College Basketball: Power Ranking the Likely Starting Lineups for Top 25 Teams

Ryan SatskyContributor IIIJune 11, 2012

College Basketball: Power Ranking the Likely Starting Lineups for Top 25 Teams

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    Depth is one of the most valuable team assets in any sport. Fatigue is always a factor, and variety can always confuse the opposition.

    But when a basketball game is on the line, the starting lineup is the group who is called upon to seal the deal.

    Evidently, these players are the most important players on the team, which is why they often receive the most amount of playing time.

    This Top 25 ranking is not a standard ranking because the evaluation process did not include any bench players.

    This list ranks the top 25 starting five's in college basketball heading into the 2012-13 season, with a small shocker at the pinnacle.

    Note: Transfers that are ineligible until the second semester in December, such as Khem Birch and Jabari Brown, are included.

25. Notre Dame

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    PG: Eric Atkins

    SG: Jerian Grant

    SF: Cameron Biedschied

    PF: Scott Martin

    C: Jack Cooley

    Junior duo Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins anchor an experienced backcourt. Both are terrific distributors and have tremendous assets at their disposal.

    Jack Cooley virtually appeared from nowhere last season to garner a spot on the All-Big East first team. He's a rugged center who does all of the low-post, dirty work needed for success.

    Scott Martin is back after receiving a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA. He is valuable as a rebounder and as a leader for Mike Brey's team.

24. Minnesota

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    PG: Julian Welch

    SG: Austin Hollins

    SF: Rodney Williams

    PF: Trevor Mbakwe

    C: Elliott Elliason

    The Golden Gophers are led by two low-profile NBA prospects in Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams.

    Mbakwe sat out last season following an ACL injury he suffered early in November. He is arguably the most fundamentally sound and athletically gifted forward in the nation.

    Williams is a pure athlete. He is an elite dunker and is lethal on the fast break.

    The rest of Minnesota's starting lineup consists of contributing role players, led by point guard Julian Welch. He provides a nice mix of scoring and passing.

23. Texas

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    PG: Myck Kabongo

    SG: Sheldon McLellan

    SF: Jonathan Holmes

    PF: Prince Ibeh

    C: Cameron Ridley

    Myck Kabongo is the stud of this lineup. The Canadian phenom will look to vastly improve on his woeful freshman season, which was caused by departed J'Covan Brown's shot-happy style.

    Sheldon McLellan is a name to watch. He does a bit of everything, but has the tools to develop into a threatening scorer.

    Leading Texas' top-five recruiting class are towering big men Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh.

    Ridley is a thick McDonald's All American who is a beast on the boards. He should fill the huge size void created by Tristan Thompson leaving early for the NBA two years ago.

22. Creighton

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    PG: Grant Gibbs

    SG: Jahenns Maginat

    SF: Ethan Wragge

    PF: Doug McDermott

    C: Gregory Echenique

    Doug McDermott is undoubtedly the star of the premier squad in the Missouri Valley. He will absolutely be on the Naismith Watch all season long for his rapid scoring ability and versatile shooting array.

    Greg Echenique, a Rutgers transfer, is a built grown man and intimidator in the low post. Grabbing rebounds against Creighton's front line will be a difficult task.

    Grant Gibbs will have to shift down to point guard in order to replace graduated senior Antoine Young, and Gibbs definitely carries the skills to effectively do so. He has terrific court vision and a respectable jump shot.

21. Wisconsin

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    PG: Ben Brust

    SG: Josh Gasser

    SF: Ryan Evans

    PF: Mike Bruesewitz

    C: Jared Berggren

    Holding Sam Dekker from the starting lineup won't come with ease for Bo Ryan, but Wisconsin possesses too much depth for the freshman to start.

    Ryan Evans and Jared Berggren have hid behind Jordan Taylor's spotlight for the past three years. With Taylor gone, those two can both blossom into the stars their past results have suggested that they can become.

    Ben Brust and Josh Gasser can put up points in a hurry, but both need to work on finding their teammates more often.

20. Gonzaga

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    PG: Gary Bell Jr.

    SG: Kevin Pangos

    SF: Elias Harris

    PF: Sam Dower

    C: Przemek Karnowski

    Kevin Pangos proved to be on the most lethal scorers in the nation last season, totaling 30 points on multiple occasions.

    Elias Harris has passed up on the NBA for three consecutive years to return to Gonzaga. Watch for Harris to finally reach his highly-touted potential.

    Sam Dower is CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein's breakout special for next season. He has the physical tools to do so at 6'11''.

    Przemek Karnowski is a 7'1'' raw center from Poland. Had he been recruited in the United States, he may have been a McDonald's All American.

19. Missouri

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    PG: Phil Pressey

    SG; Michael Dixon

    SF: Jabari Brown

    PF: Laurence Bowers

    C: Alex Oriakhi

    Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon may be small, but together they form an effective veteran backcourt.

    Jabari Brown and Alex Orikahi highlight a group of four new transfers ready to replace Missouri's mass exodus that includes Kim English, Ricardo Ratliffe, Marcus Denmon and Matt Pressey.

    Laurence Bowers was arguably Missouri's top performer in 2010-11, but he missed all of last season to an ACL injury. Bowers is aggressive and can put up high points, rebounds, and blocks totals any given night.

18. Florida

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    PG: Scottie Wilbeken

    SG: Kenny Boynton

    SF: Mike Rosario

    PF: Erik Murphy

    C: Patric Young

    There's never a shortage of star power in Gainesville but coach Billy Donovan always does a great job of getting top high school players to mesh beautifully at the college level.

    Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton, two past McDonald's All Americans, lead the Gators with outside shooting and explosive playmaking ability.

    Patric Young's physique often draws comparisons to NBA star Dwight Howard. If Young can start putting his strong body to more effective uses on the court, the Gators will be very difficult to stop.

    Florida will also benefit from replacing a trigger-happy Erving Walker with a more pass-happy Scottie Wilbeken. 

17. Memphis

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    PG: Joe Jackson

    SG: Antonio Barton

    SF: Adonis Thomas

    PF: Shaquille Goodwin

    C: Tarik Black

    Memphis got off to an awful start last season and was never able to completely recuperate. That was mainly because Adonis Thomas was sidelined with an injury.

    Thomas, a top 10 high school recruit one year ago, is deadly on the wing. He has great size to pair with his perimeter abilities.

    Shaquille Goodwin will greatly improve if he can focus on only basketball. Goodwin is also a phenomenal football player, but needs to start putting his entire attention to basketball in order to start improving.

    Tarik Black and Joe Jackson have both showed glimpses of star qualities, but both disappointed after having high expectations placed upon them at the onset of last season.

16. San Diego State

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    PG: Xavier Thames

    SG: Chase Tapley

    SF: Jamaal Franklin

    PF: Winston Shepard

    C: Skylar Spencer

    Steve Fisher's Aztecs seem to always fall under the radar until conference play, but it will be tough to keep San Diego State out of the spotlight with Jamaal Franklin leading the way.

    Franklin is very creative with his ways of putting the ball in the hoop. He manages to remain a team player while still racking up large scoring quantities.

    Chase Tapley is an imperative sidekick to Franklin's success. He knows how to score and proved that with a 15.8 point per game average last season.

15. Duke

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    PG: Quinn Cook

    SG: Seth Curry

    SF: Rasheed Sulaimon

    PF: Ryan Kelly

    C: Mason Plumlee

    Duke will most likely be ranked a bit higher on a pure Top 25 list because of their depth, but its starting lineup places them here.

    The Blue Devils are loaded at guard, forcing a guard to play the 3 position. That player will most likely be Rasheed Sulaimon, a lights out three-point shooting freshman from Houston.

    Duke suffered from Ryan Kelly's absence in the NCAA tournament last season. He offers rare versatility and unmatchable size for a wing player.

    Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton will battle for starting point guard duties, but Cook was never given a real opportunity to show what he is capable of providing last season. With court time, Cook will cement himself in the starting lineup.

14. UNLV

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    PG: Anthony Marshall

    SG: Katin Reinhardt

    SF: Anthony Bennett

    PF: Mike Moser

    C: Khem Birch

    Opposing teams will have to think twice about driving on UNLV. Its front court trio of Anthony Bennett, Mike Moser and Khem Birch is truly scary.

    While none of these three can really play center, Birch's shot blocking ability will likely put him at that position. Moser and Bennett are versatile combo forwards and elite on the glass.

    Katin Reinhardt could be the most undervalued incoming freshman. He dominated at storied high school program Mater Dei.

13. Arizona

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    PG: Mark Lyons

    SG: Nick Johnson

    SF: Solomon Hill

    PF: Brandon Ashley

    C: Kaleb Tarczewski

    Arizona's underachievement shocked almost everyone last season. But if one thing is true about Arizona, it's that it has arguably the best recruiter in the land at the helm of its basketball program.

    Sean Miller racked in a relentless big man tandem of Brandon Ashley and 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski. He also reeled in immediately eligible guard Mark Lyons from Xavier.

    Solomon Hill often goes unnoticed, but he is talented enough to possibly put his name in the race for Pac-12 Player of the Year by the end of the season.

12. UCLA

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    PG: Kyle Anderson

    SG: Tyler Lamb

    SF: Shabazz Muhammad

    PF: Tony Parker

    C: Joshua Smith

    From one Pac-12 recruiting masterpiece to another, UCLA is back on the college basketball map with an unbelievable class led by Las Vegas native Shabazz Muhammad.

    Muhammad, already an NBA talent, is a pure scorer and is physically built to succeed. Kyle Anderson, another freshman, possesses true point guard qualities despite standing at 6'9''. Anderson has not lost a high school basketball game in two years.

    Joshua Smith desperately needs to shed some weight because he has the skills to be a dominant player in college. For now, his mass should help him pave paths through the clogged paint.

11. North Carolina

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    PG: Marcus Paige

    SG: Dexter Strickland

    SF; Reggie Bullock

    PF: James McAdoo

    C: Joel James

    How one team can lose four starters and still carry a top tier starting lineup is a true testament to Roy Williams' recruiting ability.

    James McAdoo and Reggie Bullock are athletically gifted and will see their numbers skyrocket as their minutes skyrocket.

    While Kendall Marshall's vision is nearly impossible to replace, Marcus Paige will do a tremendous job of making Tar Heels fans forget about Marshall's absence.

10. Michigan

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    PG: Trey Burke

    SG: Tim Hardaway Jr.

    SF: Glenn Robinson Jr.

    PF: Mitch McGary

    C: Jordan Morgan

    Trey Burke's decision to return to Ann Arbor is symphonic music to all Michigan fans' ears. Burke is arguably the top point guard in the nation after proving all high school evaluators wrong last season as a freshman.

    Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson Jr., two sons of former NBA all-stars, are both aggressive penetrators and freak athletes.

    Jordan Morgan struggled to man the paint by himself last season, but 20-year-old freshman Mitch McGary will aid Morgan with length and strength. He had this signature moment at the Elite 24 Hoops Classic.

9. Syracuse

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    PG: Michael Carter-Williams

    SG: Brandon Triche

    SF: James Southerland

    PF: CJ Fair

    C: Rakeem Christmas

    Syracuse lacks a true general with Scoop Jardine graduating and Dion Waiters leaving early, so coach Jim Boeheim must call upon a young player to shift into that role.

    Michael Carter-Williams, a 2011 McDonald's All American, is best suited to do so. He received minimal minutes as a freshman but has occasionally showed off his silky smooth stroke from beyond the arc.

    Brandon Triche and James Southerland are also terrific three-point shooters. Triche will be an important senior leader for the Orange.

    Jim Boeheim typically doesn't start freshmen, so Rakeem Christmas and CJ Fair get the nod over 5-star DaJuan Coleman. Both need to improve on their rebounding but have potential to become low post forces in the Big East.

8. Michigan State

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    PG: Keith Appling

    SG: Gary Harris

    SF: Branden Dawson

    PF: Adreian Payne

    C: Derrick Nix

    No player did more for their respective team last year than Draymond Green, so replacing him will be an arduous task. Nonetheless, coach Tom Izzo has the pieces to make Spartans fans feel comfortable with their starting lineup.

    Adreian Payne and Derrick Nix are huge bullies on the low block. Payne has all of the physical qualities, while Nix is a 270 pound monster.

    Keith Appling is the most talented player on the roster. He's diminutive but crafty off the dribble and can score from anywhere on the court—and he knows it too.

    Gary Harris leads a very underrated recruiting class. He'll be a nice replacement for graduated Valparaiso transfer Brandon Wood.

7. North Carolina State

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    PG: Lorenzo Brown

    SG: Rodney Purvis

    SF: Scott Wood

    PF: CJ Leslie

    C: Richard Howell

    NC State was riding high off of a surprise Sweet 16 visit, but they should be most excited about what is coming next season.

    Rodney Purvis is in line to be the ACC's top freshman. Purvis has the tools to develop into a 20-point scorer on a consistent basis.

    CJ Leslie and Lorenzo Brown, two future NBA players, remain the nucleus of the Wolfpack. Brown is a 6'5'' pass-first point guard, while Leslie could be the most athletically gifted player in his conference.

    Scott Wood has the quickest release and most accurate three-point shot I have ever seen, while Richard Howell is in line to top the ACC rebounding race with Tyler Zeller and Mike Scott exiting the conference.

6. Kansas

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    PG: Elijah Johnson

    SG: Ben McLemore

    SF: Travis Releford

    PF: Perry Ellis

    C: Jeff Withey

    Whenever Kansas seems like it is entering a rebuilding mode, don't buy it. Whether its losing the Morris Twins and Josh Selby or Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson, Bill Self will always find ways to dominate the Big 12.

    Jeff Withey is a legitimate 7-footer who set the record for most blocked shots in an NCAA tournament last season. He and freshman Perry Ellis bolster a depleted frontcourt caused by the departure of Thomas Robinson.

    Elijah Johnson hid behind Tyshawn Taylor's large shadow last season, but his quickness will be unmatched at the point guard slot this season.

    Ben McLemore, the most talked about prospect you've never seen play, is a 5-star redshirt freshman with nice ball handling skills and a consistent long range jump shot.

5. Baylor

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    PG: Pierre Jackson

    SG: Brady Heslip

    SF: Deuce Bello

    PF: Cory Jefferson

    C: Isaiah Austin

    Once again, Baylor boasts an outrageously long and athletic starting lineup, headlined by top-five incoming freshman Isaiah Austin.

    Austin completely controls the paint with his lanky 7-foot frame. His presence will make the losses of Perry Jones, Quincy Acy, and Quincy Miller easier to swallow.

    Pierre Jackson's style of play combines the perfect combination of distributing and scoring. Brady Heslip, known for scoring 27 points on nine threes in the 3rd round of the 2012 NCAA tournament, is lights out from deep.

    Deuce Bello and Cory Jefferson were underclassmen buried under Baylor's depth chart last season but both have undeniable intangibles and athleticism.

4. Ohio State

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    PG: Aaron Craft

    SG: Shannon Scott

    SF: Lenzelle Smith Jr.

    PF: Deshaun Thomas

    C: Amir Williams

    Replacing an Ohio State top-five career scorer and a two-time All-American is nearly impossible, but a new flock of stars are ready to shine in Colombus next season.

    Aaron Craft, the nation's best on-ball defender, and matchup nightmare Deshaun Thomas highlight an underrated starting lineup.

    Lenzelle Smith can accumulate points very quickly and stretches the floor uniquely.

    Amir Williams needs to be considered one of the nation's top shot blockers. Had he received the same playing time as top blockers Anthony Davis, Jeff Withey and John Henson, Williams would have compiled over three blocks per game.

3. Kentucky

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    PG: Ryan Harrow

    SG: Archie Goodwin

    SF: Alex Poythress

    PF: Kyle Wiltjer

    C: Nerlens Noel

    Speaking of replacing stars, Kentucky lost six major contributors from the 2012 National Champs, including the Naismith Award winner Anthony Davis.

    Freshman Nerlens Noel needs to improve his offensive game but he may be the best defender in the nation next season. Archie Goodwin is a supreme high flier.

    Ryan Harrow, a transfer from NC State, is an elite scorer but needs to stay under control while handling the basketball.

2. Indiana

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    PG: Jordan Hulls

    SG: Victor Oladipo

    SF: Will Sheehey

    PF: Christian Watford

    C: Cody Zeller

    Naismith Award favorite Cody Zeller is back in Bloomington to continue the restoration process of winning Indiana basketball.

    Zeller and combo forward Christian Watford are often considered to be the best duo of players in the entire land, regardless of position. Broadcaster Dan Shulman made Watford a household name with this memorable call.

    Victor Oladipo has stiff competition to keep his starting guard job with Maurice Creek returning from injury and Yogi Ferrell coming in a freshman. Oladipo is a quick defender and fearless attacking the rim.

1. Louisville

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    PG: Peyton Siva

    SG: Russ Smith

    SF: Wayne Blackshear

    PF: Chane Behanan

    C: Gorgui Dieng

    Not only do I think Louisville has the best starting lineup, but I believe they have the best team for the 2012-13 season. Fresh off of a Final Four run, Louisville loses a small amount of production but returns key pieces from that successful run.

    Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng transformed from top players on their team to top players in their conference with glorious runs in the 2012 Big East Tournament and 2012 NCAA Tournament.

    Siva is as clutch as they come late in the game, while Gorgui Dieng has a massive shot-blocking wingspan of 7'5''.

    Chane Behanan started to fill out late during his freshman season, giving promise for what is come during his much anticipated sophomore season. Behanan is tough as nails and cleans up the glass nicely.

    Wayne Blackshear, Louisville's top recruit in 2011, missed the majority of last season to injury. At full strength, he is an explosive dunker and always plays above the rim.