- John Gasaway, ESPN Insider
Now that the 2011-12 season is in the books and the Kentucky Wildcats have been crowned as the national champion, it's time to look ahead. In fact, I'm already late to this party. They were still sweeping confetti off the floor of the Superdome when we here at ESPN released the first Top 25 for 2012-13, one that pegged the Indiana Hoosiers as the nation's top team. I may have a question or two about that Top 25 (are the Hoosiers really going to make a big enough improvement on D to be the best team in the country?) but there will be plenty of time to consider those questions between now and November.
Instead, what I want to do today is take a closer look at two teams that did not make the NCAA tournament this season. Anything written in April about an upcoming season should be taken with a grain of salt, granted. But right now I think Arizona and Tennessee will go from also-rans to tournament-worthy next year.
Let's consider the forecast for each of these programs. To do so, I'll be using my trusty metric, returning possession-minutes (RPMs), which accounts for not only how much experience a team returns from one year to the next but also how large a role those returning players had in their team's offense.
RPMs: 60 percent
The Wildcats were one possession away from getting into this year's tournament, as they fell to Colorado in the Pac-12 tournament title game 53-51. The good news it's unlikely that coach Sean Miller's team will need the auto bid in 2013.
Miller will lose Kyle Fogg, Jesse Perry and Brendon Lavender from this year's roster, but Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Angelo Chol will be back. Those veterans will be joined by a recruiting class that is currently ranked by ESPN as the nation's best. The headliners are McDonald's All-American power forwards Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley, ranked ninth and 10th in the nation, respectively, among all prospects. Also entering the fray are 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski (No. 5 in the nation) and 6-2 shooting guard Gabe York (No. 36).
After missing out on the NCAA tournament this season, the Arizona Wildcats and Tennessee Volunteers should expect next year to be different. ESPN Insider John Gasaway writes that they will be part of March Madness in 2013.