Projected Starting 5s for College Basketball's Top Contenders in 2013-14

Thad Novak@@ThadNovakCorrespondent ISeptember 22, 2013

Projected Starting 5s for College Basketball's Top Contenders in 2013-14

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    College basketball’s top stars for the upcoming season—Marcus Smart, Russ Smith et al.—have been a known quantity for months, but only now are the rest of the country’s best lineups really coming into focus. As the nation’s elite teams adjust for early-season injuries and suspensions, it’s time for coaches to sort out (and fans to learn) who will take the floor when the year's first games tip off.

    Few contenders will be as tough to recognize as the Indiana Hoosiers, who return just one starter from last year’s Big Ten champs. Yogi Ferrell is a given at point guard, but which of Tom Crean’s young stars-in-waiting will join him in the lineup?

    Herein, a look at the likeliest scenario for the Hoosiers starters, along with the rest of the lineups for the top 20 teams from our latest poll projections.

20. St. Louis

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    PG Jordair Jett: Kwamain Mitchell’s former backup gets the top job, bringing similar offensive punch but a slight downgrade on D.

    SG Mike McCall Jr.: The undersized (6’0”) 2-guard is the only proven three-point threat on the roster, hitting at an outstanding .402 clip.

    SF Grandy Glaze: Just like last year, expect Glaze and Jake Barnett to split time at the 3 fairly evenly unless one goes on a tear.

    PF Dwayne Evans: The emotional and physical heart of the team, Evans plays vastly bigger than his listed 6’5”.

    C Rob Loe: On the other hand, Loe (at 6’11”) needs to get more out of his height as a senior, especially in the paint (.419 field-goal shooting).

19. Oklahoma State

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    PG Marcus Smart: The John R. Wooden Award favorite is the nation’s top floor leader by a wide margin.

    SG Markel Brown: Brown’s scoring average jumped five points when Smart arrived, thanks in part to better looks from long range (.364, up from .319).

    SF Le’Bryan Nash: Will this be the year the former uber-recruit develops into more than a complementary player?

    PF Michael Cobbins: At a rock-solid 6’8”, 230 pounds, the high-jumping Cobbins is a strong rebounder but he needs to contribute more points.

    PF Gary Gaskins: Kamari Murphy didn’t endear himself to coach Travis Ford as a freshman, so look for juco-transfer Gaskins to get the first shot at replacing Philip Jurick.

18. Wichita State

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    PG Fred Van Vleet: The sophomore doesn’t have Malcolm Armstead’s veteran poise yet, but replaces him with an even better three-point threat (.408).

    SG Ron Baker: He had some great scoring performances as a freshman, but his shot selection (.398 from the field) needs work.

    SG Tekele Cotton: He doesn’t look like much in a box score, but the 6’2” Cotton is a lockdown defender on the wings.

    PF Cleanthony Early: The combo forward is a matchup nightmare—especially in the Missouri Valley—who will need to top last year’s team-leading scoring average (13.9 points per game).

    C Kadeem Coleby: The hulking (6’9”, 251 lbs) Louisiana-Lafayette transfer will take over Carl Hall’s rebounding job while also serving as the roster’s top shot-blocker.

17. New Mexico

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    PG Kendall Williams: Williams is the would-be favorite for Mountain West Player of the Year if not for teammate Alex Kirk.

    SG Deshawn Delaney: The athletic juco transfer is the best bet to replace Tony Snell, but Cullen Neal (son of head coach Craig Neal) will be in the mix here.

    SG Hugh Greenwood: The versatile guard gets the most out of his 6’3” frame, grabbing 5.0 rebounds per game to go with his 40 three-pointers.

    PF Cameron Bairstow: The Australian import is built like Ayers Rock (6’9”, 250 lbs), so there's little wonder he’s mostly a rebounding specialist.

    C Alex Kirk: The junior has a NBA body (7’0”, 245 lbs) and is ready to make the leap from good to great college player this season.

16. Memphis

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    PG Joe Jackson: The senior playmaker took over as the leading scorer last year following Will Barton’s departure.

    SG Michael Dixon Jr.: The troubled Missouri transfer is eligible to play immediately and has too much scoring punch to keep him on bench.

    SG Geron Johnson: With 1.8 steals per game, he is the ringleader of an aggressive defense.

    PF Austin Nichols: The slender freshman’s back-to-the-basket skills will make up for his lack of bulk.

    PF Shaq Goodwin: With Tarik Black gone to Kansas, Goodwin will get a chance to start as he looks to build on his strong freshman performance.

15. Virginia Commonwealth

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    PG Briante Weber: VCU’s premier defender will post off-the-charts steal numbers as a starter, but he lacks the offensive chops of graduated Darius Theus.

    SG Rob Brandenberg: He does a little of everything at 6’2” and may wind up as the team’s top three-point threat (.353 as a junior).

    SF Treveon Graham: The scoring ace also provides terrific rebounding to make up for his unremarkable steal totals.

    PF Terrance Shannon: The Florida State transfer goes from one great D to another, but can the 6’8”, 240-pound senior run with the warp-speed Rams?

    C Juvonte Reddic: VCU’s NCAA tournament finish will hinge on big performances from this fleet-footed senior.

14. Indiana

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    PG Yogi Ferrell: The lone returning starter is a fine distributor but needs more confidence in his own shot.

    SG Evan Gordon: He won’t make anyone in Bloomington forget his superstar brother Eric, but he is a competent replacement for Jordan Hulls.

    SF Will Sheehey: Last year’s terrific sixth man will bring his .346 three-point shooting percentage to the starting lineup.

    PF Noah Vonleh: The heralded freshman will score from the get-go, but he may not have the muscle for Big Ten rebounding early on.

    PF Jeremy Hollowell: Hanner Mosquera-Perea will be in the mix as well, but the pick here is Hollowell, who earned a bit more playing time when both sweet-shooting forwards were freshmen.

13. Gonzaga

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    PG Kevin Pangos: The speedy junior, also a three-point threat, takes over starring role for NBA-bound Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris.

    SG Gary Bell Jr.: He didn’t get much press on the frontcourt-driven team, but he hit .392 percent of his three-point tries.

    SG Gerard Coleman: The proven scorer and Providence transfer beats out less-productive Drew Barham.

    PF Sam Dower: He isn’t as comfortable on the perimeter as Harris was, but he is a more confident post scorer.

    C Przemek Karnowski: The towering (7’1”, 305 lbs) sophomore from Poland scored well in limited minutes.

12. North Carolina

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    PG Marcus Paige: After a promising freshman year, Paige will need to look for his own shot more often (8.2 points per game).

    SG Leslie McDonald: Until P.J. Hairston returns (if he ever does), McDonald must shoulder the perimeter-scoring load.

    SF J.P. Tokoto: As mostly a dunk specialist, he’ll likely go to the bench in favor of Hairston.

    PF James Michael McAdoo: He will be trying to convince NBA scouts that he’s star material, which he certainly has the build for (6’9”, 230 lbs) and the jump shot to become one.

    C Joel James: The low-scoring brawler will likely step aside for freshmen Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks before the end of the season.

11. Marquette

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    PG Duane Wilson: The 4-star freshman must fill the shoes of departed Junior Cadougan immediately.

    SG JaJuan Johnson: If Buzz Williams’ top recruit can’t score like 76ers-signee Vander Blue, the Golden Eagles will struggle on offense.

    SF Jamil Wilson: The solid three-point shooter (.360) isn’t elite in any particular area and could step aside if freshman Deonte Burton is ready quickly.

    PF Chris Otule: The shot-blocker gets a sixth year of eligibility, for which he'll move to PF in deference to Davante Gardner.

    C Davante Gardner: A bulldozer at 6’8”, 290 pounds, he’ll be all-conference if his endurance doesn’t give out.

10. Duke

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    PG Quinn Cook: As the only upperclassman starting for the Blue Devils, Cook will be counted on to steady the very young team. 

    SG Rasheed Sulaimon: Deferred to veteran Seth Curry last year, Sulaimon would love to grab a big chunk of the graduated sniper's 12.1 shot attempts per game.

    SF Rodney Hood: The Mississippi State transfer has athleticism to burn, but he must work on his free-throw shooting (.659).

    PF Jabari Parker: The sensational freshman will have to play out of position to cover for the weak collection of big men, but he has the defensive chops to handle it.

    PF Amile Jefferson: The energetic rebounder desperately needs to add muscle after playing at 195 pounds last year.

9. Michigan

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    PG Derrick Walton Jr.: He’s no Trey Burke, but freshman Walton is good enough to set up the Final-Four-veteran frontcourt.

    SG Caris LeVert: The former reserve player has great length (6’6”) but little proven production.

    SF Nik Stauskas: The three-point expert might slide down to SG to get freshman sharpshooter Zak Irvin into lineup.

    PF Glenn Robinson III: Big Dog’s pup looked tougher than his dad battling power forwards a year ago, so he’s stuck with that job again instead of his natural SF spot.

    C Mitch McGary: The NCAA tournament hero needs to keep up his energy for over 30-plus games, but his potential is immense.

8. Florida

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    PG Kasey Hill: The stud freshman is good enough to keep the job even if Scottie Wilbekin ever returns from suspension.

    SG Michael Frazier II: As a freshman reserve, the 6’4” Frazier shot a breathtaking .468 percentage from beyond the arc.

    SF Casey Prather: The sky-walking senior will put his 6’6” length to great use in Billy Donovan’s press (0.9 steals in 17.1 minutes per game last year).

    PF Will Yeguete: The senior banger is keeping the spot warm for hyper-athletic freshman Chris Walker, who won’t be eligible until January.

    C Patric Young: He doesn’t earn many style points but gets the job done inside with NBA-caliber muscle.

7. Syracuse

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    PG Tyler Ennis: The pass-first freshman is an aggressive defender who will love Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 zone defense.

    SG Trevor Cooney: He is the only perimeter returnee who got off the bench last year, but he only scored 3.4 points per game.

    SF C.J. Fair: The ACC Player of the Year favorite has length, explosiveness and a soft shooting touch.

    PF Rakeem Christmas: The iffy scorer started last season, too, but serves primarily as the designated rebounder.

    C Baye Moussa Keita: The shot-blocking specialist needs to expand his game, especially because he’s one of several wretched free-throw shooters (.600) in this frontcourt.

6. Kansas

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    PG Naadir Tharpe: He played brilliantly behind Elijah Johnson last year, though his 5’11” height will be tough to hide as a starter.

    SG Wayne Selden Jr.: The physical freshman will take some pressure off Tharpe on D and do plenty of scoring himself.

    SF Andrew Wiggins: The Nation’s No. 1-ranked recruit gets to put up or shut up as the top scoring threat in Lawrence (not to mention the entire Big 12).

    PF Perry Ellis: The agile 6’8” sophomore had some huge games off the bench at the end of 2012-13.

    C Tarik Black: The bruising Memphis transfer will start until (and unless) 7-foot freshman Joel Embiid is ready to take over.

5. Arizona

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    PG T.J. McConnell: The Duquesne transfer instantly becomes the best pure distributor in Pac-12, and he’s a lethal defender to boot.

    SG Nick Johnson: The Wildcats need him to keep nailing threes (.393), but he’ll also love McConnell’s alley-oop feeds.

    SF Aaron Gordon: The MVP of McDonald’s All-American Game is really a power forward, but he’s too athletic for Sean Miller to keep on the bench.

    PF Brandon Ashley: Quietly productive as a freshman, he may take a back seat to Gordon and Tarczewski if all three are playing well.

    C Kaleb Tarczewski: The 7’0”, 255-pound behemoth needs to be more assertive on both ends, but the talent is there (6.1 rebounds per game, a team high).

4. Ohio State

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    PG Aaron Craft: The best defensive weapon in college hoops will need more clutch shots like the one he hit against Iowa State in Big Dance.

    SG Lenzelle Smith Jr.: The enigmatic senior should finally score in double figures, but has greater value as a physical rebounder and defender.

    F Sam Thompson: The highlight-reel dunker should contribute more than just scoring in his second year as a starter.

    F LaQuinton Ross: His spectacular March performance has Ross in position to carry the Buckeyes offense, but after playing on perimeter, can he guard Big Ten power forwards?

    C Amir Williams: The defensive specialist has been a disappointment, but his 6’11”, 250-pound body means he'll get a lot of chances to turn his career around.

3. Michigan State

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    PG Keith Appling: The mercurial senior (and lead scorer) must improve his passing performance after his weak finish last season.

    SG Gary Harris: The outstanding defender was streaky on offense as a freshman but devastating when hot.

    SF Branden Dawson: Still high on the list of Big Ten’s best athletes, Dawson is another wonderful defensive weapon for coach Tom Izzo.

    PF Matt Costello: The untested sophomore takes over Derrick Nix’s starting job and brings a nice mid-range jumper along with the usual Spartans grit.

    C Adreian Payne: The nation’s most athletic big man is auditioning for a NBA job with his agility, shot-blocking and versatile offensive game.

2. Kentucky

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    PG Andrew Harrison: The freshman star will be SEC’s best point guard of any age and will rack up assists in a loaded offense.

    SG Aaron Harrison: Twin brother of PG Andrew, Aaron Harrison can rain down threes or rock the rim depending on what the team needs.

    SF Alex Poythress: John Calipari’s pet project enters his second season, but don’t be surprised to see freshman James Young steal his job if he falters early on.

    PF Julius Randle: He is yet another highly regarded freshman that could be SEC’s leading scorer if Marshall Henderson doesn’t come back to Ole Miss.

    C Willie Cauley-Stein: Absurdly athletic at 7’0”, 244 pounds, the sophomore has better offensive instincts than Nerlens Noel did while still playing plenty of D.

1. Louisville

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    PG Chris Jones: The juco star will be handed the keys to the defending national champs and is even faster than Peyton Siva was.

    SG Russ Smith: Shot selection isn’t his specialty, but he drains enough of the bad ones to make a run at the inaugural AAC scoring title.

    SF Wayne Blackshear: The forgotten man in last year’s starting lineup is a fine athlete who gets most of his 7.6 points per game in transition.

    PF Chane Behanan: His lack of height (6’6”, 250 lbs) could be exposed in Gorgui Dieng’s absence, but nobody will battle harder on D or on the boards.

    PF Montrezl Harrell: The most effective of last year’s low-post reserves can’t defend like Dieng, but he adds a legitimate scoring presence in the half court.