Preseason Crystal Ball for 2010-11 College Basketball Campaign
SI.com's 2010-11 Crystal Ball
SI.com's Seth Davis, Luke Winn and Andy Glockner offer their predictions for the 2010-11 season.
Final Four (Plus One Darkhorse)
Davis Duke: The Blue Devils are not as experienced as they were last season, but they are more talented. The addition of Kyrie Irving plus the progress of the Plumlee brothers means this is the only team in America with no real weakness.
Winn Duke: Recent contenders run by elite freshmen point guards -- Ohio State in '07, Memphis in '08, Kentucky in '10 -- have fallen short of national titles, but Irving will break that trend. He has a senior-level hoops IQ, and the luxury of joining a lineup that already features two SI.com first-team All-Americas.
Glockner Duke: The Blue Devils bring in Irving and Seth Curry to complement the Singler/Smith/Plumlees core. Plus, smart nonleague scheduling and a solid ACC makes them a great bet to land a No. 1 seed, which will ease the path to Houston.
Davis Wisconsin: By the end of the season, people will be calling Jon Leuer the best player who has suited up for Bo Ryan in Madison. Few coaches do a better job than Ryan of recruiting players to fit his system and then develop them accordingly.
Winn Old Dominion: The CAA favorite Monarchs are being written off as rankings-worthy because they lost last year's offensive star, Gerald Lee. But their defense should be just as good as the one that ranked 10th nationally in efficiency in '10-11, and 6-8 forwards Frank Hassell and Keyon Carter (two of their four senior starters) should be able to make up for Lee's lost offense on the interior.
Glockner UNLV: The Rebels will likely have leading scorer Tre'Von Willis back after their first regular-season game and have size and depth that they lacked last season. Also, the MWC could get four bids again and last year's winner, New Mexico, got a No. 3 seed in the NCAAs.
Davis Kentucky: The Wildcats were ridiculously young last year -- and now they've gotten younger. Obviously getting Enes Kanter eligible will help, but this freshman class is not quite as good as last year's, and that will exact a toll once the Cats get into the teeth of the SEC season and the NCAA tournament.
Winn Villanova: The Wildcats will still finish in the upper quartile of the Big East, and make the NCAAs with a decent seed ... I'm just worried that their defense -- like it did last season -- will fall short of being Final Four-caliber. And this is a team that, given its early AP ranking (No. 6), is expected to be in the mix for the national title.
Glockner Virginia Tech: After J.T. Thompson's injury, VT could face significant frontcourt questions if Allan Chaney doesn't get healthy. Having practically everyone back is great, but the Hokies did miss the NCAAs last season, and the ACC is better at the top this year.
Best Mid-Major Team
Davis Gonzaga: I'm just waiting for the law of averages to kick in and see the Zags enjoy a Butleresque breakthrough to the Final Four. Elias Harris could end up being the highest draft pick selected from this program, and I love the shooting touch of Steven Gray.
Winn Butler: Again. The Bulldogs no longer have versatile wings Gordon Hayward and Willie Veasley, which means they'll pose fewer matchup problems, but they still have a veteran squad that knows how to defend. And if this summer was any indication, junior combo guard Shelvin Mack is about to blossom into an All-America candidate.
Glockner Butler: The balanced Bulldogs have multiple options that should be able to replace much of Hayward's scoring load. If they can overcome the loss of both Hayward and Veasley on the defensive end, they will be very dangerous again.
National Player of the Year
Kyle Singler :: Brett Davis/US PRESSWIRE
Davis Kyle Singler, Duke: Singler did not shoot the ball well during the first half of last season as he adjusted to playing on the perimeter, but I believe he is headed for the best shooting year of his career. He is stronger than a year ago, and he has enough talent around him that he won't have to carry the load entirely by himself.
Winn Jimmer Fredette, BYU: There's no better scoring point guard than Fredette, who had an offensive rating of 120.0 and shot 44.0 percent from long range last season -- despite being the focal point of every opposing defense. He'll put up enough memorable scoring totals (for example: 49 against Arizona and 45 against TCU as a junior) to win a close POY race against K-State's Jacob Pullen and UNC's Harrison Barnes.
Glockner Singler: He'll have terrific stats on what will be one of the best teams in the nation. That's always a powerful combination for postseason awards.
Impact Freshman Not Named Harrison Barnes
Perry Jones :: Brian Spurlock/US PRESSWIRE
Davis Fab Melo, Syracuse: Truly, my pick is Duke PG Kyrie Irving. But Irving's instant impact on the defending national champ is obvious, so I'm going to dig a little deeper and offer up another freshman to watch in Melo. I'm not sure the Orange have ever had a big man who has this much pure talent. Melo is a legit 7-footer, and though his offensive game needs polish, he is a great athlete whose ability to run the floor alongside Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine will make him a lethal finisher on the break.
Winn Kyrie Irving, Duke: I'm not sure if there's another point guard I'd want running my team this year -- from any class -- other than Irving. Maybe Michigan State's Kalin Lucas, but still, if you saw how well Irving piloted the U.S. U18 team this summer, you'd already be a believer.
Glockner Perry Jones, Baylor: Much of Baylor's promise is based on the assumption that the 6-10 forward will be an immediate star. The Big 12 has seen its fair share of dominant underclassmen lately (Durant, Beasley, Griffin), so why shouldn't Jones follow suit?
Breakout Star (Non-Freshman)
Marcus Morris :: Nelson Chenault/US PRESSWIRE
Davis Marcus Morris, Kansas: Without Cole Aldrich around to clog up the lane, Morris will have more room to score in the post. He also has a nice midrange game and is now experienced enough in Bill Self's system to limit his mistakes.
Winn Christian Standhardinger, Nebraska: The 6-9 German sophomore fits my breakout formula rather well. He wasn't on the court much as a freshman, due to an NCAA suspension for club-team play and then defensive-effort issues, but when he did get in Big 12 games, he took over, using a massive percentage of possessions (30.7) with decent efficiency (103.9). Don't be stunned if Standhardinger's offensive numbers are as good as fellow -- and much better-known -- German Elias Harris' this season.
Glockner Kenny Boynton, Florida: A year wiser and with freshmen Patric Young and Casey Prather supplementing a strong returning quintet, Boynton should take a pronounced second-year leap. As seen this preseason, better shot selection should lead to better shooting percentages.
Davis Chris Singleton, Florida State: Singleton is a dynamic athlete who can handle the ball on the perimeter and is very effective around the rim. He's also a gem on defense; last year he led the ACC in steals and was fifth in blocks.
Winn Isaiah Thomas, Washington: Listed at 5-9, probably shorter, he's the best inch-for-inch player in the country. The little lefty will fearlessly take the ball to the rim against opponents of any size, and he doesn't bottle up any emotion, either, playing with more flair than any other POY candidate.
Glockner Demetri McCamey, Illinois: I love guards who can do it all, and now that high school teammate Evan Turner is in the NBA, McCamey takes over all-purpose point guard honors. Ignore his struggles in Illinois' two scrimmages; with the Illini's depth and quality, he will rack up big numbers and lots of Ws this season.
Best Player Nobody Knows About
Anatoly Bose :: AP
Davis Alec Burks, Colorado: Burks very quietly had a terrific freshman season for the Buffaloes, so I expect he will make a big leap this season after having a full year of playing and conditioning under his belt. He has excellent size for a shooting guard, so if he can improve his outside shooting (35 percent on threes last year), he could wind up as the leading scorer in the Big 12.
Winn Kevin Jones, West Virginia: The Mountaineers are hardly an obscure team, but Jones was somehow left off the Wooden Award's preseason 50 watch list despite being, as I've previously called him, "the most versatile 250-plus pound player in the country." What's not to like about a 6-8, 260-pound guy who makes 40.4 percent of his threes, 56.5 percent of his twos and offensive rebounds at a 12.0 percent rate?
Glockner Anatoly Bose, Nicholls State: The 6-6 Kazakhstan-born Russian shooting guard by way of Australia scored over 32 percent of Nicholls' points last season with no true second option helping out, capped by his 40-point effort in the Colonels' 62-57 loss in the Southland Conference tourney. Nicholls should be more of a contender in the Southland this season, so maybe the nation will get a look at the NBA prospect in March.
Coach On The Hottest Seat
Pat Knight :: Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images
Davis Pat Knight, Texas Tech: Knight put himself on the hot seat at Big 12 media day when he called this an "extension or be fired" kind of season. Knight is entering his fourth season in Lubbock and has never taken the Red Raiders to the NCAA tournament, but he has four returning starters from the group that reached the NIT last season.
Winn Sidney Lowe, N.C. State: The Wolfpack have finished under .500 in the ACC and missed the NCAA tournament in each of Lowe's four seasons. His strong recruiting efforts lured in elite point guard Ryan Harrow and power forward C.J. Leslie, so State has more than enough talent to break through to the dance in March. If that doesn't happen, Lowe is out the door.
Glockner Doc Sadler, Nebraska: The Cornhuskers plummeted to the bottom of the Big 12 last season and may not be all that much better this season. With the move to the Big Ten coming and a new arena on the horizon, Nebraska very well could look to start fresh next season, despite Sadler's style probably being better suited to the Huskers' new league.
A Bold Prediction
Jimmy Butler :: Sam Greenwood/Getty Images
Davis Old schools will continue their comeback. Once again, much of the attention during the regular season will be lavished on young teams and exciting freshmen, but once again the teams that feature upperclassmen will go the deepest in March.
Winn That two major-conference teams that didn't receive a single AP vote after losing a major star -- Marquette (Lazar Hayward) and Clemson (Trevor Booker) -- will not only make the NCAA tournament, they'll also finish in the top five of their respective leagues.
Glockner Mid-majors will play each other in at least one of the two new at-large play-in games, and at least one team from outside the preseason top 15 will make the Final Four.
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