College Basektball: Pre-Preseason Top 25
It's not the most opportune time to project some of college basketball's top teams for next season, but I'm going to give it a shot anyway.
A large selection of players are still on the fence on whether to go for the money or for a better GPA, which makes this task all the more difficult. Also, other players have yet to decide whether or not to transfer.
But, without further ado, here's my way too early top 25.
23. Arizona State
22. Miami (FL)
21. Ohio State
14. Wake Forest
12. Michigan State
11. Southern California
10. Connecticut: A.J. Price should be back to full strength by the time practice commences in the fall, but he'll be without Doug Wiggins, who is transferring. However, the addition of McDonald's All-American guard Kemba Walker will make UConn a very difficult opponent. I still believe Hasheem Thabeet will leave for the NBA, but Stanley Robinson and Jeff Adrien will be forces on the block.
9. Gonzaga: Jeremy Pargo is testing the draft waters, and I believe he'll be back for his senior season. Combine Pargo with Josh Heytvelt, Austin Daye, and Micah Downs, and the Bulldogs will be West Coast Conference champions in 2009. No doubt about it.
8. Texas: This projection is based on the decision of D.J. Augustin. At No. 8, I'm thinking he turns pro. However, if he returns, Texas will be No. 1 on my list and lots of others. Connor Atchley, Damion James and Gary Johnson should be enough to contend in the Big 12.
7. Louisville: Earl Clark recently had second thoughts and will return to the Cardinals' squad. David Padgett and Juan Palacios lost their collegiate eligibility after the Elite Eight loss to North Carolina, and Derrick Caracter is definitely gone in my opinion. The frontcourt additions of Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings will pick up the slack, though.
6. Tennessee: The Vols will be without their top-two scorers from this past season in Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith. However, I believe Tyler Smith will return for his second season as a Volunteer, and will be a First-Team All-SEC performer. Ramar Smith, Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince, and Duke Crews all return and will play more minutes. Scotty Hopson, one of the most sought-after recruits in the country, may step in and start from day one in Knoxville.
5. Pittsburgh: Levance Fields, Sam Young, and DeJuan Blair should all be back next season for a run at the Big East crown. The Panthers played well above expectations last season after Mike Cook went down with a season-ending injury, so this team should be just as good, if not better. The departures of Ronald Ramon and Keith Benjamin hurt the backcourt's depth, but Jamie Dixon seems to always get the most out of his players.
4. UCLA: I believe Kevin Love, Darren Collison, and Russell Westbrook will all be on NBA rosters next season, so UCLA shouldn't belong here, right? Wrong. If I've learned one thing in the past few seasons, it's that a team shouldn't be dropped just because freshmen will be getting a lot of minutes. UCLA brings in four of the top 51 recruits to play with Josh Shipp and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for a Pac-10 title.
3. Purdue: Every player returns to a Boilermaker squad that opened some eyes this past season. Robbie Hummel will be one of the favorites to win Big-Ten Player of the Year. This team will probably be the favorite to take the Big Ten, so Matt Painter will have to prevent his team from national distractions.
2. Notre Dame: Rob Kurz's career is over, but the Irish return Big-East Player of the Year Luke Harangody and sharp-shooter Kyle McAlarney to lead one of the top teams in the league. Tory Jackson should step up to be one of the top point-guards in the league as well.
1. North Carolina: Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, and Wayne Ellington have yet to decide on their futures. So for the moment, the Heels are No. 1. Bobby Frasor will be back to add depth to the point guard position, and a top-notch recruiting class will help significantly for a run at the ACC.
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