We published our annual way-too-early college basketball Top 15 back in April, then extended it to the Top 25 in May, and after a significant August signing, banged out a Top 10. Here’s our Preseason Top 20 and Final 4 picks.
20. Michigan State – Izzo’s rebuilding, and sophomore point guard Keith Appling isn’t a bad place to start.
19. Wisconsin – Batman needs a Robin.
18. Washington – Early season upset-special: The Huskies will beat Duke at the Garden in December. Love me some Aziz N’Diaye!
17. Xavier – Tempted to make the Musketeers my Final 4 sleeper pick.
16. Arizona – Don’t love the Pac-12, as you can tell. No great players on this roster. Lots of good ones, especially freshman Nick Johnson.
15. Harvard – Sweet 16. Book it. Then, pencil Tommy Amaker in for a return to a high-major job.
14. Kansas – Bill Self is still around, right? Ok, then.
13. Pittsburgh – See below.
12. Florida – Andy Glockner loves the Gators. A No. 2 seed in March? The Gators might have the best collection of guards in the country.
11. Baylor – I wonder if any of the Bears’ players are taking that controversial “Homosexuality as Gateway Drug” class at Baylor.
10. Michigan – I think next year’s when they’ll be a legit Final Four contender.
9. Louisville – Good guard play, but devoid of a legit big man.
8. Duke – Get to know your Plumlees!
7. Vanderbilt – Look at all those Top 50 players!
6. Memphis – The argument could be made that on pure talent, Josh Pastner’s Tigers are 2nd only to UK.
5. Syracuse – Is Jim Boeheim overrated? He hasn’t been beyond the Sweet 16 in eight years.
4. Connecticut – Didn’t have the Huskies Top 10 until Andre Drummond showed up in August.
3. Kentucky – Calipari’s last 3 seasons coaching: Sweet 16 (Memphis), Elite 8, Final Four … title game trip in 2012?
2. Ohio State – Who replaces Diebler? Answer: He’s irreplaceable.
1. North Carolina – If they’ve discovered a legit 3-pointer or two by March …
Final Four prediction: North Carolina, Kentucky, Duke, Memphis
2012 NCAA Champion: North Carolina
Most underrated team (that didn’t make the NCAA tournament in 2011, not ranked in the Top 25: Harvard, which returns the entire roster, plus adds a solid recruiting class.
Most overrated team (currently ranked in the AP Top 25): Pittsburgh. The Panthers will play tenacious defense as usual, they’ve got an elite shooter in Ashton Gibbs, and the Big East is down. But Connecticut, Syracuse and Louisville all have more talent, and I don’t think the Panthers are that much better than Cincinnati and Marquette. I’ve got Pitt down for a 6-seed in March and losing in the first round.