ACC and Big 12
Let’s bounce around the college hoops landscape and look at some potential surprise teams in 2010-11. Today, I’ll focus on the ACC and Big 12. Tomorrow, we’ll hit the SEC and Big East.
The Hurricanes were an early season surprise last year, jumping out of the gate with a 15–1 record. But they stumbled in league play, finishing in last place with a 4–12 mark in the ACC. Things should be different — as in better — for Frank Haith’s club in 2010-11. The backcourt is strong, with emerging star Durand Scott and former Villanova transfer Malcolm Grant. A key to the frontcourt will be sophomore center Reggie Johnson, who averaged 13.7 points and 8.0 rebounds in three ACC Tournament games. The Canes would love to get that type of production from Johnson on a consistent basis. Another key will be junior DeQuan Jones, who has been a big disappointment in his two years in Coral Gables. Haith needs more than 5.7 points per game from his former top-50 recruit.
Miami was the last team left out of the Field of 68 in Athlon Sports preseason college basketball magazine, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see this team back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.
Colorado has been one of the worst Big Six conference teams over the past few decades, but the ’10-11 Buffaloes have the talent to make a move in the Big 12. Tad Boyle, in his first season at CU after four years at Northern Colorado, inherits a roster that boasts two of the top 10 players in the league. Senior Cory Higgins is a big-time scorer (18.9 ppg) who shoots well from all over the court (.505 from the field) and gets to the line with regularity. Sophomore Alec Burks, a 6-6 swingman, was one of the surprise freshmen in college basketball last season. The lightly recruited Missouri native averaged 17.1 points and 5.0 rebounds in his first season and is poised for bigger things in his second tour through the Big 12.
Kansas, Kansas State, Baylor, Missouri and Texas are the top five teams in the Big 12. After that, it’s wide open. We have Colorado in sixth — edging out Oklahoma State and Texas A&M — and predicted the first NCAA Tournament berth for the Buffs since 2003.