October 19, 2008

Move over, pigskin prognosticators. Roundball practice has begun, and the Rivals.com's Preseason Top 65 Countdown is now complete.

Rivals.com Preseason Top 65 Countdown
1. North Carolina
The talented Tar Heels begin the season as the odds-on favorite to win it all. They are perhaps the biggest favorite since the 1990-91 UNLV squad. Read the full preview
2. Connecticut
A healthy A.J. Price helps give Connecticut reason to believe it could be a serious national championship contender. Read the full preview
3. Pittsburgh
If Pittsburgh finds a consistent outside threat be it Jermaine Dixon or someone else the Panthers are a serious threat to win the national championship. Read the full preview
4. Purdue
This team is a coach's dream, a bunch of players who enjoy the hard work and doing the little things it takes to win games. Read the full preview
5. Notre Dame
With weapons like Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney, offense won't be a problem for the Irish. If the defense improves, they could be headed to Detroit. Read the full preview
6. Duke
The Blue Devils will finish in the top three of the ACC and have no trouble getting back to the NCAA tournament. A trip to the Final Four is a real possibility. Read the full preview
7. Oklahoma
The surprising return of Blake Griffin will help the Sooners finish in the top two in the league and win at least two NCAA tournament games. Read the full preview
8. Louisville
Louisville is less concerned about making the NCAA tournament and more concerned about getting at least one step beyond where it finished last year, the Elite Eight. Read the full preview
9. UCLA
This team is loaded with future NBA players and has a good blend of veterans who know how to win and young players hungry to prove themselves. Read the full preview
10. Tennessee
The roster is loaded with talent, but there are six newcomers - many of whom will have to play prominent roles. That said, the Vols should be the class of the SEC. Read the full preview
11. Georgetown
Anyone predicting a huge downturn for the Hoyas should take a closer look. They have three returning starters, an excellent coach and a highly ranked recruiting class. Read the full preview
12. Michigan State
Drew Neitzel is gone, but the Spartans return plenty of talent. They might be a tear away from being a true title contender, but another Sweet 16 is very possible. Read the full preview
13. Gonzaga
Gonzaga has been to 10 consecutive NCAA tournaments, and that streak is not in jeopardy. Four starters return from a team that went 13-1 in the WCC. Read the full preview
14. Texas
If the Longhorns make some defensive improvements, they could win the Big 12 and be a Final Four threat. They will return to the Sweet 16.. Read the full preview
15. Memphis
The Tigers lost a lot of talent, but they reloaded with a stellar recruiting class that was ranked fourth nationally by Rivals.com. Read the full preview
16. Kansas
National champ Kansas is starting over with an overhauled roster, and that could mean a slow start. But the talent is there for a return to the NCAA tournament. Read the full preview
17. Villanova
Villanova is headed back to the NCAA tournament, and anything less than the Sweet 16 probably would be a disappointment. Read the full preview
18. Wake Forest
The Deacons add one of the top recruiting classes in school history to a team that may have reached the NCAA tournament without any additions. Read the full preview
19. Florida
Coach Billy Donovan couldn't hide his disgust with his Gators at times last season. Still, there are plenty of reasons to like Florida heading into a new season. Read the full preview
20. Marquette
With just one starter taller than 6-6, the Golden Eagles will face as many misatches as they create. For that reason, it's hard to see them much beyond the Sweet 16. Read the full preview
21. USC
The Trojans should finish no lower than third in the Pac-10 the league isn't nearly as tough as last season and make their third consecutive NCAA appearance. Read the full preview
22. Davidson
Moving Stephen Curry to point guard just means he'll have the ball in his hands more often. Don't expect his scoring average to suffer in the least. Read the full preview
23. UNLV
Lon Kruger has the Rebels rolling with consecutive NCAA tourney appearances and 57 wins the past two seasons. There's reason to expect more of the same. Read the full preview
24. West Virginia
The conference schedule is brutal, but talent and coaching can go a long way. WVU will be back in the NCAA tournament. Read the full preview
25. Arizona State
The Sun Devils were snubbed by the NCAA last season. They should cruise into the tourney this time with every scholarship player back in the fold. Read the full preview
26. San Diego
With every starter and key reserve back from last season's team, don't expect the Toreros to need another run through the West Coast Conference Tournament to lock up an NCAA bid. Read the full preview
27. Miami
As long as the big men step up and do an adequate job rebounding, the 'Canes will finish in the top half of the ACC and lock up another at-large bid to the field of the 65. Read the full preview
28. Baylor
Last season's breakthrough should not be viewed as an anomaly. All the key pieces return and the Big 12 may be down. Look for a return to the NCAA tournament. Read the full preview
29. Wisconsin
Bo Ryan's teams are always efficient on offense and solid on defense. Expect more of the same and another trip to the NCAA tournament this season. Read the full preview
30. Ohio State
In a tougher league, this might not be a tournament team because of its youth and perceived lack of depth. In the Big Ten, its a safe bet to finish at least fourth. Read the full preview
31. Xavier
A lot of transition will probably keep Xavier from a third consecutive 25-win season, but the Musketeers ought to win the Atlantic 10 and return to the NCAA tournament. Read the full preview
32. Syracuse
The Orange have been left on the outside looking in for the last two NCAA tournaments. The Big East is loaded, but this team should be able to sneak in this season. Read the full preview
33. Saint Mary's
The Gaels have all the pieces needed to get back to the NCAA Tournament. Their biggest challenge is dealing with an enormous change in expectations. Read the full preview
34. Siena
Siena opened some eyes with its rout of fourth-seeded Vanderbilt in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This team should be even better. Read the full preview
35. Clemson
Even with the loss of some key veterans, the Tigers return enough firepower to get back to the NCAA Tournament. But don't expect another No. 5 seed. Read the full preview
36. UAB
It's time for the Blazers to break through and give Conference USA a second team in the NCAA Tournament. Read the full preview
37. Virginia Tech
Is there enough young talent around senior A.D. Vassallo to get the Hokies over the hump and into the NCAA Tounrament? We think there is. Read the full preview
38. Arizona
The Wildcats return one of the best trios in the Pac-10. They will rely on a lot of youth to shore up other spots, but the Pac-10 isn't going to be nearly as tough. Read the full preview
39. LSU
The sooner the Tigers buy in to what Trent Johnson is preaching, the better off they'll be. Expect a more disciplined, better-conditioned team. Read the full preview
40. Kentucky
This is a team that should win 20 regular-season games, push Tennessee and Florida in the SEC East and find its way back to the NCAA Tournament. Read the full preview
41. BYU
The Cougars probably don't have enough to get by UNLV atop the Mountain West, but they should return to the NCAA Tournament. Read the full preview
42. Ole Miss
The Rebels might be a year away from making a run at an SEC title. We don't see the Rebels winning the SEC West, but an NCAA bid could be within their grasp. Read the full preview
43. Tulsa
Tulsa claimed the first CBI title last season and could graduate to the NCAA Tourney if it gets answers to some questions at point guard. Read the full preview
44. Texas A&M
Texas A&M returns three of its top four scorers, but some important pieces were lost. The Aggies will be in the hunt for an NCAA bid but ultimately may fall short. Read the full preview
45. Alabama
If point guard Ron Steele is limited, Alabama won't be much better than last season. If it works out, the Tide will push for an NCAA bid. Read the full preview
46. Southern Miss
We predicted Southern Miss would break out a year ago and came up empty. With four starters back, we again like their chances. Read the full preview
47. Washington State
On paper, the Cougars don't look like an NCAA Tournament team. But Coach Tony Bennett has shown a penchant for getting his players to overachieve. Read the full preview
48. Oklahoma State
The big issues are lack of a solid big man and depth, and it's unlikely either will get fixed this season. We expect the Cowboys to be improved. Read the full preview
49. Creighton
Most of the top teams in the Missouri Valley are facing massive losses. The league title is Creighton's for the taking with another NIT trip a worst-case scenario. Read the full preview
50. Massachusetts
UMass has a talented, veteran-laden backcourt that should allow for a smooth transition to new coach Derek Kellogg's style. Is there enough depth in the frontcourt? Read the full preview
51. Washington
With the return of senior big man Jon Brockman and an easier road in the Pac-10, look for the Huskies to bounce back and earn an NCAA bid. Read the full preview
52. St. Joseph's
Xavier is the clear-cut favorite in the Atlantic 10, but St. Joe's should fight it out with Massachusetts for second. Read the full preview
53. Kent State
The Flashes are one of eight Division I programs to win 20 games in each of the past 10 seasons, so expectations are high. Can they do it again? Read the full preview
54. UTEP
UTEP should have no problems putting points on the board. But do the Miners have enough to truly battle Memphis and possibly earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament? Read the full preview
55. Vanderbilt
Vandy appears destined to be a competitive team that pulls a few surprises but loses a few too many close games to get off the NCAA Tournament bubble. Read the full preview
56. Northeastern
Northeastern returns its entire starting lineup and top nine scorers. The CAA won't be easy, but there's reason to believe the Huskies can challenge for an NCAA bid. Read the full preview
57. Miami (Ohio)
With five seniors projected to start and two sophomores who gained experience last season, Miami should be in contention for the MAC title. Read the full preview
59. Cleveland State
There are other experienced clubs in the Horizon League, so getting into the field of 65 isn't a lock. But the Vikings should do no worse than another trip to the NIT. Read the full preview
60. Missouri
The Tigers have one of the Big 12's top frontcourts, but have they added enough talent and depth to take advantage of third-year coach Mike Anderson's fast-paced systyem? Read the full preview
61. Maryland
The good news is Greivis Vasquez emerged as one of the nation's best playmakers last season. The bad news is the Terps have a couple of big holes to fill up front. Read the full preview
62. Wisconsin-Green Bay
The Phoenix must get tougher and find a way to get more stops to capture the league's automatic NCAA bid. Otherwise, they will be hoping for a spot in the NIT. Read the full preview
63. Minnesota
The talent level is on the rise, but this team is a year away from making a real impact in the Big Ten. It looks like a fifth-place finish and another NIT bid. Read the full preview
64. Middle Tennessee State
The Blue Raiders, who upset South Alabama twice last season, including in the Sun Belt Tournament semifinals in Mobile, Ala., should be the league favorite. Read the full preview
65. American
When are teams such as American at their most dangerous? When they have seniors. Take a look at the probable starting lineup. Five seniors. Read the full preview




 

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