Our favorite part of the day after the National Championship – compile far too preliminary 2010-2011 college basketball rankings! Things to note: 1) There are still a few weeks to declare for the NBA draft. 2) Who knows what coaches will be on the moving in the coming weeks? 3) There are still some very talented unsigned recruits. That being said … we’ve got Duke No. 1, followed by two other Final Four teams from 2010, some Big East teams, and some Big Ten teams.
1. Duke (35-5, Won NCAA tournament)
Bad news: Kyle Singler could declare for the NBA. Glue guy Jon Scheyer graduates along with two rebounding machines, Lance Thomas & Brian Zoubek (felt weird typing those last two names). Good news: Seth Curry, the transfer from Liberty, becomes eligible. He’ll start in the backcourt with Nolan Smith. If Singler stays, he’ll start at SF with the Plumlee brothers up front. Super-recruit Kyrie Irving and Andre Dawkins will provide punch off the bench along with JUCO Carrick Felix.
2. Michigan State (28-9, Final Four)
Bad news: The loss of wing Raymar Morgan, who had an up-and-down career in East Lansing. Good news: Everyone else is back from a Final Four team. Lucas and Summers will probably be the best backcourt in the Big 10, and their backups (Korie Lucious and Chris Allen) could start for probably half the schools in the country. There’s also the option of going small with Lucas and Lucious, and Summers at SF. Where will Tom Izzo fit the four top 150 recruits he’s bringing in?
3. Butler (33-5, Lost in National Championship game)
Bad News: Gordon Hayward’s stock has risen so rapidly that he could enter the NBA draft. He’s definitely a 1st rounder. Will he leave if he gets a lottery “promise?” Bad News, II: Oregon will attempt to lure Brad Stevens to the Northwest this week. Would he depart for big bucks with his value at an all-time high? Good news: Four of five starters are back, and Stevens landed himself a three-star recruit.
4. Georgetown (23-11, First round of NCAA tournament)
Bad news: Greg Monroe said he’s coming back … but kids have been known to change their mind. Good news: If Monroe returns, the Hoyas will retain their entire starting lineup (Wright, Freeman, Clark, Vaughn). Are Hollis Thompson and two Top 75 recruits enough of a bench to get the Hoyas back to the Final 4?
5. Ohio State (29-8, Sweet 16)
Bad news: Evan Turner will probably leave for the NBA*. We heard William Buford is gone, too. Good news: Probably the 2nd best recruiting class in the nation, led by PF Jared Sullinger. He should add toughness and rebounding inside alongside Dallas Lauderdale. Jon Diebler and David Lighty will remain starters. The big question mark: Who runs point?
6. Pittsburgh (25-9, 2nd round NCAA tournament)
Bad news: Third leading scorer Jermaine Dixon graduates. Good news: Everyone else returns, and Jamie Dixon snagged two Top 150 recruits. We’ve got the Panthers as the 2nd best team in the Big East. Still lack a true superstar and inside power, but there’s enough talent here to win 30 games and get to Houston.
7. Purdue (29-6, Sweet 16)
Bad news: Lose G Keaton Grant (4th leading scorer) and Glue Guy Chris Kramer to graduation. Good news: As of now, their best three players – JaJuan Johnson (15-7), Robbie Hummell (best three-point shooter, 2nd leading scorer) and E’Twaun Moore (team-leading 16 ppg, but had a few late-season struggles) are coming back. Should contend for a Big Ten title and be in the Top 15 all season.
8. Texas (24-10, 1st round of NCAA tournament)
Bad news: Lose Damion James and Dexter Pittman, who were their 1st and 3rd leading scorers, and top two rebounders. Also lost Justin Mason, who started 31 games. Rick Barnes is still pacing the sideline. Good news: Will probably push tempo now with the holes inside. Can recruit Tristian Thompson step in and play up front alongside Gary Johnson? The guess here is that Bradley, Brown and Hamilton will be in the mold of BMW.
9. Memphis (24-10, Lost in NIT quarterfinals)
Bad news: Lose two starters who were holdovers from the Calipari era. Good news: It’s three leading scorers – Duke transfer Elliot Williams, Wesley Witherspoon and Robert Sallie – all return. How will they mesh with the nation’s best recruiting class? The Tigers will have far more talent than anyone in CUSA (which isn’t saying much), and should be in the mix for a 2nd or 3rd seed come March 2011. Josh Pastner’s biggest task will be managing egos, as three of those freshman are “ranked” in the Top 15, and all will want to play immediately.
10. Baylor (28-8 Lost in Elite 8)
Bad news: Lose two starters – PG Tweety Carter and C Josh Lomers. Could lose a third, Ekpe Udoh**, who probably is a lottery pick. Good news: LaceDarius Dunn is the early leader for Big 12 POY in 2011. Perry Jones is a Top 10 recruit who slides into Udoh’s spot, should it become open. If Udoh decides to stick around, this is the best team in the Big 12. If he leaves, drop these guys into the 11-20 range.
11-20: Kansas State (29-8, Elite 8). The tandem of Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly – assuming both stick around – should keep KSU in the Top 25 all year.
11-20: Tennessee (28-9, Elite 8). Lose Chism, Prince and Maze, all integral parts in this year’s tourney run. But Hopson, Tatum and Williams are a solid nucleus, and when you throw in super-recruit Tobias Harris, this is the best team in the SEC.
11-20: Missouri (23-11, 2nd round of NCAA tournament). Lose three starters (including two guards), but their best two players (Kim English and Marcus Denmon) return. Throw in two Top 75 recruits and the Tigers will definitely be dancing again.
11-20: Gonzaga (27-7, 2nd round of NCAA tournament). Losing all-around talent Matt Bouldin hurts, but they return their best scorer, Elias Harris, best shooter (Steven Gray) and inside force (Robert Sacre), which will be enough to win the WCC.
11-20: Illinois (21-15, NIT). Lose nobody of consequence, and return their four leading scorers, including emerging PG Demetri McCamey. They’ve got three Top 100 recruits coming in, as well.
11-20. North Carolina (20-17, Lost in NIT Championship). We’re assuming Ed Davis is gone. Will 1-and-done prospect Harrison Barnes be enough to make up for a weak backcourt?
11-20: Villanova (25-8, 2nd round NCAA Tournament). The Coreys are back, Wayns looks like a real nice player, and Pena/Yarou get help in the form of rugged Jayvaughn Pinkston.
11-20: Virginia Tech (25-9, lost in NIT quarterfinals). The trio of Delaney, Hudson and Allen will return and be the 2nd or 3rd best team in the ACC. Delaney put his name into the NBA draft, but hasn’t hired an agent.
11-20: Temple (29-6,1st round NCAA tournament). Lavoy Allen should return for his senior season, and point guard Juan Fernandez is back for what we think will be the A-10’s best team.
11-20: Kentucky (35-3, Elite 8). Shuffle out a large batch of freshman and (probably) bring in the next group. Stacey Poole is the only elite name locked down so far, but once Bledsoe, Orton, et al make it official for the NBA, it’s safe to assume Calipari will land recruits like Brandon Knight, Josh Selby and whoever else has picked a school yet.
[UPDATE: There was an omission. Florida. The Gators (21-13, lost in 1st round of NCAA tournament) only lose one senior, and return their top five scorers and Billy Donovan has two pretty nice recruits coming in. We still have Tennessee as the team to beat in the SEC, but the Gators are right behind the Vols.]
Five others to watch: Syracuse (which loses three starters), Kansas (which loses its best two players and probably Xavier Henry), BYU (Jimmer’s back!), Washington (lose Quincy Pondexter, but everyone else is back), and Mississippi (White and Warren return).
* If, for whatever reason, Turner decides to return to Ohio State, we vault the Buckeyes to No. 1.
** If Udoh leaves, then bump Baylor down to the 11-20 range and move Illinois into the 10th spot.