College Basketball Predictions: Picking a Preseason Top 25 for 2012-13

Chris StephensCorrespondent IIApril 2, 2012

College Basketball Predictions: Picking a Preseason Top 25 for 2012-13

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    The 2011-12 season is wrapping up and prognosticators everywhere are putting together a preseason top 25 for the 2012-13 season.

    Definitely gone are North Carolina's Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Kendall Marshall; Syracuse's Fab Melo and Dion Waiters; and Duke's Austin Rivers .

    Likely gone are Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague; Connecticut's Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb; Ohio State's Jared Sullinger; Baylor's Perry Jones III and Quincy Miller; and Kansas' Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey.

    For those who are on the fence about entering the NBA Draft (Indiana's Cody Zeller and Connecticut's Shabazz Napier), this would be the year to stay to improve one's draft position, since this potentially has the chance to be one of the strongest drafts in history.

    Keeping in mind that some of those on the fence will decide enter after this article is written, here is a look at my 2012-13 preseason top 25.

    Hopefully, guys that I'm counting on to return, will, and won't make me look like a fool, although there's no guarantee of that not happening anyways.

    Keep in mind, this is only a preseason ranking and a national title is not hinged upon these, unlike football.

25. Kansas State

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    The Wildcats should have pulled the upset over Syracuse in the third round, but just weren't able to get it done.

    Still, I think this team overachieved.

    Next year, they aren't going to fly under the radar, as teams know what to expect from them.

    Joining the likes of Rodney McGruder will be Laimonas Chatkevicius, who is one of the more underrated centers in the high-school ranks.

    I think Kansas State takes another step forward this year and remains in the top tier of the Big 12 for the next few years.

24. Notre Dame

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    The Fighting Irish have signed a decent recruiting class in power forward Zach Auguste and small forward Cameron Biedscheid.

    They'll be joining Jack Cooley and Jerrian Grant, who helped will the Irish through a tough season.

    I believe that Notre Dame has the pieces in place.

    I don't think they will win a Big East title next year, but the year after is what I'm placing my bet on.

23. Texas

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    I was honestly surprised that the Longhorns made the tournament this year with how young they were.

    But, that only helps them in the future, as those young players have the experience to push for a deeper run into the tournament and possibly challenge for a Big 12 title.

    And, can you blame the confidence with one of the best recruiting classes in the country signed?

    Expected to contribute early and often are five-star center Cameron Ridley and four-star players Javan Felix and Prince Ibeh.

    I'm guessing their thinking is: You can never have too many bigs.

    I'll be curious to see how these guys fair in the Big 12 next year. I think they have the talent, but can they get over that hump?

22. Gonzaga

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    If Elias Harris goes pro, there might be some trouble justifying this ranking.

    But hey, it's Gonzaga and they somehow always find themselves just outside the top 20 to start the season.

    They have a good mix of guys returning, with or without Harris, so I expect them to be at or near the top of the West Coast Conference once again.

21. Michigan State

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    Spartan fans will probably not be happy with the fact that they're ranked this low.

    But, they're losing a lot from this year's team.

    Gone will be Draymond Green, Brandon Wood and Austin Thompson.

    However, they do have a great group of four players coming on campus in power forward Matt Costello, shooting guard Gary Harris, power forward Kenny Kaminski and combo guard Denzel Valentine.

    The only reason I put these guys here is because the loss of Green is huge. And, although other teams are losing more and are ranked higher, I still think these baby Spartans are going to need a little seasoning before they can be moved up in the rankings.

20. Creighton

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    The Blue Jays are another one of those teams that are at the top of all mid-major programs.

    They find ways to win, plain and simple.

    Doug McDermott is returning, which is great for a team that is looking to make a little more noise than they did this year.

    The team isn't getting much in terms of high school talent, but at the end of the year, you know they'll be in their conference championship game and will likely earn a berth into the NCAA Tournament.

19. Louisville

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    This is a team that has no stars; they win by playing good defense.

    That approach was exposed by Kentucky in the Final Four, as they were unable to put the ball into the hoop early.

    Next year, they only have three-star point guard Terry Rozier coming in, but I expect them to again be competing in the Big East.

    On paper, this team doesn't look like much.

    But, when they get on the court, they make teams look bad with how good their defense is.

18. Vanderbilt

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    Hot-shooting John Jenkins is expected to return, as well as a good mix of core players.

    Vanderbilt has always been a team that prides itself on its perimeter play and I see no reason why next season will be any different.

    Expected to compete for playing time early will be shooting guard A.J. Astroth and small forward Kenny Bright.

    However, with Missouri coming into the conference, the Commodores are going to have to fight to get to the top of the SEC.

17. Wisconsin

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    Wisconsin is a mystery team to me for next season.

    Yeah, they were a Sweet 16 team this year, but I'm not really sure about them heading into next season.

    They do have five-star recruit Sam Dekker, but I'm wondering if that's enough for them to get to the top of the Big 10.

    The early part of the Big 10 schedule will tell a lot about how the Badgers will finish the year.

    If they struggle early, they'll struggle throughout the conference schedule.

    But, if they can win some key games early, watch out for them.

16. Baylor

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    Brady Heslip and Pierre Jackson are returning, which should set the Bears up nicely in the Big 12.

    Add in there Isaiah Austin from the high school ranks, and Baylor looks to have the pieces to make another run next year (as long as they don't face the No. 1 team in the nation again).

    One thing we found out from Baylor is that if you push them around, you can easily beat them.

    But, when they start to push you around, they generally come out on top (obviously, right?).

    Baylor won't have to contend with Missouri next year, so it looks like it will be down to them, Kansas and possibly Texas for the Big 12 title.

15. Arizona

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    The Wildcats should return to their regular form next year, dominating the Pac-12 like we expect them to.

    Returning will be second-leading scorer Solomon Hill, with a bunch of players getting an opportunity to gain more minutes than they had this season.

    Also, expected to get playing time early are five-star power forward Brandon Ashley and five-star center Kaleb Tarczewski. I look for four-star signees Grant Jerrett and Gabe York to also log decent minutes next year.

14. Providence

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    The Friars struggled last season, but are getting two of the top-10 recruits in the nation in point guard Kris Dunn and shooting guard Ricardo Lito.

    Having a strong backcourt could be the key to moving Providence to the top of the Big East.

    But, with a roster of mostly sophomore and juniors next year, the Friars are primed for a run, led by LaDontae Hinton and Vincent Council.

    This is my (really) early season favorite to win the Big East regular season title. The only reason I won't go as far as to say the tournament title is the fact that we know how much that tournament is a crapshoot.

13. Virginia Commonwealth

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    After the last two years, the Rams should now be considered one of the best mid-majors in the country.

    Shaka Smart seems to always have his team ready, no matter who they're playing, as evident by multiple major programs trying to gain his services since their season ended.

    VCU loses only one player off last year's team, who was their leading scorer.

    But, they still have forward Juvonte Reddic and guard Troy Daniels returning, which will help with their rebounding and perimeter game.

    Even if it's not the greatest collection of talent around, Smart has these guys playing like a team and that proves to be dangerous against any team.

12. Florida

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    If Florida is going to make a run at the national title, next year is the last time the window will be open for a while.

    Kenny Boynton returns to solidify the perimeter and inside games.

    Signed are four-star guards Michael Frazier and Braxton Ogbueze, who will both make an impact throughout the season.

    If the Gators can figure out a way to mix their young guys in with the veterans, then they'll challenge Kentucky and Missouri for the SEC title.

11. Pittsburgh

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    Tray Woodall will be returning next season, helping Pittsburgh to try and get over this past season.

    Expected to be on campus are five-star power forward Steven Adams, four-star point guard James Robinson and four-star small forward Chris Jones.

    The Panthers are one of a handful of teams that will be playing next year with a chip on their shoulder, and that should motivate them throughout the year.

    I wouldn't be surprised to see them ranked in the top 10 by most polls by midseason.

10. Duke

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    Duke is going to lose All-American Austin Rivers and likely Mason Plumlee, but they still have Seth Curry returning.

    The Blue Devils have signed Rasheed Sulaimon to replace Rivers, so they're still in a good position in their backcourt.

    The biggest key for Duke throughout the season is going to be its play on the inside.

    But, then again, it's Duke and they always are going to start out the year in the top 10.

9. North Carolina

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    The Tar Heels are expected to lose a lot this year, but will still rebuild and be what you expect North Carolina to be.

    Gone will be Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall and John Henson, but Reggie Bullock will return.

    Add in there point guard Marcus Paige, forwards J.P. Tokoto and Brice Johnson and center Joel James, and the Tar Heels looked to have reloaded.

    Just the fact that they're North Carolina will rank them higher in the preseason rankings.

    However, next year, they'll be the third-best team in the ACC.

8. Michigan

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    This high ranking depends on Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. returning, which I think they will.

    They'll have to replace Zach Novak, but the Wolverines have three guys in their recruiting class that will come in and make an immediate impact.

    Headlined by Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, the Wolverines look primed to make another run at the Big 10 title, and maybe even the national title.

    And, it's a good thing to see, too, as it will have been since the Fab Five's days on campus that the team has experienced that kind of success.

7. N.C. State

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    We all saw what the Wolfpack was capable of doing in the ACC and NCAA tournaments this year.

    The Wolfpack have their top four scorers and rebounders returning, including C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell and Lorenzo Brown.

    Throw in there five-star point guard Rodney Purvis and five-star small forward T.J. Warren, and you have a very deadly team.

    If North Carolina and Duke didn't rebuild like they do every year, this would easily be the team to beat in the ACC next year.

    Still, these guys will be in the top 10 in most rankings by the middle of the season.

6. Kentucky

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    Kentucky is going to lose a lot off this year's team.

    There are only three players expected to come in, with those being five-star recruits Alex Poythress and Archie Goodwin, and four-star center Willie Cauley.

    And now, Nerlens Noel will be in Lexington, after he shocked the world announcing he would sign with Kentucky.

    Although the Wildcats do lose pretty much their entire starting lineup, they'll figure things out in Lexington.

    My expectations are that they'll win the SEC again next year and are staples in the top 10.

5. Indiana

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    Cody Zeller is returning, so they're a top-five team.

    However, I don't expect that to happen.

    Still, Tom Crean has a good core group of guys in Bloomington.

    And, with five-star point guard Kevin Ferrell, five-star power forward Hanner Perea and four-star small forward Jeremy Hollowell coming on board, the Hoosiers look to be even stronger next year.

    They'll likely be ranked higher in most other people's preseason rankings, but I'm putting them here on a wait-and-see approach.

4. UCLA

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    Hopefully, things have changed on the team after the Sports Illustrated feature story.

    Things have to change if Ben Howland hopes to keep his job.

    Six players are leaving after the end of their senior season, in addition to Reeves Nelson (thankfully).

    Small forward Jordan Adams and point guard Kyle Anderson have signed their letters of intent and will look to add to the team immediately.

    The hope is that they don't come onto campus with superstar attitudes, thinking they don't have to follow the rules.

    If the Bruins can get back to doing things off the court the UCLA way, things will start to click on the court.

    And, with Shabazz Muhammad signed for the Bruins, they immediately become one of the favorites.

3. Syracuse

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    Syracuse had all the tools to win the national title this year, but the suspension of Fab Melo threw that into a flux.

    The Orangemen will lose four of their top players from this year, but have some bigs coming in to provide help.

    Signed are two 6'8" players in DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant.

    And, history has showed us that Syracuse has been at its best with a dominant middle.

    They have that, and will have a lot of success next year.

2. Missouri

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    Sure, the Tigers were upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but that still doesn't take away from all of their success they had this season.

    Missouri will see nine of their players graduate, but they're bringing in a nice mix of six players.

    Expected to come in immediately and make a contribution is Dominique Bull.

    Sure, they lose a lot, but I have a good feeling about the Tigers moving into the SEC. They should be on par with Kentucky throughout the year.

1. Kansas

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    Kansas may be losing its best three players, but they're gaining a whole lot.

    Already signed with the team is five-star power forward Perry Ellis, with four-star small forward Andrew White committed, but not yet signed.

    The Jayhawks will have to replace Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey, but have guys with experience who will be returning.

    This team has definitely reloaded and will once again compete for a national title.