Post-Deadline 2010-11 Top 25

Posted by zhayes9 on May 10th, 2010

Zach Hayes is a regular RTC writer and resident bracketologist. You can follow his sports-related thoughts at Twitter.

This past weekend, the NBA Draft early entry deadline came and went. With most of the incoming freshman having decided their destination next fall (looking at you Terrence Jones) and underclassmen making their final announcements about next year’s plans, we finally have a solid sense of how the rosters will shake out for the 2010-11 college basketball season. Sounds like a fantastic time for another top 25 to me. I did my best to project each team’s starting lineup (which of course could change with injuries, suspensions, academic ineligibility, etc. from now until November) and even strapped on some predictions at the end. Enjoy.

1. Duke

Starting Lineup: G Kyrie Irving, G Nolan Smith, F Kyle Singler, F Mason Plumlee, F Miles Plumlee

The Blue Devils established themselves as the near-consensus top team as soon as Kyle Singler opted to return to Durham for another campaign. The losses of big bodies Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek could leave them a bit thin up front and slightly vulnerable against sizable opponents like Kansas State (both will participate in the CBE Classic) or ACC foe Florida State, but Mason Plumlee is a tremendous candidate to break out in his sophomore season. Jon Scheyer is replaced at the point by who scouts are saying might be the best guard to ever come out of New Jersey in Kyrie Irving. Pair him with returnee Nolan Smith and the Blue Devils are a prime candidate to push the tempo this season. Singler and Smith are both definite ACC POY candidates and Irving is the biggest recruit for Coach K since Josh McRoberts. Seth Curry was a 20+ PPG scorer at Liberty in 2008-09 and should be the first guard off the bench, while Andre Dawkins gives Coach K a deadeye shooter for crunch time. This combination of talent plus a championship trophy from April equates to an easy #1 ranking in the preseason.

2. Michigan State

Starting Lineup: G Kalin Lucas, G Durrell Summers, F Draymond Green, F Delvon Roe, C Derrick Nix

The only contributing player missing from last year’s Final Four squad is Raymar Morgan, meaning Tom Izzo is primed for another run deep into March. There are question marks- the readiness of Lucas after his devastating Achilles injury, the focus of Summers for an entire season in a loaded conference and the health of Roe up front. If Lucas returns to form, he’s an All-America candidate, while wings Summers and Chris Allen can spring for six treys on any night. Draymond Green is a bulky point-forward with an improving mid-range jumper that makes him extremely difficult to guard. The bench should also be stellar with Allen, Korie Lucious- who garnered valuable experience in place of Lucas last March- and two highly regarded recruits in Adreian Payne and Keith Appling. As usual, Izzo chose to challenge his Spartans in the preseason. They’ll head to Maui, face Syracuse in the Jimmy V and also have the Big 10/ACC Challenge contest on the docket.

3. Purdue

Starting Lineup: G Lewis Jackson, G Kelsey Barlow, G E’Twaun Moore, F Robbie Hummel, C JaJuan Johnson

The most important announcement of this past weekend was the decision of both E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson to return for their final season in West Lafayette. Both players made the right call- Johnson isn’t strong or consistent enough for the NBA and Moore may have gone undrafted. Plus, the Boilers have a decent shot at bringing home a national title next April. Robbie Hummel is way ahead of schedule recovering from his knee injury and Lewis Jackson will have a full season to blossom without any foot injury hindrances. Matt Painter will miss the leadership and work of lockdown perimeter defender Chris Kramer, but there’s more than enough production on both ends to contemplate beating out Michigan State and Ohio State for a conference title. Look for Kelsey Barlow to step in at Keaton Grant’s spot in the lineup, but I also wouldn’t count out incoming freshman Terone Johnson earning substantial minutes.

4. Kansas State

Starting Lineup: G Jacob Pullen, G Rodney McGruder, F Dominique Sutton, F Curtis Kelly, F Jamar Samuels

I’m not trying to underestimate the value of Denis Clemente to the Wildcats, but Frank Martin’s team could be even better protecting the Octagon of Doom than last season. Nobody will be out-manning or out-working Kansas State on the boards this season. They feature an assembly line of big bodies that can dominate the backboards and score respectably with UConn transfer Curtis Kelly being the most skilled. Jacob Pullen enters his senior season as the frontrunner for Big 12 Player of the Year and could be a First Team All-American. Pullen has tremendous range on his jumper, but the blow-by-ability (h/t Clark Kellogg) is also sensational. Look for athletic freak Wally Judge to break out in a big way during his sophomore campaign.

5. Villanova

Starting Lineup: G Maalik Wayns, G Corey Fisher, G Corey Stokes, F Antonio Pena, F Mouphtaou Yarou

I started this Top 25 thinking Villanova would be right around the #10-#13 range. After all, they lost clutch extraordinaire and four-year team leader Scottie Reynolds. But they kept moving up my rankings, mostly because I loved what I saw from Maalik Wayns in short spurts last season. He’s the next great Villanova guard and a clone of former Wildcat Kyle Lowry with even better passing ability. Corey Fisher is more than capable of running the Nova offense and could lead the Big East in free throws attempted. No guard duo will get to the line more often than Wayns and Fisher, plus Stokes provides a kick-out dimension for open threes. The frontline should be respectable led by much-improved Antonio Pena and the bench is capable with Dominic Cheek, Taylor King and Isaiah Armwood all bringing different facets to the table. Villanova is the best team in the Big East.

6. Pittsburgh

Starting Lineup: G Ashton Gibbs, G Brad Wanamaker, F Gilbert Brown, F Nasir Robinson, C Gary McGhee

One of the steadiest programs in college basketball, Pittsburgh returns everyone but Jermaine Dixon from a team that shocked most prognosticators and earned a #3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Panthers almost never lose at home and Jamie Dixon is easily one of the best coaches around. Ashton Gibbs is as good of a pick as any to win conference player of the year honors. Gibbs improved mightily from his freshman to sophomore campaigns and is the best free throw shooter in the nation. Defensive intensity has always been a staple of Pitt basketball, and while ace stopper Dixon has left, this core returning is more than capable of topping the Big East in opponents PPG. Gilbert Brown is an athletic wing that keeps improving and Brad Wanamaker acts as another outside shooter to go with Gibbs. The bench is boasted by speedy guard Travon Woodall and heralded recruit Dante Taylor.

7. Ohio State

Starting Lineup: G William Buford, G Jon Diebler, G/F David Lighty, F Dallas Lauderdale, F Jared Sullinger

The Buckeyes have the pure talent to earn this spot in the Top 25, but they could encounter some problems gelling as a unit, at least in the early going. Evan Turner did everything for this team- he was their go-to scorer, point guard, top rebounder and ran the offense. Two problems confronted Thad Matta last season: shaky point guard play (why Turner had to take on the role) and a consistent low post presence. The latter is solved by bringing in Jared Sullinger, a DeMarcus Cousins-type impact player who could be an All-American his freshman year. The former is still up in the air and could ultimately cost Ohio State when they have to face Kalin Lucas and Lewis Jackson. The pieces are exciting, though. Jon Diebler is a fantastic outside shooter and David Lighty is one of the best defenders in the nation. Look for William Buford to break out on a national level.

8. Butler

Starting Lineup: G Shelvin Mack, G Ronald Nored, G Shawn Vanzant, F Matt Howard, C Andrew Smith

I realize Gordon Hayward was their best player, but people are acting like Butler will fall off drastically in his absence. I’m not convinced; in fact, I think they’ll be a top ten team throughout the season. Shelvin Mack only gets better and better with his jump shot, improving by around 6% in both FG% and 3pt% last year. Now that Chris Kramer has left us, Ronald Nored may take on the role of best perimeter defender in the nation. Nored contained Andy Rautins, Jacob Pullen and Durrell Summers during their NCAA Tournament brigade. If he stays out of foul trouble, Matt Howard is a reliable low-post presence. Their success in March could depend on whether the role players- Vanzant, Smith, Butcher and incoming freshman Khyle Marshall- contribute in the absence of Hayward and Willie Veasley.

9. Baylor

Starting Lineup: G A.J. Walton, G LaceDarius Dunn, F Quincy Acy, F Perry Jones, F Anthony Jones

The athleticism of this team is off the charts, and that’s even with Ekpe Udoh and Tweety Carter departing. The big question mark will be whether sophomore A.J. Walton can replace Carter at the point. He has the task of finding LaceDarius Dunn off screens for open jumpers and also feeding both Quincy Acy and Perry Jones in the post. Jones is the most heralded recruit to ever come to Baylor and has the potential to surpass Udoh’s production in the low post; in fact, he could go in the top three in next year’s NBA Draft. The question with Jones has always been consistent effort and intensity. Acy is a dunk machine that dropped 24 (literally dropped, it was a dunkfest) on Texas last February and could blossom into a special player alongside Jones. This is a risky spot for Baylor given the loss of Udoh and, more importantly, their point guard Carter, but I trust Scott Drew to blend the pieces together effectively.

10. Georgetown

Starting Lineup: G Chris Wright, G Austin Freeman, G Jason Clark, F Hollis Thompson, F Julian Vaughn

Next year gives us an opportunity to see just how important Greg Monroe was to this team. I’m a big believer in their backcourt duo of Chris Wright and Austin Freeman. Wright is a steady, intelligent playmaker that really emerged down the stretch last season, while Freeman shot a remarkable 44% from deep and has an entire summer to manage his diabetes that seemed to hinder the junior sharpshooter late last season. Jason Clark improved tremendously last season and gives JTIII another shooting weapon. The question mark is obviously production from the post in the absence of Monroe. I saw enough from Thompson and Vaughn last season to not be super concerned. Incoming freshman Nate Lubick will also aid the cause.

11. Washington

Starting Lineup: G Isaiah Thomas, G Venoy Overton, F Justin Holiday, F Terrence Jones, F Matthew Bryan-Amaning

As long as Terrence Jones doesn’t go back on his word and switch allegiances to Kentucky, the Huskies will enter next season as the favorites to run away with the Pac-10. Jones immediately becomes their best player, a hybrid 4-man that many compare to Lamar Odom. He has the ability to beat you from the perimeter or in the low post. The backcourt is stellar with enigmatic point guard Isaiah Thomas back for another hurrah. He’s joined by defensive pest Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy, a hyped freshman that never found a niche last season in Seattle. Talented wing and Jones’ high school teammate Terrence Ross should make an impact immediately. Still, there’s no doubt Washington will struggle with offensive production in the paint without Quincy Pondexter.

12. Missouri

Starting Lineup: G Phil Pressey, G Kim English, G Marcus Denmon, F Laurence Bowers, F Justin Safford

Missouri may not be the 12th best team in the nation, but I’m a huge fan of their system, coach and incoming recruiting class. Mike Anderson’s press always keeps his team in games regardless of the deficit and is an absolute nightmare for the opposition. Kim English is an all-Big 12 candidate and Anderson also should get big man Justin Safford back from an ACL injury. His height absence really killed them against Kansas last March and in their second round tournament loss to West Virginia. Missouri has three stud recruits coming to Columbia- Texas natives Tony Mitchell and Paul Pressey (who could run the show immediately with Michael Dixon) along with JC transfer Ricardo Ratcliffe. The Tigers will miss the leadership and defense of J.T. Tiller, but the talent is oozing here. Missouri is my Elite 8 sleeper.

13. Kentucky

Starting Lineup: G Brandon Knight, G Doron Lamb, G Darius Miller, F Josh Harrellson, C Enes Kanter

This seems like a good place for Kentucky. Twice in two years John Calipari will have an entirely new team at his disposal, another unit littered with high-profile recruits that could bolt after just a single season in Lexington. Brandon Knight and Enes Kanter are two of the top ten incoming freshmen in the nation. Knight isn’t quite John Wall in terms of passing ability and making his team better, but he’s much more likely to explode for 30 points. Kanter has advanced post moves for his age and can also step out to about 16 feet. The issue with Kentucky will be at the 4 spot where they currently have little-used Josh Harrellson as the projected starter after missing out on Terrence Jones and C.J. Leslie. I don’t think Calipari expected that to happen.

14. UNLV

Starting Lineup: G Oscar Bellfield, G Tre’Von Willis, G/F Chace Stanback, F Matt Shaw, C Brice Massamba

UNLV is my sleeper for the top-15. They return nearly everyone of note from a squad that beat both BYU and New Mexico last season and lost at the last second to Northern Iowa in the NCAA Tournament. Tre’Von Willis might be the most talented player in the conference, evident by his explosions (57 points in 2 games) against BYU last season. Oscar Bellfield stepped in at point guard and compiled a 2.5 A/T ratio, quite the impressive total for a sophomore. Kentucky transfer Derrick Jasper will be healthy after spraining his MCL last January. UNLV returns their top eight scorers and they all averaged 5 PPG or more. Plus, they boast a fantastic coach to boot. They won’t quite be the early-90s Runnin’ Rebels, but the makeup of this roster is exciting.

15. Gonzaga

Starting Lineup: G Demetri Goodson, G Stephen Gray, F Elias Harris, F Kelly Olynyk, C Robert Sacre

Matt Bouldin was fantastic last season, but I don’t foresee his absence derailing such a steady program. It’s scary to think how good Elias Harris will be with a summer to improve. Remember his 31/13 in a win at Saint Mary’s? You could be seeing plenty more performances at that level from the ultra-skilled German. It wouldn’t stun me if Harris is a lottery pick next summer. I’ll be honest, I expected a lot more from Demetri Goodson after bursting onto the scene with his game-winning floater against Western Kentucky last March. 1.8 APG and 14% from three is abominable for a starting point guard on a team with this much talent. Now he doesn’t have Bouldin as a crutch, either. Stephen Gray is so much more than a three-point specialist, but he needs to shoot better from outside this season. Robert Sacre emerging as a legitimate post presence takes a lot of pressure off Gray to produce.

16. Syracuse

Starting Lineup: G Brandon Triche, G Scoop Jardine, F Kris Joseph, F Rick Jackson, C Fab Melo

Syracuse loses quite possibly the first and third best players in a loaded Big East, yet they should still be more than respectable and will likely begin the season fourth in the conference pecking order (if they’re still a member). The backcourt is boosted by incoming freshman Dion Waiters. Scoop Jardine could have a monstrous year as playmaker, slasher and scorer for the Orange, while sophomore Brandon Triche will likely get the starting nod running the offense. Kris Joseph showed glimpses of future stardom, most notably at the end of their win at Georgetown. He’s fabulous at getting to the rim and can pop from mid-range. Fab Melo and Rick Jackson will take up plenty of space and score the basketball effectively down low. This is still a really good team, folks.

17. Kansas

Starting Lineup: G Josh Selby, G Tyshawn Taylor, F Thomas Robinson, F Markieff Morris, F Marcus Morris

Kansas is quite possibly the hardest team to project. The situation is similar to when Bill Self lost nearly his entire team following their title in 2008 and the Jayhawks still managed a #3 seed and Big 12 title the following year. That happening again really depends on whether players like Thomas Robinson, Elijah Johnson and Jeff Withey can play in one of the toughest conferences in the nation. We just haven’t seen enough to know yet. Will Brady Morningstar and Tyrell Reed respond to being depended on more than as role players surrounded by elite talent? Can Josh Selby step in immediately and run the point and will Tyshawn Taylor play the season with his head on straight? Marcus Morris is the lone “sure thing” here. His improvement was remarkable last season to the point where he became their most dependable player. It would be foolish to think Kansas is in for a huge dropoff, but there’s so much yet to be determined.

18. Temple

Starting Lineup: G Ramone Moore, G Juan Fernandez, F Rahlir Jefferson, F Lavoy Allen, F Micheal Eric

I’ll give the Owls the slight edge over Xavier in my Atlantic 10 standings, primarily because they’re the defending champs and return both Juan Fernandez and Lavoy Allen. Fernandez burst onto the scene with his virtuoso performance against then-unblemished Villanova and shot 45% from deep last season. The loss of Ryan Brooks will sting, but Ramone Moore contributed in bursts last season (24 at St. Joe’s) and will develop. Allen’s decision to return was absolutely huge. He’s their best post scorer, rebounder and shot blocker. Question is: Will this be the year Fran Dunphy finally wins an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 1994?

19. Tennessee

Starting Lineup: G Melvin Goins, G Cameron Tatum, G Scotty Hopson, F Tobias Harris, F Brian Williams

Tennessee will go as far as Scotty Hopson will take them. He has all the talent in the world but fades in and out of games and has yet to show consistency. Case in point: In four of Tennessee’s last seven games, Hopson scored eight points or less, something that can never happen if the Vols want to contend for an SEC title this season. If he stays away from trouble, Brian Williams can be a force down low and 6’8 power forward Tobias Harris joining the squad should be a definite boost. Still, Bruce Pearl lost Wayne Chism, J.P Prince and Bobby Maze from last year’s Elite 8 squad and enters the summer with a big question mark at point guard.

20. Virginia Tech

Starting Lineup: G Malcolm Delaney, G Dorenzo Hudson, G/F Terrell Bell, F Jeff Allen, F J.T. Thompson

Other than Purdue, the team most excited with last weekend’s developments had to be Virginia Tech. The return of Malcolm Delaney boosts the Hokies to a surefire ACC contender.  Seth Greenberg won’t be sweating profusely on Selection Sunday this time around. Delaney might be the top pure scorer in the nation with the ability to shoot with accuracy from anywhere on the floor. He could average 22-23 PPG this season and forms quite the 1-2 backcourt punch with Dorenzo Hudson. Jeff Allen is outstanding in the post, but he’s undersized at 6’7 and Tech could run into difficulty against bigger teams that crash the boards. Luckily, nobody in the ACC other than Florida State really stands out in that category.

21. Illinois

Starting Lineup: G D.J. Richardson, G Demetri McCamey, F Jereme Richmond, F Mike Davis, C Mike Tisdale

Illinois is yet another talented team from the Big 10. We all saw the verbal spats between Demetri McCamey and Bruce Weber late last season, so chemistry is a legitimate concern. McCamey was probably reluctant to return to Champaign, but his presence makes the Illini light years better. After all, he did lead all of college basketball in assists. D.J. Richardson looks like the better player over Brandon Paul, and that’s not a diss at Paul’s ability. Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale also return for their senior campaigns. Davis is a fantastic rebounder but fell off a bit offensively last season. Tisdale, a 7’1 center with a sweet jumper, just keeps getting better.

22. BYU

Starting Lineup: G Jimmer Fredette, G Jackson Emery, G Kyle Collinsworth, F Noah Hartsock, F Brandon Davies

Jonathan Tavernari graduated, Michael Loyd didn’t mesh and Taylor Haws has a mission to complete, but BYU still has a solid club returning for another push in the Mountain West. The most obvious reason is the decision of one Jimmer Fredette to come back to Provo. Fredette is a First Team All-American contender that shot 46/89/44 as a junior and scored 133 points in his last four games last season. That’s not a typo. Backcourt mate Jackson Emery is also back and incoming freshman Kyle Collinsworth will get playing time right away. Davies and Hartsock should be able to hold their own in the frontcourt.

23. North Carolina

Starting Lineup: G Larry Drew, G Will Graves, F Harrison Barnes, F Tyler Zeller, F John Henson

The Heels won’t be reclaiming any glory in 2010-11, but they should be much better. The biggest reason is stud freshman Harrison Barnes, the best rookie to play college basketball next winter. Barnes is a 6’6 wing with a fantastic mid-range game, high basketball IQ and is very athletic. Last year’s players will be challenged by the loaded incoming class, whether it be Kendall Marshall at the point pushing Larry Drew and Dexter Strickland or Reggie Bullock at the 2 giving Will Graves some competition for playing time. The frontline got plenty thinner with the departure of Ed Davis and the Wear twins and Tyler Zeller likes to float to the perimeter. John Henson needs to get a lot tougher and a lot stronger this summer to make an impact.

24. Memphis

Starting Lineup: G Joe Jackson, G Will Barton, G/F Wesley Witherspoon, F Will Coleman, F Angel Garcia

A top-15 team with Elliot Williams, Memphis will have to settle for #24 and one of the more intriguing teams for next season. I’m going to assume the freshman duo of Joe Jackson and Will Barton form the backcourt immediately for Josh Pastner. There’s just way too much talent to think any differently, plus Williams and Willie Kemp are gone and Roburt Sallie is better suited as a three-point popper off the bench. Wesley Witherspoon had a stretch last season where he scored 55 points in two games against UAB and Gonzaga. Will Coleman finished the season with two double-doubles and Angel Garcia has skill through the roof. There’s so much potential here.

25. Utah State

Starting Lineup: G Tyler Newbold, G Pooh Williams, F Brady Jardine, F Tai Wesley, F Nate Bendall

One of the most successful mid-major programs in college basketball the last five years, Utah State might have their best team under Stew Morrill next season. The only loss is Jared Quayle from a team that once again dominated the WAC. Tai Wesley and Nate Bendall is a fearsome duo in the post and Tyler Newbold should hold his own replacing Quayle at the point with Pooh Williams as another option. The conference was hurt by the early departures of Nevada’s Luke Babbitt and New Mexico State’s Jahmar Young, meaning the Aggies could go all General Sherman on the conference. I just wish they’d play someone in November and December.

Just missed: Xavier, Florida, Texas, Richmond, NC State.

Sleepers: San Diego State, Georgia, Northwestern, Colorado, St. John’s.

Preseason Awards

National Player of the Year- Kyle Singler, Duke

National Freshman of the Year- Harrison Barnes, North Carolina

National Coach of the Year- Mike Anderson, Missouri

First Team All-America:

G- Kalin Lucas (Michigan State)

G- Jacob Pullen (Kansas State)

G- Jimmer Fredette (BYU)

F- Kyle Singler (Duke)

F- JaJuan Johnson (Purdue)

zhayes9 (301 Posts)

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16 responses to “Post-Deadline 2010-11 Top 25”

  1. Patrick says:

    This is the first time in recent years that Kansas could be outside the top 3 of the Big 12 at the end of the season. You’re right, they don’t have a lot of experience in that lineup, even though experience didn’t really help them last season against UNI. Self has to hope that Josh Selby comes as advertised or the Jayhawks will definitely be the 4th best team in the Big 12 when its all said and done, even if Marcus Morris is a stud (but remember he had Cole Aldrich down low to open up a lot of offense for him, I could see him having a season with lower production because he’ll have the opponents’ best interior defender on him every possession).

    For UNC, I’d say watch out for Kendall Marshall to possibly steal the starting PG spot away from Larry Drew, who at times was abysmal last season. Marshall is the PG of the future in Chapel Hill, and if he can get good chemistry with Barnes, Zeller and Bullock then he may be one of the surprise breakout players in the ACC this season.

    I like the Fredette pick for First Team All-America because he is going to be even better than last season. BYU has the potential to finally get to the Sweet 16, and maybe beyond that if Fredette can have breakout games in the tournament. My favorite thing about JImmer and BYU: They get to the FT line and they make them.

    I’d add Marquette as a sleeper because they got a great recruiting class and lost just one player (Lazar Hayward) that they can’t replace this season. Starting Lineup of : G Vander Blue, G Dwight Buycks, G/F Darius Johnson-Odom, F Jimmy Butler, F Joseph Fulce. If they can shoot the three like they did last season then they will be an incredibly tough team to beat in the Big East.

  2. Sara says:

    Quick note – MSU’s recruit is Keith Appling, not Chris.

  3. jstevrtc says:

    Oops…fixed. Thanks!

  4. zhayes9 says:

    I agree with you Pat on Marquette. Buzz will have them dancing again. Cadougan and Blue is an exciting young PG tandem. Fulce is a hole though. He’s not a legit Big East starting center.

  5. J Hunt says:

    Your Top 3 are incontrovertible. Duke, Michigan State and Purdue seem to be the teams to beat in college basketball next season. Kansas State is an understandable pick at #4, and we know they’ll be one of the toughest teams in the nation. But the rest of the Top 10 is pretty tough to determine. This year’s rankings have a great chance to be as incorrect as ever, because so much is mere speculation. Ohio State will have solid players returning, but will be depending largely on a great recruiting class; Butler will be a very good team, but let’s face it: there aren’t any other lottery picks on that team, and that does make a difference; and Villanova is also a tough prediction, considering their downslide at the end of last season. Even Georgetown is returning a nucleus of players who underachieved often last season and embarrassed themselves against a 14-seed in the first round last season. I think my point is made. It’s any man’s race to run.

    I don’t know that I’d rank Missouri so high, although I do believe that they can do great things next season. Toni Mitchell will probably be a monster (I hear he’s a freak athlete), and Mike Anderson is an excellent coach, but I don’t see them making an immediate splash. They’ll probably make like the 08-09 team, which started out slow but gained enough momentum to roll to the Elite 8. No surprise: it’s a wide open window.

    Syracuse has the capability to be a season-long Top-10 team again, and you were right to point out that they’re still a dangerous squad. Kentucky will likely take a longer time to meld this season, lacking the superior athleticism of last year’s recruiting class, meaning that they’ll probably drop those early scares like last season’s OT thriller against Stanford. But Calipari will always be adept at getting elite talent to gell.

    I’ve made this point on this website before, and I’m glad that Kansas’s inscrutability at least was acknowledged. At this point, the Jayhawks are a lot like most of the other teams on this list. They have to be judged mostly on potential. If Elijah Johnson and Thomas Robinson play to their potential, if Tyshawn finally comes together, if Mario Little plays like the former #1 JUCO transfer that he is, if Josh Selby plays like the #1 prep player like he is, and if Marcus Morris plays like he did during conference play last year…well, you’ve got yourself a national championship contender. And don’t forget that Morningstar started for the 08-09 team, so he knows how to handle pressure. But I understand that those are a lot of ifs. Yet I’d disagree with Patrick that Kansas will probably be #3 or #4 in the Big 12. Like the article mentioned, the less experienced 08-09 team won the Big 12 and made it to the Sweet 16. This team will deal mostly with sophomores to seniors, with only one freshman (Selby) likely to earn much playing time. I’m making the prediction that Kansas wins the Big 12 for the seventh straight season. You can hold me to that, folks.

    Great job on this blog. I really enjoy the posts.

  6. Patrick says:

    I think Nova’s downslide was due to the fact that Scottie Reynolds and Jamie Wright had some kind of altercation that impacted the whole team’s mental game. I’m not saying Villanova is a better team on paper without Scottie, but they’re still incredibly talented and may have a better mental game than we saw against Robert Morris and Saint Mary’s in the NCAA Tournament. A huge key for Nova is whether or not Yarou can be a tough inside player. He only averaged 15 MPG last year, and if you expand his stats to say 30 MPG (which is a stretch) he would be averaging 9 PPG and 7.5 RPG. That’s not great by any means, but it’s not horrible. I expect Yarou to be the most improved player on that team though, because he was recruited to play for the Wildcats for his tremendous upside.

    As for Kansas, I don’t know if you can really say that Morningstar knows how to handle pressure. I watch a lot of Big 12 basketball (actually I’m the RTC’s Big 12 Correspondent :) haha) and in key games I just thought Morningstar would disappear. Now that’s either a credit to how deep KU was last season, and they had many more viable options on offense than Morningstar, or its that Self/Morningstar aren’t comfortable with him taking the big shot. The problem with this guy is he’s a one dimensional player on offense, even if he does do all the intangibles. I remember reading a Rock Chalk Talk post in which they gave Brady Morningstar a D+ grade for his 2009-10 season.

    I just don’t see Selby being so much of a factor that it makes Kansas the best team in the Big 12. Xavier Henry was supposed to propel them to the National Championship and he faded towards the end of the season. The only flaws in your argument for Kansas is that there are a lot of IFs. Tyshawn hasn’t come through, Mario Little hasn’t played to his potential yet, and neither have Johnson or Robinson. I mean there are three guys that last year had little to do with KU’s team, and now they’re being called on to be major contributors. I think Kansas has the potential to be more like they were when they lost to Bucknell and Bradley than a Final Four, or national championship contender.

  7. G. Floyd says:

    Kentucky at #13 is a joke. No senior leadership and a recruiting class that is “good” at best. Knight is no John Wall; Kanter is no Cousins; this team will struggle. Luckily for them they play in a very weak SEC.

  8. Coogles says:

    “…people are acting like Butler will fall off drastically in his absence. I’m not convinced.”

    You should be. This team is going to be forced to start two freshman and it probably won’t be pretty early on. I’m about the biggest Butler homer out there, but this team is going to have some serious problems in its early games with Louisville, Duke, and in the Hawaii tournament. They may start in the Top 25, but they won’t stay there.

    Did you happen to catch the game against Valparaiso when Butler had to play without Hayward? Valpo looked every bit of Butler’s equal in that game and even had a nice lead going for most of the first half. Hayward was the team’s best scorer, best rebounder, best post defender, best passer in transition and in breaking the press, and received the most attention from opposing defenses.

    I could see maybe keeping Butler in the 24-25 spot, but if this were my list, they’d be nowhere to be found.

    Heck, I’m not even convinced Butler will win the Horizon next year. Detroit is going to be very, very good with Ray McCallum at point, Jason Calliste becoming eligible, Chase Simon out on the wing and Eli Holman patrolling the paint…if McCallum Sr. has an ounce of coaching ability in him, they should win the conference. They easily have the most talented roster in the league on paper.

  9. zhayes9 says:

    I’m not worried about Nova or G’Town’s collapses last March. Brand new season.

    “Good” at best? Seriously?

    Just because Knight isn’t quite Wall and Kanter isn’t quite Cousins, that doesn’t mean #13 is a joke. I’d argue that’s the perfect spot for them.

  10. zhayes9 says:

    Butler returns 3 of their best 4 players from a national title runner-up team. I’d say they deserve to be ranked. Shelvin Mack is my pick for HL POY. Nored can lock up any elite guard scorer and Howard can dominate that league if he stays on the floor. Plus you have to consider Butler will shoot up the polls when they lose MAYBE once or twice from January to mid-March.

    Detroit should finish 2nd based on talent alone, sure. But as highly touted as McCallum was, he’s still unproven, as is basically that entire Detroit team at least in terms of playing together as a unit. Butler does that better than anyone.

    I’m a Milwaukee season ticket holder and follow the Horizon closely, so I know how much Hayward meant to them. I also think that their returning pieces is enough to garner a top spot in the polls, at least in the preseason.

  11. Iceman says:

    “I’m not worried about Nova or G’Town’s collapses last March. Brand new season.”

    Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

  12. Patrick says:

    Nova almost missed the tournament one year, with basically the same team and then the next year they make the Final Four. A team’s collapse one season doesn’t mean it’s going to happen again next year. Neither coach, Wright or Thompson, has a history of letting teams lose focus in March, if anything it has been the opposite.

  13. J Hunt says:

    Good points, Patrick, especially concerning Morningstar. Let’s be candid: he’s not athletic. Replacing him with Xavier Henry is what made Kansas the most dominant team in the nation last year (at least before the NCAA Tournament). Morningstar should be a reserve player. He’s just not the starting type, if you catch my drift. A great glue guy, valuable distributor, occasionally adept at shooting behind the arc, but not a starter, at least for a program like Kansas.

    ‘Nuff said about that.

    As far as your points about Robinson, Johnson and Little not proving themselves yet – well, that’s also true, but one needs to take into account their position last year. They were members of arguably the deepest team in the nation, one loaded with talent and experience, so naturally even two extremely talented prospects like Robinson and Johnson didn’t get much playing time. As for Mario Little, he redshirted last season, and he never played at 100% health during the 08-09 season. What this all means is that all of these players have been given time to improve during practices and workouts, but their progress hasn’t yet been seen on the court. Consider Aldich’s advancement between his freshman and sophomore seasons. That’s what one offseason with Danny Manning will do for even a moderately athletic player like him. Robinson is an incredible athlete with a giant work ethic. I expect Manning to do for him what he did for Aldrich, Marcus Morris and the Kansas bigs from the ’08 championship team. History backs up that prediction. Also, Selby seems to be a much more effective playmaker than Xavier Henry. Henry developed a dependence on shooting solely from outside. He grew timid and refused to drive the lane. From all accounts, Selby’s bread is buttered in the lane, and he’s more athletic than Henry. I don’t see many problems there, at least.

    But, as you’ve said, it’s all speculation at this point, and indeed none of those three players have truly proven themselves on the court yet. If we’re to work with likelihoods (as Luke Winn appeared to do in his SI article), then we’d place Kansas in the Top 5 or 10 preseason. But if we’re dealing plainly with experience and what’s already been proven on the court last year, then your poll makes more sense. Either way, I’m excited for next season. Six months is far too long to be absent from college basketball.

  14. Patrick says:

    AMEN brotha! If there’s something we can definitely agree on its that the College Basketball offseason is way too long, however thats what makes the season so precious.

  15. Title says:

    Butler will be significantly better offensively next season. (weaker defensively)

    8 is probably too high, 15 is probably more reasonable.

    They will win the Horizon League by 4 or 5 games once again. This is a Sweet 16 team

  16. Mike says:

    Marquette stacked Hoop Scoop #5 Recruiting Class on #1 in back to back years. Marquette is Smart Tough and Talented and will be in Top 25.

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