2011 Final Four College Basketball Preview

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Okay, there are approximately a billion things that could happen in college basketball between now and next year’s Final Four. The NBA draft has yet to occur, and we’re still in the dark about any early entries and recruiting maneuvers, but it’s never too early to start speculating. Here are my way-too-early picks for the 2011 Final Four.

1. Ohio State: Ohio lost Evan Turner, last year’s best player, to the NBA, but the Buckeyes still have more than enough talent to carry them far in the tournament. Upperclassmen Dallas Lauderdale, Jon Diebler, and David Lightly are among the returning starters who should only be better next year, and the incoming freshman Jared Sullinger brings fresh star power to the club. Some have their doubts about Sullinger’s capabilities, but head coach Thad Matta has not dropped the ball on any of his major prospects so far, and we shouldn’t expect him to start any time soon.

2. Kansas: Kansas is losing three of its star players, but they’re hoping incoming freshman Josh Selby can step up and take over where Sherron Collins left off. Plus, supporting Selby will be a solid roster of talented shooters and backcourt defenders, which should help Kansas down the stretch. They may be viewed as underdogs right now, but I predict that Kansas will do big thing sin the 2010/2011 season.

3. Butler: Butler has a star young coach in Brad Stevens whose past season showed what he can do if given the right talent. In 2011, he will have last year’s top-five player Gordon Hayward, plus two other strong talents in Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard. It’s not going to be easy to fill the departing Willie Veasley’s shoes, but there are several players on the team who have a great chance of stepping up and having a breakout season.

4. Duke: It may seem like an obvious pick, but if there’s one thing we have learned from history, it’s to never doubt the Blue Devils. They’re a shoo-in for the postseason, and players like Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, Seth Curry, Kyrie Irving, and Andre Dawkins promise to give Duke a great chance to go all the way. The depth of their talent alone is enough to make a strong argument in their favor. Expect Duke to dominate their conference and then to sail through the playoffs with potentially a new and exciting chapter in their great history.

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