RTC 2013-14 Post-NBA Draft Deadline Top 25Posted by KDoyle on April 30th, 2013
Although we are less than a month removed from Louisville’s win over Michigan in the National Championship game, it certainly isn’t too soon to look ahead to what the 2013-14 season has in store. With this past Sunday the deadline to declare for the June NBA Draft, we now have a much better idea who the top teams in the country should be once the ball is tipped again in November. In looking at the top of our Post-NBA Draft Deadline Top 25, there are three teams bunched together separated by just three votes — in fact, Louisville and Michigan State are knotted together at the top. It isn’t all too often that a team wins it all, graduates its starting point guard, has its best frontcourt player leave for the NBA, and is still perhaps the top team in the nation, but that’s the case for Rick Pitino and his Cardinals. With Russ Smith and Chane Behanan returning, Louisville will be the early favorites to win the AAC — the ACC, keep in mind, doesn’t come for UofL until 2014. Michigan State received good news on Sunday when Adreian Payne announced he would be returning to East Lansing for his senior season. Payne’s return, coupled with the return of Gary Harris — the Big Ten Freshman of the Year — and Keith Appling, make the Spartans a legitimate championship contender next season. Lastly, there’s Kentucky. Did you really think Cal & Co. weren’t going to be up there? They may not be ranked #1 at this point, but with a downright scary recruiting class incoming boasted by the Harrison twins and Julius Randle — perhaps the top Class of 2013 recruit — the Wildcats’ expectations are sky high. Despite not finishing in the Top 25 and losing at Robert Morris in the NIT, Kentucky will enter 2013-14 as a top three team in the RTC .
The usual Quick ‘n Dirty after the jump…
Quick n’ Dirty:
Whether it is through an exceptional recruiting class, or an impressive finish to the 2012-13 season coupled with a strong nucleus returning, the following four teams surged upward — and for good reason.
Kentucky (21-12, 12-6 SEC)
2012-13 Finish: Lost in the First Round of the NIT to Robert Morris
Who they return: It isn’t who Kentucky returns from last year’s team, it’s who they’re bringing on board. The Wildcats lose Archie Goodwin and Nerlens Noel to the NBA — no surprise there — and point guard Ryan Harrow is headed to Georgia State after an up-and-down transfer season, but are bringing in another slew of blue-chip recruits to Lexington. Kentucky’s recruiting class is so impressive that it wouldn’t be irrational to think lightning strikes again, when four freshmen started for much of the season and the Wildcats went on to convincingly win the 2012 National Championship.
Arizona (27-8, 12-6 Pac-12)
2012-13 Finish: Lost in the Sweet Sixteen to Ohio State
Who they return: Arizona has the tall task of replacing four players who contributed significantly as three seniors will have graduated and freshman Grant Jerrett — in a bit of a surprise move — declared for the NBA Draft. Sean Miller returns a trio of high-caliber players in Brandon Ashley, Nick Johnson and seven-footer Kaleb Tarczewski, though. While Tarczewski will anchor the frontcourt, incoming freshman Aaron Gordon — who chose the desert over the rain of Washington — is a huge boost.
North Carolina (25-11, 12-6 ACC)
2012-13 Finish: Lost in the Third Round to Kansas
Who they return: Last season was a challenging one for Carolina. With high expectations, the Tar Heels limped out to a 6-5 start in ACC play before winning six of their final seven regular season games. They managed to reach the NCAA Tournament and beat Villanova in the Second Round, but many of the Tar Heel faithful would not call this a successful season. Graduating just one player in Dexter Strickland and having Reggie Bullock forgo his senior season for the NBA hurts, but certainly is not insurmountable. The return of James Michael McAdoo was obviously of paramount importance to just how successful the Heels can be next season. North Carolina should be a Top 10 team to begin the year, and may enter into the elite team discussion if Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks are as good as advertised.
Connecticut (20-10, 10-8 Big East)
2012-13 Finish: Beat Providence in final regular season game; no postseason due to low APR.
Who they return: Save for fifth-year graduate student R.J. Evans, the Huskies return everyone from a team that managed to win 20 games and finish above .500 in the Big East, despite postseason ineligibility. Perhaps more important than any returning player, Kevin Ollie will return as head coach as he inked a long-term deal with Connecticut during the season. It was fairly evident based upon the Huskies’ win in the season-opener in Germany against Michigan State that his players like playing for him and competing for him — that’s not always the case for a first year coach with none of “his guys” on the roster. The backcourt of Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright may be the most exciting to watch next season as the duo of undersized guards are dynamite together in the open floor. Incoming recruit Kentan Facey signed with UConn while Jim Calhoun was still the head coach, but he honored his commitment and is slated to play for Ollie this coming season. He should see immediate playing time in a frontcourt that is unusually thin for a Connecticut team. The Huskies were a fringe Top 25 squad for spurts last year, and there’s no reason to think they won’t be a legitimate group this season with everyone back and a year better.
Some Other Considerations:
- Where to rank Memphis?—It goes like this seemingly every year since Calipari departed for Kentucky: Memphis begins as a Top 25 team with a roster full of McDonald’s All-Americans boasting great potential. Early in the year, Memphis either loses to or wins in a nail-biter to a team from the Ohio Valley or Atlantic Sun. Memphis falls from the Top 25 only to breeze through Conference USA on its way to an impressive overall record. Memphis is a Top 25 team by the end of the regular season. Is that about right? Our voters are befuddled by Memphis as four pollsters don’t have them ranked in this version of the Top 25, while the six others do with the Tigers checking in as high as #13 on one ballot.
- Is Harvard a Top 25 team?—A crazy question to ask, right? Maybe not. Recall prior to last season that two of Harvard’s better players, Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry, left the school for a year because of an academic cheating scandal. Even without the services of these two, the Crimson still won 20 games, beat Boston College and California, grabbed the Ivy League crown, and defeated #3 seed New Mexico in the NCAA Tournament. With Casey and Curry scheduled to return to the team next season, and talented recruits Zena Edosomwan and Hunter Myers also joining the program, Tommy Amaker may not just have the best team in Massachusetts, but a Top 25 team to boot. In the RTC25, Harvard garnered Top 25 votes from four of our voters.
- Also Receiving Votes—Predictably, there are a slew of team in the “ARV” category. At this point, many teams in the 15-40 range are interchangeable. While we’d like to think the Top 25 is an accurate portrayal of the top teams in the country, it’s impossible to predict just how good some teams may be — and how bad others are — when they haven’t even conducted a single practice yet.
- Conference Call— Big Ten (5), AAC (3), ACC (3), Big 12 (3), Pac-12 (3), SEC (3), Big East (2), Atlantic 10 (1), Mountain West (1), West Coast (1).
We’ll see you in October!