By C.E. Peterson
1) Louisville – Rick Pitino brought the Cardinals to the Final Four last year, but this year Louisville fans are going to be hoping for a bit more than that.
2) Indiana – They’re Back. Indiana fans have yearning for basketball prominence to return to Bloomington and it probably came a bit sooner than expected. Cody Zeller continues to get bigger and better and look for the sophomore big-man to try and get the Hoosiers banner number six. Too bad Calipari was too scared to let the Hoosiers come to Lexington.
3) Michigan – Trey Burke coming back was absolutely huge for the Wolverines, but they have a star studded recruiting class coming in, as well. The class, led by Glenn Robinson III should have a big impact next year in Ann Arbor. You might think this is a bit high for the Wolverines, but trust me on this one.
4) NC State – Are the Wolfpack the class of the ACC? They might be and with CJ Leslie deciding to return, coupled with a great recruiting class, Mark Gottfried has Wolfpack fans filled with big hopes for 2013. (NC State – Michigan play
5) UCLA – Ben Howland has a bit of job security after landing the top recruiting class in the country, but that won’t last if Bruins don’t win, this year. Shabazz Muhammad is mature beyond his years and he will have a serious impact, in his first (and probably last) year.
6) North Carolina – They did lose 4 starters to the NBA, but UNC does not rebuild – they reload. As long as Marcus Paige can run the point, the Tar Heels will be vying for another ACC title.
7) Arizona – The only question this team had was at the point and when Mark Lyons transferred to play for the Wildcats, that question was answered. With a “big” recruiting class joining in, Arizona should be battling UCLA for the Pac 12 title like its 1999.
8) Kentucky – If you think they even have the slightest chance to be as good as they were last year, you are absolutely out of your mind. They lost their team and the mix of talent and cohesion just cannot be replaced so easily.
9) Missouri– This is a team on the outside looking in at a national title. Phil Pressey is scary quick, Alex Oriakhi fills a void down low, and with Jabari Brown and Laurence Bowers added to that mix Kentucky may not be the class of the SEC, at least for this year.
10) Duke – Many people think the Blue Devils are going to completely fall off and I really don’t understand that, at all. They lost one Plumlee and replaced him with another and Austin Rivers, as talented as he is, really did not fit the “Duke mold.” Andre Dawkins may redshirt which will hurt, but Coach K will have the Dukies ready, as always.
11) Ohio State – They did lose Jared Sullinger and William Buford, but Aaron Craft is as tough as they come in college basketball and Deshaun Thomas looks to up his role, as well. Look for the Buckeyes to compete in the toughest league in the country.
12) Kansas – Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor will be big shoes to fill, but the Jayhawks will reload next year and look to be the top of Big 12, once again. It’s a shame they won’t be playing against Mizzou next year.
13) Syracuse – There will be almost entirely a new team in Syracuse next year, but they have a solid recruiting class coming in and Michael Carter-Williams looks to step up for the Orange.
14) UNLV – This is a real wildcard team as they could potentially be even better than this. With stud freshman Anthony Bennett coming in and fellow Canadian, Khem Birch, eligible when the second semester starts the Running Rebels look to regain some of their dominance of the early 90s.
15) Florida – If Bradley Beal had stayed, they would have been a top 5 team, but nonetheless Billy Donovan has a veteran squad lead by Kenny Boynton and the physical specimen, Patric Young.
16) Creighton – Well coached, veteran team, good big man, and All-American star player; seems to be the formula for success, but how good can this Creighton team be? I am not really sure, but I do like watching them and they will be a tough out for anyone in the tournament.
17) Minnesota–Trevor Mbakwe is an animal and his return will do wonders for the Gophers. A talented team up and down the roster, Tubby Smith will have Minnesota back dancing next year.
18) Cincinnati– As long as they make it past the Xavier game without any felonies, the Bearcats look to build off a solid season that ended at the hands of another tough team in Florida State. Mick Cronin is doing great things in Cincinnati and they should continue, next year.
19) Michigan State – Do-everything forward, Draymond Green, will be impossible to replace, but incoming freshman, Gary Harris, shunned his hometown Hoosiers to try and do just that. Tom Izzo always gets his guys to play hard and I wouldn’t expect anything different come next year.
20) Memphis– Adonis Thomas looks to have a breakout season and Memphis enters another season with lots of talent and high expectations. We’ll see if they can meet those expectations.
21) San Diego State – A tough team that got a lift when incoming freshman Winston Shepard committed. Look for San Diego State to possible reach the sweet 16, come March.
22) Wisconsin– Sam Dekker is a stud and after Jared Utoff’s transfer debacle we now know that it is just as hard to live Madison as it is to win there.
23) Oklahoma State – Marcus Smart and LeBryan Nash will be a lethal combination for the Cowboys.
24) Florida State – Snaer returns and Ian Miller looks to have a bigger role in the offense, as well. Tough team who can lock down anyone.
25) Notre Dame – Jack Cooley came on strong last year and looks to be one of the best players in the Big East again, next year. Don’t know how Tim Abromitis did not receive his 6th year and Scott Martin did, but the NCAA obviously plays to their own drum.
- Kansas State