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.
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With tenacious defense, a lethal spread offense and a solid 74 percent free-throw average, Villanova had an outstanding season last year.
The Wildcats limited opponents to 40 percent from the field and forced 17 turnovers per game. On offense Nova used dribble penetration to get to the foul line, and to free up plenty of good looks from behind the arc. And with three players averaging better than 15 points per game, the Wildcats were tough to beat.
Allan Ray led the way with 16 ppg (while shooting 38 percent from the three-point line). Randy Foye and Curtis Sumpter both averaged just over 15 points each and Sumpter led the team in rebounding before tearing his ACL against Florida in last year's NCAA Tournament. Many think a missed call in the regional semifinal and Sumpter's injury kept the Wildcats from a trip to the Final Four.
That can be debated, but what can't is that Jay Wright has a team that has the ingredients to challenge for a conference title and national championship if the players left can stay healthy.
But there is no question they will miss Sumpter. The 6-foot-7 senior had surgery in April, but reinjured his knee a few weeks ago. Another surgery was required and he is out indefinitely, and that is a devastating blow for him and the team.
However, even with Sumpter likely lost for the season, Villanova still returns four starters. Ray and Foye – both seniors – are terrific competitors who possess excellent skills at both ends of the floor and will be one of the most potent backcourt duos in the country.
Mike Nardi is a junior guard who led the team in assists and is an underrated scorer. Will Sheridan, also a junior, provides solid contributions in a variety of areas at the forward position.
Senior Jason Fraser, who has endured seven different surgeries during his career, is a terrific shot-blocker and rebounder, and sophomore Kyle Lowry provides a lot of juice off the bench. And with Sumpter out and Fraser's minutes limited due to his history of knee trouble, a couple of freshmen will have a chance to contribute up front.
The Wildcats should again excel on defense while holding their own on the glass. Despite not being a very big team, Villanova enjoyed a plus-four rebounding margin against opposing teams.
Offensively they will be very difficult to guard with so many good ball handlers and shooters. A four-guard attack might be their best lineup, with Lowry joining Ray, Foye and Nardi to create real matchup problems.
One element they appear to lack is a consistent frontline scorer. Perhaps Fraser will step up, or maybe they'll do it by committee. My guess is that the guards will carry this team, and because they are very talented and experienced, I believe, unlike some of my fellow analysts out there, that Villanova has a very good chance to get to Indianapolis.
Think Kentucky back in 97 when star guard Derek Anderson went down. Does that ring any bells?
- Curtis Sumpter