College Basketball Rankings: Preseason Top 44
College basketball season is around the corner, and that means it's time to break out my preseason rankings using my unique mathematical formula.
The formula has three parts:
A. Previous season finish
The previous season's national champion (UConn) starts off with 65 points.
The runner-up (Butler) starts with 64.
Losing in the Final Four (Kentucky, VCU) gets you 63 points.
Teams losing in the Elite Eight receive 61.
Teams losing in the Sweet 16 receive 57.
Teams losing in the Round of 32 receive 49.
Teams losing in the Round of 64 receive 33.
And teams which missed the tournament, but are expected to improve this year, receive 18.
B. Returning Players
I then took each team and figured out what percentage of points, rebounds and assists they will lose from last year's team, adding back in the points, rebounds and assists they will get 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 I 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 Last Year's Finish + Freshmen Value
I have ranked the top 44 teams receiving votes in the Coaches Poll in order of the total points they receive according to this formula.
No. 1: North Carolina Tar Heels (199.54 Points)
The Tar Heels were a near-unanimous No. 1 in the Coaches Poll for good reason.
They return better than 90 percent of their scoring, including their top six guys from last year's Elite Eight squad, led by Tyler Zeller, Harrison Barnes and John Henson.
North Carolina also adds McDonald's All-Americans James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston.
No. 2: Kentucky Wildcats (175.36 Points)
Leading scorer Brandon Knight is gone, but the Wildcats return their next three top guys from last season's Final Four squad in Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb and Darius Miller.
Add to that the most talented recruiting class in the country with Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague and Kyle Wiltjer and you have quite a deep team.
No. 3: Ohio State Buckeyes (172.2 Points)
Leading scorers Jared Sullinger and William Buford are back, so that should offset the losses of Jon Diebler and David Lighty.
McDonald's All-Americans Shannon Scott and Amir Williams join the team, along with other top freshmen Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross.
No. 4: Duke Blue Devils (170.3 Points)
The Blue Devils return less than half of their points and assists from last year, but the best recruiting class outside of Kentucky (Austin Rivers, Michael Gbinije, Marshall Plumlee, Quinn Cook and Alex Murphy) should make up for the losses of Nolan Smith, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Singler.
No. 5: Syracuse Orange (168.09 Points)
This could very well be the deepest team in the country in 2011-12.
The Orange lost their best player in Rick Jackson, but brought back everybody else—even their walk-ons.
When you add McDonald's All-Americans Rakeem Christmas and Michael Carter-Williams, along with fellow talented incoming freshman Trevor Cooney, to a roster that already includes Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche, Dion Waiters, C.J. Fair, Fab Melo and Baye Moussa Keita, you basically have two starting fives.
No. 6: Florida State Seminoles (159.47 Points)
This is where my rankings begin to deviate from the national polls. The coaches have FSU just outside the top 25, but that seems too low for a team that returns better than 84 percent of its points, rebounds and assists from its run to the Sweet 16.
Gone are leading scorers Chris Singleton and Derwin Kitchen, but Singleton missed a ton of time last year, and the Seminoles add talented freshman small forward Antwan Space, who joins nine guys who played at least 244 minutes in 2010-11, led by three-point specialist Michael Snaer.
No. 7: Arizona Wildcats (152.49 Points)
Derrick Williams is now with the Minnesota Timberwolves, and Lamont Jones has transferred to Iona, but the Wildcats still appear underrated because they return their next four leading scorers from a team that reached the Elite Eight last year.
Joining Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom and Jesse Perry will be a deep group of able freshman in Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, Angelo Chol and Sidiki Johnson.
No. 8: Florida Gators (145.8 Points)
Leading scorers Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton return and are joined by Mike Rosario, who sat out a year after transferring from Rutgers, and McDonald's All-American Bradley Beal.
No. 9: Connecticut Huskies (131.54 Points)
This is Jeremy Lamb's team now.
With Kemba Walker in the NBA, the defending national champs will be led by a sophomore, but he'll have plenty of help in Alex Oriakhi, Shabazz Napier and Roscoe Smith.
Center Andre Drummond and point guard Ryan Boatright lead a talented group of freshmen.
Still, since the Huskies return just 53 percent of their scoring and fewer than half of their assists from last year, their Coaches Poll ranking of fourth seems a bit high.
No. 10: Louisville Cardinals (131.47 Points)
The Cardinals return three starters—Kyle Kuric, Peyton Siva and Chris Smith—and welcome the best recruiting class in the Big East—McDonald's All-Americans Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan, along with Zach Price and Kevin Ware.
No. 11: Temple Owls (120.42 Points)
Temple seems underrated coming into the season.
The Owls lost Lavoy Allen but return every other significant player from a team that reached the Round of 32 last year.
Leading the way will be Ramone Moore, Juan Fernandez and Khalif Wyatt.
No. 12: Vanderbilt Commodores (113.2 Points)
Vanderbilt returns its top seven scorers from last year, including John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor and Festus Ezeli.
The 'Dores add top freshmen Dai-Jon Parker and Kedren Johnson.
No. 13: Pittsburgh Panthers (111.89 Points)
The Panthers lost Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown and Gary McGhee, but they return leading scorer Ashton Gibbs and add two freshmen centers in McDonald's All-American Khem Birch and Malcolm Gilbert.
No. 14: UCLA Bruins (110.35 Points)
Malcolm Lee and Tyler Honeycutt are no longer here, but leading scorer Reeves Nelson is, along with every other impact player from last season.
The Bruins add freshman point guard Norman Powell from Abraham Lincoln High in San Diego, California.
No. 15: Memphis Tigers (109.64 Points)
The Tigers return their top four scorers and nearly 98 percent of their rebounding.
Memphis will be a force on the glass with Will Barton and Tarik Black, and McDonald's All-American freshman small forward Adonis Thomas can only help.
No. 16: Gonzaga Bulldogs (109.16 Points)
Steven Gray is gone, but Gonzaga returns its next five leading scorers, including Robert Sacre and Elias Harris, who both averaged at least six rebounds per game last year.
Shooting guard Gary Bell Jr. leads a deep recruiting class.
No. 17: Michigan Wolverines (104.6 Points)
Leading scorer Darius Morris is gone, but the Wolverines will struggle more trying to replace his assists than points.
The guard dropped an impressive 235 dimes last year, meaning Michigan returns only 39 percent of their assists. Tim Hardaway Jr. will have to pick up the slack.
No. 18: Marquette Golden Eagles (104.28 Points)
Marquette returns six of its top eight players in Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder, Chris Otule, Vander Blue, Davante Gardner and Junior Cadougan.
No. 19: Cincinnati Bearcats (95.87 Points)
The Bearcats return their top four scorers in Yancy Gates, Dion Dixon, Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright, but lose a significant amount of role players. However, Cincy reloads with a deep class of freshmen.
No. 20: Missouri Tigers (88.23 Points)
The Tigers return all five starters and their first man off the bench to bring back better than 86 percent of their points, rebounds and assists from last year's NCAA Tournament team.
No. 21: George Mason Patriots (87.39 Points)
The Patriots are probably a bit underrated because head coach Jim Larranaga took his talents to South Beach, but George Mason does return three starters from last year's Round of 32 team, led by Ryan Pearson.
And it's not often that GMU brings an ESPNU 100 recruit to campus, but that's exactly what it did with center Erik Copes.
No. 22: Purdue Boilermakers (86.96 Points)
Losing JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore was certainly a major blow, but 73 percent of the assists are back from last year's Round of 32 squad because Lewis Jackson returns with his team-best four per game.
No. 23: Kansas State Wildcats (84.22 Points)
Few pollsters believe in Kansas State with Jacob Pullen gone, but the Wildcats return three starters, including leading rebounder Rodney McGruder, and they reload with a deep group of freshmen.
No. 24: Kansas Jayhawks (83.48 Points)
The Jayhawks are ranked 13th in the Coaches Poll, but that seems high considering four starters are gone, along with more than 70 percent of the scoring from last year's team.
They do bring back Tyshawn Taylor and add talented freshmen Ben McLemore and Naadir Tharpe.
No. 25: Washington Huskies (80.23 Points)
The Huskies lost their top three scorers, so role players like C.J. Wilcox and Terrence Ross will need to step up.
They'll be aided by the addition of McDonald's All-American point guard Tony Wroten Jr., who will be relied upon to replace the 316 assists lost with the departures of Isaiah Thomas and Venoy Overton.
No. 26: Xavier Musketeers (77.5 Points)
Xavier seems a little overrated with two starters gone and only 60 percent of the rebounding returning from a team that lost its first game in the NCAA Tournament.
Tu Holloway is back, though, and the Musketeers add talented small forward Dezmine Wells.
No. 27: Texas Longhorns (76.66 Points)
The Longhorns lose six of their top seven players, but J'Covan Brown will be joined by one of the deepest recruiting classes in the nation—Myck Kabongo, Sheldon McClellan, Jonathan Holmes and Julien Lewis—as Texas attempts to replace better than 80 percent of last year's points, rebounds and assists.
No. 28: Texas A&M Aggies (76.01 Points)
The Aggies lost B.J. Holmes and Nathan Walkup but return Khris Middleton and David Loubeau.
They also bring aboard freshman point guard Jamal Branch.
No. 29: VCU Rams (75.65 Points)
It will be an uphill battle for the Rams, who return just one starter (Bradford Burgess) from last year's magical run to the Final Four.
No. 30: Brigham Young Cougars (75.19 Points)
Gone is National Player of the Year Jimmer Fredette and his 28.9 points per game, but Brandon Davies will return from his suspension to lead the Cougars.
No. 31: Notre Dame Fighting Irish (74.3 Points)
The Irish return two starters from last year in Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin, but Ben Hansbrough, Carleton Scott and Tyrone Nash are gone.
No. 32: Baylor Bears (71.25 Points)
The Bears return six of their top seven players, but how impressive is that when last year's team went 18-13 and failed to make a postseason tournament?
And the one guy that is gone, LaceDarius Dunn, was their leading scorer, who contributed 19.5 points per game.
The real bright spot is in the recruiting class, where McDonald's All-American power forward Quincy Miller joins small forward Deuce Bello as a new addition.
No. 33: UNLV Runnin' Rebels (69.07 Points)
Four of UNLV's top five scorers are back from last year in Chace Stanback, Oscar Bellfield, Anthony Marshall and Quintrell Thomas.
No. 34: Wisconsin Badgers (67.85 Points)
The Badgers seem overrated entering the season, having brought back just three of their top six players and returning only 51 percent of their scoring and 55 percent of their rebounding.
Wisconsin does return Jordan Taylor and adds talented frosh Jarrod Uthoff.
No. 35: Michigan State Spartans (65.82 Points)
The Spartans' return just two of their top seven players—Draymond Green and Keith Appling—but they do add McDonald's All-American small forward Branden Dawson.
No. 36: Butler Bulldogs (65.18 Points)
Don't count on Butler reaching a third consecutive title game. The Bulldogs return just one of their top five scorers, so Andrew Smith will have to shoulder most of the load for a team that lost more than 72 percent of its points from last year.
No. 37: West Virginia Mountaineers (60.12 Points)
Kevin Jones and Darryl Bryant are the only returning starters on a team that lost 10 players in all from last year's Round of 32 squad.
No. 38: Villanova Wildcats (57.02 Points)
Three of the top four scorers are gone, so the Wildcats hope that the addition of freshman point guard Tyrone Johnson will take some of the pressure off Maalik Wayns.
No. 39: St. John's Red Storm (56.62 Points)
St. John's returns the least of any team on this list and maybe the least of any team in the country. The Red Storm's top eight scorers are gone, and just two of the 14 players on the 2010-11 roster return.
They return only 11 percent of their rebounding, 6 percent of their assists and 4 percent of their scoring.
And yet the Johnnies should be able to compete this season thanks to one of the best recruiting classes in the nation.
They bring aboard five ESPNU 100 players in Dom Pointer, Maurice Harkless, D'Angelo Harrison, Norvel Pelle and Amir Garrett.
No. 40: Virginia Cavaliers (55.98 Points)
Virginia should improve this year as it returns four key contributors in Joe Harris, Sammy Zeglinski, Jontel Evans and Assane Sene.
The Hoos also add freshmen Malcolm Brogdon and Paul Jesperson.
No. 41: Alabama Crimson Tide (53.84 Points)
The Crimson Tide seems overrated at No. 17 in the Coaches Poll.
The top three scorers are back in JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell and Trevor Releford, but Alabama didn't even make the NCAA Tournament last year, and it lost a great deal of second-tier players.
It will hope to make up the difference with a couple of good shooting guard recruits—Levi Randolph and Trevor Lacey.
No. 42: Mississippi State Bulldogs (47.48 Points)
The Bulldogs lost three starters, so Dee Bost will have to shoulder most of the load this season, along with top recruits Rodney Hood and D.J. Gardner.
No. 43: Drexel Dragons (45.13 Points)
Drexel could surprise some people this year with four starters returning, including Samme Givens and his 10.1 rebounds per game, helping the Dragons bring back better than 90 percent of their boards.
No. 44: California Golden Bears (44.28 Points)
Cal returns its top three scorers, led by Jorge Gutierrez, but the Bears were just 18-15 last year, so those guys will need to improve in order to earn the No. 24 ranking the coaches gave them.