April 7, 2010

Rivals.com projected top 25 for 2010-11

Duke had barely finished celebrating its national title when the conversation shifted to whether the Blue Devils could win it again next season.

Of course, it's tough to predict the future when you don't know who's a part of it.

That's why Rivals.com plans to change its projected top 25 for 2010-11 a couple of times over the next month.

The edition we're releasing now assumes that every underclassmen who hasn't already entered the NBA draft plans to stay in school. That's a big assumption. That's why we'll release another preseason top 25 after the early entry deadline, then another this summer.

In other words, the No. 1 team in our current preseason Top 25 probably won't be in the same position the next time we release these rankings.

1. Kentucky
The buzz: For the purposes of this ranking, we're assuming that John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Patrick Patterson, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton are returning to school since they haven't entered the draft yet. In the unlikely event that Wall and Co. all return, Kentucky would head into the season as the clear-cut favorite to win the national title. The more likely scenario is they all turn pro and Kentucky falls like a rock in the next edition of our rankings.
2. Ohio State
The buzz: Ohio State also figures to drop quite a bit the next time we release these rankings. But if Evan Turner does stay in school, the Buckeyes return the nucleus of their 2009-10 team and also welcome the nation's No. 2 recruiting class.
3. Duke
The buzz: The departures of Jon Scheyer, Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas will force Duke to replace 60 percent of its starting lineup, but the Blue Devils actually could be more talented next season. Duke adds Liberty transfer Seth Curry and five-star point guard Kyrie Irving to the backcourt, and the Plumlee brothers should improve quite a bit next season.
4. Michigan State
The buzz: Michigan State loses Raymar Morgan but returns everybody else of note. If Kalin Lucas makes a successful recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon, the Spartans have every reason to believe they can make a third consecutive Final Four appearance.
5. Butler
The buzz: The only seniors in Butler's rotation this season were starting forward Willie Veasley and reserve forward Avery Jukes. If Gordon Hayward stays for his junior season and nobody hires away Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens, Butler would enter next season with a legitimate shot at returning to the Final Four.
6. Syracuse
The buzz: The loss of Andy Rautins certainly hurts, but Syracuse still has a dangerous team, particularly if potential lottery pick Wes Johnson stays in school. Syracuse also is hoping the arrival of 7-foot freshman Fab Melo - the No. 16 prospect in the nation - helps compensate for the departure of Arinze Onuaku.
7. Purdue
The buzz: The loss of Chris Kramer will hamper Purdue's perimeter defense, and the departure of Keaton Grant hurts the Boilermakers' 3-point shooting. But if Robbie Hummel, E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson stay in school and remain healthy, they should give Purdue one of the nation's top trios. Plus, the Boilermakers are bringing in a solid recruiting class.
8. Georgetown
The buzz: Georgetown didn't have a single senior on its roster this season, so the Hoyas will return everybody if Greg Monroe chooses to stay in school for his junior year. But the Hoyas need to stop the inconsistency that kept them out of the NCAA tournament in 2008-09 and resulted in a first-round exit this season.
9. Kansas State
The buzz: The Wildcats must absorb the loss of guard Denis Clemente, but they return leading scorer Jacob Pullen - who flourished in the run to the Elite Eight. Forwards Jamar Samuels and Wally Judge should benefit from another year on campus.
10. Pittsburgh
The buzz: The Panthers stunned the Big East by going 13-5 in the league in what was supposed to be a rebuilding season. Jermaine Dixon is the most (only?) notable loss. Ashton Gibbs is a rising star in the league.
11. Kansas
The buzz: Kansas will hope for a repeat of 2008-09, when Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich took over the team a year after a national title. The Jayhawks didn't get out of the second round of the NCAA tournament this season, and Marcus Morris and Tyshawn Taylor will have to carry the torch next season. Kansas is waiting to find out if Xavier Henry will be the first one-and-done player in school history.
12. Baylor
The buzz: The Bears will have to wait on Ekpe Udoh's NBA draft decision, but Baylor should be a Big 12 contender regardless. Tweety Carter will be missed, but LaceDarius Dunn will be a senior after a standout run in the NCAA tournament. The Bears also add forward Perry Jones, the No. 6 player in the 2010 signing class.
13. West Virginia
The buzz: Da'Sean Butler will be gone, but the Mountaineers started three sophomores - including Devin Ebanks, an early entry candidate, and Kevin Jones - on the way to the Final Four. The Mountaineers will get some help by having Turkish forward Deniz Kilicli available for a full season.
14. Xavier
The buzz: The Musketeers have made the Sweet 16 three consecutive seasons despite turnover on the roster and on the bench. If Jordan Crawford and Terrell Holloway stay in school, Xavier would have one of the best backcourt tandems in the country.
15. Illinois
The buzz: Illinois was one of the last teams out of the field this season. The Illini have good reason to believe they will be in the tournament in 2010-11, no matter the size of the field. Illinois returns nearly every key player, including four senior starters, and is adding a top-10 signing class.
16. Gonzaga
The buzz: As usual, the Bulldogs will be at or near the top of the West Coast Conference, even though programs such as Saint Mary's are catching up. Matt Bouldin is gone, but Gonzaga still won the WCC regular-season title and a NCAA tournament game in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Gonzaga will get a boost if forward Elias Harris is not a one-and-done player.
17. North Carolina
The buzz: OK, so going on North Carolina's track record in the 2009-10 preseason rankings was not a great idea. The Tar Heels will aim to bounce back next season after reaching the NIT final. Roy Williams hopes two top-10 signees (Harrison Barnes and Reggie Bullock) will complement Ed Davis on the way to a return to the top of the ACC.
18. Memphis
The buzz: The Tigers lacked an inside presence this season, but the nation's top recruiting class should make that a moot point next season. Josh Pastner has proved he can recruit; now we'll get to see what he can do with a full roster.
19. Villanova
The buzz: This season ended earlier than expected, and, frankly, the Wildcats looked to have peaked in February. They will miss Scottie Reynolds, but a number of good guards return and Jay Wright has signed another good recruiting class.
20. Florida State
The buzz: The Seminoles lose just one important senior, forward Ryan Reid, though big man Solomon Alabi could turn pro. If Alabi stays in school, FSU will have a legit shot at a top-three finish in the ACC -- assuming the Seminoles get their offense revved up. FSU was an excellent defensive team but a mediocre offensive team this season.
21. New Mexico
The buzz: The Lobos were a big-time surprise this season, and they lose only one senior in glue guy Roman Martinez. If swingman Darington Hobson returns for his senior season, the Lobos should be the class of what will be a deep Mountain West Conference next season.
22. Vanderbilt
The buzz: The Commodores are losing just one of their top nine players, assuming big man A.J. Ogilvy stays in school, but that guy is point guard Jermaine Beal. If Beal can be adequately replaced, the Commodores will contend for the SEC title.
23. UNLV
The buzz: Coach Lon Kruger has the Runnin' Rebels on solid footing again, and next season's team could be the best - on paper - that he has at Vegas. The top eight scorers return.
24. Tennessee
The buzz: The Vols overachieved a bit this season, falling just short of a Final Four berth. They lose three seniors, including big man Wayne Chism and swingman J.P. Prince. But if incoming freshman Tobias Harris is as good as advertised, the Vols will be fine up front.
25. Washington
The buzz: The Huskies made a surprising run to the Sweet 16 this season and had just one senior. But that one senior was Quincy Pondexter, who was the team's best player. Still, there is enough remaining talent to think that the Huskies will be the class of the Pac-10, which may be only marginally better next season.
Listed in alphabetical order: Arizona, Florida, Louisville, Missouri, Saint Louis, San Diego State, Temple, UTEP, Wichita State, Wisconsin.


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