Early Final Four Predictions For 2016-17 Season

    It's never too early to cast a line on Final Four predictions for the 2016-17 season. You can pretty much take these ones to the bank.

    April 7, 2016

    It’s never too early to cast a line on Final Four predictions for the 2016-17 season. You can pretty much take these ones to the bank.

    With the clock winding down in Monday’s national championship game, North Carolina’s Marcus Paige hit the shot of his life. Seconds later, Kris Jenkins one-upped Paige and buried a three at the final buzzer to give Villanova the title in thrilling fashion. One Shining Moment lived up to its name, and another chapter of college basketball has come to an end.

    But since it’s never too early to look ahead to next season’s Final Four in Phoenix, here are the teams most likely to be among the last ones dancing. And, yes, you’ll notice several of the usual suspects.

    4. Michigan State Spartans

    Picking the Spartans may come as a bit of a surprise. But remember, this is a prediction as to who will be playing their best basketball at the end of the year, not the beginning. A player like Denzel Valentine is obviously difficult to replace and Michigan State also says goodbye to another pair of key seniors in Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello.

    Here’s where things get interesting: Tom Izzo said this week he believes Deyonta Davis is “50-50” on whether he’ll be back for his sophomore season. And Izzo is hoping for a commitment from Rivals’ No. 1-ranked high school senior Josh Jackson, a 6-foot-7 guard who is also reportedly considering Arizona and Kansas. With or without Jackson, Izzo looks forward to welcoming one of his strongest recruiting classes ever to East Lansing, as forward Miles Bridges and guard Joshua Langford have already committed.

    3. Villanova Wildcats

    The Wildcats will enter the 2016-17 campaign as defending champions for the first time in 31 years. Gone are Daniel Ochefu and Final Four most outstanding player Ryan Arcidiacono, but Villanova is hardly starting from scratch.

    Josh Hart, should he return for his senior year, has developed into a star. Kris Jenkins is now a household name after hitting one of the biggest shots in college basketball history. Jalen Brunson was a high school All-American and will have no problem stepping into a more prominent role. Phil Booth also showed he’s ready to take on a bigger load after scoring a team-high 20 points off the bench in the title game. And stepping in for Ochefu will be Omari Spellman, one of the top prep big men in the country.

    There is no reason to think coach Jay Wright’s remarkable run of consistency will do anything but continue.

    2. Kentucky Wildcats

    Out with the old and in with the new; such has become a way of life for John Calipari and the Wildcats. While it isn’t fair to call Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis and Skal Labissiere old, as the freshman depart Lexington for the NBA, a new class arrives.

    The country’s top ranked recruiting class of 2016 – one that Calipari has said could be his best ever – is headlined by Bam Adebayo, a 6-foot-9, 240-pound power forward. Joining him is point guard De’Aaron Fox and shooting guard Malik Monk, a duo that will help Big Blue Nation forget about the Ulis and Murray backcourt. Just in case Adebayo doesn’t bring enough size for his frontcourt, Calipari also signed Wenyen Gabriel, who at 6-foot-10, 210 pounds will round out an impressive and imposing lineup.

    1. Duke Blue Devils

    When the Blue Devils announced in early March that senior big man Amile Jefferson was done for the season due to a foot injury, it was a blow to the team’s national championship hopes. Thanks to a medical redshirt Jefferson may be back. And with Grayson Allen opting to remain in Durham, Duke is the team to beat in 2016-17.

    Brandon Ingram will likely be among the top two picks in this summer’s NBA Draft, but incoming freshman forwards Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum are widely considered a pair of the best prep players in the nation. Add in another five-star player in guard Frank Jackson, and coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team will once again possess enough talent and depth to cut down the nets at the end of the year.

    MORE: Early Look At What Top 25 Should Look Like For 2016-17


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