May 13, 2005
Let's look ahead to next season as I identify five teams that missed the NCAA Tournament this year but will return in 2006.
• I'll start with Indiana. Coach Mike Davis will be back, but he's under plenty of pressure because the Hoosiers have missed the Big Dance for two straight years. D.J. White, Robert Vaden and company will be joined by two transfers from Auburn, Marco Killingsworth and Lewis Monroe. Despite the loss of Bracey Wright, who will enter the NBA draft, the Hoosiers should be tough in the Big Ten.
A 29-29 record the past two seasons puts pressure on Indiana. It would help if the nonconference schedule was a little easier.
• At Maryland, Gary Williams saw his Terps' streak of 11 consecutive NCAA appearances end this year. But there's no way Maryland will miss out next season. Two talented young Terps, Sterling Ledbetter and James Gist, finished strong this past season. Williams also has some talented recruits coming in, including power forward David Neal of Virginia and small forward Shane Clark of Philadelphia.
The Terps are losing just two seniors to graduation. They posted a 19-13 record and reached the NIT semifinals.
• Notre Dame has suffered in the Heartbreak Hotel the past two years, missing the Big Dance despite boasting a winning record in the Big East (9-7 both years). Despite the graduation loss of Chris Thomas, coach Mike Brey has a fine nucleus returning, including guys such as Chris Quinn and Colin Falls. While forwards Dennis Latimore and Torin Francis have declared for the NBA draft, the Irish will add recruit Luke Zeller, a 6-11 McDonald's All-American. Notre Dame will find a way to get back to the tourney.
• Georgetown made some strides in 2004-05 before fading late. Coach John Thompson III, the son of legendary Hoyas coach John Thompson, had his young team playing well. In February, the Hoyas looked like a lock for the NCAAs. Thompson created excitement and enthusiasm with upset wins against Pittsburgh and Villanova early in conference play.
Next season, look for more consistency from the season's outset. Yes, junior forward Brandon Bowman, the Hoyas' leading scorer (15.1 ppg), has declared for the draft. But Georgetown still should be back in the mix for an NCAA bid.
• Oregon fizzled in conference play, but Malik Hairston, Bryce Taylor and company should rebound and compete for a spot in the field of 65.
These five teams are looking forward to challenging for a spot in the NCAA Tournament next season, and I expect them all to be invited to the Big Dance, baby!
Dick Vitale coached the Detroit Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.