Rivals.com 2009-10 Preseason 347 Countdown

Rivals.com Conference Previews
Rivals.com Preseason Top 347 Countdown
1. Kansas
Cole Aldrich can't help but smile when talking about this season. "There's a good chance," he said, "that we could have a lot of fun this year." With Aldrich and Sherron Collins leading the way, Kansas is No. 1 in our preseason countdown of all 347 teams. [ Season preview ]
2. Kentucky
Kentucky not only landed a new coach in John Calipari, but it also reeled in the No. 1 recruiting class. That's why the Wildcats are the favorites to win the SEC title and reach the Final Four, if the incoming players buy into Calipari's team approach. [ Season preview ]
3. Michigan State
Through hard work and determination, Michigan State reached the NCAA championship game last season. Although Big Ten Player of the Year Kalin Lucas is back, the Spartans have some holes to fill if they are going to return to the Final Four. [ Season preview ]
4. Villanova
Jay Wright was contacted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the offseason about their coaching vacancy, but he didn't need long to decide he wanted to stay at Villanova. That's good news for the Wildcats, who are the preseason pick to win the Big East. [ Season preview ]
5. Purdue
Robbie Hummel struggled with injury through most of last season before bouncing back to earn Big Ten tournament MVP honors. If Hummel can stay healthy all season, Purdue should be in the mix for the conference title and a long run in March. [ Season preview ]
6. Texas
Expectations are soaring at Texas. With a solid core of veterans and two big-time freshmen joining the squad, the Longhorns have realistic hopes of challenging for the Big 12 title and a run at the Final Four. [ Season preview ]
7. North Carolina
Gone from the defending national champion Tar Heels are Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. But sophomore Ed Davis, a potential lottery pick, returns, and UNC is counting on his emergence in its quest to defend. [ Season preview ]
8. Duke
Duke went into the offseason as an obvious top-10 pick, but the Blue Devils didn't have a particularly enjoyable summer. They lost Gerald Henderson (NBA draft) and Elliot Williams (transfer to Memphis). Still, Duke seems equipped for a big season. [ Season preview ]
9. West Virginia
The biggest keys will be how quickly Casey Mitchell adapts in his first season of Division I ball and how Bob Huggins handles his point guards. If everything goes smoothly in those areas, the Mountaineers should be in for a fun season. [ Season preview ]
10. California
Cal is goint to try to do something it hasn't done since Pete Newell retired -- win a league title. Newell led the Bears to the 1959 national title and the 1960 title game, but Cal's goal this season is to win the school's first conference title since 1960. [ Season preview ]
11. Butler
Coach Brad Stevens has all five starters back from last year's squad, and his Bulldogs will once again be the team to beat in the Horizon League. The Bulldogs, however, have their sights set on a big March. [ Season preview ]
12. Connecticut
After spending the previous two weeks hinting at retirement, Jim Calhoun announced at the Final Four that his career was far from finished. And while the Huskies return only one starter, they should still make plenty of noise in the Big East. [ Season preview ]
13. Ohio State
Thad Matta is used to losing players early to the NBA draft as his team has hit as hard as any team by one-and-dones. But losing B.J. Mullens isn't that bad, considering Evan Turner is back. So is David Lighty, who missed most of last season. [ Season preview ]
14. Michigan
John Beilein returns four starters this season at Michigan, and the Wolverines have their sights set on a deep March run. There are still concerns in the frontcourt, but Beilein has the guards he needs to get his system running smoothly. [ Season preview ]
15. Washington
Washington won its first outright conference title since 1953 last season, and the Huskies could be poised for their second in a row. Picked to finish fifth in the Pac-10 last season, the Huskies won't have to worry about being underrated in 2009-10. [ Season preview ]
16. Oklahoma
National player of the year Blake Griffin is gone, but the Sooners return one of the top guards in the country in sophomore Willie Warren, whose performance will be key if OU hopes to challenge Kansas and Texas in the league race. [ Season preview ]
17. Tennessee
The Volunteers tied for their second straight SEC East title in 2008-09, but the season was still a bit of a disappointment after a first-round NCAA tournament loss. The Vols, however, return their entire nucleus and have enough talent to be a top-10 team. [ Season preview ]
18. Georgetown
Georgetown will boast one of the most experienced teams in the Big East, and the Hoyas will enter the season with high expectations. There's no reason to believe that Georgetown won't be one of the Big East's top teams. [ Season preview ]
19. Oklahoma State
The Cowboys ranked second in the Big 12 in scoring last season and again should be among the conference's best offensive teams. To take that next step, though, Travis Ford's squad must ratchet things up defensively. [ Season preview ]
20. Louisville
Louisville will be competitive in the Big East because of its depth, but youth and a lack of star power might keep the Cardinals out of the conference title race. But Rick Pitino remains one of the game's top coaches. [ Season preview ]
21. Siena
Siena is the MAAC favorite and should rank alongside Butler, Dayton and Xavier as the top teams outside the six major conferences. Coach Fran McCaffrey should get some looks from bigger programs in the offseason - assuming he wants to leave. [ Season preview ]
22. Dayton
Xavier's personnel losses combined with the returning nucleus in Dayton makes the Flyers the league favorite. Dayton has great depth and plays aggressive, in-your face defense, but the Flyers must become more efficient on offense. [ Season preview ]
23. Clemson
Clemson has a history of starting fast but fading late and flaming out early in the NCAA tournament. Still, the Tigers quietly have won 72 games in the past three seasons. Can an experienced group get over the hump in March? [ Season preview ]
24. Illinois
Illinois bounced back in a big way in 2008-09, a trend that should continue this season. With the top three scorers back along with the second-ranked recruiting class in the Big Ten, the talent is on hand for another 20-win season and a nice NCAA showing. [ Season preview ]
25. Georgia Tech
Georgia Tech finished last in the ACC last season, but things are looking up for the Yellow Jackets. They return six of their top eight scorers and have an outstanding freshman class headlined by Derrick Favors, the No. 3 prospect in the nation. [ Season preview ]
26. Mississippi State
Mississippi State made it into the NCAAs last season only by winning the SEC tournament. The Bulldogs, who return all five starters, shouldn't have to worry about getting that automatic bid this season. [ Season preview ]
27. Kansas State
Third-year coach Frank Martin has Kansas State primed for what could be its best season in recent memory. Almost every key player from last season returns and incoming freshman big man Wally Judge should make an immediate impact. [ Season preview ]
28. Minnesota
In his second season with Minnesota in 2008-09, coach Tubby Smith directed the Gophers to their first NCAA tournament berth since 2005. With all five starters back this season, the Gophers look to return to the Big Dance and get past the first round. [ Season preview ]
29. Texas A&M
Texas A&M received a scare when three of its top underclassmen entered their names into the NBA draft. Two elected to stay in school, and Bryan Davis and Donald Sloan said they benefited from the process. The Aggies hope to benefit, too. [ Season preview ]
30. UCLA
This season, UCLA coaches might say the one word they haven't had much use for over the past few seasons: "rebuilding." Of course, rebuilding for UCLA might mean a third- or fourth-place finish in the Pac-10 and a low NCAA tournament seed. [ Season preview ]
31. Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh fell short of its Final Four goal last season, but the Panthers still put together the best run in recent memory. With a lot of new faces this season, they will find it tough to repeat their 31-5 record from a year ago. [ Season preview ]
32. Xavier
A coaching change and the losses of its top three scorers mean Xavier isn't a lock to win the A-10 or even reach the NCAA tournament. But given the Musketeers' recent track record, would you bet against them? [ Season preview ]
33. Wake Forest
This could be a critical season for Wake Forest coach Dino Gaudio. Gaudio has shown he can recruit, but he needs to prove he can coach at the same level as the ACC's top tacticians. [ Season preview ]
34. Gonzaga
Before Gonzaga contends for its 10th consecutive WCC regular-season title and 12th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, some major questions need to be answered. The main one: Who besides Matt Bouldin is going to contribute? [ Season preview ]
35. Ole Miss
Last season's adversity should only make Ole Miss stronger. If the Rebels stay healthy and freshman Reginald Buckner is as good as advertised, this team has a legitimate chance to earn an NCAA bid. [ Season preview ]
36. Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt has cause for optimism even after missing out on the postseason last season. This is an experienced and deep team, and the Commodores welcome John Jenkins, the No. 15 prospect in the nation. [ Season preview ]
37. Memphis
Another Conference USA title is possible, but to expect a long NCAA tournament run would be foolish. While the talent is there, how is it going to mesh under first-time head coach Josh Pastner? [ Season preview ]
38. Northern Iowa
The Panthers are the prohibitive favorite to win the Missouri Valley and return to the NCAA tournament. All five starters averaged between 8.4 points and 12.1 points last season, and five returning players made at least 14 3-pointers. [ Season preview ]
39. Florida State
FSU loses only two players from last season, when the Seminoles made the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998. But one of those is Toney Douglas, perhaps the ACC's most indispensable player. Who's going to fill Douglas' shoes? [ Season preview ]
40. Wisconsin
The names change, but the results generally are the same in Madison: The Badgers contend in the Big Ten and land in the NCAA tournament. That consistency will be put to the test this season. [ Season preview ]
41. Tulsa
All the pieces are in place for a big season. Football has taken over the spotlight at the school for the past few years, but basketball is enjoying a resurgence under Doug Wojcik - who is entering his fifth year as coach. [ Season preview ]
42. Syracuse
Syracuse is a good choice for a sleeper team in the Big East. Yes, the Orange lost a lot. But their frontcourt will be one of the most physical in the conference, and they have a pair of outside shooting threats. [ Season preview ]
43. Baylor
Baylor is talented enough to finish in the upper half of the Big 12 and make the NCAA tournament. But it won't happen unless Drew and his staff impose more structure and discipline than they have in the past. [ Season preview ]
44. Washington State
Ken Bone's first team at Washington State will be young, but he proved he can succeed with a rebuilding project at Portland State. He will have some quality building blocks in Klay Thompson and DeAngelo Casto. [ Season preview ]
45. Maryland
Maryland has the ACC's most indispensable player in Greivis Vasquez, but the senior guard is going to need some help if the Terps, who return four starters, are going to get past the second round of the NCAA tournament this season. [ Season preview ]
46. BYU
BYU already figured to enter the season as the Mountain West's most talented team. Now the Cougars will have extra inspiration this year each time they look on the bench and see coach Dave Rose, whose pancreatic cancer is in remission. [ Season preview ]
47. Oregon State
Only two seasons removed from going 0-18 in the conference, Oregon State is poised to be competitive in the Pac-10. Craig Robinson has Oregon State believing and brought in a top-25 recruiting class. [ Season preview ]
48. Creighton
Creighton won a share of the MVC crown last season. If some key newcomers emerge and the frontcourt stabilizes, the Bluejays should contend again and extend their MVC-record run of consecutive postseason bids to 13. [ Season preview ]
49. Cincinnati
There definitely is a sense of urgency surrounding the Bearcats' program. If Cincinnati doesn't make the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005, it may be time to put coach Mick Cronin on the hot seat. [ Season preview ]
50. South Carolina
South Carolina must rebound better and avoid the late-season collapse that knocked the Gamecocks out of NCAA tournament contention last season. If they do those two things, the Gamecocks ought to earn an NCAA bid. [ Season preview ]

MORE PRESEASON COUNTDOWN: Nos. 51-100 | 101-150 | 151-200 | 201-250 | 251-300 | 301-347

Rivals.com is counting down to the No. 1 team in the country, and we'll reveal a new team each day. Preseason rankings were compiled by basketball writers David Fox, Mike Huguenin, Jason King and Steve Megargee.


 

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