Road to the Final Four: Bleacher Report Preseason Top 25

Jameson FlemingSenior Writer IOctober 9, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS - MARCH 27:  Sherron Collins #4 of the Kansas Jayhawks attempts a shot against Travis Walton the Michigan State Spartans during the third round of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament at the Lucas Oil Stadium on March 27, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Bleacher Report's College Basketball writers ranked the top 25 teams in the nation. If you are interested in participating in future polls, e-mail me at jamesonfleming@gmail.com to receive a ballot. 

A first place vote is worth 25, and a 25th place vote is worth one and 21 voters submitted ballots.

Rank, Team, Total Votes (first place votes), Last Year

1. Kansas 418 (18), Lost in Sweet 16 to Michigan State

The Jayhawks have two potential All-Americans, Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich, but also a stud freshman in Xavier Henry. Kansas is incredibly deep, but that depth will be challenged early because of recent off the court problems. 

2. Texas 370, Lost in Round of 32 to Duke

The Longhorns bring back a loaded frontcourt, but bring in fantastic freshman scorers Jordan Hamilton and Avery Bradley. Texas is so deep, that former Florida top recruit Jai Lucas is a walk-on this year.

3. Michigan State 363 (1), Lost in Championship Game to North Carolina

The Spartans have one of the most talented backcourts in the country and Tom Izzo teams always rebound. MSU has the perfect mix brewing in East Lansing to win it all.

4. Villanova 355, Lost in Final Four to North Carolina

Scottie Reynolds will emerge to replace Dante Cunningham as this team's leader, but the Wildcats need freshman stud Mouphtaou Yarou to live up to the hype to account for Cunningham's inside scoring.

5. Kentucky 331, Lost to Notre Dame in the NIT

The Wildcats burst into the top five behind one of the best recruiting classes in college basketball history. Few coaches can handle a group of young players like Kentucky's freshman class; coach John Calipari is one of them.

5. Duke 331, Lost in Sweet 16 to Villanova

The Blue Devils are ready to challenge North Carolina for the ACC Title again. Coach Mike Krzyzewski will rely on potential All-American Kyle Singler to lead the charge back to the top.

7. North Carolina 316 (1), Won National Championship

The Tar Heels bring back just two major contributors from last year's championship team, but players returning from red-shirt (Marcus Ginyard) and freshmen (John Henson, Leslie McDonald, and Dexter Strickland) will likely have coach Roy Williams' team back in the top 10.

7. West Virginia 316, Lost in First Round to Dayton

The Mountaineers had a disappointing end to their 2009 season, but after losing just Alex Ruoff and landing a solid recruiting class, West Virginia will be thinking about getting four wins to reach the Final Four this year.

9. Purdue 308, Lost in Sweet 16 to Connecticut

The Boilermakers didn't quite live up to expectations with a roster full of sophomores last year. Those sophomores are now juniors and should be Michigan State's biggest challenge to the Spartans' conference supremacy.

10. Tennessee 258, Lost in the First Round to Oklahoma State

The Volunteers can get redemption for not fulfilling expectations last year by shocking Calipari's Kids and winning the SEC. Tyler Smith is one of the nation's best slashers and the front court he leads is one of the best in the SEC.

11. Washington 219, Lost in the Round of 32 to Purdue

Isaiah Thomas is the best thing to happen to Seattle basketball since Brandon Roy. The combination of Thomas and fantastic freshman Abdul Gaddy gives the Huskies one of the best starting backcourts in the country if coach Lorenzo Romar starts both from day one. 

12. California 215, Lost in the First Round to Maryland

The Golden Bears return every key contributor from last year's 22 win team. Washington and Cal are head and shoulders above the rest of the Pac-10 and will jockey for the league crown all year.

13. Connecticut 188, Lost in the Final Four to Michigan State

The Huskies lose their massive frontcourt of Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien, but return the brilliant backcourt pair of Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker. A bumper crop of high potential freshmen should help Jim Calhoun rebuild, but continue to compete at a high level.

14. Minnesota 170, Lost in the First Round to Texas

It's not taking long for Tubby Smith to turn the Golden Gophers into a nationally feared program. Terrific talent returns to complement a very strong recruiting class. Minnesota could be the third best team in the Big Ten.

15. Mississippi State 162, Lost in the First Round to Washington

The Bulldogs made a miraculous run through the SEC Tournament last season to go dancing, but no surprise championship will be necessary for MSU to punch its ticket to the tournament. Walk-on center Jarvis Varnado is the most feared defender in the country.

16. Michigan 157, Lost in the Round of 32 to Oklahoma

Each year, the Wolverines better execute John Beilein's unique basketball philosophy. With the right components finally in place, Beilein's squad should be a dark horse to knock off Michigan State and Purdue in the Big Ten.

17. Ohio State 155, Lost in First Round to Siena

The Buckeyes are the fifth Big Ten team in the top 17 in the country, showing the conference's depth and strength in 2010. Evan Turner is the nation's most versatile player and sleeper for National Player of the Year honors.

18. Georgia Tech 150, No Postseason, 12-19 record

The Yellow Jackets need their freshmen class to living up to billing. Derrick Favors can dominate a game on both ends of the court. If he messes well with returning stars Gani Lawal and Iman Shumpert, Tech will have a terrific triumvirate.

19. Georgetown 119, Lost to Baylor in NIT

The 2010 Hoyas are a product of addition by subtraction with the graduation of Jessie Sapp. DaJuan Summers' defense or lack thereof won't be missed either because John Thompson III has a tough to top threesome with center Greg Monroe, wing Austin Freeman, and point guard Chris Wright.

20. Syracuse 75, Lost in Sweet 16 to Oklahoma

No Jonny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Paul Harris has some pundits thinking the Orange won't be a factor in the Big East. But a fantastic frontcourt that star transfer Wesley Johnson will lead will give almost every Big East school trouble.

21. Butler 73, Lost in the First Round to LSU

The Bulldogs have the Horizon League's two best players, Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard. Hayward has the potential to be a third or fourth team All-American.

22. Siena 70, Lost in Round of 32 to Louisville

The Saints should be even better than last year which they hope will translate into a more manageable NCAA Tournament seed. Siena is good enough to reach the Sweet 16, but the MAAC's best team has to do enough in the regular season to earn a tournament seed that will allow them to reach the third round.

23. Maryland 63, Lost in Round of 32 to Memphis

The Terrapins' Greivis Vasquez is hated in almost every ACC gym. Finally, Vazquez has a team capable of shutting those opposing fans up. Maryland could finish as high as third in the ACC.

24. Oklahoma 48, Lost in Elite Eight to North Carolina

Keith "Tiny" Gallon won't make Sooner fans forget about Blake Griffin, but the 300 pound center should have a calming influence in Norman. Gallon, fellow freshman Tommy Mason-Griffin, and super sophomore Willie Warren form the nation's youngest superior trio.

25. Illinois 39, Lost in First Round to Western Kentucky

The Illini complete the Big Ten's dominance in the top 25 as Bruce Weber's club is the sixth club from the league to find a home in the rankings. Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale could be the second Mike & Mike pairing to be household names.

Others Receiving Votes

Gonzaga 38, Dayton 36, Clemson 27, Louisville 24, Texas A&M 24, Florida State 21, Cincinnati 16, LSU 15, Notre Dame 15, Vanderbilt 15, Tulsa 10, UCLA 8, Kansas State 6, Xavier 6, South Carolina 4, Seton Hall 3, Memphis 2, Western Kentucky 2, Florida 1

Participating Voters

Jameson Fleming, Henry Ball, Justin McTeer, Tryvon Paige, Sam Silverman, Dan Scofield, Dino Nicandros, Caleb McConachie, Daniel Abbas, Kurt Wirth, Joe Slowik, Joshua Concon, Mark Fodor, Pete McMullen, Nick Rall, Kevin Trahan, George Barnette


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