College Basketball 2011-12: Preseason Power Ranking the Top 30 Teams

Todd HawkinsCorrespondent IJune 28, 2011

College Basketball 2011-12: Preseason Power Ranking the Top 30 Teams

0 of 31

    Now that the NBA draft has passed and recruiting for the 2011-12 season is beginning to wrap up, it's about that time to make a college basketball preseason poll.

    To go along with the rankings, I've included key losses, key returnees, newcomers and projected starting lineups for each of the 30 teams listed.

    While the season is still over five months away, it's never too early to start speculating how things will play out.

T30. Mississippi State

1 of 31

    Key Losses: Ravern Johnson, Kodi Augustus, Riley Benock

    Key Returness: Dee Bost, Renardo Sidney, Wendell Lewis, Jalen Steele, Brian Bryant

    Newcomers: Arnett Moultrie (UTEP transfer), Rodney Hood, D.J. Gardner, Deville Smith, Roquez Johnson, Shawn Long

     

    Notes

    Rick Stansbury brings in Rivals' No. 12-rated recruiting class that includes two versatile wings in Hood and Gardner. Moultrie will join Sidney to form one of the best frontcourts in the country. And with Bost leading the way at point, the Bulldogs look like a postseason-caliber team.

    In order for that to happen, Sidney must make strides in the maturation department.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Dee Bost

    SG: D.J. Gardner

    SF: Rodney Hood

    PF: Renardo Sidney

    C: Arnett Moultrie

     

T30. New Mexico

2 of 31

    Key Losses: Dairese Gary

    Key Returnees: Drew Gordon, Kendall Williams, Phillip McDonald, A.J. Hardeman, Alex Kirk, Tony Snell, Jamal Fenton, Chad Adams

    Newcomers: Dominique Dunning, Jarion Henry, Hugh Greenwood

     

    Notes

    The Lobos return eight players from last season's rotation who each saw at least 10 minutes of action per game. With Gary gone, Williams will run the show full-time and should continue blossoming into one of the elite floor generals in the country with the help of McDonald on the wing and Gordon in the post.

    Watch out for incoming freshman combo guard Hugh Greenwood (former captain of Australian Institute of Sport), who shined for Australia during the FIBA U19 World Championships.

    Now that they're a year older, Steve Alford's squad appears to be the preseason favorite to win the Mountain West, with UNLV not too far behind. 

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Kendall Williams

    SG: Phillip McDonald

    SF: A.J. Hardeman

    PF: Drew Gordon

    C: Alex Kirk

29. Miami (FL)

3 of 31

    Key Losses: Adrian Thomas

    Key Returnees: Malcolm Grant, Durand Scott, Reggie Johnson, Garrius Adams, Julian Gamble, DeQuan Jones, Rion Brown

    Newcomers: Jim Larranaga (Head Coach), Bishop Daniels, Trey McKinney-Jones (UMKC transfer)

     

    Notes

    Larranaga inherits a lethal backcourt tandem and an underrated big man in Reggie Johnson. If the former George Mason head coach can quickly get the players to buy into his system, cut down on turnovers and feed the ball to Johnson more often, the Canes will go dancing in March.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Durand Scott

    SG: Malcolm Grant

    SF: Garrius Adams

    PF: Julian Gamble

    C: Reggie Johnson

     

28. Michigan

4 of 31

    Key Losses: Darius Morris

    Key Returnees: Tim Hardaway Jr., Jordan Morgan, Zack Novak, Evan Smotrycz, Stu Douglass, Matt Vogrich

    Newcomers: Carlton Brundidge, Trey Burke, Max Bielfeldt

     

    Notes

    Morris delivered Michigan a blow by keeping his name in the draft, but don't count out this squad just yet. The key here is who will replace Morris at point. Incoming freshman Burke is a highly rated scoring point guard and returning combo guard Douglass has previous experience running the point for Beilein.

    The 6'5" shooting guard Hardaway Jr. is a star in the making and will have to carry the Wolverines on his back at times.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Trey Burke

    SG: Tim Hardaway Jr.

    SF: Zack Novak

    PF: Evan Smotrycz

    PF: Jordan Morgan

27. Washington

5 of 31

    Key Losses: Isaiah Thomas, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Justin Holiday, Venoy Overton

    Key Returnees: Abdul Gaddy, Terrence Ross, Scott Suggs, Darnell Gant, Aziz N'Diaye, C.J. Wilcox, Desmond Simmons (redshirt)

    Newcomers: Tony Wroten Jr., Hikeem Stewart, Jernard Jarreau, Martin Breunig, Andrew Andrews

     

    Notes

    Despite the early departure of Thomas, Washington returns Gaddy after missing most of last season to a knee injury. Wroten Jr., ranked No. 14 overall by Rivals, will share duties at the point with Gaddy. Knowing Lorenzo Romar, it'll likely be Gaddy's starting spot to lose out the gates.

    The Huskies return several sharpshooting wings in Suggs, Wilcox and Ross. While there are plenty of backcourt and wing scoring options, Romar needs Gant and N'Diaye to step up their play in the Huskies' frontcourt now that Bryan-Amaning is gone. Romar won't have the depth in the post as he did last year, which is a cause for concern.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Abdul Gaddy

    SG: Scott Suggs

    SF: Terrence Ross

    PF: Darnell Gant

    C: Aziz N'Diaye

26. Wisconsin

6 of 31

    Key Losses: Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil, Tim Jarmusz

    Key Returnees: Jordan Taylor, Josh Gasser, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren

    Newcomers: Jarrod Uthoff, Frank Kaminsky, Traevon Jackson, George Marshall

     

    Notes

    Leuer will be tough to replace, but the Badgers return second-team All-American point guard Taylor along with several role players who should progress into expanded roles next season. Given his ability to take over a game offensively and the lack of scoring options compared to last season, Taylor is primed to put up even bigger numbers this time around.

    Wisconsin always finishes higher than everyone expects them to and if there's one thing I've learned, it's to never underestimate a Bo Ryan-coached team (which I probably have done with this ranking).

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Jordan Taylor

    SG: Josh Gasser

    SF: Ryan Evans

    PF: Mike Bruesewitz

    C: Jared Berggren

25. UCLA

7 of 31

    Key Losses: Tyler Honeycutt, Malcolm Lee

    Key Returnees: Reeves Nelson, Josh Smith, Lazeric Jones, Jerime Anderson, Brendan Lane, Tyler Lamb, Anthony Stover

    Newcomers: Travis and David Wear (UNC transfers), Norman Powell, D'End Parker (JUCO transfer)

     

    Notes

    The departures of Honeycutt and Lee may have put a damper on the Bruins' national title hopes, but there's still enough talent to compete for the Pac-12 title. Howland is loaded with frontcourt players and has mentioned the possibility of Dave Wear playing at the SF spot. I'm currently projecting Nelson to slide over to the 3 to free up more time for the twins. 

    For UCLA to become a contender again, players such as Lamb, Powell and Parker must step up and give quality minutes out on the wing.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Lazeric Jones

    SG: Jerime Anderson

    SF: Reeves Nelson

    PF: David Wear

    C: Josh Smith

24. Cincinnati

8 of 31

    Key Losses: Rashad Bishop, Ibrahima Thomas

    Key Returnees: Yancy Gates, Sean Kilpatrick, Dion Dixon, Cashmere Wright, Justin Jackson, Jaquon Parker

    Newcomers: Shaquille Thomas, Jermaine Sanders, Ge'Lawn Guyn, Jeremiah Davis, Octavius Ellis, Cheikh Mbodji (JUCO transfer)

     

    Notes

    The Bearcats return their top four scorers from last season's NCAA tournament team that advanced to the second round, falling to eventual national champion UConn Huskies. Cronin brings in an underrated recruiting class that should mesh well with the returning blue-collar cast.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Cashmere Wright

    SG: Dion Dixon

    SF: Shaquille Thomas

    PF: Justin Jackson

    PF: Yancy Gates

23. Michigan State

9 of 31

    Key Losses: Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Mike Kebler, Garrick Sherman

    Key Returnees: Draymond Green, Keith Appling, Delvon Roe, Adreian Payne, Russell Byrd (injured), Derrick Nix, Austin Thornton

    Newcomers: Brandon Wood (Valpo transfer), Branden Dawson, Travis Trice, Dwaun Anderson, Brandan Kearney

     

    Notes

    Izzo brings in Rivals' No. 21-ranked recruiting class along with Wood, who should make an immediate impact offensively. Keep an eye on heralded freshman Branden Dawson—a powerful, versatile wing that gets it done on both ends of the floor.

    The big question mark for the Spartans is who will replace Lucas at point? Trice, an incoming freshman with a sweet stroke and high basketball IQ, is the only natural point guard on roster.

    Appling, a combo guard who saw time at the 2 last season, may be Izzo's choice to run the show with Trice as his backup. Appling is currently playing point guard for Team USA U19 and gaining valuable experience for when he returns to East Lansing.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Keith Appling

    SG: Brandon Wood

    SF: Branden Dawson

    PF: Draymond Green

    PF: Delvon Roe

22. Temple

10 of 31

    Key Losses: Lavoy Allen

    Key Returnees: Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez, Scootie Randall, Michael Eric, Rahlir Jefferson, Khalif Wyatt, Aaron Brown, T.J. DiLeo, Anthony Lee (redshirt)

    Newcomers: Will Cummings

     

    Notes

    Allen will be missed, but Temple sold me after making their strong tournament showing without the Atlantic-10's Most Improved Player in Randall and starting center Eric, who both suffered injuries down the stretch of the regular season. The Owls came one shot away from advancing to the Sweet Sixteen. 

    Wyatt earned A-10 Sixth Man of the Year honors last season and will more than likely reassume the role to give Fran Dunphy that much-needed spark off the bench. On paper, Temple is a very well-balanced team behind the scoring punch of Moore.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Juan Fernandez

    SG: Ramone Moore

    SF: Scootie Randall

    PF: Rhalir Jefferson

    C: Michael Eric

     

21. Marquette

11 of 31

    Key Losses: Jimmy Butler, Dwight Buycks, Joseph Fulce

    Key Returnees: Darius Johnson-Odum, Jae Crowder, Chris Otule, Junior Cadougan, Vander Blue, Devante Gardner

    Newcomers: Jamil Wilson (Oregon transfer), Juan Anderson, Derrick Wilson, Todd Mayo

     

    Notes

    Buzz Williams' crew will be led by the duo of sharpshooting "DJO" and versatile combo forward Crowder. Wilson will try to fill the big shoes of Butler and big men Gardner and Otule should take another step forward in their development. Blue and Cadougan will likely split time at the point.

    On paper, the Golden Eagles appear to be a strong horse in the Big East race.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Junior Cadougan

    SG: Darius Johnson-Odum

    SF: Jamil Wilson

    PF: Jae Crowder

    C: Chris Otule

20. Kansas

12 of 31

    Key Losses: Marcus and Markieff Morris, Tyrel Reed, Josh Selby, Brady Morningstar, Mario Little

    Key Returnees: Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson, Travis Releford, Ben McLemore, Elijah Johnson, Jeff Withey

    Newcomers: Ben McLemore, Naadir Tharpe, Jamari Traylor, Braeden Anderson, Mervyn Lindsay, Kevin Young (JUCO transfer)

     

    Notes

    Taylor and Robinson give Jayhawk fans something to look forward to despite losing several key pieces to the NBA. Guys like Releford, Johnson and Withey will now receive the minutes they've waited patiently for.

    Johnson, who backed up Taylor at the point last season, could end up starting at shooting guard.

    Releford and incoming freshman slasher Ben McClemore will likely battle for minutes out on the wing.

    Self isn't bringing in his annual top-20 recruiting class, but Kansas still has the pieces in place to compete for the Big-12 title.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Tyshawn Taylor

    SG: Elijah Johnson

    SF: Travis Releford

    PF: Thomas Robinson

    C: Jeff Withey

     

19. Arizona

13 of 31

    Key Losses: Derrick Williams, Momo Jones, Jamelle Horne

    Key Returnees: Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, Jesse Perry, Kyryl Natyazhko, Kyle Fogg, Brendon Lavender, Jordin Mayes

    Newcomers: Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, Angelo Chol, Sidiki Johnson

     

    Notes

    It'll take some time to adjust to life without Williams, but Sean Miller reloaded with Rivals' No. 4-ranked recruiting class. Incoming freshman point guard Turner, ranked No. 11 overall in the 2011 class, is the total package. Johnson, ranked No.18 overall, is a relentless competitor and highlight waiting to happen.

    The Wildcats will once again thrive off their depth as they battle Washington, UCLA and Cal for the Pac-12 crown.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Josiah Turner

    SG: Nick Johnson

    SF: Jesse Perry

    PF: Solomon Hill

    C: Kyryl Natyazhko

     

18. Gonzaga

14 of 31

    Key Losses: Steven Gray, Demetri Goodson, Mangisto Arop

    Key Returnees: Robert Sacre, Elias Harris, Sam Dower, Marquise Carter, Kelly Olynyk, David Stockton, Mathis Monninghoff, Mathis Keita

    Newcomers: Gary Bell Jr., Kevin Pangos, Kyle Dranginis, Ryan Spangler, Guy Landry

     

    Notes

    With the loss of Gray to graduation, the Zags will thrive on the play of Harris and Sacre. Goodson left to play football at Baylor, which leaves the point guard duties wide open for Carter, Stockton and Pangos.

    The Bulldogs' success will depend on how well Pangos and Bell can progress throughout the season in the backcourt. Bell is the highest-rated freshman in the WCC.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Marquis Carter

    SG: Gary Bell Jr.

    SF: Elias Harris

    PF: Kelly Olynyk

    C: Robert Sacre

     

17. Florida State

15 of 31

    Key Losses: Chris Singleton, Derwin Kitchen

    Key Returnees: Bernard James, Michael Snaer, Okaro White, Ian Miller, Deividas Dulkys, Xavier Gibson, Jon Kreft, Terrance Shannon, Luke Loucks

    Newcomers: Antwan Space, Aaron Thomas, Terry Whisnant, Kiel Turpin (JUCO transfer)

     

    Notes

    The Noles didn't miss a beat after Singleton got hurt last season, but the loss of Kitchen could take some time to get over. Taking his place will more than likely be Miller, who as a sophomore, has the tools to be as good as Kitchen. Hamilton has an array of frontcourt options to work with for his grind-it-out brand of basketball.

    Florida State will once again be one of the deepest and best defensive teams in the country.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Ian Miller

    SG: Michael Snaer

    SF: Antwan Space

    PF: Okaro White

    C: Bernard James

16. Missouri

16 of 31

    Key Losses: Justin Safford, Ricky Kreklow

    Key Returnees: Marcus Denmon, Laurence Bowers, Ricardo Ratliffe, Kim English, Flip Pressey, Michael Dixon, Matt Pressey, Steve Moore, Kadeem Green (injured)

    Newcomers: Frank Haith (head coach)

     

    Notes

    Haith walks into a promising situation with a deep, talented roster on his hands. Expectations are high in Columbia and if the Tigers don't advance past the first round again, the season will be a disappointment.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Flip Pressey

    SG: Marcus Denmon

    SF: Kim English

    PF: Laurence Bowers

    PF: Ricardo Ratliffe

15. Alabama

17 of 31

    Key Losses: Chris Hines, Senario Hillman

    Key Returnees: JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell, Trevor Releford, Andrew Steele, Ben Eblen, Charles Hankerson Jr.

    Newcomers: Levi Randolph, Trevor Lacey, Nick Jacobs, Rodney Cooper, Moussa Gueye

     

    Notes

    With the "Big Three" of Green, Mitchell and Releford returning coupled with Rivals' fifth-ranked recruiting class in the country, the Crimson Tide are clear-cut favorites to repeat as SEC West champions. Incoming freshmen Randolph and Lacey have nice perimeter strokes, something the Tide lacked last season.

    If Anthony Grant's heralded class lives up to its lofty ranking, there won't even be any bubble talk next season and the NIT will be a distant memory. Alabama will also be one of the best defensive teams in the country, again.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Trevor Releford

    SG: Levi Randolph

    SF: Tony Mitchell

    PF: JaMychal Green

    C: Moussa Gueye

14. Texas A&M

18 of 31

    Key Losses: B.J. Holmes, Nathan Walkup

    Key Returnees: Khris Middleton, David Loubeau, Kourtney Roberson, Naji Hibbert, Dash Harris, Ray Turner

    Newcomers: Billy Kennedy (head coach), Jamal Branch, Jordan Green, Elston Turner (Washington transfer)

     

    Notes

    Newly acquired head coach Billy Kennedy has inherited a cupboard full of players as the Aggies return six of the top nine players from last season's unit that finished 24-9 overall and 10-6 in the Big 12. Versatile junior-to-be wing Middleton and senior-to-be power forward Loubeau will lead the way again in College Station. 

    Add 4-star point guard Branch and impact transfer Turner to the mix, and Texas A&M has one of its best teams yet.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Dash Harris

    SG: Naji Hibbert

    SF: Khris Middleton

    PF: David Loubeau

    PF: Kourtney Roberson

13. Florida

19 of 31

    Key Losses: Chandler Parsons, Vernon Macklin, Alex Tyus

    Key Returners: Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy, Patric Young, Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete, Cody Larson (redshirt)

    Newcomers: Bradley Beal, Mike Rosario (Rutgers transfer), Walter Pitchford

     

    Notes

    Guards, guards, guards. Florida will have the deepest backcourt in the country with Rosario eligible after sitting out last season and the 2011 Gatorade National Player of the Year in Beal added to the mix of returning guards. Donovan will have to go small with three or even four-guard lineups and the Gators will be a team that presses and spaces the floor.

    Prather is the only true small forward on roster and could find his way into the starting lineup for defensive purposes. Murphy and Young are very talented bigs with high upsides and must avoid foul trouble. With four guards who are shooters, Donovan has his work cut out for him in keeping them all happy and getting them to buy into a team concept.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Erving Walker

    SG: Kenny Boynton

    G: Bradley Beal

    PF: Erik Murphy

    C: Patric Young

12. Xavier

20 of 31

    Key Losses: Jamel McLean, Dante Jackson

    Key Returnees: Tu Holloway, Kenny Frease, Mark Lyons, Jeff Robinson, Brad Redford (injured)

    Newcomers: Dezmine Wells, Jalen Reynolds, Darwin Davis, Travis Taylor (Monmouth transfer), Justin Martin (sat out—partial qualifier)

     

    Notes

    Sharpshooters Redford and Martin will go a long ways in opening up the offense for Xavier after missing last season. Taylor could work himself into the starting lineup alongside Frease, as the 6'8" junior transfer averaged 17.8 points and 7.6 rebounds on 54.2 percent shooting during his sophomore season at Monmouth.

    Fellow power forwards Robinson and Reynolds will compete with Taylor for time on the block. After playing with a thin rotation last season, Chris Mack will have more depth to work with around the inside-out duo of Holloway and Frease.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Tu Holloway

    SG: Mark Lyons

    SF: Dezmine Wells

    PF: Travis Taylor

    C: Kenny Frease

11. Pittsburgh

21 of 31

    Key Losses: Brad Wanamaker, Gary McGhee, Gilbert Brown

    Key Returnees: Ashton Gibbs, Nasir Robinson, Travon Woodall, Dante Taylor, Talib Zanna, J.J. Moore, Lamar Patterson, J.J. Richardson, Isaiah Epps (redshirt), Cameron Wright (redshirt)

    Newcomers: Khem Birch, Malcolm Gilbert, Durand Johnson, John Johnson

     

    Notes

    The return of Gibbs puts Pittsburgh right back on the map to challenge for the Big East crown. Despite losing three seniors, Dixon brings in a top-20 recruiting class, headed by centers Birch and Gilbert. Several talented role players from last season will look to take a step forward in their development including Woodall, Moore, Taylor, Zanna and Patterson.

    Keep an eye on the redshirt-freshmen backcourt duo of Epps and Wright, who will suit up to provide Pitt with backcourt depth after watching from the sidelines last season. Robinson will pair up with fellow senior Gibbs to lead the way for the Panthers.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Travon Woodall

    SG: Ashton Gibbs

    SF: Nasir Robinson

    PF: Dante Taylor

    C: Khem Birch

10. Memphis

22 of 31

    Key Losses: Will Coleman

    Key Returnees: Tarik Black, Will Barton, Joe Jackson, Wesley Witherspoon, Antonio Barton, Charles Carmouche, Chris Crawford, D.J. Stephens

    Newcomers: Adonis Thomas, Stan Simpson (JUCO transfer), Ferrakohn Hall (Seton Hall transfer)

     

    Notes

    Josh Pastner did a commendable job addressing his team's need in the offseason by adding three players who will make an impact in the frontcourt. Thomas is a top 10 recruit and combo forward that will be a matchup nightmare in the Conference USA.

    Simpson, a 6'11" center, will provide the Tigers with much-needed size. Hall, a 6'8" junior-to-be power forward, showed flashes of potential at Seton Hall and will be eligible after Christmas.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Joe Jackson

    SG: Will Barton

    SF: Wesley Witherspoon

    PF: Adonis Thomas

    PF: Tarik Black

9. Baylor

23 of 31

    Key Losses: LaceDarius Dunn, Stargell Love

    Key Returnees: Perry Jones, Quincy Acy, A.J. Walton, Anthony Jones, Fred Ellis, J'mison Morgan

    Newcomers: Quincy Miller, Deuce Bello, Pierre Jackson (JUCO transfer), Brady Heslip (Boston College transfer), Gary Franklin (California transfer)

     

    Notes

    Scott Drew couldn't have received better news after Jones III surprisingly decided to stay for another year. Heralded high school teammates Quincy Miller and Deuce Bello will provide Baylor with scoring and athleticism on the wing. The additions of Jackson and Franklin should take care of the Bears' ball-handling issues and Heslip is one of the best pure shooters in the country.

    If this team can play together and develop strong chemistry, the sky is the limit for Baylor.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Pierre Jackson

    SG: A.J. Walton

    SF: Quincy Miller

    PF: Quincy Acy

    C: Perry Jones

8. Vanderbilt

24 of 31

    Key Losses: Andre Walker

    Key Returnees: John Jenkins, Jeffrey Taylor, Festus Ezeli, Brad Tinsley, Lance Goulbourne, Steve Tchiengang, Rod Odom, Kyle Fuller

    Newcomers: Dai-Jon Parker, Kedren Johnson, Shelby Moats

     

    Notes

    With all five starters returning in what will be one of the most talented Vanderbilt teams in history, the pressure is on Kevin Stallings to finally get the 'Dores past the first round. Jenkins is the front-runner for SEC Player of the Year while Taylor and Ezeli are projected early second-round picks in the 2012 NBA draft, according to nbadraft.net.

    On paper, this is well-balanced team with very few weaknesses.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Brad Tinsley

    SG: John Jenkins

    SF: Jeffrey Taylor

    PF: Lance Goulbourne

    C: Festus Ezeli

7. Duke

25 of 31

    Key Losses: Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler, Kyrie Irving

    Key Returnees: Mason Plumlee, Miles Plumlee, Seth Curry, Ryan Kelly, Andre Dawkins, Tyler Thornton, Josh Hairston 

    Newcomers: Austin Rivers, Quinn Cook, Michael Gbinije, Marshall Plumlee, Alex Murphy

     

    Notes

    With five players ranked in Rivals' top 100 including three McDonald's All-Americans, the future looks bright for Duke. One of the keys to the Blue Devils' success will be at point guard and incoming freshman Cook appears to be the front-runner for the job. If Cook can't deliver, returning combo guard Curry has the tools to step up and run the team and sophomore-to-be Thornton gained experience in the role last season when Nolan Smith went down for a short period.

    Rivers is one of the most heralded recruits to come through the program in some time and has lofty expectations to live up to. He, Curry and Dawkins provide an array of scoring options from the backcourt and it's possible Coach K will run out a three-guard lineup from the get-go. The three Plumlee brothers along with Kelly give Duke solid frontcourt depth.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Quinn Cook

    SG: Austin Rivers

    SF: Michael Gbinije

    PF: Ryan Kelly

    PF: Mason Plumlee

6. Connecticut

26 of 31

    Key Losses: Kemba Walker, Jamal Coobs-McDaniel, Charles Okwandu, Donnell Beverly

    Key Returnees: Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi, Roscoe Smith, Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander

    Newcomers: DeAndre Daniels, Ryan Boatright

     

    Notes

    Despite the loss of Kemba Walker, Connecticut is a well-balanced, legitimate contender to cut down the nets again. Calhoun only signed two recruits, but both are expected to pack a mean punch. Daniels is one of the elite scorers in the country at small forward and possesses excellent size and length. Boatright, the man many around the program expect to replace Walker, is a lightning-quick point guard that loves to score.

    UConn will be led by the inside-out duo of Lamb and Oriakhi. Lamb is a star in the making that will take over the role as go-to guy and Oriakhi is one of the best returning big men in the country.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Shabazz Napier

    SG: Jeremy Lamb

    SF: DeAndre Daniels

    PF: Roscoe Smith

    C: Alex Oriakhi

5. Louisville

27 of 31

    Key Losses: Terrence Jennings, Preston Knowles

    Key Returnees: Peyton Siva, Kyle Kuric, Chris Smith, Rakeem Buckles, Jared Swopshire (injured), Mike Marra, Gorgui Dieng, Stephan Van Treese, Elisha Justice

    Newcomers: Chane Behanan, Wayne Blackshear, Zach Price, Kevin Ware, Angel Nunez

     

    Notes

    Pitino will have a plethora of talent at his disposal for his havoc-wreaking full-court pressure. With the quality cast of veterans returning, Swopshire back from injury and a top-10 recruiting class on the way, the Cards will be able to run out plenty of fresh legs.

    Louisville will cause quite a few headaches for opposing coaches next season.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Peyton Siva

    SG: Chris Smith

    SF: Kyle Kuric

    PF: Chane Behanan

    C: Gorgui Dieng

4. Syracuse

28 of 31

    Key Losses: Rick Jackson

    Key Returnees: Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche, Dion Waiters, Fab Melo, C.J. Fair, James Southerland, Baye Moussa Keita, DaShonte Riley, Mookie Jones

    Newcomers: Rakeem Christmas, Michael Carter-Williams, Trevor Cooney

     

    Notes

    The addition of Christmas and expected maturation of Melo should help fill the void Jackson leaves behind in the frontcourt. Beoheim's squad will be loaded in the backcourt with Jardine, Triche, Waiters, Carter-Williams and Cooney. Joseph returns to give the Orange a versatile scoring wing and length defensively.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Scoop Jardine

    SG: Brandon Triche

    SF: Kris Joseph

    PF: C.J. Fair

    C: Rakeem Christmas

3. Ohio State

29 of 31

    Key Losses: David lighty, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale

    Ket Returnees: Jared Sullinger, William Buford, Aaron Craft, Deshaun Thomas

    Newcomers: Amir Williams, LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson, Trey McDonald, Evan Revenel (Boston College transfer)

     

    Notes

    The return of Sullinger and Buford make Ohio State the team to beat in the Big Ten as well as a Final Four contender. Matta brings in a top-10 recruiting class including four recruits in Rivals' top 100. If sophomores such as Thomas, a versatile scoring combo forward, can step up after seeing limited action last season, the Buckeyes have the potential to be just as good as they were last season.

    It'll be interesting to see how Matta will utilize Scott, a highly rated point guard and McDonald's All-American. I'm definitely eager to see how the starting lineup eventually shakes out.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Aaron Craft

    SG: William Buford

    SF: LaQuinton Ross

    PF: DeShaun Thomas

    PF: Jared Sullinger

2. Kentucky

30 of 31

    Key Losses: Brandon Knight, DeAndre Liggins, Josh Harrellson

    Key Returnees: Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones, Darius Miller, Jon Hood, Eloy Vargas, Stacey Poole Jr.

    Newcomers: Anthony Davis, Marquis Teague, Michael Gilchrist, Kyle Wiltjer, Twany Beckham (Mississippi State transfer)

     

    Note

    Calipari continues to burn up the recruiting trail, rounding up the consensus top class in the country that includes four McDonald's All-Americans. Add this class to the returning trio of Jones, Lamb and Miller, and you've got one of the favorites to win the national title.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup:

    PG: Marquis Teague

    SG: Doron Lamb

    SF: Darius Miller

    PF: Terrence Jones

    PF: Anthony Davis

1. North Carolina

31 of 31

    Key Losses: Justin Knox

    Key Returnees: Harrison Barnes, Kendall Marshall, Tyler Zeller, John Henson, Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald, Reggie Bullock

    Newcomers: James McAdoo, P.J. Hairston, Desmond Hubert

     

    Notes

    Roy Williams returns all five starters from last season's young, talented, Elite Eight team. The addition of Hairston and McAdoo make the Heels the clear-cut No. 1 team in the land. With guys like Barnes, Zeller and Henson passing on the NBA draft, it's championship or bust for North Carolina.

     

    Projected Starting Lineup

    PG: Kendall Marshall

    SG: P.J. Hairston

    SF: Harrison Barnes

    PF: John Henson

    PF: Tyler Zeller