Super-Early Preseason Top 25 Poll for 2013-14 NCAA Basketball Season

C.J. Moore@@CJMooreHoopsCollege Basketball National Lead WriterApril 10, 2013

Super-Early Preseason Top 25 Poll for 2013-14 NCAA Basketball Season

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    Here's the question heading into the 2013-14 season: Will the state of Kentucky let somebody else win the title? 

    Judging by what Louisville has coming back and what Kentucky has coming in, it's going to be difficult to ruin the reign of the Bluegrass State. 

    The one lesson we did learn this past season is that John Calipari's one-and-done philosophy can go splat. 

    We're also beginning to learn that the mid-majors are not going anywhere, and yes, that includes Gonzaga. (Cue angry "overrated" chant.)

    Putting together rankings at this point is a guessing game because it's still waaaay early. We don't know who will return and who will go pro. Transfers could still happen. The Andrew Wiggins sweepstakes is still undecided.

    So, with all of those caveats out of the way, here are your 2013-14 preseason rankings. 

    Others receiving consideration: Virginia, Wisconsin, Iowa, Notre Dame, UCLA, Tennessee, Missouri, Kansas State, Oklahoma State, Creighton, Boise State, Miami, Butler

25. Villanova

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: Not ranked

    Why They're Here: Louisville, Syracuse, Marquette and Georgetown. Those were four of Villanova's wins this past season. 

    Jay Wright's team was up and down, which is understandable when your three leading scorers are two sophomores and a freshman. Another year of experience should be beneficial to JayVaughn Pinkston, Ryan Arcidiacono and Darrun Hilliard. This is usually how Wright does it, turning one or two really good classes into a great team as the players age.

    Best Asset: The ability to get to the line. Pinkston drew 7.7 fouls every 40 minutes and Villanova had the highest free-throw rate (free-throw attempts divided by field-goal attempts) in the country, according to

    Why This Could Change: The 'Cats are not expected to see anyone bolt for the pros, so they should enter 2013-14 right here as a fringe Top 25 team. 

24. Georgetown

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 14

    Why They're Here: If you're looking for the next Otto Porter at Georgetown, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera could be the guy. The freshman showed flashes of what he could be this year, including a 33-point performance against DePaul. John Thompson III likely returns four starters, including second-leading scorer Markel Starks. It's just that one starter who's likely leaving, Otto Porter, will be impossible to replace. 

    Best Asset: Defense. Georgetown opponents made only 41.4 percent of their twos and 30.7 percent from three this past year. The loss to Florida Gulf Coast was disappointing and surprising considering how consistent the Hoyas D was all year. 

    Why This Could Change: If Porter decides to stay in school, Georgetown should shoot up the rankings.

23. Iowa State

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: Not ranked

    Why They're Here: Fred Hoiberg has made two straight tournaments by turning the roster over with transfers. He'll finally have some stability next season with two starters returning in Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang. Both have the potential to make the All-Big 12 team.

    Best Asset: Three-point shooting. This will always be the case for the Cyclones. They attempted 43.8 percent of their field-goal attempts from deep this past season and shot 37.4 percent. Hoiberg is going to put shooters on the court and spread the floor, which is fun to watch and difficult to defend. Hoiberg also added guard Matt Thomas, who is considered one of the best shooters in the 2013 class. 

    Why This Could Change: It's not likely to change, and going forward, Iowa State will be one of the most consistent programs in the Big 12 as long as Hoiberg is around. Book it.

22. Alabama

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: Not ranked

    Why They're Here: Alabama seems to spend every year on the bubble, but this should be a team that gets in the tourney without sweating it. Anthony Grant returns all five starters, including the talented backcourt of Trevor Releford and Trevor Lacey along with Levi Randolph on the wing.

    Best Asset: That backcourt. Releford is great in transition, can slash to the basket or pull up and hit the three. Lacey knocked down 62 threes this past year and is a good spot-up shooter. Randolph is a streaky scorer who finished 2013 hot—he scored more than 20 points in three of Alabama's final five games.

    Why This Could Change: It would be surprising to see any regulars transfer or leave early, so expect the Crimson Tide to stay put in this spot. 

21. Connecticut

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: Not ranked

    Why They're Here: Kevin Ollie's team had nothing but pride to play for last season because of a postseason ban, and the Huskies were motivated enough to finish 10-8 in the Big East. They also had wins over Michigan State, Syracuse, Notre Dame and Cincinnati. They should only improve with another year of experience and something to play for next season. 

    Best Asset: The backcourt. Ryan Boatright and Shabazz Napier are lightning quick and can both create for themselves and others. 

    Why This Could Change: If Napier decides to leave early. 

20. Saint Louis

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 17

    Why They're Here: Learn the name Dwayne Evans if you don't know it already. Evans led the Billikens in scoring at 14.0 points per game and is an extremely difficult cover at this level because he can post smaller defenders and drive past bigger defenders. He's a dark-horse pick to be an All-American next year.

    The Billikens lose two key contributors to graduation—Cody Ellis and Kwamain Mitchell—but they return seven guys who were part of the rotation and add Central Michigan transfer guard Austin McBroom, who averaged 10.9 points as a freshman.

    Best Asset: Defense. The Bills should not take a step back in this category. They were one of the best in the country at both forcing turnovers and holding opponents to low shooting percentages. 

    Why This Could Change: It shouldn't. The Billikens won the Atlantic 10 last year, and they'll contend with VCU again next year. 

19. Wichita State

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 6

    Why They're Here: The Shockers would be higher if they could squeeze one more year out of Malcolm Armstead or Carl Hall. Armstead was the only WSU guard who could create for himself, and Hall was the only true back-to-the-basket big man on the roster. They'll be difficult to replace.

    Best Asset: Cleanthony Early and confidence that they belong. Early is a difficult matchup at 6'8" with the ability to shoot the three or score in the paint. He also has the rare in-between game. The Shockers should return next season with the faith that they can make another postseason run and Gregg Marshall proved he's pretty good at using his team's confidence to his advantage. 

    Why This Could Change: Not likely to change. The Shockers return a good core, and remember that they had to replace five starters and that didn't seem to matter much this past season. 

18. Colorado

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: Not ranked

    Why They're Here: The Buffs return their five leading scorers and have two future pros in Spencer Dinwiddie and Andre Roberson. Tad Boyle has done a nice job building a consistent winner and made Boulder actually care about basketball (an amazing feat).

    Best Asset: Defense. Dinwiddie and Roberson are two of the best defenders in the Pac-12 and both can defend multiple positions. 

    Why This Could Change: If Dinwiddie or Roberson decide to leave early because of the weak draft class. 

17. New Mexico

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 18

    Why They're Here: New Mexico returns four of five starters from a team that went 29-6 and won the Mountain West. Sure, the finish was disappointing—a loss to Harvard—but look at the bright side, Lobos fans: maybe Craig Neal, unlike Steve Alford, will adjust his defense when getting torched from the perimeter. 

    Best Asset: Size. Seven-foot center Alex Kirk and Cameron Bairstow, who is 6'9", are one of the rare frontlines in college basketball with legitimate size, talent and the ability to score from the block. 

    Why This Could Change: Tony Snell has already declared for the draft. Leading scorer Kendall Williams said he's coming back (via the Sante Fe New Mexican). If the Lobos have any starters transfer because of Alford's departure, they would drop. 

16. Memphis

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: Not ranked

    Why They're Here: Josh Pastner is going to have talent. Every season Memphis is near the top of the recruiting rankings, and this year is no different with all five incoming freshmen ranked in Rivals' Top 101—including three in the Top 40. 

    How is Pastner as a coach? He won for the first time in the tournament this past season and seems to be growing in that role. Even if he's lacking, talent can go a long way to make up for it. 

    Best Asset: A senior point guard. It has been rare that Pastner has had experience due to so much roster turnover. Well, leading scorer Joe Jackson will become Pastner's first four-year starter. Because Memphis has played in Conference USA, however, Jackson has sort of flown under the radar. 

    Why This Could Change: Another player decides to go pro or transfer. Adonis Thomas has already declared for the draft and Tarik Black is transferring.

15. VCU

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 19

    Why They're Here: It's safe to include Shaka Smart's team in the preseason Top 25 every year now. Havoc rarely disappoints. 

    Smart needs depth for his style and he returns six players who averaged 10-plus minutes this past season. His two leading scorers, Juvonte Reddic and Traveon Graham, are also back. 

    Best Asset: The ability to count on the fact that this team is going to force turnovers. The Rams have led the nation in turnover percentage (turnovers forced divided by possessions) for each of the last two seasons, according to

    Why This Could Change: A great opportunity opens up that Smart cannot turn down. Not likely, as he has been more than willing to stay put at VCU. 

14. Kansas

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 4

    Why They're Here: Bill Self. Kansas loses all five starters, so this is a bet on Self and history. The man has won nine straight Big 12 championships. He has the best recruiting classes in the nation behind Kentucky. 

    The last time he had to rely this much on freshmen was the 2005-06 season when Mario Chalmers, Brandon Rush and Julian Wright were freshmen. The Jayhawks won the Big 12 that year and won a national title two years later. 

    Best Asset: Potential. Perry Ellis showed flashes late in the season as the next guy in line to be a dominant scorer from the post in Self's high-low offense. The freshman class has a slasher (Wayne Selden), two great shooters (Conner Frankamp and Brannen Greene) and a shot blocker (center Joel Embiid). 

    Why This Could Change: Nothing should change from now until the season. The Jayhawks' success will depend on how the potential develops along with point guard play. Self will lean on Naadir Tharpe, who had an up and down sophomore season.  

13. Indiana

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 5

    Why They're Here: Victor Oladipo is gone. Cody Zeller is set to announce his decision on Wednesday, according to the Indianapolis Star

    The Hoosiers will be much more reliant on their perimeter, especially if Zeller goes. Will Sheehey is a nice scorer and will assume a bigger role. Point guard Yogi Ferrell will be better as a sophomore. Tom Crean has signed a strong class, led by big man Noah Vonleh. The Hoosiers don't have the kind of talent they had this last season, but the cupboard is not bare. 

    Best Asset: Depth. It's tough to say exactly what Indiana's starting lineup or rotation will look like because Tom Crean has a lot of options. It's good to have options. 

    Why This Could Change: If Zeller stays, the Hoosiers climb into the Top 10.

12. Gonzaga

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 7

    Why They're Here: Mark Few has stockpiled big men the last few years. With Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk (likely) out, plug in Sam Dower and Przemek Karnowski. Don't know the names? You will by March next year. 

    Best Asset: Scoring inside and out. Dower and Karnowski will stick to the blocks more so than Harris and Olynyk. That should work out fine, as Few returns Kevin Pangos (41.7 percent three-point shooter) and Gary Bell (39.2 percent three-point shooter).

    Providence transfer Gerard Coleman should replace glue guy Mike Hart in the starting lineup and give the Zags some more scoring punch. Coleman, a 6'3" guard, averaged 13.2 points per game in 2011-12 with Providence. 

    Why This Could Change: If Olynyk decides to stay in school, move Gonzaga into the Top 10. 

11. Duke

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 9

    Why They're Here: Duke's backcourt is Top Five-good. Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon and Tyler Thornton return. And incoming freshmen Jabari Parker, Semi Ojeleye and Matt Jones are good enough to play right away. 

    The concern is up front, where Coach K's options will be limited. Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, another wing, will likely have to play in the post. Amile Jefferson is a good defender and rebounder, but the Blue Devils will miss the luxury of being able to post up Mason Plumlee or Ryan Kelly and playing inside-out. 

    Why This Could Change: Not likely to. Even if Sulaimon decided to leave early, Duke has plenty of options to replace his production. 

10. Michigan

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 2

    Why They're Here: This is assuming that Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary return to school. I have no inside info, but consider this: Robinson's dad played in the NBA, so his family situation should not be an issue. The same could be said for Tim Hardaway Jr., but the thought is that his stock is as high as it will get and he should enter because it's a weak draft class. 

    Robinson, McGary and Nik Stauskas are as good a threesome as you'll find next season in college basketball and enough to put this team in the Top 10. 

    Best Asset: The system—John Beilein wins with great talent or average talent. Even if he loses McGary and/or Robinson, he'll find a way to get production from his offense. Plus, Spike Albrecht returns! If Albrecht is the player from the first 37 games of the season and not the last, Beilein signed Derrick Walton, Rivals' 10th-rated point guard, to replace Burke. 

    Why This Could Change: If McGary and Robinson join Burke and Hardaway in the NBA. After the title game, they were all mum, according to  

9. North Carolina

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: Not ranked

    Why They're Here: The folks in Chapel Hill have their fingers crossed that James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston return to school, and they should return

    If they do, the Tar Heels could eventually work their way into the Top Five, assuming point guard Marcus Paige continues to improve and either incoming freshman Isaiah Hicks or sophomore-to-be Brice Johnson emerge as a worthy starter at the 4 spot. After watching how well UNC played after Roy Williams went small, this is a team that I believe has a higher ceiling than most in front of them. 

    Best Asset: Perimeter shooting. Bullock (43.6 percent from three) and Hairston (39.6 percent) are the best shooting duo in the country. 

    Why This Could Change: If any of the three considering going pro do so, the Heels will slide. They could go the other way if Williams somehow landed Andrew Wiggins. 

8. Syracuse

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 3

    Why They're Here: Michael Carter-Williams is likely gone. Brandon Triche and James Southerland graduate. No biggie. Jim Boeheim will just plug in some new athletes with wingspans and the zone will keep churning out wins. 

    C.J. Fair should become the go-to scorer, and honestly, he should have been more involved in the offense this past year. Tyler Ennis, one of the top incoming point guards, will step right in for Carter-Williams. Boeheim also signed Tyler Robinson, a 6'8" small forward who is perfect for Boeheim's system. 

    Best Asset: Shot-blocking. Syracuse led the nation in block percentage, swatting away 19.3 percent of opponents' two-point attempts, according to The top five swatters (Rakeem Christmas, Baye Keita, Fair, Jerami Grant and DaJuan Coleman) all return. 

    Why This Could Change: If Fair decides to go pro. The Orange would also be higher if Carter-Williams decided to stay in school, which is not likely. 

7. Marquette

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 11

    Why They're Here: Last year Buzz Williams lost his two leading scorers and he won a share of the Big East and made the Elite Eight. It is the third straight year Marquette made it to at least the Sweet 16. Next season, Williams returns his three leading scorers to go along with a good recruiting class. You want to bet against the guy? 

    Best Asset: One of the best guard-big man combos in the country. Vander Blue is a great slasher and led the team in scoring at 14.8 points per game this past year. Davante Gardner has soft hands and a feathery touch. For proof of how good a feel this guy has, go back and watch his performances in the middle of the Syracuse zone. 

    Why This Could Change: If, for some crazy reason, Jamil Wilson or Blue decide to leave early. Not likely. 

6. Florida

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 10

    Why They're Here: Defense. Billy Donovan's new-found love affair with analytics helped turn his defense into one of the best in the country. His Gators held opponents to 0.87 points per possession this past year. 

    The defense will be even better next year, as Donovan can replace Erik Murphy at the 4 spot with a better defender in Will Yeguete or incoming freshman Chris Walker, who is freak athlete. The Gators lose Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario, but Donovan will still have plenty of talent and quickness in the backcourt. 

    Scottie Wilbekin—his best defender—returns. He signed a top-10 point guard in Kasey Hill. Florida also returns Michael Frazier, a 46.8 percent three-point shooter as a freshman, who will slide right into Boynton's spot. 

    Best Asset: Most versatility offensively. Shot-happy guards Boynton and Rosario left few opportunities to get the ball inside. Murphy was also not a good scorer from the block. Walker will give the Gators another scorer in the paint, plus Patric Young's post game has improved every season in Gainesville. 

    Why This Could Change: All the underclassmen are coming back. No reason to worry for Donovan. 

5. Ohio State

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 8

    Why They're Here: Several weeks ago the impending loss of Deshaun Thomas would have kept the Buckeyes outside of sniffing distance of next year's preseason Top Five. Then LaQuinton Ross scored 17 points in back-to-back games in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight. 

    It's not fair to expect Ross to score like Thomas, but Thad Matta can plug him in and still have one of the most talented stretch 4s in the country in his starting lineup. Improvements from Ross along with Sam Thompson and Shannon Scott are expected as well. 

    Best Asset: Aaron Craft. Have you had your fill of Craft yet? Too bad. He's going to get a ton of love his senior year and deservedly so. The dude is a winner (9-3 in the NCAA tournament), and that's why it may feel like he's entering his seventh year of eligibility. 

    Why This Could Change:'s Gary Parrish reports Ross is returning for his junior year. That wipes out any worries that the Buckeyes will lose a second player to the NBA draft. 

4. Arizona

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 16

    Why They're Here: Mark Lyons was a great scorer and Arizona would not have been as good without him this past season, but he wasn't a true point guard. Next season, Sean Miller will bring in another transfer to start at point guard, and this time around that player, Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell, is a true point. 

    McConnell will have plenty of distribution options. Seven-footer Kaleb Tarczewski will benefit from more touches. Nick Johnson is one of the best athletes in college basketball and also shot 39.3 percent from three this past year. Brandon Ashley is a 4 man who can play both inside and out. And Sean Miller signed two small forwards—Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson—who were both McDonald's All-Americans. 

    Best Asset: Length. If Gordon, Ashley and Tarczewki start, the Wildcats will have a seven-footer and two 6'8" guys on the floor at the same time. Plus, Johnson plays bigger than 6'3" because he can jump out of the gym. If Miller can get this team to buy in defensively, all that length will be tough to score over. 

    Why This Could Change: It's not going to. The Wildcats are one of the few teams that should not have to worry about anyone leaving early. 

3. Michigan State

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 13

    Why They're Here: Assuming everyone comes back, the Spartans return four starters. Gary Harris and Adreian Payne are talented enough to be All-Americans.

    Denzel Valentine could also slide into the starting lineup and make the Spartans a more dynamic team offensively. Valentine is a point-forward and would take some of the play-making pressure off point guard Keith Appling. 

    Best Asset: Talented experience. Two seniors, a junior and two sophomores in the starting lineup, and any of the five could lead the Spartans in scoring any given night. 

    Why This Could Change: Payne, Harris and Appling are all seeking info on their draft stock. Payne is the one player considered the most likely to leave. Tom Izzo told the Detroit Free Press on Monday that he has "about 20 people" to call in the next few days regarding Payne. If Payne leaves, the Spartans will drop. 

2. Kentucky

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: Not ranked

    Why They're Here: This is likely your preseason No. 1 from most publications and sites. It's easy to see all those incoming stars and say, "How can they not win it all?" 

    Well, this past year John Calipari's team was ranked No. 3 in the AP preseason poll. How did that turn out? Even if Nerlens Noel had not been injured, the 'Cats would have been sweating Selection Sunday. It helps to have players who have been through some battles and won something before. The 2012 title team had Darius Miller, Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb, three players who had played major roles on a Final Four team. 

    This team will at least return three guys who played real minutes—Alex Poythress, Kyle Wiltjer and Willie Cauley-Stein—but only Wiltjer has played on a great team, and he was barely part of the 2012 rotation.

    Best Asset: You cannot ignore all that talent. The gems of the class are Julius Randle and the Harrison twins. One big reason the Wildcats struggled last year was point guard play, which is arguably the most important position in Calipari's system. Andrew Harrison is a major upgrade over Ryan Harrow. Randle's combination of strength, quickness and the fact that he's a lefty will make him an extremely difficult cover at the college level.

    Why This Could Change: Calipari pulls another rabbit out of the hat and lands Andrew Wiggins, the top player in the 2013 class. If Wiggins is on this roster, move Kentucky up to the top spot. 

1. Louisville

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    Final 2013 Power Ranking: 1

    Why They're Here: Experience matters. So does talent. And Louisville has both. The likely returns of Chane Behanan, Montrezl Harrell, Wayne Blackshear, Kevin Ware, Luke Hancock and Stephan Van Treese give the Cardinals a good core that has been there, done that. 

    Rick Pitino signed three guards, including the top JUCO prospect in the nation in point guard Chris Jones, who averaged 21.8 points in 23.2 minutes per game this past season. So out with Russdiculous, in with a new shoot-first guard. 

    Best Asset: The bigs. Behanan was productive when he got touches and few big men in college basketball can match his physicality—Michigan certainly could not. Harrell is a great athlete and showed flashes of what he can be this past season. Both big men can get out and run and are scary when they're coming at you downhill. 

    Why This Could Change: If Behanan decides to turn pro. He's the best returning player on the roster and has the look of Louisville's next star. Pitino also needs one of his new guards to step in and contribute right away with the loss of Russ Smith and Peyton Siva.