Men's national preview
St. Petersburg Times staff writer Brian Landman previews the men's season.
5 favorite teams to watch
5 favorite players to watch
1. Ed Davis
So., F, North Carolina. He didn't get the minutes to put up All-America numbers last season, but the NCAA Tournament finale provided a preview of coming attractions. He had 11 points and eight rebounds in just 14 minutes. You do the math when his playing time increases.
2. Cole Aldrich
Jr., C, Kansas. Many expected him to bolt for the NBA, but he had promised to return. Look for his impact and NBA stock to rise.
3. Damion James
Sr., G/F, Texas. He withdrew his name from the NBA and gives the Longhorns an established star. He was their top scorer in league games a year ago (though his 3-point shot needs work) and their top rebounder overall.
4. Greivis Vasquez
Sr., PG, Maryland. He can be dazzling and exasperating, although he decreased his turnovers last season. At 6-6, Vasquez can go for a triple double at any time.
5. Devin Ebanks
So., F, West Virginia. He was the Big East rookie of the year and exerted himself down the stretch, scoring 20 in an upset of Pittsburgh in the league tournament. If he continues that development arc, this will be his last collegiate season.
2. Michigan State
The Spartans were the feel-good story of last season's Final Four in economically suffering Detroit. But the partisan crowd isn't why they reached the title game. They're good. Junior PG Kalin Lucas was the Big Ten MVP, and senior F Raymar Morgan is a force if he can stay healthy.
The Wildcats lost three key players from the team that reached the Final Four. But they have a dazzling backcourt in senior Scottie Reynolds, junior Corey Fisher and junior Corey Stokes. Throw in sharpshooting sophomore G/F Taylor King, a transfer from Duke, and this team will score. A lot.
The Wildcats haven't been to the Final Four since 1998 and, oh my, didn't make the tournament last season. But hiring coach John Calipari has stoked expectations. It helps that F Patrick Patterson is back. It also helps that he landed a stellar class, including PG John Wall (who has "one-and-done" talent).
5. North Carolina
It would be easy to see the defending champ slide without Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. But forwards Ed Davis and Deon Thompson would have been stars on any other team. Freshman F John Henson (Sickles High) should be an impact player.
The Jayhawks return all five starters, including two of the nation's best at their positions — junior C Cole Aldrich and senior PG Sherron Collins — from a team that lost in the Sweet 16. Then coach Bill Self added a top-shelf recruiting class, led by G Xavier Henry, who has "one-and-done" written all over him.