tampabay.com

Men's outlook

By BRIAN LANDMAN
Published November 13, 2005


5 FAVORITES FOR INDIANAPOLIS

1. DUKE: The Blue Devils have two of the top players in the nation, sharpshooter J.J. Redick and F/C Shelden Williams, a top-flight recruiting class, led by (F/C Josh McRoberts and G Greg Paulus) and Coach K.

2. TEXAS: Guard Daniel Gibson emerged as a freshman and should be better and welcomes back Fs LaMarcus Aldridge and P.J. Tucker, who had their season cut short by injury and academics, respectively, last year.

3. MICHIGAN STATE: The Spartans return four starters, including C Paul Davis and G Maurice Ager, and while they won't be as deep as last season's Final Four team, they will play defense and rebound.

4. KENTUCKY: Coach Tubby Smith might not have the sure-fire All-American, but G Rajon Rondo blossomed as a freshman, G Patrick Sparks can shoot and G Joe Crawford is gifted. The key will be if C Randolph Morris is eligible.

5. CONNECTICUT: Fs Josh Boone and Rudy Gay form a dynamic frontline and G/F Rashad Anderson (Lakeland Kathleen) can score. The season-long suspension of PG A.J. Price might be overcome once Marcus Williams returns in January.

5 CINDERELLAS

1. UCLA: The Bruins have four starters back, beginning with G Jordan Farmar, and that's not counting G/F Cedric Bozeman who sat out last year with an injury.

2. OHIO STATE: When we last saw the Buckeyes, they stunned then undefeated Illinois. Well, every key player in that game is back, including C Terence Dials. They're waiting word from the NCAA about possible sanctions that could bar them from the postseason.

3. GEORGETOWN: Hoya paranoia might just be back. Coach John Thompson III has all five starters back, including versatile Fs Brandon Bowman and Jeff Green and G Ashanti Cook.

4. IOWA: The Hawkeyes jelled late last season - perhaps saving coach Steve Alford's job - and now all five starters return, including senior F Greg Brunner and senior G Jeff Horner.

5. MEMPHIS: Do-everything G Darius Washington returns for his sophomore season and heralded F/G Shawne Williams didn't try to jump to the pros out of high school.

5 SUPER SENIORS

1. J.J. REDICK, G, DUKE: Redick rounded out his game last season to become more than just a 3-point specialist and was named the national player of the year. He could repeat.

2. SHELDEN WILLIAMS, F/C, DUKE: Williams is the kind of defensive player who changes the game. Oh yeah, he can play a little on the offensive end, too. Better depth should allow him to be even more aggressive.

3. DEE BROWN, PG, ILLINOIS: Brown, the Big Ten player of the year, was poised to jump to the NBA until a broken foot prompted him to pull out of the draft. He's back with something to prove.

4. TAQUAN DEAN, G, LOUISVILLE: Dean has the versatility, ability and personality to play either backcourt position. He can pass and score. Best of all, he is an in-your-face ballhawk.

5. HASSAN ADAMS, G/F, ARIZONA: Overshadowed last year by sharpshooter Salim Stoudamire and center Channing Frye, Adams' talent and tenacity is downright scary.

5 NEWCOMERS TO WATCH

1. JOSH McROBERTS, C/F, DUKE: McRoberts was one of the nation's top prep players, perhaps the top overall, and fills a desperately needed role the Blue Devils have been lacking.

2. TYLER HANSBROUGH, C/F, NORTH CAROLINA: Hansbrough is viewed right with McRoberts and his arrival is pivotal given the early defections of Sean May and Marvin Williams.

3. JULIAN WRIGHT, G/F, KANSAS: He can go inside and outside and will have to with the Jayhawks losing four starters, including the transfer of guard J.R. Giddens.

4. TERRENCE WILLIAMS, F, LOUISVILLE: The Cardinals lost do everything Francisco Garcia to the NBA, but look for Williams to pick up some of the slack, especially rebounding and creating.

5. UCHE ECHEFU, F, FLORIDA STATE: Echefu was considered by some the No. 2 rated low-post player and the Seminoles had to beat North Carolina for him. He won't make FSU an NCAA team this year, but he looks to be a building block.

5 COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT

1. JOHN CHANEY, TEMPLE: Maybe 724 wins can make folks forget ordering a player to deliberately injure an opponent. But if the Owls don't make the NCAAs this year, don't count on it.

2. QUIN SNYDER, MISSOURI: The once golden boy of college basketball must rediscover the golden touch. NCAA scandals and NIT berths don't breed coaching longevity.

3. ANDY KENNEDY, CINCINNATI: He has done nothing wrong except inherit the Bearcats after Bob Huggins was forced to resign in August. He's the interim coach, which might mean it'd be prudent to spruce up the resume.

4. MIKE DAVIS, INDIANA: When is this guy going to get a break? He plays a killer non-conference schedule and all he hears is that he doesn't win enough. Maybe Auburn transfers Marco Killingsworth and Lewis Monroe will lower the temperature.

5. DAVE DICKERSON, TULANE: Dickerson is in his first year, so his job isn't in jeopardy, but Hurricane Katrina has made his job of trying to rebuild a program that last made it to the NCAAs in 1995 much harder.

5 MUST-SEE EARLY GAMES

1. MARYLAND-GONZAGA, NOV. 21, MAUI INVITATIONAL (ESPN2): Lots of folks are picking the Zags to reach the Final Four. Well, let's see how much they miss Ronny Turiaf against a Top 25 club.

2. ILLINOIS AT NORTH CAROLINA, NOV. 29, ACC-BIG TEN CHALLENGE (ESPN): A rematch of last year's national championship game is intriguing. How well will Dee Brown lead a revamped Illini attack? How well will UNC's freshmen play?

3. MICHIGAN STATE VS. BOSTON COLLEGE, DEC. 6, JIMMY V. CLASSIC (ESPN): The Spartans are loaded and ACC newcomer B.C. looks to prove its mettle. A matchup between Paul Davis, who shed his "soft" image during the NCAA run, and B.C.'s Craig Smith will be worth the price of admission.

3. TEXAS VS. DUKE, EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., DEC. 10 (CH. 10): This could be a classic, not to mention a preview of the April 3 NCAA title game. That's my story, any way, and I'm sticking with it.

4. LOUISVILLE AT KENTUCKY, DEC. 17 (CH. 10): Even without the subplot involving Rick Pitino, this is one of the most entertaining, most emotional non-conference games.