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A familiar landscape

The cream of the crop next season

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Posted: Tuesday April 04, 2000 12:00 AM

  Mike Dunleavy A year of experience should help Duke freshman Mike Dunleavy contribute even more next season. Doug Pensinger/Allsport

By Albert Lin,

The 1999-2000 season has been done for only a day, but it's already time to look ahead to Oct. 15 and the start of practice for next season. A lot could change depending on surprise departures for the NBA, but based on who we expect to stay (and go), here's our early top 10 list of teams to watch in 2000-2001.

Top 10

1. Duke
Losing Chris Carrawell is a huge blow, but that just means Shane Battier assumes the leadership mantle and Nate James becomes the second option. Casey Sanders and Nick Horvath will be more ready to contribute up front, and fans will love incoming guard Chris Duhon. A short bench should no longer be a concern.

2. Arizona
The entire starting five is back, and that pretty much kept the Wildcats in the top five all of this past season. Luke Walton now gives them a viable option off the bench. Lack of depth will hurt them in the tournament, but until then Arizona will be planted near No. 1.

3. Stanford
The Cardinal did fine when Mark Madsen was hurt -- he was more of an inspirational factor -- and the buzz on redshirt freshman Justin Davis is very positive. The Collins twins and Curtis Borchardt will be that much better, which should help Casey Jacobsen absorb a good chunk of David Moseley's scoring load.

4. Maryland
Everybody back from what was a surprise team in the ACC, plus the Terps get a banger in freshman Chris Wilcox. Hopefully, Terence Morris' decision to come back for his senior year signals a commitment to becoming the player everyone thinks he can be.

5. Florida
Out goes Kenyan Weaks, the only senior, replaced by freshman Orien Greene in the 10-man rotation. Mike Miller and Teddy Dupay disappeared in the Final Four, and having a go-to guy is of real concern. Miller needs to seize that role -- assuming he doesn't do something stupid like leave school early.

Assuming everyone comes back, we're betting the UCLA that showed up down the stretch is closer to the real thing than the team that went nowhere for most of the season. This roster has as much NBA-caliber talent as any in the country.

7. Kentucky
This ranking is contingent on getting a commitment from Jackson, Miss., high school star Darius Rice, who has Kentucky as his leader and would give the program a consistent shooter. The Wildcats' only graduate is their best player and only inside presence, Jamaal Magloire, but freshman Mike Southall is supposedly a clone of Magloire. Marvin Stone will be improved, and academic casualty Marquis Estill has a huge body.

8. DePaul
Quentin Richardson and Co. had a subpar season -- largely because of the injury to Lance Williams. We hope that convinces Richardson to return to school. With freshmen PF Andre Brown and PG Imari Sawyer added to a cast that also includes Bobby Simmons, Rashon Burno and Steven Hunter, the Blue Demons will have no excuses in 2001.

9. Kansas
This looks like a reach, given how the Jayhawks performed this season, but we still have faith in their talent. Eric Chenowith has to at least return to mediocre. Sophomores Nick Collison and Drew Gooden will probably take control of the team. Add super-scorer DeShawn Stevenson to the mix and suddenly ...

10. Michigan State
The heart and soul of the team departs -- Mateen Cleaves, Morris Peterson and A.J. Granger, who combined for 58 points in the title game -- but the cupboard is hardly bare in East Lansing. Freshman Zach Randolph has been the star of the prep all-star games, but the key will be how Marcus Taylor fills Cleaves' shoes. Getting more production from Mike Chappell would also be nice.

Potential Breakthroughs

The Illini seemed to finally gel toward the end of the season, and with nine of their top 10 players back (and having played a full season together), we wouldn't be surprised if Illinois -- rather than Michigan State -- emerges as the Big Ten's best team.

Made some noise late, especially when Kareem Rush returned from his suspension. Everyone but Jeff Hafer is back, and three impact recruits arrive: PF Arthur Johnson, SF Rickey Paulding, PG Wesley Stokes.

North Carolina
Ronald Curry or freshman Adam Boone will have a tough task replacing Ed Cota, but if the rest of the team plays as it did in the tournament, look out. Keep an eye on two other freshmen: Elton Brand-like Jason Parker and jumping jack guard Brian Morrison.

Seton Hall
The Hall made the Sweet 16 and lose only the backcourt of Shaheen Holloway and Rimas Kaukénas. Plus, they will probably have the best incoming class in the nation (assuming St. John's signee Darius Miles jumps to the NBA), led by PG Andre Barrett and PF Eddie Griffin.

The Vols seem to take an extra step each season, and with only C.J. Black to replace, there's no reason they can't do so again. Tony Harris, Isiah Victor and Vincent Yarbrough are too talented to never have made a dent in the tournament.

They lose Hanno Möttölä and Alex Jensen, but Britton Johnsen comes back from his Mormon mission, Duke transfer Chris Burgess becomes eligible, and the Utes just received a commitment from former Georgia Tech PG Travis Spivey.

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