National Columnist

Next college hoops season will make up for last one


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This is college basketball burnout season for me. Don't talk to me about the sport, because I'm all done with it for a few months. I've had all the Duke I can take. All the Carolina. All the UConn, even all the Butler. Talk to me about baseball or golf or bocce, whatever the hell that is. Just don't talk to me about college basketball. Not yet. It's too soon.

That's my position every April -- but not this one. Because this April, I very much want to talk about college basketball. I want to talk about next season, and the truth is, I want to watch next season. Hurry up and get here, next season, because next season will be special.

Austin Rivers is one reason to look forward to next season. (Getty Images)  
Austin Rivers is one reason to look forward to next season. (Getty Images)  
Next season might even make up for this past season.

Sorry, UConn fans. You have your national title and you're not throwing it back, and I get that. That was a big fish you landed. Keep it. The rest of us, though, are holding our noses because that whole season, just like that national championship game, was a stinker. Too many mediocre teams, not enough great ones. Sorry -- not any great ones.

Look at the last four teams standing. UConn was unranked entering the season. So was VCU. Butler was a Horizon League team that had lost an NBA lottery pick from its title-game run in 2010, while Kentucky had lost five first-round picks from that season and a top-10 recruit for this season.

And that was your 2011 Final Four. Why? Because someone had to get to the Final Four. Not all teams achieve greatness -- some have it thrust upon them. That was last season.

But it won't be next season. Next season, greatness will be a requirement of a national contender. Next season will be fabulous, and we probably have the prospect of an NBA lockout to thank. Whatever the cause, the effect is this: Most of the best players in the country this season will be back next season, and they'll be joined by a deep freshman class that probably will have two or three times as many eventual first-round NBA Draft picks.

Add it up, and college basketball will be back. No more parity where any team can beat any team on any night, stuff that sounds good on paper but looks bad on television. I don't want to see it any more, for the same reason I don't want to watch Trevor Immelman win the Masters. I didn't turn on the TV in 2008 to see that guy. I turned it on to see Tiger Woods hitting 340-yard drives and curling putts. I turned it on to see Phil Mickelson doing his performance art with the pitching wedge.

I want star power. Greatness. Not Trevor Immelman. Or a UConn team with one possible NBA standout. Or a Butler team with none.

Next season, college basketball's version of Tiger and Phil are back. I'm talking North Carolina and Kentucky, and yes I said Kentucky knowing full well that three UK underclassmen entered their names into the NBA Draft on Wednesday. For the sake of argument, let's assume those three players -- Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and DeAndre Liggins -- stay in the draft. Fine. I'm still saying the best two teams in the country next season will be Carolina and Kentucky. Or Kentucky and Carolina. The order doesn't much matter to me, just the star power. And both teams will be loaded with future NBA lottery picks, probably six or seven between the two of them. Maybe more.

North Carolina returns three guys that could have entered the 2011 draft, including possible No. 1 overall pick Harrison Barnes, likely lottery pick John Henson and possible first-rounder Tyler Zeller. The Tar Heels also return rising star Kendall Marshall, a sophomore point guard, and they added top-10 recruits James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston.

Kentucky, at a minimum, returns future NBA shooting guard Doron Lamb and senior Darius Miller, and adds a recruiting class that's as good as any John Calipari has ever signed. Any idea how impressive that is? It's impressive, but don't tell Bob Knight, because he'll start making up lies about Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer, some or all of whom will be Kentucky's next batch of one-and-done players.

And that's just Kentucky and North Carolina. Ohio State, the No. 1 overall seed in the 2011 NCAA tournament, brings back a strong core led by All-American Jared Sullinger, who turned down a spot among the first five picks in the 2011 NBA Draft. Duke will be loaded after adding Austin Rivers to Seth Curry and all those Plumlee brothers. Texas will be loaded. Syracuse. Memphis.

Even Vanderbilt.

If you don't see your team there, don't worry about it. This isn't The Ridiculously Early Top 25 (and one). That's Gary Parrish's deal, and he took care of that already. There are more good teams, potentially great teams, than the ones I've already mentioned. Louisville, for example.

But the rise of the mid-major has been staunched, for one season at least. Butler was inspiring and VCU was fun, but next season college basketball gets back to the business of being great. Trevor Immelman's gone, and he's not coming back. Well, maybe in 2013.

Gregg Doyel is a columnist for He covered the ACC for the Charlotte Observer, the Marlins for the Miami Herald, and Brooksville (Fla.) Hernando for the Tampa Tribune. He was 4-0 (3 KO's!) as an amateur boxer, and volunteers for the ALS Association. Follow Gregg Doyel on Twitter.

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