BOZICH | Final Four Watch in 2017 includes Louisville, Kentucky, - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Final Four Watch in 2017 includes Louisville, Kentucky, Indiana

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Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana should all start next season ranked in the Top 10. Louisville, Kentucky and Indiana should all start next season ranked in the Top 10.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- This was not an NCAA Tournament that stirred an overload of adrenaline within the best college basketball market in America.

Not with Louisville putting itself on the sidelines. Not with Kentucky exiting in the round of 32. Not with Indiana running into a North Carolina team that could not miss a perimeter shot in the Sweet 16.

It was the first time since 2007 that no local program advanced to at least the Elite Eight.

What happened this season should not become a trend.

Not with the announcement Thursday from Indiana that center Thomas Bryant will return for his sophomore season.

Not with Kentucky about to welcome another Top Five recruiting class to a veteran core that should feature Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis and Marcus Lee.

Not with Louisville adding McDonald's all-American V. J. King to talented sophomores like Donovan Mitchell, Raymond Spalding and Deng Adel as well as point guard Quentin Snider and an eclectic collection of frontcourt players.

Look for all three programs to start the season in Top 10 – and make significant runs in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, which will feature regionals in Kansas City, Memphis, San Jose and New York City as well as a Final Four in suburban Phoenix.

(MANDATORY ASTERISK: Louisville's participation depends upon approval from the NCAA, which is completing an investigation that has already resulted in U of L imposing multiple penalties on the program.)

Yes, the Cards figure to lose their top three scorers in Damion Lee, Trey Lewis and Chinanu Onuaku (a sophomore who intends to compete in the NBA Draft combine next month).

But Mitchell has the game, temperament, body and confidence to become one of the best wing players in the Atlantic Coast Conference. He auditions for the highlight reel every time he leaves the ground. Snider directs a team with poise and persistence. He plays with a team ego.

Adel has work to do on his perimeter game, but the ability is there to become a guy who can score from multiple spots. Ditto for Spalding, already a terrific defender.

Anas Mahmoud, Matz Stockman and Mangok Mathiang all have at least two seasons of experience and they give Rick Pitino three options to find one hot hand.

Add V.J. King -- and hope for the best from the NCAA.

You know the formula at Kentucky. Add at least four McDonald's all-Americans to a small group of returnees.

Yes, Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray will be missed because they were the only two guys who could get a basket when Kentucky had to have a basket this season.

But did anybody else wonder if the Wildcats became too dependent on those two players?

I did.

The last two games that Kentucky lost (Vanderbilt and IU) featured Ulis and Murray launching shot after shot after shot. Five or six guys capable of scoring 10-15 points are more dangerous than two guys giving you 40.

That's what John Calipari should have next season.

The new backcourt of De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk won't be as prolific as Ulis and Murray. But it shouldn't have to be.

I'll take Bam Adebayo on the block over Skal Labissiere. Who's with me?

Indiana joined the discussion Thursday when Bryant made the intelligent call to return for his sophomore season.

The NBA Draft combine will be lined with guys who did not put up numbers as impressive as Bryant's freshman numbers -- 68.3 percent field goal percentage, 70.6 free throw percentage, 32 blocks, 11.9 points, 5.8 rebounds and five three-point field goals.

Bryant gets it.

He understands he must get stronger and his footwork must get smoother. He enjoyed the journey that he encountered to a Big Ten title with his teammates. He knows that the addition of forward De'Ron Davis will give him valuable help on the glass.

Add OG Anunoby, Juwan Morgan and Collin Hartman to the group and Tom Crean has a five-man frontcourt rotation.

I have not forgotten about Troy Williams. I expect him to participate in the NBA Draft combine -- and get drafted in the second round. But that's just me.

Crean also has five solid parts in the backcourt with James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson, Pitt transfer Josh Newkirk as well as freshmen Curtis Jones and Devonte Green.

The Hoosiers have Top 10 talent. So does Louisville. So does Kentucky.

Copyright 2016 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.

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