Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Tommy’s Early Summer Top 25

Posted by Tommy on July 7, 2008

#1. North Carolina Tar Heels: One of college basketball’s most storied programs is returning its top eight scorers from last year’s Final Four squad, including Naismith Award winner Tyler Hansbrough.  It’s needless to say that Danny Green and the Tar Heels will be dancing next year and Roy Williams will have his team poised to make another deep run into March Madness.

#2. Louisville Cardinals: Despite the departure of David Padgett, Pitino and the Cards have enough to take a Big East title. Edgar Sosa needs to develop his skills as a point guard in order to orchestrate the offense, and the talent is certainly there for Sosa as well as his teammates in the backcourt, Jerry Smith and Preston Knowles. The addition of freshman Samardo Samuels will help bolster the Cards’ powerful frontcourt.

#3. UCLA Bruins: Ben Howland and the Bruins are locked and loaded for the 08-09 campaign with their new weapons, including Jrue Holiday, J’Mison Morgan and Drew Gordon. Not to mention that backcourt stars Josh Shipp and Darren Collison are returning. The freshman class is going to need to contribute a lot if the Bruins really want to be successful, but I think the Bruins’ talent and athleticism will overwhelm a lot of their opponents.

#4. Pittsburgh Panthers: The Panthers are returning team leader Levance Fields, Sam Young, one of the best players from last year’s sophomore class, Co-Big East Rookie of the Year DeJuan Blair and Mike Cook received another year of eligibility due to an ACL tear. Jamie Dixon will have a good, hard-working core of players to work with. Look for them to make a run for not only a Big East title, but a national title as well.

#5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: The Irish return Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody, sharp shooter Kyle McAlarney, Tory Jackson, a hard-working guard with a lot of talent, and Zach Hillesland, a banger down in the post for coach Mike Brey. This inside-outside combination should work very well for the Irish. The only departing senior from the 07-08 team is Rob Kurz, so the Irish will have plenty of depth at every position.

#6. UConn Huskies: Last year’s Huskies had a very impressive second half of the season all the way up to the NCAA Tourney. I expect much of the same success from this year’s version. The return of Hasheem Thabeet’s presence, as well as Jeff Adrien’s energy, should make for one of the stronger frontcourt duos in the country. Jerome Dyson and Craig Austrie highlight a dynamic backcourt for Jim Calhoun.

#7. Duke Blue Devils: The Dukies return plenty of young talent for the the 08-09 season, especially in the backcourt. Greg Paulus, Gerald Henderson, Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer will make up Coach K’s backcourt. They compliment one another very nicely, and have different skill sets that will help Duke succeed. The achilles heel for Duke will be their frontcourt. Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek are two players that have greatly underperformed expectations. In order for Duke to be successful, their post players need to polish their offensive skills and be much more agressive. Another question mark for the Dukies is whether they can still rely on the 3-ball with the backed up line.

#8. Michigan State Spartans: Despite the loss of their team leader Drew Neitzel, the Spartans are returning plenty of talent. Drew Naymick is the only other senior that departed, so there will be plenty of depth for coach Tom Izzo to work with. Raymar Morgan will cause plenty of mismatches with his size, speed, and ability to shoot. Kalin Lucas and Travis Walton are two very talented guards that play terrific defense and have plenty of athleticism. Izzo should have a nice roster to work with and look for Michigan State’s suffocating defense to really frustrate their opponents.

#9. Purdue Boilermakers: The baby Boilermakers had a terrific run in Big 10 conference play last season. Look for Coach of the Year Matt Painter to have another great season after losing not one of his notable players. Yes, that means Chris Kramer, Robbie Hummel, and E’Twaun Moore are all back. The only thing the Boilermakers lack is a strong post presence, but they seem to do just fine without one.

#10. Arizona State Sun Devils: The Sun Devils look very promising for this year’s campaign with the truly dynamic duo of James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph. If these two can get strong support, look for Herb Sendek to bring the Devils from the bottom of the Pac-10 to a force to be reckoned with nationally.

#11. Marquette Golden Eagles: The Golden Eagles have one of the best backcourts in the country. Seniors Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, and Wes Matthews will do the majority of the scoring for Marquette. The “Big 3′” have the potential to lead their team to a great season, but James needs to become much more consistent if he wants to lead the team as a point guard. If James has another spotty season, Maurice Acker and David Cubillan can readily run the point for new coach Buzz Williams.

#12. Gonzaga Bulldogs: Team leader Jeremy Pargo’s decision to come back to Spokane for his senior year, as well as some developing young talent, make the Zags the best “mid-major” in the country. Pargo, along with Matt Bouldin, make up a very strong backcourt for Mark Few. If wing man Austin Daye breaks out of his shell, and Stephen Gray hits the three like he did in the game versus Davidson, the Zags will be a tough out for anybody in the country.

#13. Texas Longhorns: With the departure of sophomore point guard DJ Augustin, the Longhorn offense will be headed by sharpshooter AJ Abrams and versatile wing man Damion James. Connor Atchley, as well as Justin Mason, have improved greatly over their careers and look to be key contributors for Rick Barnes. The versatility of the Longhorns, especially James and Atchley, will give their Big 12 opponents a very tough time.

#14. Miami Hurricanes: One of the best players in the ACC, Jack McClinton, will be the go-to guy for the ‘Canes once again. But the emergence of James Dews’ shooting and Dwayne Collins’ explosive inside play can propel the ‘Canes further into the postseason. The only question that comes to mind is how will sophomore Eddie Rios handle the point. He gave Frank Haith headaches last year, but if he can run the point McClinton can run the two guard, his natural position.

#15. Oklahoma Sooners: Blake Griffin may have to do a lot of work on his own if the Sooners are to be successful, but I believe he has the ability to take over a game down low. The arrival of one of the most underrated recruits in the country, Willie Warren, will certainly help Griffin with some backcourt play. This inside-outside combination will be a force to reckoned with in the Big 12.

#16. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Ish Smith and Jeff Teague make up the one of the quickest back courts in the nation, and their development (both were underclassmen last season) will be the key for Dino Gaudio’s squad. The two guards along with James Johnson and freshman Al-Farouq Aminu, give the Demon Deacons a very explosive, young line-up with tremendous upside.

#17. Tennessee Volunteers: Bruce Pearl is going to have another one of his prototype teams: athletic, hard-working, and in great condition. Wayne Chism, Tyler Smith, and JP Prince will be the main threats for the Vols. Transfer Bobby Maze will take the weight off of JP Prince to run the point, which he mightly struggled with last season.

#18. Villanova Wildcats: ‘Nova showed their ability to beat the big teams with their upset of Clemson in the first round of last year’s tournament. Many of the same faces are back for the Wildcats this season, including go-to guy Scottie Reynolds. Reynolds is a terrific young point guard, and now that he is a junior he should be one of the best players in the Big East. Last year’s emergence of tough guard Corey Fisher will help Reynolds in the backcourt, and Dante Cunningham and Dwayne Anderson should be strong contributors as well.

#19. West Virginia Mountaineers: Bob Huggins’ incoming recruiting class, headed by Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones, will make instant contributions. Alex Ruoff, Da’Sean Butler and Joe Muzulla are three veterans that will make up a terrific backcourt. The loss of Joe Alexander will hurt the Mountaineers inside, but I think they can work around that.

#20. Southern California Trojans: The losses of superstar OJ Mayo and Davon Jefferson really form a big hole to fill, but freshman phenom Demar DeRozan certainly has the type of explosive talent to fill that hole. The returns of Taj Gibson, Daniel Hackett, and Dwight Lewis give the Trojans plenty of options on the offensive end.

#21. Memphis Tigers: The departures of Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey will really hurt the Tigers this season, but they do have plenty of talent returning from last year’s National Runner-Up team. Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier, Doneal Mack, and Willie Kemp give the Tigers plenty of big-game experience. The arrival of freshman Tyreke Evans will help the Tigers dominate the C-USA once again.

#22. Baylor Bears: Coach Scott Drew leads a team with tremendous upside again this year. The Bears’ success was one of the best stories over the course of last season. Curtis Jerrells and company have the talent to take the Bears a step further. The main question for Baylor is whether they can play good defense for 40 minutes, especially against big-time opponents.

#23. Wisconsin Badgers: Yes, they lost their two best players in Michael Flowers and Brian Butch, but Bo Ryan keeps on bringing his team to the top no matter who they lose. We know the Badgers will suffocate their opponents with their hard-nosed defense (the only reason they’re in the Top 25), but can Trevon Hughes, Marcus Landry, Jason Bohannon and Joe Krabbenhoft provide enough scoring to beat big time opponents?

#24. Florida Gators: Last year’s Gators were one of the youngest teams in the NCAA, meaning Billy Donovan will be returning most of his talent. Marreesse Speights was drafted by the 76ers, but other than that many of the same faces will be suiting up in blue and orange next year. Sharpshooting Nick Calathes and point guard Jai Lucas will lead the attack for the 08-09 Gators.

#25. San Diego Torreros: The Torreros proved what they are capable of throughout last year’s post-season by taking the WCC tournament title and upsetting the #4 seed UConn Huskies. Oh, and did I mention that SDU isn’t losing one player? That’s right, there wasn’t one senior on last year’s WCC tournament champion team.

5 Responses to “Tommy’s Early Summer Top 25”

  1. Patrick said

    San Diego’s mascot is the Torero, not the Don. The Don is San Francisco.

  2. Zach said

    Nice rundown, Tommy. Changed the San Diego thing for ya.

    BTW, Mack actually left Memphis and decided to transfer.

    I’m glad we’re on the same page with Louisville. Pat is more down on them, but I definitely believe they’re a top 3-4 team. It’s gonna be interesting to see all of the different opinions on #2. Some will have ND, UL, Pitt, UCLA, UConn, Michigan St, etc.

  3. Zach said

    Um, yeah. Mack is now trying to transfer BACK to Memphis. This could get ugly.

  4. Tommy said

    i knew that the whole time… actually i didn’t even know he transeferred.
    but that is unheard of…

  5. […] Stadium to face Duke. Georgetown faces Marquette, Syracuse and Cincinnati twice. Louisville- Ranked #2 in Tommy’s preseason Top 25, Louisville returns a loaded roster in 08-09. Edgar Sosa is the wild card; if he can mature into an […]

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