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Prospective teams aiming for the title in 2003!
Who leaves early and transfers may change this list, but this is an early look at the 2002-2003 season. Look for the Big 12 to be America’s best conference with 5 teams with top 15 talent. The best and biggest impacting freshman should be Syracuse’s 6-8 Carmelo Anthony. An early All America team would look like Mike Dunleavy Jr., T.J. Ford, Jason Gardner, Brandin Knight, Kareem Rush, and Dwayne Wade.
1. Oklahoma 4 starters are back from a Final Four Team and a fifth starter, Johnnie Gilbert returns after missing all but six games, five of which he started. Hollis Price and Ebi Ere should be able to make up for Aaron McGhee's scoring and Jabahri Brown should become a better scorer too.
2. Arizona Everybody's back from this year's team, including POY candidates Jason Gardner and Luke Walton. The raw 5-man freshman class will now be an experienced core of role players.
3. Pittsburgh The Panthers only lose reserve forward Chad Johnson and now have a summer to develop some big men who are bursting with potential. Ben Howland will be able to relax when he takes Brandin Knight out of a game because he will have partial qualifier Carl Krauser to play the point too.
4. Alabama Everybody is back from the SEC's best team because Rod Grizzard and Erwin Dudley have wisely decided to stay in school. Also, Maurice Williams has a year under his belt at the point.
5. Missouri Missouri only loses Clarence Gilbert and that may help them. The loss of Gilbert will allow more set roles for players in the backcourt and the team will have a true point guard running the show. Rickey Paulding is bound to have a huge year. Rumors are Kareem Rush will be back next year because he will not be a lottery pick.
Just outside the Top Five are: 6. Texas, 7. Duke, 8. Marquette, 9. Michigan St., and 10. Kansas. If players do not leave, but they probably will, Kansas with Drew Gooden, Indiana with Jared Jeffries, and Uconn with Caron Butler could easily populate the Top Five.
Jon Sobolewski is the sports editor of the Pittsburgh Standard and the creator and editor of SOBEBALL, a website that offers a complete source for college hoops at http://sobeball.i8.com