An Early Look Towards Next Season in College Basketball

>> Friday

At my college basketball blog From Way Downtown, I have previewed my projected top 25 teams for next season. Besides my full preview of the top five shortly below here, other teams of note include Georgetown at 6, Michigan State at 8, Marquette at 9, Duke at 11, Villanova at 15 and Syracuse at 22.

1. Memphis:

An Elite 8 team last season, the Tigers return their starting five from a year ago and have one of the best point guard prospects in years coming in. Derrick Rose, the athletic 6'3 floor general from the Windy City, will lead the way for Memphis. A pure point guard with excellent size and a capable perimeter shooter, Rose has a very good chance of winning a national championship during his brief stay in college. A myriad of talented wing players join Rose on the perimeter. Chris Douglas-Roberts, a complete scorer who always finds a way to get open, should lead the Tigers in scoring again this season. Antonio Anderson gives the Tigers an adept ball handler and distributor from the wing, as well as another player who can take it to the basket. The super athletic Doneal Mack will provide instant offense of the bench, as he averaged 7 points per game in just 14 minutes of action. Another freshman, Jeff Robinson, should provide an offensive spark off the bench. A 6'5 wing from prep power St. Patrick's (NJ), Robinson can really shoot the ball and like most Memphis players, enjoys attacking the rim. To round the backcourt, last season's starter at the point, sophomore Willie Kemp, will back-up Rose and can also play next to him on occasion. Joey Dorsey and Robert Dozier return to anchor the Tigers frontcourt. Dorsey, an athletic 6'9 bull, does a great job of rebounding and altering shots. He struggles with getting into foul trouble, but always makes a big impact when out on the court. Dozier, an athletic 6'9 forward, enjoys getting to the rim and can hit the mid-range jumper. On defense, he uses his length to block and alter shots. Massive 6'8 sophomore Pierre Niles gives the Tigers a true back to the basket scorer when he comes into the game. If the 285 pound Niles can get into better shape, he will earn significant minutes this season, especially when the Tigers get caught up in a half-court game. With a balanced roster and a proven coach in John Calipari, Memphis has the chance to make history this season as the first non-BCS national champion in almost two decades.

Projected Starters:
G Derrick Rose, 6'3, Fr.
G Chris Douglas-Roberts, 6'5, Jr.
G Antonio Anderson, 6'5, Jr.
F Robert Dozier, 6'9, Jr.
F Joey Dorsey, 6'9, Sr.

Key Reserves:
G Doneal Mack, 6'5, So.
G/F Jeff Robinson, 6'5, Fr.
F Pierre Niles, 6'8, So.
G Willie Kemp, 6'2, So.
G Andre Allen, 5'10, Sr.

2. North Carolina:

The Tar Heels, with the majority of their key parts returning, look to avenge last season's heartbreaking loss to Georgetown in the Elite 8. The hardest working player in America, Tyler Hansbrough, will once again lead the way. The 6'9 junior forward has been a scoring and rebounding machine during his two seasons in Chapel Hill, and should be the heavy favorite for ACC player of the year. Joining in him in the frontcourt will be a pair of talented sophomores, Deon Thompson and Alex Stepheson. Thompson, a well built power forward with excellent post moves, proved be a key player off the bench last season. During his one chance to start, he had a huge game replacing the sick Brandan Wright in their drubbing of Arizona. Stepheson, an athletic 6'9 forward, should be the first big off the bench this year and will be a nice option when Hansbrough or Thompson needs a rest. Super quick point guard Ty Lawson returns to lead the Tar Heels offense. The 5'11 Lawson has an extremely quick first step, and cannot be left open from the perimeter. Starting for the majority of his freshman season, Lawson generally played like an experienced floor general. Another sophomore, Wayne Ellington, joins Lawson in the backcourt. A very smooth player with an excellent perimeter shot, Ellington looks to be poised for a big sophomore campaign. At the other perimeter spot, Roy Williams will have an interesting choice between lockdown defender Marcus Ginyard and skilled wing Danny Green. After starting as a freshman, Ginyard adjusted nicely to coming off the bench last season and blends in nicely with this group of stars and future pros. Green, a crafty player from New York, could be a nice option as Carolina's sixth man. Guards Bobby Frasor and Quention Thomas give the Tar Heels two other very players off the bench, and redshirt forward William Graves will fight to earn minutes. While the Tar Heels lost two quality players in Brandan Wright and Reyshawn Terry, they still have a very talented, deep group capable of winning it all and ready to dominate the ACC.

Projected Starters:
G Ty Lawson, 5'11, So.
G Wayne Ellington, 6'4, So.
G Marcus Ginyard, 6'5, Jr.
F Deon Thompson, 6'8, So.
F Tyler Hansbrough, 6'9, Jr.

Key Reserves:
G/F Danny Green, 6'5, Jr.
F Alex Stepheson, 6'9, So.
G Bobby Frasor, 6'3, Jr.
G Quentin Thomas, 6'3, Sr.
F William Graves, 6'6, Fr.

3. UCLA:

The Bruins, coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances, look to be poised to make it three consecutive trips for Ben Howland. The return of super point guard Darren Collison and the arrival of awesome freshman Kevin Love gives the Bruins a dynamic pair to build around. Collison made the loss of Jordan Farmar to the NBA a non-issue last season. A very quick player with the knack for hitting big shots, Collison passed on the pros for a chance to help the Bruins take that elusive final step and bring the national championship back to Westwood. An excellent leader at the point guard spot, Collison will again look to set up his talented group of teammates. Joining him in the backcourt will be junior wing Josh Shipp. Despite struggling with injuries during his college career, Shipp has managed to be a consistent scoring threat and tough defender when he's on the court. Going through another hip surgery this offseason, Shipp hopes to finally comes back 100 percent for the 2008 season. The other perimeter starting spot will be competed for by Russell Westbrook, Michael Roll and incoming freshman Chace Stanback. Westbrook, a combo guard who can play off the ball or run the offense when Collison needs a blow, would probably be considered the favorite. Roll, a perimeter marksman, will need to work on the other elements of his game in order to get starter's minutes. The most talented of this group would be Stanback, but he may be better off playing Shipp's spot on the wing. An athletic 6'7 wing player who can get to the basket, Stanback should be a future stalwart for the Bruins program. The Bruins have lacked a guy who can score from the post, but Love will make that a non-issue this season. A complete forward who can hit the perimeter jumper and enjoys competing down low, I think Love will have the biggest freshman impact of anyone in the country. As a boon to the speedy Collison, Love may be the best outlet passer I have ever seen. After a disappointing sophomore season where he battled with injuries, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute will be back and ready to make a major impact. As a freshman, Mbah a Moute always managed to get his hands on the ball. However, that quickness and tenacity were quelled by nagging leg injuries and he looked like a shell of his former self towards the end of last season. Before injuries hit, Mbah a Moute showed flashes of developing a complete game that could prepel him back into the serious NBA discussion after this upcoming campaign. All-effort guy Lorenzo Mata will be back and should provide a willing defender and banger down low. Defensive minded Alfred Aboya and perimeter threat James Keefe round out what will be a much improved frontcourt thanks to the presence of Love. Like Kansas, UCLA could see their roster decimated after next season. However, they have all the parts to make 2008 a season to remember.

Projected Starters:
G Darren Collison, 6'0, Jr.
G Russell Westbrook, 6'3, So.
G/F Josh Shipp, 6'5, Jr.
F Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, 6'7, Jr.
F Kevin Love, 6'9, Fr.

Key Reserves:
G/F Chace Stanback, 6'7, Fr.
F Lorenzo Mata, 6'8, Sr.
G Michael Roll, 6'5, Jr.
F Alfred Aboya, 6'8, Jr.
F James Keefe, 6'8, So.

4. Tennessee:

The Vols let Ohio State off the mat in last season's NCAA Tournament, but return all but one of their key guys from a Sweet 16 team. Chris Lofton, the best shooter in America, returns for his senior season to make a run at the Final Four. The 6'2 guard, lightly recruited by homestate Kentucky and Louisville, has developed into a college star. Along with his perimeter marksmanship, Lofton has become an adept penetrator who can burn opponents that guard him too closely. He will again have plenty of help in the backcourt. Sophomore Ramar Smith had a very nice freshman season as the Vols floor general. A lead guard who can set up his teammates and also create his own shot, Smith enjoys playing in Bruce Pearl's up-tempo system. JaJuan Smith has quietly developed into an outstanding college scorer. A dangerous perimeter shooter not afraid to chuck it, Smith has taken a step up during each season of his career and could be poised to join Lofton as an All-SEC performer this season. Senior Jordan Howell gives Pearl a true, pass first point guard. Sophomore Josh Tabb, an excellent defensive player, can play all three guard spots in Pearl's system. Incoming freshman wing Cameron Tatum could be a nice scoring option off the bench. Upfront, sophomore duo Duke Crews and Wayne Chism lead the way. Crews, a hard working post player who can really run the floor, fits nicely as the interior option for Pearl. Chism, a 6'9 big man who can hit the perimeter jumper, did a nice job competing down low with more physical players as a freshman. A lot of the time, Pearl keeps one of these guys on the bench in case other gets into foul trouble and to keep them both fresh. Because of this, emerging junior big man Ryan Childress will probably start at one of the forward spots. Like Chism, Childress can hit the perimeter jumper and gives Pearl the option to play a line-up full of guys who hit the three. With an experienced roster used to playing in Pearl's swarming attack, the Vols should be SEC favorites and a team you will dread to face in March. Given the right draw, they could be the last team standing.

Projected Starters:
G Ramar Smith, 6'2, So.
G Chris Lofton, 6'2, Sr.
G JaJuan Smith, 6'2, Sr.
F Ryan Childress, 6'9, Jr.
F Wayne Chism, 6'9, So.

Key Reserves:
F Duke Crews, 6'7, So.
G Josh Tabb, 6'4, So.
G Jordan Howell, 6'3, Sr.
G Cameron Tatum, 6'5, Fr.

5. Louisville:

After getting healthy and on the same page, the Cardinals may have been the best team in America the last month of the 2007 season. The Cardinals frontcourt may be the most complete unit in the country. Senior David Padgett, a crafty post player who has successfully overcome a myriad of knee injuries, leads this embattled group. While Padgett has lost some of his athleticism, his knowledge of the game and ability to outsmart opponents still makes him a very tough player to guard. Also, fouling him does not work, as he hits better than 80% of his free throws. Juan Palacios, another player who has had to overcome a bunch of injuries, hopes to have a healthy and productive senior season. An athletic forward who can hit the perimeter jumper, Palacios looked to be a future star after playing a key role in Louisville's 2005 Final Four season. Since then, serious ankle and knee injuries have caused him to spend lots of time next to Rick Pitino on the bench and kept him from playing to his vast potential. Super sopohmore Derrick Caracter could be ready to step into the starting line-up. A strong 6'9 post player, Caracter played extremely well after initially clashing with Pitino. If he plays 25 minutes a game, Caracter could easily be a double-double guy. The athletic Earl Clark really emerged after stepping into Palacios's starting spot. While coming to Louisville as a wing player, Clark successfully mixed it up inside and gives the Cardinals a versatile guy who can really bother bigger, slower players. Freshman George Goode, a dangerous perimeter shooter, gives Pitino another versatile frontcourt player to utilize. In the backcourt, sophomore Edgar Sosa leads the way. The New York City guard loves taking it to the basket, and became a better distributor as last season wore on. Sosa had a huge game in their close second round loss to Texas A&M, and could position himself as one of the best guards in the Big East by the end of next season. Jerry Smith had an excellent freshman season, highlighted by a 30 foot game-winning shot to steal a critical win at Marquette. A talented perimeter shooter and lockdown defender, Smith has fit comfortably in Pitino's system despite rumblings that he was looking to transfer. Athletic wing Terrence Williams rounds out the Cardinals starting line-up. A talented player who can be really tough to handle when he focuses on getting to the basket, Williams led the Cardinals in scoring, rebounding and assists last season. However, Williams can be a hinderence when he worries too much about jacking perimeter shots. Still, he's a very tough match-up for opposing teams and the guy who makes the Cardinals go. Junior Andre McGee, a capable back-up point guard, will allow Rick Pitino to play Sosa off the ball while he runs the offense. If they can stay healthy and on the same page, Louisville has a chance to capture the Big East crown and make another run to the Final Four. After a forgettable start to their Big East career, the Cardinals have quickly vaulted their way to the conference's elite.

Projected Starters:
G Edgar Sosa, 6'2, So.
G Jerry Smith, 6'1, So.
F Terrence Williams, 6'6, Jr.
F Juan Palacios, 6'8, Sr.
F/C David Padgett, 6'11, Sr.

Key Reserves:
F Derrick Caracter, 6'9, So.
F Earl Clark, 6'8, So.
G Andre McGee, 5'11, Jr.
F George Goode, 6'8, Fr.

Teams 6-10

Teams 11-15

Teams 16-20

Teams 21-25


Vinnie 9:49 AM  

Good to see my adopted second-favorite team Tennessee crack the top five. If only Bruce Pearl were coaching Marquette...

Zuch 6:49 PM  

We'd be deathly afraid of impending probation. Pearl and the SEC would be a match made in heaven if there ever was one.

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