I am excited about the coming college basketball season because of the depth of quality teams returning next year. Traditional powers like North Carolina and Kentucky have reloaded and upstart programs like VCU, Belmont and George Mason aren't going away. Some of the game's best young players are putting the NBA on hold and should make the depth of talent as good as it has been since Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and Derrick Rose were in college.
Here is my breakdown of 10 quality teams (not necessarily my top 10, but 10 impressive squads nonetheless) and the areas in which they can improve next season. I have taken into account the players that I believe will be leaving for the NBA draft and, obviously, the impact that incoming freshmen and transfers will have.
Strength: Deep roster
Start counting the future NBA players on next season's roster, because there are a fistful of them. Roy Williams has a first-round pick at every frontcourt spot, led by sophomore Harrison Barnes. It's why the Tar Heels will go into next season as the clear preseason No. 1 team, with depth at nearly every position except point guard. And if things go according to plan, sophomore playmaker Kendall Marshall will play over 30 minutes a game anyway.
Concern: Outside shooting
It sounds strange to talk about outside shooting being a weakness with the way Barnes finished the season. But in fact, after shooting 33 percent over the first 16 games, he shot only 35 percent over the last 21 games. Of course, he made some clutch shots when it mattered, which is what most people remember. But as a team, the Heels shot only 33 from deep. P.J. Hairston, 6-foot-5 freshman, is a sniper from the perimeter, but he will have to do other things better in order to see floor time.
Strength: Quality recruiting class
It's hard not to love Kentucky's overall talent level next year, especially if DeAndre Liggins returns. Assuming that Terrence Jones and Brandon Knight are off to the NBA, John Calipari can still build around sophomore shooter Doron Lamb. But the key to the Wildcats' season, for the third year in a row, is an outstanding freshman class led by fast-rising, multi-skilled 6-10 forward Anthony Davis, who is more elastic than a rubber band. Scoring point guard Marquis Teague and 6-7 Michael Gilchrist, who could be one of the most competitive players in the country, should make an immediate impact as well.
Concern: Physical presence
Turkish import Enes Kanter never saw the floor last year, but 6-10 senior Josh Harrellson helped make up for his absence. His size and physical play will be sorely missed next season. Davis and Gilchrist will be helped by fellow freshman Kyle Wiltjer in the paint, but at this point the 6-9 forward is more of an outside-in type of player. How this team handles itself around the basket could be the key to its success next season.
Strength: Guard play
Although the Kyle Singler/Nolan Smith era is finally over at Duke, as is Kyrie Irving's cameo, the expectations remain high in Durham. Juniors Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry should step out of the shadows of Smith and Irving. Outstanding freshman guard Austin Rivers arrives on campus likely to become the Blue Devils' go-to guy immediately, in the hopes of being off to the NBA a year from now.
Concern: The Plumlees
Mason and Miles have been key role players for Mike Krzyzewski since they arrived on campus, but it is imperative for them to step up their games if the Blue Devils are not to miss a beat next season. They combined for only three double-figure scoring performances in Duke's final 12 games. Mason, especially, has shown flashes of brilliance and his 25-point, 12-rebound performance against Marquette early in the season was an indication of what he is capable of. If either Plumlee struggles, a third brother is on the way, as 6-11 Marshall Plumlee was a top-50 recruit this year.
Strength: Personnel to make the zone go
The Orange will miss the toughness and consistency of Rick Jackson in the middle of the 2-3 zone. However, there were signs of improved play from Brazilian import Fab Melo at the end of the year. And if there's not enough evidence yet that he can be an important part of Jim Boeheim's rotation, freshman big man Rakeem Christmas will get an opportunity to play immediately. Kris Joseph and a bevy of big wings will defend well at the top of the zone.
It sounds strange that when you return two two-year starters in your backcourt, decision-making and consistency would be issues. Both guards, Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche, turn the ball over on around 20 percent of their possessions, even though they have combined to win a lot of games in their careers. Don't be surprised if 6-5 freshman Michael Carter-Williams is groomed to be Boeheim's next floor leader.
Strength: Championship experience
The Huskies return a rock-solid sophomore backcourt in Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier from their national championship run in March. It may the Big East's best next season. 6-9 junior Alex Oriakhi returns, bringing with him Jim Calhoun's requisite toughness inside. And Roscoe Smith showed glimpses of scoring ability throughout his rookie season, as did sophomore Jamal Coombs-McDaniel. So in other words, the core is solid.
Concern: No inside scoring
It is probably not that big a concern since the Huskies won it all without any proven inside offense this past season. However, they won't have the brilliance of Kemba Walker in 2011-12, so an interior presence figures to be more important. A very small recruiting class won't provide the answer, but the hope is that 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman, Michael Bradley, will be able to help.
Strength: Winning experience
The Buckeyes essentially return three starters from the NCAA tournament's No. 1 seed. Scoring shouldn't be a problem with Jared Sullinger, William Buford and super sub Deshaun Thomas returning. Sophomore point guard Aaron Craft proved early last season that he was ready for prime-time action. And, not surprisingly, Thad Matta has another outstanding recruiting class in place to supplement the talented players that are returning.
Concern: Outside shooting
Don't underestimate how much Jon Diebler's and David Lighty's outside shooting will be missed. Diebler holds the record for career made 3-pointers in the Big Ten, while Lighty shot 43 percent from behind the arc this season. They forced opponents to pick their poison in guarding them or double-teaming Sullinger inside. Buford still remains a potent threat from outside, however, so his presence could soften the blow of losing Diebler and Lighty.
The Commodores are being touted as a potential top-5 team next season, and with very good reason. They will return every key player from last season's 23-win team, including three potential first-round picks. Jeffery Taylor has been one of the most athletic forwards in the SEC for three years, Festus Ezeli is one of the most improved big men in college basketball, and local product John Jenkins' first two seasons at Vandy have been outstanding.
Concern: Taking care of the ball
While the Commodores struggled with their outside shooting down the stretch, a bigger concern for Kevin Stallings' club has to be its passing and playmaking. In fact, six of his top seven players had negative assist-to-turnover ratios. Junior point guard Brad Tinsley was the only solid caretaker of the ball, but he doesn't get into the paint enough to make his teammates better. Incoming freshman Kedren Johnson is a power point guard who will help.
Strength: High level of talent
The Bears are not showing up in many preseason polls, but I believe they easily have the most pure talent in the Big 12 next season. Not only is one potential lottery pick staying -- 6-11 power forward Perry Jones -- but another one is arriving in 6-9 freshman Quincy Miller. Power forward Quincy Acy is as good a role player as there is in the conference. And the backcourt has been strengthened with the addition of junior college transfer point guard Pierre Jackson and California Golden Bears transfer Gary Franklin.
Chemistry seemed to be an issue for the Bears this past season. The pieces on the court didn't always fit. At times, senior guard LaceDarius Dunn was too assertive offensively, while Jones was not assertive enough. Junior point guard A.J. Walton struggled at times to run the team smoothly. If things change for the better, this may be the best team Scott Drew has had at Baylor.
Strength: Winning tradition
Since Bill Self arrived in Lawrence, it didn't matter who he put on the court because the Jayhawks were going to win and win big. Seven straight Big 12 championships and a national title in 2008 are proof of that. But in the last two seasons a lot of talent has left for the NBA and via graduation. There is a solid nucleus returning, with players capable of stepping into big roles. Junior forward Thomas Robinson should pick up where the Morris twins left off. And incoming 6-5 freshman Ben McLemore gives Self another elite-level athlete on the wing.
Concern: The maturity of Tyshawn Taylor
After starting as a freshman on the team that followed the Jayhawks' national championship squad, Taylor's last two seasons have been erratic at best, and he has found himself in Self's doghouse on more than one occasion. It's time for him to take ownership of this team and provide the type of leadership that players like Sherron Collins and Mario Chalmers did in the past. If he does, the Jayhawks will be in the hunt for another conference title.
The Irish, despite losing Big East Player of the Year Ben Hansbrough, return a very nice nucleus with balanced scoring. Tim Abromaitis and Carleton Scott -- who I believe will return to school -- have proved they can put the ball in the basket, Scott Martin became a nice jack-of-all-trades last season and sophomore point guard Eric Atkins played with rare maturity a year ago. He should take a major step forward next season.
Unlike in recent seasons, there is no transfer or true freshman ready to step in and have an immediate impact. But Mike Brey does have redshirt freshman Jerian Grant available, and he should be able to slide into Hansbrough's spot right away. The Irish coaching staff is excited about what it saw out of the former DeMatha product in practice every day. Notre Dame's ability to get other contributors to round out its depth will be critical to its success next season.