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As recruiting winds down and scheduling finishes up, many teams will begin summer workouts this month. This is an exciting time for college basketball speculators and fans, such as myself. Early predictions have varied, but here are 5 teams I expect to make some serious noise in the upcoming season.
Indiana: Sophomore, and early POY candidate, Cody Zeller will lead a stacked Hoosiers squad that features the majority of last year’s Sweet Sixteen roster. Christian Watford spurned the NBA draft in favor of joining fellow sharpshooter Jordan Hulls as senior leaders of the team. Look for freshman Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell to help juniors Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey improve Indiana’s backcourt. The Hoosiers are my early favorite for the national title.
Kentucky: Yes, the Wildcats lost their top 6 leading scorers from last year’s championship team. Yes, Kentucky embarrassed itself with a messy offseason-scheduling dispute with Indiana. But don’t expect that to discourage John Calipari from gunning for back-to-back titles. Superbly talented freshman Nerlens Noel, Archie Goodwin, and Alex Poythress join rising star Kyle Wiltjer as they look to repeat last year’s success.
NC State: Coach Mark Gottfried has quietly revived Wolfpack basketball by assembling an ultra-talented roster around NBA prospect CJ Leslie. NC State returns key starters Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, and Richard Howell. Plus a top-ten recruiting class certainly doesn’t hurt the Wolfpack’s chances, as they bring in studs Rodney Purvis and TJ Warren. Expect NC State to contend for the ACC title this year.
Michigan: Wolverines fans everywhere rejoiced when standout PG Trey Burke ended his premature flirting with the NBA Draft. His return makes Michigan a top-ten program with endless possibilities. Heralded freshman Mitch McGary should have no problem replacing big-man Evan Smotrycz, who transferred in April. Also, fellow newcomer Glenn Robinson Jr. is expected to be among the league’s most talented freshman. With Burke’s playmaking ability and Tim Hardaway Jr.’s scoring prowess, the Wolverines will compete with IU for Big Ten supremacy.
North Carolina: With the Zeller/Barnes/Henson/Marshall era done in Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels head into the summer searching for leadership. However, coach Roy Williams isn’t too worried. He’ll likely hand the reigns to sophomore James Michael McAdoo and junior Reggie Bullock. The Tar Heels are never short on NBA talent and this year is no different. With the addition of a stellar recruiting class, the Tar Heels are one of my sleeper picks for next year. Additionally, a Big Ten/ACC challenge matchup at Indiana should be one of the more intriguing early season matchups.
Others to Watch: UCLA, Texas, Arizona, Florida
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