When I look ahead to the 2009-10 campaign, I see three programs that will step up big time and quiet their critics -- Georgia Tech, Illinois and Georgetown.
Let's start with Georgia Tech, a team which just two ACC games last season. It is really hard to believe that Tech did not win more last season, but there were so many close games that went the other way.
Look at the talent that Paul Hewitt has assembled for the upcoming season. There is optimism because of the personnel on that roster. Start with Gani Lawal, who passed on an opportunity to play in the NBA, pulling out of the draft. Derrick Favors will be an impact diaper dandy right out of the gate. Iman Shumpert will be better with a year's worth of experience under his belt.
Illinois has a veteran nucleus returning, including big man Mike Tisdale, forward Mike Davis, and guards Alex Legion and Demetri McCamey. Coach Bruce Weber brought in a solid recruiting class, featuring guards D.J. Richardson, Joseph Bertrand and Brandon Paul, as well a Tyler Griffey up front. The Illini made some noise last season before an early exit in the big dance.
Georgetown should bounce back from a disappointing season. Many expected the Hoyas to do some damage in the big dance, but the Hoyas finished 16-15, including a 7-11 mark in Big East play. It was shock city with a pair of early exits in tournament play, falling to St. John's in the Big East and Baylor in the NIT.
Look for the Hoyas to rebound. Big man Greg Monroe showed all the potential in the world as a diaper dandy. I expect a breakout season where he puts up double-doubles every night. I see him going 17-11 on average, also blocking shots while being a vital for force John Thompson III's team.
All three of the coaches running these teams feel they have the potential to enjoy a solid season ahead.
These programs are in the power conferences, so you know the competition is solid. Keep a watchful eye and they will make noise. I expect all three to wind up in the rankings this season.