Now that the deadline for underclassmen to declare for the NBA draft has passed, it’s time for a revamped — yet still early — preseason Top 25 for 2011-12.
It still involves some guesswork, because we’re still awaiting final decisions from guys like Terrence Jones, Shelvin Mack and Ashton Gibbs, among others.
We’ll have another version after the NCAA’s May 8 withdrawal deadline.
FOXSports.com’s 2011-12 early preseason Top 25
1. NORTH CAROLINA Key returnees: Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall, Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald, Reggie Bullock. Newcomers: James McAdoo, P.J. Hairston.
With the return of Barnes, Henson and Zeller — and everyone else off an Elite Eight team — and the addition of McAdoo and Hairston, the Tar Heels move into the No. 1 spot.
2. KENTUCKY Potential early departures: Brandon Knight, Terrence Jones, DeAndre Liggins. Lose: Josh Harrellson. Key returnees: Doron Lamb, Darius Miller. Newcomers: Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Kyle Wiltjer.
This ranking can change depending on the fate of Knight, Jones and Liggins — who all declared for the NBA draft.
3. 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.
Sullinger and Buford maintain they will return to school, which makes the Buckeyes a legitimate Final Four threat again.
4. SYRACUSE 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.
The lone departure of Jackson — and the maturation of Melo and addition of Christmas — should make up for the loss.
5. LOUISVILLE Potential early departure: Terrence Jennings. Lose: Preston Knowles. Key returnees: Kyle Kuric, Peyton Siva, Chris Smith, Rakeem Buckles, Jared Swopshire, Mike Marra, Gorgui Dieng. Newcomers: Wayne Blackshear, Chane Behanan, Zach Price, Angel Nunez.
The loss of Knowles will hurt, but Rick Pitino brings back a bunch of quality veterans and adds a strong freshman class.
6. DUKE Early departure: Kyrie Irving. Lose: Nolan Smith, Kyle Singler. Key returnees: Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, Ryan Kelly, Miles Plumlee. Newcomers: Austin Rivers, Quinn Cook, Marshall Plumlee, Michael Gbinije, Alex Murphy.
With Irving gone, the Blue Devils will need someone to step up at point guard. But Coach K still has plenty of talent, especially with the arrival of Rivers.
7. CONNECTICUT Early departure: Kemba Walker. Lose: Charles Okwandu, Donnell Beverly. Key returnees: Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi, Shabazz Napier, Roscoe Smith, Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander. Newcomers: Ryan Boatright.
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.
8. VANDERBILT Lose: Andre Walker. Key returnees: John Jenkins, Jeffery Taylor, Festus Ezeli, Brad Tinsley, Lance Goulbourne, Rod Odom, Steve Tchiengang. Newcomers: Dai’Jon Parker, Shelby Moats, Kedren Johnson.
The Commodores have everyone back except for Walker, which means they are a legitimate top-10 club.
9. MEMPHIS Lose: Will Coleman. Key returnees: Will Barton, Joe Jackson Tarik Black, Wesley Witherspoon, Antonio Barton, Charles Carmouche, Chris Crawford. Newcomers: Adonis Thomas, Ferrakohn Hall (Seton Hall transfer).
The Tigers will have some experience this season, and coach Josh Pastner also adds a stud in freshman Thomas.
10. XAVIER 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 transfer), Justin Martin (sat out), Jalen Reynolds, Dee Davis.
The Musketeers were short on numbers this past season, but Chris Mack has his starting backcourt and big man back — and now he has some depth.
11. BAYLOR Lose: LacDarius Dunn. Key returnees: Perry Jones III, Quincy Acy, Anthony Jones, A.J. Walton, Fred Ellis, J’Mison Morgan, Stargell Love. Newcomers: Quincy Miller, Deuce Bello, Brady Heslip, Pierre Jackson.
Chemistry — and leadership — will be the key since there will be no shortage of talent on this roster.
12. PITTSBURGH Potential early departure: Ashton Gibbs. Lose: Brad Wanamaker, Gilbert Brown, Gary McGhee. Key returnees: 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.
Coach Jamie Dixon loses three seniors, but the key to whether the Panthers are a legitimate top-15 team is whether Gibbs returns to school.
13. TEXAS A&M Lose: B.J. Holmes, Nathan Walkup. Key returnees: Khris Middleton, David Loubeau, Kourtney Roberson, Naji Hibbert, Dash Harris, Ray Turner. Newcomers: Jamal Branch, Elston Turner (Washington transfer), 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, along with big-time transfer Turner.
14. FLORIDA 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 transfer), Walter Pitchford.
The Gators have talent, but it will be interesting to see how Billy Donovan’s team will fare with a bunch of guards who all love to score.
15. KANSAS 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.
The Jayhawks will lose a lot as the Morris twins and Selby all head to the NBA.
16. BUTLER Potential early departure: Shelvin Mack. Lose: Matt Howard, Shawn Vanzant, Zach Hahn. Key returnees: Andrew Smith, Khyle Marshall, Ronald Nored, Chase Stigall, Chrishawn Hopkins, Garrett Butcher. Newcomers: Cameron Woods, Jackson Aldridge, Roosevelt Jones, Andrew Smithers.
The loss of Howard is critical, but if Mack returns, the Bulldogs should remain a Top 25 team.
17. MICHIGAN 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.
As long as Morris returns, the Wolverines 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.
The key here is who will replace Lucas and run the team. Coach Tom Izzo will have plenty up front.
19. MISSOURI Potential early departures: Kim English, Laurence Bowers. Lose: Justin Safford. Key returnees: Marcus Denmon, Phil Pressey, Ricardo Ratliffe, Michael Dixon, Matt Pressey, Ricky Kreklow.
I would expect English and Bowers to return to school. And if everyone else comes back, look for new coach Frank Haith to inherit a deep and talented team.
20. GONZAGA 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.
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.
21. WISCONSIN Lose: Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil, Tim Jarmusz. Key returnees: Jordan Taylor, Josh Gasser, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren. Newcomers: Jarrod Uthoff, Traevon Jackson, Frank Kaminsky, George Marshall.
Bo Ryan lost Leuer, and he’ll be tough to replace, but Taylor is the key — and the Badgers have enough around him to remain near the top of the Big Ten.
22. 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).
The Patriots lose their leading scorer, Long, and their coach, Jim Larranaga. But they return four of their top five scorers and are the clear favorite to win the Colonial Athletic Association.
23. ALABAMA 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.
Anthony Grant returns his top three players from last year’s team, which barely missed out on an NCAA tournament bid.
24. MARQUETTE Lose: Jimmy Butler, Dwight Buycks, Joseph Fulce. Key returnees: Darius Johnson-Odom, Vander Blue, Jae Crowder, Chris Otule, Junior Cadougan, Davante Gardner. Newcomers: Jamil Wilson (Oregon transfer), Todd Mayo, Derrick Wilson, Juan Anderson.
Buzz Williams loses Butler, who was a terrific player. But Marquette’s big men should take a step forward in their development, and Wilson could become an impact guy after sitting out.
T25. UCLA Early departures: Tyler Honeycutt, Malcolm Lee. Key returnees: Reeves Nelson, Josh Smith, Lazeric Jones, Jerime Anderson, Anthony Stover, Brendan Lane, Tyler Lamb. Newcomers: David Wear, Travis Wear, Norman Powell, De’End Parker.
The Bruins should still be able to contend for the Pac-12 title even after losing Honeycutt and Lee.
T25. ARIZONA Early departure: Derrick Williams. Key returnees: Lamont Jones, Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, Jesse Perry, Jordin Mayes, Brendon Lavender. Newcomers: Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, Angelo Chol, Sidiki Johnson.
The Wildcats have a terrific freshman class coming in — especially in the backcourt — but the loss of Williams will be difficult to sustain.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Cincinnati, Villanova, Temple, Florida State, Purdue, Illinois, Creighton, Washington, New Mexico, Notre Dame, Texas, Fairfield.