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November 6, 2012

11/06/2012 - 4:10pm

The NCAA season is a few short days away basketball fans! We at the Daily wanted to highlighta few of the top teams and the names to look out for, so here is a Top 25 list, with a brief breakdown of the Top 20 teams.

Cody ZellerCody Zeller


1. Indiana Hoosiers


7 Man Rotation:
C Cody Zeller
F Christian Watford
G Victor Oladipo
G Jordan Hulls
G Yogi Ferrell
F Will Sheehey
G Maurice Creek

Coach: Tom Crean

Breakdown:

College Basketball's best returning player and NPOY favorite, mixed with fantastic complementary pieces. They will rely heavily on a freshman PG in Yogi Ferrell, and will get the combination of Hanner Perea/Peter Jurkin after nine games, however this team has the formula you want for a national title. Interior presence in Zeller, shooting at nearly every other position and experience. Credit Tom Crean for snatching up a strong crop of Indiana high school talent over the past few years and turning them into a championship worthy team.

2. Louisville Cardinals

7 Man Rotation:
C Gorgui Dieng
F Chane Behanan
G Luke Hancock
G Russ Smith
G Peyton Siva
F Wayne Blackshear
F Motrezl Harrell

Coach: Rick Pitino

Breakdown:

Tough nosed defense and rebounding has been Louisville's trademark, this team has it in spades. Their front court is stacked, look for new edition Montrezl Harrell (ridiculous wingspan) to really make an impact. The key will be the leadership provided by Peyton Siva, who is banking on a major senior season turning him into a legitimate NBA prospect. He absolutely has the heart and athleticism to do so and he has pieces to take Louisville to the Final Four.

3. Syracuse Orangemen

7 Man Rotation:
C DaJuan Coleman
F Rakeem Christmas
F CJ Fair
G Brandon Triche
G Michael Carter-Williams
F James Southerland
F Jerami Grant

Coach: Jim Boeheim

Breakdown:

Ranked at or near the top of college basketball for most of last season, Cuse did lose a couple first rounders and some senior leadership. They bring in a couple freshman who are ready to contribute and are hoping a couple sophomores really step up. Michael Carter-Williams reminds some of Evan Turner with his ability to stuff a stat sheet. Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone should have fantastic pieces, this team still has some experience and the last year in the Big East should be a very good one for the Orangemen.

4. Arizona Wildcats

7 Man Rotation:
C Kaleb Tarczewski
F Grant Jerrett
F Solomon Hill
G Nick Johnson
G Mark Lyons
G Kevin Parrom
F Brandon Ashley

Coach: Sean Miller

Breakdown:

The Wildcats brought in a really solid recruiting class, but it is the experience and depth that makes them such an intriguing team. Deep front court and some seniors who are battle tested. Mark Lyons PG abilities are a slight concern, just feel that Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom should combine for a calming presence with some very talented youngsters. Freshman Grant Jerrett is getting rave reviews and has won the starting job at the 4 position. I've got a very good feeling about this team and think that they have some pieces to compete on the national level.

5. North Carolina State Wolfpack

7 Man Rotation:
F Richard Howell
F CJ Leslie
F Scott Wood
G Rodney Purvis
G Lorenzo Brown
F TJ Warren
G Tyler Lewis

Coach: Mark Gottfried

Breakdown:

The odds on favorite out of the ACC, the Pack have some major returnees in Lorenzo Brown and CJ Leslie. Both are All-ACC level performers, not to mention the senior leadership provided by Richard Howell and Scott Wood. After that, they have three McDonald's All-American's who should see a lot of time. One issue could be size, they simply do not have a lot of it. Talent is definitely present and athletically, they can match-up with just about anyone in the country. It;s no wonder they are many people's pick to win the ACC.

6. Kansas Jayhawks

7 Man Rotation:
C Jeff Withey
F Perry Ellis
G Ben McLemore
G Travis Releford
G Elijah Johnson
F Kevin Young
F Jamari Traylor

Coach: Bill Self

Breakdown:

With a 9th straight Big 12 title as the goal, Bill Self's group should again be in the national race as well. They lose the two biggest pieces from last years championship in Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor, replaced by some intriguing newcomers. Jeff Withey turned into a big time post anchor, Elijah Johnson is finally looking to come into his own and Bill Self is raving about the ability of redshirt freshman Ben McLemore. The Jayhawks are once again a contender. It's just hard to see them getting back to the NCAA title game with the losses of two battle hardened veteran leaders.

7. Michigan Wolverines

7 Man Rotation:
C Mitch McGary
F Jordan Morgan
F Glenn Robinson III
G Tim Hardaway Jr.
G Trey Burke
G Matt Vogrich
G Nik Stauskas

Coach: John Beilein

Breakdown:

Many feel Trey Burke is the premier floor general in the NCAA for the 2012-13 season, he may very well be. Burke hit big shot after big shot for the Wolverines last year, with even more help currently at his disposal. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Glenn Robinson can fill it up from all over the court, not to mention a few big bodies who should really help out on the glass. They really do not have much depth at the big positions, not to mention may struggle with defense at times due to a lack of size. Nonetheless, big time shooters will make Michigan a tough out.

8. Kentucky Wildcats

7 Man Rotation:
C Nerlens Noel
F Kyle Wiltjer
F Alex Poythress
G Archie Goodwin
G Ryan Harrow
F Willie Cauley-Stein
G Julius Mays

Coach: John Calipari

Breakdown:

Last year's champs will be breaking a completely new rotation, receiving big minutes. As much as John Calipari's destroy and rebuild has tended to not miss a beat, the expectations for this season may be too high. The 2011-12 team had three big time returning pieces from the previous season's team, this one doesn't have any. PG Ryan Harrow will be the first non-frosh PG in Cal's time at Kentucky. And there just isn't any depth behind him. Even with a season learning the dribble drive motion, the lack of consistent outside shooting beyond Kyle Wiltjer and Julius Mays could make life difficult. Expect to see flashes from their talented recruiting class, but expect them to be outclassed by experience.

9. UCLA Bruins

7 Man Rotation:
F David Wear
F Travis Wear
F Shabazz Muhammad (Eligibility Pending)
G Kyle Anderson
G Larry Drew II
C Joshua Smith
G Tyler Lamb (Injury Pending)

Coach: Ben Howland

Breakdown:

As much as one might think UCLA should be a team aspiring the Final 4, there seem to be just too many unsolved variables. If Shabazz Muhammad gains eligibility and this team stays healthy, the sky really is the limit. Those are both major "ifs" at this point, not to mention the reluctance to buy into Larry Drew II running the point. The talent is there, but is the chemistry? Are the Wears tough enough to compete with the 4/5's of teams listed before UCLA? Has Joshua Smith finally worked on his conditioning to be the disruptive post factor he should be? Too many question marks to have the Bruins much higher than this.

10. UNLV Runnin' Rebels

7 Man Rotation:
C Khem Birch
F Anthony Bennett
F Mike Moser
G Bryce Dejean-Jones (Injury Pending)
G Anthony Marshall
G Katin Reinhardt
C Quintrell Thomas

Coach: Dave Rice

Breakdown:

Very impressed with the job Dave Rice has done recruiting and adding key transfers. They lose a couple senior leaders, but gain some post presence with a couple Canadian imports, Anthony Bennett and Khem Birch (who should be eligible in December). This team sports some depth at guard and on the wing, they should go at least 8 deep with Savon Goodman likely seeing minutes as well. Their only significant competition in the Mountain West may be San Diego State, just do not sleep on this group. Will be great to see a re-match of the Runnin' Rebels against UNC, this time in Chapel Hill. They won last years showdown in an upset, even as the road team, they will be a very tough out.

11. Ohio State Buckeyes

7 Man Rotation:
C Amir Williams
F DeShaun Thomas
F LaQuinton Ross
G Lenzelle Smith Jr.
G Aaron Craft
G Shannon Scott
F Sam Thompson

Coach: Thad Matta

Breakdown:

Gone are All-American Jared Sullinger and long time wing starter William Buford. This team should still be one of the better in the country with a number of sophomores who gained valuable seasoning on last years Final 4 team. DeShaun Thomas is one of the better scorers in college basketball and is on a number of pre-season All-American teams. They have some long, rangy wings as well as serious leadership in the back court from Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. Craft has proven to be a terror on ball defender and this team follows his grit. Amir Williams and LaQuinton Ross will be getting far expanded roles, though the word is that they are ready to make the Buckeyes once again competitive come March.

12. Duke Blue Devils

7 Man Rotation:
C Mason Plumlee
F Ryan Kelly
F Alex Murphy
G Rasheed Sulaimon
G Quinn Cook
G Seth Curry
F Amile Jefferson

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski

Breakdown:

NC State is the talk of the pre-season in the ACC, just expect Duke to at least be in the conversation. They have a nice roster of guards and Mason Plumlee seems ready to have an All-ACC type senior season. Coach K once again has players that fit his system and provide a great deal of versatility on the court. Rebounding may not be this teams greatest strength, though they have a barrage of long range specialists. Expect them to play typical Duke defense and go into the NCAA Tournament with a typical high seed.

13. Florida Gators

7 Man Rotation:
C Patric Young
F Erik Murphy
G Mike Rosario
G Kenny Boynton
G Braxton Ogbueze
F Will Yeguete
G Michael Frazier II

Coach: Billy Donovan

Breakdown:

Once again, Florida looks to be a team that can stretch the floor and run you off of the court. Offensively this has worked brilliantly, defensively not really as well. This team will be able to crash the glass with Patric Young and Will Yeguete, just might be a tad tiny defending the perimeter. Kenny Boynton will surely look to prove his NBA worth and he has already proven he can score consistently. Efficiency and maybe some PG skills would drive this team a long way. Losing Erving Walker and Bradley Beal will be rough, just do not expect these guys to fall too far.

14. North Carolina Tar Heels

7 Man Rotation:
C Joel James
F James McAdoo
G Reggie Bullock
G PJ Hairston
G Marcus Paige
G Dexter Strickland
G Leslie McDonald

Coach: Roy Williams

Breakdown:

Like Kentucky, North Carolina lost 4 players to the NBA Draft's first round, though none of them were freshman. Roy Williams needs time to build his championship contenders and this one may have pieces that could play vital roles down the line. This year seems like a bit of a "rebuilding" year for UNC. Just fully expect other teams to still have a difficult time capitalizing off of that. James McAdoo will have a chance to shine after sitting behind an All-Conference front court, he should be in contention for conference POY honors. They will need to break in a new PG and C, both of whom are freshman, both of whom will need a good deal of time. Their front court will struggle, but they have fantastic depth at guard, even upper class leadership with Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald returning from injury. This could still have the makings of a Sweet 16 team.

15. Missouri Tigers

7 Man Rotation:
C Alex Oriakhi
F Laurence Bowers
G Earnest Ross
G Michael Dixon (Suspension pending)
G Phil Pressey G Keion Bell
G Jabari Brown


Coach: Frank Haith

Breakdown:

Last years group of guards at Mizzou provided break neck speed and scoring, though they had a very disappointing 1st round exit in an upset loss to Norfolk State in last years tournament. This years team will have those guards plus some actual front court depth that could pay major dividends. Alex Oriakhi played a vital role on UConn's 2011 championship team, while their is no telling how far the Tigers could have gone with a healthy Laurence Bowers. They bring in transfer guards Earnest Ross and Jabari Brown, both of whom should score in bunches. Flip Pressey is one of the top floor generals in the NCAA and Michael Dixon should fill Marcus Denmon's shoes as go-to guy. Missouri may have moved to the SEC, just expect them to be near the same spot they were in the Big 12 last season.


16. Creighton Bluejays

7 Man Rotation:
C Greg Echenique
F Doug McDermott
G Grant Gibbs
G Josh Jones
G Jahenns Manigat
F Ethan Wragge
G Austin Chatman

Coach: Greg McDermott

Breakdown:

Seemed that no matter who Doug McDermott went up against last season, he managed to score in large volume. The odds on favorite for top scorer in the nation, McDermott can put the ball in the hoop from just about anywhere on the court. Creighton is the favorite in a solid Mountain Valley Conference, with a bruising center in Gregory Echenique and some nice complementary guard play. Still, Greg McDermott knows this team goes as far as his son can take them. After a year of shooting 60% from the field and nearly 50% from behind the arc, expect Doug will be looking at taking them at least a round further than last years exit to #1 UNC.


17. San Diego State Aztecs

7 Man Rotation:
F JJ O'Brien
F DeShawn Stephens
G Jamaal Franklin
G Chase Tapley
G Xavier Thames
F Winston Shepard
G James Rahon

Coach: Steve Fisher

Breakdown:

Seeing San Diego State in the Top 25 is not much of a surprise anymore. Steve Fisher's squad is staying here, year in and year out. While SDSU does not have a lot of size, they have no such shortage of top level athletes. This allows them to rebound and defend at a very high level. Jamaal Franklin had a major breakout sophomore season and they return the rest of their starting back court as well. Incoming freshman Winston Shepard is incredibly versatile and fit the team identity. Not having a true big center may be a bit of challenge, just expect this team to run with anyone in the nation.


18. Michigan State Spartans

7 Man Rotation:
C Adreian Payne
F Derrick Nix
F Branden Dawson
G Gary Harris
G Keith Appling
F Russell Byrd
G Travis Trice

Coach: Tom Izzo

Breakdown:

This seems way too low for a Tom Izzo coached team, just some major shoes to fill and a lot of unproven pieces. Do everything forward Draymond Green will be missed quite a great deal, as Keith Appling will be expected to be much more of a full on distributor. He spent the off-season working on his jump shot and he gets a smooth shooter in Gary Harris to help him spread the floor. This team will once again be a terror on the glass at every front court position. Branden Dawson should have a very successful return from injury, while a slimmed down Derrick Nix should still have enough strength to make life really difficult for opposing 4 men. Adreian Payne was starting to become a real presence as a post defender as well. This is a very good team, just without a lot of depth at the front court positions, which will not be easy in a once again stacked Big 10 conference.

19. Gonzaga Bulldogs

7 Man Rotation:
C Kelly Olynyk
F Sam Dower
F Elias Harris
G Gary Bell Jr.
G Kevin Pangos
C Przemek Karnowski
F Guy Landry Edi

Coach: Mark Few

Breakdown:

Gonzaga is not as much a Cinderella school as a basketball constant. Mark Few always manages to construct teams with talented scoring guards and grinding front court competitors. This year is business as usual, as their all sophomore back court should improve on already impressive first seasons. Elias Harris is on his last run and the German import will be a tough match-up at either forward spot. Kelly Olynyk is a solid 7-footer coming off of a redshirt season, while Przemek Karnowski is an another mountain hailing from Poland. Sam Dower can also play inside, yet has the ability to stretch the court as well. He may be in for a big junior season. Kevin Pangos looked like a star last season and he should help the Zags remain a team you want to steer clear of for the tournaments first few rounds.

20. Baylor Bears

7 Man Rotation:
C Isaiah Austin
F Cory Jefferson
G Brady Heslip
G AJ Walton
G Pierre Jackson
F Ricardo Gathers
G LJ Rose

Coach: Scott Drew

Breakdown:

Recruiting has helped this team become a staple at the top of the Big 12. Scott Drew got another nice haul to help replace the losses of Quincy Acu, Perry Jones and Quincy Miller. Brady Heslip proved to be an assassin, though Pierre Jackson also got Baylor out of many a jam. The diminutive senior Jackson was also voted pre-season Big 12 POY by the media and will look to show his value running a team. Cory Jefferson is a long, athlete who showed flashes last season and will be expected to play a major role this year. Isaiah Austin will have high expectations as a freshman center, though one might expect a rough transition guarding stronger players. Despite their evident talent, do not expect another Elite 8 appearance from a team that lost much more than they gained in the front court.

Last 5:

21. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

7 Man Rotation:
F Jack Cooley
F Scott Martin
G Pat Connaughton
G Eric Atkins
G Jerian Grant
F Cameron Biedscheid
C Garrick Sherman

Coach: Mike Brey

22. Memphis Tigers

7 Man Rotation:
F Tarik Black
F Ferrakohn Hall
F Adonis Thomas
G Chris Crawford
G Joe Jackson
G Geron Johnson
F Shaq Goodwin

Coach: Josh Pastner


23. Cincinnati Bearcats

7 Man Rotation:
F Cheikh Mbodj
F Titus Rubles
G Sean Kilpatrick
G JaQuon Parker
G Cashmere Wright
F Justin Jackson
F Shaquille Thomas

Coach: Mick Cronin

24. St. Joseph's Hawks

7 Man Rotation:
F Halil Kanacevic
F CJ Aiken
G Daryus Quarles
G Langston Galloway
G Carl Jones
F Ronald Roberts Jr.
G Chris Wilson

Coach: Phil Martelli

25. Minnesota Golden Gophers

7 Man Rotation:
F Trevor Mbakwe
F Rodney Williams
G Austin Hollins
G Joe Coleman
G Andre Hollins
G Julian Welch
C Elliott Eliason

Coach: Tubby Smith

Have any comments or a list of your own? Feel free to post them and join the discussion at:

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