Expert predictions for the new season

Updated: November 11, 2011, 4:35 PM ET
ESPN.com

Fifteen ESPN experts agreed to make their predictions concerning the 2011-12 season. They kindly ask that you do not reference this page in March (unless they're right, of course).

ESPN.com's Expert Picks
Stephen Bardo
ESPN analyst
Jay Bilas
ESPN analyst
Eamonn Brennan
ESPN.com writer
Fran Fraschilla
ESPN analyst
John Gasaway
ESPN Insider
ACC champ North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina
A-10 champ Xavier Xavier Xavier Xavier Temple
Big 12 champ Baylor Kansas Baylor Kansas Missouri
Big East champ Connecticut Syracuse Pittsburgh Connecticut Syracuse
Big Ten champ Ohio State Ohio State Ohio State Ohio State Ohio State
C-USA champ Memphis Memphis Memphis Memphis Memphis
MVC champ Creighton Creighton Wichita State Creighton Wichita State
MWC champ UNLV New Mexico UNLV New Mexico New Mexico
Pac-12 champ UCLA California Washington Washington California
SEC champ Kentucky Kentucky Kentucky Kentucky Kentucky
WCC champ Gonzaga Gonzaga Gonzaga Gonzaga Gonzaga
National POY Jared Sullinger, Ohio State Jared Sullinger, Ohio State Jared Sullinger, Ohio State Jared Sullinger, Ohio State Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
Sleeper team Iowa State Alabama Illinois Alabama Temple
Final Four North Carolina, UConn, Ohio State, Vanderbilt North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State, Syracuse North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State, Florida North Carolina, Kentucky, UConn, Louisville North Carolina, Kentucky, Cal, Florida
National title game North Carolina over Ohio State North Carolina over Kentucky North Carolina over Ohio State North Carolina over Louisville Florida over Kentucky

ESPN.com's Expert Picks
Doug Gottlieb
ESPN analyst
Andy Katz
ESPN.com writer
Jason King
ESPN.com writer
Diamond Leung
ESPN.com writer
Joe Lunardi
ESPN Bracketologist
ACC champ North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina
A-10 champ Xavier Xavier Xavier Xavier Xavier
Big 12 champ Baylor Baylor Baylor Baylor Kansas
Big East champ Pittsburgh Connecticut Connecticut Syracuse Syracuse
Big Ten champ Ohio State Ohio State Ohio State Ohio State Ohio State
C-USA champ Marshall Memphis Memphis Memphis Memphis
MVC champ Creighton Creighton Creighton Wichita State Creighton
MWC champ UNLV New Mexico New Mexico New Mexico UNLV
Pac-12 champ California UCLA UCLA California Arizona
SEC
champ
Florida Kentucky Kentucky Kentucky Kentucky
WCC
champ
BYU Gonzaga Gonzaga Gonzaga Gonzaga
National POY Jared Sullinger, Ohio State Jared Sullinger, Ohio State Terrence Jones, Kentucky Harrison Barnes, North Carolina Jared Sullinger,
Ohio State
Sleeper team Oral Roberts Detroit Iowa State Long Beach State Temple
Final Four North Carolina, Ohio State, UConn, Florida North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State, Xavier North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State, UConn North Carolina, Ohio State, UConn, Gonzaga North Carolina, Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Wisconsin
National title game UConn over North Carolina North Carolina over Kentucky North Carolina over UConn Ohio State over UConn Kentucky over North Carolina

ESPN.com's Expert Picks
Myron Medcalf
ESPN.com writer
Dana O'Neil
ESPN.com writer
Miles Simon
ESPN analyst
Dick Vitale
ESPN analyst
Jay Williams
ESPN analyst
ACC champ North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina North Carolina
A-10 champ Xavier Xavier Xavier Xavier Xavier
Big 12 champ Baylor Missouri Kansas Baylor Baylor
Big East champ Connecticut Syracuse Connecticut Connecticut Syracuse
Big Ten champ Ohio State Ohio State Ohio State Ohio State Ohio State
C-USA champ Memphis Memphis Memphis Memphis Memphis
MVC champ Creighton Creighton Creighton Creighton Creighton
MWC champ New Mexico UNLV New Mexico New Mexico New Mexico
Pac-12 champ California California California Arizona California
SEC
champ
Kentucky Kentucky Kentucky Kentucky Kentucky
WCC
champ
Saint Mary's Gonzaga Gonzaga Gonzaga Gonzaga
National POY Jared Sullinger, Ohio State Tu Holloway, Xavier Harrison Barnes, North Carolina Jared Sullinger, Ohio State Harrison Barnes, North Carolina
Sleeper team Iowa State Xavier Temple Creighton Belmont
Final Four North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State, Pittsburgh North Carolina, Ohio State, Syracuse, Florida North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State, Florida North Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio State, UConn North Carolina, Kentucky, Syracuse, Vanderbilt
National title game Kentucky over North Carolina North Carolina over Ohio State North Carolina over Kentucky North Carolina over Kentucky North Carolina over Kentucky

Bold Predictions

Stephen Bardo: Watch out for Iowa State come tournament time. It will take a while for them to gel and it may not come in time for a run at the Big 12 regular-season title, but if the four transfers (Royce White, Chris Allen, Chris Babb and Anthony Booker) can blend with Juco All-American Tyrus McGee and 3-point gunner Scott Christopherson, this is a dangerous team. Depth in the backcourt and athleticism in the frontcourt is a great combo.

Jay Bilas: The best conference player of the year race will be in the Big West, where Long Beach State's Casper Ware and UCSB's Orlando Johnson will have a knock-down, drag-out fight for the trophy. The 49ers and Gauchos should be the two best teams in the league and Ware and Johnson are clearly the two best players.

[+] EnlargeAbdul Gaddy
Steven Bisig/US PresswireEamonn Brennan thinks it would be unwise to count out Abdul Gaddy and Washington in the Pac-12.

Eamonn Brennan: No one's entirely certain how the Pac-12 will shake out this season, but the common consensus pegs UCLA and Cal as the conference's two early favorites. That makes sense, I suppose, but what about Washington? The Huskies lost plenty this spring -- Isaiah Thomas was the heart and soul of a late turnaround -- but freshman point guard Tony Wroten Jr. is a hyper-talented guard who should pair well with sophomore breakout candidate Terrence Ross in Lorenzo Romar's fast-break system. The Huskies will have to grow up quickly, but by season's end, they might just be the class of the Pac-12.

Fran Fraschilla: The SEC will get three teams to the Elite Eight this season. Kentucky is a logical choice because Coach Cal's roster is loaded again this season and he's proven that his young teams get better in March. Florida and Vanderbilt will both be strong contenders for a spot in the Elite Eight, but I'll go with Billy Donovan's guards and an improved Patric Young. As for the third, on the strength of its defense and the potentially explosive duo of Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green, Alabama is my surprise team to get to a regional final.

John Gasaway: Jared Sullinger will have the best season a college player's had in the past five years. I don't know why Sullinger is still here. Since the advent of the NBA's one-and-done rule, no big man with his ability has ever been a college sophomore. But Sullinger's back, and I can't wait to see what he does. Every scrap of information we have on the actual rookie-year performance of players like DeMarcus Cousins, DeJuan Blair and especially Kevin Love tells us that Sullinger would very likely be productive -- not sensational, of course, but productive -- if he were in the NBA this season. (If there were an NBA this season.) But he's not in the NBA playing against Dwight Howard and Carmelo Anthony. Instead, he's in the Big Ten playing against Jared Berggren and John Shurna. The result should be sensational.

Andy Katz: The Elite Eight will be littered with teams outside the big six conferences, but only one will break through to the Final Four. This could be the year when Gonzaga, Creighton, Memphis and New Mexico make significant runs in March. My bold prediction, though, is that Xavier makes the most significant run of all and advances to the school's first Final Four.

Jason King: For the first time in 22 years, Kansas will lose more than 10 games. The Jayhawks have a solid starting five, but a lack of depth and a brutal schedule will lead to the worst won-loss record in Lawrence since 1988-89, when Roy Williams' first team went 19-12. KU's nonconference slate includes games against Kentucky, Ohio State, USC, Georgetown and potentially UCLA. And for the first time since the Big 12's inception, the Jayhawks have to play all of the Texas and Oklahoma schools twice.

Diamond Leung: Neither North Carolina nor Kentucky, the top two teams in the preseason, will reach the NCAA championship game. Certainly the hype for the two teams is well-deserved -- no doubt about it. There are future pros everywhere. But even in a season when the traditional powers are expected to dominate, the NCAA tournament remains unpredictable and has featured surprise teams getting to the Final Four in recent years. Upsets happen, and I'll take the field to get to the title game over the Tar Heels and Wildcats.

Joe Lunardi: This will be a season of "chalk" in college basketball. Forget Butler and VCU in the Final Four, or BYU and San Diego State in the top 10. The power conferences are back with a vengeance this year. Memphis and Xavier may crack the elite, but it's hard to call them anything but high majors. The big boys will dominate the polls and the late rounds of the NCAA tournament, and I like two of the big-boy coaches -- Jamie Dixon (Pitt) and Bo Ryan (Wisconsin) -- to make their Final Four debut alongside juggernauts Kentucky and North Carolina.

[+] EnlargeTu Holloway
Frank Victores/US PresswireIn 2004, a small point guard from the A-10 won national POY. Can Tu Holloway do the same?

Myron Medcalf: Tom Crean will orchestrate one of the top turnarounds in the country and guide Indiana to the NCAA tournament. The Hoosiers went 3-15 in the Big Ten last season, but they had to deal with a multitude of injuries throughout. With Christian Watford and freshman Cody Zeller inside, however, they're talented enough to contend with most of the squads in a young Big Ten. Minnesota, Michigan State, Michigan, Illinois, Northwestern and Penn State all lost veteran point guards. But senior point guard Verdell Jones returns for Indiana. His experience will help the Hoosiers dance for the first time since 2008.

Dana O'Neil: I'd say picking a 6-foot guard from the Atlantic 10 as national player of the year is pretty bold, so I'll stick with that. Why do I think it can happen? Because Holloway is skilled and smart, because Xavier is loaded and because if the Musketeers reach their potential, it will be because Holloway led them there. If Jameer Nelson and David West can do it, why not Holloway?

Miles Simon: My bold prediction for this year is that the newly formed Pac-12 will get five teams to the NCAA tourney. Cal, UCLA, Arizona and Washington will all be good, but Oregon and Stanford might both surprise. The Ducks somehow won 21 games in Dana Altman's first season and he brings in freshman Jabari Brown as well as transfers Devoe Joseph, Olu Ashaolu and Tony Woods. The Cardinal returns four starters and has the point guard Johnny Dawkins has been looking for in freshman Chasson Randle.

Jay Williams: Rick Byrd's Belmont team is deep and seriously talented. Coming off a 30-win season in which they reached the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in six years, the Bruins have the talent and experience to cause a ton of havoc right out of the gate. Byrd's team will have 10-plus players averaging 10 minutes per game and could upset both Duke and Memphis in November. Watch out.