NCAA Pre-Season Top 25, Pt. 2
The Draft deadline has past and rankings are updated!
Tu Holloway could’ve declared, but unlike many of his peers, made the mature choice of waiting it out another season. He’ll most likely be happy with his decision, because Xavier will once again be the class of the A-10.
Luckily for Memphis fans, Josh Pastner has already turned down Texas A&M’s suddenly vacant head coaching position. No surprises there … Pastner has a great thing going with the Tigers, and next year his recruiting efforts (by all accounts one of the most tireless workers on the summer prep circuit) should really pay off. One of the more talented bunches in the country has a year of experience under its belt now. Will Barton, Joe Jackson, and the gang will cruise in Conference USA.
Breathe, Arizona fans. Sean Miller was this close to taking the Maryland job (probably a lot closer than he’d like people to believe), and Wildcats fans should be thrilled. What Miller is building in the desert in the new Pac-12 is exciting. Fresh off an Elite Eight appearance, Arizona is currently dominating west coast recruiting. There will be no Derrick Williams next year, but Arizona has a deep and experienced roster returning to Tucson.
Leading scorer Ashton Gibbs’ wise decision to return to the Panthers will offset the loss of a few important seniors. The Panthers would’ve been a tough squad regardless with a nice core group of returning players (led by Nasir Robinson) with big game experience, but getting his biggest offensive threat and top three-point shooter back in the fold should make Jamie Dixon a happy man.
Florida was hit hard by the Draft, but unlike a lot of his peers, there wasn’t anything Billy Donovan could have done about it. Vernon Macklin, Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus’ eligibility has run dry, but the Gators will definitely win a bunch of games next year with its standout backcourt. Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton and Rutgers transfer Mike Rosario should make Florida’s little guys a tough guard.
Alabama made a nice climb up the rankings from 20th by hanging on to JaMychael Green and Tony Mitchell. The Tide might have been snubbed in March, but the NIT-runner ups have the entire roster back from a team that won 12 SEC games. If all goes well, watch out for ‘Bama as a national darkhorse.
Yancy Gates, Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright all return for Mick Cronin, who, after some mid-season uncertainty in Cinci, got a new deal of his own. Cincinnati should be a real player in the Big East. Whether it becomes a national contender depends on how quickly and exciting incoming recruiting class (led by Shaquille Thomas) develops.
Replacing an entire starting backcourt is not an ideal situation for a team that is expected to contend every season, but Mark Few has options. He also has one of the sturdiest frontcourts in the country in Elias Harris and Robert Sacre. If Canadian sensation point guard Kevin Pangos can live up to the hype in his freshman season, the Zags will be solid for the umpteenth season in a row.
Everyone is back except for the coach. Mike Anderson is off to Arkansas and Frank Haith, apparently to the disappointment of Mizzou fans everywhere, is in. There’s no reason that this Tigers team shouldn’t compete for a Big 12 championship with its roster of experienced and talented vets. If Ricardo Ratliffe, Kim English, Laurence Bowers and the rest mesh with a new system quickly, this team has scary potential.
Even though most of a Sweet 16 roster returns, the real victory of the offseason for the Marquette program was convincing rising coach Buzz Williams to stick around. The Golden Eagles will be small again, but that didn’t stop them last season. Expect this feisty squad to challenge at the top of the Big East.
Perry Jones pulled the shocker of the spring when he decided to return to Baylor for his sophomore season, but he returns to a team that, while relatively green, will be bursting with talent. Jones and Quincy Acy will lead a freakishly athletic frontline, and Scott Drew’s recruiting magic has Quincy Miller and Deuce Bello headed to Waco in the fall.
Robbie Hummel has to be about 28 by now, but even after two ACL tears, the man will still be able to ball. After being courted by Missouri, Matt Painter re-upped at his alma mater and will have another talented team. The Boilers are probably Ohio State’s stiffest competition in the Big Ten.
23. New Mexico
Despite the recent news of another DWI arrest on his roster, Steve Alford should have the Lobos back on top of the MWC after a bit of a down season. BYU bolted for the WCC and UNLV should take a step back without Lon Kruger, so the conference is Drew Gordon and New Mexico’s to lose.
24. George Mason
Though Mason lost a great coach in Jim Larranaga, I think they found an extremely able replacement in Paul Hewitt. How often can you replace on Final Four coach with another (especially at a mid-major school)? If none of Larranaga’s players jump ship, Hewitt will have a loaded roster to work with. The Patriots could be talented enough to make another deep March run.
Outside of Texas (which lost nearly its entire team to the Draft), the Wolverines got docked more than any other team in these rankings. Match-up nightmare Darius Morris’ decision to stay in the Draft really hurts Michigan and leaves Tim Hardaway Jr as the only playmaker on the roster. With Morris and Hardaway, Michigan would’ve been a pain to guard. John Beilein’s team will still compete for a Big Ten title because this team has some savvy veteran players, but easy shots will be harder to come by without Morris.
Jon Jaques is a former starter for the Cornell Big Red and current forward for Israel’s Ironi Ashkelon club.