Cody Zeller, Peyton Siva and the Top 25 College Basketball Players of 2012-13
With college hoops season ending just over a month ago, a ton of the hype has begun to die down around the country. Until the next March Madness rolls around, we don't get to see the best basketball players in the nation compete for the glorious NCAA Championship.
As that dreadful "in-between" time begins to take hold, we can at least start to get excited about next year and all the brilliant players that will come with it. Whether it be the emergence of new programs or the resurgence of old-school powerhouses, the 2012-13 season should be one of the best in recent memory.
Heading all of that talk will be the players themselves, so in line with that thought, we take a look at the top 25 athletes of next season.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 17 PPG (led team), 8 RPG (led team)
Coming back for his junior season, San Diego State's superstar guard was easily considered to be one of the top players in the Mountain West last year. Following a tough first-round loss to No. 11 North Carolina State in the NCAA Tournament, the Aztecs will be back in 2012 with something to prove.
Look for Franklin to be up for MWC player of the year in the Aztecs final season in the league.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: N/A
Taking his talents cross-country, this Top Ten prospect out of Massachusetts is heading down to Arizona to take over the Wildcats. With Rivals ranking him as the fourth best center and the ninth best overall recruit, UA gains a huge incoming prospect with this seven-footer.
As one of the few five-stars in the country, the resurgence of Arizona on a national scale will heavily depend on how good Tarczewski turns out to be. With the Pac-12 in a considerably weakened state, expect his firepower to end up being a major factor in the Wildcats bid to make it back into the NCAA Tournament.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 14 PPG (led team)
Following Cincinnati's unlikely Big East Tournament Title run, the Bearcats have emerged as one of the rising powers in the conference.
After losing senior guard Dion Dixon and forward Yancy Gates to graduation, the returning cast of players will be led by junior guard Sean Kilpatrick. With an explosive Cashmere Wright backing him up, this Cincinnati squad will once again become a dangerous threat in the Big East.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 14 PPG (led team), 11 RPG (led team)
Following a heart-wrenching loss to No. 11 Colorado in the Big Dance, UNLV will be returning next season with a chip of its shoulder. Coming back for his junior season will be forward Mike Moser, leading the Rebels in a tough MWC against the likes of New Mexico and San Diego State.
Moser's post presence will be integral to this squad's success on the hardwood. If he is able to maintain strong numbers, UNLV will have more of a chance to compete for a high seed in the tourney.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 14 PPG (led team), 3 APG (led team)
Coming back after a top-notch freshman season, the Bulldogs' guard Kevin Pangos is geared up for another year in the West Coast Conference.
After a heartbreaking WCC Tournament Finals loss to St. Mary's, watch for Pangos and company to come back into 2012-13 with a chip on their shoulder.
This Gonzaga guard is easily one of the most underrated returning sophomores. Keep an eye out for this squad, as they should make some noise come the postseason next year.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 11 PPG (second on team), 7 RPG (led team)
With superstar point guard Jordan Taylor leaving for graduation, the torch for the Badgers has been passed to big-time forward Ryan Evans.
With the senior PG gone, Evans has to step up and take over this program. His continued success down low will be a key to the Badgers competing with the top schools in the Big Ten.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 10 PPG (third on team)
With the Orange finishing just a game short of perfection last season, many fans are fearing a dramatic fall due to the losses of Fab Melo, Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters, and Scoop Jardine.
Fortunately for 'Cuse enthusiasts, however, the return of Brandon Triche should be something to hang your hat on. Taking over the duties as the head of the team, Triche has more than enough talent to keep Syracuse on or near the top of the Big East.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 14 PPG (fourth on team), 3 APG (second on team)
As one of the few Tiger upperclassmen not leaving for graduation, incoming senior Michael Dixon will take over as the ad hoc leader of this newly added SEC member.
Replacing Kansas with Kentucky on the schedule, this rising basketball program will need his experience and talent to produce similar 2011-12 regular season results.
Following the gruesome loss to No. 15 seeded Norfolk State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the Tigers will have a chip on their shoulder and Dixon is just the man they need to exact their revenge.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 19 PPG (led team), 4 APG (led team)
Returning for his final season with the Racers, Isaiah Canaan is everything the college basketball community loves about mid-majors.
The young, incoming senior established himself as one of the best in the nation by earning a spot on the second team All-American squad last season.
Canaan comes back into the limelight next year with his name showing up on many short-lists for the first-team All-American squad. Keep an eye out for Murray State to be gunning to break the 23-game win streak they established last year behind the dominance of this top-notch future pro baller.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 9 PPG (fourth on team)
Unfortunately for North Carolina, they are losing almost 70 percent of their offensive production due to a combination of graduation and players leaving early for the NBA.
Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall and John Henson are gone, so Tar Heel fans are worried, with good reason, about the upcoming 2012-13 season.
On the plus side of things, UNC returns many talented underclassmen. Leading them will be incoming junior guard Reggie Bullock who should be looking at a possible break-out year next season after averaging almost 10 points per game during 2011-12.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 16 PPG (led team), 5 RPG (third on team)
Coming back for his final season with the Wildcats after a phenomenal 2011-12 year, McGruder will be gunning to take this K-State program to new heights.
With new head coach Bruce Weber taking over following Frank Martin's move to South Carolina, the program's entire new coaching staff will be depending on the senior leadership of McGruder for any kind of success on the hardwood to occur.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 11 PPG (second on team), 4 APG (led team)
With the Spartans coming off a top-notch 2011-12 season, many don't believe they can repeat due to the tough loss of senior forward Draymond Green. While his presence will be missed, this upcoming MSU line-up might be one of the best in years as junior guard Keith Appling leads the charge.
As the Michigan and Indiana programs have both established themselves as the leaders for the 2012-13 season, the Spartans have become somewhat of an afterthought. With Appling at the helm, however, expect big things for Michigan State.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: N/A
Ranked by Rivals as the second best center as well as the fourth overall recruit in the country, Baylor is gaining a force down low with this top-notch prospect. Coming out of Arlington, Texas, the seven-footer is going to more than be a solid replacement for NBA-bound Perry Jones III.
With the Bears bringing back veteran talent in Pierre Jackson, Isaiah Austin will be a huge factor in whether or not Baylor makes it back into the conversation for national title. Keep an eye out for this Big 12 rising star to compete against the best of them come next postseason.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 11 PPG (fourth on team), 9 RPG (led team)
While the Blue Devils are losing their top scorer to the NBA in freshman Austin Rivers, the return of Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, and Seth Curry will be huge in making sure Duke stays steady in ACC competition.
Of those three, the big senior forward will certainly be the most important. His leadership, experience and talent will be vital for the Blue Devils to avoid repeating last season's early NCAA Tournament exit at the hands of No. 15 Lehigh.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 14 PPG (led team), 9 RPG (led team)
Sitting out almost all of last season with a horrible knee-injury, Mbakwe had to watch his teammates fall to ninth in the Big Ten. Although he only got in for the first seven games of the year, one has to admit that his stats are quite impressive, making his return next season a huge plus for Golden Gophers.
Receiving another year of eligibility from the NCAA, be on the lookout for this Minnesota squad to turn some heads in the Big Ten with Mbakwe at the helm.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: N/A
Entering his first college season, this heavily touted recruit out of New Hampshire will be attending Kentucky with the intent to repeat what the Wildcats youthful squad did last season.
With Kentucky's starting five players all moving on to the NBA, Noel performing on the hardwood in Lexington will be vital for the Wildcats to have any shot of claiming back-to-back national titles.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 23 PPG (led team), 8 RPG (led team)
Returning for his junior season, following what many consider his break-out year, the young forward out of Creighton is every head coach's dream.
In this case, he is the head coach's son, but you certainly can't pull the "favoritism" card with McDermott averaging just over 23 points per game.
As Missouri Valley competition Wichita State loses almost its entire starting line-up, the Blue Jays are primed to take over the conference and get back into the national title mix under the McDermott father-son duo.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 16 PPG (second on team), 5 RPG (second on team)
While most of the country's attention was on superstar forward Jared Sullinger last season, many failed to notice the other big-shot Buckeye playing right alongside him. Unlike Sullinger, Deshaun Thomas will be retuning for his junior season and another shot at the national championship.
Ohio State is viewed as a much weaker team without their top player in Sullinger heading the charge, but head coach Thad Matta has to be reveling in the fact that Thomas is ready to take on the Big Ten.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 9 PPG (fourth on team), 6 RPG (second on team), 3 BPG (led team)
After the fall of UCLA from the top, Kansas has proudly taken over the title as "the Best in the West" under the tutelage of head coach Bill Self.
Although the Jayhawks will be losing all-American junior forward Thomas Robinson and senior guard Tyshawn Taylor, the return of seven-footer Jeff Withey will be more than enough for them to defend their string of eight Big 12 Titles.
Noted more for his defensive prowess rather than his offensive production, Withey ended the season with two fantastic performances against NBA-bound superstars Jared Sullinger and Anthony Davis, shutting down each on national television.
Coming back for his senior season, expect big things (literally) from Withey and the Jayhawks.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: N/A
Ranked by Rivals as the best overall player in this year's class, leaving off the big-time prospect from Las Vegas, Nevada, would have been a crime in itself. Taking his talents west to UCLA, expect a sudden resurgence from the declining Bruins program under his watch.
Playing against an extremely weak Pac-12, Muhammad will have the opportunity to gain some heavy momentum heading up the Bruins. Following the powerful performances of freshmen Anthony Davis and Austin Rivers will be difficult, but expect Shabazz Muhammad to rise to the challenge.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 14 PPG (led team), 7 RPG (second on team)
Passing up a solid NBA opportunity, soon-to-be junior forward CJ Leslie may be the best player in the ACC next season. Leading his No. 11 seeded Wolfpack to a Sweet Sixteen three-point loss to No. 2 Kansas, his return does wonders for where this NC State program is headed.
While Duke and UNC usually control the state of North Carolina, expect a strong resurgence from the Wolfpack in 2012-13 under the play of CJ Leslie.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 15 PPG (led team), 5 APG (led team)
Ranked by Rivals last offseason as only a three-star recruit, the young point guard out of Columbus, Ohio, has turned out to be one of the best things to happen to this Michigan program in awhile. After deciding to return for his sophomore season, the Wolverines are loaded with talent and Burke will lead the charge.
Claiming a share of the Big Ten regular season title last year, UM will be looking to make up for their first-round upset loss to No. 13 Ohio. Expect more strong play from Burke and the rest of Michigan's back court in 2012-13.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 16 PPG (led team), 3 APG (second on team)
Even with the loss of top-notch guard Bradley Beal to the NBA, expect Florida's back court to be one of the best in the country with big-time senior Kenny Boynton returning for one last go-around in the SEC. After leading the No. 7 seeded Gators to an heartbreaking Elite Eight loss at the hands of No. 4 Louisville, Boynton proved his worth last postseason.
As the SEC thins its ranks with the loss of all of Kentucky's starters, don't be surprised if Florida emerges as the top team in the conference.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 16 PPG (led team), 7 RPG (led team)
Looking to copy his older brother's example by staying in college all four years, big-time freshman power forward Cody Zeller returns to lead the heavily-favored Indiana Hoosiers in the Big Ten. After playing a huge part in the resurgence of Indiana's basketball program, Cody Zeller's decision to come back must have overjoyed head coach Tom Crean and the rest of Hoosier nation.
This historically-relevant powerhouse is on the rise for good under Zeller and his clutch play down low. Expect more things from him and the Hoosiers over the course of the next season.
Notable 2011-12 Stats: 9 PPG (fifth for team), 6 APG (led team)
Returning for his senior season, big-shot point guard Peyton Siva made his name known around the country following his top-notch play in both the Big East Conference and NCAA Tournament. Taking over the leadership role for the Cardinals next year, head coach Rick Pitino has to be excited about the prospect of Siva taking Louisville to new heights.
A disappointing Final Four loss to in-state rival Kentucky will be the driving force behind this Cardinal program as it heads in to the 2012-13 season.