Updated Predictions for 2013-14 NCAA Basketball Preseason Top 25 Poll

Thad Novak@@ThadNovakCorrespondent IMay 17, 2013

Updated Predictions for 2013-14 NCAA Basketball Preseason Top 25 Poll

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    It’s been over a month since our first look at which NCAA basketball teams might top the preseason polls in the fall, and a lot has changed in that time. Some players expected to jump to the NBA haven’t; some who were expected to stay are gone, and the biggest name of the recruiting class has finally made his decision.

    That last player, of course, is Andrew Wiggins, who immediately becomes the best player on an inexperienced Kansas team. Of course, “inexperienced” is a far cry from “untalented,” and Naadir Tharpe and the Jayhawks jump into the top 10 with Wiggins’ arrival.

    Read on for a look at a full, updated projection of which teams will land where when the preseason rankings come out in November.

25. Georgetown

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    Previous Ranking: 24

    The predictable departure of star forward Otto Porter Jr. leaves the Hoyas pretty much where they were.

    Best Asset: Defense

    The nation’s No. 10 scoring D from a year ago is going to be a huge weapon again in 2013-14 thanks to four returning starters.

    Biggest Concern: Scoring

    Porter was the heart of the offense, and he’s gone. Rising sophomore D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is the best bet to step into a starting job (in the backcourt, rather than Porter's PF spot), but he'll have a tough time coming close to Porter's production.

24. Iowa State

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    Previous Ranking: 23

    For a rarity, the transfer-happy Cyclones will be led by home-grown talent with Georges Niang and Melvin Ejim sticking around to anchor the frontcourt.

    Best Asset: Three-point shooting (as usual)

    Most of Fred Hoiberg’s top snipers from last season are gone, but a slew of JUCO transfers is arriving to fill the void (not to mention a pair of 4-star freshman guards).

    Biggest Concern: Defense (also as usual)

    Hoiberg has excelled in pulling his newcomers together into a high-level offense, but the Cyclone D has never been as effective. Only the athletic Ejim looks like a plus defender on next year’s roster.

23. Alabama

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    Previous Ranking: 22

    The return of all five starters is a rare luxury for any team, and it’ll go a long way toward compensating for the Tide’s comparative lack of star power.

    Best Asset: Experience

    Trevor Releford and his mates have been through the SEC grind, and after just missing last year’s Big Dance, they know what they need to do to climb off the bubble this time around.

    Biggest Concern: Rebounding

    No Alabama player grabbed more than 4.5 boards per game last year, and the lone starting big man (rising junior Nick Jacobs) managed all of 4.1. 

22. Colorado

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    Previous Ranking: 18

    The unexpected NBA defection of rebounding machine Andre Roberson will cost the Buffaloes dearly on both ends of the floor.

    Best Asset: Perimeter scoring

    Neither Spencer Dinwiddie nor Askia Booker is a true point guard, but that didn’t keep the duo from combining for 27.7 points a night last season.

    Biggest Concern: Ball security

    With two iffy ball-handlers in the starting backcourt, an offensive meltdown—such as the 15-turnover NCAA tournament loss to Illinois—is always a threat.

21. UConn

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    Previous Ranking: 21

    With Shabazz Napier and DeAndre Daniels staying in Storrs, the Huskies are in as good shape as they could’ve hoped for heading into next season.

    Best Asset: Napier

    The backcourt he leads is undersized, but the 6’1” rising senior is one of the most explosive all-around point guards in the country.

    Biggest Concern: Frontcourt toughness

    The high-flying Daniels is a terrific weapon, but he got perilously little help up front last year. Slender freshman Kentan Facey could contribute, but what the Huskies really need is for Tyler Olander or Enosch Wolf to start playing as big as they are.

20. St. Louis

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    Previous Ranking: 20

    Although the Billikens’ graduation losses are nothing to sneeze at, the return of star forward Dwayne Evans ensures they’ll contend for the Atlantic 10 title again.

    Best Asset: Defense 

    Led by the bruising Evans, St. Louis powered its way to a No. 16 ranking in scoring defense. Most of the key contributors from that unit are back for another go-round.

    Biggest Concern: Perimeter shooting

    An iffy three-point shooting corps is losing its best weapon in Cody Ellis. Mike McCall Jr. will really have to shine if opposing defenses start packing the paint.

19. Wichita State

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    Previous Ranking: 19

    The Shockers bring back scoring leader Cleanthony Early and several key supporting players from last year’s Final Four Cinderella squad.

    Best Asset: Tournament seasoning

    There’s nothing like a deep March run to teach a team how to handle adversity the next year.

    Biggest Concern: Post play

    Carl Hall and Ehimen Orukpe are gone, with only JUCO transfer Earl Watson looking ready to contribute in their stead.

18. Oklahoma State

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    Previous Ranking: Unranked

    To the surprise of virtually everyone, superstar guard Marcus Smart returned to Stillwater, where he’s rejoined by two other underclassmen who passed on going pro: Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash.

    Best Asset: Smart

    The do-everything PG immediately becomes one of the top contenders for the Wooden Award. His NBA-ready 6’4”, 225-pound frame makes him an impossible matchup for all but a very few college point guards.

    Biggest Concern: Interior defense

    OK State won’t need much offense from its bigs, but with only Michael Cobbins to challenge opposing post scorers, the Cowboys are walking a fine line.

17. New Mexico

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    Previous Ranking: 17

    Fears that coach Steve Alford’s defection to UCLA would hurt the roster have proven unnecessary. The only player the Lobos are losing is would-be sophomore Kory Alford, who’s following his dad to Westwood after a year on the bench.

    Best Asset: Offensive balance

    With scoring leader Kendall Williams outside and seven-footer Alex Kirk inside, the Lobos will have plenty of ways to put points on the board

    Biggest Concern: Depth

    SG Tony Snell is gone and only one experienced reserve returns. New coach Craig Neal could have a very thin bench if freshman guard Cullen Neal isn’t ready to contribute quickly.

16. Memphis

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    Previous Ranking: 16

    After a rough start to the offseason that saw Tarik Black transfer out and Adonis Thomas jump to the NBA, Josh Pastner’s roster has stabilized.

    Best Asset: Backcourt

    Memphis brings back three senior guards who all scored in double figures, shot at least .350 from deep and averaged at least 1.5 steals a game.

    Biggest Concern: Rebounding

    Three of the team’s top four board men are gone, and while Shaq Goodwin and top recruit Austin Nichols will help, that’s a lot to replace at once.

15. VCU

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    Previous Ranking: 15

    Juvonte Reddic wisely stayed in school, limiting the Rams’ losses to two starters (Troy Daniels and Darius Theus) rather than three.

    Best Asset:  Defensive pressure (naturally)

    The Havoc defense Shaka Smart's team has built its reputation on will be led, once again, by the incomparable Briante Weber.

    Biggest Concern: Point guard play

    With Theus gone, Weber is the obvious candidate to step into his starting job, but whether the super-sub can adjust to running the offense full-time is hardly a sure thing.

14. Indiana

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    Previous Ranking: 13

    The losses of Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo were more than enough without any surprise defections being added to the list.

    Best Asset: Shooting

    A slew of freshmen and former reserves will be thrust into bigger roles next season, but Will Sheehey and company do have one thing in common: They can all shoot the rock.

    Biggest Concern: Defensive toughness

    With Oladipo’s leadership on D gone, Tom Crean’s teaching ability will be put to the test. Big men such as Jeremy Hollowell and freshman Noah Vonleh will be under particular pressure to rise to the challenge of an ultra-physical conference.

13. Gonzaga

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    Previous Ranking: 12

    Unsurprisingly, Kelly Olynyk is headed to the NBA after a breakout year, keeping Gonzaga from jumping into the top 10 in the process.

    Best Asset: Kevin Pangos

    The rising junior already has two years’ starting experience at point guard, and his scoring punch (especially from three-point land) will be a huge factor in compensating for the absence of Olynyk and Elias Harris.

    Biggest Concern: Strength of schedule

    The WCC will be even weaker next year as sanctions hit Saint Mary’s, so the Zags will probably only play one or two competitive games between New Year’s and the NCAA tournament.

12. Marquette

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    Previous Ranking: 7

    Vander Blue’s decision to leave for the NBA is a crushing blow to the Golden Eagles’ offense.

    Best Asset: Toughness

    Davante Gardner (6'8", 290 lbs) and combo forward Jamil Wilson (6'7", 225 lbs) are joined up front by JUCO standout Jameel McKay (6’8”, 205 lbs).

    Biggest Concern: Perimeter scoring

    Three of the top five scorers from last year’s squad are gone, all of them guards. A highly touted recruiting class will do plenty to help, but the frosh will be thrown into the fire early.

11. North Carolina

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    Previous Ranking: 9

    Getting James Michael McAdoo back was the biggest news of the Tar Heels’ offseason, but losing Reggie Bullock to the NBA drops them a couple of spots.

    Best Asset: Size

    The 6’9”, 230-pound McAdoo is getting some major reinforcements underneath, courtesy of freshmen Isaiah Hicks (6’8”, 210 lbs) and Kennedy Meeks (6’9”, 275 lbs).

    Biggest Concern: Point guard play

    UNC doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses, but they’ll only go as far as rising sophomore Marcus Paige can take them as a floor general. The youngster looked sharp in his first season as a starter, but leading a Final Four contender may still be beyond him.

10. Duke

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    Previous Ranking: 11 

    A recruiting class anchored by the sensational Jabari Parker will do a lot to replace the contributions of three senior starters.

    Best Asset: Perimeter defense

    Parker is a devastating defender in the mold of ex-Blue Devil Shane Battier. Guards Quinn Cook and Tyler Thornton, though small, excel at keeping opposing ball-handlers off-balance.

    Biggest Concern: Size

    Amile Jefferson is the only post player on the roster who has any business starting in the ACC, and he’s not huge (6’8”, 195 lbs).

9. Michigan

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    Previous Ranking: 10

    The confirmation that Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III are returning to Ann Arbor keeps the Wolverines in the top 10, though the losses of Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. certainly hurt.

    Best Asset: Three-point shooting

    John Beilein’s favorite offensive weapon will be on full display again next season, with Robinson and classmate Nik Stauskas joined by sweet-shooting freshman Zak Irvin.

    Biggest Concern: Floor leadership

    Caris LeVert and Spike Albrecht acquitted themselves respectably in limited action, but both are a big step down from Trey Burke. Albrecht will need a lot more performances like his stunning 17-point barrage in the national title game.

8. Syracuse

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    Previous Ranking: 8

    C.J. Fair’s return cements a top 10 spot for the Orange, even with superstar Michael Carter-Williams off to the NBA.

    Best Asset: Length

    As usual, Syracuse is loaded with long-armed shot-blockers (led by Fair and Rakeem Christmas) for Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone.

    Biggest Concern: Backcourt

    With Carter-Williams and Brandon Triche gone, the Orange must count on little-used Trevor Cooney and highly-touted freshman Tyler Ennis to carry the perimeter game.

7. Kansas

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    Previous Ranking: 14

    The Jayhawks are rarely underdogs in anything, but they came from the back of the pack to land No. 1 recruit Andrew Wiggins and leap up the rankings accordingly.

    Best Asset: Potential

    Wiggins leads a dazzling recruiting class. If the freshmen hit the ground running, and Perry Ellis and Naadir Tharpe play up to their lofty expectations, even a No. 7 ranking will be too low.

    Biggest Concern: Experience

    Talented though this roster is, KU will have five new starters, and only Ellis and Tharpe got much playing time on last year’s Big 12 co-champs.

6. Florida

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    Previous Ranking: 6

    As expected, Patric Young opted to stay in school, meaning that the Gators (for a rarity under Billy Donovan) lost no underclassmen.

    Best Asset: Defense

    After ranking in the top 10 nationally in both scoring and field-goal D, the Gators return their two best players on that end of the floor in Young and PG Scottie Wilbekin.

    Biggest Concern: Half-court offense

    Florida sputtered in the half court at times last season, and top jump shooters Erik Murphy and Kenny Boynton are gone. Freshman Kasey Hill is an impressive scorer, but like Wilbekin, he’ll do his best work in transition.

5. Arizona

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    Previous Ranking: 4

    The bizarre NBA defection of reserve forward Grant Jerrett eats into Arizona’s formidable frontcourt depth.

    Best Asset: Size

    Even with Jerrett gone, 7’0” Kaleb Tarczewski, 6’8” Brandon Ashley and 6’8” Aaron Gordon will make for a daunting front line.

    Biggest Concern: Leadership

    Last year’s squad leaned heavily on seniors Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill for clutch play. With no seniors likely to contribute this season, the burden shifts to rising juniors Nick Johnson and T.J. McConnell (a Duquesne transfer).

4. Ohio State

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    Previous Ranking: 5

    Deshaun Thomas’ NBA departure is easier to stomach for a team that loses just one senior (forward Evan Ravenel).

    Best Asset: Perimeter defense

    PG Aaron Craft is the nation’s best stopper on the outside, and long-limbed wings LaQuinton Ross and Lenzelle Smith Jr. can match up with anyone.

    Biggest Concern: Interior offense

    Thomas didn’t post up often, but at least he had the skills to do it when the opportunity arose. No returning big man scored more than Amir Williams’ 3.5 points per game, and there’s no help forthcoming from a wing-heavy recruiting class.

3. Michigan State

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    Previous Ranking: 3

    Adreian Payne’s return solidified the Spartans’ place at the top (barely) of the Big Ten.

    Best Asset: Athleticism

    Payne has more quickness and leaping ability than almost any big man in the country, and SF Branden Dawson is just as impressive for a wing. Rising sophomore Gary Harris is exceptionally strong for the SG position.

    Biggest Concern: Keith Appling

    The mercurial point guard led the team in scoring but struggled badly as a distributor in Big Ten play. Now a rising senior, he’ll need to improve his consistency (and ugly assist-to-turnover ratio).

2. Kentucky

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    Previous Ranking: 2

    With Andrew Wiggins heading to Kansas, the poor Wildcats have to settle for a mere six McDonald’s All-Americans in next year’s freshman class.

    Best Asset: Raw talent

    That star-laden recruiting class joins two of last year’s freshman phenoms, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein (plus rising junior Kyle Wiltjer), to give John Calipari the deepest, most athletic roster around.

    Biggest Concern: Defense

    After two years of leaning on the nation’s best shot-blocker (Anthony Davis followed by Nerlens Noel), UK is finally mortal in the middle. The Wildcats still have plenty of strong defenders, but no one of the game-changing caliber that’s been their calling card.

1. Louisville

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    Previous Ranking: 1

    If Louisville could have moved any further up, the Cardinals would’ve done it when Russ Smith decided to stay for his last year on campus.

    Best Asset: Championship experience

    Three starters are back from the national title winners, including Smith, who becomes an immediate front-runner for Wooden Award recognition.

    Biggest Concern: Half-court offense

    The loss of floor leader Peyton Siva will be keenly felt on the few occasions when Louisville doesn’t score on the fast break. JUCO transfer Chris Jones and freshman Terry Rozier will need to adapt to their new teammates in a hurry.