A way-too-early Top 25
Originally Published: April 28, 2009By Doug Gottlieb | ESPN.com
1. Kansas: Even before Xavier Henry announced he was heading to Lawrence, the Jayhawks were looking like the team to beat in 2009-10. From top to bottom, KU has the best roster and coach combination in the country. The only question facing Bill Self is whether or not there will be enough minutes to keep everyone happy. Expect incoming big men Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey to push the Morris twins, Markieff and Marcus, for minutes. 2. Texas: The Longhorns' roster is stocked with talent even if Damion James keeps his name in the NBA draft and doesn't return to Austin. If somehow J'Covan Brown gets eligible, the Horns would have no flaws. As it stands, incoming freshmen Jordan Hamilton and Avery Bradley and transfer Jai Lucas make Texas one of the most talented teams in the country and the team best-suited to push Kansas in the Big 12. 3. Villanova: The Wildcats are loaded with talent, and with some added inside depth, will be better than the team that made its Final Four run this past season. Nova has a legitimate shot at a title in 2010. Some in Philly believe the Wildcats might be better off without junior Scottie Reynolds, who entered the draft but hasn't hired an agent. Incoming big man Mouphtaou Yarou is tough to handle and Dominic Cheek can defend several positions. Like Kansas, the Wildcats only have to sacrifice their individual egos to win big. 4. Purdue: Unlike some of its Big Ten brethren, Purdue loses none of its important pieces. The return and continued improvement of JaJuan Johnson is huge. The Boilermakers were a far better team when Robbie Hummel was healthy. For this exercise, we hope he is. 5. Oklahoma: Willie Warren and Tony Crocker will make the transition for incoming freshmen Tommy Mason-Griffin and Keith "Tiny" Gallon easier. If Juan Pattillo contributes, then Boomer Sooner. While forward Blake Griffin is impossible to replace, the Sooners appear to be better at every other position next season in terms of raw talent. 6. Michigan State: Goran Suton and Travis Walton are gone, and will certainly be missed. But considering what the Spartans return, how much will they be missed? Kalin Lucas is set to become a bona fide national star, something Drew Neitzel struggled with. If Raymar Morgan can stay healthy for a full season and if either Chris Allen or Durrell Summers can become a go-to scorer on the wing, the Spartans may not have to wait long for a return trip to the Final Four. 7. Xavier: After sitting out last season, Mark Lyons and Jordan Crawford will combine to give Xavier a better backcourt than it had last season. And if Derrick Brown doesn't act on his flirtation with the NBA and returns to school, which I expect him to do, Xavier should be better despite losing its coach, Sean Miller, to Arizona. Expect Brad Redford and Kenny Frease to expand their roles and contribute more as sophomores. This team is deep and loaded for a tourney run. 8. Clemson: Fast starts and sputtering finishes are becoming a trend on the basketball court as well as on the gridiron. In all seriousness, though, Clemson should be awesome next season, especially with incoming freshman Milton Jennings pairing with Trevor Booker down low. 9. North Carolina: Despite the exodus of their core to the NBA, the defending champs are loaded at every position except the point. The Tar Heels may have lost their soul (Tyler Hansbrough), their skill (Wayne Ellington) and their head (Ty Lawson), but with Ed Davis set to take on a larger role and the arrival of a loaded recruiting class, led by John Henson, don't feel sorry for the Tar Heels. 10. Ohio State: Don't worry about the loss of B.J. Mullens. The Buckeyes return a great talent in Evan Turner, who returns for his junior season, joining Jon Diebler & Co. to help OSU turn the corner next season. To get more expert college basketball analysis from Doug Gottlieb, become an ESPN Insider.