Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Preseason Top 25

Here is the 1st edition of my preseason top 25, which is liable to (many) changes based on how the incoming class of freshman turn out for each team.

1. North Carolina - Shouldn't be any surprise here. Tyler Hansbrough is coming back to defend his player of the year honors. Wayne Ellington, Danny Green, and Ty Lawson all decided to come back for another year. Oh, and the Heels added a loaded recruiting class which includes three Mickey D's all-americans - big men Tyler Zeller and Ed Davis and point guard Larry Drew Jr. With all the experience and talent UNC has on their roster, they should be a consensus #1 and the overwhelming favorite to win the 2009 title.

2. UCLA - Yea, the Bruins lost Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook to the NBA Draft, but not only did they Darren Collison and Josh Shipp decide to come back, but they also added the nation's best recruiting class, bringing in five top 50 recruits. One of those recruits, J'Mison Morgan (any idea how to pronounce that first name?), a top 5 center, originally committed to LSU but withdrew when John Brady was fired and signed with UCLA late in the spring, which should help reduce the loss of Love. Don't be surprised if Ben Howland, fresh off a new seven year contract, brings UCLA back to their fourth straight final four.

3. Louisville - The Cardinal lost a lot of of frontcourt depth with the graduation of David Padgett and Juan Palacios and Derrick Caracter's character issues (sorry, I had to), although the latter two may be addition by subtraction. Louisville still has very talented forwards Earl Clark and Terrence Williams, as well as a slew of good guards, and add top 20 recruits Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings. Look for Edgar Sosa to finally have that breakout season.

4. Connecticut - The losses of Stanley Robinson (for who knows how long), Doug Wiggins, and Curtis Kelly not withstanding, UConn still returns a very talented team. Their season is going to depend on which AJ Price comes back from the torn acl - the one from last year or the one from two years ago. UConn also adds Price clone Kemba Walker, athletic big man Ater Majok, and wings Scottie Haralson and Nate Miles.

5. Pittsburgh - Pitt returns pretty much the same team that won the Big East tourney and reached the sweet 16 last year. They also received good news when Sam Young decided to return to school, and they may even get Mike Cook back for a sixth year. Pitt has always been a tough, defensive team and that shouldn't change next year.

6. Gonzaga - Even if Jeremy Pargo had decided to stay in the draft, the 'Zags would have returned a very talented team. They also get back Austin Daye and Matt Bouldin, and if Josh Heytvelt returns to his pre-shrooming form, they will have enough weapons to reach the final four. They need to improve defensively, but they are as deep and experienced as any team in the country.

7. Duke - The Blue Devils lost Demarcus Nelson (graduation) and Taylor King (transfer), but still have a ton of experience with Greg Paulus, Kyle Singler, and Jon Scheyer coming back. They add Olek Czyz and Miles Plumnee, who should help solidify their frontcourt depth, but still lack the scoring presence inside that hurt them so much last year. But hey, they still managed to climb as high as #2 in the polls last year. They should once again be the second best team in the ACC.

8. Purdue - The Boilermakers only loss from last year's surprise Big Ten runner-up is transfer Scott Martin. They return Robbie Hummel and E'Twaun Moore, who should be the best 1-2 punch in the Big Ten, as well as defensive stopper Chris Kramer. They are the early favorite to win the Big Ten. It should be interesting to see how they handle the target on their backs.

9. Notre Dame - I am not completely sold on the Irish. They do return a team that is loaded, led by Big East POY Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney, and surround them with a great supporting cast. While still able to put up points with the best of them, the Irish are still going to struggle against more athletic teams, especially defensively. While Mike Brey has put this program among the elite, I am going to hold out judgement against them until I see how they can handle the brutal Big East.

10. Texas - The loss of DJ Augustin is really going to hurt, but not as much as people think. I believe that AJ Abrams will be able to effectively slide over and run the point. They also get Damion James, Justin Mason, and Connor Atchley back. They didn't add much depth (only getting two guards to come to Austin), which worries me, and Rick Barnes is still their coach, which worries me more, but they should steal be the class of the Big XII.

11. Tennessee - Lost a lot, but added a great recruiting class.
12. Memphis - Ditto.
13. Michigan State - Losing Drew Neitzel hurts, but they still have Raymarr Morgan.
14. Arizona State - James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph provide a good inside-outside combo.
15. Marquette - New coach Buzz Williams inherits a team with a great backcourt.
16. Baylor - They return basically the same team as last year, only now with experience.
17. Miami (Fl) - Jack McClinton and Dwayne Collins should be enough for third in the ACC.
18. Oklahoma - Blake Griffin. Enough said.
19. Villanova - Look for Scottie Reynolds to get first team all-america votes.
20. Wake Forest - The Deacons return James Johnson and Jeff Teague, and add three top 20 recruits.
21. Davidson - Is there anyone more fun in the country to watch than Stephen Curry?
22. Kansas - Cole Aldrich (breakout season), Sherron Collins, and the #2 recruiting class ain't bad.
23. West Virginia - Even without Alexander, this is still a good team.
24. Florida - Nick Calathes was the most unappreciated player in the country last year.
25. Arizona - With Brandon Jennings. Without - they aren't even top 50.


joe said...

are you kidding me? u-con #4 in the country?

Where is the CUSE love? This blog is about as "fair and balanced" as FOX news.

Even with Greene leaving we still haev Flynn, Harris, Onuaku, Devendorf, and Rautins coming back at full strength. With Jardine and Jackson only getting better, this is gonna be one of the top teams in the Big East.

Rob Dauster said...

You're kidding right? The 'Cuse isn't even top 5 in the conference. Losing Greene may actually be addition by subtraction, but you're telling me that the 'Cuse are a top 25 team in the country? Please.

Find me one top 25 preseason listing with them in their.

As far as UConn goes, the reason that they are getting ranked so low right now is that they have some team turmoil (before all of that happened, most ranking had them top 5, even #2) and AJ Price hurt his knee. But they are the same team as last year, except Doug Wiggins and Curtis Kelly both were replaced by top 15 recruits this year (Kemba Walker, Ater Majok), and the guy replacing Robinson (Nate Miles) is the same player with 5 inches off the vert and a whole lot better of a jump shot.

If I was a Jim, I'd much rather be a Calhoun than a Boeheim.