The NCAA tournament separates the pretenders from the contenders. The pretenders are lucky to make it out of the first round, while the contenders are the ones that make runs in the tournament.
Over the years, there have been shares of true contenders that have been knocked out in the tournament. For example, look at what happen to the Kansas Jayhawks.
They were no doubt the deepest and most experienced team in the tournament. However, Northern Iowa was the better team that day and the Jayhawks were sent home.
But many of last year's pretenders have now turned into contenders
The Tigers were never considered contenders. However, they were able to stay near the top of the Big 12 and get past Clemson in the first round. But the Tigers defense didn't stifle West Virginia, and were sent home after the second round.
This year, the Missouri Tigers are contenders.
They returned the majority of their roster, and brought in a monstrous recruiting class. Tony Mitchell and Phil Pressey are the reasons why the Missouri Tigers are no longer pretenders. They have a decent squad that's mixed with size and speed.
Their defense can't be taught. They'll be a huge contender in the Big 12 this season
Remember how the Wildcats were considered to be one of the top five teams in the nation? Yes, they were. Led by guard Scottie Reynolds, the Wildcats proved early in the season that they were going to contend in the NCAA that year.
However, as the season went on, the Wildcats started falling. Not too much help was granted to Reynolds, and the Wildcats dropped out of the nation’s spotlight.
However, they still earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament.
That didn't stop Saint Mary's from knocking them out in the second round.
Next season, with Corey Fisher at the realms and their sophomore players emerging, I think Villanova will play a significant role
Illinois Fighting Illini
The Fighting Illini impressed a lot of people with their wins over the Lucas-less Spartans and the Wisconsin Badgers.
However, after those two top 25 defeats, they weren't able to defeat any other ranked opponent.
In fact, they didn't even come close. But next season, I suspect them to be much better than that.
They return Demetri McCamey and Mike Davis. They also brought in one of the best recruiting classes in the nation.
If McCamey can tighten up his decision-making, then the Illini will have no problems solidifying themselves as contenders next season.
With Greg Monroe returning for his sophomore season in college, I expected more from the Hoyas. But in return, they gave me an upset loss in the first round to Ohio. Actually, the game wasn't even close.
Ohio exposed the Hoyas as pretenders, but next season I doubt that will happen.
The Hoyas didn't return Monroe, but they did return three of their most deadly guards. On top of
that, they brought in freshman Nate Lubick to help them out in the frontcourt.
Austin Freeman will most likely wreck havoc. With him at the realms and consistency in the frontcourt, I can say the Hoyas will be contenders next season.
The Longhorns were the biggest pretenders last season. They started off 17-0 with the No. 1 ranking. However, once they met Kansas State, things went down-hill.
The Longhorns went from the undefeated No. 1 team in the nation to being knocked out of the top 25 and first round of the NCAA tournament.
They lost Dexter Pittman, Damion James, and Avery Bradley. But they also brought in Cory Joseph and Tristan Thompson. Both of these freshmen along with sophomores J'Covan Brown and Jordan Hamilton will solidify Texas as contenders again.
Virginia Tech Hokies
With a 23-8 record, the Hokies weren't allowed in the NCAA tournament. Most people thought they were snubbed, but I think the committee made the right decision.
The Hokies did have a nice record, but also lost three games in their weak non-conference schedule.
However, with Malcolm Delaney and better scheduling, the Hokies are finally due for a big break.
Along with Delaney, they brought back every key player from last year’s squad.
Something is telling me that the Hokies will not be "snubbed" this upcoming season.
Remember when Juan Fernandez got hot against Villanova? He single-handedly put the Owls' in position to win the game. However, you can't forget about Lavoy Allen either.
These two kept the Owls competitive with a lot of teams.
Well they're both returning along with everybody except Ryan Brooks and Luis Guzman.
The way they play defense at a high level will help them maintain their success next season. Also, having a dominant post player like Allen and a three-point specialist like Fernandez will help.
The Wildcats were able to stay atop the Pac-10 standing last year but wasn't the greatest team. They posted a 6-6 non-conference record, while posting a 10-6 Pac-10 record.
That was the cause of a weak conference. The Pac-10 was dead last in conference RPI.
While they looked good defeated Cal or Washington, they were still pretenders. They finished the season with an overall record of 16-15.
But all isn't bad. They returned most of their young roster and they'll be at the top of the Pac-10 again.
Something tells me Derrick Williams will make you remember his name.
At a point in the season, the Badgers were ranked No. 12 in the nation. However, once the NCAA tournament started, they were exposed.
The Badgers were crushed by Cornell in the second round.
Now Trevon Hughes and Jason Bohannon aren’t suiting up for the Badgers next season. But that will not stop them from surprising.
They return a nucleus of juniors and seniors to curb the void. Not to mention, they brought in some freshmen players that will help with depth.
Josh Gasser will be huge next season. If he can take over the point guard position the Badgers will be good. He has great size, athleticism and will pose a good floor-general with help.