With UConn crowned as the new national champion, every Division I team in America will be gunning for the Huskies. Which teams will take a step forward next season? Here are five to watch.
SMU: If you thought the buzz was big this season in Dallas surrounding the Mustangs, it will reach an entirely new level next season. Larry Brown will welcome in arguably the nation's best freshman in 6-foot-5 point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who will join a strong core of returners. Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy will be among the better players in the American next season and Sterling Brown, Ryan Manuel, Cannen Cunningham, Crandall Head, Keith Frazier, and Yanick Moreira will be back. The wild card could be versatile sophomore forward Ben Moore, who could have a breakout year if he becomes SMU's starting power forward. Texas Tech transfer Jordan Tolbert is another candidate to start at the four if he receives a waiver from the NCAA to play immediately. The Mustangs are the clear favorite in the American. And it's not even close.
Maryland: The Terps should return to the NCAA Tournament. Maryland brings back everyone of significance and adds three high-level freshman: Romelo Trimble, Dion Wiley and Jared Nickens. The Terps should be strong in their first Big Ten season, considering their depth, talent and experience. Mark Turgeon returns a strong, seasoned backcourt in Seth Allen and Dez Wells -- along with a veteran frontcourt of Jake Layman, Evan Smotrycz and Charles Mitchell.
Miami (Fla.): Jim Larranaga should have the pieces to compete for a second NCAA bid in three seasons. The Hurricanes bring in two potential backcourt starters in transfers Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State) and Sheldon McClellan (Texas), as well as a Top 50 recruit in freshman point guard Ja'Quan Newton. Miami also returns Manu Lecomte and Davon Reed, who had solid freshman seasons, along with capable front court pieces in James Kelly and 7-footer Tonye Jekiri. The wild card may be redshirt freshman Deandre Burnett. The coaches love his scoring ability and he could be a valuable perimeter reserve. 6-4 freshman James Palmer is another potential candidate for playing time.
Utah: The Utes won 21 games and reached the NIT this season and things will go a step further in 2015. Larry Krystkowiak will return two of the best players in the Pac-12 in versatile guard Delon Wright (15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.3 assists per game) and skilled forward Jordan Loveridge (14.7 points, 7.0 rebounds per game), along with sharpshooter Brandon Taylor (64 made three-point shots). Utah also returns two solid post players in Dallin Bachysnki and Jeremy Olsen along with a quality wing reserve in Dakarai Tucker. Two talented freshman -- Brekkott Chapman and and Kyle Kuzma -- figure to help. The 6-8 Kuzma is an intriguing prospect because of his versatility. Expect this team to be in the top half of the Pac-12.
Texas A&M: The Aggies were a point guard and big man away from being an NCAA Tournament team this season and will have both next season. Lightning quick freshman Alex Robinson has been the point guard Billy Kennedy has salivated for since he arrived in College Station and Tony Trocha is a legit 6-10 center who will have an immediate impact defensively. Another potential difference maker is SMU transfer Jalen Jones, who led the Mustangs in scoring and rebounding two seasons ago. Leading scorer Jamal Jones is back as a senior, along with several role players Kourtney Roberson, Devante Fitzgerald, Alex Caruso, Jordan Green, and Antwan Space. The Aggies should challenge for a berth in the field of 68 next season.