Sunday, April 24, 2011

Tristan Thompson In The Draft; Barnes & Vandy Trio Out

Tristan Thompson of Texas is gone to the NBA Draft - This decision is a little surprising, but not a shocker. Thompson should go in the first round of the NBA Draft. This is a tough loss for Texas, though, because Thompson's shot blocking ability was the core of the defense that Pomeroy rated the second best in the entire nation in 2010-11. With Dogus Balbay (their best perimeter defender) graduating, that's going to put a lot more pressure on the Texas offense, which has always been inconsistent under Rick Barnes, particularly with the loss of Balbay. A lot of pressure will fall on 2011 recruit Myck Kabongo to immediately take over the point and run the offense. Texas fans will also keep an eye on Corey Joseph, who is exploring a possible leap to the NBA as well. I had picked Texas to win the Big 12 and to earn a 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but that assumed that both Thompson and Joseph returned. The loss of Thompson greatly improves the chances of Kansas taking the conference, and helps put Texas A&M and even Baylor into the Big 12 title hunt.

Harrison Barnes will return for his sophomore season - A month ago if you told me you thought Barnes was coming back I'd have thought you were nuts. But over the past few weeks it's become increasingly clear that Barnes was coming back, and he's now made it official. I had already anticipated this in my 2011-12 ACC preview, where I projected UNC as the ACC champion, and the #1 overall team in 2011-12. Unless something radically changes in the next six months, I expect UNC to be an overwhelming #1 when the preseason polls come out. Duke will likely be the only ACC team with a real shot to compete with UNC.

John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli all return - This wasn't surprising news, but it's great news for Vanderbilt nonetheless. Taylor and Jenkins were the team's two best scorers in 2010-11, and Ezeli was the team's best interior defender and rebounder in addition to being a decent scorer himself. With no seniors in the team's regular rotation, every important player will be back from a team that earned a 5 seed in the 2011 NCAA Tournament. Projecting the return of all three players I picked Vanderbilt to finish third in the SEC East, with a 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Despite picking them to finish third, I do think they'll be clearly improved, but I expect the top of the SEC East to be really good.

Both Kentucky and Florida are (in my opinion) going to be among the ten best teams in the nation next year. But if anybody can knock those two off it will be Vanderbilt. Certainly Vandy fans will be watching the NBA situations of Patric Young, and the three Kentucky players to explore their NBA options (Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones and DeAndre Liggins). Of all of those players, Young is the most important to his team. Florida is going to have a ridiculously good backcourt next year, but will become very, very thin in the front court without Young.

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