Get ready for greatness

Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes and Terrence Jones all could have bolted for the NBA, but they didn't. Getty Images

As we continue to evaluate college basketball in the State of the Game project, we've seen a number of the sport's less-than-flattering aspects. At its core, though, the game -- the actual game played on the polished hardwood -- is quite strong. In fact, in 2011-12, we could be treated to one of the best seasons of competition in recent memory. I believe that this season we will see the return of truly great teams.

In 2010 and 2011, like always, we had compelling competition and stories. And, as we always do, we had eight Final Four teams and two national champions. But we had no "great" teams in a historical context.

In 2011-12, greatness figures to return to college basketball. Here are some of the things I expect to see in the coming season, and why I believe we could be about to witness something truly special:

• Several top players who could have easily gone pro last season have returned for another season of college basketball, bolstering the sport's talent level in a way we have not seen in recent years. North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, Ohio State's Jared Sullinger, Baylor's Perry Jones, Kentucky's Terrence Jones and Connecticut's Jeremy Lamb all decided to return for another year, and their teams will benefit.