Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Look Ahead to 2006

Congratulations are in order for the 2005 National Champion North Carolina Tar Heels, but what about next season? As soon as "One Shining Moment" ended, true college basketball fans were still high off of the Final Four and wanted more basketball. What better way to quench your thirst for college hoops than to take a look at possible teams that can make a run in the 2005-2006 season.

Connecticut: The Huskies are the favorite to win their second title in three years. Even without Charlie Villanueva, UConn will be stacked. Marcus Williams is one of the best point guards in the country, while Josh Boone and Rudy Gay will continue to dominate foes in the frontcourt.

Duke: The Blue Devils, who were very thin this season and seemed to wear down in the Tournament, will bring in the reinforcements next season. Preseason player of the year JJ Redick and Shelden Williams will form a great inside-outside combo, and freshman Josh McRoberts could be a great newcomer.

Villanova: I was high on this team all the past season, and they should be better next year. Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Kyle Lowry, and Mike Nardi will be the best backcourt in the country, while Curtis Sumpter and Jason Fraser should finally be healthy up front.

Kentucky: A team that got better as the season rolled along will be a favorite in 2005-2006. They lost their heart and soul Chuck Hayes, but return much of the deep rotation that carried them this past year. Kalenna Azuibuike, Rajon Rondo, and Randolph Morris will form a solid trio.

North Carolina: This is assuming there is not a mass exodus in Chapel Hill. Raymond Felton, Sean May, Rashad McCants, and Marvin Williams are all pondering going pro. If they happens, they won't make the tournament. However, if two of them stay, combined with some great role players, the Tar Heels will be back in business.

Oklahoma: All five starters will return for the Sooners, who had a surprising Big 12 Title this past season. Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout will be a load down low, while Andrew Lavender and Terrell Everett could form a very underrated backcourt.

Michigan State: Yes, the Spartans lose a senior group that seemed like they were there for about 13-14 years, but they return what could be one of the best trios in the country. Shannon Brown, Maurice Ager, and Paul Davis are going to be difficult to deal with.

Texas: My pick for the Big 12 Championship next season could make a Final Four run. Freshman of the year Daniel Gibson will have another year under his belt, while PJ Tucker and Lamarcus Aldridge return from suspension and injury, respectively.

Wake Forest: The Deacons are going to be the 2005 version of the 2004 Duke team. They will have a stud backcourt with Chris Paul and Justin Gray (think Redick and Daniel Ewing), as well as a legit post player in Eric Williams (think Shelden Williams).

Gonzaga: After a surprising second round loss in the tournament, the Bulldogs will make a Elite Eight run next season. Adam Morrison is an All-American, while JP Batista and Derek Raivio form an excellent inside-outside duo.

Boston College: If Craig Smith stays, he and Jared Dudley will form one of the best 1-2 frontcourt punches in the country.
Louisville: Taquan Dean and Juan Palacios, along with the return of Brian Johnson, will keep the Cardinals near the top.
Florida: Anthony Roberson and Matt Walsh form a great backcourt, while to-be sophomores Corey Brewer and Al Horford return up front.
West Virginia: Mike Gansey will be one of the best scorers in the Big East, while Kevin Pittsnogle and the rest of the shooters also return.
UCLA: Jordan Farmar and Aaron Afflalo will each have a year under their belt, and should win the weakened Pac-10.
LSU: Brandon Bass (if he comes back) and Glen Davis are a dominant post tandem, while Tasmin Mitchell could be the freshman of the year.
Iowa: Hawkeyes will have one of the best trios in the Big Ten in guards Jeff Horner, Adam Haluska and forward Greg Brunner.

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