This year, the NCAA tournament was special and was nothing short of amazing. From heartbreakers, thrillers, dances and game-winners, this tournament had it all. You have to give props to what Kevin Ollie and UConn accomplished after a year removed from participating in any kind of postseason, beating Kentucky for the national championship.
While UConn has barely had a chance to soak in their championship run, it is never too early to predict some teams who have the best chance of winning next season in Indianapolis.
Honorable Mention: Wisconsin, Michigan and Kentucky
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5. UConn Huskies
After winning four championships since 1999, there is no way you count the Huskies out in any given season. They always find a way to win, no matter the circumstances. The current champs were special and was a team that faced adversity–through loyalty, they persevered and beat the odds. Shabazz Napier was the heart of this team and carried them the whole season and he will be missed, but the Huskies will a tougher and stacked team next year. With Ryan Boatright returning for his senior year, the possibility of DeAndre Daniels returning and an abundance of newcomers, the Huskies should not miss a beat.
North Carolina State transfer Rodney Purvis will be ready to take the keys from Napier after he sat out this year due to NCAA transfer rules and is an incredible scorer who will be a major contributor from day one for the Huskies. UConn also brings in an impressive recruiting class led by Daniel Hamilton from Los Angeles. Hamilton is the younger brother of NBA player Jordan Hamilton and he may end up being better. UConn also has signed Sam Cassell Jr.
While Shabazz Napier’s departure hurts a bit, the Huskies still have enough talent to shock the world yet again. Who knows… maybe it is Boatright’s turn to go on a Kemba-esque run.
4. North Carolina Tar Heels
This season was definitely a learning curve for the Tar Heels with so many young players. They could not just find a constant rhythm. They suffered from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde symptoms with playing strong against some of the best teams in college basketball and falling short to some low-tier teams.
Next year there is a lot of hope for the Tar Heels as they will return a lot of their key pieces, despite the departure of James Michael McAdoo and Leslie McDonald. Marcus Paige will have a great junior campaign and showed this season a glimpse of the potential player he can be for Roy Williams. Also returning are athletic wings Brice Johnson and J.P. Tokoto, who will improve over the summer. The Tar Heels also bring in an incredible recruiting class with Theo Pinson, Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson, who should make immediate impacts the first day they step foot in Chapel Hill.
3. Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcats are going to look scary if somehow everybody returns from their current team, along with a great recruiting class. The wait is on the decisions of Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson but even if they both leave, the Wildcats still have a great chance of winning it all due to having a deep roster with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (may leave too), T.J. McConnell, Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, Gabe York and newcomer Stanley Johnson. Johnson, from Mater Dei, is a beast and is going to start from day one when he lands in Tucson. The Wildcats are too talented to not make a Final Four run next year with a team as deep as this one could be.
2. Kansas Jayhawks
Andrew Wiggins has already declared for the draft, but if Joel Embiid returns with Wayne Selden already announcing he is returning, the Jayhawks will be an impressive team to watch next season. Embiid is a once-a-decade type of big man that has tremendous skills on both sides of the floor and if he stays another year to improve and get stronger, he is going to be scary down the line.
Selden struggled this season trying to find his role in the Jayhawks offensive playbook but showed towards the end that he can be a special player in the future. Perry Ellis was impressive and was leaned on heavily when Embiid went down with his back injury during the season, and should anchor the frontcourt next season. The Jayhawks also return Brannen Greene, Naadir Tharpe, Frank Mason and Conner Frankamp to provide a lot of depth.
They also are bringing in two impressive recruits in Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre. Alexander looked like a grown man in high school and had his way with anybody on the court. Imagining him and Embiid together will be close to unstoppable. Oubre will take the reign from Wiggins, which will be a huge hole to fill but he does bring a lot of toughness and confidence you will like to see in a young wing prospect. They are also in the running for unsigned big man Myles Turner, who may slide right into Embiid’s spot just in case he leaves. The future looks bright for Bill Self and the Jayhawks.
1. Duke Blue Devils
My bet is for the Blue Devils to cut the nets next year if Jabari Parker somehow pulls a Marcus Smart in the next coming days and returns to Durham. At his age, Jabari Parker is one of the most talented and skillful basketball players that I have seen in a long time. He just has some skills you cannot teach and his footwork is already elite and better than the majority of NBA players.
With Parker, the Blue Devils will be one of the most talented teams next year with the addition of high school player of the year, Jahlil Okafor. Okafor is a mature big man that has a great skill-set and a motor to run the floor. He will be one of the pieces that Duke was missing this season, in which they got killed in the paint with their lack of height.
The Blue Devils also are bringing back Rasheed Sulaimon, Quinn Cook and Amile Jefferson to boost their lineup. Their recruiting class, led by Okafor, is the best in the nation. Tyus Jones is one of the purest guards to come out of high school in a long time and has gotten a lot of comparisons to CP3. Jones and Okafor are best friends and are a match made in Heaven for Coach K, in which he will not have to worry about chemistry from the start.
The Blue Devils have also signed athletic wing Justise Winslow and the next great future Dukie that everyone is going to hate in Grayson Allen, who can do it all on both sides of the ball. Duke is stacked next season–their only problem might be having TOO many good players. As a guy that coached and led a group of the best NBA stars to an Olympic gold medal, I am confident Krzyzewski will find minutes for all of these players. Count on Duke to win the 2015 national title.
Who do you think will win it all next year?
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