Wichita State Shockers

12 College Basketball Sophomores on the Spot for 2013-14

Michigan, Louisville and others need these role players to take the next step
Michigan, Louisville and others need these role players to take the next step

In mid-March, Mitch McGary and Montrezl Harrell were a pair of freshmen still working through their rookie seasons.

By April 8, they were key big men in the national championship game.

The fortunes for McGary and Harrell took abrupt turns once tournament season began, raising the bar for their sophomore years. In 2013-14, Michigan and Louisville will expect more of what McGary and Harrell delivered during the postseason. The breakout last year will need to become the norm starting in November.

2013-14 College Basketball Conference Snapshot: MWC, MVC, A-10 and more

The key mid-majors to watch for 2013-14
<p> The key mid-majors to watch for 2013-14.</p>

After Florida Gulf Coast reached the Sweet 16 and Wichita State reached the Final Four, teams outside of the college basketball power structure are starting to reach even footing. At least on the court.

Beyond the major surprises in the NCAA Tournament, this is an interesting time for mid-major programs. The Mountain West showed surprising depth last season, a trend that should continue as the league expands. Even though Creighton left the Missouri Valley and Temple, Xavier and Butler left the Atlantic 10, there’s plenty to watch in both leagues.

Revised College Basketball Early Top 25 for 2013-14

NBA Draft's Early Entry Deadline shuffles teams in our look at next season
<p> NBA Draft's Early Entry Deadline shuffles teams in our look at next season</p>

The NBA’s early entry draft deadline has come and gone, creating enough movement to make us re-evaluate our early rankings for 2013-14.

Chief among them, we re-visited Oklahoma State after the Cowboys returned point guard Marcus Smart. Originally, we did not rank Oklahoma State under the assumption Smart, projected to be a top-three pick, would leave for the draft. His return makes Oklahoma State the early Big 12 favorite.

Picking 12 Winners in the 2013 NCAA Tournament

The Week of Pitino, the rising stock of McGary and more highlighted this year's March Madness
<p> The Week of Pitino, the rising stock of McGary and more highlighted this year's March Madness</p>

Only one true winner will be happy at the end of the NCAA Tournament, so the cliche goes.

That much may be true. All but one locker room at the end of the tournament will have its share of sad faces and tears.

Questionable call aids Louisville win over Wichita State

Officials called a held ball for one of the defining moments in the Final Four
<p> Officials called a held ball for one of the defining moments in the Final Four</p>

Louisville had overcome a 12-point deficit against Wichita State, but a questionable call in the final 10 seconds helped seal the Cardinals' win in the Final Four and a trip to the national title game.

Luke Hancock, who was one of Louisville's heroes with 20 points, missed a free throw with 8.8 seconds left. Wichita State's Ron Baker grabbed the rebound, and Hancock clutched for the ball. After the two players wrestled for the ball, Baker passed to teammate Malcolm Armstead.

Final Four Preview: Louisville vs. Wichita State

How each team can win and key players for the Cardinals and Shockers
<p> How each team can win and key players for the Cardinals and Shockers</p>

Louisville and Wichita State endured gut-checks in the form of three-game losing streaks earlier this season. Until the Final Four, that’s one of the few things the Cardinals and Shockers have had in common.

Ranking the Top 15 players in the Final Four

Louisville has the top team, but Michigan's Trey Burke takes the top spot
<p> Louisville has the top team, but Michigan's Trey Burke takes the top spot</p>

The cast of characters in this year’s Final Four covers a wide range of careers and personalities, and pretty much all are at the top of their games.

NCAA Tournament: How the Final Four teams were built

Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse and Wichita State took different paths to building winners
<p> Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse and Wichita State took different paths to building winners</p>

Being a Missouri Valley team and a No. 9 seed isn't the only way Wichita State is an outlier in the Final Four. Gregg Marshall’s roster is an anomaly in this year's national semifinals.

Unlike the the other three Final Four teams, Wichita State leaned on transfers -- from junior college and Division I -- and grizzled veterans to reach the final weekend of the basketball season.

10 Amazing Stats Leading into the Final Four

Key numbers for Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse and Wichita State as they head to the Final Four
<p> Key numbers for Louisville, Michigan, Syracuse and Wichita State as they head to the Final Four</p>

The field is set for the 2013 Final Four, and three quarters of it managed to surprise us.

Michigan and Syracuse struggled near the end of the regular season, but the Wolverines’ freshmen and the Orange’s defense carried the way to the national semifinals. And Wichita State couldn’t overtake Missouri Valley champion Creighton during the regular season, but took over its region.

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