Note: This is not a list of next year’s top 10 teams. It’s simply 10 teams to keep an eye on.. The list can't take into account possible surprise defections to the NBA..
1. Syracuse: The Orange will have to replace Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine, but C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters are more than capable of filling their roles. Expect Brandon Triche to take a larger scoring role, and Fab Melo and Rakeem Christmas to improve under the basket. There are two keys to Syracuse's 2013 season: The NBA Draft and James Southerland. If no more than Melo or Waiters go pro and Southerland becomes the star he’s capable of being, Syracuse could win it all in 2013.
2. Duke: The Blue Devils only lose light-scoring senior Miles Plumlee and aside from Austin Rivers, who could jump to the NBA, the entire Duke roster should return in intact. Mason Plumlee will continue to dominate on the boards and on defense. Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton and Marshall Plumlee will take more prominent roles, and Ryan Kelly may become the Devils’ go-to player.
3. Texas: One of the best freshman classes in the country in 2011-12 should return intact for the 2012-13 season, along with leading scorer J’Covan Brown, who should have a big senior season. Myck Kabongo – the only Longhorn who could conceivably leave for the NBA – will benefit from a rough freshman season that will show him where he needs to improve. Jonathan Holmes, Julien Lewis, Sheldon McClellen and Jaylen Bond will give Texas a deep and talented roster. Freshman big man Cameron Ridley, a 5-star recruit, should add much needed size.
4. Indiana: Tom Crean’s rebuilding process will be complete. Indiana loses nothing of significance and Maurice Creek could return from a knee injury. Cody Zeller (assuming he stays) will only improve. Victor Oladipo, Christian Watford, Will Sheehy and Jordan Hulls are also expected to return. Add in two Top 20 recruits, Hanner Perea and Kevin Ferrell, and the Hoosiers have a shot at a Final 4 run.
5. Creighton: The Blue Jays will miss Antoine Young, but their current depth – led by freshman PG Austin Chatman – should more than make up for his absence. Doug McDermott will continue to refine his game and center Gregory Echenique will become more dominant. Sharpshooters Ethan Wragge, Grant Gibbs and Jahenns Mangiat are all expected to return, as well.
6. Saint Joseph’s: There’s not a single senior on a Hawk roster dominated by its talented sophomore class. Junior Carl Jones and sophomore Langston Galloway are already an explosive scoring threat and will only improve. C.J. Aiken will continue to dominate the paint defensively, and Halil Kanacevic is expected to play a bigger role.
7. Stanford: The Cardinal have one of the deepest and most talented sophomore classes in the country, led by PF Dwight Powell and SG Chasson Randle, who is technically a redshirt freshman this season. Aaron Bright is a strong shooter and John Huestis is an incredibly savvy player. Stanford will be one of the best teams in the Pac-12 next season and should be a national championship threat in 2013-14.
8. Davidson: The Wildcats have five players averaging in double-figures this season and none of them are seniors. Sophomore De’Mon Brooks is the team’s leading scorer at 15.5 points per game. Jake Cohen, Nik Cochran and J.P. Kuhlman are also juniors for a Davidson team that is 14-2 in the SoCon and knocked off Kansas in Lawrence in December.
9. Long Island: The Blackbirds are 22-7 and have dominated the NEC without a single senior who is a significant contributor. Juniors Julian Boyd and Jamal Olasewere combine for 34.2 points per game and both should be back next season along with sophomore Jason Brickman, who leads LIU at seven assists per game.
10. South Dakota State: The Jackrabbits will have to replace their best shooter in Griffan Callahan, but he is the only senior on the SDSU roster. Nate Wolters will no longer be considered a hidden gem after this season, in which he’s averaging 21.8 points, 6.1 assists, five rebounds and 1.6 steals. With Dominique Morrison graduating from Oral Roberts, South Dakota State should be the Summit League favorite heading into next season.