The following NCAA men and women’s basketball rankings originally ran in SLAM 142, on newsstands everywhere.
by Michael Bradley
After a relatively quiet stretch by the team’s high standards, the Blue Devils are suddenly on the verge of a new dynasty.
Key Players: Seth Curry, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith
The Skinny: Duke haters, watch out. The Blue Devils may have lost Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek, but everybody else is back in Durham—and then some. Wait ’til you see Irving. And Curry can stroke it. It’s repeat time.
Key Players: Robbie Hummel, Lewis Jackson, JaJuan Johnson, E’Twaun Moore
The Skinny: Many think the Boilers were a torn ACL (Hummel’s) away from the Final Four last year. Now healthy, he, Johnson and Moore form a great core. And freshman Terone Johnson is tough.
3. Michigan State
Key Players: Keith Appling, Draymond Green, Kalin Lucas, Delvon Roe
The Skinny: Tom Izzo turned down the Cavs and might actually have a better team this year. Lucas is one of the nation’s best points, the frontcourt is stacked and the reinforcements top shelf.
Key Players: Gilbert Brown, Ashton Gibbs, Nasir Robinson, Brad Wanamaker
The Skinny: Don’t look here for marquee names, just a ferocious group of defenders and experienced role players perfectly suited for rugged Big East life.
5. Ohio State
Key Players: William Buford, Jon Diebler, David Lighty, Jared Sullinger
The Skinny: No Evan Turner? No problem. OSU has enough talented returnees—and a top-five recruiting class—to make a run at the top of the Big Ten.
6. North Carolina
Key Players: Harrison Barnes, Larry Drew, Will Graves, Tyler Zeller
The Skinny: The long, national nightmare (OK, it was at least pretty scary in Chapel Hill) is over. UNC will not be in the NIT this season. The holdovers are good, but the rookies are better.
7. Kansas State
Key Players: Curtis Kelly, Jacob Pullen, Jamar Samuels, Dominique Sutton
The Skinny: Is there anything more fun than watching KSU coach Frank Martin stalk the sidelines, prowling, ready for a fight? His Wildcats will attack the Big 12 again with Pullen and an unyielding intensity.
Key Players: Justin Holiday, Venoy Overton, Terrence Ross, Isaiah Thomas
The Skinny: Since Pac-10 hoops isn’t what it used to be, U-Dub’s supremacy isn’t so impressive. But the Huskies play fast, fun ball and have one of the best perimeters around.
Key Players: Corey Fisher, Antonio Pena, Corey Stokes, Maalik Wayns
The Skinny: Nobody does guards like Villanova, but the Wildcats actually have Pena and Mouphtaou Yarou up front, who could help lead Nova to another Final Four.
Key Players: Marcus Morris, Brady Morningstar, Josh Selby, Tyshawn Taylor
The Skinny: You may not recognize many names on this talented Jayhawk outfit, but that might not be a bad thing, since last year’s big-name crew couldn’t get it done in March.
Key Players: Steven Gray, Demetri Goodson, Elias Harris, Robert Sacre
The Skinny: What does it say about Western hoops when the Zags could be the best around? Only that Mark Few has built a sturdy program that keeps rolling no matter who leaves.
Key Players: Quincy Acy, LaceDarius Dunn, Anthony Jones, Perry Jones
The Skinny: Dunn leads a group that’s ready to continue the Bears’ roll. And wait until you see Perry Jones, who could be the nation’s best big man as a frosh.
Key Players: Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil Pressey, Justin Safford
The Skinny: Those Old Gold unis may be tough on the eyes, but the Tigers’ style of play is even harder on opponents. Rivals had better get ready for even more Hell from Missouri.
Key Players: Mike Tisdale, Mike Davis, Demetri McCamey, DJ Richardson,
The Skinny: Really, this is the year for the Illini. They won’t win the loaded Big Ten, but they finally have depth and experience to reach their potential.
Key Players: Rick Jackson, Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph, Dion Waiters
The Skinny: People will dismiss the Cuse because Wes Johnson’s gone. Don’t believe ’em. The Orange will defend, Joseph will emerge, and newcomers Waiters and Fab Melo are legit.
Key Players: Kenny Boynton, Chandler Parsons, Alex Tyus, Erving Walker
The Skinny: Five starters are back, and depth abounds. Focus on the whole, not the parts, and watch the Gators get back into the national picture.
Key Players: Enes Kanter, Brandon Knight, DeAndre Liggins, Darius Miller
The Skinny: This group won’t produce five first-rounders, but don’t ever bet against John Calipari. The holdovers are solid, and if Kanter isn’t suspended for playing pro ball in Turkey, the crop of newcomers is top-shelf.
Key Players: Zach Hahn, Matt Howard, Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored
The Skinny: Last year’s dreams become this year’s reality without Gordon Hayward, but the Bulldogs remain dangerous enough to win a couple Tourney games.
19. Brigham Young
Key Players: Brandon Davies, Chris Collinsworth, Jackson Emery, Jimmer Fredette
The Skinny: The Cougars get this spot because of Fredette, a scoring machine and a fun player to watch.
Key Players: Lavoy Allen, Juan Fernandez, Rahlir Jefferson, Ramone Moore
The Skinny: Allen is a first-round talent, and Fernandez is on the verge of big things. Last year’s NCAA crash was disappointing, but the Owls should rebound well.
by Clay Kallam
Look for long-time power Tennessee to reclaim the top spot in women’s hoops over the likes of Baylor, Duke and its nemesis, UConn.
Key Players: Angie Bjorklund, Glory Johnson, Shekinna Stricklen
The Skinny: The Vols are tall, talented and experienced yet still young enough to get better (just one senior). A proven 1 is all that’s missing, but remember, Tennessee went 32-3 last season without one.
Key Players: Brittney Griner, Melissa Jones
The Skinny: College players usually improve most between their freshman and sophomore years—so Griner should be even scarier. Add supporting talent (Jones, for one) and there’s a national power.
Key Players: Karima Christmas, Jasmine Thomas
The Skinny: Toss some elite freshmen into an already loaded lineup, and what you should get is a trip to the Final Four.
4. Ohio State
Key Players: Jantel Lavender, Sammy Prahalis
The Skinny: This should be the year that the Buckeyes finally play well in the postseason, thanks to the passionate Prahalis and the imposing Lavender.
Key Players: Tiffany Hayes, Maya Moore
The Skinny: With Caroline Doty out for the season, the two-time defending champion Huskies have only two returning starters. The great Moore is one of them, but even she’s not enough to reprise 39-0.
Key Players: Kayla Pedersen Chiney Ogwumike, Nneka Ogwumike
The Skinny: Learn to say it: “Oh-gwu-mee-kay.”
Chiney and Nneka are the best sister act in the country, and Pedersen completes an elite front line. They will be tough come springtime.
7. Texas A&M
Key Players: Danielle Adams, Tyra White
The Skinny: Adams makes the big shots, but the rest of the Aggies can play, too.
Key Players: Amber Harris, Ta’Shia Phillips
The Skinny: Both Harris and Phillips will definitely be high picks in the next WNBA Draft, but point guard Special Jennings’ ballhandling will be important as well, so don’t ignore her.
9. North Carolina
Key Players: Jessica Breland, Cetera DeGraffenreid, Italee Lucas
The Skinny: Breland is back, and the Tar Heels have a lot to go along with the 6-3 senior.
Key Players: Kristin Daugherty, Justine Raterman
The Skinny: Take a Flyer on Dayton, which returns four of five starters from a 25-8 team.