A Too Early College Basketball Top-10 Analysis

Joe SlowikCorrespondent IJuly 1, 2009

Yes, I realize that it's still only June and that the NBA draft just wrapped up. I don't care, I love college basketball and can't wait for the season to get started again.

Now that the draft is over and recruiting is mostly wrapped up, we have a better idea what the lineups of most of the top teams will look like.

Here are the ten teams that I feel have the best shot at having a successful season. Obviously this won't be perfect since a lot of guys will improve over the summer and the contributions of freshmen are largely unknown.


1) Kansas Jayhawks

I really see Kansas as the favorites to cut down the nets in March. Every key player returns from the team that gave Michigan State all it could handle in the Sweet 16. They also add three high-end recruits led by Xavier Henry and transfer Jeff Withey from Arizona.

I don't see a glaring weakness on this roster. They have ridiculous depth, they can hurt you from inside and out, and their defense and rebounding is strong. And they have star power with point guard Sherron Collins and potential lottery picks Cole Aldrich and the previously mentioned Henry.


2) Villanova Wildcats

Few teams can match the depth and talent that Villanova has in the backcourt. Even before star guard Scottie Reynolds pulled out of the draft, they had three productive guards returning—with McDonald's All-Americans Dominic Cheeks and Maalik Wayans slated to come off the bench.

Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Reggie Redding and Corey Stokes all played major roles in reaching the Final Four, and they're back to do it again.

The one concern that the Wildcats have is their interior play. Last year, Dante Cunningham played a huge role in the success, giving them a solid option inside to balance their perimeter attack.

However, I think there is enough talent on the roster that they'll overcome that flaw. 'Nova adds Duke transfer Tyler King to the front court, as well as highly rated recruits Mouphtaou Yarou and Isaiah Armwood.

If they can simply hold their own against opposing bigs, Villanova will likely thrive with their drive-and-kick attack.


3) Michigan State Spartans

The Spartans had a very tough draw in last year's tournament, but still advanced to the title game after beating Kansas, top-seeded Louisville, and No. 1 seed Connecticut.

MSU returns most of the same roster that came within one game of hoisting the trophy last year. Led by point guard Kalin Lucas, their perimeter attack is among the best in the country. It should get stronger as young players like Chris Allen, Durrell Summers and Korie Lucious develop.

However, their front court makes me hesitant to put them any higher than this spot.

Goran Suton played a major role for this team last year, especially in their wins over Kansas and UConn. Now that he has graduated, the Spartans will need to get production from less proven players like Delvon Roe.

If they figure out how to get production from their front court by March, they're a major threat to make the Final Four again.


4) Duke Blue Devils

It pains me to put them quite this high, but I think everyone's least favorite team will be far more balanced this year.

Losing Gerald Henderson was a big blow, but they still have solid returning contributors in Kyle Singler and Jon Scheyer. Nolan Smith will play a bigger role this year, and incoming freshmen Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee will improve their depth up front.

That front court remains their biggest issue, though. The Duke back court hasn't been a major issue the last few years, but their interior defense and rebounding has often been lacking.

They also haven't had a dependable interior scorer to balance their outside shooting. Plumlee could help solve those issues, but Singler and Kelly have more of a finesse style to their game.

Still, they have a history of getting a high seed and I don't think that will change this year.


5) Texas Longhorns

They may have been a seven seed last year, but I love their roster.

The return of Damion James bumped them from favorite sleeper to legitimate contender. James is a match up nightmare at power forward and they have plenty of beef inside with Dexter Pittman and Gary Johnson.

Replacing sharp-shooter AJ Abrams won't be easy, but there is plenty of incoming talent on the perimeter.

Avery Bradley is an electrifying guard that can drive at will, and Jordan Hamilton is another top recruit that can have a huge impact on the wing. They also add transfer Jai Lucas, who was an efficient but not spectacular guard at Florida.

There is quite a bit of uncertainty on the roster at this point and they will likely take some time to gel.

However, they have more talent than virtually anyone in the country, and will be dangerous if most of these players can produce to their abilities.


6) Purdue Boilermakers

They might not play with as much style and flair as some other teams on this list, but they're brutally efficient and have all of their key players returning.

Robbie Hummel is one of the best inside/outside threats in the country, James Johnson was a beast defensively and contributed some easy buckets, and E'Twaun Moore is a capable sniper.

I'm not totally sure that Purdue has enough depth and balance to be a major title threat, though. No one really wows you outside of their big three, so they can struggle to score at times.

They should be highly successful in the Big Ten, but I think they bow out of the tournament when they run into a more athletic and explosive scoring team.


7) Tennessee Volunteers

They were a very young team last year, and with more experience, they should be dangerous. Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism give them two talented forwards that will be a real hanful on defense, and they a multiple of players in the back court with potential.

Some of those guys will have to make a leap forward for them to have any kind of consistency.

With their athleticism and fast paced style, they'll be able to run a lot of teams off the court, but Scotty Hopson, Bobby Maze, Cameron Tatum, and JP Prince will have to convert more regularly on offense and step up defensively.

They also don't have a lot of depth up front, which could seriously hurt them if Chism gets in foul trouble.


8) Kentucky Wildcats

Some would argue that this is too low, given the level of talent that John Calipari has added to the program. While they do have an absurd amount of talent thanks to that excellent recruiting class, the level of their success will depend on how well these stud recruits mesh.

John Wall immediately becomes the most talented point guard in the country, and they have an embarrassment of riches up front with returning star Patrick Patterson —as well as 5-star recuits DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton. Eric Bledsoe has plenty of talent as well.

There are easily three potential lottery picks on this roster, maybe even more.

Still, there are definitely question marks.

Will Calipari be able to keep everyone happy with their minutes and shot totals? How well will Wall and Bledsoe mesh in the back court? Will they hit enough perimeter shots to keep the defense honest? Will they play any defense?

In my opinion there are far too many question marks to put them among the elite just yet.


9) North Carolina Tar Heels

The defending champs lost their four best players to the NBA, but I doubt anyone is shedding a tear for them.

The Heels have the deepest and most talented front court in the country. Ed Davis and John Henson are both supremely athletic forwards that can run the floor, and Deon Thompson is a load in the post.

Their fate this season will rest in the hands of their inexperienced back court. Marcus Ginyard is the only known commodity on the perimeter, and he's really more of a role player.

The performance of Larry Drew II, Dexter Strickland, and Leslie McDonald will determine how far they go in their title defense.


10) Oklahoma Sooners

I realize they were soundly beaten by the Tar Heels in the tournament and that the only player that looked like he belonged on the floor with UNC just went No. 1 in the draft.

Replacing Blake Griffin is impossible, but I think they can still field a solid team.

The biggest reason is Willie Warren, who could be an All-American with his athleticism and shooting ability. Literally the "biggest" reason is Keith "Tiny" Gallon, who's a beast down low with a good skill set.

Tony Crocker also returns, and Tommy Mason-Griffin is another talented recruit. Whether those guys will be enough to stay in contention in the Big 12 is still in doubt though.


Other intriguing teams

Cal Bears—They have an awful lot of offensive ability, but their defense will have to get better for them to do anything of note.

Connecticut Huskies—Kemba Walker, Jerome Dyson, and Stanley Robinson all have talent, but they lost their three best players in AJ Price, Hasheem Thabeet, and Jeff Adrien. It will take time for them to adjust.

Georgetown—I love their big three of Greg Monroe, Chris Wright, and Antonio Freeman, but they had a rough year last season even with DaJuan Summers.

Georgia Tech—The Yellow Jackets will have one of the best front courts in the country with Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal, but I'm not sure they have enough back court talent.

Louisville—Losing Earl Clark and Terrence Williams is killer. They have several good but not great players coming back. Someone will have to make a leap for them to be anywhere close to last year's team.

Minnesota—The Golden Gophers don't blow you away on paper, but they have a lot of capable players that defend well.

Notre Dame—Luke Harongody gets some help from transfers Scott Martin and Ben Hansbrough, but depth and defense should be issues.

West Virginia—Da'Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks are big-time talents, but I don't think they have enough support.


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