November 11, 2011
John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor make up one of the most athletic three man backcourts in the nation. Jenkins is a streaky shooter that can fill it up (19.5 ppg.), and Taylor is a finisher that gets buckets by slashing and scoring on put backs. Vandy boasted one of the highest scoring averages in the nation last season, but lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament because of their inability to get stops. With two great athletes on the perimeter, they should be one of the better defensive squads in the nation. A commitment to defense could push the Commodores to a Final Four.
Odds to win it all: 30 to 1
University of Memphis
Memphis has continued its standing among the top recruiting schools in the nation even with its former head coach John Calipari moving on to Kentucky. The Tigers had a top 10 recruiting class last year, and repeated the trend this year. They added a top ten recruit Adonis Thomas, to former blue chippers Will Barton and Tarik Black. With point guard Joe Jackson, Memphis has a strong nucleus that can compete with any squad in the nation.
Odds to win it all: 25 to 1
University of Florida
Florida returns the heart of its team last season that reached the Sweet Sixteen. Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton are back with the physical Patrick Young. If Young is more productive with his scoring (a dismal 3.4 ppg. last year) and his rebounding, and Bradley Beal is as good as advertised, then the Gators have a chance at going further in the tournament this year. Beal has drawn comparisons to athletic, sharp-shooting wings Ray Allen and Eric Gordon.
Odds to win it all: 20 to 1
University of Pittsburgh
Ashton Gibbs is one of the most multi-talented guards in college basketball. He is deadly from 3, but scores well from everywhere on the court. He shoots a higher percentage when he is set, than when he is moved off his spot, but Gibson is a fairly efficient scorer (16.8 ppg. last season). The Panther’s head coach Jamie Dixon also landed a big-time recruit in Khern Birch. Pittsburgh always plays physical defense, so they have a good shot at making a deep run into the postseason.
Odds to win it all: 20 to 1
University of Louisville
Louisville boasts some of the best point guard play in the nation with Peyton Siva. He is quick with the basketball and scores off the dribble and away from the ball. He also distributes the ball well, which is a good thing because the Cardinals have 4 top 100 recruits for him to pass to.
Odds to win it all: 15 to 1
The guy that was the consensus #1 pick on most draft boards decided to stay in school for another year at Baylor. Perry Jones III is the most athletic and versatile big man in the country. At 6’11”, he can control the offense at the top of the key, shoot the three pointer, or post up where he is most effective. Last year, Baylor missed an opportunity to win a NCAA championship. They had one of the most talented teams, the best single player, and the deepest squad. Their only weakness was at point. This year, with the addition of JC- All-American Pierre Jackson, they should be better. If Jackson can steady the point, and Baylor runs its offense through Perry as it should have last year, the Bears could win it all.
Odds to win it all: 12 to 1
The Blue Devils landed one of the best recruiting classes in 2011. With Austin Rivers, the consensus #1 player overall and the son of former NBA guard and current head coach, Doc Rivers, Tyler Thornton, a pure point guard, Andre Dawkins, a shooter/scorer, and Seth Curry, the son of sharp-shooting former NBA guard, Dell Curry, Duke will have one of the best backcourts in the nation. The Plumlee brothers return with their size and athleticism around the rim, and add their youngest brother, who is predicted to be better than the older two. If any of the three Plumlees can be a force under the basket, Duke could go deep into the tournament.
Odds to win it all: 10 to 1
Syracuse has senior leadership with Scoop Jardine. They have real scoring punch with Kris Joseph and Brandon Triche. And, they have physical big men with Fab Melo and incoming freshman Rakeem Christmas. Boeheim always works his 2-3 zone to perfection, and this year he has long athletic players to optimize his traps. Once the Orangemen, find some continuity on the offensive end of the basketball court, they will be a formidable opponent in the tourney. If Triche or Joseph takes the next step into being a go-to player (which either is capable of), then Syracuse is a lock for the Final Four.
Odds to win it all: 8 to 1
University of Kentucky
No one is surprised that John Calipari landed one of the most talented group of freshmen in the nation again this season. Every year, he gets the best point guard in the nation and 2-3 of the best players at the other positions. Almost everyone was surprised that Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb stayed in school after Kentucky’s run to the Final Four. Jones is a match up nightmare. He is 6’9”, and left-handed with good ball-handling skills, a soft jump shot, and range out to the NBA three point line. Lamb was the most consistent shooter and scorer on last year’s Final Four team. He singlehandedly pushed the Wildcats through the Elite Eight with his three point shooting. Kentucky adds another athletic big, with Anthony Davis, another athletic wing with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and signed another possible one-and-done point guard in Marquis Teague. If they play cohesively another trip to the Final Four is within grasp.
Odds to win it all: 6 to 1
Ohio State University
Jared Sullinger is a man under the basket. He bullies smaller opponents and finesses bigger ones. He rebounds well, and has a soft touch. Ohio State added Shannon Scott, a quick point guard, to hurry the pace of the offense and to get a few more easy buckets. Deshaun Thomas is versatile and scores in the post or on the wing. If Amir Williams can fill the hole left by Dallas Lauderdale, and the Buckeyes can get any three point shooting, then Ohio State could contend for a title this year. If neither of those things happen, then they could be in for another early exit from the tournament.
Odds to win it all: 5 to 1
University of Connecticut
Last year, when Jeremy Lamb played well, the Huskies won. As a freshman, he deferred to Player of the Year candidate, Kemba Walker, and the Huskies won the NCAA championship behind their play. In the final game, UConn did not take control and the lead until Lamb asserted himself. This year, Lamb will have to lead the Huskies. If Shabazz Napier continues his growth as a player, and the #2 recruit in the nation, Andre Drummond lives up to the hype, UConn could repeat as champions.
Odds to win it all: 4 to 1
University of North Carolina
In the second half of the season, Harrison Barnes was the most polished scorer on the wing in college basketball. He dove to the hole when he did not have the basketball, rarely over-penetrated, and could score anywhere from the three point line in. Despite being projected as a top 4-5 lottery pick, he stayed in school. John Henson has a gangly 6’11” frame with an insane wingspan and knack for finding the basketball. He could facilitate the offense or rebound and alter shots. Henson was projected as a lottery pick and he stayed in school. Tyler Zeller is a polished post who is difficult to guard on the blocks. He was predicted to be a first round draft pick, but stayed in school too. This all means that the Tar Heels are set to win another championship. Their point, Kendall Marshall wants to distribute the basketball (he averaged 6.2 assists per game), they added a power forward with NBA bloodlines, James McAdoo, and one of the best high school shooting guards in the nation, P.J. Hairston. North Carolina is well-coached, deep, and hungry. The Tar Heels are the team most likely to be crowned as the next NCAA champions.
Odds to win it all: 2 to 1
Thomas Robinson returned to school despite possibly being picked in the lottery last year. He is super-athletic and has a nose for the basketball. Tyshawn Taylor returned to school too and should steady the backcourt if he does not look to shoot too much.
If Sean Miller’s recruiting class is as good as advertised, Arizona could carve up a few teams in the tournament. Josiah Turner is as physically talented as any point guard in the nation, but could be a head case. Nick Johnson is an elite athlete with a sweet stroke and good size.
Joshua Smith is a load under the basket. He eats out space with his wide frame, and scores like a classic big man with drop steps and put backs. With Ben Howland’s stout defensive strategy, if Smith gets an help from his backcourt, UCLA could find itself deep in the postseason again.