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Head Coach: Gary Williams
Preseason Rank: #24 AP, #21 Coaches Poll
Last Season: 19-13
Postseason: Lost in NIT semifinals
Key Players: SG Chris McCray (2004/05 = 14.1 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 3.2 APG, 46% FG, 32% 3PT, 90% FT); SF Nik Caner-Medley (2004/05 = 16.0 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 2.2 APG, 46% FG, 34% 3 PT, 77% FT)
2005/06 Outlook: After suffering an up and down season last year, not the least of which had to do with the constant distractions of now-departed PG John Gilchrist, the Terps appear primed for an excellent season and a return to the NCAA Tournament. McCray and Caner-Medley were Maryland's leading scorers last season, and both figure to be among the ACC's better players. Both guys can score from most anywhere on the floor. Caner-Medley is a menace on the baseline and shooting threes from the deep corners. McCray also happens to be one of the ACC's top perimeter defenders. Also key for the Terps are a pair of highly athletic and energetic juniors in forward Ekene Ibekwe and guard D.J. Strawberry. Both can really defend, and in Ibekwe's case, really rebound. One of Coach Williams' most highly recruited players in recent years, sophomore James Gist, appears ready for a breakout season in the post as Maryland's most skilled big man. Guard Mike Jones is Maryland's best pure long distance jump shooter, and senior forward Travis Garrison, who started much of last season, has a nice mid range jumper. Senior Sterling Ledbetter and juco transfer Parrish Brown figure to see a lot of action at the point guard position. Maryland is striving for more consistency this season. They lost to Clemson three times last season, but they also were able to beat Duke two times. The Terps look to improve upon their 43.9% FG shooting as a team last year, and tighten up their defense, which was last in the ACC a year ago (they allowed 76.8 PPG). Maryland is at its best when they play physical, and use their athleticism to clean up offensive rebounds and get into passing lanes to generate turnovers. There is a lot of athleticism on this team, and a lot of experience. With Gilchrist out of the picture, look for Coach Williams to finish in the top 4 of the ACC and get back to the NCAA tournament.
MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
Head Coach: Tom Izzo
Preseason Rank: #4 AP, #5 Coaches Poll
Last Season: 26-7
Postseason: Lost in NCAA semifinals
Key Players: SG Shannon Brown (2004/05 = 10.9 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.7 APG, 45% FG, 33% 3 PT, 85% FT); SF Maurice Ager (2004/05 = 14.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 1.8 APG, 48% FG, 40% 3 PT, 82% FT); C Paul Davis (2004/05 = 12.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.6 APG, 54% FG, 67% FT)
2005/06 Outlook: Many people felt that the Spartans underachieved during the regular season last year, but in typical Tom Izzo fashion, he brought his troops together at just the right time of year (March), and guided his team to yet another Final 4 appearance. While MSU did lose some valuable experience and leadership in forward Alan Anderson and wing Kelvin Torbert, most of the big time talent returns. Brown and Ager are ridiculously athletic wings who figure to cause match-up problems throughout the season for opponents on both ends of the floor. Ager is particularly deadly as he is an excellent long range shooter who can also drive towards the hoop and finish with authority in a blink of an eye. Brown is not quite as athletic as Ager, but he has more muscle mass, and is one of the best on ball defenders in the nation. After a couple of mediocre seasons, center Paul Davis finally lived up to his recruiting hype and delivered an amazing streak of performances in the NCAA Tournament: four straight double-doubles while battling the likes of Taylor Coppenrath, Shelden Williams, Randolph Morris and Sean May. Davis is highly skilled in and around the basket, and has grown as a leader. Sophomore point guard Drew Neitzel was also key to MSU's tournament success. Neitzel is an excellent ballhandler who keeps turnovers to a minimum, and who delivers the ball in just the right spot. There is some uncertainty as to who will handle the power forward slot this season, but MSU has a slew of forwards from senior Matt Trannon to junior Drew Naymick to high flying redshirt freshman Marquise Gray who can fill the role. Freshmen Travis Walton and Maurice Joseph figure to sub for Brown and Ager, but it is generally believed that both starting wings will be playing a lot more minutes per game than they did last season. MSU has a major chance to cut down the nets in Indy.
Head Coach: Stan Heath
Preseason Rank: None
Last Season: 18-12
Postseason: Declined NIT Invitation
Key Players: G Jonathan Modica (2004/05 = 9.6 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 52% FG, 43% 3PT, 58% FT); SG/SF Ronnie Brewer (2004/05 = 16.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 3.4 APG, 48% FG, 40% 3PT, 66% FT); F Darian Townes (2004/05 = 10.2 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 52% FG, 70% FT)
2005/06 Outlook: Since taking over the Razorbacks after his remarkable Elite 8 run at Kent State, Heath has steadily built the Arkansas program up to where it appears ready for a breakout season and a return to the NCAA Tournament. The key player in all of this is wing Ronnie Brewer, who, despite being a guy who NBA scouts can't wait to get their hands on, still seems to be underrated on a national level. Brewer is a stat sheet stuffer. There isn't anything that he can't do on both sides of the floor skill wise. That would be enough, but Brewer is also a high flying athlete. Townes is a legitimate low post scoring threat and superb shotblocker. Modica is Arkansas' best perimeter shooter. Sophomore big man Steven Hill is a 7 footer who can block shots and defend. Senior guard Eric Ferguson is a combo guard who passes well and who can also nail 3 pointers with high proficiency, while senior Dontrell Jefferson figures to see a lot of time at the point guard slot. The Razorbacks need to play better on the road than they did last year (especially in SEC play). They also still lack a true point guard. But Heath is an excellent coach who has one of the best players in the country on his side, as well as a load of returning experience that is highly athletic. Count on Arkansas to be a major player in the SEC this season.
Head Coach: Jim Calhoun
Preseason Rank: #3 AP, #2 Coaches Poll
Last Season: 23-8
Postseason: Lost in NCAA Second Round
Key Players: SG Denham Brown (2004/05 = 10.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.3 APG, 43% FG, 30% 3PT, 81% FT); SF Rudy Gay (2004/05 = 11.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 46% FG, 47% 3PT, 71% FT); PF/C Josh Boone (2004/05 = 12.4 PPG, 8.4 RPG, 1.2 APG, 2.9 BPG, 61% FG, 66% FT)
2005/06 Outlook: As most people know, UConn will be without their two main point guards in Maui. Junior Marcus Williams, who dished out 7.8 APG last season, is unavailable until the start of Big East play, and A.J. Price has been suspended for the season. Calhoun will have to go with a combination of two freshmen point men in Craig Austrie and Rob Garrison to start the year. If both guys can keep turnovers to a minimum and get the ball to UConn's key scorers, they should get by just fine for the time being. The Huskies have a ton of talent, and several players on their roster are wearing championship rings from two years ago. But their brightest star is sophomore wing Rudy Gay, who probably has more upside than any player in the nation. In addition to being a spectacular athlete and finisher, Gay has a really nice shooting stroke. He is a match-up nightmare. Junior big man Josh Boone is one of the absolute best low post defenders and rebounders in the nation. Senior Hilton Armstrong, who figures to tag team with Boone in the middle, is a nice athlete who had a fantastic offseason. Despite having off years shooting wise for the Huskies last season, senior guards Denham Brown and Rashad Anderson can really stroke it from the outside. Senior Ed Nelson and bulky freshman Jeff Adrien provide fortification to UConn's stellar starting frontcourt. There is no getting around the fact that Marcus Williams is a key component to this team, and his passing ability is central to UConn's hopes for a national title. The Huskies need Brown and Anderson to regain some of their shooting form, and Rudy Gay must become more aggressive on offense. If Gay can consistently bring it, Calhoun's bunch has as good of a chance as anyone to cut down the nets in Indy.
Head Coach: Lute Olson
Preseason Rank: #10 AP, #9 Coaches Poll
Last Season: 30-7
Postseason: Lost in NCAA Elite Eight
Key Players: PG Mustafa Shakur (2004/05 = 8.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 4.5 APG, 42% FG, 38% 3PT, 74% FT); SG/SF Hassan Adams (2004/05 = 12.7 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.8 APG, 49% FG, 30% 3PT, 71% FT); Ivan Radenovic (8.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, 46% FG, 34% 3PT, 71% FT)
2005/06 Outlook: Despite losing their two leading scorers to the NBA draft, Arizona has the deepest team it has had in quite some time, and has enough returning talent, and enough talented newcomers, to win the Pac 10. With Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire out of the picture, look for the Wildcats to develop more balanced scoring. Olson would love to see five players average double figures. Adams is Zona's leading returning scorer. Perhaps the best athlete in division one basketball, Adams is also relentless, plays hard all the time, and accumulates more "garbage" points than just about anyone. He has also greatly improved his defense and has bettered his shooting. Shakur, who spent much of last season setting up Stoudamire, will need to score more this season. He has blinding speed, and many feel he is poised for a breakout season. Senior guard Chris Rodgers is a fantastic, versatile defender. Junior forward Ivan Radenovic can score underneath and from the perimeter. The Wildcats have some issues at center, and it is unclear as to what kind of contribution they will get from either senior Isaiah Fox or junior Kirk Walters. As usual, Olson has brought in a group of talented freshmen. Marcus Williams and J.P. Prince figure to receive a lot of time. Williams is a wing with a smooth, silky shooting stroke, while Prince is a tall point guard who can see over defenses. It should be noted that guard Jawann McClellan, who figures to be a huge part of the Wildcat attack this year, is academically ineligible right now and won't be available until later in the season.
Head Coach: Bill Self
Preseason Rank: None
Last Season: 23-7
Postseason: Lost in NCAA First Round
Key Players: PG Mario Chalmers (25.3 PPG senior year in high school; McDonald's All American); G/F Julian Wright (14.0 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 6.0 APG senior year in high school; McDonald's All American); F Brandon Rush (21 PPG, 6 RPG, 5 APG senior year in high school; McDonald's All American)
2005/06 Outlook: There is no getting around the fact that Kansas lost three seniors who meant so much to the program in Aaron Miles, Keith Langford and Wayne Simien. KU lost a lot, but boy did they gain. Self's hard work on the recruiting trail netted him one of the best recruiting classes in recent memory. He also has a group of talented sophomores who didn't receive a lot of playing time last year due to the amount of experience on the team. While KU figures to be up and down at times this year due to all of the youth, they have so much talent that they are bound to be better than people think – especially when you factor in that the team is now primarily comprised of Self's own recruits. Chalmers was by far and away the best point guard available in the 2005 class, and Self nailed him. He scored 20 points in the McDonald's All American game. He passes and scores well, and possesses great leadership qualities. Wright can guard four positions, is ridiculously athletic, and is a superb passer as well. After a brief flirtation with the NBA draft, Rush arrived at KU as perhaps its most celebrated recruit. He is highly versatile, and has great ballhandling skills for a player his size. Micah Downs is another McDonald's All American who figures to be prominently featured. He is a talented scoring wing, and make buckets from all over the floor. Some of talented sophomores include two big men with nice upside in C.J. Giles and Sasha Kaun, plus guard Russell Robinson, who added a lot of muscle during the offseason. KU does have some upperclassmen, including senior forward Christian Moody and senior guard Jeff Hawkins, who figure to be factors in the KU attack this season, and who will also provide leadership for the youngsters.
Head Coach: Matt Mahar
Preseason Rank: None
Last Season: 16-11
Last Season's Maui Invitational: Lost to Texas 84-62; Lost to Louisville 93-63; Lost to BYU 77-56 Key Players: G Chris Reaves (2004/05 = 16.4 PPG, 48% FG, 41% 3PT, 33 pts. vs. Texas, 19 vs. Louisville); G Zack Whiting (2004/05 = 14.5 PPG, 47% FG, 41% 3 PT); G Corey Campbell (2004/05 = 11.3 PPG, 49% FG, 38% 3PT)