Now that Maryland has celebrated its first national championship, it's time to look ahead to next season. Here's a first glance at my preseason 2002-03 Dazzling Dozen, plus the rest of my preseason top 25. Which teams will battle to be the toast of New Orleans (the site of next year's Final Four)? Of course, a lot could change as players decide to leave school early for the NBA. For now, here's a quick glance at the teams to watch:
The Jayhawks lose Jeff Boschee's jump shot, but as of now Drew Gooden is slated to return. With Nick Collison and Kirk Hinrich also back, Roy Williams has a team that can win it all. Aaron Miles, Wayne Simien and Keith Langford will be even better as super sophs.
The Wildcats have veterans galore, and that experience will be a plus. Arizona has inside/outside talent and the complete package. Jason Gardner and Luke Walton provide a dynamite 1-2 punch. Star recruit Hassan Adams should have an immediate impact.
Obviously the key is Caron Butler. Coming off a super-soph season, if he returns, the Huskies will be special. Coach Jim Calhoun welcomes back super sophs Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon. The Huskies should be a dominating team.
The Wildcats will bounce back with the potential return of Jason Parker to provide low-post power. Kentucky was really missing that last season. Having Keith Bogans back for a final season is a big plus. Look for him to have a big senior campaign.
It's bye-bye for Jason Williams and Carlos Boozer, but don't write off the Dukies yet. It's hello to Shavlik Randolph and a host of diaper dandies. Remember, the return of Mike Dunleavy, Chris Duhon, Dahntay Jones and Daniel Ewing gives Duke a wealth of winning experience.
Coach Kelvin Sampson's club will reload. This unit has great defensive ability and intense rebounding skills. Returning stars Hollis Price and Ebi Ere, among others, make this team dangerous.
Coach Ben Howland is smiling, as his Panthers return all five starters. With Brandin Knight at the controls, it should be a big year for the Panthers.
The Longhorns have a talented orchestra leader in T.J. Ford, who should be even better as a super soph. The maestro man has a talented cast returning for coach Rick Barnes.
The Hoosiers hope Jared Jeffries returns to lead the cast of coach Mike Davis. This team will be among the front-runners in the Big Ten.
Juan Dixon and Lonny Baxter are graduating, so look for Chris Wilcox and Steve Blake to hook up as an outstanding 1-2 combination. The addition of recruit Travis Garrison will be a big plus.
Kareem Rush is the key; if he returns to team up with Rickey Paulding and Arthur Johnson, coach Quin Snyder should have a much more consistent team than he had a season ago.
The Tide faded late this past season. Remember, this club won the SEC West regular-season title. Mo Williams should be even stronger as a sophomore. Erwin Dudley was an underrated force on the interior. Rod Grizzard will be a factor on the wing.
ROUNDING OUT THE TOP 25:
21. N.C. State
22. Michigan State
25. Texas Tech