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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
DOZEN MORE TO WATCH
Cincinnati, Temple, Florida State, Baylor, Villanova, Purdue, Illinois, Creighton, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Notre Dame