1. FLORIDANational champions hardly ever have their entire starting five return intact,but Billy Donovan's band of Oh-Fours--sophomore starters Taurean Green, CoreyBrewer, Al Horford and Joakim Noah--are likely to stay in Gainesville. (Fifthstarter Lee Humphrey will be a senior.) If they keep their word, which wouldrequire the √ºberproductive Noah to pass on a top 10 spot in the draft, a repeatis realistic.
2. NORTH CAROLINAThe Baby Heels were ahead of schedule this season, finishing second in the ACCon the shoulders of national freshman of the year Tyler Hansbrough. He'll bejoined in the fall by the nation's No. 1 recruiting class, which includes thetop-ranked high school point guard (Tywon Lawson), shooting guard (WayneEllington) and power forward (Brandan Wright).
3. UCLAWestwood's fearless defenders will gain some offensive punch with the return ofswingman Josh Shipp, who was the Bruins' most dangerous scorer before missingmost of the season with a hip injury. If point guard Jordan Farmar eschews thedraft to team up with Shipp, two-guard Arron Afflalo and power forward LucRichard Mbah a Moute, UCLA will have the best 1 through 4 quartet in thenation.
4. MEMPHIS Everykey player other than Rodney Carney returns from the fastest-paced, mostefficient team in Conference USA. With athletes like Darius Washington Jr.,Antonio Anderson and Shawne Williams running the Tigers' high-scoring show,another 30-win season and No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament are likely.
April 9, 2006
5. KANSASSophomores stole the spotlight at this Final Four, and KU's clan of freshmanstars--guard Mario Chalmers, swingman Brandon Rush and elastic forward JulianWright--could make a similar push in '07. But first they'll need to overcometheir school's recent first-round NCAA woes (the Bucknell-Bradley curse).
6. OHIO STATEWill 7-foot freshman center Greg Oden carry the Buckeyes to a title, a laCarmelo Anthony, in what will probably be his only season in Columbus? ThadMatta's defending Big Ten regular-season champs will be rebuilt around theblue-chip recruiting class of Oden, point guard Mike Conley, shooting guardDaequan Cook and small forward David Lighty.
7. GEORGETOWNWith UConn, Villanova and West Virginia all set to lose significant pieces, thenew Beasts of the Big East will reside in D.C. Upsets of No. 1--ranked Duke (inJanuary) and No. 2--seeded Ohio State (NCAA second round) this season mayforeshadow greater things for the Hoyas, who have NBA-caliber talent in forwardJeff Green and center Roy Hibbert.
8. TEXAS Even ifAldridge turns pro, the Horns retain an elite inside-outside tandem in guardDaniel Gibson and forward P.J. Tucker. McDonald's All-American Game co-MVPKevin Durant--the nation's top recruit not named Oden--is a sweet-shooting6'9" forward who could step in and be an instant force.
9. TEXAS A&MThe Aggies are the perfect top 10 sleeper: With their lockdown D, they closedthe season by winning nine of 11 games, nearly upsetting Final Four--bound LSUin the second round of the NCAAs. With guard Acie Law IV and future pro forwardJoseph Jones leading the way, this seasoned squad can make a run at the Big 12crown.
10. SOUTHERNILLINOIS If '06 was the Year of the Mid-Majors, what kind of encore will theyhave in store? The Salukis, who tied for second in the Missouri ValleyConference, have their top nine scorers back, including the senior backcourt ofJamaal Tatum and Tony Young, who will be gunning for their fourth--and theschool's sixth--straight NCAA tournament appearance.
ON THE FRINGEBoston College, Duke, Wisconsin, Wichita State, Pittsburgh, Hofstra, Tennessee,LSU, UConn, Washington, Arizona, Villanova
Hansbrough has plenty of help coming in.