RTC 2012-13 Top 25: Post NBA Draft DeadlinePosted by KDoyle on May 1st, 2012
It’s never too early for these, right? We all love the debates, projecting who is too high or too low, and taking a closer look at the upcoming college hoops season — six months goes by quickly, promise. In quickly looking at the Top 25, one would surmise that having five of a team’s top players forgo the remainder of their college careers in favor of the NBA Draft would absolutely kill that team’s prospects for the upcoming season, but that is simply not the case for Kentucky. Last year’s National Champions check in at #2 in the Top 25, proving that John Calipari doesn’t rebuild, he reloads. It would not behoove us to let Kentucky steal the storyline, however, as Tom Crean’s Indiana Hoosiers are the top dog in what looks to be a banner upcoming year. In what was arguably the most exciting and high-flying game of last year’s Tournament, the Hoosiers fell to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen, but have nearly all the pieces back. Just two years ago this was a 12-20 team with no postseason experience, and now they are the top team in the land — according to our group of experts, at least. What a tremendous job Tom Crean has done. The usual Quick ‘n Dirty after the jump…
Whether it is through an exceptional recruiting class, or an impressive finish to the 2011-12 season coupled with a strong nucleus returning, the following five teams surged upward—and for good reason:
Indiana (27-9, 11-7 Big Ten)
2011-12 Finish: Lost in the Sweet Sixteen to Kentucky
Who they return: Their entire starting five during the NCAA Tournament returns. Remember, senior Verdell Jones III suffered a late-season injury sidelining him for the NCAA Tournament after he started the majority of games throughout the year. Aside from Jones and sharpshooter Matt Roth, who were both essentially role players, Indiana returns their top six scorers who will all contribute in making the Hoosiers arguably the most vaunted offensive unit in the country. The additions of incoming freshmen Jeremy Hollowell and Kevin Ferrell to the team make Indiana our #1 ranked squad heading into the summer months.
Louisville (30-10, 10-8 Big East)
2011-12 Finish: Lost in the Final Four to Kentucky
Who they return: The Cardinals return three of their five starters from last year’s Final Four team, and most importantly Peyton Siva will be manning the point guard duties for a third straight season. Many would attribute Louisville’s success in the Big East Tournament and surprise run to the Final Four due to Siva’s exceptional play, along with the emergence of freshman Chane Behanan. In fact, Behanan made such a splash onto the national scene that John Calipari stated leading up to the Final Four: “I wanted Behanan in the worst way.” Quite the praise from a coach who will have his entire starting five drafted.
UCLA (19-14, 11-7 Pac-12)
2011-12 Finish: No postseason. Lost in the Pac-12 Tournament to Arizona
Who they return: It isn’t so much who the Bruins are returning, rather who they are bringing on board that is the reason for such a lofty preseason ranking. In the 2011-12 preseason poll, UCLA was a consensus Top 25 team, but that all sputtered wildly out of control after countless internal team issues and subsequent losses to Loyola Marymount, Middle Tennessee State, and a poor showing at the Maui Invitational. While there are endless question marks heading into the season—Will Joshua Smith pass on In-N-Out Burger in favor of a salad? How quickly will the freshmen adapt to the college game? Will Ben Howland remember how to coach like one of the top basketball minds in the game? There is reason for optimism. If we learned anything from Kentucky’s remarkable season, it is that you can indeed win with a freshman core: a team’s experience may be overrated. The Bruins have two of the top recruits in the nation in Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson coming to Westwood. These two alone are reason enough for a Top 25 ranking.
North Carolina State (24-13, 9-7 ACC)
2011-12 Finish: Lost in the Sweet Sixteen to Kansas
Who they return: After five years of mediocrity under Sidney Lowe, Mark Gottfried took the Wolfpack to the Sweet Sixteen in his first season at the helm. Many would argue that Gottfried found such success with his predecessor’s players, but what Lowe was unable to accomplish Gottfried did. NC State returns their top four scorers — C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, and Richard Howell — along with bringing in three Top 50 recruits. With North Carolina and Duke losing their top players to the NBA Draft, NC State may be the favorite to win the ACC. Happy times in Raleigh once again.
Arizona (23-12, 12-6 Pac-12)
2011-12 Finish: Lost in the First Round of the NIT to Bucknell
Who they return: Last season was a transition year for Arizona, no doubt about that. Being without the services of Derrick Williams and Lamont “MoMo” Jones made things difficult for Sean Miller’s club, but Arizona still had a 20+ win season advancing to the NIT. Although they lose Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry to graduation and freshman point guard Josiah Turner (transfer), the Wildcats return Solomon Hill and freshman guard Nick Johnson. Like UCLA, much of Arizona’s optimism for the future lies in their impressive recruiting class — seven footer Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, and Brandon Ashley — as well as incoming transfer T.J. McConnell.
Where to rank UCLA?—Five of our seven pollsters believe that UCLA will live up to the hype and deserve a Top 10 ranking, while the other two have the Bruins ranked in the mid-teens. One thing is certain, if Howland’s freshmen are as good as advertised and the current team meshes well with the newcomers, the sky is the limit for the 2012-13 UCLA Bruins.
Little Love for the Atlantic 10—In past years, the Atlantic 10 has been a staple in the Top 25, whether in the form of Xavier, Temple, or even Richmond. With Xavier losing virtually its entire team to either graduation or the transfer route, and Temple losing key players, the A-10 has no representative in this Top 25. Two teams who received votes and are worth paying close attention to, however, are St. Louis and Massachusetts as both return nearly every piece from last year’s squads. St. Louis advanced to the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament, while UMass made it all the way to Madison Square Garden in the NIT.
Also Receiving Votes—Predictably, there are many teams that garnered votes in this Top 25. In fact, 11 teams from seven different conferences picked up at least one vote.
Conference Call— Big Ten (5), ACC (3), Big 12 (3), Big East (3), SEC (3), Mountain West (2), Pac-12 (2), Colonial (1), Conference USA (1), Missouri Valley (1), West Coast (1)