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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Broad Street Believers Blog: Top 25 (Memphis #18)

April 7, 2010
Next Year’s College Hoops Top 20
Filed under: College Hoops — Doogan @ 9:34 am

This is one of my favorite columns to write every year, even though it’s incredibly hard to do. Here it is, my VERY early forecast of next year’s college hoops favorites.

1. Michigan State: Experience counts for a lot, and the Spartans will have a team full of guys that have been to two Final Fours already. Coaching and talent also count for a lot, and Tom Izzo will be pushing these guys all season to get back to the Final Four, and cut down the nets this time. Kalin Lucas will be back for his senior year, and he’ll be joined by the likes of Durrell Summers, Draymond Green, Chris Allen, Korie Lucious, Delvon Roe, and Derrick Nix. As if that’s not enough talent, they’ll also be joined by a solid recruiting class headed by PF Adreian Payne and SG Keith Appling.

2. Duke: The Dukies will have a solid shot to defend their title, with Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith leading the way. The Plumlee brothers should be really good down low, and Jon Scheyer’s point guard spot will be manned by incoming blue-chipper Kyrie Irving. Another nice recruit, PF Joshua Hairston, will add some depth to the frontcourt.

3. Butler: No, they’re no George Mason. Maybe in a few years we’ll be calling Gonzaga the poor man’s Butler. The Bulldogs bring back Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored, and Matt Howard (which is nice if he can learn how to play without fouling every 25 seconds). That foursome, as we all well know, is good enough to win a title.

4. Purdue: Yes, it’s looking like the Midwest will be pretty loaded again next year. Purdue will have their Big Three (Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, and E’Twaun Moore) back for their senior seasons. Johnson could potentially go pro, but probably not. They’ll need to replace their glue-guy, Chris Kramer, but they will be contenders if they can avoid injuries this time around.

5. Georgetown: The Hoyas embarrassed themselves with a first-round loss to Ohio, but a lot of people expected them to go far in this tournament, and they’ll bring their whole team back next season, led by Greg Monroe, Austin Freeman, and Chris Wright (assuming Monroe stays). They could be the team to beat in the Big East.

6. Ohio State: It’s hard to know how much the loss of Evan Turner will affect this team, but there is still plenty to like. David Lighty, William Buford, and Jon Diebler will all be back for their senior seasons. Also, Thad Matta continues to bring in elite players, as their great recruiting class is led by PF Jared Sullinger (who some consider the top recruit in the country) and swingman Deshaun Thomas. The one question mark will be who handles the point guard duties.

7. West Virginia: Like the Buckeyes, WVU will have to replace a superstar in Da’Sean Butler. The key will be whether or not Devin Ebanks sticks around for another year. If so, he’ll be joined by Kevin Jones, John Flowers, Darryl Bryant, Joe Mazzulla, and Deniz Kilicli. They’re also still in the running for excellent SG Doron Lamb.

8. Villanova: A third straigt team that will be replacing a superstar, with the Scottie Reynolds era ending at Nova. Still, Jay Wright returns a boatload of talent, with Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena, Maalik Wayns, Taylor King, and Dominic Cheek among the returnees. They are still in the running for star Canadian PG Corey Joseph.

9. Temple: You can call me a homer, but this team should be really good. The inside-outside combo of Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez will be incredible. They’ll be joined by Ramone Moore, Michael Eric, and Rahlir Jefferson. The Owls should be in the Dance for a 4th straight year, and looking to get over the hump with some wins once they get there this time.

10. Xavier: Assuming Jordan Crawford returns, the Musketeers will be right there to challenge Temple for the A-10 crown. Coming off yet another Sweet 16 run, Crawford will be joined by Terrell Holloway and Dante Jackson.

11. Baylor: Tweety Carter is gone, but if LaceDarius Dunn comes back for his senior season, the Baylor Bears may be the team to beat in the Big XII next year. Dunn will be joined by a fleet of big men that may be the most imposing frontline in the country, featuring returnees Ekpe Udoh, Quincy Acy, and Anthony Jones. As if those three aren’t enough, coach Scott Drew is showing he can keep the talent coming, as he beat out Rick Barnes for the best player in Texas, 6-11 PF Perry Jones.

12. BYU: Let me tell you this: the Mountain West was vastly under-rated this season, and the league will be even better next year. BYU will return four starters, including the unstoppable Jimmer Fredette. I’ll have to be ready to put in some late nights next year to catch him in action.

13. New Mexico: Staying in the MWC, we have a team that earned a 3-seed in the tourney this year and will only lose one player. They’ll be led by Darington Hobson, Dairese Gary, and Phillip McDonald.

14. Kansas State: Denis Clemente is a big loss, but Jacob Pullen will be one of the best guards in the country, and he’ll be joined by Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels. They’ll need to find a way to replace Clemente’s scoring, but Frank Martin has emerged as a really good coach, and you know these guys will get after it defensively and find a way to win a lot of games.

15. Kansas: Trailing just behind their in-state rivals comes the Jayhawks. Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich are gone, but remaining are Xavier Henry, the Morris brothers, Tyshawn Taylor, and Brady Morningstar. Also, one of the more interesting things to watch in the coming months is the recruiting battle going on between Kansas and Kentucky. PG’s Brandon Knight and Josh Selby, as well as SF Terrence Ross are considering both schools. I have a feeling that Knight will go to Kentucky to be the next in line after Derrick Rose, Tyreke Evans, and John Wall, while Selby ends up manning the point in Kansas.

16. UNLV: That’s right, three Mountain West teams in the Top 16. The Runnin’ Rebels won 25 games and picked up an 8-seed this year, and they’ll have all of their best players back, led by Tre’Von Willis, Chace Stanback, and Oscar Bellfield.

17. Illinois: The Illini just missed out on a tourney bid this year, but they got better as the season went along, and they’ll bring all of their key players back, assuming Demetri McCamey stays. McCamey will be joined by fellow seniors-to-be Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale, and incoming swingman Jereme Richmond could provide an immediate boost.

18. Memphis: This team should return to their normal spot atop Conference USA and in the tournament field next season. Their top three scorers return, led by Elliot Williams, and young coach Josh Pastner has another nice recruiting class coming in, led by SG Will Barton and PG Joe Jackson.

19. Syracuse: A lot of talent is gone with the departures of Wesley Johnson, Andy Rautins, and Arinze Onuaku. Still, they’ll have Brandon Triche, Scoop Jardine, Rick Jackson, and Kris Joseph back, and joining them will be two top recruits, C Fab Melo (amazing name) and Philly’s top player this year, SG Dion Waiters.

20. North Carolina: This team is impossible to figure out right now, but I’ll stick them here. Deon Thompson, Marcus Ginyard, and (probably) Ed Davis depart from a team that went to the NIT. BUT, they did win the NIT, they are coached by Roy Williams, they do have a lot of talent returning, and they have three top recruits coming in. I’m not sure what went wrong this year, but Williams should at least find a way to get the Tar Heels back into the rankings next season. The question will be: how good are the likes of Larry Drew, John Henson, and Dexter Strickland? Tyler Zeller and the Wear brothers will see more time in the post. And the three recruits to watch are SF Harrison Barnes, SG Reggie Bullock, and PG Kendall Marshall.

Other teams to watch out for: Richmond (Kevin Anderson returns), San Diego State (another MWC team), Florida (especially if they win the Brandon Knight sweepstakes), St. Louis, Wisconsin, Mississippi, UCLA, Tennessee, Kentucky (recruiting class still coming together for Calipari)

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