College Basketball Power Rankings: Post-NBA Draft Lottery Preseason Top 25
Now that the field of entrants is set for the 2011 NBA Draft, we can finally get back to speculating in earnest how the 2011-12 college basketball season will play out.
Some teams, like Kansas and Connecticut, dropped significantly in the rankings after watching star players—Josh Selby and the Morris twins from the Jayhawks, Kemba Walker from the Huskies—take their games to the NBA.
Others, like North Carolina and Ohio State, had plenty of reason to rejoice when their top players (i.e. Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller and Jared Sullinger) announced they would be returning for another year—and the rankings certainly reflect their jubilation.
And still others endured a mix of returns and departures, as was the case with Kentucky, which saw Brandon Knight and DeAndre Liggins up and leave for the league while Terrence Jones came back to lead John Calipari's newest recruiting bounty onto the hardwood.
So how does the college basketball world look now that the rosters are pretty much set for the upcoming season?
Read on to find out!
25. Butler Bulldogs
It would be all too easy to leave Butler out of the preseason top 25 with the graduation of front court stalwart Matt Howard and the early defection of star guard Shelvin Mack to the NBA.
Then again, it was all too easy last season to dismiss the Bulldogs as a legitimate threat in the NCAA Tournament, which they will be once again with Chrishawn Hopkins and Khyle Marshall ascending to more prominent roles under the guidance of "Boy Wonder" coach Brad Stevens.
24. Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies will miss head coach Mark Turgeon, who departed for the same position at Maryland after refortifying the basketball foundations left behind at Texas A&M by Billy Gillespie.
That being said, A&M, under new coach Billy Kennedy, will be among the best teams in a weak and downsized Big 12 thanks to plenty of returning talent and experience led by top scorer Khris Middleton.
23. Washington Huskies
The 2011-12 season is shaping up to be another weak one in the newly-expanded Pac-12, though you wouldn't know that if you asked any of the players for the Washington Huskies.
They'll be up against it without star point guard Isaiah Thomas, who took off for the NBA, but their back court should still be solid with a healthy Abdul Gaddy and incoming freshman Tony Wroten taking over the reins of the team.
22. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Gonzaga has seemingly flown under the radar during the past few years since Adam Morrison took off for the NBA, though 2011-12 could be the year that the program sees a resurgence.
Mark Few will miss having Steven Gray and Demetri Goodson around to carry the load for the Bulldogs, though Elias Harris and Robert Sacre should prove capable of zigging the 'Zags back to the NCAAs.
21. Baylor Bears
Baylor was among the more disappointing teams in the country last season, as the Bears failed to even make the NCAA Tournament just one year after running all the way to the Elite Eight.
Scott Drew's squad will have another shot at doing some big things, now that uber-talented forward Perry Jones will be back in Waco for another go-round in what will be a softened Big 12.
20. Villanova Wildcats
The Villanova Wildcats barely made it into March Madness with the balling Coreys—Fisher and Stokes—so how does Jay Wright's team figure to make the field in 2012?
There's still a solid core left in Philadelphia, which should be enough to keep 'Nova from drowning in the always tough Big East, so long as Maalik Wayns, Mouphtaou Yarou and Dominic Cheek can step it up a notch as juniors.
19. Missouri Tigers
The Missouri Tigers have all the talent and experience to be serious contenders in the Big 12, with a strong core of Marcus Denmon, Kim English and Laurence Bowers back to lead the way.
The one big weakness for Mizzou? New head coach Frank Haith, who will be taking over for Mike Anderson after Anderson left for the big gig at Arkansas.
18. Kansas Jayhawks
Of course, anyone who hopes to finish the 2011-12 season atop the Big 12 standings will have to go through defending league champion Kansas first.
The Jayhawks were ravaged by graduations and early defections, particularly in the persons of Marcus and Markieff Morris, and they will need Tyshawn Taylor to step up in a big way if Bill Self's ball club is going to remain relevant in the college basketball world.
17. Xavier Musketeers
Xavier has long been a powerhouse in the Atlantic 10 Conference and should be right back at the top in 2011-12.
Chris Mack got some great news when star guard Tu Holloway decided to return to school for his senior season, during which he'll be expected to once again do some heavy lifting for a Musketeers team that will be without six seniors from last year's 24-8 squad.
16. Michigan Wolverines
If it weren't for the early defection of Darius Morris, Michigan would very well be a preseason top-10 team.
John Beilein has slowly but surely built the Wolverines into a force to reckoned with in the Big Ten and will have the rest of his team fully intact for a run at the conference crown when the fall rolls around.
15. Wisconsin Badgers
It won't be easy for the Wolverines to keep pace in the Big Ten, though, which figures to be among the best conferences in America this fall.
Among those teams that will be making life tough for other ballers in the Midwest is Wisconsin.
The Badgers are always tough and well-coached under Bo Ryan, though rare is the occasion that any of Ryan's teams has had to rely so much on one player as the Badgers surely will on Jordan Taylor.
14. Cincinnati Bearcats
This will be the year that fans and pundits everywhere finally give some props to Mick Cronin for the job he's done since taking over for Bob Huggins back in 2006.
He'll have back the top four scorers from last season's 26-9 team, including power forward Yancy Gates and point guard Cashmere Right, to take the Bearcats onward and upward from their appearance in the Sweet 16 in 2011.
13. UCLA Bruins
UCLA would easily have been a top-10 team had Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt not decided to go pro so soon.
They will be sorely missed in Westwood (Lee more so than Honeycutt), but that doesn't mean things will be all bad for Ben Howland's boys.
The Bruins still boast a solid group of experienced players, led by senior guards Jerime Anderson and Lazeric Jones and junior forward Reeves Nelson.
They will also count on improved play from massive center Joshua Smith and promising swingman Tyler Lamb to keep the ship afloat until Pauley Pavilion reopens in 2012.
12. Louisville Cardinals
Last season ended in bitter disappointment for Louisville, as they ran into Kenneth Faried and his determined Morehead State team in what turned out to be a pretty big first-round upset in the NCAA Tournament.
Rick Pitino and company will thus be sufficiently motivated to charge back to the top of the Big East this year.
Preston Knowles and Terrence Jennings will be missed, but look for dynamic point guard Peyton Siva to have a huge year for the Cardinals to keep the crowds rocking at Freedom Hall.
11. Florida Gators
It's tough for any team to recover from losing a conference player of the year like Chandler Parsons, but the hunch is that Florida will be just fine without him.
The Gators will be thin up front without Parsons, Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus, but Patric Young and Erik Murphy should be able to hold down the fort just fine for a team that will lean on one of the best backcourts in the nation.
That backcourt will be led by returnees Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton, along with explosive newcomer Brad Beal.
10. Connecticut Huskies
Think the Gators are in a tough spot without Chandler Parsons? Try being Jim Calhoun, who has the unenviable task of finding a replacement for All-American guard Kemba Walker amidst a whirlwind of NCAA sanctions and investigations.
That search will begin with Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier, both of whom were critical contributors to UConn's run to the national championship and will be counted upon, along with forwards Alex Oriakhi and Roscoe Smith, to keep the Huskies in the hunt for another title during the 2011-12 season.
9. Arizona Wildcats
Speaking of teams that will sorely miss early-departed All-Americans, Arizona has a chance to surprise a lot of people this season, especially those who claimed the Wildcats were a one-man team behind Derrick Williams.
With Williams off to the NBA and Lamont "MoMo" Jones transferring, Sean Miller will count on Jordin Mayes, Jesse Perry and Solomon Hill to keep the team together while freshman phenom Josiah Turner gets comfortable playing in front of raucous crowds at the McKale Center in Tucson.
8. Pittsburgh Panthers
This year's Pitt squad won't have quite the same pool of experience that had everyone thinking that last year's 28-6 squad would finally break through to the Final Four, but it will arguably be Jamie Dixon's best yet nonetheless.
To be sure, the Panthers will miss the contributions of Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown and Gary McGhee.
That being said, it's tough to weep for a team that will welcome back leading scorer Ashton Gibbs along with Dixon's best recruiting class yet, highlighted by five-star forward Khem Birch.
7. Memphis Tigers
Josh Pastner has been stockpiling talent at Memphis since he arrived in 2009, and the team should see a significant payoff for those efforts during the 2011-12 season.
The development of sophomores-to-be Will Barton, Tarik Black and Joe Jackson will be key to the Tigers taking a leap forward, as will the contributions of incoming freshman forward Adonis Thomas.
6. Duke Blue Devils
The Blue Devils did fine without Kyrie Irving when he was injured during the 2010-11 season, and they'll be fine without him this coming season.
Duke will have a tougher time replacing senior leaders Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, though Coach K can't complain too much, as he'll have three Plumlee brothers, Seth Curry and freshman sensation Austin Rivers to build around for another ACC title run.
5. Vanderbilt Commodores
The Commodores will be flying through rarefied air into the 2011-12 season, during which expectations will be sky-high for Kevin Stallings' club.
Vanderbilt returns a ton of talent and experience—most notably Jeff Taylor, John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli—to lead a charge to the top of the SEC.
4. Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State fell well short of expectations in the NCAA Tournament after earning the top overall seed and losing to Kentucky in the Sweet 16.
The Buckeyes should be back atop the Big Ten this coming season, though coach Thad Matta will need more than just stepped-up play from Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft and William Buford to make up for the graduations of Jon Diebler, David Lighty and Dallas Lauderdale.
3. Syracuse Orange
Of all the teams that crowded the top of the Big East standings last season, Syracuse is in arguably the best position to come away with the conference crown at the end of the 2011-12 season.
The Orange will lose only forward Rick Jackson from a team loaded with talent, from Kris Joseph to Scoop Jardine to Brandon Triche and so on, and Jim Boeheim will have freshman center Rakeem Christmas available to fill in the void left behind by Jackson's graduation.
2. Kentucky Wildcats
John Calipari has done some serious work bringing in talent to Kentucky in two years since he arrived in Lexington, though his team for the 2011-12 season may be his best yet.
The Wildcats will return a solid stock of Final Four-experienced players, including Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller, and will welcome in a startlingly stellar haul of recruits, led by the triumvirate of Anthony Davis, Mike Gilchrist and Marquis Teague–all of whom are ranked among the top 10 prospects in the high school class of 2011.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels
The rich got substantially richer when Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller and John Henson all decided to return to Chapel Hill for another season under coach Roy Williams.
Toss in a full season with Kendall Marshall at the point along with a strong freshman class highlighted by five-stars James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston, and another ACC regular season title seems like just one of many goals the Tar Heels should be able to achieve by the spring of 2012.