Friday, June 11, 2010

College Basketball: Very Early Top 25

With the college basketball season concluded and in the books, college basketball fans are now looking for recruiting battles, rumors, and news about their favorite teams. With recruiting and the NBA draft deadline over, we now are getting a better understanding of this year's top teams in the college game. Here is how I think the poll will unfold once the season begins:

1. Duke Blue Devils

With Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith returning for another season, the Blue Devils have a legitimate chance to repeat. Losing Jon Scheyer could pose problems but Duke has Kyrie Irving and Tyler Thornton, two young guards that can prove they are leaders. Seth Curry, the transfer from Liberty, will be a huge boost in scoring off the bench, and don't forget about Andre Dawkins. Duke will be a great team, IF the Plumlee brothers can establish themselves inside

2. Purdue Boilemakers

Similar to Duke, once the stars JaJuan Johnson and E'twaun Moore decided to give college basketball another crack, Purdue leapt into the top five. They're only losing Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant, so this team still has a bright future. Their projected roster looks something like this. At the guard postions, Lewis Jackson, E'twaun Moore, and Kelsey Barlow. At the forward position you have JaJuan Johnson and Robbie Hummel. That roster has Final Four written all over it.

3. Kansas State Wildcats

The Wildcats could have been in the national championship along with Duke. However, tired legs played a huge part, and they were defeated by the eventual runner-up Butler in the Elite Eight. Only losing one key player in Denis Clemente, the Wildcats have a legitimate chance to become Final Four contenders. The Cats' still have a very athletic frontcourt and they only added to it with Freddy Asprilla. The Cats' could be big players in this upcoming season, as long as Jacob Pullen continues to dominate the game.

4. Michigan State Spartans

If Tom Izzo decided to stay with the Spartans, they would be conceived as No. 2 in this pre-season poll. However, it seems like they're going to lose Izzo. But, the Spartans still have too much talent on their roster to be kicked out of the top five. Every key player except Raymar Morgan is returning, and added key recruits to bolster their roster.

5. Baylor Bears

Baylor lost Tweety Carter and Ekpe Udoh. However, they returned LaceDarius Dunn and acquired the highest rated recruit in school history. Percy Jones is said to be similar to Udoh but slightly better. He brings a better post presence than what the Bears had with Udoh, not to mention, the contributions Quincy Acey will bring.

6. Ohio State Buckeyes 

During last season when they lost Evan Turner they were horrible. Something tells me that is not going to happen with this team. The Buckeyes have four returning starters and one of the top recruiting classes this year. The depth of the Buckeyes' will be amazing, and they won't have to depend on one player to do it all.

7. Pittsburgh Panthers

First, the Panthers returned four starters and all of their key reserves off the bench. Then, they added Isaiah Epps, Cameron Wright and J.J Moore to the roster, and now they're a legit top ten squad. They're a deep team, well coached and they play some tough basketball. Brad Wanamaker and Ashton Gibbs will be a duo that'll make noise once the season starts.

8. Illinois Fight Illini

Once Demetri McCamey and Mike Davis decided to withdraw from the draft; they put Illinois in a good situation. Illinois is one of the very few teams in the NCAA to return all of their key contributors. Now factor in their top recruiting class, and the Illini is looking at a great season. With McCamey leading the backcourt and Davis in the frontcourt, look for the Illini to make noise in the Big Ten.

9. Villanova Wildcats

The Wildcats will lose one of the most celebrated players in Scottie Reynolds, but they do have returning players Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Antonio Pena, and more. Not to mention, they were fortunate enough to acquire some newcomers in Jayvaugh Pinkston, Markus Kennedy, and James Bell. Look for Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheeks to spark the backcourt, and do what Scottie Reynolds' was able to do for the Wildcats- maybe better.

10. Washington Huskies

TThe only key player that departed was Quincy Pondexter. Everybody else on the current roster stayed and they were able to pick up ESPNU top 100 recruit Terrence Ross to bolster the wing position. With the nucleus of players that they've got on their roster, mixed with their recruiting class, they should be headed into an interesting season. If they were able to keep Terrence Jones it's no doubt they'd be a top five pick

11. North Carolina Tarheels

The Tarheels had a season to forget this past year. However, Roy Williams couldn't be happier that he landed the No. 1 wing threat in the country. With the Wear twins transferring, the depth of the Tarheels could be challenged, but nothing is going to stop them from being great this season. Barnes is on a mission.

12. Kentucky Wildcats

Similar to last season, the Kentucky Wildcats have snagged the best recruits in the nation and plan on starting each and every one of them. The most notable is highly touted point guard Brandon Knight. He will be the leader of this young but talented attack and don't be surprised if they're better than last year's squad.

13. Kansas Jayhawks

Okay, so they lost Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry, so what? They still have the Morris twins, and the number one player in the nation- Josh Selby. They have a bunch of role players that will step up and be leaders for this offense. Not to mention they have one of the best coaches in college basketball.

14. Missouri Tigers

Mike Anderson pulled off getting one of the best recruiting classes in the Big 12. He lost many key players but he also gained players that could live up to high expectations. They will have a stifling defense, and with more athletic men, you have to watch out for the Missouri Tigers.

15. Florida Gators

The Gators' didn't lose much this off-season just a pair of role players that Billy Donavan has made up for. Donavan brings in players Patrick Young and Casey Prather, not to mention, Alex Tyus has returned for another year of college basketball, and the Gators have a talented roster that will get out of the first round this time around.

16. Gonzaga Bulldogs

The Zags' lost a key piece of their organization when they lost Matt Bouldin. However, they still have Elias Harris, and more of their starting unit has returned as well. The newcomer Keegan Hyland could also make a great addition for the starting unit and have the Zags' as a top ranked team.

17. Memphis Tigers

Josh Pastner has done a great job at Memphis thus far. After seeing Calipari depart for Kentucky I must admit, I never gave the Tigers a chance to be much of anything in the NCAA anymore. However, Pastner has loaded this team with elite talent and is putting them back on top, as one of the best mid-major schools.

18. BYU

With Jimmer Fredette returning for another season the Cougars are the front-runners to win the Mountain West. Fredette is going to lead this team the way he did last year. Watch out for the Cougars.

19. Temple Owls

Temple had a stellar season last year, and is returning four of their five scoring threats on offense. With Juan Fernandez outside, and Lavoy Allen in the paint, look for another 25 plus win season for the Owls.

20. Virginia Tech

Most people believed that last year Virginia Tech was snubbed by the committee. Now, with all their starters returning and adding to their roster with acquired recruits and transfers, Virginia Tech will have a team full of seniors with a lot of experience.

21. Richmond

Losing David Gonzalvez was huge for Richmond. They definitely have big shoes to fill, to make up his production on the court. But other than that, Richmond is looking bright with Justin Harper running the show, and Dan Geriot coming back from injury.

22. Florida State

The Seminoles lost key contributions in the post and the only way they can make up for it is to hope that their reserves are ready to step up to the challenge. Xavier Gibson and Jon Kreft could step up, and help the Seminoles become a big player next season.

23. Syracuse Orange

Syracuse lost a lot this season- Wesley Johnson, Andy Rautins, and Arinze Onuaku. Those players were key to Syracuse and they didn't attack the recruiting class to find replacements like they should have. But they have a lot of returning players so the season could be something like the last if they play as a team.

24. Butler Bulldogs

Butler lost the key to their team with Gordon Hayward. But something is telling me that they're going to make me look stupid for having them all the way ranked at No. 24. They do still have Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard, and as long as they continue with their defensive intensity, they'll always make their critics look dumb.

25. UNLV

UNLV returned the majority of the players that helped them to their 25 win season and added Quintrell Thomas to help out the frontcourt. UNLV should round off a great top 25 teams in college basketball.

Written by DeAnte Mitchell, edit by Rachel Cox


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