Five teams that will rise next season
The Skinny: Will the Owls build on their first NCAA tournament win under Fran Dunphy? Without question. Gone is power forward Lavoy Allen, but Temple still has an incredibly solid perimeter led by point guard Juan Fernandez. Ramone Moore and Scootie Randall are back to provide plenty of punch on the wings while center Michael Eric should be fully recovered from a patella injury. Look for Dunphy to have the Owls in the Top 25 for the majority of the season.
The Skinny: The fastest 40 minutes in college basketball is making its way to Fayetteville, and it could result in an NCAA tournament berth for the Razorbacks. A great deal was made of the fact that Mike Anderson was fortunate enough to keep together the top-flight recruiting class put together by former coach John Pelphrey, but what's forgotten is how the returning crop of players could flourish in Anderson's high-octane attack. Look for sharpshooting guard Rotnei Clarke to play at an All-SEC First-Team level and forward Marshawn Powell to wreak havoc in the back line of Anderson's full-court pressure.
|If Reggie Johnson (left) returns to join Malcolm Grant and crew, the 'Canes could surprise. (US Presswire)|
The Skinny: Jim Larranaga's first season in a major BCS conference features a team that could be the surprise group in the ACC. Durand Scott and Malcolm Grant are two of the better individual offensive players in the country, but if they can learn to sacrifice the "me" for "we", the Hurricanes could be unguardable in the backcourt. Those two combined with the strong possibility that burgeoning post presence Reggie Johnson is likely to return to school makes Miami, along with Virginia Tech, an under-the-radar team to keep an eye on in the ACC.
4. New Mexico
The Skinny: The changing of the guard in the Mountain West Conference appears to elevate the Lobos. Steve Alford has one of the best players that no one knows about in silky smooth point guard Kendall Williams, and former UCLA big man Drew Gordon is capable of averaging a double-double. If New Mexico can get quality production on the baseline next to Gordon from both A.J. Hardeman and Alex Kirk, the Lobos could be an absolute nuisance to play against.
The Skinny: Could the Pac-12 run through Berkeley? Don't be shocked. With UCLA, Arizona, Washington, and Washington State all set to lose key contributors to the NBA, look for Mike Montgomery and the Golden Bears to be a major factor next season on the West Coast. Veteran floor general Jorge Gutierrez and high scoring off-guard Allen Crabbe give Cal two anchors in the backcourt while forward Harper Kamp seems primed to build on a breakout season.
This and that
• Louisville coach Rick Pitino said publicly this week he doesn't expect big man Terrence Jennings to return to the Cardinals after he opted to test his stock in the NBA Draft. Should Jennings not return, look for incoming freshman forward Chane Behanan to have a legitimate chance to start next to Rakeem Buckles next season in the frontcourt.
• Anyone who thinks Ryan Harrow's decision to transfer from N.C. State isn't a crushing blow to new Wolfpack coach Mark Gottfried is flat out crazy. One of the things that needs to be stabilized immediately when taking over a program is having a reliable floor general, and Harrow's departure from the Wolfpack just adds one more thing to Gottfried's long list of tasks that need to be accomplished before the season begins.
• Mid-major teams that have had success recently have thrived on experience, and a big part of that is having the ability to redshirt players. Five of Old Dominion's players on their roster this past season were redshirted at one time or another during their careers. That type of seasoning is a major reason why the Monarchs were fortunate enough to win the CAA conference tournament.
• Speaking of mid-majors, if you're looking for one to highlight next season, look no further than Wichita State. Gregg Marshall returns three core perimeter players from last year's NIT champions headlined by lefty point guard Joe Ragland along with wings Toure' Murry and David Kyles. Seven-foot center Garrett Stutz is also back for the Shockers.
• Too often people talk about the best coaches in college basketball and they fail to mention Florida State's Leonard Hamilton. Year after year, the Seminoles are one of the better defensive teams in the nation and Hamilton is the main reason why. It says here that even after losing a first-round pick in Chris Singleton and a starting point guard in Derwin Kitchen, that Hamilton will once again lead Florida State to a berth in the NCAA tournament.
• Does Georgetown's Hollis Thompson really expect to be a first-round pick this season?
• Keep it locked here in the next few weeks for a major non-conference game next season at Madison Square Garden.
• The comparisons between San Diego State forward Kawhi Leonard and current Los Angeles Lakers swingman Ron Artest are fair. Like Artest, Leonard won't enter the NBA as a great shooter but he remains a tenacious defender who can guard up to four positions.
• Looking for a potential steal in the late lottery? Try Georgia power forward Trey Thompkins. Blessed with a body from the gods, Thompkins is already built like a pro and has a game that reflects Trailblazers power forward LaMarcus Aldridge.
• The unique thing about the upcoming NBA Draft is that two of the potential top-five picks -- Duke's Kyrie Irving and Kentucky's Enes Kanter, were not seen by a large portion of people. Irving suffered a toe injury that sidelined him most of the season and Kanter was never ruled eligible to play by the NCAA.