CSTV.com Expert Men's Basketball Picks

Our experts pick the nation's Top 25 teams and award-winners heading into 2006-07



 
 

Oct. 9, 2006

 

School

Why They Can Win It All

Why They Won't Win It All

1. Florida

 

With all five starters returning from a national championship squad, Florida is the easy No. 1 pick. The Gators have the rare combination of talent and experience and are led by National Player of the Year candidate Joakim Noah, who bypassed NBA lottery riches for a chance to win another NCAA title. Until someone else proves otherwise, Florida's the team to beat. - Jason Owens

 

It's exceedingly difficult to return to the Final Four, let alone repeat as national champions. Not only that, but the Gators weren't the best team in the regular season last year before coming alive in the NCAA Tournament. It's now a new season. - Phil Kasiecki

2. North Carolina

 

There is probably not a team in the country with the talent and depth that the Tar Heels have. With their superb freshman class, the Tar Heels are two-deep at every position. The sophomores won a lot of games last year, as did the other upperclassmen, so this team isn't as green as they might appear on paper. - P.K.

 

 

Chemistry. While you won't catch many coaches complaining about having too much talent, Roy Williams will have a juggling act in working out a rotation. With the freshmen expected to step into starting roles, Williams will have to keep everybody focused on winning instead of playing time. - J.O.

3. Kansas

 

Bill Self will run an eight-or-nine-man rotation with the talent to match just about any opponent in the nation. Off guard Mario Chalmers, versatile swingman Julian Wright and Player of the Year candidate Brandon Rush are all a year older and wiser. Incoming freshman Darrell Arthur -- one of the nation's most heralded frontcourt recruits -- will replace the team's lone departed starter and provide much-needed inside muscle. - Bryan Graham

 

While loaded, the current core of the Jayhawks has yet to prove anything in the postseason. Self's teams have exited the last two NCAA Tournaments in the first round as No. 3 and No. 4 seeds. They'll have to hurdle whatever mental lapses they seen the last two seasons -- and hope they don't face Bradley or Bucknell again. - J.O.

4. Ohio State

 

Greg Oden. The freshman center is being touted as the single most powerful force in college basketball since Shaquille O'Neal and comes in as the most hyped prep player since LeBron James. He alone has the Buckeyes in contention. Luckily for OSU fans, the seven-footer is joined by fellow McDonald's All-Americans Mike Conley and Daequan Cook in the backcourt. - J.O.

 

Besides Carmelo Anthony with Syracuse a couple years ago, when was the last time a freshman carried a team to an NCAA title? - David Burrick

5. Pittsburgh

 

With Aaron Gray's return, the Panthers have their rock inside to go with almost every other key player returning. They have talented players who fit Jamie Dixon's system which thrives on physical basketball -- and they're a year older now. Newcomers Mike Cook, an East Carolina transfer who can score, and freshman Gilbert Brown will both contribute, although they'll take a back seat to the experienced veterans. - P.K.

 

 

Carl Krauser was the straw that stirred the drink for what seemed like a decade in the Steel City, leading the Panthers in scoring and assists last season. Without the tough-as-nails Gothamite, the Panthers don't have a battle-tested, full-time point guard who can score. In a game (and postseason tournament) where backcourt play is so critical, this looms as a huge question mark for coach Jamie Dixon. Someone will need to pick up the scoring slack. - B.G.

 

 

School

The Skinny

6. UCLA

The Bruins return seven of their top 10 players from last year's national runners-up

7. Georgetown

JT3's Hoyas came this close to knocking off Florida in the Sweet 16 last March

8. Duke

If a four-man recruiting class blooms ahead of schedule, Duke could rise to No. 1

9. LSU

A streamlined Glen "Big Baby" Davis has shed over 40 pounds since the Final Four

10. Arizona

Incoming frosh Chase Budinger is the most versatile first-year player in the nation

11. Wisconsin

Alando Tucker will give Greg Oden a run for his money in Big Ten POY voting

12. Alabama

Tide have the nation's premier floor general in do-everything PG Ronald Steele

13. Texas A&M

Is it possible that these same Aggies went 0-17 in the Big 12 just three years ago?

14. Boston College

BC won school-record 28 games in '06 but Craig Smith and Louis Hinnant are gone

15. Memphis

Next man up for the Tigers, whose talented frosh will succeed three departed studs

16. Connecticut

Hasheem Thabeet, a 7-3 freshman from Tanzania, could be league's Frosh of Year

17. Marquette

Sophomore point guard Dominic James is the Big East's leading returning scorer

18. Washington

Outgoing: All-American Brandon Roy; Incoming: Seven-footer Spencer Hawes

19. Syracuse

Melo Redux?: Paul Harris is the program's most anticipated recruit since Anthony

20. Texas

`Horns lost as much as any team in the nation but welcome Kevin Durant to Austin

21. Villanova

If Curtis Sumpter (ACL) can return to '04-05 form, `Cats could be ranked higher

22. Kentucky

Kentucky has missed last eight Final Fours, the longest drought in program history

23. Georgia Tech

A national semifinalist in '04, Tech out to prove that last year (11-17) was aberration

24. Gonzaga

Mustachioed marvel is gone but loss of underrated J.P. Batista will hurt just as much

25. Louisville

Injuries to Juan Palacios, David Padgett plagued `Ville in inaugural Big East season

 

Also Receiving Votes: Creighton, Xavier, Southern Illinois, Hofstra, Nevada, Illinois, Wichita State, Michigan State, Kansas State, Tennessee, DePaul, Virginia Tech, San Diego State

 

CSTV.com Preseason All-American Team

 

First Team

 

G     Ronald Steele, Alabama

G     Brandon Rush, Kansas

F      Glen Davis, LSU

F      Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina*

F      Joakim Noah, Florida*

 

Second Team

 

G     Arron Afflalo, UCLA

G     Richard Roby, Colorado

F      Josh McRoberts, Duke

F      Nick Fazekas, Nevada

C     Greg Oden, Ohio State

 

* - denotes unanimous selection

 

National Player of the Year: Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina

 

Most pundits left the Tar Heels for dead last preseason; after all, Carolina was losing the top seven scorers from its national championship team. But Hansbrough came of age in a hurry for Roy Williams, propelling the Heels into the Top 25 and leading the team to a 12-4 record in ACC play. The 6-foot-9, 245-pound native of Poplar Bluff, Mo., averaged 20.4 points and 7.6 boards in league games and was named conference Rookie of the Week an incredible 10 times -- matching an ACC record set by Georgia Tech's Kenny Anderson in 1989-90. The addition of McDonald's All-American Brandan Wright to the Carolina frontcourt should only open things up for Hansbrough, a throwback pivot man who compensates for his limited athleticism with a flawless command of the fundamentals and an extraordinary basketball IQ.

 

National Newcomer of the Year: Greg Oden, Ohio State

 

What more can you say about Greg Oden, the Herculean center who might have been the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft following his junior season at Lawrence North High in Indianapolis. Oden, who has drawn comparisons to collegiate greats like Alcindor, Sampson and Olajuwon, is that rare type of player whose mere presence can change a game -- whose imposing 7-foot-1, 250-pound frame will alter far more shots than he actually gets a hand on. Oden hurt his wrist in June and his return date will remain one of the hot topics of debate throughout the first half of the season. But when the Buckeyes get this NBA-ready stud back for Big Ten play and the NCAAs, Thad Matta's already-stacked club will become an even tougher out.