The college basketball season is far from beginning but I'm going to give you my ridiculously early Final Four picks.
They did lose their star Gordon Hayward, but let's not forget they won games with team defense.
If you play defense the way the Bulldogs did, you can beat anybody in the league. Not to mention, everybody on the team has returned except Hayward.
You still have Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard to ignite a championship run. Oh yeah, Mack could have been the player of the game in the Kansas State game. He kept the game out of reach, and made the key defensive play and pass to seal the victory.
With all the other guys returning and a wonderful Head Coach in Stevens, the Bulldogs will have a chance to prove to the world that they're not one-hit wonders.
Illinois Fighting Illini
The Fighting Illini lost Dominique Keller and Stan Simpson but is still a top team. They returned All-Star point guard Demetri McCamey that could have been Big Ten Player of the Year or at least talked about if it wasn't for some guy named Evan Turner.
They also returned players Mike Davis and Tisdale. Not to mention, their recruiting class is right up there with the best programs in the league.
They have a nice fantastic four in Davis, Tisdale, McCamey and Jereme Richmond.
Watch out for the Illini, I guarantee they won't be snubbed in this year’s tournament. With McCamey progressing as a player, I think he can lead them deep into the tournament.
(In no particular order)
4. Kansas State Wildcats
So the Wildcats lost three players from their Elite-Eight run in last year's tournament—two role players and one key contributor.
However, with the return of superstar Jacob Pullen the Wildcats are my favorite to reach the Final Four.
Kansas State was known for its backcourt duo last year, but now it's going to be all about the frontcourt. They brought in Freddy Asprilla, the 6'10'' monster in the paint. Jamar Samuels a junior at Kansas State said that he was Luis Colon with more skill.
Another freshman standout is Will Spradling. He stole the ball away from his teammate on the first play and scored.
So they definitely have one of the deepest teams in the NCAA.
3. Purdue Boilermakers
The Boilermakers were fortunate enough to return both E'Twaun Moore and Jajuan Johnson. Both players are one of the reasons that Purdue will be huge players in the NCAA tournament.
Along with Johnson and Moore is Robbie Hummel. If you don't remember, once Hummel went down with season ending surgery, Purdue season did the same.
Now with the big three, and Lewis Jackson healthy, they are favorites to reach the Final Four.
They have brought in combo-guard Terone Jackson and that is going to make a huge splash on the offensive end.
If they stay healthy, and get contributions from their bench they'll have a chance to get to the Final Four and National Championship game.
2. Michigan State Spartans
The Michigan State Spartans returned every single player from their Final Four team except Raymar Morgan.
Now let's put this into consideration: The Spartans almost won a National Championship without their facilitator Kalin Lucas.
They have their Head Coach Tom Izzo back and that's all they need.
To add more depth and strengthen the roster, Izzo brought in Keith Appling and Adreian Payne—two freshmen that can come in and make huge contributions immediately.
You might want to note this as well: Every player that stayed at least four-years with Izzo had the chance to compete in the Final Four.
That sounds like some good stuff and the freshman's should get a taste of what that is like once they start playing Spartan basketball.
1. Duke Blue Devils
The Blue Devils has a very good chance at repeating for the first time since Florida did it earlier in the decade.
They returned Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith. They lost Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek, but also brought in some of the best young talent.
Stand-out point guard, Kyrie Irving is said to be the most polished point guard we've seen in a while. He has great vision, and passing skills; on top of that, he can score the basketball at will.
Mason and Miles Plumlee will take the services down-low, while Seth Curry--the transfer from Liberty--helps out in the backcourt.
The Blue Devils squad is going to run about a 10-to-12 man rotation. They have a lot of depth and have a lot of talent on their roster.
With experience, and depth, they have the best chance at a repeat.
(Tell me what you think. Did I miss a team, or did I put a team on here that didn't deserve it? Hit me up at CollegiateHoops@gmail.com or simply reply below)
Written by DeAnte Mitchell