Quick notes on 2009-2010 cbb teams 21-30
21. Connecticut- There's no doubt about the fact that UConn's going to be bit thin on depth this season. But they've got enough talent, Kemba Walker & Stanley Robinson come to mind, plus experienced vets Jerome Dyson & Gavin Edwards, and a top-notch recruiting class, to remain competitive. I doubt they get a whiff of the Final Four this season, as they desperately need frosh center Alex Oriakhi to be battle-ready, and their perimeter shooting looks to be a little uneven. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see new 6-6 wing Jamal Coombs-McDaniel & 6-2 Darius Smith making immediate impacts either. The real question here is whether center Ater Majok will be eligible in December, or whether he'll continue to be a distracting sideshow.
22. North Carolina- The Tarheels are defending the national championship, but not with the same team they left the floor with in April. I actually wouldn't expect their offense to suffer terribly, but I do think that their defense, which was merely decent in conference play, is going to take a significant step back. The freshmen Roy Williams has brought to Chapel Hill
are tremendous, and having returnees like Marcus Ginyard, Ed Davis, and Deon Thompson is a luxury anyone would like to have, but he's still going to have to rely on relatively inexperienced guards to run the offense. Of more concern is the fact that UNC without Ty Lawson was a much worse defensive team over the last few years, and being without him altogether is going to hurt. And there was this other guy, one who *hit* 249 free-throws last season, who might be missed too. Tyler something. Although I'm sure the freshmen will do well by Heels fans, someday.
23. Northern Iowa-The Panthers tied for first last season in the MVC, won 23 games, return all five starters and eight of their top nine overall. They add three solid recruits, of whom 6-3 Marc Sonnen may end up being their point guard of the future, but for this season 6-4 Juco Antonio Jones might end up starting. While I think UNI has a nice 1-2 combo of Jordan Egsleder and Adam Koch inside, and Kwadzo Ahelegbe and Ali Farokhmanesh are a solid backcourt, there really is room for 6-6 junior Kerwin Dunham to join the starters and explode if given the minutes. If only he could demonstrate a little defense, I bet these Panthers could make the Sweet Sixteen.
24. UCLA- Losing four starters would be a set-back to any team, but for a Bruins' team that was already starting to slip, it really does bring up a lot of questions. Once again, UCLA had one of the most effective offenses in the country last year, even if the pace was fairly slow. Freshmen Tyler Honeycutt and Brendan Lane should step into starting roles alongside Nikola Dragovic, and backcourt duties will likely fall to shooter Michael Roll and
6-1 sophomore point Jerime Anderson. Vets Drew Gordon and James Keefe could step up inside, but if they don't, there's plenty of freshmen to plug in up front. Turnovers are a concern, and actually the defense will probably cause some ugly losses, but I believe in UCLA coach Ben Howland's ability to keep these guys in the national spotlight (for good reasons).
25. Nevada- The Wolfpack looks primed to jump forward, led by Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson. Along with Joey Shaw, Mailk Cooke, and Brandon Fields, this team looks sharp, if a little short. 6-8 Freshman Devonte Elliott or 6-8 Sophomore Dario Hunt might be able to help with that, tho. The real
question is whether the WAC can get enough respect, coming off of a terrible
year, to get multiple bids so Nevada doesn't feel the extra pressure of *having* to win the conference tourney. This club is not that great at shooting threes, except for Cooke and Babbitt. Actually, there's little that Babbitt doesn't do well, although his 2pt FG% could use an uptick before he thinks about jumping to the pros or anything.
26. Mississippi State- Barry Stewart, Dee Bost, and Jarvis Varnando are a good 1-2-3 combo, and they've got good support as nearly everyone returns and a few solid recruits are added. However, this would be a sweet sixteen team if blue-chip recruit power forward Renardo Sidney wasn't embroiled in a mess of a lawsuit with the NCAA over his eligibility. If this gets solved soon, bump MSU up a few notches. It seems unlikely, tho. This club is a
little vulnerable to second-chance points (which is what happens when you have a top-flight shot-blocker like Varnando), and there's still some turnover problems. This is a solid team, but I still don't know what the ceiling is without Sidney.
27. Clemson- The Tigers knew they were losing Raymond Sykes and KC Rivers after last season, but the surprise loss of Terrence Oglesby really drops this club sweet 16 contention. While 6-9 Milton Jennings could step into the center spot, he's pretty light for the ACC rebounding wars at 210. Fellow frosh 6-6 Noel Johnson should also start, with Trevor Booker and Demontez
Stitt holding down the paint and the point, respectively. Having Oglesby hold down that off-guard slot would've helped, tho, and there's not a lot of depth inside except for 6-8 role player Jerai Grant. They'll be decent, but this is still probably a step back for Clemson this season.
28. Memphis-There was some questioning this offseason as to whether the Tigers will even get to the postseason after coach Calipari bailed (leaving behind yet another vacated Final Four). I think they'll be just fine. Tulsa might be better in the conference, but Memphis won't fall so far. Josh Pastner has done a good job of lining up a fantastic recruiting class for next season, and picked up Duke's Elliott Williams to shore up the backcourt, and he's eligible immediately. He really needs 6-9 Juco Will Coleman to hold down the center spot, because the only other option is benchrider 6-7 Pierre Niles. Doneal Mack is the only returning statrter, and should be joined by Roburt Sallie and Wesley Witherspoon. The Tigers will be fine, just not fantastic for a year or two.
29. Louisville- Freshman point guard Peyton Siva should be the buzz of the Big East by the year's end, but burgeoning star Samardo Samuels and a seemingly endless collection of guards should keep Louisville in the upper half of the conference. Jerry Smith might be this year's Jodie Meeks, and frosh Rakeem Buckles and Stephen Van Treese should shore up the four-spot
for Pitino. I expect the usual Louisville formula of a number of head-scratching losses early and then a late run to secure a NCAA spot, and lots of chatter generated for the next season's squad.
30. Gonzaga- The Zags lose a ton of good players, but Mark Fox has a mid-major giant of a program that just keeps rollin' on. Freshmen Kelly Olynyk won't be able to replace Austin Daye, and Samuel Dower can't do what Josh Heytvelt did, but Matt Bouldin should be this year's star and with
Stephen Gray and Demetri Goodson should ensure that that Bulldogs continue to rule the WCC. GJ Vilarino or Mangisto Arop could be the sleepers that Fox is so good at finding, but a more likely scenario is that Gonzaga just isn't that good this year. This is a bit of a brand-name pick, I have to admit, but don't bet against Fox.