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|Glen Davis, 6-9 center (LSU)|
What's expected: Davis will still be leaned upon as the Tigers' go-to guy in the post and likely will be the team's leading scorer. There's no reason to believe he'll drop below the 18.6 points he averaged as a sophomore. He dropped weight this summer and is as nimble as ever on the court. Davis also will be the unofficial spokesperson for LSU and all things college basketball.
Headline games: The Tigers have a slew of them for Davis, notably matchups against Texas in Houston, Wichita State and Texas A&M (and Joseph Jones) in Baton Rouge and a road swing through the Northwest to Oregon State and Washington. There's also a home game against Connecticut the first week of January.
Jay Bilas' take: By March, Davis will be the most quoted player in the nation. With the spotlight of the Final Four and the SEC Player of the Year award, Davis will make Shaq look like the shy and retiring type. Davis, with his new sleek frame, will have put up his best numbers yet, and his physical strength and mobility will have produced his second straight All-SEC first-team selection.
|Aaron Gray, 7-0 center (Pitt)|
Headline games: Dixon got Gray plenty of chances to be on a national stage. Pitt plays UMass and Florida State in November, has road games at Auburn and Wisconsin, and then has a home date against Washington and Spencer Hawes during the rugged Big East season. The two matchups against Georgetown's Roy Hibbert may end up being must-watch hoops TV, too.
Jay Bilas' take: By March, Gray will be a far better player than he was a year earlier, and everyone will be second-guessing his decision to come back for his last season. But by then, Gray will have proven that draft status is just a minor piece to the overall puzzle. Gray will be more prepared for the NBA and will be better overall, and Pittsburgh will have its best chance to advance deep into the NCAA Tournament because of his return.
|Tyler Hansbrough, 6-9 forward (North Carolina)|
What's expected: To score -- and score a lot -- for the Tar Heels. Hansbrough averaged 18.9 points and 7.8 rebounds last season. The Tar Heels added tremendous freshman talent with lead guard Tywon Lawson, Wayne Ellington and big man Brandan Wright, as well as role players Alex Stepheson and Deon Thompson, and they also have one of the nation's underrated forwards in Reyshawn Terry. Still, the expectation will be for Hansbrough to fill it up. He'll be the go-to guy from the opening tip. Getting the ball away from him in the post will be a chore. He doesn't need to give it up because he can finish with the best in the game.
Headline games: Look for key matchups in the NIT Season Tip-Off against Indiana's D.J. White (not a lock for the teams to play, but possible) as well as meetings with Ohio State (likely sans Greg Oden, but don't rule it out just yet), Kentucky's Randolph Morris, Florida State's Al Thornton, Duke's Josh McRoberts and Boston College's Sean Williams.
Jay Bilas' take: By March, Hansbrough will have established himself as the hardest-working player in America, bar none. Springtime will bring new colors to Chapel Hill -- mostly the black and blue worn by Hansbrough's opponents. No player in his right mind wants to cover Hansbrough, because he simply will outwork and outbang you for 40 minutes. By NCAA Tournament time, we will be talking as much about his talent as his heart, because Hansbrough has very good talent. It is just overshadowed by his will.
|Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, 6-7 forward (UCLA)|
Headline games: Mbah a Moute will become even more of a household name after he breaks through in the Maui Invitational. He then gets a big-time matchup versus Texas A&M in Anaheim as well as a game against Michigan before high-profile Pac-10 games against Arizona and Washington.
Doug Gottlieb's take: Ask anyone who followed the Bruins last season: Mbah a Moute, not Lakers first-round pick Jordan Farmar, was the key to their success. With ball handling skills similar to those of the Florida Gators' frontcourt stars, Mbah a Moute contributes in myriad ways at the power forward spot, a position that has been a staple of coach Ben Howland's best teams at Northern Arizona, Pitt and now UCLA. Howland will expect an even bigger contribution from Mbah a Moute in the scoring column this year for the Bruins to make another run at the Final Four.
|Josh McRoberts, 6-10 forward (Duke)|
What's expected: McRoberts was named an All-ACC freshman and earned a spot on the All-ACC tournament second team last season. Not bad for the Blue Devils' third option. He shot 60.5 percent from the field, mostly on dunks, putbacks and a few other moves in the lane. He chipped in 8.7 points a game and was second on the team in blocked shots (46) and rebounding (5.3 rpg). All of these numbers will increase dramatically this season. Duke brought in plenty of help in Lance Thomas and Jon Scheyer, but the reality is McRoberts is in a position where he'll be featured. That's one of the reasons he returned. He'll have more of an impact on whether Duke is in title contention than any other player on the roster.
Headline games: McRoberts will go mano a mano against Indiana's D.J. White, Georgetown's Roy Hibbert and then, in the ACC, against North Carolina's Tyler Hansbrough and Boston College's Sean Williams. That's enough to gauge his value.
Fran Fraschilla's take: Most of Mike Krzyzewski's recruits don't use Duke as a quick weigh station to the NBA. That's why, despite enormous buzz to the contrary, it was no surprise that McRoberts chose to stay around for his sophomore season. Frankly, because of the presence of two first-team All-Americans -- J.J. Redick and Shelden Williams -- the 6-10 Indiana native was not much more than a solid role player a year ago. That will change this season; McRoberts must step up and play a much bigger role, offensively and defensively. The likelihood is that he will, and any expected Blue Devils drop off will be minimal because of that.
|Joakim Noah, 6-10 forward (Florida)|
What's expected: It's going to be hard to live up to the expectations, but he'll try. He's expected to lead the Gators in scoring once again, but after watching this crew last month, it's easy to see how teammate Al Horford could wind up as the team's leading scorer. Noah will still get a lot of his points in transition and on offensive putbacks, due to his activity around the basket.
More than anything, he's expected to be a leader and a go-to guy whenever the Gators need a bucket, but he's not a traditional setup man. He can score in a variety of ways, so don't expect a bunch of plays to be run for him. He'll find his way to the basket quite often on his own.
Headline games: Noah will have plenty of shots on the national stage, notably against Kansas in Las Vegas and Ohio State in Gainesville, prior to the SEC season.
Doug Gottlieb's take: How many times does the Final Four's most outstanding player and sure-fire lottery pick return to school and shun guaranteed millions? Miles Simon was the MOP, returned to school, and went in Round 2. Matt Leinhart won the Heisman trophy, returned to school, lost in the championship game and went 10th in the NFL draft after being the consensus No. 1 pick the year before.
With Noah, Horford and Corey Brewer all back, we could have a dynasty on our hands. Noah is the centerpiece of it all with ball-handling skills of a guard and the interior grit of a beast, but he may slip in the draft pecking order behind the likes of Greg Oden, Kevin Durant and possibly even his own teammate, Horford.
|Ronald Steele, 6-2 guard (Alabama)|
What's expected: Steele averaged 14.3 points and 4.3 assists last season. It's hard for a point guard to do much better than that in scoring, but he may have to. He teams up with Jermareo Davidson to form one of the top inside-out combos in the country, let alone the SEC. Expect Steele to be one of the league's better defenders, too, especially on the ball.
Headline games: The Tide play a few name teams that are rebuilding, like NC State, Oklahoma and Notre Dame, but they will get a great chance to make a name for themselves -- and for Steele -- in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, with possible games against Xavier, Villanova and Iowa.
Jay Bilas' take: By March, Steele will have established himself as one of the two best point guards in the nation. Alabama will be a title contender and Steele will finally be recognized for his great ability and his incredible toughness. While Marquette's Dominic James will give him a great run for the title of nation's best point guard, nobody will be tougher.
|Curtis Sumpter, 6-7 forward (Villanova)|
What's expected: Sumpter is expected to be the team's leading scorer, the go-to guy and certainly the glue guy for a team that is in transition but shouldn't drop out of the NCAA Tournament. He has help up front with Dante Cunningham, Will Sheridan and Shane Clark, but let's not kid ourselves here -- Sumpter is the one player who needs to perform for the Wildcats to have a chance to move ahead of the likes of UConn, Syracuse, Louisville and Marquette. He made a tough call in February to shut it down rather than just close out the season with his classmates. He made a selfless decision, the one that was best for the program.
Headline games: Sumpter will have plenty of interesting matchups, including a meeting with Durant and Texas before Big East play. Sumpter pushed his body hard to get back into playing shape. He'll have a major impact on Villanova and the Big East if he stays healthy.
Doug Gottlieb's take: There was a time, two years ago in fact, that Sumpter, a prototype NBA small forward, was Villanova's best pro prospect. Unfortunately for him, a highlight film that was littered with vicious dunks and smooth versatility was replaced by shots of him sitting in street clothes after back-to-back ACL injuries. With Randy Foye, Allan Ray and Kyle Lowry all now playing professionally, the Wildcats will look to resuscitate Sumpter's career and their own Final Four aspirations. Sumpter will progress slowly, because knee surgery usually takes away as much confidence as explosiveness, but his upside will get him into the draft's second round come June.
|Alando Tucker, 6-6 forward (Wisconsin)|
Tucker has the ability to fly for dunks on the break, hit the midrange jumper and get out in the passing lane as a strong defender. He'll also make news because he'll be the face of the Badgers; he's a charming fellow who doesn't hide from the media and will prove with his work ethic that he's hungry for a title.
What's expected: Tucker could have Devin Harris-like clout with the Badgers. He should be the player who gets the ball late in the game, as well as perhaps the first touch of any possession. He averaged 19.0 points last season, and that's a solid number to repeat considering the balance the Badgers possess on offense. His 3-point shooting -- 25 percent last season -- should improve since he's been putting in time on that shot over the summer. He's still not expected to be serious threat from beyond the arc, but it helps make him much more of a well-rounded scorer.
Headline games: Tucker gets a few headline shots when the Badgers likely play Oklahoma State in South Padre Island, Texas, as well as Florida State in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, at Marquette, versus Pitt and at Georgia, not to mention Big Ten tussles with Indiana and, of course, the Oden-led Ohio State Buckeyes by the time the teams meet twice after New Year's.
Fran Fraschilla's take: Tucker is a classic tweener forward. While some say he's too small to be a power forward and not skilled enough to be a small forward, I look at it another way: He's too strong for small forwards and too quick for big forwards, especially in the Badgers' swing offense.Bo Ryan's structured motion offense is ideal for Tucker because of his versatility. It allows him to put up player-of-the-year-type numbers. Joined by a bevy of returning veterans, Tucker has a chance to get Wisconsin to the Final Four if everything breaks right.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.