It’s not an easy task, but here’s our FOXSports.com Early Preseason Top 25 for the 2011-12 campaign.
We’ve made it fairly simple in trying to determine which players are staying and which are leaving: Anyone who is projected to go in the top 20 picks in DraftExpress.com’s mock draft and hasn’t said they are staying is considered gone – as far as we’re concerned.
That means we’ve got North Carolina’s duo of Harrison Barnes and John Henson gone – until we hear differently.
We’re also going on the premise that a few other guys who aren’t tabbed in the top 20 – such as Kansas freshman Josh Selby and Florida State’s Chris Singleton – won’t be back in school.
We’ll change accordingly and then will have another version after the NCAA withdrawal deadline on May 8.
2011-12 EARLY PRESEASON TOP 25
Expected Early Departures: Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones Lose: Josh Harrelson Key Returnees: DeAndre Liggins, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller Newcomers: Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Kyle Wiltjer Breakdown: Even if Knight and Jones leave, John Calipari’s team will be loaded with Liggins, Milller and Lamb back – and the top-rated freshman class in the nation coming into Lexington.
2) OHIO STATE Lose: David Lighty, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale Key Returnees: Jared Sullinger, William Buford, Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft Newcomers: Amir Williams, LaQuinton Ross, Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, Trey McDonald, Evan Ravenel Breakdown: Sullinger and Buford both maintain they are returning to school – which makes the Buckeyes a legitimate Final Four threat again.
Lose: Rick Jackson Key Returnees: Scoop Jardine, Kris Joseph, Brandon Triche, Dion Waiters, C.J. Fair, James Southerland, Mookie Jones, Fab Melo, Baye-Moussa Keita DaShonte Riley Newcomers: Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney, Michael Carter-Williams Breakdown: The lone departure is that of Jackson – and the maturation of Melo and addition of Christmas should make up for the loss.
4) LOUISVILLE Lose: Preston Knowles Key Returnees: Kyle Kuric, Peyton Siva, Terrence Jennings, Chris Smith, Rakeem Buckles, Jared Swopshire, Mike Marra, Gorgui Dieng Newcomers: Wayne Blackshear, Chane Behanan, Zach Price, Angel Nunez Breakdown: The loss of Knowles will hurt, but Rick Pitino brings back a bunch of quality veterans and adds a strong freshman class.
5) DUKE Expected Early Departures: Kyrie Irving Lose: Irving, Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler Key Returnees: Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, Ryan Kelly, Miles Plumlee Newcomers: Austin Rivers, Quinn Cook, Marshall Plumlee, Michael Gbinijie Breakdown: Irving announced Wednesday that he intends to go pro and will likely be a high lottery pick. The Blue Devils still bring in arguably the top freshman in the nation in scoring guard Austin Rivers.
6) NORTH CAROLINA
Expected Early Departures: Harrison Barnes, John Henson Lose: Barnes, Henson Key Returnees: Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall, Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald, Reggie Bullock Newcomers: James McAdoo, P.J. Hairston Breakdown: This ranking is without Barnes and Henson. If those two return, the Tar Heels could state their case for the top spot.
Expected Early Departures: Kemba Walker Lose: Charles Okwandu, Donnell Beverly Key Returnees: Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi, Shabazz Napier, Roscoe Smith, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander Newcomers: Ryan Boatright Breakdown: Walker is almost certainty gone, but look for Napier to step up – and the other young guys will get a chance to expand their roles.
Lose: None Key Returnees: John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor, Festus Ezeli, Brad Tinsley, Lance Goulbourne, Rod Odom, Steve Tchiengang Newcomers: Dai’Jon Parker, Shelby Moats, Kedren Johnson Breakdown: The Commodores could be loaded if everyone returns, but the key will be whether Jenkins, Taylor or Ezeli decide to leave early for the NBA.
Lose: Matt Howard, Shawn Vanzant, Zach Hahn Key Returnees: Shelvin Mack, Andrew Smith, Khyle Marshall, Ronald Nored, Chase Stigall, Chrishawn Hopkins, Garrett Butcher Newcomers: Cameron Woods, Jackson Aldridge, Roosevelt Jones, Andrew Smithers Breakdown: The loss of Howard is critical, but as long as Mack returns, the Bulldogs should remain a Top 25 team – maybe even top 10.
Expected Early Departures: Wesley Witherspoon Lose: Will Coleman Key Returnees: Will Barton, Joe Jackson Tarik Black, Antonio Barton, Charles Carmouche, Chris Crawford Newcomers: Adonis Thomas, Ferrakohn Hall (Seton Hall) Breakdown: The Tigers will have some experience this season and Josh Pastner also adds a stud in freshman Adonis Thomas.
Expected Early Departures: Jordan Hamilton Lose: Gary Johnson, Dogus Balbay, Jai Lucas, Matt Hill Key Returnees: Tristan Thompson, J’Covan Brown, Cory Joseph, Alexis Wangmene, Clint Chapman Newcomers: Myck Kabongo, Jonathan Holmes, Julien Lewis, Sheldon McClellan, Kevin Thomas Breakdown: The key here is whether Tristan Thompson returns. If so, this might as well be Team Canada with three guys, Thompson, Joseph and Kabongo – all from north of the border playing integral roles.
Lose: Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown, Gary McGhee Key Returnees: Ashton Gibbs, Nasir Robinson, Dante Taylor, Travon Woodall, Talib Zanna, J.J. Moore, Lamar Patterson, J.J. Richardson, Isaiah Epps Newcomers: Khem Birch, Malcolm Gilbert, Durand Johnson, Jaylen Bond, John Johnson Breakdown: Jamie Dixon loses three seniors, but he still has Gibbs and plenty of other guys to fight atop the Big East.
Lose: Jamel McLean, Dante Jackson, Andrew Taylor Key Returnees: Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons, Kenny Frease, Jeff Robinson, Brad Redford (injured) Newcomers: Dezmine Wells, Travis Taylor (Monmouth), Justin Martin (sat out), Jalen Reynolds, Dee Davis. Breakdown: The Musketeers were short on numbers this past season, but Chris Mack has his starting backcourt and big man back – and now he’s got some depth.
Lose: Tyler Honeycutt Key Returnees: Malcolm Lee, Reeves Nelson, Josh Smith, Lazeric Jones, Jerime Anderson, Anthony Stover, Brendan Lane, Tyler Lamb Newcomers: David Wear, Travis Wear, Norman Powell, De’End Parker Breakdown: The Bruins should be the Pac-10 favorites next year even after losing Honeycutt. The key will be whether Lee returns.
15) TEXAS A&M
Lose: B.J. Holmes, Nathan Walkup Key Returnees: Khris Middleton, David Loubeau, Kourtney Robertson, Naji Hibbert, Dash Harris, Ray Turner Newcomers: Jamal Branch, Elston Turner (Washington), Jordan Green
Mark Turgeon is as underrated as it gets in the coaching ranks – and he’ll add a talented guard in Branch who should come right in and make an impact and also a big-time transfer in Turner.
16) KANSAS Expected Early Departures: Marcus Morris, Markieff Morris, Josh Selby Lose: Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar, Mario Little Key Returnees: Tyshawn Taylor, Thomas Robinson, Travis Releford, Elijah Johnson, Jeff Withey Newcomers: Ben McLemore, Naadir Tharpe Breakdown: The Jayhawks will lose a lot now that the Morris Twins have opted to leave early. They’ll lose even more if Selby also bolts Lawrence.
Lose: None Key Returnees: Darius Morris, Tim Hardaway Jr., Jordan Morgan, Zack Novak, Stu Douglass, Evan Smotrycz, Matt Vogrich, Jon Horford, Blake McLimans Newcomers: Carlton Brundidge, Trey Burke, Max Bielfeldt Breakdown: The Wolverines, as long as Morris returns, won’t lose anyone – and they add a couple of quality freshmen.
18) MICHIGAN STATE
Lose: Kalin Lucas, Durrell Summers, Garrick Sherman, Mike Kebler Key Returnees: Draymond Green, Delvon Roe, Keith Appling, Derrick Nix, Adreian Payne, Russell Byrd (injured) Newcomers: Branden Dawson, Travis Trice, Dwaun Anderson, Brandan Kearney Breakdown: The key here is who will replace Kalin Lucas and run the team. Tom Izzo will have plenty up front.
Lose: Chandler Parsons, Vernon Macklin, Alex Tyus Key Returnees: Kenny Boynton, Erving Walker, Erik Murphy, Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete, Casey Prather, Cody Larson (redshirt) Newcomers: Bradley Beal, Mike Rosario (Rutgers), Walter Pitchford Breakdown: The Gators have talent; but it’ll be interesting to see how Billy Donovan’s team will fare with a bunch of guards who all love to score the ball.
Lose: Justin Safford Key Returnees: Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Phil Pressey, Laurence Bowers, Ricardo Ratliffe, Michael Dixon, Matt Pressey, Ricky Kreklow Newcomers: None Breakdown: It’ll be interesting to see if new coach Frank Haith keeps everyone in Columbia. If he does, this could be a dangerous team if it can learn how to play together.
Lose: Steven Gray Key Returnees: Elias Harris, Robert Sacre, Sam Dower, Kelly Olynyk, Demetri Goodson, Marquise Carter, David Stockton Newcomers: Gary Bell, Kevin Pangos, Ryan Spangler, Kyle Dranginis Breakdown: The ‘Zags lose Gray, but still have a couple of studs up front in Harris and Sacre. The key again will be point guard play.
Lose: Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil, Tim Jarmusz, Jared Berggren Key Returnees: Jordan Taylor, Josh Gasser, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans Newcomers: Jarrod Uthoff, Traevon Jackson, Frank Kaminsky, George Marshall Breakdown: Bo Ryan lost Leuer and that’ll be tough to replace, but Taylor is the key – and the Badgers have enough around him to remain at the top of the Big Ten.
23) GEORGE MASON
Lose: Cam Long, Isaiah Tate Key Returnees: Ryan Pearson, Luke Hancock, Andre Cornelius, Mike Morrison, Vertrail Vaughns Newcomers: Vaughn Gray, Corey Edwards, Sherrod Wright (injured last year) Breakdown: The Patriots lose Long, their leading scorer, but return four of their top five scorers and are the clear favorite to win the CAA.
Lose: Senario Hillman, Chris Hines, Charvez Davis Key Returnees: JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell, Trevor Releford, Andrew Steele, Charles Hankerson Newcomers: Levi Randolph, Nick Jacobs, Moussa Gueye, Rodney Cooper Breakdown: Anthony Grant returns his top three players from last year’s team – which barely missed out on an NCAA tournament bid.
Lose: Jimmy Butler, Dwight Buycks, Joseph Fulce Key Returnees: Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue, Jae Crowder, Chris Otule, Junior Cadougan, Davonte Gardner Newcomers: Jamil Wilson (Oregon), Todd Mayo, Derrick Wilson, Juan Anderson Breakdown: Buzz Williams loses Butler, who was a terrific player. But his big men should take a step forward in their development and Wilson could become an impact guy after sitting out.