Freshmen noted by italics.
Losses: Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas, Jon Scheyer
No sense in going against the grain here. I doubted them all year and they just kept on winning. Smith and Singler give them two viable All American candidates and the praise for Irving appears to be warranted. Their recent weakness over the years, their big men, actually could prove to be somewhat of an advantage this year as there are virtually no big men in college basketball after everyone declared for the draft. The only concern for Duke is the depth of the post position. Singler likely will have to log a lot of minutes at the 4 spot, which made his return a curious one to me. The back court is loaded and that would probably push Singler over even if they had depth up front. I see an 8 man rotation with Hairston, curry and Dawkins making up the bench.
Bench: Josh Hairston, Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, Ryan Kelly, Tyler Thornton, Carrick Felix.
2. Michigan State
Losses: Raymar Morgan
Bench: Adreian Payne, Keith Appling, Korie Lucious, Derrick Nix, Austin Thornton, Garrick Sherman, Russell Byrd, Alex Gauna
This is, to me, the most impressive and complete roster in the country. The guards are elite and plentiful, up front you have one of the smartest, toughest and ballsiest players in Draymond Green. You hope Roe can be healthy and that Adreian Payne can come along strongly, which given Izzo’s ability to get the most of his team in the rebounding department, Payne will contribute in that area immediately. They have a great coach and the kids have been to the big stage. This squad is deep, talented, tough, with shot makers.
Losses: Keaton Grant, Chris Kramer.
Bench: DJ Byrd, Patrick Bade, Ryne Smith, John Hart, Terone Johnson, Anthony Johnson, Donnie Hale, Travis Carroll
I’m not sure there is a better team at the top than this Purdue team. Moore, Hummel and Johnson all could vie for All American honors if they weren’t all on the same team. Hummel, in my opinion has as good a shot as anyone in the country to win POY. This team was playing great and peaking at the right time before he went down. The concerns I have would be the quality of depth on the roster. The bodies are there, but what do they offer? I will give Painter credit for playing the younger guys last year so they will be better equipped to offer production this year. I think they are missing the pure talent Duke and MSU possess but the top of the roster will play with anyone.
Losses: Scottie Reynolds, Reggie Redding
Bench: Dom Cheek, Javaughn Pinkston, James Bell, Isiah Armwood, Taylor King, Maurice Sutton
I will be interested to see what Jay Wright does with the lineup. Last year he went away from playing small and tried to force Yarou into the lineup. I do not like Villanova playing two bigs together when they such good guards. In particular when they have shown the ability in the past to play bigger than their size. I think you could potentially see Cheek be inserted for Stokes and Pinkston/Armwood for Pena to create more match up problems. Perhaps the two bigs (Pena and Yarou) should be split and that will make for less reliance on King or Sutton. Villanova has to defend, they struggled defensively last year and relied on holding and grabbing to ugly the game up as games turned into wars of attrition. You can’t win at an elite level playing that way. If they defend, it’s a top team in the country and tops in the Big East.
5. Kansas State
Losses: Denis Clemente, Luis Colon, Chris Merriweather
Bench: Shane Southwell, Martavious Irving, Will Spradling, Rodney McGruder, Jordan Henriquez Roberts
First without looking at things closely, I felt this was a team that was a Top 5 lock. Upon further review, I became a little less optimistic. The Clemente loss is a big one, he was a primary ball handler and shot maker. Dominique Sutton is a great defender and glue guy but offers little offensively. One of the guards off the bench (Southwell, McGruder, Spradling) is going to have to provide an offensive punch to go next to Pullen. I would make Southwell the odds on favorite. The reason why K State is here is they play harder than anyone in the country and the front court is loaded. Samuels, Judge and Kelly is as good of a front line as you can find.
Losses: Jermaine Dixon, Chase Adams
Bench: Dante Taylor, Travon Woodall, JJ Moore, Cameron Wright, Isaiah Epps, Lamar Patterson, JJ Richardson, Dwight Miller, Talib Zanna
Pitt’s greatest strength with this roster is continuity. I’m just not sure how much overall talent is on the roster and if that makes their ceiling a little bit limited when out of the Big East. They are likely the only team in this Top 10 without a sure fire NBA player. But to Jamie Dixon’s credit his teams just win, and win in conference. Gibbs and Wanamaker form a very nice back court with shot making and play making ability. The X factor on this team is Gilbert Brown. The most talented player on the team but also the most inconsistent. Some nights you feel you’re watching an NBA swing man, others, you’re watching a middle of the road Big East forward. Where Pitt goes will ultimately fall onto the talented pieces of the roster; Brown, Taylor and freshmen JJ Moore. They offer the greatest potential to get Pitt over the hump and into a Final 4.
7. Ohio State
Losses: Evan Turner, Jeremie Simmons, PJ Hill
Bench: Kyle Madsen, DeShaun Thomas, JD Weatherspoon, Aaron Craft, Jordan Sibert, Lenzelle Smith
Another year, another year with point guard concerns. Unfortunately, for Thad Matta there is no Evan Turner hanging around for another year. Here is my concern; even if one of the freshmen guards prove capable, and that’s a big if..who do you sit? Buford is playing 30+, same with Diebler and Lighty is a lock for those minutes at well. So do you try to go small and leave out your best defender in Laurderdale? I doubt it. Ohio State is going to be as good as Lighty, Buford and Diebler can be for each other. They have to make plays, they can’t rely on Turner to open things up for them this year. It will be an interesting story line to follow on the court next season. Why they are here, is that they are uber talented and have great size.
Losses: Ekpe Udoh, Tweety Carter, Josh Lomers
Bench: Nolan Dennis, Fred Ellis, Stargel Love, Bakari Turner
At this stage the teams start to distance themselves into tiers. Baylor will once again be a talented team but Udoh and Carter are two big missing parts at two critical positions on the floor. Lace Dunn can challenge not only for B12 POY but also on the National level. The bench concerns me, there isn’t much depth nor size. We may see Anthony Jones move into a 6th man role. But this again, is a big, and supremely athletic team. I have faith in AJ Walton and believe he is solid, the biggest question will be how good is Perry Jones? If he fulfills his potential it could be an Elite 8 caliber team again.
Losses: Dominique Keller
Bench: Brandon Paul, Myers Leonard, Jereme Richmond, Crandall Head, Tyler Griffey, Jeff Jordan
Bruce Weber will have no excuses to not get this team into the tournament. The Illini have size, depth, guards, scorers and athleticism. And a nice balance of experience and quality freshmen to boot. It may be beneficial if McCamey can be moved off the ball more this season as he struggles with consistency at that spot. Richardson and Paul with another year should offer an increase in production and Mike Davis is a versatile, athletic player on both ends. A very solid and balanced freshmen class adds great depth.
Losses: Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich, Xavier Henry
Bench: Thomas Robinson, Elijah Johnson, Tyrel Reed, Jeff Withey, Mario Little, Royce Woolridge
Perhaps this is a bit too high, but I’m going off the strength of Bill Self here. He is proving to be as good of a winner in the regular season as any coach in America. The addition of Josh Selby certainly helped out in the late singing period after KU lost their trio to the NBA. Selby and Taylor with Johnson forms a solid back court with a lot of ability. With increased roles on this team that consistency might be an issue for the Jayhawks early on as they sort out roles. The two glue guys on team will be Morningstar and Marcus Morris to help things stay intact and keep KU rolling. Thomas Robinson is one to watch off the bench.
Losses: Ray Shipman, Dan Werner
Bench: Erik Murphy, Patric Young, Casey Prather, Will Yeguette, Cody Larson, Scottie Wilbekin
All five starters return for Billy Donovan which should offer him a little breathing room come selection Sunday this year. I would like to see Chandler Parsons take on more of a role on this team from Boynton and Walker, two guards who are not at all shy. Parsons had made steady improvement each year and became clutch for the Gators on different occasions. The front court of Tyus and Macklin leaves a little to be desired, it’s not the toughest and most physical duo. The Gators have added solid depth off the bench with Prather and Young to go with sophomore Erik Murphy. You would imagine that will be their 8 man rotation. If Boynton and Walker can find more efficiency in their games, this is a team very capable of winning the SEC.
Losses: Matt Bouldin, Will Foster
Bench: Kelly Olynyk, Mangisto Arop, Grant Gibbs, GJ Vilarino, Keegan Hyland
I’m still waiting for Steven Gray to break out and be a great mid major player. How his shooting numbers have dipped each year is a mystery to me. His shot looks as pure as anyone’s. The front court will be a strength with Harris, a future pro, and Sacre, who can at times look like a future pro, there aren’t many big man with his size and strength left around this year. It will be another year atop the WCC for the Zags but do they finally break through in March? Not sure the roster quite sets up for it.
Losses: Ryan Brooks, Luis Guzman
Bench: Craig Williams, TJ DiLeo, Scootie Randall, Aaron Brown, Anthony Lee
Most people will look at the loss of leading scorer Ryan Brooks at more than what it is. To be honest, Ramone Moore may just be the more talented player and he can fill it up. Juan Fernandez, his back court partner really played strong last season and should continue to improve. The strength of Temple lies within coach Fran Dunphy, their team defense and rebounding. The latter two brought by Lavoy Allen and Michael Eric. Allen, is back from testing the NBA waters and should be the favorite to win A10 POY. Aaron Brown is a solid incoming freshmen that adds versatility to the back court.
Losses: Matt Shaw, Darris Santee, Steve Jones
Bench: Anthony Marshall, Kendall Wallace, Justin Hawkins, Henry Buckley
There is a ton of perimeter talent here at Lon Kruger’s disposal. This is the same UNLV team that narrowly lost to Northern Iowa in the NCAA Tournament and they are poised to return. The loss of Matt Shaw to a failed drug test is a big blow up front but if Brice Massamba can continue to improve and be a presence, the guards should carry this team a long way. Tre’Von Willis is a stud and top player in the MWC and a match up nightmare for opposing guards. Derrick Jasper is a do it all wing that was enjoying a solid year until he went down. Belfield and Wallace both can dial it up from long range. The Rebels should be the favorite to win the MWC and a threat to break into the Sweet 16.
15. Virginia Tech
Losses: Lewis Witcher
Bench: Erick Green, JT Thompson, Benn Boggs, Manny Atkins, Cadarian Raines, Tyrone Garland, Jarell Eddie
Like Billy Donovan, all five starters return for Seth Greenberg and that should make Greenberg’s bubble nightmares disappear. Delaney returns as one of the top players in the ACC, and should challenge for conference POY honors. Dorenzo Hudson offers another big time scoring option in the back court. A lot of Va Tech’s success this season will depend on Jeff Allen. The big man has regressed this past season and has not improved on an impressive freshmen campaign in 2007-2008. For the Hokies to break into the tournament and hang around for the weekend, the front court will have to complement the back court much better than this past season.
Losses: Greg Monroe
Bench: Hollis Thompson, Jerrelle Benimon, Vee Sanford, Henry Sims, Markel Starks, Aaron Bowen, Moses Abraham
The loss of Greg Monroe to the NBA, dropped Georgetown from likely a top 5 lock back into this area. There will be no doubt this year on whose team it is and that belongs to Chris Wright and Austin Freeman. It will be interesting to see how JTIII’s offense continues to evolve and spread into the open floor without a top big man for the first time in his tenure. The trio of Wright, Freeman and Clark should keep them towards the top of the Big East and from there, the growth will fall on the shoulders of Julian Vaughn, freshmen Nate Lubick and Henry Sims. For the first time in over two years, the Hoyas will not be short on bodies with four incoming top 150 players to go along with 8 scholarship players returning.
Losses: Quincy Pondexter, Elston Turner
Bench: Venoy Overton, Justin Holiday, Tyrese Breshers, Scott Suggs, Darnell Gant, Desmond Simmons, Aziz Ndiaye
This is under the assumption that Terrence Jones will stick with his pledge to the Huskies. If he does, it is a deep, talented team. Abdul Gaddy had a disappointing freshmen year and he has to improve and do a better job running the show for the Huskies to improve on last years late run. They should have little trouble scoring with Thomas, Ross and Jones being the beneficiaries of Gaddy’s distribution. UW’s big man started to come along late last year and this year they will have increased depth. Nobody will replace Quincy Pondexter’s shot making from last season but it should prove to be a better team.
18. North Carolina
Losses: Ed Davis, Deon Thompson, Travis Wear, David Wear, Marcus Ginyard
Bench: Reggie Bullock, Kendall Marshall, Leslie McDonald, Will Graves
Not quite as high on the Tar Heel’s as others. I think it’s a bit optimistic to just believe they will be ‘back.’ Kind of like they were just going to reload last season. There are big question marks and they surround the bigs. Only Henson and Zeller are on the roster right now, while they are expected to add another (Justin Knox, Kadeem Jack) it still will be an area of concern. The guards are talented and there are many, but the Carolina offense struggled greatly at times last year and Larry Drew was the focal point of most criticism. I do not believe Kendall Marshall is ready to play many minutes next year so Drew again will be counted on. Carolina will be more athletic and more talented with Dexter Stricland in an increased role and with the additions of Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock. UNC will be back, and they absolutely will be better, but I don’t think it’s a given they reemerge as a Top 15 team.
Losses: JT Tiller, Zaire Taylor, Keith Ramsey
Bench: Tony Mitchell, Michael Dixon, Steve Moore, Rickey Kreklow, Kadeem Green, Ricardo Ratliffe, Matt Pressey
Mike Anderson will have a nice blend of experience and youth on this years Tigers team. He has done a terrific job of targeting kids that will excel in his system. Freshmen Phil Presey and Tony Mitchell will do just that as well as JUCO big man Ricardo Ratliffe. There is a solid nucleus returning with English, Denmom, Safford and Bowers. It is balanced team inside and out that will play hard every night. Missouri will have to improve on the glass and Ratliffe and Mitchell should help in that area.
Losses: Wes Johnson, Andy Rautins, Arinze Onauku
Bench: Dion Waiters, CJ Fair, Mookie Jones, Dashonte Riley, Bay Keita
It’s quite possible that Syracuse lost their three most important players. However as Jim Boeheim noted last year, they really had 7 starters and that was tough to argue with. A lot of talent returns and there also is a very solid incoming class on the way. My biggest concern for Cuse would be the shot making of Rautins and Johnson is gone and also Rautin’s play making is now absent as well. Brandon Triche must evolve as a point guard and Kris Joseph will have to continue to work on his game and not be a one trick pony. The development of this team will be how quickly Fab Melo can grasp the back end of the 2-3 zone and what type of presence he can become. Based on his spot minutes last season, I would not enter the year with too much faith in Dahsonte Riley.
Losses: Pat Patterson, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, Daniel Orton, Ramon Harris, Perry Stevenson
Bench: Darnell Dodson, Stacey Poole, DeAndre Liggins
Could UK have lost anyone else? Thankfully all hope is not lost as Calipari was able to reel in Knight, Lamb, Vargas and Kanter, likely four starters, along with another Top 50 recruit in Stacey Poole. Terrence Jones is still unknown and he is a need to add talent and also to stretch the depth of this roster. There is not much left on the roster and we could see Coach Cal forced to go small to split Vargas and Kanter in the front court. The freshmen are going to have unfair comparisons thrown on them. Nobody should expect Knight to be Wall or Kanter to be Cousins, and nobody should expect Lamb to even be Eric Bledsoe. It’s a talented team, and likely a good one, but I don’t think just because Cal brought in new, talented faces it’s a shoe in to be a top team again. There is no Pat Patterson hanging around this year to be consistent, veteran leader.
Losses: Wayne Chism, JP Prince, Bobby Maze
Bench: Trae Golden, Jordan McRae, Kenny Hall, Steven Pearl, Renaldo Woolridge, Skyla McBee
I seriously questioned if Melvin Goins should have been logging major DI minutes last season, but he started to play better down the stretch. He does not have to do much, just be solid. He is a major key to how good Bruce Pearls’ Vols can be as Trae Golden, a talented freshmen is still more of a small two guard. Scotty Hopson has to take a step forward and capitalize on his talent and lead this team, there is no one left to defer to, although McDonald’s All American, Tobias Harris should prove to be a capable number two option. Up front, Brian Williams showed marked improvement last season and you have to had liked the athletic ability Kenny Hall brought off the bench.
Losses: Gordon Hayward, Willie Veasley
Bench: Zach Hahn, Garret Butcher, Chase Stigall
The Hayward loss was a killer for Butler. It goes from a Top 10 team to a team that now suddenly has a lot more question marks. It decreases their overall size and length greatly now, as Brad Stevens likely will have to start three players 6’3 and under. Matt Howard will be the key to this season. He had an underwhelming season to go along with a disaster of an NCAA Tournament. He is capable of getting back to being POY in the Horizon. The back court, while small, is very capable and will carry the load. With Hayward, Butler had a trump card as a mid major. He was as talented as nearly anyone they would face, now without him, their knocked down a few notches.
24. San Diego State
Losses: Kelvin Davis
Bench: Tyrone Shelley, Brian Carlwell, LaBradford Franklin, Tim Shelton
Love, love, love this team. They are experienced, they are athletic, they are tough, they are balanced and they are talented. It is a team that could likely challenge for a Pac 10 title next season. Kawhi Leonard will likely generate a lot of buzz this year and rightfully so. The 6’6 freshmen posted 13 and 10 a game last year. He plays up front next to two athletic, long players in Billy White and Malcolm Thomas. Both who also posted double figures in scoring. The back court of Gay, Tapley and Shelley is solid and they all mesh well together. Steve Fisher has done a fantastic job here and this will be his best team yet. This Aztec team lost narrowly to Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament and surely will be back again.
Losses: Elliot Williams, Roburt Sallie, Doneal Mack, Willie Kemp
Bench: Angel Garcia, Tarik Black, Chris Crawford, Hippolyte Tsafack, Antonio Barton, DJ Stephens
I can’t buy this team as a Top 15 caliber team as some prognosticators have and the main issue is depth to go with inexperience. Yes, there are bodies, but 7 of those are freshmen. So how good will the depth be? Witherspoon again will have to log minutes out of position at the 4 and Angel Garcia, who has battled injuries is going to be called upon to be a key contributor, is he capable? It maybe tough for everyone on the team to settle into roles early on, but by the end of the year I may have sold the Tigers short in this last spot.
Standing on the Outside: BYU, Xavier, Richmond, Texas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Utah State, Northwestern, Saint Louis, Georgia, Old Dominion. St. Mary’s, Vanderbilt, Florida State, St. John’s.