1. Kansas Jayhawks- It is likely that Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins will both come back, leaving this team with their two best players from last year. Also, the Jayhawks’ young guns will hAve another year of experience under their belt now with tournament time.
Also, Bill Self is bringing in one of the best recruiting classes in the nation and word is ex-Memphis recruit Xavier Henry (fourth ranked recruit in the nation) wants to come to Kansas. This squad could be loaded.
2. Michigan State Spartans- While Goran Suton leaves the team, just about everyone is back from last year’s championship team including the core of Kalin Lucas and Chris Allen. If last season taught us anything, it is to never doubt Tom Izzo’s teams, and next year will be no exception.
3. Villanova Wildcats- I love what the Wildcats will bring back next year and have to make them the favorite in the Big East, regardless of if Johnny Flynn comes back next year.
Dante Cunningham is the only loss to note and Jay Wright brings in one of the best recruiting classes in the nation, replacing Cunningham with big men Isaiah Armwood and Mouphtaou Yarou.
4. North Carolina Tar Heels- Amazingly, this team can lose Ty Lawson, Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, and probably Wayne Ellington and still come into next year as one of the nation’s most talented teams.
Marcus Ginyard will return from injury and join youngsters Ed Davis and Deon Thompson in a loaded lineup next year. I also believe that John Wall will end up in Tar Heel blue once Lawson and Ellington officially declare for the NBA with agents. UNC does not rebuild. They reload.
5. Purdue Boilermakers- I absolutely love what Purdue will bring to the table next year as JuJaun Johnson, Robbie Hummell, and E’Twaun Moore all return to the team.
As is the case for most Big Ten teams, this team will have another year of experience under their belt after being very young last year and could make a run to the Final Four next year if everything goes right.
6. Duke Blue Devils- Gerald Henderson is good enough to be a lottery pick and will most likely leave for the Association, but other than that everyone will be back for Coach K. Another solid recruiting class and four returning starters means that Duke’s expectations will be high again, but can they live up to them this year?
7. Syracuse Orange- This spot is completely dependent on whether or not Johnny Flynn will come back or not, but in the end I think the deep PG class will scare him away and bring him back.
Because of this, the Orange will compete for the Big East despite the losses of Paul Harris and Eric Devendorf as they bring back Flynn, Andy Rautins, and Arinze Onuaku and another solid recruiting class. If Flynn leaves, they will be on the cusp of the Top 25.
8. Texas Longhorns- Despite the loss of A.J. Abrams, the Longhorns return just about everyone from last year’s team as well as two top-15 recruits for next year’s team. They are very balanced and will be a veteran-laced team poised to make a run at the Big 12 Title and in the Big Dance come March.
9. Kentucky Wildcats- It will be an interesting next couple of months for newly appointed head coach John Calipari. On one hand, you have Jodie Meeks declaring early and Patrick Patterson (for now) deciding to stay and I think that will remain, with Meeks leaving.
Coming in is Demarcus Cousins and potentially John Wall, two of the highest ranked freshman next year that will give Calipari a stud point guard, small forward, and big man in Patterson.
10. West Virginia Mountaineers- West Virginia was one of my favorite teams last year and, despite their first round exit to Dayton, their young stars blossomed towards the end of the year and will only get better this year.
Alex Ruoff leaves but Joe Mazzulla comes back after shoulder surgery to join a stacked West Virginia team next year.
11. Butler Bulldogs- Just like West Virginia, Butler sports one of the youngest and u-and-coming teams in the nation and will be in good shape for another NCAA Tournament run next year. Exceeding expectations last year was nice, but this is really the year for Butler to make things happen.
12. Tennessee Volunteers- Despite Tyler Smith declaring for the draft, the 6’7” small forward still may come back in the end, and this ranking is based on him doing so. The backcourt comes back fully in tact and Wayne Chism is as solid of an all around 6’9” player as you will find in the nation.
13. Clemson Tigers- Trevor Booker announcing he would come back next year was huge as the Tigers bring back everyone but K.C. Rivers. Terrence Oglesby is one of the best pure shooters in the nation and this could be the year that Clemson lives up to expectations and challenges Duke and UNC for the ACC title into March.
14. Xavier Musketeers- Despite the losses of B.J. Raymond and C.J. Anderson, Xavier will bring back a loaded roster along with the additions of transfer Jordan Crawford and recruit Kevin Parrom. Hopefully the loss of Sean Miller will not throw off the team’s chemistry and that they can make the right hire to replace him.
15. Washington Huskies- Recruit Adbul Gaddy (ninth ranked recruit in the nation) highlights next season’s backcourt duo with Isaiah Thomas and, despite the losses of forward Jon Brockman and sharpshooter Justin Dentmon, the Huskies should be just fine.
Quincy Pondexter will be back next year and should be able to show off his talent more with the losses of Brockman and Dentmon.
16. Gonzaga Bulldogs- Despite the losses of their three best players in Josh Heytvelt, Jeremey Pargo, and Micah Downs, the Zags will be back next year with a very solid core group of players that will be back in the tournament and make a quiet run as they always do.
17. Michigan Wolverines- If Manny Harris stays, this team could be very dangerous next year. The Wolverines seem to be improving every year and if Harris returns with Deshawn Sims, Michigan will improve their young players and make the tournament once again.
18. Dayton Flyers- Dayton seems to be a team that continues to fly under the radar despite their success. High-flying Chris Wright will lead the team into another Atlantic 10 battle with Xavier and their experience will help them as they make a run into March.
19. Cal Golden Bears- Cal brings back all five of their starters that made the tournament last year as a seven seed and will look for more success next year. Patrick Christopher will come back and as a result, Mike Montgomery should have this team in the race for the Pac-10.
20. Connecticut Huskies- Despite the huge losses of Jeff Adrien, Hasheem Thabeet, and A.J. Price, the Huskies will bring back Stanley Robinson, Kemba Walker and a healthy Jerome Dyson (don’t forget about him).
Jim Calhoun is back and has to be chomping at the bit to get started on another season after failing to make the Championship Game last year and will do so with a talented team. Recruit Alex Oriakhi and Darius Smith highlight a very talented recruiting class, as well.
21. Boston College Eagles- Despite the loss of Tyrese Rice, BC returns a very good class with a whole lot of depth. Led by Reggie Jackson and one of my favorite players Rakeem Sanders, the Golden Eagles will be able to score at will and Joe Sanders and Corey Raji will hold down the frontcourt.
22. Oklahoma Sooners- This ranking is based on my thinking that Willie Warren will come back next year and lead a team that loses the Griffin brothers but is still talented. Tony Crocker had a huge tournament and will be called upon to step up in a big way next year.
The Sooners also have a top recruiting class that will be expected to come in right away and produce.
23. Florida Gators- If Nick Calathes comes back next year; Florida will be back in the SEC mix and make a run at the tournament. Kenny Boynton (ninth overall in the nation) will be a superstar for Billy Donovan and Chandler Parsons has showed a lot of potential that hopefully can be used this year for the Gators.
24. Mississippi State Bulldogs- If Jarvis Varnardo does not enter his name into the NBA Draft, he will make the Bulldogs a tournament team once again and also be a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
Senior Barry Stewart will lead an experienced backcourt and highly touted freshman shooting guard Shaunessy Smith will provide scoring right away.
25. Illinois Fighting Illini- The Illini seem to be in the mix every year and will look to use valuable experience gained last year with an older team and highly ranked recruiting class, led by D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul. Demetri McCamey and Mike Davis should have huge years to lead the Illini to a tournament bid.