|Duke Blue Devils
|Michigan St. Spartans
|Kansas St. Wildcats
|Ohio St. Buckeyes
|Virginia Tech Hokies
|North Carolina Tar Heels
|Illinois Fighting Illini
|San Diego St. Aztecs
|N.C. State Wolfpack
|Honorable Mentions: Georgia Bulldogs, BYU Cougars, UNLV Runnin' Rebels, Texas Longhorns, Wisconsin Badgers, and Florida St. Seminoles
So basketball season is here. Monday, Texas kicked off Big 12 play against Navy. That means it's time for an updated top 25 from Big 12 Hoops. A lot of things have changed since I drew up the preseason rankings over the summer, so here's the updated version. The biggest moves are either thanks to injury--or more likely me doing better research into teams' outlooks. Check out team-by-team breakdowns after the jump.
- News about Duke only seems to be getting better (for Duke fans). NBA scouts like what they see, and the Blue Devils have three legitimate All-American candidates. Frosh stud Kyrie Irving probably has the key to the championship.
- Michigan State is a very experienced team. Especially if Kalin Lucas is really 100% healthy, there's no reason they shouldn't make the last weekend of the Big Dance again this year.
- Kansas State lost two key pieces from last year in Denis Clemente and Dominique Sutton, but Jacob Pullen is the real deal. He's a terrific scorer and has shown the ability to take over games. Frank Martin's squad will use Pullen and an athletic frontcourt to run most opponents ragged.
- Pitt is the favorite to win the Big East this year. I don't see them blowing many teams out, but I think they'll be very tough to beat. Jamie Dixon is a great coach, and they have loads of experience and talent.
- I moved Ohio State this high because I couldn't think of anyone to move ahead of them. This year the top two or three teams (at least now) seem to be far and above the rest. Ohio State has very high upside this season. The key will be finding someone to take over Evan Turner's point guard responsibilities.
- Villanova is another team that could be incredible or middling. The Wildcats are loaded in the backcourt and are stronger up front than some people expect. If they can replace the leadership hole left by Scottie Reynolds, they should give the Panthers some real competition in the Big East.
- Missouri was my highest jump since the summer. The Tigers have an experienced team with a lot of incoming talent (especially if Tony Mitchell gets eligible for the second semester), and the 40 minutes of hell defense to back them up. Missouri won't be the prettiest team to watch this year, and they won't have huge stars. But Mike Anderson's team should win a lot of games.
- I dropped Baylor because I'm not sure about LaceDarius Dunn's ability to lead the team from the point guard position. I think Perry Jones is the real deal (and he should at least equal Udoh's offensive production), but I'm not sure he'll be defensively ready for the physical college game. But if Dunn and Jones deliver, the Bears could make the last weekend (if nothing else, Scott Drew's squad will be very fun to watch).
- Kansas also took a little dip in the rankings (though, they're still top ten). This probably means I'm overrating the Big 12 a little bit (four squads in the top ten!), but I think the top half of the conference is that good this season. I think the Jayhawks will struggle to replace Aldrich, Henry, and Collins early, but they will still be very dangerous. Josh Selby's eligibility will have a big impact on their prospects.
- Syracuse jumped a lot, and I'm a little leery after they lost so much from last season. But according to Dana O'Neil, Jim Boeheim is relaxed (read: happy with his team), so I'll put them here hesitantly.
- Billy Donovan has got the Gators relevant again, as they return nearly 90% of their production from last season. Adding Patric Young to their five returning starters, and the Gators should be favorites to win the SEC.
- Purdue (and college basketball nation) was devastated when Robbie Hummel re-tore his ACL. The loss of Hummel certainly hurts Purdue a lot, but JuJuan Johnson and Etwan Moore are still two of the best players in the Big 10.
- Kentucky needs Enes Kanter. With Kanter, they are one of the most talented teams in the country (albeit young). Without him, they have serious depth issues in the frontcourt. With Kanter they're probably pushing the top ten by the end of the season; without him and they could really struggle against teams with a strong post presence.
- Virginia Tech has everyone back from a team that went 10-6 in the ACC. Malcolm Delaney has a real shot at ACC Player of the Year, and Dorenzo Hudson looks poised for a breakout season. They should surprise some people this year.
- I still think Temple is one of the most underrated teams in the country most years (it probably comes from not playing in a BCS conference), and this year won't be any different. Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez should lead the Owls to a very competitive A-10 title again this season.
- Memphis should be very good again this year. After a rebuilding season (a.k.a. Calipari taking all of his recruits with him to Kentucky), Josh Pastner has a great incoming class, headlined by Will Barton, that should take the Tigers back to the top of Conference USA.
- Lorenzo Romar would have loved to get Terrence Jones to stay in Washington, but the Huskies should still be the pride of the Pac-10 (a conference that should be much better this year).
- Gonzaga will be better than I thought. I'm not sure they're a top ten team, but Elias Harris will be one of the best wings in the country. Steven Gray and Robert Sacre should improve as well.
- I have a feeling I'm going to regret this pick. Bruce Pearl's (or should we go ahead and acknowledge he'll be fired as soon as the NCAA investigation finishes?) team just lost to Division 2 University of Indianapolis by 15 points. Syracuse lost to a D-II school in an exhibition last game, but still. 15 points? Ouch.
- Almost everyone has North Carolina higher than this. There's definitely an argument for that. Here's my argument against it: in 2007, Texas finished ranked 11th in the AP poll and 16th in the coaches poll with Kevin Durant. Harrison Barnes is really good, but he's considered a poor man's Kevin Durant. Not to mention Larry Drew II isn't DJ Augustin...
- Illinois is another one of those teams the experts have ascending the polls. I want to see the Illini get a few games under their belts before I'm ready to crown them the dark horse for the Final Four. That said, Jereme Richmond should be an impact player, and Demetri McCamey is really good.
- San Diego State deserves this spot. Kawhi Leonard is one of the top wings in the country (and won Mountain West tournament MVP as a freshman), and Malcolm Thomas is nothing to sneeze at either. The Mountain West will be solid (at the top at least) again this year, and the Aztecs are the favorites.
- Butler lost a lot in Gordon Hayward, but the Bulldogs still have a great coach, Shelvin Mack, and Matt Howard. While another miraculous national championship game run is unlikely this year, they have the chance to do some real damage in March.
- NC State is still my sleeper for the top 25. I'm convinced that the pressure coming from possibly losing his job will force Sidney Lowe to coach at his highest level. And the additions of C.J. Leslie, Ryan Harrow, and Lorenzo Brown make this team talented enough to finish in the top half of the ACC.
- Richmond has the best player in the A-10 in Kevin Anderson. I think they also have a lot of untapped potential, and I expect them to contend for the conference title.