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Final Pre-Season Mid Major Top 15

Posted by Patrick on November 12, 2008

Here’s the link to my first Mid-Major Top 15.

(I will not include: Gonzaga, Xavier, C-USA, WAC, or MWC)

The teams are the same but just some rearranging:

1. Davidson- Curry has obviously made a smooth transition to point guard, as expected, scoring 41 in the Wildcats exhibition game. If Curry plays anything like this during the regular season, those supporting players should be enough to keep Davidson rolling.

2. San Diego- I’m still a strong believer that San Diego is one of the better Non-BCS teams out there. They have a senior heavy lineup led by Gyno Pomare and Brandon Johnson, plus sophomores Trumaine Johnson and Rob Jones are studs that can play with anyone in the nation.

3. Siena- Brings back all five starters from the team that made fools out of Vanderbilt in last year’s tournament. They shouldn’t have too much trouble winning the MAAC, but it will be interesting to see how they stack up against the powerhouses in the Old Spice Classic.

4. Saint Mary’s- Patrick Mills, Omar Samhan, Diamon Simpson, and Ian O’Leary will lead a Gaels team that looks to be back in the NCAA tournament.

5. Saint Joseph’s- This team probably has the best chance to upset Xavier and win the A-10. Ahmad Nivins is the best center in the conference and can give any team a headache thats trying to stop him.

6. Virginia Commonwealth- Eric Maynor is certainly up there with the best point guards in the nation, but will this team choke once again when the conference tournament rolls around.

https://i0.wp.com/blog.cleveland.com/sports/2008/03/medium_jnathanbullock.jpg

7. Cleveland State- This team is one of the more athletic teams in the mid-west and should be the favorites to win the Horizon League. Athletic big man J’Nathan Bullock (above) and stellar point guard Cedric Jackson look to lead the Vikings to the NCAA tournament just two years after posting a terrible conference record.

8. Cal State Fullerton- Keep your eye on Josh Akognon (below) all season, he’s a tremendous player that goes unnoticed for playing in a small conference. As for the rest of the team, they bring back a lot of experience from the squad that made the NCAA tournament last season.

https://i0.wp.com/images.townnews.com/nctimes.com/content/articles/2008/03/21/sports/ncaabasketball/15d1f56ca2a0cda988257413001ac1c9.jpg

9. Creighton- In my opinion, the Blue Jays are the favorites to win the MVC. A team that just lost three seniors a year ago should be poised to make the NCAA tournament after being routed by Florida in the NIT.

10. Dayton- Also a team that can surprise; London Warren and Chris Wright are two very underrated players that should make some noise in the A-10.

11. Wright State- Vaughn Duggins and Todd Brown will try to bring the Raiders back to the NCAA tournament for the 2nd time in 3 seasons. However, it won’t be easy with Cleveland State in their way.

12. Tennessee Martin- Lester Hudson and Marquis Weddle should easily take control of the Ohio Valley Conference from the get go, as long as these two are on the court they will be a tough game for any team.

13. Belmont- Until they prove me wrong, I have to give the Bruins some love for what they almost did to Duke last season. Plus, they have built a dynasty in the Atlantic Sun and I don’t expect any underdog teams to steal their throne.

14. Oral Roberts- Do these guys ever go away? Not when you have players like Robert Jarvis. I don’t see anyone that can contend in the Summit League.

15. Drake- This will be a very tough season for the Bulldogs. With Josh Young running the offense they should still experience success, but certainly not at the magnitude of last season’s.

Also Considered: Santa Clara, Butler, Vermont, Northeastern, Southern Illinois, UMass

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First ESPN/USA Top 25 Released

Posted by Zach on October 30, 2008

You know college basketball is approaching when the first preseason poll (as meaningless as they may be) is finally released. There’s not many surprises on this list and North Carolina was a unanimous #1:

1. North Carolina, 2. Connecticut, 3. Louisville, 4. UCLA, 5. Duke

I can’t take much issue with this top five. In fact, this is what my preseason top four will look like, and I wouldn’t be surprised if AP’s poll has the same order, as well. The coaches realize the influence Jrue Holiday and that outstanding recruiting class will have to counter the losses of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love. Duke may be getting a tad too much love here. Still plenty of question marks in their frontcourt.

6. Pittsburgh, 7. Michigan State, 8. Texas, 9. Notre Dame, 10. Purdue

Texas at #8 is a bit puzzling. I love James and Abrams, but the point guard situation keeps them out of the preseason top ten for me. I also agree with the Michigan State over Purdue pick. They’re deeper, more athletic and more talented than Purdue in what will be a very tight Big Ten race. If you’re keeping track, 40% of the top ten are from the Big East.

11. Gonzaga, 12. Memphis, 13. Tennessee, 14. Oklahoma, 15. Arizona State

This is a great place for Tennessee and Oklahoma. I’m not as high on Memphis, though. Evans could be a special player, but until I see one of their complimentary players make the leap to stardom (Taggart, Dozier, Anderson, even Evans), I wouldn’t put them in my top 15. Plenty of casual fans will see Gonzaga here and scream “overrated”. Their non-conference schedule is brutal, but if they can survive, they’ll finish the year right around this spot.

16. Miami (FL), 17. Marquette, 18. Georgetown, 19. Florida, 20. Davidson

No issues with Marquette or Georgetown here, these seem like perfect spots for those two teams. I take issue with Miami over Wake Forest in the ACC, even with Jack McClinton. That isn’t a huge omission, but I’d have Wake Forest higher than #24. Davidson earned their spot in the preseason top 20.

21. USC, 22. Wisconsin, 23. Kansas, 24. Wake Forest, 25. Villanova

(#26 UNLV, #27 Saint Mary’s, #28 Ohio State, #29 Baylor, #30 Xavier, #31 Syracuse, #32 Texas A&M, #33 LSU, #34 Arizona, #35 Virginia Tech, #36 BYU, #37 West Virginia, #38 Washington, #39 Siena, #40 Kentucky)

USC and Wisconsin is actually tied for the 21st spot. Notably left out of the top 25 were UNLV, Saint Mary’s and Baylor, three teams you could make a strong argument for to replace Florida, Davidson and Kansas. I have no issues with Wisconsin over Ohio State. I think Syracuse is slightly stronger than Villanova, but the difference is very small.

The first matchup that could pit two Top-25 teams is Oklahoma vs. Davidson (assuming neither is upset) n Norman, Oklahoma in mid-November.

Louisville preview later today, and possibly Tommy’s #5 ACC team.

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Top Ten Backcourts/Frontcourts

Posted by Zach on October 14, 2008

Much like Luke Winn and Jeff Borzello have done, here’s my take on the top backcourts and frontcourts in the nation:

Top Ten Frontcourts

1. Louisville- Terrence Williams, Earl Clark, Samardo Samuels, Terrence Jennings
2. North Carolina- Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, Deon Thompson, Marcus Ginyard, Ed Davis
3. Pittsburgh- DeJuan Blair, Sam Young, Gilbert Brown, Tyrell Biggs
4. Connecticut- Jeff Adrien, Hasheem Thabeet, Stanley Robinson*, Gavin Edwards
5. Michigan State- Goran Suton, Delvon Roe, Raymar Morgan, Marquise Gray, Idong Ibok
6. Texas- Gary Johnson, Connor Atchley, Damion James, Dexter Pittman
7. Duke- Gerald Henderson, Kyle Singler, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek, Miles Plumlee
8. Wake Forest- James Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu, Ty Walker, Tony Woods
9. Arizona- Chase Budinger, Jordan Hill, Jamelle Horne, Bud Withey
10. Oklahoma- Blake Griffin, Taylor Griffin, Ryan Wright

The call for Louisville over North Carolina was a difficult one. Tyler Hansbrough nearly single-handedly bumps Carolina to #1. I love the overall depth of the Cardinals frontcourt, led by freshman sensation Samardo Samuels, triple-double threat Terrence Williams, and the most complete player of the group- Earl Clark. Connecticut would get a big boost if Stanley Robinson is deemed eligible for the second semester. Pittsburgh has the most dependable player of the entire list- Sam Young. I also can see Texas making a giant leap throughout the year as Damion James emerges as one of the top players in the Big 12. The consensus preseason top Big 12 player, Blake Griffin, bumps Oklahoma to #10 by himself.

Top Ten Backcourts

1. North Carolina- Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Bobby Frasor, Larry Drew
2. Connecticut- A.J. Price, Jerome Dyson, Kemba Walker, Craig Austrie
3. Gonzaga- Jeremy Pargo, Matt Bouldin, Stephen Gray
4. UCLA- Darren Collison, Jrue Holiday, Malcolm Lee, Jerime Anderson
5. Marquette- Jerel McNeal, Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, Maurice Acker, David Cubillan
6. USC- DeMar DeRozan, Dwight Lewis, Daniel Hackett
7. Memphis- Antonio Anderson, Tyreke Evans, Willie Kemp, Roburt Sallie, Doneal Mack
8. Baylor- Curtis Jerrells, LaceDarius Dunn, Henry Dugat
9. Notre Dame- Kyle McAlarney, Tory Jackson, Jonathan Peoples
10. Duke- Nolan Smith, Greg Paulus, Jon Scheyer, Elliot Williams

It wasn’t easy deciding between those bottom three and teams like Texas, Syracuse and Georgetown. What was easy is North Carolina at #1 and Connecticut at #2. These are my top two preseason teams overall for a simple reason- they both possess top five backcourts and frontcourts this season. I love Gonzaga’s backcourt led by the explosive Jeremy Pargo and Stephen Gray, who I feel could make a huge impact from behind the arc in his sophomore season. Marquette has the most cohesion of any group as the main three have been making plays together for three full seasons. DeRozan has the most potential of any single player and Baylor could be overlooked, but Dunn and Jerrells are true playmakers.

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Number Two Debate

Posted by Zach on September 16, 2008

The debate will rage on from today till the season opening tip-off: who is the second best team in the nation behind North Carolina? Four Big East teams can boast their credentials, along with a Tobacco Road ACC power who looks to challenge their biggest rival, a perennial Final Four participant, and a sleeper team that could emerge in the Big 10 under the tutelage of Tom Izzo. You can make a compelling case for any one of these teams- most have the talent, depth, toughness and balance to contend for the #2 ranking throughout the year. Here are the cases for each team to be ranked second in the nation:

Connecticut–  The Huskies hit their peak late in the season last year before the crushing injury of A.J. Price marked the beginning of the end of their season against 13-seed San Diego. Price, after persevering through a college career that involved laptop theft, brain injuries and a torn ACL, is finally 100% ready for contact practices and ready to lead Connecticut back to the promised land. Joining Price in the backcourt are two special talents- his sidekick Jerome Dyson and freshman sensation Kemba Walker, who looked outstanding in the U-18 championships this summer. The frontcourt doesn’t lack for size or stability. Hasheem Thabeet continues to develop as a dominant big man in the conference, will he make the leap? Jeff Adrien is an all-around do-everything type of force rebounding and scoring. Don’t forget about Nate Miles as a potential difference maker for the Huskies.

Louisville– The Cardinals are as deep and talented as the Huskies this season. By the end of the season, their best player might be freshman Samardo Samuels, a 7-foot behemoth in the low post that will create some intriguing matchups with Thabeet and Harangody. The Cardinals pose two athletic and versatile forwards with triple-double threat Terrence Williams and possible lottery pick Earl Clark. The wild card for Louisville, possibly determining whether they’re a top-2 or top-15 team, is the development of Edgar Sosa at point guard. Is he mature enough to lead a Final Four caliber team to the title? Louisville lost Derrick Caracter earlier than expected, but the frontcourt should be fine. The question mark lies with Sosa and the production from the backcourt.

Notre Dame– The Irish struck gold with the transfers of Scott Martin from Purdue and Ben Hansbrough from Mississippi State this off-season, but both are ineligible this season. Don’t feel too bad for Mike Brey, he’ll be just fine. The stars are Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney. Harangody is a 20-10 threat who is looking to win another Big East Player of the Year award dominating opponents in the post with his wide frame and unique scoring ability. Ben’s older brother, Tyler (you might have heard of him) could match up with Harangody in Maui this November. Kyle McAlarney is one of the best three-point shooters in the nation and has point guard Tory Jackson, the ultimate drive-and-dish playmaker, to get him the rock in open spots with good looks. The question: Can Notre Dame match the depth/athleticism of Louisville and Connecticut?

Pittsburgh– The NCAA put the hammer down on the eligibility of Mike Cook at the wing spot for Pittsburgh, meaning Gilbert Brown will have to take over some of the scoring load. Most of that load will be handed off to three worthy players- forward Sam Young, guard Levance Fields and center DeJuan Blair. Young emerged in the Big East Tournament last March as an all-around force with an efficient scoring touch and the ability to make clutch shots. Fields is back from his own injury suffered just days after Cook’s ACL tear, and looks to regain his standing as a top Big East guard from the perimeter. The sophomore of the group, DeJuan Blair, needs to improve free throw shooting to become a consistent threat, but the knack for finding the basket and his intense rebounding ability is too excellent to ignore.

Michigan State
– The Spartans are in constant contention every season under coach Tom Izzo, but this season could be the return to the National Title last experienced when Mateen Cleaves led MSU. The point guard for Michigan State this year is Kalin Lucas, a speedster play-making slasher with the ability to create for any one of the Spartans supporting cast- Morgan, Suton, Roe or Walton. Lucas could end up being the top PG in the nation by February. Delvin Roe is the five-star freshman ready to make an immediate impact, and Goran Suton is a dependable post presence who needs to be more aggressive for the Spartans to be successful. Raymar Morgan had a bit of a disappointing 2007-08, look for him to come back with a vengeance this season and help Michigan State edge Purdue for the Big Ten title.



Duke
– The Blue Devils could go either way. I like their pieces, but the same issue that’s haunted Duke since the departure of Shelden Williams could ultimately lead to their demise- the lack of a scoring forward/center. Olek Czyz and Miles Plumlee are not ready for prime time, and Lance Thomas has proven to be a soft forward who refuses to bang with any strong opposition. You have to love their guards, though. Greg Paulus continues to progress into a top-notch point guard, even if his detractors refuse to admit it. Kyle Singler can shoot from the outside and wing freshman Eliot Williams will be the next Duke star. The best player of the group is Gerald Henderson, a sensational and athletic playmaker who can shoot and drive. The Duke-UNC battles should once again be epic this season.

UCLA
– The Bruins lost two top-5 picks in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love to the NBA Draft. They also lost their best defensive player in Luc Richard Mbah A Moute. The sensational job of Ben Howland since taking over the UCLA program is shown in the Bruins still being in contention for the #2 spot in the country after losing that much talent and scoring load. They reeled in the best recruiting class in the nation led by Jrue Holiday, Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee in the backcourt, along with J’Mison Morgan providing starting ability right away in the frontcourt. Darren Collison never was 100% healthy last season and went through a disappointing campaign. Look for Collison to team up with Josh Shipp to aid the Bruins in terms of jump shooting, team leadership and continuity.

My quick rankings in order: Connecticut, Notre Dame, Louisville, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Michigan State, Duke

Look for a News and Notes sometime this week from me. Tommy and Patrick are real busy with school, work and various sports, but we’ll be back in full swing by October to preview each conference, rank players and give predictions before guaranteeing a post every day in November.

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Gameday, Sleepers and Other News

Posted by Zach on August 28, 2008

Not much news in or around college basketball during late August. I could update you on the Derrick Caracter situation, but he’s not worth anyone’s time. The recruiting rampage has died down with the elite camps concluding and coaches returning for the start of school. While some injury or late transfer may take place in the next few days, don’t expect much big news as the summer ends and fall begins. Don’t fear though, college basketball is closer than you may think. To conjure up excitement, here’s a look at the recently released College Gameday sites for the 2008-09 season:

Jan. 17- Chapel Hill, N.C. (Miami at North Carolina)
Jan. 24- South Bend, Ind. (Connecticut at Notre Dame)
Jan. 31- Knoxville, Tenn. (Florida at Tennessee)
Feb. 7- Spokane, Wash. (Memphis at Gonzaga)
Feb. 14- Madison, Wis. (Ohio State at Wisconsin)
Feb. 21- Austin, Texas (Oklahoma at Texas)
Feb. 28- Berkeley, Calif. (UCLA at California)
Mar. 7- Morgantown, W.V. (Louisville at West Virginia)

Fairly pedestrian, right? The two best games are Connecticut-Notre Dame, which should have major Big East title implications, and Oklahoma-Texas, which should do the same for the Big 12 later in the season. California must feel fortunate considering they’re in full-fledged rebuilding and the UCLA pairing will probably result in a blowout. Memphis-Gonzaga could be interesting, but the Zags never lose at home. That March 7 game could prove to be the reason Louisville loses out on a Big East title in the last weekend of the season. Keep that date circled. Not an easy place to play.

Anyway, on to the main point of this post: my top five sleeper/surprise teams of this upcoming season:

UNLV
– Lon Kruger is one of the smartest coaches in the business, taking his team on a two week summer trek around Australia to prepare for the season against top-notch Australian teams. The Rebels are perennially a contender in the Mountain West and reached the Sweet 16 just two years ago in Saint Louis; this year, they’re the clear favorite to win the regular season crown in the MWC. Still, because of the MWC TV package with CSTV and the lack of national exposure, most don’t give the credit to UNLV and Kruger that is deserved.

The Rebels are led by super-talented guard Wink Adams, a true playmaker in every sense of the word that scored 25 against Kansas in their second round matchup last March. He’ll need to improve drastically on his 14 total points scored against rival BYU in two games for the Rebels to win the conference. UNLV will be boosted by Memphis transfer guard Tre’Von Willis and strong, elite forwards Joe Darger and Rene Rougeau. They’ll be in the Top 25 at some point this year.

Kentucky
– Billy Gillespie showed his coaching mettle last season by overcoming strong pressure and adversity following a disastrous non-conference performance by finishing valiantly in the SEC and in their close loss to Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Two freshmen battling for the point guard spot on an SEC contender is never a good thing due to the inexperience, but DeAndre Liggins and Kevin Galloway are prime talents and are fully cleared by the NCAA. Someone will emerge.

The stud is recently healed Patrick Patterson, a forceful and menacing forward who uses his physicality to put up double-doubles on any given night. He’s my pick for preseason SEC player of the year. Jodie Meeks is also healthy and Perry Stevenson is a quality role player for any team. Kentucky could be boom or bust this season due to the amount of freshmen they’re relying on; my inclination says boom, but it could easily go the other way.

Baylor
– The Bears are becoming a sexy sleeper pick for this season, and the direction of the program is clearly heading in the right track after indirectly and unofficially landing one of the top players in the 2009 class, John Wall (wink wink). The Bears will surely improve on a school record nine conference wins from a season ago and have NCAA Tournament expectations. Their guard play is terrific, even with their loss of team leader Aaron Bruce. Curtis Jerrells averaged over 15 PPG last season and may turn out to be a contender for Big 12 POY this season if his outside shooting improves.

The team returns eight of their top nine scorers from a year ago, including emerging sophomore guard LaceDarius Dunn. The Monroe, LA native averaged 13.6 PPG and shot 42% from three in his freshman campaign. Scott Drew also added Michigan transfer Ekpe Udoh to the program, who started 31 games for Michigan the last couple years. Drew has this program on the rise. They could finish third in the Big 12 this year.

Southern Cal
– Most would consider the Trojans exempt from any sleeper list, but the national media may sleep on a team that lost both top-five pick O.J. Mayo and draft defect Davon Jefferson. For the folks in Southern California, here’s two words that should heal any post-Mayo wounds: DeMar DeRozan. Believe me, this kid is going to be something special. Another one-and-done recruit for Tim Floyd, DeRozan has athleticism unmatched in his freshman class, a complete package in terms of scoring and rebounding, and the ability to penetrate and finish in any situation.

Joining DeRozan will be UNC transfer Alex Stepheson, a true post presence who will take more and more pressure off of Taj Gibson to recover following a disappointing 2007-08 season and Leonard Washington to contribute immediately. Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis are also extremely valuable role players for Tim Floyd. The Pac-10 isn’t as loaded as in past campaigns, so look for USC to finish third behind UCLA and Arizona State.

Providence
– Most folks scoff when I mention the possibility of the Big East actually getting ten teams into the NCAA Tournament this season. The likelihood of one of the contenders fading and/or the conference beating up on each other too much for this to occur is very high, but even the consideration shows the bulk of top-heavy talent in this conference. That tenth team I’m throwing out there is Providence, led by former Drake coach Keno Davis.

The Friars have two main questions that need to be addressed: 1) is Sharaud Curry healthy enough to lead this team, and 2) who will handle point guard duties in a conference where, frankly, you need a competent point guard. The Friars have some interesting pieces, most notably guard Weyinmi Efejuku, a double-digit per game scorer, and former Manhattan transfer Jeff Xavier, another player who can handle much of the scoring load for Providence. They’ll be tested immediately with the Anaheim Classic and were fortunate in getting a favorable Big East slate with Cincinnati and Rutgers twice.

Some other quick news and notes:

– Marquette sophomore forward Trevor Mbakwe gave every indication he was going to return to the program even with the departure of Tom Crean this off-season, but he has changed his mind and has left Marquette for other ventures. We’ll see which small school scoops him up. He’s a project but a worthwhile one.

– Memphis is heading towards another package deal, a growing and disturbing trend in college basketball. They lured in the brother of one of the top players in the 2009 class, Xavier Henry’s brother C.J, to enroll full-time at their school. Slick move by John Calipari to help in the recruiting of Xavier, so they’ve seemingly moved ahead in the race.

– Villanova landed another top recruit in Mouph Yarou, a 6’9 African big man from a military academy in Virginia, ranked #28 overall in the county by Scout.

– Freshman guard Mark McLaughlin will not play for Nevada this season, a top-100 recruit in the nation. This is a big loss for the Wolfpack as he was expected to team up with Luke Babbitt and contribute mightily this season.

For excellent mid-major season previews, just go to ESPN.com for their ShootAround segment. For the big conferences, we’ve previewed all six on this site, so snoop around.

Posted in News And Notes, Team Rankings | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

2008 Top 15 Mid-Majors

Posted by Patrick on July 19, 2008

(I will not include Gonzaga, C-USA, WAC, or MWC. I will be including A-10, and MVC.)

1.

The Toreros graduated no players in 2007, and they are ready to make another run at a WCC title. Last year’s win against UConn was certainly no fluke and this team is locked and loaded for next season. Led by seniors Brandon Johnson and Gyno Pomar and Coach Bill Grier, don’t expect anything less than an NCAA tourney run from San Diego in ’08.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Trumaine Johnson ( 5.7 PPG, 2.7 APG) So.

SG- Brandon Johnson (16.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 3.5 APG) Sr.

G- De’Jon Jackson (7.6 PPG) Jr.

PF- Rob Jones (9 PPG, 5.8 RPG) So.

C- Gyno Pomare (14.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 1.3 BPG) Sr.

2.

The reason Davidson isn’t my choice for the number one mid major team is because they lost their point guard in Jason Richards. Of course, they still have Stephen Curry who will be making the transition to point guard this season and probably for the rest of his life as he will pursue an NBA career. This team will rest on Curry, and while that can be a good thing, it can also cause major problems. We’ll see if they are able to build on last year’s success and make another deep tournament run under a very good coach in Bob McKillop.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Stephen Curry (25.9 PPG) Jr.

SG- William Archambault (5 PPG) Jr.

SF- Max Paulhaus-Gosselin (3.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG) Sr.

PF- Stephen Rossiter (3 PPG, 3.3 RPG) Jr.

C- Andrew Lovedale (6.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG) Sr.

3.

Dayton certainly exceeded expectations last year, but as soon as they were looked at as a tournament team their performance began to drop whether it was due to injury or that the A-10 was very underrated last season. They had a great NIT run but this season they should be the favorites in the A-10 and look to get to the NCAA tournament. The loss of Brian Roberts will take its toll on this team, but  have a great coach, so as the season progresses it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- London Warren (4.3 PPG, 1.9 APG) Jr.

SG- Marcus Johnson (10.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG) Jr.

G- Paul Williams (24 PPG at Renaissance High School in Detroit) Fr.

PF- Chris Wright (10.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG) So.

C- Kurt Huelsman (5.9 PPG, 4 RPG) Jr.

4.

Siena had a great start to last season when they beat Stanford, and then they also had a great end to the season when they destroyed Vanderbilt in the first round of the tournament. This team reminds me of Bucknell the year after they beat Kansas. Siena returns all five starters led by Edwin Ubiles and will look to have an even better season and maybe a Sweet 16 appearance.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Ronald Moore (8.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 5.3 APG) Jr.

SG- Kenny Hasbrouck (16.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG) Sr.

SF- Edwin Ubiles (17 PPG, 4.4 RPG) Jr.

PF- Alex Franklin (15.1 PPG, 7.8 RPG) Jr.

C- Josh Duell (5.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG) Sr.

5.

Saint Mary’s didn’t have a great end to the season when they lost two straight games, but they did make the NCAA tournament and they return a lot for next season. Led by Diamon Simpson, and Aussie phenom Patrick Mills, the Gaels look as if they will have another NCAA tournament run.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Patrick Mills (14.8 PPG, 3.5 APG) So.

SG- Carlin Hughes (5.9 PPG, 2.4 APG) Sr.

SF- Ian O’Leary (7.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG) Sr.

PF- Diamon Simpson (13.4 PPG, 9.6 RPG) Sr.

C- Omar Samhan (10.5 PPG, 7.3 RPG) Jr.

6.

Cleveland State took a huge step in the right direction last year when they made the NIT, but this year they are looking for an NCAA tournament birth. Being the favorite in the Horizon League isn’t something CSU fans are used to saying about their team, but in 2008, led by J’Nathan Bullock and Cedric Jackson, there is no reason that the Vikings shouldn’t be Horizon League champions in March.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Cedric Jackson (13.9 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 4.9 APG) Sr.

SG- Joe Davis (8.4 PPG) Jr.

SF- George Tandy (4.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG) Sr.

PF- J’Nathan Bullock (14.8 PPG, 6.6 RPG) Sr.

C- Chris Moore (4.9 PPG, 2.7 RPG) Sr.

7.

Creighton certainly put up a good fight in the Valley last season, and had some games come down to the wire that they couldn’t quite pull out. They had a very rough outing with Florida in the NIT, but when a young team (graduating just 3 seniors) comes off of a 22 win season usually big things are expected next season, In a down year for the MVC, the Blue Jays look like the favorite.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Cavell Witter (9.1 PPG, 2.6 APG) Sr.

SG- P’Allen Stinett (12.6 PPG) So.

G- Booker Woodfox (9.6 PPG) Sr.

PF- Chad Millard (4.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG) Jr.

C- Kenny Lawson Jr. (5.9 PPG, 4.2 APG) So.

8.

VCU definitely didn’t live up to its high expectations last season, but Eric Maynor should send them back in the driver’s seat in the CAA for the 2008-09 season. The only question is if Maynor’s supporting cast can be any good. If they are, VCU has a chance to surprise some teams next season. However, if the rest of the players play like last season VCU may have trouble even winning the CAA.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Eric Maynor (17.9 PPG, 5.5 APG) Sr.

SG- Joey Rodriguez (5.1 PPG) Jr.

SF- Lance Kearse (3.9 PPG) Jr.

PF- Larry Sanders (4.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3 BPG) Jr.

F- T.J. Gwynn (3.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG) Sr.

9.

Some people might be asking why I have the Titans so high, but the play of Josh Akognon last season speaks for itself. He had an amazing game against Wisconsin in the first round scoring 31 points, and averaged over 20 points per game over the course of the season. This kid is probably the most underrated player in the country, and I think he is rivaling Stephen Curry for the best Mid-Major player. This team will ride Akognon to the tournament and maybe even make a good run, but it will be hard as they lost 7 seniors last season and don’t return a lot of good players other than Akognon. They have some solid JUCO prospects that I think will make the transition and play well for CSF.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Marcus Crenshaw (8.6 PPG) Sr.

SG- Josh Akognon (20.2 PPG) Sr.

G- Marcio Lassiter (3.3 PPG) Sr.

SF- Gerard Anderson (DNP last season) Sr.

C- Eddie Lima (1.5 PPG) Sr.

10.

Wright State came very close to another upset over Butler for the Horizon league title, but their play at the beginning of the season was pretty lousy. This year they will be back and trying to pull an upset over Cleveland State by winning the HL. The core of their lineup returns but the main concern will be picking up the rebounding slack left by seniors Scottie Wilson and Jordan Pleiman.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Will Graham (5.9 PPG, 3.5 APG) Sr.

SG- Vaughn Duggins (13.8 PPG) Jr.

G- Todd Brown (12.7 PPG) Jr.

G- Troy Tabler (5 PPG) So.

PF- Cooper Land (3.2 PG) So.

11.

Tennessee-Martin has one heck of a player in Lester Hudson, and will have a good chance to pull some upsets and win the Ohio Valley Conference this season. If they want to have any chance of winning a tournament game they have to play good defense, and that was something that the 07-08 Skyhawks struggled with. That team came within a point of making the OVC finals last year, and are easily the favorites coming into this next season.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Marquis Weddle (17.1 PPG) So.

SG- Lester Hudson (25.7 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 4.5 APG) Sr.

G- Benzor Simmons (5 PPG) So.

PF- Olajide Hay (4.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG) Sr

C- Djero Riedewald (5.3 PPG, 4.4 RPG) Sr.

12.

Drake had an amazing season last year. They were picked 10th in the preseason MVC poll and ended up winning the league and garnering a 5 seed in the tournament only to lose a heartbreak game to Western Kentucky. The Bulldogs lost a lot including their coach Keno Davis, but they do return stellar guard Josh Young who is primed to make another run at the conference title and probably MVC player of the year.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Josh Young (15.9 PPG) Sr.

SG- Jacob Baryenbruch (2.2 PPG) Sr.

SF- Alex White (3.7 PPG, 2.9 RPG) Sr.

PF- Brent Heemskerk (4.7 PPG, 3.3 RPG) Sr.

C- Sean Jones Fr.

13.

Oral Roberts has been a pretty successful basketball program in the last few seasons, and it looks like next year they should make the tournament once again as Summit League favorites. They lost some key seniors but will most likely bounce back on the play from Robert Jarvis. This team has pretty good defense and they won’t run into much trouble in the Summit.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Kelvin Sango (3.8 PPG, 1.3 APG) Sr.

SG- Robert Jarvis (16.1 PPG) Sr.

SF- Marchello Vealy (4.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG) Sr.

PF- Marcus Lewis (8.6 PPG, 5.5 RPG) Sr.

F- Andre Hardy (4.1 PPG, 3.6 RPG) So.

14.

This team is pretty much a lock for winning the Atlantic Sun every season, and last year they almost took it a step further when they played in one of the most thrilling games in the tournament, losing to Duke 71-70. This team will most likely rely on Shane Dansby for the most of the scoring, but usually Belmont is prided on playing great defense and if they continue to play great defense maybe it won’t be long before we see them pulling an upset in the tournament.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Andy Wicke (9.3 PPG, 3 APG) Sr.

SG- Shane Dansby (13.4 PPG, 6.2 RPG) Sr.

SF- Jordan Campbell (7.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG) So.

PF- Matthew Dotson (11.4 PPG, 3.6 RPG) Sr.

C- Will Peeples (4.1 PPG, 3 RPG) Sr.

15.

The reason I don’t have Saint Joseph’s higher is because I think the loss of Pat Calathes will really hurt them. The return of Ahmad Nivins will be key, but this team is really a toss up. They looked as if they weren’t going to make the tournament because they were in that mess that was the middle of the A-10. Then with a high RPI, they got what some people thought was a terrible snub of other teams like Arizona State, and Syracuse. They had a very up and down season and it will be interesting to see if this year’s senior class steps up to the plate and takes on a good leadership role.

Projected Starting Lineup:

PG- Tasheed Carr (10.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 5.6 APG) Sr.

SG- Garrett Williamson (5.3 PPG, 2.7 RPG) Jr.

G- Darrin Govens (9.8 PPG) Jr.

PF- Bryant Irwin Fr.

C- Ahmad Nivins (14.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG)

Also Considered: Butler, Robert Morris, William & Mary, South Alabama, Valparaiso, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Temple

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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.

Posted in Team Rankings | 5 Comments »

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.

Wayne Ellington/ daylife.com photo

2. Pittsburgh

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.

4. UCLA

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.

5. Duke

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.

6. UConn

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.

9. Gonzaga

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.

10. Louisville

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.

11. Marquette

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.

Dominic James/ hoopsvibe photo

12. Purdue

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.

13. Miami

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.

14. Texas

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.

15.Oklahoma

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.

16. Tennessee

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.

17. Villanova

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.

20. Memphis

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.

21. USC

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.

23. Florida

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.

Nick Calathes/ SI.com photo

24. San Diego

Question: How many players did San Diego graduate last season?

Answer: Zero.

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.

25. Davidson

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

Posted in Team Rankings | 3 Comments »

Zach’s Early Summer Top 25

Posted by Zach on June 27, 2008

For the debut posts on our new college basketball blog, Pat and I decided to release our mid-summer Top 25 for your enjoyment. Much like Katz, Parrish, Goodman and other college hoops writers, nothing gets us more pumped for the college basketball season than an ordered list of the top contenders in hoops. The Big East will be the most common representative and can tout the label of Best Conference in the Nation this season. In fact, it’s not even close. But an ACC school tops my list, and you’ll never guess who.

1. North Carolina

This might be the most loaded college basketball team in decades. Roy Williams hit the jackpot on Declaration Monday with Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green all withdrawing their name from the NBA Draft. Couple their staying with guaranteed Player of the Year Tyler Hansbrough and Deon Thompson inside, along with forwards Ed Davis and Tyler Zeller joining the show, the Heels have the best team in the nation by a large margin. Even Bobby Frasor returns from injury.

2. Pittsburgh

The choice for #2 was a difficult one (two other Big East teams were considered, to give you an idea of the strength of that conference), but I ultimately settled on Pittsburgh because of their leadership, experience and versatility on the roster. Sam Young emerged in the Big East Tournament as a true force in the paint and with the mid-range jumper, and super sophomore DeJuan Blair is a keeper. The leadership emerges from Levance Fields at the point and sixth-year senior Mike Cook, recovering from an ACL tear.

Levance Fields/ SI.com photo

3. Louisville

The Cardinals lost their main man in the middle and best passer David Padgett, but his scoring can be easily replaced by incoming freshman Samardo Samuels. Rick Pitino will surely take advantage of his perimeter depth and athleticism, and hopefully Edgar Sosa is ready to take over the point guard role full-time and finally show some maturity. Sharp shooter Jerry Smith and double-double machine Terrence Williams will be key pieces if Pitino wants a conference title.

4. Duke

Since Lance Thomas plays soft, the Blue Devils lack a force inside, an element that will likely lead them to their downfall in March. Still, the overall talent level on the team is incredible. The two stars will be Gerald Henderson and Kyle Singler, and even the role players- Thomas, Greg Paulus, Jon Scheyer- are all positive contributors, especially with Paulus’ newfound shooting range. All-American wing Elliot Williams will also play an important role.

5. Notre Dame

I know…another Big East team. Notre Dame deserves the honor, though, with Luke Harangody, reigning Big East Player of the Year, and the best three-point shooter in any major conference, Kyle McAlarney, leading the way for Mike Brey’s team. Other than maybe Lawson and Hansbrough, this is the best tandem in college basketball. The two underrated cogs are explosive point guard Tory Jackson, an assist machine, and forward Ryan Ayers.

6. UCLA
The losses of Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook to the lottery will sting at first. Once you look past those two departures, though, you see an immensely talented team loaded with potential. Preseason All-American Darren Collison returns and will be able to play a full season without injury, teaming with backcourt mate Josh Shipp for a formidable duo. The recruiting class is just ridiculous that coach Ben Howland put together- Jrue Holiday (4th overall player), J’Mison Morgan (#23) Malcolm Lee (#39) and Drew Gordon (#42) are all future standouts.

7. Connecticut

I really like the makeup of this Connecticut team heading into 2008-09, and I feel this is finally the year they take off in a big way. Kemba Walker is the huge coup recruiting-wise, and he’ll join defensive stud Hasheem Thabeet and a strong guard duo of a healthy A.J. Price and Jerome Dyson. Jeff Adrien is one of the most underrated players in the nation. This team is the seventh best in the nation and yet the fourth best in their own conference.

8. Michigan State

Sure, the Spartans lost floor leader and energizer Drew Neitzel as a senior, but the team returns enough toughness, depth and talent to win the Big Ten title. Raymar Morgan will be the focus of the offense inside and outside, and the addition of super frosh forward Delvon Roe takes the pressure off contributors like Durrell Summers and Goran Suton. My favorite player on Michigan State is speedy quick point guard Kalin Lucas, who can get up and down the court in a heartbeat and has great finishing ability.

9. Purdue

Closely shadowing the Spartans in the Big Ten race will be up-and-coming Purdue, who stunned the college hoops world with their emergence, even as young as they were constituted (winning games in the Kohl Center with a team of freshmen and sophomores is nothing to forget). The team surprisingly lost Scott Martin to Notre Dame, but return Robbie Hummel, an all-around playmaker on the floor, and E’Twaun Moore, a 43% shooter from deep. Matt Painter might be the brightest young coach in the nation.

10. Gonzaga

Outside of UNC, no team improved more on Declaration Monday than Gonzaga, who retained explosive scorer and point guard Jeremy Pargo for another season in the WCC. Pargo teams up with Matt Bouldin, an aggressive slasher with a strong mid-range game, and Stephen Gray, a sophomore with unlimited shooting range, in the backcourt. The frontcourt is led by Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye, the former of which is looking to rebound to superstar quality.

11. Texas

With Kansas losing seemingly everyone not named Sherron Collins, the Longhorns are in position to take over the Big 12. A.J. Abrams leads the way for Texas, a 16.5 PPG scorer from last season, and will be teamed with athletic forwards Justin Mason and Damion James. Also, Conor Atchley inside and outside is a positive contributor. Rick Barnes is one of the more underrated coaches in the nation.

12. Tennessee

The Vols lost a huge amount of their productivity after last season- Chris Lofton, JaJuan Smith as seniors and Ramar Smith and Duke Crews for other reasons- and still have the talent to win a watered-down SEC. The players that need to step up are J.P. Prince, a slashing guard who found himself playing a key role down the stretch, along with Wayne Chism and Tyler Smith, a forward with excellent post moves. Their leading scorer, though, could be freshman Scotty Hopson.

13. Arizona State

The Pac-10 may be down from recent campaigns, but can you believe how fast Herb Sendek turned around this program from laughing stock to conference title contender? It all began with the coup of James Harden, a potential lottery pick in 2009, and a player emerging as one of the best in the nation, scoring at a 17.8 PPG pace in his freshman year. His sidekick is Jeff Pendergraph, another fearsome scorer. Look for the team to be motivated after their 2008 snub.

14. Marquette

Buzz Williams first year in charge of the Marquette program will be his easiest. The team returns every key piece from last season outside of the 5-position, a spot less important due to the team’s run-and-gun type offense. Jerel McNeal emerged as the team leader and clutch performer, breaking out in the second round game vs. Stanford and testing the draft waters. I love Lazar Hayward’s game down low. Dominic James needs to improve his shooting and Wesley Matthews needs to be more aggressive.

15. Memphis

The Tigers and John Calipari lost Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey, yet still find themselves in my top 15. Why? For one, they return three outstanding defensive players and reliable scoring weapons in Robert Dozier, Antonio Anderson and Shawn Taggart. The biggest reason is freshman sensation Tyreke Evans committing, an explosive, dynamic scoring guard who will tear up Conference USA. Plus, you know the team will rack up the conference wins.

16. Miami

The Hurricanes will experience their first basketball season with high expectations in years, a welcomed change for Stan Heath and his staff in South Beach. Jack McClinton is an all-American contender at the guard position, a tremendous scorer (17.7 PPG) with the ability to take over games. We saw it during his 38-point outburst in the NCAA Tournament against Saint Mary’s. Miami also return their other top three scorers and it should be enough to finish third in the ACC.

Jack McClinton

17. Oklahoma

Many draft experts are pegging Oklahoma forward Blake Griffin as the top overall pick in the 2009 Draft, showing you how much raw potential and playing ability this kid possesses. He’s a double-double threat every time he steps on the floor and has an array of advanced post moves. Along with guard Tony Crocker, Jeff Capel brings in a strong batch of freshmen led by my sleeper in the entire class, shooting guard Willie Warren.

18. Villanova

The bulk of the team is back from one that shocked the nation by being added to the NCAA field, then shocked the nation again as a 12 seed defeating Clemson and Siena to reach the Sweet 16. The returning squad is immensely talented led by guards Scottie Reynolds, an all-around playmaker who can shoot and dish, and Corey Fisher, an outstanding 2-guard with great shooting range.

19. West Virginia

Does the Big East have enough representatives in this Top 25? The loss of Joe Alexander and Darris Nichols stings, but don’t underestimate the quality of Bob Huggins recruiting class, led by top 10 player Devin Ebanks and top 30 player Kevin Jones. Also, the team returns players who shined in a big way during the team’s tournament run, namely Joe Mazzulla, Alex Ruoff and Da’Sean Butler.

20. Wake Forest

Here is my breakout team for 2008-09, one that could make major noise in the ACC. We saw the potential during their big win at home against Duke, especially from their phenomenal guard combo of sophomores James Johnson and Jeff Teague. The real boost comes from the best recruiting class in the school’s history, led by top small forward Al-Farouq Aminu and five-star center Ty Walker. Following the tragic death of Skip Prosser, new coach Dino Gaudio has done a commendable job.

21. Baylor

Along with Wake Forest, Baylor is another team that will be severely overlooked in preseason publications and polls. Losing Aaron Bruce is a negative, but the return of all-Big 12 performers Curtis Jerrells and LaceDarius Dunn will aid in the scoring category. Guards Henry Dugat and Tweety Carter are also very useful players. Baylor is a team that could sneak up on the tog dogs in the Big 12.

22. Southern Cal

Davon Jefferson made a huge mistake staying in the Draft rather than returning to school, where he could have led USC to a top-10 or 15 ranking rather than going undrafted. Tim Floyd still has a very formidable amount of talent returning and entering, most notably Demar DeRozan, who may be the best freshman in the nation next season. Also, Taj Gibson, Daniel Hackett and Angelo Johnson are solid players.

23. Davidson
The loss of point guard Jason Richards will take some trials and learning to overcome, and it could affect how Davidson plays in its annual non-conference death march through ACC country. Still, the NCAA darlings will mold and go undefeated in the SoCon once again. Andrew Lovedale will take over the role of mainstay in the paint and Max Paulhus Gosselin will need to transition from glue guy to scoring option if the team wants to surprise again. There’s another pretty good player they have I’m forgetting about. He’s an okay shooter.

24. Wisconsin

It’s awfully difficult to discount the team that annually plays the best defense in the nation from the top 25. They return reliable scoring options, as well. Marcus Landry and Trevon Hughes form an outstanding inside-outside combination, and three-point gunner Jason Bohannon will contribute. Also, expect sophomores Keaton Nankivil and Jon Leuer to step up to the plate for Bo Ryan.

25. Ohio State

The Buckeyes lost an awful lot of talent and leadership for my liking, but they fill the last slot in my top 25 mainly due to potential and ability. David Lighty has to emerge as the leading scorer, and Jon Diebler must shake off his freshman shooting woes to become the three-point specialist he was in high school. The big coup is freshman B.J. Mullens, a 7 foot local center who is a taller and more talented Kosta Koufos, and has shot up prospect rankings since his commitment.

Also considered: Florida, Georgetown, UNLV, Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas, San Diego, Syracuse

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