The RTC Way-Too-Early 2013-14 Top 25Posted by AMurawa on April 9th, 2013
If Preseason Top 25s are an exercise in futility, polls the day after the national championship game are an exercise in imagination. We don’t know exactly what rosters are going to look like next season, what with early entry announcements, transfers (both in and out), late signees and the inevitable summer run-ins with trouble still pending. So, below, we’ll try to project, using the partial information that we have, just who are the 25 teams most likely to win a national title next season. After the NBA Draft deadline has passed, we’ll do a more educated Top 25, but until then…
- Kentucky – Many will be leery to pick the Wildcats #1 based on the missteps of 2012-13, but the talent here is hard to deny. Joining returnees like Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, John Calipari adds another stellar recruiting class with (so far) four top-10 recruits (Julius Randle, the Harrison twins and James Young) and another pair in the next 10 (Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee). The program will again have a huge spotlight on it as they try to get six or more future first-round draft picks to play nice together, but despite his failures this season, Calipari has done enough to earn the trust that he’ll fold these guys into a cohesive unit. They may not be the best team at the start of the year, but they’re the favorites to cut down the nets in Cowboys Stadium next April.
- Florida – After a down year in the SEC, we’re projecting a return to dominance at the top. The Gators lose Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario and Erik Murphy, but with ESPN’s #9 recruit, point guard Kasey Hill, and #14 recruit, power forward Chris Walker, coming in, along with a pair of newly eligible frontcourt players in Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris, Billy Donovan’s squad could be even better.
- Arizona – Sean Miller’s got a ridiculous front line chock full of McDonald’s All-Americans, with Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett all expected back and Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson arriving. Throw in Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell as a true point and Nick Johnson back for his junior campaign and this Wildcats team should dominate the Pac-12.
- Duke – Coach K loses a lot, with Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly all gone, but Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon will be joined by Andre Dawkins returning from a year off and elite recruit Jabari Parker arriving for his freshman year. If the Blue Devils can find some toughness up front from guys like Amile Jefferson, Alex Murphy and Josh Hairston, they’ll again be in the thick of things.
- Michigan State – Let’s make the assumption that a 6’10” guy with jump-out-of-the-gym ability and a nice three-point stroke like Adreian Payne is heading to the NBA. Nevertheless, with Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine returning and Tom Izzo back on the sideline, pencil the Spartans in as a the Big Ten favorite.
- Marquette – Buzz Williams has earned his credibility as one of America’s best coaches. With Vander Blue, Davante Gardner and Jamil Wilson back and joined by an athletic five-man recruiting class, expect the Golden Eagles to again make an impact.
- Ohio State – Aaron Craft and LaQuinton Ross form a solid nucleus from which to start, but the question again will be about the identity of the team’s second offensive option. Junior Sam Thompson or senior Lenzelle Smith could be in the mix, but either way, Thad Matta will have his team in the heart of the Big Ten race.
- North Carolina – The Tar Heels started to figure things out in the back half of the season, and with all of the principals (James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock, Marcus Paige and P.J. Hairston) back and joined by a pair of talented freshman bigs, expect Roy Williams and company to return to the fray.
- Wisconsin – It’s just bad form to pick against a Bo Ryan-coached team in the regular season. With Sam Dekker due for a breakout sophomore campaign, Ben Brust, Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser forming a solid backcourt, and Frank Kaminsky next in line for the typical Badger big man upperclassman improvement, these guys will be as tough as ever.
- Georgetown – Otto Porter will be gone, but everybody else should return, including Greg Whittington, who missed the last 19 games due to academic suspension. With former UCLA center Josh Smith joining up with the team at midseason, the Hoyas will be an intriguing sleeper.
- Kansas – Ben McLemore, Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson, Travis Releford and Kevin Young are all gone. But, this is Bill Self we’re talking about, so pencil in Perry Ellis, Naadir Tharpe and freshman Wayne Selden as the Big 12 champion and a factor nationally.
- Connecticut – We completely forgot about the Huskies this season during their year in exile, but they’ll return four players who averaged double-figure scoring last season in Shabazz Napier, Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels and Omar Calhoun, and they’ll be hungry for an NCAA invite.
- Syracuse – This is a team that will lose Brandon Triche, James Southerland and likely Michael Carter-Williams, leaving a core of C.J. Fair, DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant along with freshman point Tyler Ennis and Duke-transfer Michael Gbinje. Under many other coaches, this talent wouldn’t find its way into the Top 25. Under Jim Boeheim in his first year in the ACC, we’ll find a spot for them.
- Gonzaga – Since when do we leave the Zags out of the Top 25? Despite Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris on their way out, Mark Few has Sam Dower and Przenek Karnowski ready to plug in up front, with Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell and David Stockton back on the perimeter.
- Louisville – Goodbye Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng. Odds are great that Russ Smith joins them. But, there’s still plenty of talent here, with Chane Behanan, Luke Hancock, Montrezl Harrell and Wayne Blackshear at the top of the heap. Rick Pitino will need big things out of prep school point guard Terry Rozier and JuCo transfer Chris Jones to get the most out of those guys.
- Colorado – Assuming Andre Roberson and Spencer Dinwiddie return to join Askia Booker, Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott in Boulder, this is a Buffaloes team that has yet to scratch the surface of how good it can be.
- Tennessee – This can be the Volunteer squad we thought we were going to see in 2012-13, with Jeronne Maymon back from injury joining Jarnell Stokes, Trae Golden and Jordan McCrae in a talented lineup.
- Baylor – The Bears’ recent history goes something like this: 2008 – Tourney, 2009 – underachieve, 2010 – Elite Eight, 2011 – underachieve, 2012 – Elite Eight, 2013 – underachieve. So, this 2014 team’s got a deep March run ahead of them, right? They’ll lose Pierre Jackson, but with Isaiah Austin, Cory Jefferson, Rico Gathers, Brady Heslip and Gary Franklin returning, Scott Drew once again has enough talent for a big year. Oh, and that Big 12 doesn’t figure to exactly be a murderer’s row next season.
- Alabama – The good news is they’ve got everybody returning from a very good defensive team. The bad news is they’ve got everyone returning from an average offensive team. But, the Crimson Tide seriously underperformed in 2012-13 offensively and they’ve got the talent in guys like Trevor Releford, Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph and Nick Jacobs to make a big jump.
- Indiana – Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls are certainly gone. Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller are this close to a sure thing to leave as well. But with guys like Yogi Ferrell, Remy Abell and Will Sheehey returning and freshmen Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Jeremy Hollowell and Peter Jurkin from last year’s recruiting class joined by Noah Vonleh from this year’s, there’s enough raw talent here to roll the dice on Tom Crean.
- Michigan – Trey Burke is gone. You gotta figure Tim Hardaway Jr. is right behind him. And with Mitch McGary having proven his first-round credentials, that could be three strikes and out for John Beilein and the Wolverines. Still, Glenn Robinson and Nik Stauskas provide a good nucleus around which to rebuild.
- Virginia Commonwealth – Troy Daniels and Darius Theus depart and will be missed. But under Shaka Smart, it seems to be plug-and-play for the Rams. And with Juvonte Reddic, Treveon Graham and Briante Weber back again, expect VCU to continue to wreak havoc.
- Wichita State – Major contributors like Malcolm Armstead and Carl Hall will need to be replaced, but with Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and Tekele Cotton returning and with Gregg Marshall’s ability to spin straw into gold, you better believe the Shockers are in the Top 25.
- Oregon – In case you haven’t noticed, Dana Altman can coach a little. And with Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson back as the core of the team, he’ll find a way to get it done. He’ll need to find lots of production up front to replace guys like Arsalan Kazemi, Tony Woods, E.J. Singler and Carlos Emory, but then again, he’s got lots of talent coming in.
- UCLA – As of now, the entirety of the Bruins frontcourt is a pair of Wears and Tony Parker. But there is a lot of talent on the perimeter, with Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and Norman Powell joined by freshman guards Zach La Vine, Allerik Freeman and new coach’s son, Bryce Alford. And yes, this Top 25 includes four Pac-12 teams and four SEC teams… go figure.
Also considered: New Mexico, Butler, Stanford, Iowa, Virginia, Memphis, Saint Louis, Kansas State