|2012/13's version of Anthony Davis, in terms of freshman impact...Shabazz!|
Kentucky fans are shooting each other they are so happy their beloved Wildcats cut down the nets after convincingly beating the Kansas Jayhawks last night in New Orleans, 67-59. We talked about it here yesterday, how hard it would be for Kansas to take out the uber talented team from Kentucky. Kentucky did as I predicted, jumping out early and then withstanding runs with timely threes, and back breakers from Doron Lamb. I don't want to say I told you so after I got my tournament preview a few weeks ago so wrong, but in a way I did "told you so" for one night. After the game, many of the stars for the Cats quickly ripped off their Kentucky jerseys and started texting their agents to see where they will now land in the NBA Draft in June.
With that, all of the college basketball world, outside of Lexington where again they are just so happy they could shoot somebody, is now looking forward to next year with hopes that their team will be the one's getting them so darn excited. I am no different, I wasn't ever impressed by this year's Duke product and so with my team failing me, I am looking towards next year as well to hopefully lift my spirits. Here is a quick view of what I see for next year, with many variables still outstanding (but I may predict some answers to these variables) such as uncommitted recruits, coaching changes, players jumping to the NBA and the occasional transfer.
My (Early) Predicted 2012/13 Top 5-
1. Kentucky Wildcats -
Wait isn't Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Kidd-Gilchrist and possibly Lamb and Teague all going pro? Yeah, probably, but that doesn't stop Calipari baby! He just reloads (*cough* his wallet...*cough*) with new incoming one and dones and although not all have committed yet, I see Kentucky's already shining gem of a recruiting class only getting shinier. Shabazz Muhammad and Nerlens Noels are the top 2 recruits in the country and both have yet to commit, and both have Kentucky on their list. I am done thinking any recruit with Kentucky on their list of possible landing spots will end up going anywhere else, especially now with a title in the bag. Those two I assume will commit to Kentucky and the Cats will be right where they left off, but with a completely different cast of characters.
2. Louisville Cardinals -
They return almost every impact player from this year's Final Four team and with Rick Pitino at the helm should be a tough beat in the Big East. They lacked outside shooting this year, and losing Kuric will not help that at all. They currently do not have a ton of help coming in from recruiting with only a 3 star PG committed currently. That could be their doom, but I think they will really be tough, obviously since I have them as the #2 team.
3. Ohio State Buckeyes -
Sullinger maybe gone, along with William Buford, but the Buckeyes will still have a ton of talent. I love Deshaun Thomas's game and I think he will really step up next year to be the go to star on this squad (if he stays). I also think, with Sullinger's likely departure, Tony Parker (C, ESPNU #21) will end up committing to Ohio State over Kansas and Duke, giving the Buckeyes their inside presence again.
4. Indiana Hoosiers -
Andy Katz has them as his #1 team currently going into next season, but he can't make as many assumptions as I can. I made the assumptions of Kentucky landing Muhammad and Noels, had he, I think he'd also have Kentucky #1. I think Indiana isn't going to jump quite that far up the rankings, but will not be shocked to see them battle Ohio State all the way next year for the B1G title. Cody Zeller is a stud and everyone else is back, with the addition of a top 10 recruiting class. Indiana will be very dangerous.
5. NC State Wolfpack -
The team that improved the most throughout the year probably was NC State. In the tournament they became everybody's favorite pick to make a run once they already started making the run, so that wasn't that impressive of a pick. Yet if you talked to people they made it sound like they just stumbled on this great insight of NC State. CJ Leslie's return is key to getting NC State from, cute run in the 2012 tourney, to contender in 2013's tourney. I think he returns and NC State takes the ACC away from UNC and Duke (sports tear in my beer...).
So that is my top 5, speculating much further than that will just make me look (more?) stupid . I think most are wondering what I think of my Duke Blue Devils, or you aren't, but either way I am going to tell you. So with that I bring you:
Ben's Duke Analysis Only He Will Truly Enjoy But Demands to Write for Your Consumption -
The departure of Austin Rivers is going to be a blessing in disguise for Duke in my opinion. He never fit the system at Duke with his one on one play, oh sure he saved Duke in the UNC game by single handily getting them back the game and then hitting the game winner, but there were far more games when he would ruin any semblance of offensive rhythm by getting the ball and starting his one on one routine. Duke is a ball movement based team, with shooter galore. It hurt more that Duke didn't have a true point guard this year to set up players, so the ball just funneled to Rivers and then the offense stopped. I think Rivers being gone will allow K to get his offense back (even though this year's team was very efficient by the numbers this year it wasn't an offense you could rely on in my opinion).
Mason Plumlee's departure would hurt Duke more. Without Mason (and Miles his graduating older brother) Duke will be down to one true center in the third brother, 7 foot redshirt freshman Marshall. Duke will still have legit size and be fine down low, but another off season of improvement from Mason along with the development of Quinn Cook into a legit starting PG after his year started off with injury, could make Mason into a beast next year and Duke into more of a contender.
The commitment of Shabazz Muhammad would be amazing, but as previously stated I don't see it happening. So Rasheed Suliamon (SG, ESPNU #14) would be the only freshman commit currently with the possible transfer additions of Trey Zeigler (15 ppg from Western Michigan) or Alex Oriakhi (6 ppg from UConn).
Duke will still be loaded, I see them without another major signing falling into preseason rankings near or around 10. Lot's more from me to come on Duke, so I won't bore you all now, you can look forward to more Duke talk from me later (yippee).
Minnesota Gophers to the Tourney? -
I think so, because I think Mbakwe makes a return. He sees the potential that was budding up in the NIT and isn't exactly shooting up draft boards after the knee injury and being that he is what? Like 42 years old now? So he comes back, is truly a man amongst boys and with budding stars Rodney Williams (finally) and Andre Hollins (breathe of fresh air) make the Gophers a sneaky team in the B1G.
I actually would like the Gophers chances of being a decent seed in the NCAA and wouldn't be shocked at all by a Sweet 16 type run. How's that for me dishing out some Gopher optimism? I am as shocked as you are!
Will Kentucky go back to back? -
I think there is a good possibility. If the recruiting chips that always seem to fall their way continue to fall their way this spring, I wouldn't be shocked. It is so tough though in college basketball to repeat though, and sometimes the most talented team doesn't make it, so I if I had to bet my life on it I would bet that another team makes a run.
Plus, if a high profile job in the NBA opens up, expect John Calipari's name to come up. Say the Heat don't finish this year with a title, and Lebron (who is buddies with Calipari) forces that Spoelstra stiff out the door, I could see Calipari making the jump. Or the Lakers, another shaky coaching situation with everyone (but mainly Kobe) hating Mike Brown. If Calipari leaves Kentucky, the flood gates of de-commitments may open up and the entire college basketball landscape will flip upside down. Please basketball gods...make this happen!
Sleeper Team May Make a Splash in 2012/13 -
Providence. A top 10 ESPN ranked recruiting class, likely returning their top 4 scorers (all double digit scorers) from last year. Will it be a bit of a shock? Sure but I could see the Friars making a bit of a surprise run in the Big East and then all the way to possibly a NCAA Tournament berth. It will be tough to keep the record up in the brutal Big East, but if they can, they'll be tested and the combination of young talent with experienced and proven talent maybe the right mix to bounce back from a sub .500 season.
So there you have it, a quick look at some things going into next year to keep an eye on as the off season begins. It will be very interesting to see how teams are stacking up in late October in comparison to today. There is a lot still up in the air and a lot of teams will be moving up and down. I cannot wait for next season to begin even as last season only finished less than 24 hours ago.