I know the season just ended but for basketball junkies, this list is something to think about. As a friend called it, “loser talk”. It doesn’t mean much. Andy Katz (ESPN) has put together the 2012-2013 top 25 teams. My IU friends will be very happy about the list. I cannot disagree with most teams on the list. If you look at recruiting, who is projected to stay, and who is projected to leave early for the NBA draft, these teams should be among the elite for next season. Here is the list. My commentary on each is bold. Enjoy.
Surprised? Putting Indiana No. 1 isn’t a reach, and it speaks volumes about how far Tom Crean has brought the Hoosiers. There was legitimate grumbling in the Hoosier Nation a year ago, wondering whether the rebuilding was taking too long. Well, IU had two of the more significant wins of the 2011-12 regular season and then reached the Sweet 16, where it pushed Kentucky as well as any team. Cody Zeller has to stay put for Indiana to remain No. 1 of course. But if Zeller is back, the Hoosiers — with nearly everyone returning and joined by another elite recruiting class — will be right there in the running for a national title.
I hate to say it but the Hoosiers will be really good. Cody will return along with Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, and Victor Oladipo. That is a lot of talent and scoring. They are also going to enjoy a Top 5 recruiting class that features Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell, who I have seen play a few times and he is really good, small, but really good. Yogi will finally give them a true PG and push Hulls off the ball which will help him score more. I am still holding out hope that they tune Tom “Good Job, Good Job, Good Job, Good Job, Good Job” Crean out and not have a great year. (I am a Purdue graduate who is bitter about this “We’re Back” B.S.)
The Cardinals reached the Final Four despite a number of injuries and eligibility issues. They showed tremendous resolve and were a terrific team at home. Rick Pitino couldn’t be too upset over the loss to Kentucky because he knows this team can be right back here next season. Can you imagine if Indiana and Louisville, near neighbors, are 1 and 2? Could happen. Peyton Siva should be Big East preseason player of the year and UL is only losing Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith. Plus, Wayne Blackshaer will be around for a whole season.
Rick Pitino is a great coach. I really like Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng, and Chane Behanan. I think that their defense and down year in the rest of the Big East could spell a conference championship for the Cardinals. I think they will be a Final Four team.
The Jayhawks are projected to lose Thomas Robinson, and they will lose Tyshawn Taylor. But have we learned our lesson not to dismiss anything Bill Self does with this program? Kansas might lose Jeff Withey, but don’t be surprised if he stays with more touches coming his way. Newcomers Perry Ellis and Ben McLemore will be instant studs. Kansas isn’t going anywhere.
I am not a huge fan of this pick. I think they will be good but not Top 5 good. Withey makes their team very good defensively and I have heard great things about Perry Ellis but they are losing Tyshawn Taylor and Thomas Robinson. Whenever they needed a big bucket in a close game, those two guys did it. They struggled to score all year and I think that will be their downfall in 2013.
The Wildcats likely will lose Anthony Davis, Terrence Jones, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and maybe Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague. One or two might stay. Darius Miller also is gone, and he was one of the best glue guys in the country. But don’t think for a second that the Wildcats will dip much at all. The additions of Ryan Harrow, Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley will keep Kentucky near the top again. And just think if Kentucky were to land Nerlens Noel and/or Shabazz Muhammad? If that occurs, don’t be surprised to see Kentucky open up at No. 1 in the fall.
They might be losing everything. But, I still say they can be a Championship contender. If Teague/Lamb stay and Noel Norens can because as good defensively as A. Davis was last season (will probably happen) they should be considered the favorites to repeat. For the second year in a row they have the #1 recruiting class. Calipari has made the 21st century college basketball formula for a dynasty. The one and done guys that came to UK played a lot, won a conference championship, won a national championship, and will be first round picks. This could be a scary program for years to come. (Today, April 17th the underclassmen will announce their intentions for next season)
5. Ohio State
The Buckeyes have never disappointed under Thad Matta. This team is a consistent winner that is always near or at the top of the Big Ten and in title contention. Next season won’t be any different. Jared Sullinger promised Matta two seasons so he could easily depart for the NBA. But should he after the national semifinal? Maybe not. The Buckeyes still have Aaron Craft, and Lenzelle Smith Jr. and LaQuinton Ross are going to be studs. Deshaun Thomas should be back, too. If he does return, this team will be in the thick of the title race.
Thad Matta is gross. He is sweaty. Really really sweaty. It makes me sick. One of the assistant coaches please just had him a damn towel. He’s dripping on the floor, dripping on the players, and dripping on the reporters. He chews his gun, drops it on a dirty basketball floor and then picks it up and puts it back into his mouth. He needs help.
On another note, his team will be very good next year. Sullinger is gone but they will return Deshaun Thomas who is an absolute match-up nightmare and Aaron Craft who is the most annoying defender of all time…ever. I like Lenzelle Smith Jr. as an athlete and scorer, but I still think they have to replace a lot of scoring. Whenever I look at teams and their potential to repeat a good season I look at their ability to replace scoring. Losing Sullinger and Buford will hurt them. I still think they will be very good.
6. NC State
How did this happen so fast? Is North Carolina State really the ACC favorite? Why not. North Carolina and Duke are taking on serious losses, and the Wolfpack overachieved under Mark Gottfried (and top assistant Bobby Lutz) to get to the Sweet 16. If the Wolfpack don’t get too giddy about leaving (will C.J. Leslie remain?), they should be the favorite in the conference. Gottfried has one of the top recruiting classes in the country with Rodney Purvis, T.J. Warren and Tyler Lewis. So get ready, Raleigh. You might just have the ACC favorite.
I love love love this team. It will be nice to see a team not named Duke or North Carolina atop the ACC. C.J. Leslie has to stay for them to be in contention for a national championship. I love Mark Gottfried as an in-game coach and he is getting recruits. Skies the limit for this program. I don’t know why but I have always liked the Wolfpack. Wooooooooooooooooooooooo!
7. Michigan State
The Spartans lose Big Ten player of the year Draymond Green, Brandon Wood and Austin Thornton. But don’t ever dismiss a Tom Izzo-coached team. Branden Dawson will be back, and so will Travis Trice. The Spartans don’t ever lack for talent and a top-10 freshmen class is on the way. And if you think Michigan State is going to slide under Izzo, you haven’t been following the program.
They really suffered from a lack of toughness and defense in the tournament without Branden Dawson. They ended up relying too much on the outside shot and ended up losing to Louisville (Deing had a little to do with it as well, I know). I really liked them going into the tournament and had them in the final four(which many people did) but they failed me. I also am upset for Draymond Green, who I love. Sigh. Life goes on. Their recruiting class is 11th according to Scout.com and includes Indiana Mr. Basketball Gary Harris. Travis Trice and Dawson coming back will help but I think they will still finish 3rd or 4th in the very tough BIG 10.
The Wolverines will be in the top 10 if Trey Burke returns to school. He should. He would join freshman stud Mitch McGary and Tim Hardaway Jr., and a loaded class that also includes ESPNU 100 recruits Glenn Robinson Jr., and Nik Stauskas. The Wolverines have had a few defections, and that has disrupted a bit of their flow. But John Beilein has figured out the Big Ten, so Michigan will once again be in the mix.
Coach Beilein has been doing a great job recruiting and bringing the prestige back to Michigan. Glenn Robinson III is really good. He is a smooth player that has the talent to be a star. I just seems effortless for him. I have actually seen a little too much of him and trying to stop him as a coach is a very difficult thing. I think he can still get better and more aggressive. Mitch McGary is Tyler Hansbrough reincarnated. He is an athletic, hustle kid with a lot of energy and effort. Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. are coming back. I think they could be a National Championship favorite for the 2013-2014 season but don’t be surprised if they are early.
“I play forward for Indiana Pacers” (I know this is the 2nd time I’ve posed this, but I don’t care. Many more times to come)
The Gators have a real shot to be an SEC title contender if Bradley Beal decides to stay put. Patric Young has only scratched the surface of his potential. Losing Erving Walker and his quick shooting might not be such a horrible thing. Kenny Boynton played deep into March two years in a row and should lead this squad. Erik Murphy is maturing and has improved his game. Recruiting is going well as always for the Gators. This program had a minor dip post-2007 but that is clearly no longer an issue.
Beal is not coming back. NBAdraft.net has him as the 7th pick overall. I don’t see how they can compete with the major teams. I like Donovan and I was impressed by their tournament run this year. They played most of the season as a run and gun jump shooting team and when the tournament came around they played some really good defense. Causing chaos. They don’t have a great recruiting class coming in so I am not sold on them competing especially without Beal.
The Bears definitely will lose Quincy Acy. But what would happen if Baylor didn’t lose Perry Jones III and/or Quincy Miller? This team would be in contention for No. 1. It’s unlikely they’ll retain both, but Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip should form one of the top backcourts in the country. And the Bears continue to recruit as well as any school. Adding Isaiah Austin is huge. Baylor has become a consistent Big 12 title contender with Kansas and that doesn’t appear to be ending.
This has become a mess. Perry Jones III is gone. Quincy Miller has announced that is going to stay but there are NCAA sanctions coming for Baylor which could hurt their ability to repeat another #5 recruiting class in the future. How does this stuff keep happening to coaches? You know the rules about texting and emailing. Dr. Phil style, “Just stop doing it”. If every one else stays they will be returning a good number of players and should be the favorite to win the conference.
11. North Carolina
The Tar Heels were gutted by early-entry departures from Kendall Marshall, Harrison Barnes and John Henson. Tyler Zeller was already leaving because he was a senior. But that just opens more minutes for Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald, P.J. Hairston, Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo, assuming he returns to Chapel Hill. Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson will step in and deepen this team. Let’s not kid ourselves: There’s still plenty of talent on hand. The Tar Heels won’t be the favorite in the ACC, though, and for UNC that might feel a bit odd.
They are going to lose a lot off this year’s team. But, the Tarheels still have a top 10 recruiting class and James Michael McAdoo back who will have to carry the load. They need some toughness and defense inside when Zeller leaves. That was actually their downfall in the tournament. They just couldn’t get stops when it was needed and a very tough inside presence for Kansas could.
The Wildcats had to deal with a number of issues this season from injuries to attrition, but they were still close to mounting a Pac-12 regular-season title challenge and made the NIT. Arizona should lean heavily on Solomon Hill as a lead returnee (along with Kevin Parrom’s return), but this will be a team heavy on newcomers. The recruiting class is currently ranked No. 1 in the country by ESPN, with Kaleb Tarczewski, Grant Jerrett, Brandon Ashley and Gabe York heading to Tucson. This team will be young in November but should make its mark in March.
I am a big fan of Sean Miller. They would have the #1 recruiting class for the year if it wasn’t for the Kentucky Caliparis. They can bring back some prestige to the Pac-12 which has been really struggling of late. (UCLA just signed Shabazz Muhammed so they might be on the comeback too) I think Arizona should be good for a while. Miller has turned it around after the departure of Lute Olsen. They will be in the National Championship conversation for the next two or three years. I don’t think it can happen next year for them, might be too soon.
The Tigers are losing Will Barton, but don’t dismiss this team one bit. Memphis was on a roll before landing a bad matchup with Saint Louis in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers didn’t get much national buzz in large part because they were in Conference USA and didn’t have many stellar nonconference wins. But sleeping on Josh Pastner’s crew would be a mistake. The final season of C-USA for Memphis should end in yet another conference title. The Big East beckons, and Memphis will be in the mix once it arrives there as well.
Pastner sort of came out of nowhere to get some really impressive recruits at Memphis. I think the move to the Big East will be great for them. I’m sure they don’t want to admit it but they have to credit Calipari for that move. He brought some money and fans to that program. If I’m not mistaken the Big East will consist of about 65 teams soon.
Dion Waiters is gone. Fab Melo is, too. Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine were seniors. But the depth of talent is still there with Rakeem Christmas and Michael-Carter Williams, as well as Brandon Triche and C.J. Fair. The addition of big man DaJuan Coleman is huge. Don’t expect the Orange to fall off in their likely last season in the Big East.
Syracuse breakdown for every single season: They will just replace each guy they are losing with another long-athletic-energetic kid and win a bunch of games. Playing against them is never easy. Their active 2-3 zone is a very difficult thing to attack consistently for 40 minutes. I am sure they will be in fighting with Louisville and Notre Dame for the Big East championship.
The Blue Devils lost Austin Rivers after one season. Miles Plumlee also departs. But the returns of Ryan Kelly, Seth Curry, Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton and Andre Dawkins as well as Mason (assuming he stays) and Marshall Plumlee give the Blue Devils a solid set. If Rasheed Sulaimon delivers as an impact player, the Blue Devils will still be an ACC contender. Also, don’t rule out the possibility that the Blue Devils land a key transfer such as Trey Zeigler or Alex Oriakhi.
Losing Austin Rivers will hurt but they are actually returning a lot. I am surprised that they are not ranked higher on this list. Their style of play hurt them when it came tournament time. They relied on the “3” too much and came back to bite them. If Marshall Plumlee ever learns to play basketball and can replace his older brother Miles, I think the Dukies have a good shot at being in the national championship conversation. On a side note, is the Duke Blue Devil logo slowly morphing into Mike Krzyzewski? I think yes.
Myck Kabongo announced he was staying, but J’Covan Brown decided to bolt. That’s not a bad trade. The upside for Kabongo exceeds that of the shot-happy Brown. The Longhorns also have quite a class coming in with Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh leading the way. Rick Barnes’ recruiting class is currently No. 3 in the ESPN rankings. And Texas was one of the younger teams in the league last season. Losing Missouri will move the Longhorns up within the Big 12 next season, too.
J’Covan Brown leaving to probably be a non-factor in the NBA hurts a lot. I expect him to land in New York and shoot every time he touches the ball(if he gets in), fingers crossed. Kabongo and Brown could have a lethal combo for the Longhorns but instead they will have to rely on some young kids to carry much of the load.
17. Notre Dame
This will be interesting. Whenever the Irish are supposed to be good, there is the potential for a drop-off. Notre Dame exceeded expectations, and now the Irish are a possible Big East favorite? Well, Pat Connaughton, Jack Cooley, Eric Atkins and Jerian Grant offer quite a lineup that should succeed in the Big East. Everyone is back in South Bend. Mike Brey said he was calm about this team throughout this season. He needs to keep that attitude throughout next season.
As a guy I work with constantly reminds me, Mike Brey has never gotten his Irish to the Elite 8. I think it needs to be the year. It has to be this year. They are getting their core players back which includes Luke Harangody doppelganger Jack Coley and they might have Scott Martin back for his 15th year in the NCAA lets him. Elite 8 or bust.
Doug McDermott is staying, so the Bluejays are the Valley favorites and a top-25 team once again. Greg Echenique returns to anchor the inside. The loss of Antoine Young will hurt the Bluejays but they have proved to be a deep team. This group showed more toughness as the season progressed. Expect it to continue.
Go Kyle Korver! That’s all I care about right now when I think about Creighton. Don’t know much about them. Sorry.
The Bulldogs lose Robert Sacre, but if Elias Harris returns — and he should — the Bulldogs once again will be the preseason favorite in the WCC and one of the best teams in the West. Gary Bell Jr., Kevin Pangos and David Stockton form one of the top perimeters in the region. Sam Dower will only get better as a possible difference-maker. Gonzaga had a poor matchup with Ohio State, but was still within a few possessions to knock off the eventual Final Four team. The Zags will continue to roll on.
I like Pangos and Stockton. I think they will win another WCC title with this team.
20. Kansas State
Bruce Weber takes over for Frank Martin, who had the Wildcats set up for a continuous run near the top of the Big 12. Weber didn’t forget how to coach at Illinois. He is one of the more respected teachers of the game. He just had a bad marriage with the Illini, and it couldn’t be repaired. Rodney McGruder should stay and play for Weber since he’ll be a senior. The core of this team returns to push the rest of the Big 12. Weber’s first season should be a success.
I can’t believe Weber got this kind of job right after the debacle that is/was Illinois. He is a great recruiter but I am not sure if he is a good coach. I think he will do fine in a weaker conference and his ability to recruit might be enough. I feel bad for the guy and hope he does well. Who know who will stay or leave with this coaching change? Frank Martin leaving this program to go to South Carolina should be an indication that there is something not right about this place. Keep an eye on this situation.
Jordan Taylor is gone. But when should losing one key player be a killer for Wisconsin? The Badgers have Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans and Ben Brust back for next season. If the point guard position can be settled, there is a good shot the Badgers will be in the thick of the Big Ten race yet again.
Wisconsin breakdown for every single season: 2nd to 5th place finish in the Big Ten and a tournament berth but never a title. I love Bo but he just doesn’t get enough “great” players to win anything substantial.
The Rams lose Bradford Burgess off another excellent season under Shaka Smart. But Smart stayed because he knows the Rams have a legit shot to be just as good if not better next season. VCU returns everyone but Burgess. This was a team that needed to develop over the course of the season, and it did. Once again, this is another squad that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
I was shocked when Shaka didn’t go to Illinois when that job was open. I thought was a natural move for him up the coaching ladder. I must not know something about that job. It seems like people really don’t want it. Maybe he is waiting for UConn or Syracuse to open up. I don’t know if he would be in the running for those jobs but they look like they will be coming up soon.
23. San Diego State
Aztecs coach Steve Fisher said Sunday night that he has a top-25 team. We agree. Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley and James Rahon make the Aztecs the team to beat in the Mountain West before SDSU heads off to the Big West. They also add transfer J.J. O’Brien (Utah), James Johnson (Virginia) and Dwayne Polee (St. John’s). Fisher will have the Aztecs in the mix nationally, like he has the past four seasons.
They have lots of kids coming back and a great coach. They need to play some tougher competition through the year so they can have better performances in the big dance. I know some bigger teams don’t want to play. That is the plight of being at a mid-major.
Cuonzo Martin had the Volunteers on the cusp an NCAA tournament berth in the final two weeks of the regular season. Now, Martin gets Jarnell Stokes for a full season, along with the bulk of his teammates. The Vols will continue to play as hard as any team in the country, as Martin has established an identity of defense and toughness that will serve Tennessee well in the SEC.
CUOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNZO!!! I still think they are a few years off from really competing. I can’t help rooting for a Purdue guy. I know he is a good coach and I know that he is way less annoying compared to Bruce Pearl.
(I hate this idiot)
We’d be foolish to count this team out despite losing its top three scorers. (Did anyone catch what Kansas did this season?) Yes, Frank Haith does lose cornerstones Kim English, Marcus Denmon and Ricardo Ratliffe, but Laurence Bowers will be healthy after he missed the season with a knee injury and Michael Dixon and Phil Pressey return to give the Tigers a core. With a stellar recruiting class and transfer Jabari Brown, Missouri should have an immediate impact in the SEC race.
I like Frank Haith but I think he needs to teach his teams to defend more to win anything major. When he was at Miami they used to work hard on the defensive end and they gave people fits. Get back to that Frank. It is proven that trying to just outscore every team you play will eventually come back to bite you. (See: Norfolk State)
This is a pretty impressive Purdue team. You might see some familiar faces.
KATZ Updated List Here