Thanks to a crazy college basketball offseason, there has been so much change within the sport. Many of the best players from last year’s NCAA tournament have gone on to the NBA draft, setting up a new season where anything can happen.
As always within the sports media circuit, it is never too early to predict who will be in the Big Dance. Here are some of the teams that have a chance at making the 2020 Final Four in Atlanta.
The big favorites: These are the highly-ranked teams that either return much of their roster or have a ton of top recruits that could lead their teams to the big stage.
- Michigan State: When Cassius Winston announced he was returning for his senior season, the Spartans became one of the best teams heading into the 19-20 season. Along with Josh Langford and Kenny Goins returning, they also add an electrifying recruit in Rocket Watts to an already stacked squad. They are the favorites in the Big 10 and could be the overall favorites to win the national championship.
- Duke: It seems like every year Duke reloads when their best players leave. Zion Williamson leaves and Vernon Carey Jr. steps in. Along with Carey Jr., comes Cassius Stanley, Wendell Moore, and Matthew Hurt. That’s four top-30 guys in the 2019 class. They join Tre Jones, Javin Delaurier, and Marques Bolden on a loaded roster for Coach K.
- Kentucky: John Calipari has to be thrilled that Ashton Hagans is staying in Lexington for another year. With another top recruiting class, led by Kahlil Whitney, the Wildcats are destined for another great tournament run. A combination of upperclassmen and great freshman separates this Kentucky teams from years past when it was loaded with just young talent.
- Villanova: After a down year where they struggled at times, Jay Wright’s Wildcats have another stellar team led by Jermaine Samuels and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree. They have an extra year of experience and will be joined by two five star recruits in Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Brian Antoine. You can never count the Cats out when they are in the tournament.
The other favorites: These are the teams with experienced coaches who consistently make the NCAA tournament. They can range anywhere from a top-10 to top-15 teams in the rankings.
- Louisville: In Chris Mack’s first season, the Cardinals made it to the tourney as the seven seed but lost to the Minnesota Gophers in the first round. They bring back a ton of experience, most notably leading scorer Jordan Nwora. Mack also gets some of his own new recruits, including forward Samuell Williamson. They will make some noise in the ACC as well as represent the conference in the Final Four.
- Kansas: Bill Self seems to always find himself with a great team in the tournament. It will happen again as Udoka Azubuike announced he will return for his senior campaign. With Devon Dotson returning and Silvio Desouza declared eligible, the Jayhawks become the favorite in the Big 12. Bill Self and the Jayhawks had an unusually down year where they still made the tournament, so it would not be surprising to see a team with less expectations make a run to the Final Four.
- UNC: Although most of Carolina’s starters are not returning, the Tar Heels bring back a great frontcourt in Garrison Brooks and Sterling Manley. Cole Anthony was one of the best players in the 2019 class, averaging close to a triple double at Oak Hill Academy. If they can get that type of production from the point guard, this could be a favorite to get into the Final Four for the third time in four years.
- Memphis: Although the Tigers bring in the No. 1 recruiting class, it will be up to Penny Hardaway to see how he can successfully lead this team to the Final Four. With James Wiseman, Precious Achiuwa, Boogie Ellis, and DJ Jeffries coming in as freshman, they could make a run similar to the Final Four as the 14-15 Wildcats with all that freshman talent.
The sleepers: These are the teams that could surprise everyone come tournament time. They are full of experience and could make some noise in the tourney and make a Final Four appearance.
- Oregon: Senior Payton Pritchard is one of the least talked-about guards in the country, but he is a consistent player on both ends of the floor. Will Richardson will have a bigger role as a starter as well. Ducks coach Dana Altman brings in five star recruit CJ Walker, who can stretch the floor for the Oregon. This will be one tough team to beat in the tournament.
- New Mexico State: In the first round of the 2019 tournament, the Aggies lost a close one to the Auburn Tigers who made it all the way to the Final Four. Besides losing Eli Chuha, they return almost everyone in the rotation, including Johnny McCants who missed the first half of the season due to injury. If they can replicate the 30-5 record they had last year, they could be a team to watch out for come March.