June 30, 2012

College Basketball: Preseason Top 25

#5 C.J. Leslie, F, North Carolina State

 1. Kentucky Wildcats
Conference: SEC | Last Season Record: 37-2

Analysis: With one of the top recruiting classes in the nation, the Wildcats have reloaded, and could be a favorite to win it all next season. Freshmen Nerlens (the #1 Recruit) Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, and NC State transfer Ryan Harrow will help Kentucky reach the top again this season.

Key Losses: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Marquis Teague, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller

Top Recruits: Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin, Willie Cauley

 2. Indiana Hoosiers
Conference: Big Ten | Last Season Record: 27-9

Analysis: The Hoosiers are officially back. Led by returning sophomore Cody Zeller, and Christian Watford, Indiana has the experience, the talent, and the coach they need to seriously content for a title.

Key Losses: Verdell Jones III

Top Recruits: Yogi Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell, Hanner Mosquera-Perea

 3. Louisville Cardinals
Conference: Big East | Last Season Record: 30-10

Analysis: The Cardinals return many key pieces that helped them make a deep tournament run. Peyton Siva could be poised for a big year, while a healthy Wayne Blackshear should prove to be a big time player for them. You can't forget about head coach Rick Pitino either, who could lead them to an NCAA Championship this season.

Key Losses: Kyle Kuric, Chris Smith,

Top Recruits: Terry Rozier, Montrezl Harrell

 4. North Carolina State Wolfpack
Conference: ACC | Last Season Record: 24-13

Analysis: After an impressive NCAA Tournament run, as well as almost winning the ACC Tournament, NC State is the favorite to win the ACC. With versatile forward C.J. Leslie coming back as well as guard Lorenzo Brown and forward Richard Howell, as well as a great recruiting class, the Wolfpack are ready to make some serious noise.

Key Losses: C.J. Williams

Top Recruits: Rodney Purvis, T.J. Warren, Tyler Lewis

 5. UCLA Bruins
Conference: Pac-12 | Last Season Record: 19-14

Analysis: UCLA Basketball has been rejuvenated. With the nation's top recruiting class, led by the #2 overall recruit Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, and Tony Parker, they have one of the most talented teams in the nation. Big man Josh Smith returns as well, hopefully more motivated. There isn't any reason to thing Ben Howland can't lead the Bruins to a deep Tournament run.

Key Losses: Lazeric Jones, Jerime Anderson

Top Recruits: Shabazz Muhammad, Kyle Anderson, Tony Parker, Jordan Adams

 6. Ohio State Buckeyes
Conference: Big Ten | Last Season Record: 31-8

Analysis: Even though they lost Jaredd Sullinger to the draft, Ohio State returns several important players in Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas, Lenzelle Smith, Jr., and LaQuinton Ross. Ohio State usually meets expectations every season, and this year should be no different.

Key Losses: Jared Sullinger, William Buford

Top Recruits: Amedeo Della Valle

 7. Michigan Wolverines
Conference: Big Ten | Last Season Record: 24-10

Analysis: You have to like what the future looks like for Michigan Basketball. Sophomore Trey Burke returns at point guard as well as Tim Hardaway, Jr. Combine their current roster with their incoming freshman class, and you have a top 10 team.

Key Losses: Zack Novak, Stu Douglass

Top Recruits: Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson, Nik Stauskas

 8. North Carolina Tar Heels
Conference: ACC | Last Season Record: 32-6

Analysis: North Carolina loses a ton of talent, but they reload with an impressive freshman class, not to mention key returnees in James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock, and P.J. Hairston to name a few. Roy Williams has a talented, but mostly inexperienced team on his hands, but remember, this is UNC.

Key Losses: Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Kendall Marshall, Tyler Zeller

Top Recruits: Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Joel James, J.P. Tokoto

 9. Michigan State Spartans
Conference: Big Ten | Last Season Record: 29-8

Analysis: Big Ten player of the year Draymond Green is gone, as well as Brandon Wood. However, Tom Izzo has a top 10 team, with Branden Dawson, and Keith Appling returning, as well as a top 10 freshman class.

Key Losses: Draymond Green, Brandon Wood, Austin Thornton

Top Recruits: Gary Harris, Kenny Kaminski, Matt Costello, Denzel Valentine

 10. Kansas Jayhawks
Conference: Big 12 | Last Season Record: 32-6

Analysis: No one thought Kansas would make it to the Championship Game, not even head coach Bill Self. Even after losing Thomas Robinson ad Tyshawn Taylor, we learned not to count out a Bill Self coached Kansas team. With Elijah Johnson at the lead guard position and Jeff Withey manning the paint, expect a great season for the Jayhawks.

Key Losses: Thomas Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor, Conner Teahan

Top Recruits: Perry Ellis, Andrew White, Landen Lucas

 11. Syracuse Orange
Conference: Big East | Last Season Record: 34-3

Analysis: Syracuse isn't expected to dominate the Big East this season, but they surely can have another great season. They lost some key players to the draft, but they bring back some talented players in Michael Carter-Williams, C.J. Fair, and Rakeem Christmas.

Key Losses: Dion Waiters, Fab Melo, Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine

Top Recruits: DaJuan Coleman, Jerami Grant

 12. Florida Gators
Conference: SEC | Last Season Record: 26-11

Analysis: They did lose Brad Beal to the draft, but there is enough returning talent in Patric Young, Kenny Boyton, Jr., and Erik Murphy for them to make a deep Tournament run.

Key Losses: Brad Beal, Erving Walker

Top Recruits: Braxton Ogbueze, Michael Frazier, DeVon Walker

 13. Baylor Bears
Conference: Big 12 | Last Season Record: 30-8

Analysis: Baylor disappointed in the Elite 8, and they lost a lot of talent to the draft. But they have a good team in place led by the backcourt duo of the explosive Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip. A strong recruiting class that includes 7-footer Isaiah Austin will help them push towards a Big 12 title.

Key Losses: Perry Jones III, Quincy Miller, Quincy Acy, Anthony Jones

Top Recruits: Isaiah Austin, Ricardo Gathers, L.J. Rose

 14. Duke Blue Devils
Conference: ACC | Last Season Record: 27-7

Analysis: Duke seems to get over-hyped every season, and that seemed to be the case this past season, when they suffered an early Tournament exits at the hands of Lehigh. This season they are a little under the radar, after losing Austin Rivers and Miles Plumlee. However, with Mason Plumlee returning for his senior season, and the rest of the roster intact, they should still be a contender in the ACC.

Key Losses: Austin Rivers, Miles Plumlee

Top Recruits: Rasheed Sulaimon, Amile Jefferson

 15. San Diego State Aztecs
Conference: Mountain West | Last Season Record: 26-8

Analysis: San Diego State enters the 2012 season on everyone's radar. They have some great players in Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley, and some transfers that should make an immediate impact. They are a team to watch out for this upcoming season.

Key Losses: Garrett Green, Tim Shelton

Top Recruits: Winston Shepard, Matt Shrigley

 16. Creighton Bluejays
Conference: Missouri Valley | Last Season Record: 29-6

Analysis: Creighton should be a top 25 team again next year led by Doug McDermott, and should win the MVC. They are a pretty deep team which always bodes well for Tournament aspirations.

Key Losses: Antoine Young

Top Recruits: Isaiah Zierden, Andre Yates

 17. Arizona Wildcats
Conference: Pac-12 | Last Season Record: 23-12

Analysis: The Wildcats seem to disappoint every year. They don't have a point guard with Josiah Turner transferring, but there is still a lot of talent. Another great recruiting class can help them win the Pac-12

Key Losses: Josiah Turner, Kyle Fogg, Jesse Perry

Top Recruits: Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley, Grant Jerrett, Gabe York

 18. Missouri Tigers
Conference: SEC | Last Season Record: 30-5

Analysis: Missouri was a pleasant surprise last season, but had a disappointing Tournament loss to Norfolk State. They lose a lot of scoring, but I like coach Frank Haith's chances in their first year as a member of the SEC.

Key Losses: Kim English, Marcus Denmon, Ricardo Ratliffe, Matt Pressey

Top Recruits: Stefan Jankovic, Ryan Rosburg

 19. UNLV Runnin' Rebels
Conference: Mountain West | Last Season Record: 26-9

Analysis: UNLV started off the season hot, but cooled off toward the end. Mike Moser is back, and the addition of key transfers Khem Burch and Bryce Jones should give them a good shot at winning the Mountain West.

Key Losses: Chace Stanback, Oscar Bellfield, Brice Massamba

Top Recruits: Anthony Bennett, Katin Reinhardt, Savon Goodman

 20. Memphis Tigers
Conference: Conference USA | Last Season Record: 26-9

Analysis: Memphis was ranked in the top 10 last year, but didn't live up to lofty expectations. They're a young team, but very talented. Although they lost Will Barton, a healthy Adonis Thomas should pick up where both left off in hopes of making a deep run in the Tourney.

Key Losses: Will Barton, Wesley Witherspoon

Top Recruits: Shaq Goodwin, Damien Wilson

 21. Texas Longhorns
Conference: Big 12 | Last Season Record: 20-14

Analysis: The Longhorns are a young team, but they certainly a top 25 team based off of talent. Getting point guard Myck Kabongo back is huge, as well as the addition of freshman Cameron Ridley. They could leap frog Mizzouri, Kansas, and Baylor this season.

Key Losses: J'Covan Brown, Clint Chapman

Top Recruits: Cameron Ridley, Prince Ibeh, Javan Felix, Connor Lammert

 22. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Conference: West Coast | Last Season Record: 26-7

Analysis: Gonzaga always has good teams. This year will be no different. They do lose 7-footer Robert Sacre, but Elias Harris, David Stockton and company return. A good NCAA Tournament run is in the cards for the Bulldogs.

Key Losses: Robert Sacre

Top Recruits: Przemek Karnowski

 23. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Conference: Big Ten | Last Season Record: 23-15

Analysis: The Golden Gophers have a lot of promise, and Rodney Williams should have his best season yet. Trevor Mbakwe received a sixth year of eligibility, and he was a big part of their success last season. The Big Ten is tough, but this team could finish near the top.

Key Losses: Ralph Sampson III

Top Recruits: Wally Ellenson, Charles Buggs

 24. Virginia Commonwealth Rams
Conference: Atlantic 10 | Last Season Record: 29-7

Analysis: Two years in a row VCU made strong Tournament runs. Head Coach Shaka Smart is the main reason for that. Everyone from last year's team back except for Bradford Burgess, but if Bradford's brother Jordan is as good as him, they look like a top 25 team.

Key Losses: Bradford Burgess

Top Recruits: Jordan Burgess, Justin Tuoyo, Mo Alie-Cox

 25. Wisconsin Badgers
Conference: Big Ten | Last Season Record: 26-10

Analysis: Jordan Taylor's gone, but that doesn't mean the Badgers won't be a good team this season. Everyone else comes back, and that means they should be able to content for the Big Ten title.

Key Losses: Jordan Taylor

Top Recruits: Sam Dekker