Patrick’s Early Summer Top 25
Posted by Patrick on June 29, 2008
Now that the NBA Draft is over and done with, basketball fans can switch their sights to the upcoming NCAA season. Although it may seem like light-years away, it is never too early to speculate on who the best teams in the nation will be; thus here is my Top 25:
1. North Carolina
Roy Williams may just have one of the most talented college basketball teams of all time. With the return of Tyler Hansbrough (last year’s player of the year), Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, Marcus Ginyard, and a supporting cast built around senior Bobby Frasor and freshman Tyler Zeller; it looks as if this team might go undefeated.
The reigning Big East tournament champs are back and as strong as ever. Stars such as Sam Young, DaJuan Blair, and Levance Fields will highlight this roster. Also key role players like Gilbert Brown and Tyrell Biggs will be solid contributors. Like North Carolina, this team will be very senior oriented. The big question however is: can Levance Fields shoot the ball like Ronald Ramon, and if not who will pick up the slack? Mike Cook will also be back for his sixth year of eligibility.
3. Notre Dame
Juniors Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney are one of the best duos in college basketball. They also return point guard Tory Jackson who can lead this team as far as they want to go. Notre Dame on the inside can compete with any team in the nation, but a lot of questions arise about their guard play. Hopefully, for them, McAlarney can continue his lights out shooting and Jackson can control the offense.
The Bruins lost Kevin Love, Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Russell Westbrook, but return star point guard Darren Collison. However, they return a great shooter in Josh Shipp and Ben Howland went out and got the best recruiting class in the nation. Jrue Holiday, Drew Gordon, J’Mison Morgan, Malcolm Lee, and Jerime Anderson are five of the best freshman in the nation and all will be in a UCLA uniform next season. Once again everyone should expect the Bruins back in the Final Four.
Duke returns almost its entire team except for DeMarcus Nelson (who will be missed), and Taylor King who decided to transfer. Kyle Singler, Greg Paulus, Gerald Henderson, and Jon Scheyer will all be back looking to avenge their terrible NCAA tournament showings the last two seasons. Add a stellar recruiting class highlighted by guard Elliot Williams and the Dukies should be dancing deep into the tournament.
An early exit out of last years tournament was taken hard this group of Huskies, however they will be back and better than before with Hasheem Thabeet and AJ Price leading the way. Leading scorer Jeff Adrien and sophomore Jerome Dyson will also be key contributors this season. Point guard Kemba Walker, a freshman, should lead this team in the right direction and coach Jim Calhoun could very well have another Big East championship under his belt come March.
7. Michigan State
The big question at MSU this year is whether or not Kalin Lucas can play the whole season the way he played in last year’s NCAA tournament. If he can, then the Spartans should not only win a Big Ten title but they should also be in the thick of things come April. Delvon Roe was the big recruit in the 2008 recruiting class and will have to play a very vital scoring role for this team. Raymar Morgan, Marquise Gray, and Goron Suton also return and will also have big roles to play.
8. Arizona State
When was the last time Sun Devils fans could say they were the best basketball team in Arizona? Not only will that be true for this season, but ASU could be playing in the Final Four. Jeff Pendergraph and James Harden will be playing with chips on their shoulders after being the biggest snub out of last years tournament.
The Bulldogs return their entire starting lineup for the 2008-09 season. Jeremy Pargo, who withheld his name from the draft, is one of the best guards in the nation. Sophomores Steven Gray and Austin Daye will be the three point shooters, and senior Josh Heytvelt and junior Matt Bouldin will try to show everyone that they are better players than they showed last season. A Final Four isn’t out of the question for Gonzaga.
The reason I have Louisville this low is because of Derrick Caracter’s decision to transfer. Had he not, Louisville would without a doubt be a top 5 team. I love the offensive potential for this team: Samardo Samuels, Earl Clark, Jerry Smith, etc. but I don’t believe they are deep enough on the bench to contend with the likes of Notre Dame and Pittsburgh in the Big East.
Buzz Williams has a lot to work with next season. The Big Three (Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, and Jerel McNeal) return for their senior campaigns. Shooters Maurice Aker and David Cubillian look to continue their great contribution off the bench, and Lazar Hayward will be a contender for All-Big East at the Small Forward position. The big question is if the Golden Eagles can pick up the rebounding slack left by Ousmane Barro. If not, they could be in for another year where they are looked at as underachievers.
The Boilermakers were certainly the surprise team last year, but it will take a lot of production from E’Twuan Moore and Robbie Hummel to continue the success. Scott Martin will definitely be missed, but in a weak Big Ten this team shouldn’t have a problem biting on the heels of Michigan State.
Jack McClinton showed us he was for real last year in the NCAA tournament, the question is: Are the Hurricanes? Last year was a huge step in the right direction for this program, and hopefully they can continue in stride. Of course, nothing comes easy in the Atlantic Coast Conference. This team will have to have more offensive options than just McClinton if they wanna be right there with Duke and UNC.
Texas could be in contention for the Number One ranking had DJ Augustin not decided to go to the NBA. The Longhorns will still be the favorites to win the Big 12, with AJ Abrams taking over most of the scoring duties and big man Damion James trying to build on last year’s campaign (remember his game against UCLA, WOW)! This Texas team can go deep into March.
Blake Griffin is probably the best basketball player in the country. Let those words sink in, and now think about how great Oklahoma will be if they just get some consistent guard play. Even without the guards, Griffin is good enough to lead the Sooners back to the NCAA’s. Look for these guys to be nipping at the heels of Texas for a Big 12 title.
Losing Chris Lofton will definitely hurt the Volunteers this season in terms of the National picture, but in the SEC they shouldn’t have much of a problem taking home the title. Wayne Chism, Tyler Smith, and J.P. Prince will try to provide this team with enough scoring to put them back on the national stage in March, but as of right now it looks like they’ll go through some growing pains adjusting to Life-After-Lofton.
The Sweet 16 performance last season was a great way to show the country that this team deserved to be in the tournament, however Villanova fans know that last year’s play during Big East play was pretty much downright awful. This year they will once again look to Scottie Reynolds for the scoring and to bring them back to the glory in the tournament.
18. West Virginia
(O.K., I swear that this is my last Big East team) The Mountaineers will definitely miss Joe Alexander, but the Great Bob Huggins won’t have a hard time building another Sweet 16 caliber team. Devin Ebanks was a huge sign for WVU, and Kevin Jones was also a key pickup. However, if they want to get back to the deep rounds of the tournament they will need consistent play from Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler.
19. Ohio State
B.J. Mullens is my favorite player in this incoming class. I think he is easily the most gifted athletically and can probably make a run at Big Ten player of the year. If Jon Diebler can shoot the ball it will open up more for Mullens inside and get rid of those double-teams. Diebler can also shoot teams out of zones which will help the Buckeyes make a deep NCAA run.
The Tigers lost just about every player on their roster with any value. However, like UCLA, they had a tremendous recruiting class. Tyreke Evans will highlight the class and is a lot of people’s “number one player” in this incoming freshman class. Also freshman Wesley Witherspoon and Angel Garcia will have to make huge contributions for the Tigers to get anywhere near the success of last season.
Here is another case of a freshman that will do most of the scoring on this team. In this case, Demar DeRozen will be the Trojans go to guy. Taj Gibson will also have to provide some of the spark, because he had a pretty sub-par season in 2007.
22. Wake Forest
I love what Dino Gaudio has done for this Wake Forest team. He came in after a tragic death and now has positioned Wake Forest for a chance to get back to their glory days. Al Farouq-Amini will lead the team in terms of scoring, and center Ty Walker (also a freshman) will carry a lot of the weight. James Johnson will be a key player if this team wants to make it deep into the tournament, but I’m sure any Demon Deacons fan would take even an early round exit after what has happened the past two seasons.
Billy Donovan’s team got off to a hot start last season, but that can be credited to his weak scheduling. The loss of Marreese Speights will definitely hurt, but I expect a big year from Nick Calathes and Jai Lucas. Add a pretty stellar recruiting class to those two, and Florida could be contending for an SEC title.
24. San Diego
Question: How many players did San Diego graduate last season?
Brandon Johnson, Rob Jones, and Gyno Pomare all played tremendous at the end of last season. Trust me, the upset over Connecticut was no fluke, this team is for real and they will be back next season ready to make an even deeper run into the tournament.
Two Words: Stephen. Curry. I think if me and three of my friends were put on the court with Curry we could get some upset victories. All joking aside though, this kid is phenomenal and it would be a travesty for Davidson to be left out of any preseason top 25 after last year’s tournament.
Also Considered: Kansas, Minnesota, Arizona, Syracuse, Dayton