2012-13 College Basketball Top 25 Post Shabazz Muhammad, Nerlens Noel Decisions
We now know where they will be taking their talents for at least one year of college hoops fun and excitement.
Noel will be wreaking havoc on the SEC as a Kentucky Wildcat.
Muhammad will be making life miserable for the Pac-12 playing for the UCLA Bruins.
Every year, the best of the best high school players' destination decisions are met with much expectation and eagerness. This years' recruiting journey with Noel and Muhammad has gone to the next level.
Their decisions and announcements have been the subject of non-stop discussions and debate.
Now that we know where they are going, here is an updated 2012-13 college basketball Top 25 preseason prediction.
25. Wisconsin Badgers
Does it seem to anyone else like Jordan Taylor played for the Badgers for about seven years?
Bo Ryan is going to have to figure out what its like to have someone else running the point for his team in '12-'13.
Fortunately for Wisconsin, they return a truckload of talent that will help them keep putting insane pressure on their Big Ten opponents.
Jared Berggren (pictured) is a special mix of size and talent.
Bo Ryan also can rely on Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans and Ben Brust to bring it next year.
And that's before you even introduce 5-Star SF Sam Dekker into the mix.
24. Tennessee Vols
Cuonzo Martin is establishing "his way," and Tennessee is becoming a nasty defensive team that will pester the SEC top to bottom.
Trae Golden (pictured), the team's leader in points and assists in 2011-12, could be one of the best PGs in the conference.
Jarnell Stokes came to Knoxville in the middle of the 2011-12 season and helped the Vols perform way beyond just about anyone's expectations in the first year in the post-Pearl era.
Jeronne Maymon is a senior big who, along with Stokes, could create a frightening frontcourt duo.
The only player that the Vols lose off of this year's squad is No. 5 scorer Cameron Tatum.
Look out, SEC. Tennessee is back.
23. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Kevin Pangos (pictured) and Gary Bell, Jr. hit the ground in Spokane running. Even as freshmen, they formed one of the best backcourt duos in the West.
Going into '12-13, the Zags could be lethal.
Rising senior forward Elias Harris (if he returns) could really thrust the Bulldogs out of just being a good regional team.
6'9" center Sam Dower is ready for a breakout season.
Add Guy Landry Edi and David Stockton, and this could be another classic Gonzaga squad that will play fearlessly regardless of who they are pitted against.
22. San Diego State Aztecs
If you don't know Jamaal Franklin (pictured; 17.4 ppg and 7.9 rpg), get ready to be impressed with one of the best wings in college basketball.
With Chase Tapley, Xavier Thames and James Rahon, Steve Fisher has an outstanding perimeter quartet to go to battle with in the Aztecs' last season in the Mountain West.
SDSU also adds transfers J.J. O'Brien (Utah), James Johnson (Virginia) and Dwayne Polee (St. John's).
I'm not sure where they are going to fit in a super recruiting class that features a pair of 4-star wings.
21. Kansas State Wildcats
Bruce Weber arrived in the Little Apple and found that Frank Martin (the former K-State head coach) left the program well stocked with talent and veteran leadership.
Rodney McGruder (pictured) is one of the best 2-guards in the Midwest.
Weber will put Will Spradling, Angel Rodriguez, Jordan Henriquez and Thomas Gipson on the court, too, for a tough and talented crew that won't back down against anyone.
20. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Jack Cooley (pictured) is the kind of player around which Mike Brey builds great teams.
The Fighting Irish surprised a ton of people in '11-'12 with their out-of-nowhere performance.
This coming season, Cooley, Pat Connaughton, Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant will form one of the most balanced attacks in the Big East.
They have no business doing so, but don't be surprised if they challenge Syracuse and Louisville for the conference title.
19. Creighton Blue Jays
Doug McDermott's game is "old school," but it seems to still work just fine in 21st-century collegiate hoops.
McDermott was one of the nation's leading scorers (23.2 ppg; 8.2 rpg), and there's no reason to think he will take any steps back as a junior in '12-13.
But Creighton isn't a one-man show.
Man-mountain Greg Echenique returns to clog the middle.
The versatile Grant Gibbs simply makes everyone better.
Improving on their 29-6 record in 2011-12 could be difficult, but Creighton shows no signs of faltering or falling off as they look to the future.
18. Missouri Tigers
Missouri ended 2011-12 on an awkward and disappointing note, losing in the NCAA tournament as a No. 2 seed to 15th-seeded Norfolk State.
Do you think that the Tigers might play with a big ol' chip on their shoulders next season? Yeah, me too!
Even though Mizzou loses Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe off of this year's 30-5 team, they still return one of the best sixth men in 2011-12 college hoops, Michael Dixon (pictured), Matt Pressey and Laurence Bowers (11.6 ppg; 6.1 rpg; 1.8 bpg in 2010-11).
Frank Haith is excited to add former high school All-American and Oregon transfer Jabari Brown into the mix. And, to top it off, Haith has pulled in a seven-player recruiting class that has five players who are 6'9" or taller.
Depending on how the new players step in, Missouri may change from a four-guard team to a multi-dimensional unit that can beat you in many ways.
Update: Alex Oriakhi's announcement that he is coming to Missouri for his senior year elevates the Tigers' preseason ranking.
17. Texas Longhorns
Rick Barnes will miss J'Covan Brown, but Myck Kabongo (pictured, 9.6 ppg; 5.2 apg) made a lot of Longhorn fans happy when he decided to return for his sophomore season.
UT's No. 2 scorer last year, Sheldon McClellan (11.3 ppg), Julien Lewis (7.6 ppg), and Jonathan Holmes (7.1 ppg) will all be ready to take steps forward as they leap into their sophomore seasons.
But what turns this Texas team into what could be a scary squad is their incoming freshmen.
McDonald's All-American Cameron Ridley (6'10", 230 lbs) could be instantly dominant.
Add three other 4-star recruits (two of which are also 6'10"), and the Horns could be ready to challenge anyone they face in or out of the Big 12 next year.
16. Memphis Tigers
Josh Pastner continues to build the Memphis program through bringing in elite-level talent on an annual basis.
Though Will Barton is departing for the NBA, super athletic Adonis Thomas returns from injury.
Joe Jackson and Tarik Black give the Tigers an excellent inside-outside combo.
But keep your eyes peeled to watch two eye-popping recruits: McDonald's All-American (6'8" 245 lbs) Shaq Goodwin and Damien Wilson.
This could be the best Memphis team since John Calipari's 2008 runner-up squad.
15. North Carolina Tar Heels
Don't feel sorry for Roy Williams. Just because he is losing four potential NBA first-rounders doesn't mean that the Tar Heels will be in a rebuilding mode.
UNC still has enough talent to be at the top of the ACC and in the national conversation.
James Michael McAdoo (pictured), Reggie Bullock, Dexter Strickland, P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald are a good base from which to build.
Add McDonald's All-American PG Marcus Paige and Jordan Brand-selection Brice Johnson, and the Heels will be able to do some work in '12-'13.
14. Syracuse Orange
Even though the Orange lost a lot (Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, Scoop Jardine and Fab Melo), they also return a lot (C.J. Fair (pictured), Brandon Triche, Rakeem Christmas, Michael-Carter Williams).
They will still be one of the best defensive teams in the country, stealing the ball and pressuring every shot.
The addition of big man (and I do mean BIG) McDonald's All-American center DaJuan Coleman and Jordan Brand-selection PF Jerami Grant will assure that the Orange will take a back seat to no one in what could be their last season in the Big East.
13. Duke Blue Devils
Duke may not be the deepest team in the country, but Coach K will still have a high-octane team in '12-'13 that will be able to put some serious points on the board.
Mason Plumlee's decision to come back to Durham was a huge piece of Duke staying in the heart of the Top 25.
Seniors Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and Ryan Kelly can fill it up from anywhere this side of half court.
Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton can run the show from the point.
Hopefully freshmen redshirts Marshall Plumlee and Alex Murphy will provide quality minutes off the bench.
As if Coach K needed one more bomber, McDonald's All-American Game three-point winner Rasheed Sulaimon will bring his arsenal of offensive weapons to campus.
If the Blue Devils can discover the "other end of the court," they could be dangerous.
12. Michigan State Spartans
It's hard to replace a player like Draymond Green.
While no one player on the '12-'13 Spartans will fill that role, Michigan State will be every bit as nasty in the upcoming season.
Keith Appling, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne form a strong nucleus for Tom Izzo.
Derrick Nix's status with the team is questionable at best.
But Michigan State has a four-player recruiting class that will be hard to keep off the floor, especially McDonald's All-American SG Gary Harris. He is going to be special.
11. Florida Gators
Assuming that Bradley Beal is going to go into the 2012 NBA Draft, the Gators will still be a nerve-racking opponent for anyone who faces Florida in '12-13.
Kenny Boynton (pictured) is one of UF's best scorers of all-time.
Eric Murphy, Patric Young and Mike Rosario are all lethal in the open court.
Incoming freshman PG Braxton Ogbueze will be ready to step in for departing Erving Walker.
While it may not seem likely, Billy Donovan will have UF ready to step up to the mark and improve on their 26-11 record in 2011-'12.
10. Michigan Wolverines
John Beilein is making sure that Michigan basketball continues to improve every year.
Tim Hardaway Jr and Trey Burke (pictured) returning to Ann Arbor (instead of entering the NBA draft) was huge.
Sophomore forward and leading rebounder Jordan Morgan (6'8 250 lbs) will attack the glass again.
Incoming freshmen phenoms Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson will be ready to help the Wolverines challenge for the Big Ten title.
Though the 2012-13 Wolverines will be young, they will be Beilein's best squad and could make a deep (Sweet 16/Elite 8?) run in 2013 March Madness.
9. Arizona Wildcats
Arizona is on its way back to becoming one of the best collegiate hoops programs in the West.
All Pac-12 first-teamer Solomon Hill (12.9 ppg; 7.7 rpg; 2.4 apg) will provide strong senior leadership in '12-13.
Nick Johnson (9.0 ppg; 3.2 rpg; 2.4 apg) is ready to have a breakout sophomore season.
Sean Miller's recruiting has been nothing short of amazing since coming to Tucson.
The Class of 2012 is loaded, with three 5-star bigs and a 4-star combo guard.
8. Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State, ready or not, is having to move on without the services of Jared Sullinger and William Buford.
DeShaun Thomas is "ready for lift off" in '12-13. He was one of the best scorers in this year's NCAA tournament, averaging 19 ppg and 7 rpg.
Aaron Craft is the best on-ball defenders in college hoops.
Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross are going to be amazing.
While it may take the Buckeyes a little while to figure it all out, look for them to be in the thick of a very tough Big Ten race and be ready to make a decent run in 2013 March Madness.
7. NC State Wolf Pack
Could this be North Carolina State's year to win the ACC?
If so, it would be the first time since 1985, when NC State shared the regular season title with Georgia Tech and UNC.
Mark Gottfried got the Wolf Pack to the Sweet Sixteen in his first season in Raleigh.
NC State returns their top four scorers, including sophomore forward C.J. Leslie (14.7 ppg; 7.3 rpg).
Gottfried secured a elite-level recruiting class made up of three McDonald's All-Americans.
All the pieces are in place for Gottfried.
Now, he and the Pack need to get things done on the court.
6. UCLA Bruins
And just like that...the Bruins are back!
Shabazz Muhammad is good enough by himself to get UCLA back in the national conversation.
But then you also add 5-star wing Kyle Anderson and 4-star SG Jordan Adams, and now we're talking about deep runs in the NCAA tournament and dreams about the 2013 Final Four.
Oh, yeah. Don't forget all of that front court talent that is already in Westwood.
The Wear twins and Josh Smith will get to play with some of the best perimeter players that the Class of 2012 has to offer.
Pauley Pavillion will be rockin' again...even if it is for just one special season.
5. Baylor Bears
It will be hard for Baylor to sneak up on anyone in '12-'13.
No, I'm not referring to their glow-in-the-dark unis.
I'm talking about how the Bears have made it to the Elite Eight in two of the last three seasons.
Leading scorer and top assist man, Pierre Jackson, returns to do a little of everything, even though he checks in at only 5'11".
Quincy Miller (pictured; 10.6 ppg; 4.9 rpg) is ready to blow up in his sophomore season.
Brady Heslip is one of the nation's best three point shooters (44.5 percent).
But Scott Drew has done it again. The Bears' recruiting class is exceptional, including the No. 2 center in the country, Isaiah Austin, and No. 10 PF, Ricardo Gathers.
Will Baylor make another deep run in the 2013 tournament? I would be surprised if they didn't.
4. Kansas Jayhawks
One of the surprising stories of the 2011-12 college basketball season was Kansas' journey to the 2012 title game.
No one, including Bill Self, thought at the beginning of the year that the Jayhawks would make such a run.
But several players, including Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor elevated their games far beyond what was expected.
They are gone for next season, but Jeff Withey (pictured), Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford form the core of what will still be a very good KU team.
Withey's emergence as a defender and shot-blocker changed the makeup of this Jayhawks' team.
KU will have to integrate a lot of new players on the fly, but Self is a master at getting players and teams up to speed quickly.
3. Louisville Cardinals
Louisville was one of the least pretty, most gritty teams in 2011-'12 college basketball.
They used relentless pressure defense to get to this year's Final Four.
And, with almost everyone coming back next year, there's no reason to think that the Cardinals couldn't challenge for the NCAA title again in Atlanta next season.
Peyton Siva (pictured), the 2012 Big East Tournament MVP, will be back to run the show.
Rising sophomores Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear provide lots of scoring punch for Rick Pitino.
Watch for Gorgui Dieng to become a consistent force in the middle, ready to drop a double-double on just about anyone all season long.
2. Kentucky Wildcats
Guess who may still be on top when the 2012-13 preseason polls come out?
Because of John Calipari's masterful recruiting, Kentucky may be right back where they left things in New Orleans.
Somehow, Coach Cal has reeled in the No. 1 recruiting class again.
Nerlens Noel (pictured), the No. 1 player in the nation, headlines a group of freshman that will be long and super-talented. Sound familiar.
Calipari's biggest challenge is to find someone who will run the point for this group, assuming that Marquis Teague will enter the 2012 NBA Draft along with Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller.
NC State transfer (and former 5-star prospect) Ryan Harrow seems to be the heir apparent.
While all of the above mentioned players haven't made official announcements, the assumption is that is a mere formality that will take place in the days ahead.
Even if you are not a member of the Big Blue Nation, wouldn't it be remarkable if the Cats make it back to the Final Four again next season with another new roster?
1. Indiana Hoosiers
All of Tom Crean's hard work and patience seems to finally be paying off in terms of getting the Indiana basketball program back.
Crean has recruited well and developed the players into a well-oiled machine.
As a freshman, Cody Zeller (pictured) led the team in both scoring (15.5 ppg) and rebounding (6.4 rpg).
Christian Watford (12.0 ppg) and Jordan Hulls (11.5 ppg) return to give strong senior leadership to a team that is getting ready for an exceptional infusion of freshman talent.
Even though the Hoosiers return their top five scorers, the Class of 2012 recruits will be hard to keep off the floor.
If Crean can blend the established players with the talent coming to campus, could this be a team that could win it all in Atlanta?
I think it could.
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