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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Yahoo Sports: NCAA hoops stock report


By Jason King, Yahoo! Sports
Apr 16, 12:47 pm EDT

One season after failing to make the NCAA tournament, the Baylor Bears nearly reached the Final Four this spring before falling to eventual NCAA champion Duke in the Elite Eight.

Syracuse won a Big East championship and earned a No. 1 seed despite losing its top three players from 2008-09.

On the flip side, North Carolina missed the tournament after winning it all the previous season. So, too, did Memphis, which was just two years removed from playing in the championship game.

As fun as it is to look back on the 2009-10 campaign, an exciting season also looms. Here are five teams that could make a big jump in 2010-11 – and five that seemed poised for a significant fall.


ON THE RISE

Memphis
The Tigers fell just short of the NCAA tournament in Josh Pastner’s first season, but that won’t be the case next year thanks to the addition of what is arguably the nation’s top recruiting class. Three of Memphis’ seven newcomers (forward Jelan Kendrick and guards Will Barton and Joe Jackson) are ranked among the Top 12 in Rivals.com’s Class of 2010. Starters Wesley Witherspoon and Will Coleman will also play prominent roles.

North Carolina
The Tar Heels were one of college basketball’s biggest disappointments in 2009-10. That won’t be the case next season because the arrival of national No. 1 recruit Harrison Barnes and high-scoring forward Reggie Bullock, the country’s 10th-ranked prospect. Mix in the Wear twins with a healthy Tyler Zeller, and the Tar Heels will give teams fits with their athleticism and length – especially if rising sophomore John Henson continues to improve.

Florida
Billy Donovan finally got the Gators back into the NCAA tournament following a two-year hiatus. With every prominent player other than Dan Werner returning, Florida should be even better next season. Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker should be much improved on the perimeter. And the frontcourt will be one of the best in the SEC with players such as Vernon Macklin, Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons, who is one of the country’s top performers in the clutch.

Illinois
It would hardly be a shock if the Illini – who didn’t even make the NCAA tournament in 2009-10 – were a Top 10 team by the end of the season. Every key player from last season could return. Demetri McCamey, the assist leader who is finally beginning to garner the national respect he deserves, has entered the NBA draft but hasn’t hired an agent. Look for Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale to have breakthrough seasons for a team that will need minutes from incoming freshmen such as Jereme Richmond, Meyers Leonard and Crandall Head.

UNLV
The Runnin’ Rebels will provide a stiff challenge to BYU for the Mountain West title – mainly because they return their top eight scorers from a 25-win team. Included in that mix are Tre’Von Willis and Derrick Jasper, who will combine to form one of the top backcourts in the country. Jasper, who began his career at Kentucky, missed the end of last season with an injury.

ON THE DECLINE

Louisville
The Cardinals lose three of their top six scorers (Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith and Reginald Delk) and, other than Peyton Siva, it’s not as if they have a ton of players waiting in the wings. Louisville lacked talent in 2009-10 and things will be even worse next season. Still, don’t expect Louisville to be down for long, as Rick Pitino is on the verge of signing an excellent recruiting class for 2011.

Syracuse
At this time last year, Syracuse fans were lamenting the loss of Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf and Paul Harris. The Orange responded by winning the Big East championship. They won’t be as fortunate this time around following the graduation of Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku and the early departure of Wesley Johnson for the NBA draft. Kris Joseph, Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine are nice players, but they won’t bring another conference crown or No. 1 seed to Syracuse.

Wake Forest
Jeff Bzdelik’s inaugural season in Winston-Salem may be a bit rocky. Al-Farouq Aminu is headed for the NBA and Ishmael Smith, L.D. Williams and Chas McFarland are out of eligibility. Wake Forest greatly underachieved the past two seasons, which led to the firing of Dino Gaudio earlier this month. Any success the Demon Deacons have this season will be considered overachieving.

West Virginia
With Bob Huggins on the sideline, the Mountaineers are always going to be good. But Final Four good? Uh, no. Not this year – especially if Devin Ebanks stays in the NBA draft as expected. Without Ebanks and Da’Sean Butler, who was a senior last season, West Virginia will look to players such as Kevin Jones, Deniz Kilicli and John Flowers to pick up the slack. Huggins also needs to get more out of point guards Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla.

Cal
It’s rebuilding time for Mike Montgomery and the Golden Bears, who lost their top four scorers from last season’s Pac-10 championship squad. Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson and Jamal Boykin averaged a collective 60.3 points last season. Also, D.J. Seeley, a projected starter a shooting guard next season, has decided to transfer. Incoming freshmen such as Richard Solomon, Allen Crabbe and Gary Franklin will have to grow up quickly.

Jason King is a college football and basketball writer for Yahoo! Sports. Send Jason a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.

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