April 5, 2006
Now that the season is over, it is time to look ahead to the 2006-07 campaign. Here is my early look at my sweet 16 teams for next season, subject to change. Of course a school like Gonzaga would be higher if Adam Morrison returns.
1. North Carolina. Roy Williams was my national coach of the year and now he will contend for the national championship. The Tar Heels return the best diaper dandy in Tyler Hansbrough as well as Reyshawn Terry, Danny Green, Marcus Ginyard, Bobby Frasor, Wes Miller. Then look at an incredible recruiting class featuring USA Today All-America Brandan Wright and dynamic backcourt duo of Tywon Lawson and Wayne Ellington. How good is Lawson? Five-Star camp guru Howard Garfinkel emphatically states Lawson will be the next superstar on the perimeter.
2. Florida. Joakim Noah and Al Horford up front, along with Lee Humphrey and Taurean Green in the backcourt, keeps Billy Donovan smiling. That's assuming all of Donovan's stars pass on the NBA draft. They sure had fun playing together.
3. Kansas. Look for the trio of Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers and Julian Wright to develop into super sophs for Bill Self. The addition of Sherron Collins will be a welcome plus in Lawrence.
4. Ohio State. Thad Matta's recruiting class, led by Lawrence North (IN) HS dynamite duo of 7-1 Greg Oden and Michael Conley, will make the Buckeyes a national contender.
5. UCLA. Jordan Farmar and Arron Afflalo are among the best backcourts in America. Defense remains a key for Ben Howland's squad.
6. Texas. If LaMarcus Aldridge comes back, this will be a solid team. Rick Barnes has Daniel Gibson returning and a solid recruiting class led by Kevin Durant.
7. Memphis. Shawne Williams and Darius Washington will get better and better under the motivational leadership of John Calipari.
8. LSU. If Glen "Big Baby" Davis and Tyrus Thomas return to school, watch out. It could be another trip to the Final Four for John Brady's club.
9. Connecticut. Marcus Williams and Rudy Gay will dictate where the Huskies rank. Jim Calhoun also has a big-time recruiting class, including local guard Doug Wiggins.
10. Duke. Josh McRoberts will become the next superstar in Durham and will get help from a first-rate recruiting class featuring Gerald Henderson and Illinois' Mr. Basketball Jon Sheyer. If 7-1 center Brian Zoubek is as good as advertised, he could be the next Mike Gminski.
11. Louisville. Don't expect Rick Pitino to have his team down for long. The Cardinals have plenty of new faces and should return to the big dance and a prominent place in the Big East.
12. Pittsburgh. Jamie Dixon's Panthers lose Carl Krauser but have lots of talent to offset that absence.
13. Kentucky. Now that Rajon Rando has commited with an agent Kentucky will rely on Randolph Morris up front as the teams top weapon. Tubby Smith will have a highly-ranked team.
14. Gonzaga. If Adam Morrison returns, the Zags will be much higher. Mark Few will welcome transfer Micah Downs.
15. Alabama. Ronald Steele, Richard Hendrix and Jamareo Davidson lead Mark Gottfried's talented team.
16. Marquette. Even without Steve Novak, the Golden Eagles will be loaded.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question for Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.