All the confetti on the floor at the Georgia Dome hadn’t even been picked up yet Monday night when speculation about next year’s college basketball season began.
Will Kentucky go from the NIT to preseason No. 1? Can Louisville defend its title? How good can Arizona and Marquette be?
It’s too early to answer most of those questions since some top recruits haven’t chosen a school, transfer season is only beginning and we don’t know which NBA draft prospects are staying in school and which will leave. Nonetheless, based on my best guesses for who’s staying and who’s going, here’s a look at a very early top 10 for the 2013-14 season, along with 15 others worth watching.
8. OHIO STATE
Key losses: F Deshaun Thomas (Entering the NBA draft), F Evan Ravenel
Key returners: G Aaron Craft, F LaQuinton Ross, G Lenzelle Smith, F Sam Thompson, G Shannon Scott, F Amir Williams
Notable newcomers: G Kameron Williams, F Marc Loving
Why they’re too high: The knock on Ohio State for most of the season was that nobody besides Thomas scored consistently enough, so it’s only natural to wonder how the Buckeyes’ offense will fare with him NBA-bound. His 19.8 points per game and ability to bail out the Buckeyes with tough mid-range jump shots will not be easily replaced.
Why they’re too low: Thomas was far from a lock-down defender, so with Craft, Scott and Smith all back, Ohio State has a great chance to be elite defensively once again. And toward the end of the season, Craft, Thompson and Ross each scored more consistently, helping Ohio State go from a good team to a Final Four threat. If Ross can tap into his immense talent, build on his strong finish to this season and take on Thomas’ go-to role, the Buckeyes could be a Big Ten and national contender again next season.