College Basketball Preseason Top 25: Kentucky, Indiana Lead the Pack
Using a formula that considers the percentage of returning points, rebounds and assists from last year, multiplies that number by a value assigned to how the team finished last season and adds a certain amount of points for 4- and 5-star recruits, Kentucky and Indiana are separated by less than a point atop my preseason top 25.
Too bad they ended their rivalry and won't play this year.
No. 25: Lehigh
Lehigh returns the top four scorers from last year's 27-8 squad that upset second-seeded Duke in the NCAA tournament.
Senior guard C.J. McCollum is back along with his 21.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.6 steals per game. Joining him are returning starters Gabe Knutson, Holden Greiner and Mackey McKnight.
We'll learn a lot about the Mountain Hawks in their first game at Baylor on Nov. 9.
No. 24: San Diego State
San Diego State brings back its top four scorers: Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley, Xavier Thames and James Rahon.
The Aztecs also add Utah transfer JJ O'Brien and 4-star recruits Winston Shepard and Matt Shrigley.
No. 23: UNLV
The Rebels lose three of their top six scorers, but Mike Moser's double-double every game is back and will be joined by a star-studded recruiting class highlighted by the top incoming power forward in the country, Anthony Bennett.
No. 22: Ohio
I'm not sure how Ohio barely got any votes in the AP Poll and didn't get a single one on the Coaches' side.
The Bobcats return eight of the top nine scorers from a team that took North Carolina to overtime in the Sweet 16, including D.J. Cooper and Walter Offutt, who each averaged double digits last season.
No. 21: Kansas State
The Wildcats seem underrated as well, being that they return 83 percent of their scoring and nearly 88 percent of their assists from last year's squad.
Rodney McGruder's 15.8 points per game are back, along with three other starters.
No. 20: Marquette
Marquette loses its top two scorers—Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder—but returns nearly everyone else and adds Trent Lockett, a transfer from Arizona State, along with ESPN 100 freshman Steve Taylor.
No. 19: VCU
VCU once again pulled off an upset win in the NCAA tournament last March and returns every important player from that team besides leading scorer Bradford Burgess.
But don't worry, there will still be a Burgess on the squad. Brother Jordan joins Melvin Johnson as incoming 4-star recruits for the Rams' first season in the A-10.
No. 18: Ohio State
Ohio State's No. 4 ranking in both national polls seems awfully high considering Jared Sullinger and William Buford are both gone and the Buckeyes' best incoming freshman is a 3-star recruit.
No. 17: Duke
Duke seems overrated as well at No. 8 in both polls. Austin Rivers, Andre Dawkins and Miles Plumlee are all gone from a team that couldn't even win one game in the NCAA tournament.
On the positive side, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee are all back, and freshmen shooting guard Rasheed Sulaimon and power forward Amile Jefferson are each ranked in the top four at his position among incoming players.
No. 16: UCLA
UCLA loses its top two scorers—Lazeric Jones and Travis Wear—but boy do the Bruins bring in a ton of talent. It starts with UNC transfer Larry Drew II and ends with a stacked four-man recruiting class headlined by two of the best freshman small forwards in the country, Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson.
No. 15: Texas
Texas enters the season underrated. The Longhorns do lose leading scorer J'Covan Brown, but bring back three starters and welcome one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, led by 5-star center Cameron Ridley.
No. 14: Michigan
A No. 5 ranking in the national polls seems a bit high considering the Wolverines lose three of their top five scorers from a team that didn't win a single game in the NCAA tournament last March.
The good news is Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are back, along with a strong recruiting class of Glenn Robinson, Mitch McGary and Nik Stauskas.
No. 13: Cincinnati
The Bearcats don't seem to be getting the respect they deserve.
They lose Dion Dixon and Yancy Gates, but bring back nearly everyone else from a Sweet 16 squad, including leading scorer Sean Kilpatrick and point guard Cashmere Wright, who averaged 4.6 assists per game last year.
No. 12: Creighton
The Bluejays were good last year and are even better this year. They bring back 84 percent of their scoring and an astounding 93 percent of their rebounding. Leading the way is junior forward and Player of the Year candidate Doug McDermott, who averaged 22.9 points and 8.2 boards per game as just a sophomore.
No. 11: Wisconsin
The Badgers barely crack the Top 25 in the national polls, but should be higher.
They lose leading scorer Jordan Taylor, but bring back four other starters and add highly touted freshman small forward Sam Dekker.
No. 10: Syracuse
At first glance, a Top-10 ranking seems high for a squad that loses three starters and the best sixth man in the country.
But when you look closer, you realize that Syracuse will once again play nine deep with a ton of talent.
Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams will be featured in the backcourt, while C.J. Fair, James Southerland, Rakeem Christmas and Baye Keita will share time with incoming studs DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant in the frontcourt.
And don't forget about sharpshooter Trevor Cooney, who red-shirted last year as a freshman and will be coming off the bench this year.
No. 9: Florida
The Gators lose two starters, but bring back leading scorer Kenny Boynton along with nearly everyone else from a team that reached the Elite Eight last season.
Florida also adds 4-star freshman point guard Braxton Ogbueze, ranked seventh at his position in the ESPN 100.
No. 8: Baylor
Baylor is underrated at 18th and 19th in the national polls.
The Bears do lose three starters, but bring back leading scorer Pierre Jackson (13.8 PPG), who also averaged 5.9 assists per game last year when Baylor reached the Elite Eight.
And he'll have plenty of young new talent to dish the ball off to this season. Seven-foot Isaiah Austin is the second-ranked incoming center in the country. He's joined in the recruiting class with fellow ESPN 100 studs Ricardo Gathers and L.J. Rose.
No. 7: Kansas
The Jayhawks lose their top two players—Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor—but bring back three other starters—Elijah Johnson, Jeff Withey and Travis Releford—from last season's national runner-up team.
Kansas also adds a deep recruiting class headlined by forwards Perry Ellis and Andrew White.
No. 6: NC State
How do you get ranked sixth in the preseason poll? Return your top four scorers from a Sweet 16 team and add three talented freshmen.
C.J. Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood and Richard Howell welcome in Rodney Purvis, T.J. Warren and Tyler Lewis.
No. 5: Arizona
The Wildcats are outside the Top 10 in the national polls, but should be much higher.
Arizona loses four of its top six scorers, but brings back Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson, adds senior guard Mark Lyons, who averaged better than 15 points per game at Xavier last year, and brings in the best recruiting class outside of Kentucky.
Center Kaleb Tarczewski and power forwards Grant Jerrett and Brandon Ashley are each among the top three freshmen at his position, and shooting guard Gabe York is a 4-star recruit.
No. 4: Michigan State
Like Arizona, Michigan State is a Top Five team getting only Top-15 respect heading into the season.
Superstar Draymond Green is gone, along with fellow starter Brandon Wood, but the Spartans return four of their top six scorers, including Keith Appling.
Coach Tom Izzo brings in four freshmen that should have an impact this year, none better than talented shooting guard Gary Harris.
No. 3: Louisville
The Cardinals return Russ Smith, Chane Behanan and Peyton Siva from last season's Final Four squad, while adding junior forward transfer Luke Hancock, who averaged nearly 11 points per game for George Mason two years ago.
Rick Pitino also brings in ESPN 100 power forward Montrezl Harrell.
No. 2: Indiana
I input all the numbers into my formula and it spit out: Kentucky (190.5), Indiana (190.1).
You can't argue with the Hoosiers being No. 1. They return the top five scorers from a Sweet 16 team (Cody Zeller, Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls, Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey) and add three talented freshmen in Yogi Ferrell, Jeremy Hollowell and Hanner Mosquera-Perea.
Indiana was 12-20 two years ago, so the fact that this team could cut the nets down in April is a credit to the incredible job done by Tom Crean.
No. 1: Kentucky
Kentucky returns five percent of its scoring, 10 percent of its rebounding and less than two percent of its assists from last year's national championship squad. So how could two writers, five coaches and I rank the Wildcats No. 1 entering the 2012-13 season?
First of all, they bring in two impact transfers. Sophomore guard Ryan Harrow averaged 9.3 points and 3.3 assists per game with NC State two years ago, and senior guard Julius Mays (who spent his first two collegiate seasons with the Wolfpack as well) scored 14.1 points per game for Wright State last season.
But the best reason why UK could repeat is the latest outstanding recruiting class brought in by John Calipari. Center Nerlens Noel is the top freshman in the country, Alex Poythress is the third-ranked incoming small forward, Archie Goodwin is ranked fourth among incoming shooting guards and Willie Cauley is yet another member of the ESPN 100.
North Carolina, Memphis and Missouri are all ranked in the Top 17 in both national polls, but I have them outside my top 25 and here's why:
Like Kentucky, the Tar Heels lost nearly everyone from last season, returning just 29 percent of their scoring, 36 percent of their rebounding and 19 percent of their assists. Unlike the Wildcats, however, UNC did not add an impact transfer and while their recruiting class is deep, it is not on the talent level of Kentucky, Arizona, Michigan State or UCLA.
Memphis, meanwhile, brings back a good amount of starters, but Will Barton (18 PPG, 8 RPG) is gone and the Tigers didn't even win a game in the NCAA tournament last year.
Finally, Missouri returns less than 30 percent of its scoring and rebounding from last year's team that was upset by No. 15 seed Norfolk State in its first NCAA tournament game. The Tigers do bring in four transfers that could make a difference, but not a single impact freshman.
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