By Dennis Berry
As the calendar turns to August, it means we are getting closer to the start of college basketball season. It seems like a good time to predict who has a shot at the 2013 NCAA title.
Here is our list the top college basketball teams next year.
10. Duke Blue Devils
Sure Duke lost Austin Rivers to the NBA Draft, but Duke is always a contender for a national title. They could be even more dangerous with no real super star on the team. Seth Curry should become more of a scoring threat from the outside now. Inside, Mason Plumlee should be the Blue Devils' best inside scoring threat. Amile Jefferson is the best incoming freshmen next year. Mike Krzyzewski does some of his best work with a team like this.
9. UCLA Bruins
For UCLA Head Coach Ben Howland, this could be a make or break year. The success of this year's team lays with the incoming freshmen class. The key piece of that class is Shabazz Muhammad, the top ranked incoming freshmen next year. Other talented incoming freshmen include Kyle Anderson and Tony Parker. Another important addition will be transfer Larry Drew, after sitting out from transferring from North Carolina. There are plenty of high expectations for this team.
8. Michigan Wolverines
The reason that Michigan is on this list is the return of Trey Burke to Ann Arbor. Burke should be one of the best point guards in the country next year and will team in the backcourt with Tim Hardway Jr. In the post they return Jordan Morgan, who should give them an inside presence. Incoming freshmen Mitch McGary and Glen Robinson Jr should come in and help right away as well.
7. Kansas Jayhawks
Last year Kansas made it all the way to the NCAA Title game, losing to Kentucky. They lost their two best players to the NBA Draft - Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor - but return many key pieces from last year. Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford, and Jeff Withey are all back. The key will be if Withey can become as good an offensive presence as he is defensively. Incoming freshman Perry Ellis is probably the best of the 2012 class. Ben McLemore was hurt last year, but is ready to contribute this year.
6. Florida Gators
The Florida Gators have been to back-to-back Elite Eights. The one thing that has hurt them is their lack of team play in the final minutes. When the game got close, the backcourt liked to take over. With Erving Walker gone, will Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario be more willing to include their low post counterparts? With Erik Murphy and Patrick Young returning, they will have one of best front courts in the SEC.
5. NC State Wolfpack
Last year NC State made it to the Sweet 16 and this year could be even better for the Wolfpack. They return their four top scorers from last year - C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, and Richard Howell. They also add one of the best recruiting classes in the nation that includes Rodney Purvis and T.J. Warren. If the new players gel with the returning core, NC State could make major noise next March.
4. North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels lost a lot of talent from last year's Elite Eight team. Luckily for North Carolina, they do not have a problem getting talent to Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels' top returning player is James McAdoo, who should have a breakout season. Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston also return with McAdoo. Marcus Paige and J.P. Tokoto headline another Top 10 recruiting class.
3. Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky will enter the 2012-13 season as the defending national champions, but they are not the same team that celebrated in New Orleans. They lost all the key pieces from last year, with the only returning player being Kyle Wiltjer who should be more of a scoring threat this year. NC State transfer Ryan Harrow will take over the point guard duties. He will look to control another freshmen-heavy rotation headline by center Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress. Can John Calipari make another Final Four run with a brand new team?
2. Louisville Cardinals
Last year Louisville made a Final Four run despite key losses to injury. If they stay healthy this year, they should do it again. They return most of their key players from last year - Gorgui Dieng, Russ Smith, Chane Behanan, and Peyton Siva. A couple of transfers, Montrezl Harrell and Luke Hancock will be expected to contribute right away also. The expectations for this Louisville team might be the highest since Rick Pitino became head coach.
1. Indiana Hoosiers
The Hoosiers return everybody to Bloomington next year. They became instant favorites for the title next year when Cody Zeller and Christian Watford announced their decisions to stay in school. They will also bring in a Top 10 recruiting class, the best of that group being Kevin Farrell. The Hoosiers will be the deepest team in the country with their whole starting five returning and plenty of talent on the bench. It took Tom Crean a few years to get Indiana basketball back on the national scene. This year he will be expected to win their first title since 1987.
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