2004 / 2005 NCAA College Basketball Preview
PG – Chris Paul, Wake Forest – The Super Soph will lead the Deamon Deacons as far as he can take him. If he is able to build on his wonderful freshman season, the sky could be the limit for both Paul and the Deamon Deacons. Paul, who once scored his deceased grandfathers age in points in high school the day after he died, is one of the best shooters in the country and is automatic from the charity stripe.
SG – JJ Redick, Duke – Will JJ ever graduate? This sweet shooting Dukie is as money as they come from the perimeter in college basketball. He is underrated defensively, and would be a player of the year candidate if he was better off the dribble. It could be a tough year for Duke in a stacked ACC, but Redick will give his all every time out, and that should be enough to keep Duke formidable this season. They’ll need his leadership throughout the ACC schedule.
SF – Julius Hodge, NC State – The best returning player in the country in my humble opinion. Hodge is the type of slashing playmaker that makes NBA scouts drool. He can score from anywhere on the court. He’ll lead NC State to a high finish in the ACC and deep into the NCAA tournament. He’s had problems with ankle injuries and will need to stay healthy this season. If he is able to keep his health, it will be fun to watch him dismantle defenses designed specifically to stop him this season.
PF – Wayne Simien, Kansas – The Jayhawk tough guy is simply an all around great player. You’ll not find a big man with better post moves anywhere in the country. He gets to the foul line and converts and also is a tremendous rebounder and defender. He will make an NBA franchise very happy next June.
C – Hakim Warrick, Syracuse – High Wire Act is the best way to describe Warrick. The Cuse will be very formidable again this season with Warrick and McNamara returning. Provided Warrick stays healthy, he will put up sickening numbers and multiple double doubles this season. I love his thunderous dunks which have the ability to completely change the course of a basketball game.
2003-04 record: 19-11 (8-8, tied for 5th in ACC)
2003-04 postseason result: Lost to Texas, 2nd round, NCAA
Key players returning: Rashad McCants, Raymond Felton, Sean May, Jackie Manuel, Jawad Williams
Key players lost: None
This could be the season that North Carolina returns to all of its former glory. This roster is stacked with talent but Roy Williams had a difficult time with some of the personalities, i.e. Rashad McCants, one year ago. That should not happen again in his second season. Look for the Tar Heels to get very deep into the tournament and battle it out with Wake for the ACC title.
2003-04 record: 27-5 (13-3, 1st in SEC East)
2003-04 postseason result: Lost to UAB, 2nd round, NCAA
Key players returning: Chuck Hayes, Kelenna Azubuike
Key players lost: Cliff Hawkins, Gerald Fitch, Erik Daniels, Antwain Barbour
Maybe a fringe pick for then top eight. UK will need their newcomers to be big time performers for them to be there in late March, but Randolph Morris and Joe Crawford should be big time players as freshman. Kentucky should once again win the SEC and get deep into the NCAA tournament. Chuck Hayes could be a household name down South by the end of this season.
2003-04 record: 24-9 (12-4, tied for 2nd in BIG 12)
2003-04 postseason result: Lost to Georgia Tech, Elite Eight, NCAA
Key players returning: Wayne Simien, Keith Langford, Aaron Miles, J.R. Giddens
Key players lost: David Padgett (transferred), Jeff Graves
Rock Jock huh? This team is simply loaded with Simien, Langford and Miles all returning. The Jayhawks will run away wit the Big 12 title, but will they fold once again in the tournament? Simien reminds a lot of Danny Manning, so maybe this will be the year that Kansas gets it done once again.
2003-04 record: 28-10 (9-7, tied for 3rd in ACC)
2003-04 postseason result: Lost to Connecticut in national championship
Key players returning: B.J. Elder, Jarrett Jack, Luke Schenscher, Will Bynum, Isma’il Muhammad, Anthony McHenry
Key players lost: Marvin Lewis, Clarence Moore
Last year’s runner up will have another great season. BJ Elder, when healthy is one of the best players in the country. Schenscher and Jack make this a formidable club that will once again contend in the ACC and Nationally.
2003-04 record: 23-8 (11-5, tied for 3rd in Big East)
2003-04 postseason result: Lost to Alabama, Sweet 16, NCAA
Key players returning: Hakim Warrick, Gerry McNamara, Josh Pace, Craig Forth, Demetris Nichols, Louie McCroskey, Terrence Roberts, Darryl Watkins
Key players lost: Jeremy McNeil
McNamara and Warrick will make this another exciting season in upstate New York. The return of point guard Billy Edelin will be a hige boost and should allow McNamara more room on the perimeter. This team will be very difficult for opponents to defend. The Orangeman should be a Final Four team next March.
2003-04 record: 21-10 (9-7, tied for 3rd in ACC)
2003-04 postseason result: Lost to St. Joseph’s, Sweet 16, NCAA
Key players returning: Chris Paul, Justin Gray, Eric Williams, Taron Downey, Jamaal Levy, Vytas Danelius, Trent Strickland, Kyle Visser
Key players lost: None
Newcomers of note: Cameron Stanley
Chris Paul and Justin Gray form what may be the best backcourt outside of Tuscon. My only concern about the Deamon Deacons is how much they rely on the three pointer. They’ll need to diversify their offense from one year ago or they’ll meet the same fate come tournament time.
2003-04 record: 20-10 (11-7, 3rd in Pac-10)
2003-04 postseason result: Lost to Seton Hall, 1st round, NCAA
Key players returning: Mustafa Shakur, Channing Frye, Hassan Adams, Salim Stoudamire, Chris Rodgers, Isaiah Fox, Ivan Radenovic
Key players lost: Andre Iguodala
The Wildcats are loaded once again this season. They did not live up to expectations one year ago because they refused to play defense from the get-go. Isiah Fox is back from injury and the backcourt is, simply put, the most talented in the land. If Olson can get this team to commit on the defensive end of the basketball court, the Wildcats will be cutting down the nets in April.
2003-04 record: 18-12 (12-4, tied for 2nd in Big Ten)
2003-04 postseason result: Lost to Nevada, 1st round, NCAA
Key players returning: Paul Davis, Chris Hill, Alan Anderson, Kelvin Torbert, Maurice Ager, Shannon Brown, Delco Rowley
Key players lost: Jason Andreas
Izzo’s team struggled last season through some growing pains. The nice part about having a young team is that they come back the following season. Chris Hill can fill it up from three-point land, and Paul Davis is a tough customer down low. I’ll be watching the Michigan / Michigan State games this season. We look for the Spartans to win the Big Ten and step back into National prominence this season.
One of only two big school teams in my surprise category, Michigan stormed to the NIT title one year ago and returns their corps in tact. Daniel Horton is as good a PG as there is in the Big Ten, and Dion Harris will give teams fits down low. Head Coach Tommy Ammaker finally has the troops to get the Wolverines back in the tournament where they belong.
The Minutemen return all five starters from a team that stuggled somewhat last season. Leading the way for UMASS is Rashaun Freeman, the 2003-2004 A-10 Rookie of the Year. Look for the Minutemen to take the A-10 by storm this season. Other players of note are PG Anthony Anderson and sophomore Lawrence Carrier. The door appears open for the Minutemen to step back onto the tournament stage.
Iowa State Cyclones
This team was on the cusp in the Big 12 last season and this will be the year they return to prominence in hoops. Curtis Stinson is a stud and I still wonder how he ended up in Ames from New York City. Jared Horman is very tough down low as well, while Will Blalock is one of the better point guards in the Big 12. Iowa State should surprise in what looks like a down Big 12 beyond Kansas. Look for ISU to get back into the NCAA tourney this season, and make a run at the top three positions in the Big 12. They need to play better on the road this season which should happen due to their experience.
Many of us fell in love with the Bulls last season as they roared to the finish line, falling up just short in their conference tournament. Most of their team returns in tact this season led by PG Turner Battle, and C Mark Bortz. Bottom line is that the Bulls could win the MAC this season which would be a major coup for a team that was a perennial doormat two short seasons ago.
Wichita State Shockers
WSU had another great year last year winning 21 games, but they fell short of the NCAA tournament. This team returns four starters from that team led by guard Randy Burns and senior 6′-5″ Jamar Howard. I see the Shockers shocking the Salukis of Southern Illinois and taking the Missouri Valley title this season and heading to the Big Dance.