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Question of the Day: Who will win next year's NCAA men's tournament? [Updated]

April 6, 2011 | 11:38 am

Writers from around the Tribune Co. weigh in on next year's NCAA men's basketball tournament. Check back throughout the day for more responses and feel free to leave a comment of your own.

Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune

Sullinger_275 Picking participants in this season’s NCAA tournament championship was a guessing game. Next season, there are more serious contenders. North Carolina, Duke, Louisville and Texas could all vie for the crown next season. But the title game in New Orleans next season will feature Ohio State beating Kentucky for the championship it was unable to obtain this season.

Kentucky’s hopes depend on whether many of its talented freshmen will return. Ohio State’s potential  hinges on Jared Sullinger staying true to his word. If the big man returns for a sophomore season as he vowed, the Buckeyes will be hard to stop. True, they lose sharp-shooters David Lighty and Jon Diebler. But they return a host of talent including rising sophomore point guard Aaron Craft, senior guard William Buford and sophomore forward DeShaun Thomas.

The Buckeyes should have gone all the way this season as a No. 1 seed in the tournament. They’ll do it in 2012.

Paul Doyle, Hartford Courant

The 2011 national champions are expected to lose their heart and soul. Junior Kemba Walker, set to graduate from UConn in May, will likely opt for the NBA draft.

So you won’t find anyone picking UConn to repeat, although the Huskies will return a core of kids, and freshman Jeremy Lamb is a budding star. We figure UConn will be in the mix, but let’s focus on a few others.

If Kentucky loses Brandon Knight and/or Terrence Jones to the NBA, Coach Jon Calipari will reload with another four-star recruiting class that includes three McDonald’s All-Americans (Michael Gilchrist, Anthony Davis and Marquis Teague).

But if we’re forced to choose one favorite for the 2012 title, let’s hand the trophy to Roy Williams and North Carolina. The Tar Heels could lose significant talent to the NBA. Or they could return the best starting five in the country, if Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller elect to stay. Even if they lose just one, Carolina will be in good shape because there is a good recruiting class on the way, led by 6-foot-8 forward James McAdoo and 6-foot-6 swingman P.J. Hairston.

[Updated at 12:21 p.m.:

Baxter Holmes, Los Angeles Times

Whichever top-flight team is the least decimated by early NBA departures -- and that team won’t be known for a while.

But today, it’s the Connecticut Huskies, whose magic finish to this season will carry over into the next one. Here’s why:

Coach Jim Calhoun, a basketball lifer, won’t retire; neither of UConn’s dynamic guards, Kemba Walker and Jeremy Lamb, will likely go pro; and the team only loses three seniors -- the most important of whom averaged only 2.9 points and 2.8 rebounds.

Ohio State could threaten. Kansas could too. Even George Mason might make a run. Really.

But right now, with the landscape hazy from the uncertainty of which players and coaches are coming and going, the best team built to win it all is the one that just did.]


Photo: Butler vs. UConn in NCAA title game

Connecticut turns NCAA title dreams into reality by beating Butler, 53-41

Top photo: North Carolina Tar Heels Coach Roy Williams talks with his players, including forward John Henson, left, and forward Harrison Barnes (40). Credit: Mark Dolejs / US Presswire

Bottom photo: Jared Sullinger. Credit: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images