Sunday, November 6, 2011

Preseason top 70 +2

In this edition, I outline the top 40 teams for this year's college basketball season.

1. Kentucky- This is the most talented squad in Coach Cal's tenure at UK. Gilchrist and Davis are two of the top NBA prospects in this coming draft. That's not to mention Jones, Lamb, and Teague. They have the athleticism, talent, and experience to take the title in one of college basketball's best seasons in recent memory.
2. North Carolina- The Tar Heels have the deepest frontcourt in the country with a top 5 recruit coming off the bench. With Harrison Barnes improving considerably this offseason, look for them to contend at the top of the AP polls week after week.
3. Connecticut- The addition of Andre Drummond and the return of Jeremy Lamb cement the Huskies' status as the top team in the Big East. While they will not be able to rely upon Kemba Walker, these defending champs have the requisite experience to once again earn a Final Four birth.
4. Ohio St.- With Sullinger shedding pounds in the offseason and Buford returning to provide necessary leadership, the Buckeyes should once again win the Big 10 and earn a number 1 seed for NCAA tournament play.
5. Syracuse- The Orange have one of the deepest lineups in the country. Brandon Triche and Kris Joseph should emerge as bonafide stars in the Big East, and Syracuse will challenge UConn atop the Big East standings.
6. Florida- Florida has one of the deepest backcourts in the country. Billy Donovan has said that he may start four guards ala Villanova during the Randy Foye years. If these talented players can come together and Patric Young can learn to utilize his physical gifts, Florida should live up to their billing.
7. Louisville- While injuries are a serious concern for this squad, the Cardinals are one of the deepest teams in the country. The Cardinals will win plenty of games though. Their point guard Peyton Siva is one of the best floor generals in the Big East and big man Gorgui Dieng is one of the most improved players in the country.
8. Xavier- Many people are sleeping on Xavier this year. This squad returns virtually everyone, including Wooden Award candidate Tu Holloway. Look for Mark Lyons to improve and for the addition of Redford to really bolster this squad from the perimeter. With that said, this ranking should only stand if Kenny Frease is able to come back from suspension.
9. Pittsburgh- Defensive powerhouse Pittsburgh is poised for another great season in the Big East. While their perimeter attack is gone from a year ago, sweet shooting Ashton Gibbs returns for his final season. Further, the improvements of Talib Zanna and Dante Taylor should equip the Panthers to matchup with virtually any team in the paint. Freshman Khem Birch should make an immediate impact as well.
10. Wisconsin- Wisconsin's ranking should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed college basketball over the past decade. Bo Ryan's club simply retools after losing talent. While Jon Leuer will be difficult to replace, the Badgers do return the most efficient point guard in the country in Jordan Taylor.
11. Temple- Why Temple is not a unanimous top 15 selection is beyond me. They return virtually everyone with the exception of Lavoy Allen. Michael Eric should improve and provide a presence inside. And, the Owls are exceptional on the perimeter with Wyatt, Ramone Moore, and Juan Fernandez. Forward Rahlir Jefferson was one of the more efficient offensive players last year in the A-10. He should produce with more playing time and make up for some of Allen's lost production. Sure, Lavoy's defensive presence will be missed, but Temple returns enough to earn this spot.
12. Duke- While the Blue Devils have talent at every position, only Austin Rivers really stands out as a difference maker. Dawkins and Curry will have solid seasons, but they do not create enough opportunities off the dribble. Similarly, Duke's frontcourt has talent with the Plumlee brothers and much improved forward Ryan Kelly, but they are not elite talents.
13. Kansas- Until someone dethrones Kansas, they will remain the top team in the Big 12. Taylor will have a big year, and Robinson could be the most improved player in the country. Don't underestimate the impacts of Johnson and Releford either.
14. Missouri- Without the coaching switch, Missouri would be the top team in the Big 12. They have the experience even without Bowers to really challenge the Jayhawks. Denmon should be a first team all big 12 selection.
15. Cincinnati- The Bearcats return their stars from a season ago. Gates, Dixon, and Kilpatrick are back and ready to make a splash nationally. This experienced squad will likely get to the Sweet Sixteen. The play of their newcomers and their commitment on the defensive end will determine how far they can go though.
16. Vanderbilt- After returning everyone from a season ago, Vanderbilt should finally advance far in the NCAA tournament due to their experienced lineup. With that said, these same players do not have a proven track record of winning when it counts.
17. Arizona- The Wildcats are a very talented squad who has a chance to finish much higher than this ranking. They are the best team in the Pac 12, but have some serious question marks due to their inexperience and the loss of Kevin Parrom.
18. Marquette- With D.J.O and Jae Crowder back, the Golden Eagles should contend for a Sweet Sixteen birth. Chris Otule and Junior Cadougan will be the X Factors if Marquette is to exceed expectations.
19. Texas A&M- With a new coach in place, the Aggies return one of their deepest squads in recent memory. Middleton should have an all conference year, and Elston Turner should become a household name amongst Aggies fans.
20. Memphis- This year's Tigers squad is one of the most talented squads in the country. But, there will still be some growing pains for Will Barton and Joe Jackson as they mature at the college level. While Memphis is not yet an elite team, a healthy Wesley Witherspoon should certainly help their cause.
21. Gonzaga- Harris and Sacre comprise one of the best midmajor frontcourts in the country. The Zags are poised for another standout season after they were able to upset an experienced Johnnies squad a year ago. They should beat out St. Mary's and newcomer BYU due to their experience and depth inside.
22. Baylor- The Bears have the most room for growth out of any team listed here because of their deep and talented frontcourt. While Quincy Miller and Perry Jones are both future NBA players, Baylor's backcourt still remains a bit of a question mark. Juco Pierre Jackson will look to erase some of these concerns, but all indications are that he is too ball dominant. Potential chemistry issues keep this team out of the top 20.
23. Belmont- After winning 28 games a season ago, the Bruins deserve much more recognition in preseason polls. Ian Clark is back to lead a very balanced Belmont attack.
24. Iowa St.- The transfer-laden Cyclones are a darkhorse pick because they bring in so many new faces. Coach Hoilberg has his work cut out for him. But, Iowa St. is still one of the more talented teams in the Big 12, and if Hoilberg can get his players to buy into his system, they could be one of the biggest risers by year's end.
25. Wichita St.- Despite the loss of Durley, the Shockers return virtually everyone from a 29 win team. Look for Ben Smith and Ragland to step up in his absence and for Wichita St. to win the MVC.

Best of the Rest:
26. Villanova
27. Alabama
28. Michigan St.
29. UCLA
30. UNLV
31. Washington St.
32. Washington
33. Marshall
34. Creighton
35. St. John's
36. Fairfield
37. Michigan
38. Harvard
39. Kansas St.
40. UCF
41. BYU
42. Iona
43. St. Mary's
44. Butler
45. Clemson
46. Purdue
47. New Mexico
48. Drexel
49. California
50. Oklahoma St.
51. UAB
52. New Mexico St.
53. Detroit
54. Florida St.
55. Texas
56. Rutgers
57. Kent St.
58. VCU
59. Miami (Fl.)
60. Utah St.
61. Illinois
62. Notre Dame
63. Tulsa
64. Oregon St.
65. Indiana St.
66. Long Beach St.
67. Oregon
68. Duquesne
69. North Carolina St.
70. UMass
71. Lamar
72. Houston

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