2009-10 Pre-Season NCAA Rankings
This version takes into account all the player movement of the last two-and-a-half months, and there's been plenty. That's evidenced by a new No. 2 and a bunch of other teams cracking the upper ranks.
Complete with projected starting lineups and new prognoses, I bring to you the 2009-2010 pre-preseason top 25.
1. Kansas Jayhawks
Last season: 27-8 (14-2 Big 12), Sweet 16
Key returnees: PG Sherron Collins (18.9 ppg, 5.0 apg), C Cole Aldrich (14.9 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 2.7 bpg)
Key additions: SG Xavier Henry, SF Thomas Robinson, PG Elijah Johnson, C.J. Henry
Key losses: None
Projected starting lineup: PG-Collins / SG-Tyshawn Taylor / SF-Henry / PF-Marcus Morris / C-Aldrich
The Prognosis: Little has changed since my previous rankings for the Jayhawks. They continue to boast the best returning 1-2 punch in the country and probably the second best recruiting class. This team is capable of running potentially 12 players deep. When Bill Self figures out his rotations, watch out.
2. Kentucky Wildcats
Last season: 22-14 (8-8 SEC), NIT Quarterfinals
Key returnees: PF Patrick Patterson (17.9 ppg, 9.3 rpg), PF Perry Stevenson (7.8 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
Key additions: PG John Wall, PF DeMarcus Cousins, C Daniel Orton, PG Eric Bledsoe, SF Darnell Dodson, SG Jon Hood
Key loss: SG Jodie Meeks
Projected starting lineup: PG-Wall / SG-Bledsoe / SF-Dodson / PF-Patterson / C-Cousins
The Prognosis: John Calipari and his Fab-6 recruiting class were set to answer the question of how far a team can go one year into a sweeping rebuilding process. Then Patterson announced he was going to return. At this point, if sophomores Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins can fulfill their potential and the freshmen prove to be quick learners, the Wildcats could very easily bring the National Championship trophy back to Lexington for the first time since, interestingly enough, Tubby Smith's first season at the helm in 1998. Losing Meeks doesn't hurt that much.
3. Michigan State Spartans
Last season: 31-7 (15-3 Big Ten), National Runners-up
Key returnees: PG Kalin Lucas (14.7 ppg, 4.6 apg), SF Raymar Morgan (10.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
Key addition: C Derrick Nix, C Garrick Sherman
Key losses: C Goran Suton, PG Travis Walton
Projected starting lineup: PG-Lucas / SG-Durrell Summers / SF-Morgan / PF-Delvon Roe / C-Nix or Sherman
The Prognosis: Morgan's return is bigger than it might seem based on last year's production. When healthy, the rising senior is one of the nation's best swingmen. And while the losses down low should definitely hurt this team, the Spartans will figure out a way to get all of their talented wings to make up for the lack of production from the center position. If anyone can figure it out, it's Tom Izzo.
4. Texas Longhorns
Last season: 23-12 (9-7 Big 12), Round of 32
Key returnees: F Damion James (15.4 ppg, 9.2 rpg), PF Gary Johnson (10 ppg, 5.3 rpg), C Dexter Pittman (10.1 ppg, 5.5 rpg)
Key additions: G Avery Bradley, PG Jai Lucas, F Jordan Hamilton
Key losses: SG A.J. Abrams, C Connor Atchley
Projected starting lineup: PG-Lucas / SG-Bradley / SF-James / PF-Johnson / C-Pittman
The Prognosis: James' return boosts this team quite a bit. With James, they have three combo forwards in James, Hamilton and Johnson capable of rebounding and playing either position at a very high level. Pittman can take this team to a new level if he stays in shape. But even if he doesn't, a deep backcourt featuring Lucas, Bradley and do-everything combo guard Justin Mason could team up with the potent forward for a title run.
5. West Virginia Mountaineers
Last season: 23-12 (10-8 Big East), Round of 64
Key returnees: SF Da'Sean Butler (17.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg), PF Devin Ebanks (10.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.7 apg)
Key additions: SG Casey Mitchell, PG Joe Mazzulla (back from injury), SG Dalton Pepper
Key loss: SG Alex Ruoff
Projected starting lineup: PG-Mazzulla / SG-Darryl Bryant / SF-Butler / PF-Kevin Jones / C-Ebanks
The Prognosis: Nothing has changed for the Mountaineers since my last rankings, though they don't look as good in comparison to newly loaded Kentucky or a strengthened Texas team. The Big East is weaker this year. I fully expect Ebanks and Butler to shine, while junior John Flowers and Jones, a sophomore, have the potential to improve drastically alongside the stars.
6. North Carolina Tar Heels
Last season: 34-4 (13-3 ACC) National Champions
Key returnees: C Ed Davis (6.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg), PF Deon Thompson (10.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
Key additions: F Marcus Ginyard (returning from injury), PF John Henson, G Dexter Strickland, G Leslie McDonald
Key losses: C Tyler Hansbrough, PG Ty Lawson, SG Wayne Ellington, SF Danny Green
Projected starting lineup: PG-Strickland / SG-McDonald / SF-Ginyard / PF-Thompson / C-Davis
The Prognosis: Nothing has changed here. The backcourt still could be a major issue, but the front court is loaded with enormous potential. Davis should be a stud if Strickland or Drew can prove serviceable at the point.
7. Villanova Wildcats
Last season: 30-8 (13-5 Big East), Final Four
Key returnees: PG Scottie Reynolds (15.1 ppg, 3.4 apg, 1.6 spg), PG Corey Fisher (10.8 ppg, 2.8 apg)
Key additions: C Mouphtaou Yarou, PG Maalik Wayns, SG Dominic Cheek, F Taylor King, F Isaiah Armwood
Key losses: PF Dante Cunningham, F Dwayne Anderson
Projected starting lineup: PG-Reynolds / SG-Fisher / SF-Reggie Redding / PF-Antonio Pena / C-Yarou
The Prognosis: This team is obviously very backcourt heavy, especially with Reynolds' decision to stick around for his senior year. But I believe one guy to keep an eye out for is Pena, a rising junior who came in with a fair amount of hype. It should also be interesting to watch as Wayns and Cheek attempt to force their way into a crowded backcourt rotation which features Corey Stokes off the bench alongside Reynolds, Fisher and Redding.
8. Tennessee Volunteers
Last season: 21-13 (10-6 SEC), Round of 64
Key returnees: F Tyler Smith (17.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg), C Wayne Chism (13.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg), SF J.P. Prince (9.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 3.1 apg)
Key addition: PF Kenny Hall
Key loss: None
Projected starting lineup: PG-Bobby Maze / SG-Scotty Hopson / SF-Prince / PF-Smith / C-Chism
The Prognosis: I didn't expect Smith to come back - I can safely say that much. This team has a lot of talent and depth. They underachieved a bit last year, but Maze and Hopson were brand new and Prince and Chism were featured in expanded roles. With another year to season and a very deep bench, I have a lot of faith this team will emerge as one of the elite in the nation this year. The guy who I like to emerge off the bench is swingman Josh Tabb, a rising senior and hard-nosed defender who should provide this team with some leadership on the defensive end, which they can definitely use.
9. Purdue Boilermakers
Last season: 27-10 (11-7 Big Ten), Sweet 16
Key returnees: C JaJuan Johnson (13.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 2.1 bpg), G E'Twaun Moore (13.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 3.0 apg), F Robbie Hummel (12.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg)
Key additions: None
Key losses: C Nemanja Calasan
Projected starting lineup: PG-Chris Kramer / SG-Moore / SF-Keaton Grant / PF-Hummel / C-Johnson
The Prognosis: It's very possible that, as good a coach as Matt Painter is, he never replicates the recruiting class he brought in three years ago with Moore, Hummel, Johnson and now-departed Scott Martin. Now, with the three remaining stars ready for their junior years, it would seem this could very well be their year. Should Hummel, the key for everything this team does, stay healthy, the sky is the limit for this experienced bunch.
10. California Golden Bears
Last season: 22-11 (11-7 Pac-10), Round of 64
Key returnees: PG Jerome Randle (18.3 ppg, 5.0 apg), SG Patrick Christopher (14.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg), SF Theo Robertson (13.1 ppg, 48.7 3P%)
Key additions: C Markhuri Sanders-Frison
Key losses: C Jordan Wilkes
Projected starting lineup: PG-Randle / SG-Christopher / SF-Robertson / PF-Jamal Boykin / Sanders-Frison or Kamp
The Prognosis: The key this year for Mike Montgomery's team: improve upon what you did last year and get some production out of one of your center options. Randle and Christopher might be the best returning starting backcourt in the country, and this team led all NCAA Tournament teams in 3-point field goal percentage. That's a strong place to start attempting to improve on a first-round exit.
11. Oklahoma Sooners
Last season: 30-6 (13-3 Big 12), Elite Eight
Key returnees: SG Willie Warren (14.6 ppg, 3.1 apg), SF Tony Crocker (9.6 ppg)
Key additions: C Keith Gallon, PG Tommy Mason-Griffin, PF Andrew Fitzpatrick
Key losses: C Blake Griffin, PF Taylor Griffin, PG Austin Johnson, PF-Juan Pattillo (dismissed from team)
Projected starting lineup: PG-Mason-Griffin / SG-Warren / SF-Crocker / PF-Ryan Wright / C-Gallon
The Prognosis: No miracle here: Blake Griffin didn't decide to come back to school. But keeping Jeff Capel at the helm was a really important step for this team, which has the potential to do some damage in a league many expect will be dominated by Kansas and Texas. Their senior class, led by Crocker, is an interesting group that should improve a lot for its final year on a team of youngsters.
12. Ohio State Buckeyes
Last season: 22-11 (10-8 Big Ten), Round of 64
Key returnees: F Evan Turner (17.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 4.0 apg), SG William Buford (11.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg), SG Jon Diebler (11.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.5 apg)
Key additions: SF David Lighty
Key loss: C B.J. Mullens
Projected starting lineup: PG-Diebler / SG-Buford / SF-Lighty / PF-Turner / C-Dallas Lauderdale
The Prognosis: The Buckeyes were essentially unaffected in the last month, so most of what I originally said stands. This team has an absurd amount of talent on the wings - as much as nearly anyone. But Diebler is far from a true point guard, and Turner and Buford will be asked to run the offense as a result. That's probably not going to hurt things too much, but it will make it tougher to keep pace with Michigan State and Purdue at the very top of a very strong Big Ten.
13. Butler Bulldogs
Last season: 26-6 (15-3 Horizon), Round of 64
Key returnees: PF Matt Howard (14.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 1.5 bpg), SF Gordon Hayward (13.1 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 1.5 spg), PG Shelvin Mack (11.9 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.5 apg)
Key additions: PF Andrew Smith
Key losses: None
Projected starting lineup: PG-Mack / SG-Ronald Nored / SF-Haywood / PF-Willie Veasley / C-Howard
The Prognosis: The only thing more exciting than the Bulldogs this year for Butler fans is the thought of the year after. They return essentially every player to have played significant minutes last season, and only Veasley - the fourth best starter - is likely gone after this year. You heard it hear first - this team may contend for a National Championship in 2011. But for now, they are a serious Elite Eight threat. Howard is an absolute stud, the kind of player so many big programs wish they could find with his developed post moves and strength and determination.
14. Washington Huskies
Last season: 26-9 (14-4 Pac-10), Round of 32
Key returnees: G Isaiah Thomas (15.5 ppg), SF Quincy Pondexter (12.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
Key additions: PG Abdul Gaddy
Key losses: PF Jon Brockman, G Justin Dentmon
Projected starting lineup: PG-Gaddy / SG-Thomas / SF-Pondexter / PF-Matthew Bryan-Amaning / C-Darnell Gant
The Prognosis: Another team not helped or hurt by the NBA Draft deadline, the Huskies instead are going to have to rely on a still-young group with big potential. Gaddy is a stud who should immediately help Pondexter develop his vast potential. Pondexter, rising senior swingman could easily contend for Pac-10 Player of the Year - that is, if Thomas doesn't outperform him.
15. Michigan Wolverines
Last season: 21-14 (9-9 Big Ten), Round of 32
Key returnees: G Manny Harris (16.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 4.4 apg), F DeShawn Sims (15.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
Key additions: PG Darius Morris
Key losses: None
Projected starting lineup: PG-Harris / SG-Stu Douglass / SF-Zack Novak / PF-Sims / C-Zack Gibson
The Prognosis: Any worries of losing Harris or Sims for next year were over and done before my last set of rankings came out, so little changes here. But Harris remains one of the most versatile talents in the country. The only things that may hold Michigan back are a lack of size and the strength of the Big Ten this year. In the end, I trust coach John Beilein too much to not put them in the Sweet 16.
16. Mississippi State Bulldogs
Last season: 23-13 (9-7 SEC), Round of 64
Key returnees: PF Jarvis Varnado (12.9 ppg, 8.8 rpg, 4.7 bpg), SG Barry Stewart (12.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg), SF Ravern Johnson (12.1 ppg, 39.5 3P%)
Key additions: C Renaldo Sidney, C John Riek
Key losses: None
Projected starting lineup: PG-Dee Bost / SG-Stewart / SF-Johnson / PF-Varnado / C-Sidney
The Prognosis: Things are looking really good this year in Starkville, Miss., as the surprise SEC Champions are not only returning all the key pieces to their tournament title but adding a super-talented big man in Sidney. If coach Rick Stansbury, who has yet to make it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament, can figure out how to keep Sidney in line and eligible, he and Varnado could become the nation's best post tandem. And if Bost takes a key stride, there's going to be no excuses not to get past the tournament's opening weekend this year.
17. Connecticut Huskies
Last season: 31-5 (15-3 Big East), Final Four
Key returnees: SG Jerome Dyson (13.2 ppg, 3.2 apg), PG Kemba Walker (8.9 ppg), SF Stanley Robinson (8.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
Key additions: C Ater Majok, C Alex Oriakhi, F Jamal Coombs-McDaniel
Key losses: C Hasheem Thabeet, PF Jeff Adrien, PG A.J. Price
Projected starting lineup: PG-Walker / SG-Dyson / SF-Robinson / PF-Gavin Edwards / C-Majok
The Prognosis: No team has more question marks looming around it than Connecticut, which has been embroiled in a series of major dilemmas this off season. Will Jim Calhoun be healthy enough to coach a 24th season in Storrs? Will Majok be eligible after a long battle with the NCAA Clearinghouse? Even if he is, will he actually play for the Huskies or go abroad? Can Dyson stay healthy for a full season? What will be the final aftermath of the Nate Miles recruiting scandal? This team has the potential to be one of the better teams in the country but could foreseeably struggle to make the NCAA Tournament.
18. Duke Blue Devils
Last season: 30-7 (11-5 ACC), Sweet 16
Key returnees: PF Kyle Singler (16.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg), SG Jon Scheyer (14.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.8 apg), PG Nolan Smith (8.4 ppg)
Key additions: C Mason Plumlee, F Ryan Kelly, SG Andre Dawkins
Key losses: SG Gerald Henderson, SG Elliot Williams
Projected starting lineup: PG-Smith / SG-Scheyer / SF-Singler / PF--Lance Thomas / C-Plumlee
The Prognosis: Dawkins' coming on board really helps this Duke team that might be the only one on this list to have been made worse in the month-plus since the last rankings. Losing Williams hurts quite a bit - he was expected to break out of his shell as a star. Dawkins probably won't be ready right away, as he was expecting to enter his last year of high school not first year of college. The pressure is on Scheyer and Singler to carry this team offensively, while the rest of the team must stay committed to defense.
19. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Last season: 22-11 (9-9 Big Ten), Round of 64
Key returnees: SG Lawrence Westbrook (12.6 ppg), F Damian Johnson (9.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
Key additions: SF Royce White, SF Rodney Williams
Key losses: SF Jamal Abu-Shamala
Projected starting lineup: PG-Al Nolen / SG-Westbrook / SF-Johnson / PF-White / C-Ralph Sampson III
The Prognosis: Similar to Michigan, the Golden Gophers haven't lost anything and have a great coach. Even if their talent level isn't as high as teams ranked below them, that's a great formula for a big season. Expect them to significantly improve their 44.1 percent from the field as a team and for rising junior Al Nolen to take a big stride in his second year as the starting point guard. Blake Hoffarber will be one of the better sixth men in the country, as well.
20. Texas A&M Aggies
Last season: 24-10 (9-7 Big 12), Round of 32
Key returnees: G Donald Sloan (11.8 ppg, 3.2 apg), PF Bryan Davis (10.8 ppg, 6.5 rpg)
Key addition: SG Naji Hibbert
Key losses: SG Josh Carter, C Chinemelu Elonu
Projected starting lineup: PG-B.J. Holmes / SG-Sloan / SF-Derrick Roland / PF-David Loubeau / C-Davis
The Prognosis: Elonu's decision to keep his name in the NBA Draft was puzzling. The raw center really needed another year at Texas A&M, and the Aggies really needed him to come back. But with Elonu now crowned Mr. Irrelevant, the last pick of the draft, coach Mark Turgeon does have some patchwork to do in the front court. At the same time, he's an excellent coach, especially on the fundementals. And Sloan and Holmes are a dynamic backcourt. Both should improve this year, as Holmes takes the reigns as starting point guard, and Sloan moves to his natural off-guard position.
21. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Last season: 21-15 (8-10 Big East), NIT Semifinals
Key returnees: C Luke Harangody (23.3 ppg, 11.8 rpg), PG Tory Jackson (10.6 ppg, 4.9 apg, 4.4 rpg)
Key addition: G Ben Hansbrough, SF Scott Martin
Key losses: G Kyle McAlarney, SF Ryan Ayers, PF Zach Hillesland, C Luke Zeller
Projected starting lineup: PG-Jackson / SG-Hansbrough / SF-Martin / PF-Tyrone Nash / C-Harangody
The Prognosis: Harangody's surprising return, coupled with Jackson's return and the newly eligible Hansbrough and Martin, both transfers, give underachieving coach Mike Brey enough talent to work with at the top of his roster. Harangody may be the best player in the country, and both Hansbrough - Tyler's little brother - and Martin can shoot and score. The success of this team, though, is dependent on a big leap from Jackson, which seems reasonable, and the development of some depth on a team that lost four really valuable players.
22. Georgetown Hoyas
Last season: 16-11 (7-11 Big East), NIT first round
Key returnees: C Greg Monroe (12.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg), PG Chris Wright (12.5 ppg, 3.8 apg), SG Austin Freeman (11.4 ppg)
Key addition: SF Hollis Thompson
Key losses: PF DaJuan Summers, SG Jesse Sapp
Projected starting lineup: PG-Wright / SG-Jason Clark / SF-Freeman / PF-Julian Vaughn / C-Monroe
The Prognosis: Perhaps the most underachieving team in the nation, the Hoyas experienced a dramatic fall from title contender and a top-10 ranking to a first-round NIT road game. The talent was there, it just didn't gel very well last year. This season, I expect a different result. Summers leaving early hurts, but Monroe should step into his own as one of the Big East's better players, and Freeman may finally find the scoring touch that landed him a spot as a five-star recruit. It's still to be seen, though, as to whether Wright is the right point guard for a Princeton offense, or whether John Thompson III can switch his styles up to fit his personnel.
23. Louisville Cardinals
Last season: 31-5 (16-2 Big East), Elite Eight
Key returnees: C Samardo Samuels (11.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg), SG Jerry Smith (7.8 ppg, 41.2 3P%)
Key additions: PG Peyton Siva, SF Rakeem Buckles
Key losses: SF Terrence Williams, PF Earl Clark
Projected starting lineup: PG-Siva / SG-Smith / SF-Buckles / PF-Terrence Jennings / C-Samuels
The Prognosis: Clark and Williams are two enormous losses. The forwards ran the show in every way possible, leading the team easily in points, rebounds and assists. But that's not to say there isn't still plenty of talent left here. If Silva or Edgar Sosa prove they can run the point efficiently - and without the help of a stud wing - Louisville may surprise people. No matter what, the development of Jennings and Samuels will be imperative for the Cardinals to succeed. And, no matter what, Rick Pitino is too good a coach to have a bad team.
24. Maryland Terrapins
Last season: 21-14 (7-9 ACC), Round of 32
Key returnees: G Greivis Vasquez (17.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 5 apg), F Landon Milbourne (11.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
Key addition: C Jordan Williams
Key loss: F Dave Neal
Projected starting lineup: PG-Vasquez / SG-Adrian Bowie / SF-Sean Mosley / PF-Milbourne / C-Williams
The Prognosis: No coach was more embattled last season than Gary Williams, and no coach more resolute or vindicated. The Terrapins managed a shocking ascent from the bottom of the bubble to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where they were embarassed by Memphis. Vasquez was the only power conference player to lead his team in points, rebounds and assists, and the vivacious Venezuelan is good enough to emerge as a legitimate All-ACC first teamer this year. Will he have help? I think so - Milbourne and Mosley both could be headed for breakout years.
25. Wisconsin Badgers
Last season: 20-13 (10-8 Big Ten), Round of 32
Key returnees: PG Trevon Hughes (12.1 ppg, 2.8 apg), G Jason Bohannon (10.3 ppg), PF Jon Leuer (8.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Key additions: None
Key losses: PF Marcus Landry, F Joe Krabbenhoft
Projected starting lineup: PG-Hughes / SG-Bohannon / SF-Tim Jarmusz / PF-Keaton Nankivil / C-Leuer
The Prognosis: Once again, a coach's reputation for excellence leads his team to being ranked higher than the talent might indicate. Wisconsin will always be amongst the nation's best defensively, at least as long as Bo Ryan is at the helm. They'll also take care of the ball - the Badgers turned the ball over just 10 times per game last year and with Hughes and Bohannon gaining experience, that should only improve. With the graduation of Landry, the team's leading scorer and rebounder, expect Leuer and Nakivil to step out of their shells this season. But can the Badgers find a do-everything type to replace Krabbenhoft?
Honorable Mention: Alabama, Arkansas, Clemson, Florida, Florida St., Gonzaga, Kansas State, Missouri, Nevada, Pittsburgh, St. Marys, Syracuse, UCLA, Wake Forest, Xavier
Kansas State>Texas A&M
Oklahoma will be better than that ranking. As will duke even though I hate them.
What about Baylor?
Its a real toss up for me trying to pick between Kansas and Kentucky. I'll probably give Kansas a slight edge due to their experience (championship experience no less).
I just don't see Darnell Dodson starting over Darius Miller.
Call me biased but no way does Illinois finish behind Wisconsin
i agree Ou will finish higher than that ranking
Memphis should be in top 25 everybodys acting like now that Cals gone Memphis is not good any more but they have one of the most athletic starting 5s in the NCAA they should definetly be in top 25.
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