Why Michigan State, Duke, Ohio State and Tennessee Will Make the 2011 Final Four

Jordan SchwartzSenior Writer INovember 8, 2010

Why Michigan State, Duke, Ohio State and Tennessee Will Make the 2011 Final Four

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    Before the 2007-08 college basketball season, I came up with a mathematical formula to create my very own preseason Top 25.  As it turned out, the top three teams in my rankings (Memphis, Kansas and UCLA) made the Final Four. My No. 4 team, Louisville, did not, but my No. 5 team, North Carolina, did.

    I thought the chances of lightning striking twice were slim, but I decided to apply the formula again for the 2008-09 season. The result was a financially successful March as I won my bracket pool because I had UNC beating Michigan State (my preseason top two) in the championship game.

    But my projections for the 2009-10 season were not as accurate, so I've tweaked the formula a bit.

    The formula has three parts:

    A. Previous season finish

    The previous season's national champion (Duke) starts off with 65 points.

    The runner-up (Butler) gets 64.

    Losing in the Final Four (West Virginia, Michigan State) gets you 63 points.

    Teams losing in the Elite Eight get 61.

    Teams losing in the Sweet 16 get 57.

    Teams losing in the second round get 49.

    Teams losing in the first round get 33.

    And teams which missed the tournament, but are expected to improve this year, get 18.


    B. Returning Players

    I then took each team and figured out what percentage of points, rebounds and assists they are losing from last year's team, adding back in the points, rebounds and assists they are getting from incoming transfers. I added up all of those percentages and multiplied that sum by the previous season's finish.


    C. Incoming Freshmen

    Finally, I added that product to a "freshmen value" which was determined by adding 20 points for each incoming McDonald's All-American and 10 points for each ESPNU 100 Player.


    Formula: (Returning Points % + Returning Rebounds % + Returning Assists %) X '09 Finish + Freshmen Value


    I have ranked all 58 teams receiving votes in either the Coaches or AP Poll in order of the total points they receive according to this formula.

No. 1: Michigan State (176.57 Points)

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    Michigan State returns three of the top four scorers from its 2009 Final Four team and better than three-quarters of its assists, thanks to Kalin Lucas' four per game and Draymond Green's three.

    Also back is Durrell Summers (11.3 ppg), which should offset the loss of Raymar Morgan (11.3) and Chris Allen (8.2).

No. 2: Duke (166.54)

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    The defending national champions are ranked No. 1 in both polls, but my formula has them at No. 2 due to the loss of leading scorer Jon Scheyer (18.2 ppg), leading rebounder Brian Zoubek (7.7 rpg) and Lance Thomas (4.9 RPG).

    The good news is that Kyle Singler (17.7 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Nolan Smith (17.4 rpg, 3.0 apg) are back and the Blue Devils add Liberty transfer Seth Curry, who averaged 20.2 points per game last season.

No. 3: Ohio State (146.44)

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    Ohio State lost standout Evan Turner (20.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg, 6.0 apg) to the NBA, but returns its next four leading scorers, William Buford (14.4), Jon Diebler (13.0), David Lighty (12.6) and Dallas Lauderdale (6.5).

    That's in addition to one of the best recruiting classes in the country, which includes All-American forwards Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas.

No. 4: Tennessee (135.91)

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    A No. 4 seems a little high for a team that lost four of its five leading scorers in Wayne Chism (12.6 ppg), Tyler Smith (11.7), J.P. Prince (9.9) and Bobby Maze (9.4), but Tennessee returns starter Scotty Hopson (12.2) and all but one member of its bench.

    That doesn't even include a pair of transfers that should make a significant impact on Bruce Pearl's squad this year, senior John Fields (10.2 ppg, 8.7 rpg) from North Carolina-Wilmington and sophomore Jeronne Maymon (4.2 rpg) from Marquette.

    The Vols also add McDonald's All-American power forward Tobias Harris and ESPNU 100 player Jordan McRae.

No. 5: Washington (134.15)

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    Washington appears to be underrated entering the 2010-11 season.

    The Huskies lose leading scorer and rebounder Quincy Pondexter, but bring back their next four leading scorers in Isaiah Thomas (16.9 ppg), Matthew Bryan-Amaning (8.8), Venoy Overton (8.5) and Justin Holiday (5.9).

    The Pac-10 team also returns 80 percent of its assists and 71 percent of its rebounds.

No. 6: Syracuse (130.22)

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    Syracuse lost leading scorers Wes Johnson (16.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and Andy Rautins (12.1 ppg, 4.9 apg) to the NBA, as well as starting big man Arinze Onuaku (10.5 ppg, 5.1 rpg) to graduation but returns a talented bunch led by Kris Joseph, who averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in just 27.8 minutes coming off the bench last year.

    He will be joined by Rick Jackson (9.7, 7.0), Scoop Jardine (9.1, 4.3 apg), Brandon Triche (8.1) and Mookie Jones (5.8).

    Jim Boeheim also adds 7' McDonald's All-American Fab Melo, who should fit nicely into the middle of the 2-3 zone, and other talented freshmen Dion Waiters, C.J. Fair and Baye Moussa Keita.

No. 7: Pittsburgh (129.64)

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    Pittsburgh may have exited in the second round last season, but it returns eight of its nine top scorers, including the top three in Ashton Gibbs (15.7 ppg), Brad Wanamaker (12.3) and Gilbert Brown (10.7).

    The Panthers look like at least an Elite Eight team this year.

No. 8: Butler (123.24)

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    The pollsters have Butler no higher than 17th, but that seems a little low considering the team that came inches away from a national championship last April brings back Shelvin Mack (14.1 PPG) and Matt Howard (11.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg).

    Gone is leading scorer Gordon Hayward (15.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg), but the Bulldogs return 76 percent of their assists and add a freshman class that includes small forward Khyle Marshall (6'6", 200 lbs).

No. 9: Baylor (122.8)

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    Baylor returns Quincy Acy (9.3 ppg) from a team that lost to eventual champion Duke in the Elite Eight, but LaceDarius Dunn's (19.6 ppg) status remains up in the air following his indefinite suspension for allegedly breaking his girlfriend's jaw.

No. 10: Xavier (120.34)

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    Xavier barely received any votes in the preseason polls, but bringing back better than 58 percent of the scoring and 73 percent of the assists from a team that reached the Sweet 16 deserves some respect.

    The Musketeers may have lost the talented Jordan Crawford (20.5 ppg) and Jason Love (11.8 ppg, 8.7 rpg), but they return nine of their top 11 scorers, including Tu Holloway, who scored 12.1 points per game while picking up 3.9 assists per contest last season.

    Xavier also adds ESPNU 100 player Justin Martin, who is ranked the 13th-best shooting guard recruit in the country.

No. 11: Kentucky (117.83)

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    Kentucky loses its top four scorers from last year's Elite Eight squad in John Wall (16.6 ppg, 6.5 apg), DeMarcus Cousins (15.1, 9.8 rpg), Patrick Patterson (14.3, 7.4) and Eric Bledsoe (11.3).

    The leading returning point man is Darius Miller, who averaged just 6.5 a game last season.

    Under John Calipari, though, Kentucky will always be a team dominated by talented freshmen, and the Wildcats have plenty of those.

    Three McDonald's All-Americans—point guard Brandon Knight, small forward Terrence Jones and shooting guard Doron Lamb—highlight a class of seven recruits, so Kentucky should be good again.

No. 12: Villanova (117.62)

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    Both polls have Villanova ranked sixth, but that seems a little high to me considering the fact that the Wildcats barely escaped the first round last season against Robert Morris and now lose three of their top six scorers, including leading point man Scottie Reynolds (18.2 ppg, 3.3 apg).

    Villanova does bring back Corey Fisher (13.3, 3.9 apg), Antonio Pena (10.5, 7.0 rpg) and Corey Stokes (9.5), and while its recruiting class isn't deep, it does feature McDonald's All-American power forward Jayvaughn Pinkston and ESPNU 100 small forward James Bell.

No. 13: Old Dominion (115.72)

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    Like Xavier, Old Dominion barely got any votes in the preseason polls, but that's a mistake.

    Granted, the Monarchs lose leading scorer Gerald Lee (14.4 ppg), but they return all but one other player from the team that reached the second round of the 2010 tournament.

    That includes the likes of Frank Hassell (9.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg), Ben Finney (8.8, 5.8), Kent Bazemore (8.4, 3.4 apg), Keyon Carter (7.4) and Darius James (7.0), each of whom averaged more than 22 minutes per game last season.

    That looks like a team that can reach the Sweet 16.

No. 14: Kansas State (112.47)

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    Kansas State returns three of its top four scorers in Jacob Pullen (19.3 ppg), Curtis Kelly (11.5 ppg) and Jamar Samuels (11.0 ppg).

    The Wildcats also feature a deep recruiting class that includes 6'10" center Freddy Asprilla and small forwards Shane Southwell and Nino Williams.

No. 15: Florida (111.92)

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    Florida barely made the NCAA Tournament before bowing out to BYU in the first round, but don't expect that to happen again.

    The Gators return their top five scorers in Kenny Boynton (14 ppg), Erving Walker (12.6, 4.9 apg), Chandler Parsons (12.4, 6.9 rpg), Alex Tyus (11.8, 6.9) and Vernon Macklin (10.6).

    And they add two big-time recruits in All-American power forward Patric Young and ESPNU 100 player Casey Prather.

No. 16: West Virginia (108.11)

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    West Virginia lost three starters from its Final Four team but returns Kevin Jones (13.5 ppg, 7.2 rpg) and Darryl Bryant (9.3 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 3.1 apg), who both averaged at least 24.3 minutes per game last season.

No. 17 Murray State (107.81)

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    Before you get up in arms about seeing little Murray State ranked 17th, consider the following: The Racers return the top three scorers and nearly the entire bench from a team that lost by just two points to eventual national runner-up Butler in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

    Back are B.J. Jenkins (10.6 ppg), Isaiah Canaan (10.4) and Ivan Aska (10.3).

No. 18: Missouri (100.66)

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    Missouri brings back the top three scorers from last year and adds one of the deepest recruiting classes in the country.

    Returners Kim English (14 ppg), Marcus Denmon (10.4) and Laurence Bowers (10.2) will be joined by freshmen Tony Mitchell and Phil Pressey, who were each ranked among the top nine in America at power forward and point guard, respectively.

No. 19: New Mexico (99.12)

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    New Mexico received just one 25th-place vote in the AP poll, which is hard to believe, considering the Lobos bring back three starters from a team that won 30 games and earned a No. 3 seed in last year's Big Dance.

    Leading scorers and rebounders Darington Hobson (15.9, 9.3) and Roman Martinez (13.9, 5.9) are gone, but Dairese Gary (13.1, 3.9 apg), Phillip McDonald (10.4) and A.J. Hardeman (7.0, 5.5 rpg) are back.

    They will be joined by junior transfer Drew Gordon (11.2, 5.3) from UCLA as well as a deep recruiting class that features ESPNU 100 player Alex Kirk, who was ranked seventh among all high school centers.

No. 20: Kansas (98.36)

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    I don't understand how Kansas can be ranked seventh in both polls, when the Jayhawks lose three of their top four scorers and more than half of their points from last season.

    Sherron Collins (15.5 ppg, 4.5 apg), Xavier Henry (13.4) and Cole Aldrich (11.3, 9.8 rpg) are gone, so Marcus Morris (12.8, 6.1) will have to carry nearly the whole load because no one else played more than 23.1 minutes per game last season.

    Kansas does add McDonald's All-American point guard Josh Selby, but it's sometimes scary to rely on a freshman to run your offense.

No. 21: Saint Mary's (98.12)

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    Saint Mary's loses three starters from last year's Sweet 16 team, including leading scorer and rebounder Omar Samhan (21.3 ppg, 10.9 rpg), but the Gaels return 71 percent of their assists thanks to Mickey McConnell (13.8 ppg, 5.1 apg) and Matthew Dellavedova (12.1 ppg, 4.5 apg).

No. 22: Wisconsin (96.14)

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    Wisconsin loses starters Trevon Hughes (15.3 ppg) and Jason Bohannon (11.6) but returns every other player on the roster, including leading scorer and rebounder Jon Leuer (15.4, 5.8), who put up those numbers despite averaging only 28.8 minutes per game. Expect to see that number increase this year.

No. 23: Maryland (96.08)

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    Despite the loss of leading scorers Greivis Vasquez (19.6), Landon Milbourne (12.7) and Eric Hayes (11.3), Maryland should still be able to compete this year thanks to the return of five players who saw significant minutes last season and the addition of a deep recruiting class.

    Sean Mosley (10.1, 5.1, 2.6), Jordan Williams (9.6, 8.6), Cliff Tucker (5.7), Adrian Bowie (4.8) and Dino Gregory (4.2) all averaged at least 14.8 minutes per game in 2009-10.

    They will be joined by ESPNU 100 players Mychal Parker and Terrell Stoglin, along with four other freshmen.

No. 24: BYU (95.73)

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    BYU returns three starters from the team that reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament last March.

    That includes preseason All-American Jimmer Fredette, who averaged 22.1 points and 4.7 assists per game in 2009-10.

    He will be joined by Jackson Emery (12.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg) and Noah Hartsock (6.5, 5.1).

No. 25: Purdue (95.39)

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    Purdue's No. 8 ranking in the Coaches Poll seems high considering the season-ending injury to Robbie Hummel (15.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.1 apg). The AP poll is more accurate with the Boilermakers at No. 14.

    In addition to Hummel, Purdue will be without the services of last year's starters Keaton Grant (6.6, 2.8) and Chris Kramer (6.5, 3.0), but the school does return leading scorer E'Twaun Moore (16.4) and leading rebounder JaJuan Johnson (7.1).

No. 26: Ohio (95.18)

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    Here's another unheralded mid-major that should be getting a lot more respect.

    Ohio does lose leading scorer Armon Bassett (17.1 ppg), but it returns the next four leading scorers from last year's second-round team in D.J. Cooper (13.5, 5.9 apg), DeVaughn Washington (11.3), Steve Coleman (11.3) and Tommy Freeman (10.5).

No. 27: Georgetown (94.12)

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    Georgetown is the only team in my Top 58 that loses only one player from last year's roster.

    Unfortunately for the Hoyas, though, that player is leading rebounder and second-leading scorer Greg Monroe (16.1 ppg, 9.6 rpg).

    Not to fear, they return Austin Freeman (16.5 ppg), Chris Wright (15.2) and Jason Clark (10.5), who will be joined by standout freshmen Nate Lubick and Markel Starks.

No. 28: Florida State (92.06)

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    Florida State loses leading scorer Solomon Alabi (11.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg) but returns leading rebounder Chris Singleton (10.2, 7.0), Michael Snear (8.8), Dividas Dulkys (8.7) and Derwin Kitchen (8.1, 3.9 apg).

No. 29: Gonzaga (91.54)

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    Both polls have Gonzaga ranked 12th, but my formula has them quite a bit lower due to the loss of Matt Bouldin, who led the team with 15.6 points, four assists and 1.4 steals per game.

    The Bulldogs do bring back their other four starters, Elias Harris (14.9 ppg, 7.1 rpg), Steven Gray (13.6), Robert Sacre (10.3, 5.4) and Demetri Goodson (6.4), but with five bench players gone and a lackluster recruiting class, those guys will be forced to play a ton of minutes this year.

    The Zags don't appear deep enough to make a run past the second round of the tournament this March.

No. 30: San Diego State (90.7)

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    San Diego State returns all five starters from last year's NCAA Tournament team. They are Kawhi Leonard (12.7 ppg, 9.9 rpg), Billy White (11.1, 4.3), Malcolm Thomas (10.9, 7.6), D.J. Gay (10.5, 3.2 apg) and Chase Tapley (7.6).

    If that wasn't enough, the Aztecs also added sophomore transfer James Rahon, a guard who averaged 11.3 points per game for Santa Clara two years ago before sitting out last season.

No. 31: UNLV (87.4)

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    UNLV lost in the first round to Northern Iowa last March, but they should be able to win at least one game in this year's tournament thanks to the return of the Rebels' top three scorers, Tre'Von Willis (17.2), Chace Stanback (10.7, 5.8 rpg) and Oscar Bellfield (9.3, 4.8 apg).

No. 32: Texas A&M (86.69)

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    Texas A&M loses its top three scorers, Donald Sloan (17.8 ppg), Derrick Roland (10.5) and Bryan Davis (9.6, 8.1 rpg), who accounted for more than half of the Aggies' points last season.

    B.J. Holmes (9.3), David Loubeau (9.2), Kris Middleton (7.2), Nathan Walkup (5.1) and Dash Harris (4.9, 3.4 apg) will have to step up to fill their shoes.

No. 33: Illinois (84.21)

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    Illinois returns its top five scorers, but this is a team that missed the NCAA Tournament last year, so a No. 13 preseason ranking by the AP seems high.

    Demetri McCamey (15.1 ppg, 7.1 apg), Mike Tisdale (11.9, 6.0 rpg), Mike Davis (10.7, 9.2 rpg), D.J. Richardson (10.5) and Brandon Paul (7.8) will be out to prove me wrong.

No. 34: North Carolina (84.05)

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    North Carolina's preseason ranking befuddles me.

    I understand the Tar Heels are getting the best freshman in the country in small forward Harrison Barnes, along with two other McDonald's All-Americans in shooting guard Reggie Bullock and point guard Kendall Marshall, but UNC is losing 10 players, including its three top scorers, from last year's team that didn't even make the NCAA Tournament.

    North Carolina lost better than 60 percent of its scoring and rebounding. Are three freshmen going to be able to make up the difference?

    Remember, the Tar Heels were ranked fourth—and even received a first-place vote—in last year's preseason Coaches Poll, and they missed the Big Dance entirely.

No. 35: Georgia Tech (83.76)

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    Georgia Tech returns less than half of its points and rebounds from last season, but Iman Shumpert (10.0 ppg, 4.0 apg) and Brian Oliver (7.1 ppg) are back.

No. 36: Memphis (83.7)

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    Memphis is another young team that is probably overrated right now but should make the tournament after missing out last season.

    The Tigers lose four starters and nine players overall but gain the deepest recruiting class in the nation.

    Eight incoming freshmen are led by All-American guards Joe Jackson and Jelan Kendrick, and sophomore transfer Charles Carmouche averaged 12.6 points per game at New Orleans last season.

No. 37: Texas (79.54)

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    Texas brings back less than 45 percent of its scoring, rebounding and assists thanks to the departure of Damion James (18.0 ppg, 10.3 rpg), Avery Bradley (11.6) and Dexter Pittman (10.4, 5.9).

    The Longhorns do return Jordan Hamilton (10.0), J'Covan Brown (9.6) and Gary Johnson (9.4, 5.6), who will be joined by All-American freshmen Tristan Thompson and Cory Joseph, teammates at Findlay College Prep in Nevada.

No. 38: Vanderbilt (77.52)

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    Vanderbilt loses the top two scorers from a team that couldn't get out of the first round last year.

    Jermaine Beal (14.6 ppg, 3.1 apg) and A.J. Ogilvy (13.4, 6.2 rpg) are gone, but Jeffrey Taylor (13.3) and John Jenkins (11.0) are back.

No. 39: Temple (74.82)

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    Temple loses leading scorer Ryan Brooks (14.3) and Luis Guzman, who played a solid 31.8 minutes per game last season.

    The Owls do return Juan Fernandez (12.6, 3.6 apg) and Lavoy Allen (11.5, 10.7 rpg).

No. 40: Richmond (70.26)

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    Richmond loses only two players from its entire roster, but they are starters David Gonzalez (14.6 ppg, 2.3 apg) and Ryan Butler (8.4).

    The Spiders do bring back leading scorer Kevin Anderson (17.8) and Justin Harper (10.6, 5.4 rpg).

No. 41: Wofford (70.13)

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    With six of its seven leading scorers back from last season's run to the NCAA Tournament, Wofford should win the Southern Conference's automatic bid again.

    Leading the way will be Noah Dahlman (16.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Jamar Diggs (9.5, 2.6 apg).

No. 42: Marquette (65.79)

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    Three starters are gone, including leading scorer and rebounder Lazar Hayward (18.1, 7.5), so this figures to be another one-and-done year for Marquette in the NCAA Tournament.

    Jimmy Butler (14.7, 6.4) and Darius Johnson-Odom (13.0) will be leading the way.

No. 43: North Carolina State (62.98)

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    North Carolina State missed the NCAA Tournament last year, but it should be able to get there this season with the return of three of its four top scorers.

    Tracy Smith (16.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg), Javier Gonzalez (9.5, 3.7 apg) and Scott Wood (7.8) will be joined by top recruits C.J. Leslie and Ryan Harrow.

No. 44: Utah State (62.87)

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    Utah State forward Nate Bendall (10.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg), a preseason all-WAC second team selection, recently had a setback with a chronic foot injury and could miss the entire season.

    That's a big blow to a team that already lost Jared Quayle (12.4, 6.2, 4.1 apg, 1.1 spg) to graduation.

    The Aggies do return leading scorer Tai Wesley (13.7, 6.6, 3.4, 1.3 bpg).

No. 45: Minnesota (57.14)

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    Minnesota returns four of its top six scorers from last year's NCAA Tournament squad that featured a balanced attack from Blake Hoffarber (10.0 ppg), Devoe Joseph (9.4), Ralph Sampson III (8.2, 5.8 rpg) and Al Nolen (6.7, 4.6 apg).

    The Golden Gophers also add six freshmen, led by center Maurice Walker.

No. 46: Virginia Tech (55.04)

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    No one in the country brings back more scoring, rebounding and assist production than Virginia Tech.

    The Hokies barely missed the NCAA Tournament last year, but that won't happen again with their top 11 scorers back.

    That group is led by Malcolm Delaney (20.2 ppg, 4.5 apg), Dorenzo Hudson (15.2) and Jeff Allen (12.0, 7.4 rpg).

No. 47: UCLA (52.93)

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    UCLA missed the NCAA Tournament last year, and it loses three of its top four scorers from that team.

    But Malcolm Lee (12.1 ppg) is back, and he will be joined by outstanding freshmen Josh Smith and Tyler Lamb.

No. 48: Arizona (52.06)

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    Can Arizona get back to the Big Dance after its absence last year?

    The Wildcats will have to do it without Nic Wise (14.4 ppg), but they bring back the other top nine scorers on the team, led by Derrick Williams (15.7, 7.1 rpg).

No. 49: Georgia (51.44)

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    Georgia returns four of its top five scorers and adds one of the best transfers in the country, so the Bulldogs should improve significantly from their 14-17 season of a year ago.

    Back are leading scorer and rebounder Trey Thompkins (17.7, 8.3), Travis Leslie (14.8, 6.8), Dustin Ware (8.2, 3.4 apg) and Jeremy Price (7.2), and they will be joined by Gerald Robinson, a junior guard who scored 17.8 points and picked up 3.9 assists per game in his last season at Tennessee State.

No. 50: Louisville (46.37)

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    Louisville loses more than half of its points and assists from last season with Samardo Samuels (15.3 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Edgar Sosa (13.1, 4.5 apg) gone.

    The Cardinals will be led this year by Jared Swopshire (7.5, 6.1 rpg) and Preston Knowles (7.2).

No. 51: California (44.04)

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    After a second-round appearance last March, California appears destined for a First Four game thanks to the loss of its four top scorers.

    In fact, with less than six percent of its scoring back from last year, the Bears will be forced to rely heavily on Jorge Gutierrez (5.5 ppg) and highly-rated freshmen guards Allen Crabbe and Gary Franklin Jr.

No. 52: Northwestern (43.94)

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    Northwestern flirted with its first NCAA Tournament bid last season, and this might be the year the Wildcats finally make it.

    The Big Ten school returns six of its seven leading scorers, including John Shurna (18.2 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Michael Thompson (14.2, 4.1 apg) and Drew Crawford (10.0).

No. 53: Colorado (42.66)

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    I'm going to project Colorado as my last team in.

    The Buffaloes had a losing season last year but return their top three scorers in Cory Higgins (18.9 ppg), Alec Burks (17.1, 5.0 rpg) and Marcus Relphorde (11.0).

No. 54: Dayton (40.2)

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    Dayton figures to miss the Big Dance again after losing three of its top six scorers.

    The Flyers do return Chris Wright (13.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg) and Chris Johnson (11.9, 6.9).

No. 55: Wichita State (39.99)

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    With Northern Iowa losing Jordan Eglseder and Ali Farokhmanesh, Wichita State figures to be the favorite to claim the Missouri Valley Conference automatic bid.

    The Shockers lose leading scorer Clevin Hannah (12.0 ppg, 4.7 apg) but return the next top eight guys, including Toure' Murry (11.9, 5.0 rpg, 3.1 apg) and J.T. Durley (11.2, 4.9).

No. 56: Mississippi State (37.79)

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    Mississippi State will probably be on the outside looking in again this March.

    The Bulldogs lose top scorer, rebounder and block man Jarvis Vardnado (13.8, 10.3, 4.7) but return Ravern Johnson (13.2) and Dee Bost (13.0, 5.2 apg).

No. 57: Miami, Fla. (34.56)

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    I see Miami missing the NCAA Tournament again.

    The Hurricanes lose leading scorers Dwayne Collins (12.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg) and James Dews (11.5).

    Durand Scott (10.3) will be forced to carry the load.

No. 58: Connecticut (33.21)

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    UConn should miss the Big Dance again after losing three of its top four scorers, including top dog Jerome Dyson (17.2).

    Kemba Walker (14.6, 5.1 apg) will be dishing the ball to a talented group of freshmen led by ESPNU 100 small forward Roscoe Smith.