Preseason DAZZLING DOZEN | updated April 27, 2005
More from Vitale — Early '05-06 All-Solid Gold teams
Based on North Carolina's NBA defections, I'm making a change in my preseason Dazzling Dozen for 2005-06. At first, I had the Tar Heels ranked No. 5 but since then Rashad McCants, Sean May, Raymond Felton and Marvin Williams all declared for the draft. Also, I had Washington at No. 6, but point guard Nate Robinson has also declared. With Carolina and Washington out of the equation, Boston College (No. 11) and Syracuse (No. 12) join my Dozen.
After UConn cut down the nets last year, I picked North Carolina to win the 2005 national championship. Of course, in April it's a bit early to look ahead to next season, especially with all the players who leave school early and enter the draft. Plus, some guys declare but don't sign with an agent, meaning they have until June 21 to withdraw from the draft. With that in mind, this early look at my preseason Dazzling Dozen is still subject to change.
Yes, Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun is losing Charlie Villanueva to the NBA draft, but the Huskies are still loaded. Talented forward Rudy Gay will be a super soph. Big man Josh Boone will be a force up front. Point guard Marcus Williams was one of the most improved players in America this past season. Sharpshooter Rashad Anderson is expected to regain his full health. And the addition of recruit Andrew Bynum, the 7-foot center, will help. I feel that Calhoun will get national championship No. 3 in Indianapolis.
The inside-outside tandem of center Shelden Williams and guard J.J. Redick will return for coach Mike Krzyzewski. A solid recruiting class will offset the question of depth from this past season. Having Josh McRoberts, Greg Paulus, Jamal Boykin and Eric Boateng gives Coach K one of the premier classes in the nation, arguably the best. And don't forget, perimeter guys like Sean Dockery and Lee Melchionni also will help.
Coach Tubby Smith's team will return four starters, and with the year of experience together, they should be even stronger. The Wildcats just missed the Final Four this year, losing in double overtime in the Elite Eight. Point guard Rajon Rondo and big man Randolph Morris will return as super sophomores. Guard Patrick Sparks will return to provide senior leadership. And guard Joe Crawford will be back in an expanded role now that Kelenna Azubuike has opted to sign with an agent and enter the NBA draft. Even so, watch out! The fans of Big Blue in Lexington could be celebrating in Indianapolis at this time next year.
I can hear coach Jay Wright screaming at me not to pick his team so high! Guess what, the Wildcats have so much talent and experience that they will challenge for the national championship. Names such as Allan Ray, Randy Foye, Curtis Sumpter, Jason Fraser, Mike Nardi and Kyle Lowry make this club a legit contender.
5. Michigan State
Returning the likes of Maurice Ager, Paul Davis and Shannon Brown, the Spartans are contenders for another Final Four trip. Coach Tom Izzo has been to the Final Four four times in the past seven years.
Coach Kelvin Sampson expects big men Taj Gray and Kevin Bookout to return up front, plus Drew Lavender in the backcourt.
With forwards P.J. Tucker and LaMarcus Aldridge expected to return, the Longhorns will contend in the Big 12. Point guard Daniel Gibson will be one of the nation's premier super sophs.
Coach Rick Pitino has a super recruiting class coming in, and this ranking could be higher if talented forward Francisco Garcia passes on the NBA and returns to school.
Coach Steve Alford has his main weapons returning, including guards Jeff Horner and Adam Haluska and forward Greg Brunner.
John Calipari's team will be solid if Rodney Carney opts to return. Calipari has one of the premier recruiting classes in the nation, and no more Louisville or Cincinnati to worry about in Conference USA.
11. Boston College
Al Skinner's Eagles will make the transition from the Big East to the ACC next season, and they have a chance to make a big impact, especially with the departure of so many stars from the ACC to the NBA. Look for Craig Smith and co. to challenge Duke for the ACC crown.
Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim loses Big East player of the year Hakim Warrick to graduation, but look for Gerry McNamara and his 3-point shooting to provide a big spark for the 'Cuse. Plus, top recruit Eric Devendorf of Oak Hill Academy will make an impact. Trust me, Boeheim's Orange will find a way to be among the nation's best.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.