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November 7, 2010

Roundtable: Who will win the national title?

At the College Basketball Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a current topic in the sport.

Today's question: The season tips off Monday night. Who will be cutting down the nets as national titlist in Houston on April 4?

David Fox's answer:
There's a good reason Florida and Duke are the only national champions to repeat since the John Wooden era: It's really, really tough. That's why I'm going to pick Michigan State rather than Duke to win the championship. The Blue Devils might be more talented than they were a year ago, but I don't know if Duke will be a better tournament team without Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas. Meanwhile, Michigan State, assuming everyone stays healthy, has as good a team as anyone in the country. The Spartans had their issues during the regular season, but reaching the Final Four without Kalin Lucas and with a team that was borderline dysfunctional at times may awaken Michigan State to its potential this season.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
Duke or Michigan State would seem to be the logical -- and safe -- picks. But let's go a different route and pick Villanova. Even without Scottie Reynolds and Reggie Redding, the backcourt is going to be stellar. Corey Fisher will step up and become a full-fledged star, and coach Jay Wright has a lot of interchangeable parts to work with in the backcourt. But it's the frontcourt where 'Nova is going to make a quantum leap. Watch for sophomore Mouphtaou Yarou to provide the Wildcats with a legitimate interior force, and his emergence at center will allow Antonio Pena to play power forward, his natural position. And there are some other big bodies for Wright, such as Maurice Sutton and McDonald's All-America Jayvaughn Pinkston. Wright can go big and he can go small; he also has a ton of big-time athletes. Villanova is loaded.

Jason King's answer:
I realize I'm not really going out on a limb here, but I can't go with any team other than Duke. I couldn't have been more impressed with how well the Blue Devils played down the stretch last season -- and I think they'll be even better this season. The addition of freshman PG Kyrie Irving will allow Mike Krzyzewski's squad to play at a much faster pace. Irving will be the best Duke player at that position since Jason Williams. Mix in All-America candidate Nolan Smith, and Duke has the best backcourt in college basketball -- especially when you throw in Liberty transfer Seth Curry, who will be one of the top sixth men in the game. Small forward Kyle Singler is a National Player of the Year candidate, and the Plumlee brothers will more than make for the loss of Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas in the paint. Depth, athleticism, speed, coaching, selfless attitudes ... I'm not sure the Blue Devils have any weaknesses.

Steve Megargee's answer:
I'll pick Duke to win a second straight title. I don't think the Blue Devils are quite as prohibitive a favorite as North Carolina was in 2008, but they're clearly the most logical selection. Duke will miss All-America G Jon Scheyer at some points this season and probably won't be quite as dominant on the boards without Brian Zoubek in the middle, but the Blue Devils have enough talent to pick up the slack. Duke's backcourt arguably is even better than it was last season now that highly touted freshman Kyrie Irving and Liberty transfer Seth Curry have arrived to help out Nolan Smith. Duke also has perhaps the nation's top returning player in Kyle Singler. And Mike Krzyzewski has proved time and time again he knows how to turn a quality team into a championship team. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he does it again this season.



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