Skip to main content
Original Issue

SI'S 2006 TOP 10

Here's our extremely early projection of the teams who are likely front-runners in the race to next year's Final Four in Indianapolis

1 DUKE The Blue Devils, who lose only one starter (point guard Daniel Ewing), will be anchored by a pair of battle-hardened seniors, guard J.J. Redick and forward Shelden Williams; they'll also be reinforced by the nation's top recruiting class, including three McDonald's All-Americans, power forwards Eric Boateng and Josh McRoberts and point guard Greg Paulus.

2 CONNECTICUT Forward Charlie Villanueva is leaving for the NBA, but the Huskies still have game-breakers in point guard Marcus Williams, forward Josh Boone and likely player of the year candidate forward Rudy Gay.

3 KENTUCKY The Wildcats will miss departing senior Chuck Hayes, but they boast a batch of budding stars led by point guard Rajon Rondo and center Randolph Morris.

4 TEXAS Coming off a dazzling freshman season, Daniel Gibson may be the nation's best point guard; the Longhorns also will be bolstered by the return of forwards LaMarcus Aldridge (from a hip injury) and P.J. Tucker (academic ineligibility).

5 OKLAHOMA The Sooners will be booming as they bring back their top three players: forwards Kevin Bookout and Taj Gray, and guard Drew Lavender.

6 VILLANOVA The sharpshooting Wildcats' nucleus is intact, including stellar guards Allan Ray and Randy Foye, and forward Curtis Sumpter.

7 NORTH CAROLINA The Tar Heels have four stars--guard Raymond Felton, guard-forward Rashad McCants, forward Sean May and forward Marvin Williams--who may leave early for the NBA. If even May and Felton return to Chapel Hill, North Carolina will remain a force to be reckoned with.

8 LSU The muscular Tigers will give Kentucky a run in the SEC, especially if forward Brandon Bass stays another season in Baton Rouge and their star recruit, McDonald's All-American small forward Tasmin Mitchell, lives up to his billing.

9 UCLA Ben Howland's youthful Bruins were one of the nation's most improved teams this season; spurred by sophomore point guard Jordan Farmar, they will be the best in the West.

10 ILLINOIS Point guard Deron Williams will likely enter the NBA draft, but running mate Dee Brown will continue to spark the Illini.

SLEEPERS: Gonzaga, Washington, West Virginia and Michigan State. --B.J. Schecter