Kentucky gets the No. 1 spot for season

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

1) KENTUCKY

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.

3) 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

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.

7) UCONN

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.

8) VANDERBILT

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.

9) BUTLER

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.

10) MEMPHIS

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.

11) TEXAS

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.

12) PITTSBURGH

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.

13) 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), 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.

14) UCLA

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.

17) MICHIGAN

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.

19) 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), 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.

20) MISSOURI

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.

21) 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

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.

22) WISCONSIN

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.

24) 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

Breakdown: Anthony Grant returns his top three players from last year’s team – which barely missed out on an NCAA tournament bid.

25) MARQUETTE

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.

DOZEN MORE TO WATCH

Cincinnati, Temple, Florida State, Baylor, Villanova, Purdue, Illinois, Creighton, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Notre Dame