2011-12 RTC (Way Too Early) Top 25

Posted by KDoyle on April 5th, 2011

The 2010-11 season just concluded — we are just as sad as you guys are — but rather than get all nostalgic, teary-eyed, and lament the next  seven months without college basketball, let’s look towards the future. That’s right, folks, hot off the presses: the first 2011-12 Top 25. Our assumptions on who is staying/leaving are within the team breakdowns.

  1. North Carolina—The Heels have a whole lot coming back and lose next to nothing. Harrison Barnes looked like the stud he was advertised in the preseason as he developed into Carolina’s top player down the stretch, and Kendall Marshall flourished at the point guard position once he was given the keys to the car. It sure doesn’t hurt that a couple McDonald’s All-Americans will be joining the program next year, either. Look for Roy Williams to be significantly happier next season than he was for much of this season.

    Roy Williams should be in a good mood next season

  2. SyracuseJim Boeheim’s squad returns virtually all the pieces to the puzzle — a puzzle that certainly went unfinished this year — and the Orange look like they may be the top dog in the Big East next season. Scoop Jardine has the ability to be one of the top guards in the BE and Kris Joseph is a very explosive scorer, who should continue to develop in the offseason. The development of Fab Melo is an absolute must in the offseason, though, if this team wants to reach its potential.
  3. Kentucky—With the instability of the NBA next year, the Wildcats may be fortunate enough to hang onto their young stars for at least another season. Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb and Terrence Jones are all NBA talents and all three of them could enter the NBA Draft, but if even one of them returns, this team will be very dangerous, particularly with the class that John Calipari is bringing in, which might be one of the best assembled in the past ten years. If two of those three return to play with that class, this team immediately becomes the favorite to cut down the nets next April.
  4. Ohio State—Will he stay or will he go? Obviously, we are referring to Jared Sullinger’s decision to remain a Buckeye for another year. While graduation will claim Jon Diebler and David Lighty, there is still ample talent returning to help the Buckeyes take care of some unfinished business. William Buford could be the X-factor that determines just how good the Buckeyes will be.
  5. Louisville—The coaching prowess of Rick Pitino and his most important assistant Ralph Willard was a thing of beauty this year. Not much was expected out of the Cardinals, but the ‘Ville had an exceptional season up until their Tournament collapse to Morehead State. Loftier goals will be set for Louisville next year with Preston Knowles the only player departing. The Cardinals might not have quite as publicized a recruiting class as their in-state rivals, but still have one of the top incoming classes in America.
  6. Duke—Losing Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith are monumental losses for the Blue Devils, two guys who are seemingly irreplaceable. But when scrutinizing Duke’s roster, there sure is a whole lot of talent coming back as well as coming in. Marshall Plumlee will come to Durham as a freshman — the third Plumlee on the team — and Austin Rivers is the nation’s most highly-touted recruit. Of course, the big story surrounding Duke basketball in the coming weeks is whether Kyrie Irving returns to Durham. If he does, the Blue Devils may be regarded as the top team in the country. Even if he doesn’t, they have enough talent on the perimeter to be a top 10 team.

    Austin Rivers has some big shoes to fill next season

  7. Texas—This coming season may be a big one for Rick Barnes, who continues to have talented teams that always fall apart in March with this year serving as the latest evidence as the Longhorns had a magnificent season, but faltered down the stretch. Next season there will be a boatload of talent on campus with Myck Kabongo running the show at point guard, and J’Covan Brown, Cory Joseph, Jordan Hamilton, and Tristan Thompson all expected to return. Expectations will be very high.
  8. Connecticut—It was a foregone conclusion that Kemba Walker’s career as a Husky would come to a triumphant end following UConn’s magical run. Walker is on track to graduate in three years — he will earn his diploma over the summer — and he even was honored at UConn’s Senior Day despite being a junior. But there have been murmurs recently that Walker taking his talents to the NBA is no longer a sure thing. The Huskies’ preseason ranking will no doubt be higher than this if Walker does indeed return, but we don’t expect that he will. However, even if Walker does elect to forego his senior year, UConn returns every other player on the roster who played significant minutes. With that, perhaps the bigger question is whether Jim Calhoun will return or ride off into the sunset with his third national championship.
  9. Kansas—A lot is riding on the decision of the Morris twins if they will remain at Kansas or enter the NBA Draft. The Jayhawks would have one of the top frontcourts in the country with the Morris twins and Thomas Robinson roaming the paint, and Josh Selby appears poised for a breakout season as he will be a year older and more adept to the college game. The thing that is holding us back from putting the Jayhawks up higher is that we suspect that the Morris twins are both leaving Lawrence.
  10. Pittsburgh—Losing Brad Wanamaker, Gary McGhee and Gilbert Brown will make matters tough in the early going for Pitt, but assuming that Ashton Gibbs — maybe the best returning player in the Big East — stays for his senior season, the Panthers will be right in the thick of things.
  11. FloridaKenny Boynton and Erving Walker comprise one of the most impressive duos in the nation and will give the Gators one of the premiere backcourts in the country next year. Not having the services of Chandler Parson and Vernon Macklin makes their frontcourt much thinner, but if Patric Young develops into the post player that Billy Donovan will need him to be, the Gators will be just fine. Gatorade National Player of the Year Bradley Beal could be a huge addition, but we wonder how he will fit in with a backcourt where the two returning guards dominate the ball so much.
  12. ArizonaSean Miller is bringing the ‘Cats back to the dominant force they were in the Pac-10 years ago with Lute Olson at the helm. If Derrick Williams sticks around — although something tells me he won’t as he is the consensus number one pick in the NBA Draft — Arizona should dominate the rest of the West and could contend for another Final Four berth. Even without Williams they should be near the top of the Pac-10.
  13. MichiganJohn Beilein finally has his system in place and ready to take off in Ann Arbor as Michigan will be picked to finish near the top of the Big 10 next year. Tim Hardaway, Jr., looked more and more like his father as the season progressed, and Darius Morris is a rock at the point guard position. The outside shooting capabilities of Zack Novak and Stu Douglass give the Wolverines two more threats on the offensive end. If everybody returns, which we expect they will, this team will be a tough out in March.
  14. Memphis—It was painfully obvious how young, inexperienced, and immature Josh Pastner’s young Memphis Tigers were last year. They were able to put things together at the end of the season as they won the Conference USA Tournament and nearly upset fifth seeded Arizona in their opening game, and things should only improve as everyone is a year older. Will and Antonio Barton should both have great seasons, and the senior leadership of Wesley Witherspoon must help bring along some of the youngsters. There is a good deal of talent down in Memphis though; no one will deny that. Now they just need to convert that talent into performance.
  15. Xavier—The Musketeers will never be counted out of any game so long as their dynamic and do-it-all point guard Tu Holloway sticks around. Xavier failed to reach the Sweet 16 this year — a feat they always seem to accomplish — but returning to that stage of the Tournament is well within their reach next year.
  16. Wisconsin—With Jordan Taylor returning for his senior season, the Badgers will boast arguably the Big 10’s best guard next year. Although graduation will claim Jon Leuer, there is a good amount of talent coming back for Bo Ryan, who always seems his team to be playing well late in the season.
  17. Nobody will lose track of Jordan Taylor next season

  18. Purdue—Big, big things will be expected out of Robbie Hummel in 2011-12. After tearing his right ACL that caused him to miss the entire season, Hummel will be back for his senior year. Maybe more importantly for Purdue’s basketball program is the return of Matt Painter who turned down an offer to be the head man at Missouri. The Hummel-Painter duo is one of the best in college basketball in terms of the player-coach combination and should lessen the huge losses of JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore.
  19. Washington—The departure of Isaiah Thomas to the NBA certainly hurts, but Abdul Gaddy and Tony Wroten Jr. should be the best backcourt in the Pac-10. With Thomas, they may have had the best backcourt in the country, though. Aziz N’Diaye will need to have a solid season if Washington is to stay among the top contenders in the conference.
  20. UCLATyler Honeycutt will no longer factor into the Bruins’ lineup next year — this has been an unfortunate trend for Ben Howland who has had several young players leave his program in favor of the NBA — but there is still a lot of talent returning for UCLA. Malcolm Lee is a capable point guard and Joshua Smith is one of the most imposing big men in the country.
  21. Butler—While Matt Howard is gone due to graduation. Shelvin Mack is expected to return and the Bulldogs will still have Brad Stevens manning the sidelines. Stevens’ incredible feats at Butler have placed himself among the coaching elite, and there is no reason to think he will not be able to capitalize on two straight years of remarkable success with another great one in 2011-12.
  22. He couldn't possibly do it again, right?

  23. Temple—The heart of Temple’s team — Juan Fernandez and Ramone Moore — are both returning and will look to capitalize on one of the Owls’ better seasons in recent memory. Fernandez is one of the smoothest point guards you will find and Moore had a breakout year, doubling his scoring average from his sophomore to junior season. There is no reason to think Fran Dunphy’s bunch will not be at the top of the Atlantic 10 once again.
  24. Texas A&M—It was a disappointing end to an otherwise up-and-down season for the Aggies as they lost to Florida State in the NCAA Tournament, but the return of their two top players in Khris Middleton and David Loubeau should make A&M one of the top teams once again in the Big 12.
  25. Wichita State—The Shockers, if they had not faltered in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, would have been a very tough out for any team in the NCAA Tournament. They defeated a good Alabama team to win the NIT. It appears that Gregg Marshall will stay at Wichita State and he will be accompanied by a slew of talented returning players, highlighted by Toure’ Murry and David Kyles.
  26. Cincinnati—The Bearcats should move up a tier in the Big East with other teams losing significant players to gradation, plus there’s the fact that they return their four top players including a more mature Yancy Gates. This team might not win the Big East next season, but they should be in the top tier of the conference.
  27. Belmont—Coming into the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins were expected to fill the Cinderella role, but had their glass slippers stolen when they drew Wisconsin in the first round. Fortunately, they should get another shot as they return Scott Saunders and Mick Hedgepeth. Hopefully this time they will get a better draw.
KDoyle (99 Posts)

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6 responses to “2011-12 RTC (Way Too Early) Top 25”

  1. Jay V says:

    How in the world can you possibly leave Vandy off this list???

  2. rtmsf says:

    At least one pollster had the Dores on the list, but consecutive 1st round losses to a #12 and #13 seed might have something to do with it.

  3. nvr1983 says:

    Vandy just missed. As we mentioned on Twitter yesterday, we are operating under the assumption that Jenkins will leave early. If he returns, they would be around #15. If he doesn’t return, they are right at the edge of being a top 25 team and in this case we had them on the outside looking in.

  4. BOtskey says:

    I rated Vanderbilt #10 when I submitted my poll.

  5. KDoyle says:

    If Jenkins and Taylor return, Vandy is a top 25…no doubt about that. But remember, this is a team that lost 5 of their last 8 games and was bounced by a 12 seed (Richmond) in the first round.

    In the grand scheme of things, these rankings are somewhat meaningless and virtually impossible to gauge. We just don’t know how some players will progress and regress over the offseason, and don’t know which freshman will surprise. Plus, with coaches departing from teams and others latching onto other teams that obviously has real implications for many teams.

    We do the rankings though because it is fun to do and brings up some great early discussion for the next season.

  6. BOtskey says:

    These rankings definitely don’t mean anything at this point (no preseason poll out there now does) but I don’t see how Vandy’s performance down the stretch has any meaning for next year. Totally clean slate with another year of experience.

    Richmond was no ordinary 12 seed. They deserved an 8 or 9 IMO. In fact I had them as an 8 when I did a mock bracket on Selection Sunday afternoon.

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