Let's check in on last season's Final Four teams. What's the 2003-04 outlook for Marquette, Texas, Kansas and defending national champion Syracuse? Let's take a look...
Look for another big year from the Orangemen as they seek to defend their national title. It helps that Syracuse has only one game away from home prior to Jan. 12. They won't take many early losses, baby!
When you talk to coach Jimmy Boeheim, there's a smile on his face, because he has lots of talent. Yes, the departure (to the NBA) of Carmelo Anthony -- last season's consensus freshman of the year -- leaves a major hole to fill. But with the experienced players returning, plus a host of new players coming in, this will be a big year!
Shooting guard Gerry McNamara can flat-out stroke the J. And look for greater things from point guard Billy Edelin. These two super sophomores, along with junior forward Hakim Warrick, will lead the 'Cuse. Even without Anthony, this team will be dangerous.
The leadership has changed, with longtime coach Roy Williams departing for North Carolina. Mr. Williams didn't leave the cupboard bare.
New coach Bill Self inherits a diaper dandy class that ranks with the nation's best. The Jayhawks also have outstanding returning talent and one of the top 1-2 scoring combinations in college basketball: junior forward Wayne Simien and junior guard Keith Langford. Then, add the winning experience of junior point guard Aaron Miles in the backcourt -- and this is one of the premier teams in America.
It will be another big year for "Rock, Chalk, Jayhawk" fans. Kansas could end up in the Final Four once again.
Down at Texas, there were tears over the departure of the maestro man, point guard T.J. Ford (the near-consensus national player of the year). Ford left for the NBA after his junior year.
Don't cry too much for the Longhorns. Believe me, this club is deep -- with size, talent and strong coaching from Rick Barnes. With strong senior leadership, Texas will be a threat all season long.
The power game inside, led by senior center James Thomas, should be special. Senior guard Brandon Mouton has great shooting range, and senior point guard Royal Ivey is a defensive dynamo.
Barnes will have this team in contention in the Big 12.
The farewell of Dwyane Wade -- who left after his All-American junior year for the NBA -- hurts big-time. He was a special player who made big plays late in the game.
Marquette has a winning mentality, and this team works as hard in practice as anyone in America. The Golden Eagles have a great combination in junior point guard Travis Diener, a great leader on the floor, and sophomore forward Steve Novak, one of the nation's best long-range shooters.
Coach Tom Crean knows how to develop chemistry. This program will be heard from again this season.