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Friday, April 10, 2009

Fox's Jeff Goodman - Ridiculously early 2009-10 preseason top 25


It's a nearly impossible task to try and figure it all out without knowing who is coming back to college and who won't be returning. But we're going to give it a shot, anyway.

You won't find Syracuse here because our gut says Jonny Flynn is history. And our No. 1 pick hinges on two stars returning to school.

Remember, this early preseason top 25 will be tweaked again after June 15 — which is the deadline for underclassmen to withdraw.

Ridiculously early 2009-10 preseason top 25

1. KANSAS

Record: 27-8 (Sweet 16)
Losses: None
Probable Early-Entry Departures: None
Potential Early-Entry Departures: Sherron Collins, Cole Aldrich
Key Returnees: Tyshawn Taylor, Brady Morningstar, Marcus and Markieff Morris, Mario Little
Newcomers: Thomas Robinson, Elijah Johnson, Jeff Withey (second semester), Xavier Henry (potentially)
This is a tough one to figure, but we're going under the theory that both Collins and Aldrich return to Lawrence. If that happens, the young Jayhawks will have another year under their belt. They will also add a talented freshman class with Robinson, an athletic forward, another guard in Johnson, and Withey — a skilled 7-footer who transferred from Arizona before ever playing a game. If Bill Self gets top-rated recruit Xavier Henry — which could happen — and everything else falls into place, they could be hanging another banner at Allen Fieldhouse.

2. MICHIGAN STATE
Kalin Lucas is just one of many returning to the Michigan State team, keeping the Spartans in strong contention.

Record: 31-7 (national runner-up)
Losses: Goran Suton, Travis Walton, Marquise Gray
Probable Early-Entry Departures: None
Potential Early-Entry Departures: Kalin Lucas
Key Returnees: Kalin Lucas, Raymar Morgan, Delvon Roe, Durrell Summers, Chris Allen, Draymond Green, Korie Lucious
Newcomers: Derrick Nix, Garrick Sherman
Tom Izzo will miss his skilled big man, Suton, and the leadership and defense of Walton. But as long as everyone else is back — which should be the case — the Spartans can get back to the Final Four. Lucas has quickly become one of the nation's elite point guards, Summers has emerged and Roe will continue to get close to 100 percent. Michigan State may have to go small with Roe in the middle unless one of its freshman bigs — Nix or Sherman — progresses quickly.

3. VILLANOVA

Record: 30-8 (Final Four)
Losses: Dante Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark
Probable Early-Entry Departures: None
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Reggie Redding, Corey Stokes
Newcomers: Dominic Cheek, Mouphtauo Yarou, Maalik Wayans, Isaiah Armwood
There's no doubt that the loss of the senior class will be felt on the Main Line. Cunningham, Anderson and Clark were team guys who won games. However, there's still plenty of talent back with a loaded backcourt that includes Reynolds and the Coreys — Fisher and Stokes. Redding has turned into a heck of a player, and Jay Wright adds a big-time freshman class with a trio of elite guys — guards Wayans and Cheek in addition to ultra-talented big man Yarou.

4. PURDUE

Record: 27-10 (Sweet 16)
Losses: None
Probable Early-Entry Departures: None
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore, Chris Kramer, Keaton Grant, Lewis Jackson
Newcomers: Jeff Robinson, D.J. Byrd
For the second straight year, the core of the team remains intact. In fact, all five starters have played together for the past two seasons. Hummel's back won't be a concern next season as it was this year, and Johnson has taken a major step forward. Matt Painter's Boilermakers are now experienced, balanced and have all the pieces.

5. DUKE
Kyle Singler can drive the ball for Duke, but the Blue Devils face question marks in other key areas.

Record: 30-7 (Sweet 16)
Losses: Greg Paulus, David McClure
Probable Early-Entry Departures: Gerald Henderson
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Kyle Singler, Jon Scheyer, Lance Thomas, Nolan Smith, Elliott Williams
Newcomers: Ryan Kelley, Mason Plumlee
Duke's chances next season are heavily dependent on the decision of Henderson, who emerged as the Blue Devils star the second half of this season. Coach Mike Krzyzewski will still have Singler and Scheyer and a couple of talented freshmen forwards in Kelley and Plumlee, but will face the same question next year as it did this season: point-guard play and a lack of a low-post scorer.

6. CLEMSON

Record: 23-9 (first round of the NCAA tournament)
Losses: K.C. Rivers, Raymond Sykes
Probable Early-Entry Departures: None
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Demontez Stitt, Terrence Oglesby, Trevor Booker, David Potter
Newcomers: Milton Jennings, Devin Booker, Donte Hill
The loss of Rivers will hurt in a number of ways, but Oglesby can provide the scoring punch from the perimeter. It'll be more a question of who picks up the leadership. Booker is one of the most underrated big men in the country, and his younger brother — incoming freshman Devin Booker — may be even better. Jennings is the most high-profile recruit the program has picked up in years, and Stitt and Oglesby are a formidable backcourt.

7. WASHINGTON

Record: 26-9 (second round of the NCAA tournament)
Losses: Jon Brockman, Justin Dentmon, Artem Wallace
Probable Early-Entry Departures: None
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Isaiah Thomas, Quincy Pondexter, Venoy Overton, Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Elston Turner, Darnell Gant
Newcomers: Abdul Gaddy, Clarence Trent, Charles Garcia, C.J. Wilcox
Brockman was a special player and Dentmon had a strong finish to his career, but incoming freshman Gaddy will waste no time showing he's one of the top pure point guards in the nation. Thomas and Gaddy will be fun to watch in the backcourt, and Lorenzo Romar has some other pieces. However, he'll need someone to step up on the frontline — whether it's Gant or Bryan-Amaning — and soften the blow of Brockman's loss.

8. NORTH CAROLINA

Record: 34-4 (won national title)
Losses: Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, Bobby Frasor
Probable Early-Entry Departures: Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Marcus Ginyard, Ed Davis, Deon Thompson, Tyler Zeller, Larry Drew II
Newcomers: John Henson, Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald, David and Travis Wear
North Carolina will lose one of the greatest players ever to wear a Tar Heels uniform in Hansbrough. Fellow seniors Green and Frasor are also gone — and it's unlikely that Lawson and Ellington will return for another go-around. However, Roy Williams will have Marcus Ginyard back after a medical redshirt season, Ed Davis will take on a prominent role, and size won't be an issue with starting forward Deon Thompson, reserve big man Tyler Zeller and talented freshman John Henson coming into the program. The key will be point-guard play — where Larry Drew II will likely take over for Lawson.

9. KENTUCKY
Will Jodie Meeks stay in Kentucky and help drive the Wildcats' team efforts?

Record: 22-14 (NIT)
Losses: Jared Carter
Probable Early-Entry Departures: Patrick Patterson
Potential Early-Entry Departures: Jodie Meeks
Key Returnees: Jodie Meeks, Darius Miller, DeAndre Liggins, Ramon Harris, Perry Stevenson, Kevin Galloway, Josh Harrellson, Matt Pilgrim
Newcomers: Daniel Orton (will likely opt out of letter-of-intent), DeMarcus Cousins, Jon Hood, John Wall (potentially)
New coach John Calipari's team has a bunch of question marks right now. Will Patterson and Meeks be back? Will Orton stick with his commitment now that Cousins has pledged to Kentucky? Will the Wildcats get John Wall or Xavier Henry? Whatever the case, they'll be a top 25 team — but it's hard to get a feel for exactly where UK stands at this point.

10. BUTLER

Record: 26-6 (first round of the NCAA tournament)
Losses: None
Probable Early-Entry Departures: None
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Matt Howard, Gordon Hayward, Shelvin Mack, Ronald Nored, Avery Jukes, Shawn Vanzant, Zach Hahn
Newcomers: Andrew Smith
Brad Stevens will return four starters from a team that won 26 games and lost to LSU in the first round of the Big Dance. Howard, a sophomore, and three talented and productive freshmen — 6-foot-8 skilled forward Gordon Hayward and guards Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored — will also be back for a team that will be heavily favored to win the Horizon.

11. XAVIER

Record: 27-8 (Sweet 16)
Losses: B.J. Raymond, C.J. Anderson
Probable Early-Entry Departures: None
Potential Early-Entry Departures: Derrick Brown
Key Returnees: Derrick Brown, Jason Love, Terrell Holloway, Dante Jackson, Jamel McLean, Kenny Frease
Newcomers: Jordan Crawford (transfer from Indiana), Mark Lyons, Kevin Parrom
The Musketeers may have lost their coach and also Raymond and Anderson, but they have plenty of talent back. Brown and Love are experienced on the frontline, and Xavier adds two guards in Crawford and Lyons, who will see extensive playing time.

12. UCONN
Getting to the playoffs will be no slam dunk with a team full of newcomers, even with talent like Jerome Dyson returning.

Record: 31-5 (Final Four)
Losses: Jeff Adrien, A.J. Price, Craig Austrie
Probable Early-Entry Departures: Hasheem Thabeet
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Jerome Dyson, Kemba Walker, Stanley Robinson, Gavin Edwards
Newcomers: Alex Oriakhi, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, Darius Smith, Jamaal Trice, Ater Majok
The Huskies will take a significant hit to graduation with seniors Price and Adrien. They almost certainly will watch Thabeet leave early to the NBA. However, UConn still has a strong backcourt with Walker and Dyson, Robinson up front and the addition of talented freshmen Oriakhi and Coombs-McDaniel.

13. WEST VIRGINIA

Record: 23-12 (first round of the NCAA tournament)
Losses: Alex Ruoff
Probable Early-Entry Departures: None
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Da'Sean Butler, Devin Ebanks, Darryl Bryant, Joe Mazzulla, Kevin Jones
Newcomers: Deniz Kilicli, Dan Jennings, Casey Mitchell, Dalton Pepper
The loss of Ruoff will hurt Bob Huggins, but the Mountaineers will get Mazzulla back from an early season injury that cut his year short. Butler and Ebanks give West Virginia a pair of accomplished scorers, and the Mountaineers also will add some much-needed size with Kilicli and Jennings.

14. WAKE FOREST

Record: 24-7 (first round of the NCAA tournament)
Losses: Harvey Hale
Probable Early-Entry Departures: James Johnson
Potential Early-Entry Departures: Al Farouq-Aminu, Jeff Teague
Key Returnees: Al Farouq-Aminu, Jeff Teague, Ishmael Smith, Chas McFarland, Tony Woods
Newcomers: Ari Stewart, C.J. Harris
Johnson is history, while still unclear is the status of Teague and even Aminu (although it appears as though he'll be back). If they both return, the Demon Deacons will have a chance to be among the elite teams in the ACC again.

15. MINNESOTA

Record: 22-11 (first round of the NCAA tournament)
Losses: None
Probable Early-Entry Departures: None
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Lawrence Westbrook, Damian Johnson, Al Nolen, Blake Hoffarber, Ralph Sampson, Colton Iverson, Devoe Joseph
Newcomers: Rodney Williams, Royce White, Trevor Mbakwe
Tubby Smith's team didn't exactly have a ton of talent last year, and he still led them to the Big Dance. Now he'll add three talented guys — probably the three most talented on the team — in White, Williams and Mbakwe.

16. LOUISVILLE
Louisville is lucky to retain its prized guards, including Edgar Sosa. But will the loss of Williams and Clark overwhelm the Cardinals' chances?

Record: 31-6 (Elite Eight)
Losses: Terrence Williams, Andre McGee
Probable Early-Entry Departures: Earl Clark
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Samardo Samuels, Preston Knowles, Jerry Smith, Edgar Sosa, Terrence Jennings
Newcomers: Peyton Siva, Rakeem Buckles, Mike Marra
The loss of Williams and Clark will be difficult to replace, but Rick Pitino still has Samuels in the middle and a core of experienced guards in Smith, Sosa and Knowles. The recruiting class may not feature a sure-fire NBA guy, but Siva will come right in and make an impact, and Marra is a big-time shooter.

17. TEXAS

Record: 23-12 (first round of the NCAA tournament)
Losses: A.J. Abrams, Connor Atchley
Probable Early-Entry Departures: Damion James
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Dexter Pittman, Justin Mason, Dogus Balbay, Varez Ward
Newcomers: Jai Lucas (transfer from Florida), Jordan Hamilton, Avery Bradley, Shawn Williams, J'Covan Brown (potentially)
It's still a toss-up on James and whether he stays or not, but the Longhorns will be able to take the hit with the young talent they have coming into the program. Pittman has emerged as he's gotten into shape, Mason and Ward are capable wings and now Rick Barnes will have a couple of point guard options — Balbay and Lucas, who becomes eligible in the second semester. Hamilton and Bradley are two of the elite freshmen in the nation and will make immediate impacts.

18. ILLINOIS

Record: 24-10 (first round of the NCAA tournament)
Losses: Trent Meacham, Chester Frazier, Calvin Brock
Probable Early-Entry Departures: None
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Demetri McCamey, Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, Dominique Keller
Newcomers: D.J. Richardson, Tyler Griffey, Brandon Paul, Joseph Bertrand
No one expected the Illini to accomplish as much as they did this past season. Bruce Weber will lose underrated guards Frazier and Meacham, but he'll bring in a ballyhooed recruiting class headlined by Richardson, Griffey and Paul. McCamey is a quality guard, and Davis and Tisdale have both developed much more quickly than anyone anticipated.

19. OHIO STATE

Record: 22-11 (first round of the NCAA tournament)
Losses: B.J. Mullens
Probable Early-Entry Departures: B.J. Mullens
Potential Early-Entry Departures: Evan Turner, William Buford
Key Returnees: Evan Turner, William Buford, David Lighty, Jon Diebler, Dallas Lauderdale, Jeremie Simmons, P.J. Hill
Newcomers: None
The only loss is that of the 7-foot Mullens, who has unlimited potential but didn't exactly set the world on fire in his one season in Columbus. Turner and Buford are a formidable 1-2 punch, but the key is the return of Lighty, who missed most of last season with an injury. Actually, the key to how far the Buckeyes can go is their point-guard situation.

20. TENNESSEE

Record: 21-13 (first round of the NCAA tournament)
Losses: None
Probable Early-Entry Departures: Tyler Smith
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Tyler Smith, Wayne Chism, Bobby Maze, J.P. Prince, Scotty Hopson, Brian Williams, Cameron Tatum, Josh Tabb, Renardo Woolridge, Emmanuel Negedu
Newcomers: Kenny Hall
The Vols aren't sure whether Tyler Smith will be back, but Bruce Pearl will still have plenty of talent back in the fold. Chism and Williams give UT size, and the Vols have wings with guys like Prince, Hopson and Tatum. The key comes at the point-guard spot — where Maze didn't live up to expectations last season.

21. GONZAGA
Matt Bouldin is just one reason the Bulldogs remain a favorite contender, even with heavy losses in the form of Pargo and Heytvelt.

Record: 28-6 (Sweet 16)
Losses: Jeremy Pargo, Josh Heytvelt, Micah Downs, Ira Brown
Probable Early-Entry Departures: None
Potential Early-Entry Departures: Austin Daye
Key Returnees: Austin Daye, Steven Gray, Matt Bouldin, Robert Sacre, Demetri Goodson
Newcomers: Sam Dower
The 'Zags lost some key pieces with Pargo and Heytvelt, but Mark Few's team has quality guards with Bouldin, Gray and Goodson. Daye will likely return to school, and a healthy Sacre will be more than serviceable up front. Gonzaga won't be quite as talented, but should still be the clear favorite in the WCC.

22. SIENA

Record: 27-8 (second round of the NCAA tournament)
Losses: Kenny Hasbrouck
Probable Early-Entry Departures: None
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Edwin Ubiles, Alex Franklin, Ryan Rossiter, Ronald Moore, Clarence Jackson
Newcomers: Oderah Anosike, Jonathan Breeden, Denzel Yard
The only major loss for the Saints was that of Kenny Hasbrouck. Fran McCaffery still has four starters from a team that has plenty of postseason experience.

23. MICHIGAN

Record: 21-4 (second round of the NCAA tournament)
Losses: C.J. Lee
Probable Early-Entry Departures: None
Potential Early-Entry Departures: Manny Harris
Key Returnees: Manny Harris, DeShawn Sims, Stu Douglass, Laval Lucas-Perry, Zack Novak, Zack Gibson
Newcomers: Darius Morris. Matt Vogrich, Jordan Morgan, Blake McLimans
The Wolverines went to the second round of the Big Dance and didn't really lose anything of note. Harris, Sims and Douglas are back, Lucas-Perry will improve and John Beilein will add point guard Darius Morris and big-time shooter Matt Vogrich.

24. CALIFORNIA

Record: 22-11 (first round of the NCAA tournament)
Losses: Jordan Wilkes
Probable Early-Entry Departures: None
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher, Theo Robertson, Jamal Boykin, Jorge Gutierrez
Newcomers: Bak Bak, Markuri Sanders-Frison, Brandon Smith
Mike Montgomery brings back his core of Randle, Christopher and Boykin. These guys have a year of postseason experience under their belt and also a year under Montgomery's system.

25. UCLA

Record: 26-9 (second round of the NCAA tournament)
Losses: Darren Collison, Josh Shipp, Alfred Aboya
Probable Early-Entry Departures: Jrue Holiday
Potential Early-Entry Departures: None
Key Returnees: Nikola Dragovic, Drew Gordon, Michael Roll, Malcolm Lee, James Keefe, Jerime Anderson
Newcomers: Tyler Honeycutt, Reeves Nelson, Mike Moser, Anthony Stover, Brendan Lane
Ben Howland loses three seniors who were critical in their trio of Final Four appearances, but the key may be whether freshman guard Jrue Holiday comes back. He had a so-so season, but still could be a first-round pick. The Bruins have a young group next season with guys like Gordon, Lee and Anderson set to receive expanded roles — and UCLA also will welcome in a stellar class led by skilled big man Tyler Honeycutt.

Ten more to watch

MISSISSIPPI, KANSAS STATE, FLORIDA, DAYTON, OKLAHOMA, VANDERBILT, NOTRE DAME, GEORGETOWN, CREIGHTON, UNLV

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