August 31, 2009

Monday tip: An early Final Four prognostication

We're just four days away from the start of the football season, which means pundits everywhere have been weighing in with their predictions for the BCS national championship game.

Basketball obviously determines its champion in a different manner, and all this talk about who's going to play for the football title in about four months got us wondering about who's going to play for the basketball title in about eight months.

We asked writers Jason King and Mike Huguenin to give us their early, early Final Four picks for the season.

JASON KING SAYS

Kansas: Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich could earn All-America honors, but the addition of freshman Xavier Henry and the offseason strides made by Marcus Morris are what will put the Jayhawks over the top. Kansas has one thing Kentucky doesn't: experience. That could be the difference in Indianapolis in April.

Kentucky: After watching the Wildcats practice last week, I'm convinced they're the most talented team in America. I'm not sure it's even close. Everyone talks about John Wall and rightfully so but, folks, DeMarcus Cousins is a beast. If John Calipari's squad puts it all together, there won't be a better team.

North Carolina: Even without Tyler Hansbrough, Wayne Ellington and Ty Lawson, the Tar Heels are loaded especially down low. Roy Williams' squad should have no problems winning the ACC, which is void of elite teams outside of Chapel Hill. If the Tar Heels can find a point guard, watch out.

Texas: If transfer Jai Lucas and freshmen Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton live up to the hype, this will be Rick Barnes' best team. Texas will be vastly improved on the perimeter, and Damion James, Dexter Pittman and Gary Johnson will combine to form the nation's fourth-best frontcourt (behind you guessed it Kentucky, Kansas and North Carolina).

MIKE HUGUENIN SAYS

Kansas: The Jayhawks are loaded and could win their second title in three seasons. The inside-outside combination of Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich should be the nation's best, freshman Xavier Henry assuming he's not a distraction will provide a boost on the perimeter and there is a ton of complementary talent. If there are no injuries, KU will be in the Final Four.

Kentucky: John Calipari's hiring will pay off immediately with a great season. He brought in the nation's best recruiting class, and John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins will be stars from day one. Patrick Patterson hung around for his junior season, and he should be a force inside. And there are enough complementary players that Calipari can do some mixing-and-matching with his lineup with little drop-off in talent.

Purdue: A season after winning 27 games and advancing to the Sweet 16, Purdue returns its top six players. If forward Robbie Hummel can stay healthy, this team truly will be dangerous. The Boilermakers started three sophomores and a freshman point guard for most of last season, so this is both an experienced team and one that still can get better. JaJuan Johnson is an experienced big man, and E'Twaun Moore is a solid all-around player.

Villanova: The Wildcats made it to the Final Four last season, and thanks to what should be the nation's deepest backcourt this season, they will return. Scottie Reynolds' decision to stay in school was big. So, too, is the arrival of one of the nation's best recruiting classes. There is no proven frontcourt scorer, but that may not matter with a team this loaded with good guards. Coach Jay Wright can use last season's run to the Final Four to show his players what they're capable of when they bear down on defense.




 

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