Editor's note: With the men's college basketball season starting to ramp back up, Yahoo! Sports analyst Clark Kellogg picks the teams he thinks have the best shot at making it to the Sweet 16 in 2006.
Each pick is listed alphabetically. Check back during the week for his latest selections.
News | Schedule | Roster
The 2004-05 season was good to the Cardinals – the Conference USA regular season and tournament titles and a trip to the Final Four. This team rode the outstanding play and leadership of Francisco Garcia, Larry O'Bannon, Taquan Dean and Ellis Myles to a very impressive final season in the conference.
An excellent offensive team, the Cardinals averaged 81 points per game and shot 47 percent from the field, 40 percent from outside the arc and 72 percent at the free-throw line. They also were stingy on defense, holding opponents to just 39 percent shooting and 64 ppg. But now it's on to the very big Big East, and Louisville has a much different team to work with.
Of the top four scorers from last year, only Taquan Dean returns. That means the 41 ppg provided by Garcia, O'Bannon and Myles must be replaced. Myles was also the team's leading rebounder and one of its top passers, and all three players provided solid defense.
The Cardinals will also miss the contributions of frontcourt reserve Otis George. So you might be wondering, how does this team have a chance to get to the Sweet 16?
Let's start with Taquan Dean. When healthy, he is one of the premier guards in college basketball. There's not a better shooter in America, and I'm anticipating a big year from him. Brandon Jenkins could be this year's version of Larry O'Bannon – a player who explodes on the scene by doubling his numbers from the prior season. It seems like Rick Pitino and his staff have a player like that every year, and that is a credit to their player development program.
Juan Palacios and David Padgett are both talented frontcourt players who are expected to recover fully from the injuries that sidelined them during the first few weeks of practice. Palacios is a versatile offensive player who only needs to improve his defense and rebounding to be one of the elite players in the country at his position. Padgettt had an impressive freshman year at Kansas before transferring and sitting out last year. He's aggressive and skilled.
A highly touted freshman class will be expected to contribute immediately. Under the watchful eye of Pitino, who is one of the very best at getting the most from his players, they will.
This team has the potential to be as good as last year's team offensively, but defensively is where the questions lie. Will the newcomers commit to excelling at that end of the floor? Will they be able to sustain the concentration and intensity required to harass opponents to their coaches' satisfaction? Will this team rebound effectively?
A lot of questions, but with Pitino and his staff, Taquan Dean, a healthy and improved Juan Palacios and a better than expected supporting cast, a very good season is probable.
- Taquan Dean
- college basketball