Tuesday, 3 April 2007

What could be... 2007-2008 Top 15

OK, the season is over but I'm not ready to let of college basketball quite yet. Here are my thoughts on what next year's top 15 could look like... based on the premise that no underclassmen decalred for the draft (which obviously won't happen). I thought it would be interesting to see what could be.

1) Florida Gators
Lose: Lee Humphrey, Chris Richard
Comments: They lose 2 out of the top 6, but would you bet against them? Walter Hodge could step in for Humphrey, and the fine recruiting class coming would add depth. The Oh-Fours would be title contenders for the 3rd straight season.

2) Kansas Jayhawks
Lose: None
Comments: This was one of the top 2 or 3 talented teams in America last year, and with nobody leaving they'd be back near the top once again. Another year for that excellent starting 5 to grow together, and another year for the extremely talented freshman class to grow up and become even better. Kansas could be scary good next season.

3) UCLA Bruins
Lose: None
Comments: The Gators exploited the Bruins weakness in the Final Four... they're too reliant on Arron Afflalo for offense. With the addition of Kevin Love (a big man that is good offensively, which the Bruins didn't exactly have this year), the continued maturation of Darren Collison at point, and hopefully better health for Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, the Bruins would become a much better team offensively to go with the surly defense.

4) Ohio St. Buckeyes
Lose: Ron Lewis, Ivan Harris
Comments: They lose 2 starters, but with the freshmen becoming sophomores and the talented class coming in, they hardly miss them. With Greg Oden healthy and playing like he did in the title game, and an even better Mike Conley, the Buckeyes would be very strong contenders for the Title. A healthy Oden could put up something like 22 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 blocks a night.

5) Georgetown Hoyas
Lose: None
Comments: Final Four notwithstanding, the Hoyas were a very good offensive team last year, and would be even better with another season running John Thompson's timing based offense. The frontcourt of Roy Hibbert, Jeff Green, and DaJuan Summers might be 2nd only to the Gator trio in the college basketball nation.

6) Texas Longhorns
Lose: Craig Winder
Comments: For all intents and purposes, Texas would return everyone. Including Kevin Durant, who might be able to put up 30 per game with another year. Throw in the continued development of DJ Augustin, Justin Mason, Dameon James, and sharshooter AJ Abrams and this would be a well-oiled offensive machine.

7) North Carolina Tar Heels
Lose: Reyshawn Terry, Wes Miller
Comments: This ranking might be a little low, but that says more about the strength of the top 6 rather than UNC. With another year for all of the young players learning Roy Williams' secondary break, the Heels would be one of the top offensive teams in the country. Another year of maturation for Lawson would leave him as one of the best PG in America (as if he isn't already), as he and Brandan Wright would be a dynamic duo. Oh, and that Hansbrough guy isn't bad either.

8) Tennessee Volunteers
Lose: Dane Bradshaw
Comments: Things started to come together for the Vols more and more as the season went along, as Bruce Pearl continues to get players that are a good fit for his system. The glue guy Dane Bradshaw is gone, but every other major piece returns, including the dynamic freshmen big men in Wayne Chism and Duke Crews. Add that to the great shooting guards and the Vols would challenge the Gators in the SEC.

9) Duke Blue Devils
Lose: None
Comments: The Blue Devils big problem last season was athleticism, which should be aided by the addition of Kyle Singler, one of the top 5 recruits in the country. Also returning in this hypothetical scenario is Josh McRoberts, who (like him or not) is a very skilled big man. The guards also return, as does the ever-improving Gerald Henderson. Singler and Henderson form a dynamic duo on the wing.

10) USC Trojans
Lose: Lodrick Stewart
Comments: The story here, of course, is the addition of the polarizing OJ Mayo. But like him or not, he's immensely talented and takes USC to another level. If the chemistry is good between Mayo and talented holdovers Nick Young, Gabe Pruitt, and Taj Gibson, the Trojans immediately become one of the best teams in the Pac-10 and a darkhorse title contender.

11) Louisville Cardinal
Lose: Brandon Jenkins
Comments: Louisville was one of the most improved teams in the country in the 2nd half of last season, and that should continue with almost everyone returning. Edgar Sosa showed he can be a big-time player with his performance against A&M, and Terrence Williams has the talent to do the same. Inside, with a healthy David Padgett and Juan Palacios, Rick Pitino's boys can play with just about anybody.

12) Michigan St. Spartans
Lose: None
Comments: Perhaps the most improved player in the country, Drew Neitzel is back to lead the Spartans on a Tourney run. But there is much more for Tom Izzo to work with, including Raymar Morgan, who was very good as a freshman. They also have solid depth down low, adn Travis Walton is a very good defender on the perimeter. Toss in a possible top 10 recruiting class and the Spartans will be a threat in the Big 10.

13) Memphis Tigers
Lose: Jeremy Hunt
Comments: The loss of Hunt hurts, but the addition of top 5 recruit Derrick Rose should help to ease the pain. Everyone else is back, giving John Calipari another talented squad with potential to make a deep run in the Tourney. Memphis should once again roll through Conference USA.

14) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Lose: None
Comments: Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young were two of the most talented freshmen in the country this year, and are talented enough to make the leap and become two of the best players in the country. Add a supporting cast of Anthony Morrow on the wing and Dickey on the inside, and Tech will be very tough.

15) Washington St. Cougars
Lose: Ivory Clark
Comments: It was a great first year for Tony Bennett, but now the expectations have been raised. Fortunately, almost everyone returns. The Cougars should again be very good defensively while remaining efficient offensively. That formula worked this year and should make the Cougars a solid team again next year.

Apologies to: Marquette, Indiana, George Mason, Oregon, Kansas St., Texas A&M

What changes would you make?