2. LSU

Right now the SEC reigns supreme. But the draft will probably steal away one or two of the Tigers' vicious frontcourt, but returning point guard Tack Minor and Marquette transfer Dameon Mason would combine to replace what they lose in graduated guard Darrel Mitchell.


Well, the Bruins lose a couple of seniors, but get wing Josh Shipp back (who sat last year, injured) and add bruising recruit Adam Keefe. They should be back in the Final Four.

4. Kansas

This would seem a lock if Bill Self's coaching acumen ever extended into April. But it hasn't yet.

5. North Carolina

The sexy pick for #1, with a lot of returnees and a top recruiting class, but I really think they are just too young. Elite eight seems good, but I just don't see a champion here.

6. Ohio State

Great returning guards, a handful of veterans, and the nation's top recruiting class? They will be a very strong obstacle to the anyone's path to the Final Four.

7. Villanova

A lot of folks are putting the Wildcats into the 15-20 area, but I think that's too low. Will Sheridan and redshirt stat-stuffer Curtis Sumpter will fill the paint, and Kyle Lowry and Mike Nardi's numbers should jump. 'Nova was a legit #1 this year, and next year the fall-off should not be that dramatic.

8. Gonzaga

Adam Morrison is going to the pros. But on the off-chance he isn't this year, the Zags hang around.

9. Memphis

If Coach Cal, Shawne Williams, & Darius Washington all stay, the Tigers will still be a contender.

10. Texas

PJ Tucker inside and Daniel Gibson outside make a fierce 1-2. Size and experience become issues, tho.

11. UConn

If Marcus Williams & Rudy Gay return, & Josh Boone decides to come back after testing the NBA draft waters, this is a top-5 team again. But I'm guessing the Huskies lose at least 2 of these three.

12. Wisconsin

Lots of returnees, 3 top 100 recruits, and three quality freshman who missed at least the last half of the season, including redshirt Microwave Mickey Perry. Don't be surprised if the Badgers walk away with the conference title.

13. Boston College

Craig Smith is gone, but there's a lot left here. Transfer center 6-11 Tyrelle Blair should help ease the loss of Smith, as will having the bullish Sean Williams for an entire season.

14. Xavier

Xavier's late run to the NCAA's bodes well for this season, as they return almost all of their key contributors from that stretch, and add 5-7 transfer Drew Lavender at point.

15. Texas A&M

Joseph Jones and Acie Law are back, and the Aggies are a program on the rise.

16. Georgetown

Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green will have help inside with recruit Vernon Macklin and Indiana transfer Patrick Ewing. The guard crew needs to step up a little, but the Hoyas will still be pretty tough.

17. Arizona

Losing Hassan Adams and Chris Rodgers only means more chances for less selfish players. Lute Olson will have as much talent as usual and watch for Marcus Williams next year.

18. Southern Illinois

The MVC was one of the nation's toughest conferences, and this title contender returns all of its players. Eighteen may be too low.

19. Syracuse

The Orange lose a winner in Gerry McNamara, but return basically everyone else. Probably not a title contender, but not to be taken lightly either.

20. California

The Golden Bears have two great inside players in Leon Powe and DeVon Hardin. One of them probably goes pro and drops Cal off the top 25.

21. Air Force

The return of redshirted senior center Nick Welch means the Falcons will be even tougher next season. Watch out for this adapted Princeton offense.

22. Georgia Tech

Everyone returns from a dangerous Hornet squad and they add some punch with some explosive recruits. Paul Hewitt is returning this program to consequence.

23. Wichita State

The Shockers only lose Paul Miller, but he was the guy that had to touch the ball for good things to happen. So I might be reaching here, but I do think WSU will come together and add recruits and transfer Phillip Thomasson to the veterans for a solid mix.

24. Pittsburgh

Carl Krauser meant a lot to this team, no doubt. But Coach Jamie Dixon has taken Ben Howland's blueprint for building nasty winnners and has all the pieces to keep rolling. Pitt may be the new Cincy.

25. Hofstra

Hofstra's backcourt of Rivera, Stokes, and Aquido is outstanding, and looks like the best bet to be the new George Mason. This CAA squad needs some combo of last season's frosh big men to earn time in the paint to balance the blistering perimeter attack.

Duke, Florida State, George Washington, Illinois, Louisville, Marquette, Michigan State, Missouri State, Oklahoma State, Tennessee . . . . for now


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