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August 2, 2009

Can anyone challenge Kansas and Kentucky?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the college basketball coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport. We have two questions this week - one Saturday and one today.

Today's question: Kansas and Kentucky will likely be consensus picks to finish 1-2 in preseason hoops polls. Which team do you think is most likely to challenge the "Big Two?"

David Fox's answer:
I like Michigan State to challenge Kansas and Kentucky. I don't know if the Spartans will win the Big Ten by four games again - Purdue, Ohio State and Michigan will be much improved - but the Spartans will be in the mix for the Final Four. The losses of Goran Suton and Travis Walton concern me, but two key players for them a year ago weren't at their best. Raymar Morgan should be healthy this season, and Delvon Roe should continue to develop. If those two are at full strength, the Spartans are right up there with Kansas and Kentucky.

Jason King's answer:
North Carolina lost three NBA first-round draft picks (Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington) from last season's national championship squad. Still, I wouldn't be surprised if the Tar Heels advanced to the Final Four once again. Roy Williams' squad will have one of the top frontcourts in all of college basketball with senior Deon Thompson, sophomore Tyler Zeller and future NBA lottery pick Ed Davis. Incoming freshman John Henson, who can handle the ball and score from anywhere on the court, may be better than all of them. Kansas and Texas will be the only teams that tout as much talent and depth in the frontcourt. The biggest issue - and the thing that might keep the Tar Heels out of the Final Four - is North Carolina's guards. Pushing the ball and playing at breakneck speed is a Williams trademark, but this year the coach may not have a point guard who can get it done. Larry Drew II was sporadic and inconsistent as Lawson's backup last season. Unfortunately, the Tar Heels don't have a lot of other options. If Drew develops, North Carolina may end up being the second-best team in the nation behind Kansas. Heck, even if he doesn't, the Tar Heels will still be good enough to return to the Final Four.

Steve Megargee's answer:
It wouldn't surprise me at all if Michigan State gets back to the championship game. The Spartans will miss having Goran Suton around, but the return of Kalin Lucas gives them one of the nation's top point guards. I'm also counting on Raymar Morgan to bounce back in a big way from an injury-plagued 2008-09 season and for former five-star prospect Delvon Roe to make major strides in his sophomore season. If Morgan and Roe have big seasons, the Spartans could have a championship-caliber lineup. They already boast a proven championship coach in Tom Izzo.

Mississippi State NEWS


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