It is early May, but it is already fun to speculate about next college basketball season, especially now that things have cleared up a little bit after the NBA's early-entry deadline Sunday night. With recruiting classes firmed up, as well, we have a good idea what rosters should look like going into the summer.
Going into the 2010-11 season, the expectation was that San Diego State and BYU would be very good in the Mountain West, but who thought they would captivate college basketball? We expected Baylor, off an Elite Eight run, to be a Final Four contender but the Bears underachieved. The rebuilding UConn Huskies were expected to be an afterthought and were selected 10th in the Big East preseason coaches' poll. When all was said and done, they stunned the college basketball world.
Expectations are already high this season for traditional powers like North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Ohio State. And, keep in mind that it's looking like the SEC will compete with the Big East as the country's deepest conference, with Vanderbilt and Florida likely ranked highly in the preseason.
Below are some teams that, on paper, have all the attributes of "breakout teams," including one low-major program, Harvard. The rest are dangerous enough, with some luck, to get to the Final Four.
Alabama Crimson Tide
It didn't take long for the Crimson Tide to buy into Anthony Grant's no-nonsense, defense-oriented approach. Year 2 was a success, just missing out on an NCAA bid and finishing the season in the NIT championship game. JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell -- one of the SEC's best 1-2 punches -- return, making this upcoming season a logical breakout campaign. After a slow start adjusting, 6-foot-1 now-sophomore Trevor Releford was playing as well at the end of the season as any freshman point guard in the country and is on the verge of stardom. And, as a bonus, 6-5 shooting guard Levi Randolph, the Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year, will fit into this lineup like a glove. He heads a solid recruiting class that will finally give Grant's roster depth.
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