Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 4/3/12

With the Kentucky Wildcats cutting down the nets last night, we can officially close the book on the 2011-2012 college basketball season.  Hoop junkies like myself are already looking ahead to next season so allow me to present to you my way too early 2012-2013 preseason Top 25.

There are still several factors that could alter a teams roster between now and the start of next season.  Some of the top players are still debating on whether or not to enter the NBA Draft, some teams will lose players to transfer, and five McDonald’s All-Americans remain undecided on their college decision including the top two recruits in the 2012 class; Shabazz Muhammed and Nerlens Noel.

So here is my preliminary preseason Top 25.  I will updated these rankings once the NBA Draft early entries list is complete and Muhammaed and Noels make their college decision.  Leave a comment below if you think a team is too high, too low, not getting enough respect, or if you notice an error in a projected roster.  (Click here for my way too early preseason rankings from last season.)

1. INDIANA HOOSIERS
Assuming Cody Zeller and Christian Watford are back, Tom Crean returns all five starters from his 27-win, Sweet 16 team.  IU also brings in one of the top recruiting classes in the country led by McDonald’s All-American point guard, Kevin “Yogi” Ferrell.  The x-factor could be Maurice Creek.  If he can stay healthy and return to his freshman year form, the Hoosiers are my pick to cut down the nets a year from now.

Projected Depth Chart
C: Cody Zeller (So)/Peter Jurkin (Fr)
F: Christian Watford (Sr)/Derek Elston (Sr)/Hanner Mosquera-Perea (Fr)
G/F: Victor Oladipo (Jr)/Will Sheehey (Jr)/Jeremy Hollowell (Fr)/Austin Etherington (So)
SG: Maurice Creek (Jr)/Remy Abell (So)/Matt Roth (Sr)/Ron Patterson (Fr)
PG: Jordan Hulls (Sr)/Yogi Ferrell (Fr)

Gone: G-Verdell Jones III, F/C-Tom Pritchard, PG-Daniel Moore

2. LOUISVILLE CARDINALS
With as well as Louisville played in the final stretch of the season, they will carry some terrific momentum into next year.  The core of a steadily improving Gorgui Dieng, Chane Behanan, and floor general Peyton Siva will lead the Cards next year.  Russ Smith and Wayne Blackshear should step into the starting line-up for graduating seniors Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith.  George Mason transfer Ryan Hancock becomes eligible and sharpshooter Mike Marra returns from season-ending injury as well.  Louisville will always be a solid defensive team and with all the weapons they have for next year, should be much more efficient on the offense as well.

Projected Depth Chart
C: Gorgui Dieng (Jr)/Stephan Van Treese (Sr)/Zach Price (So)
F: Chane Behanan (So)/Ryan Hancock (Jr)/Rakeem Buckles (Sr-out for season, torn ACL)
G/F: Wayne Blackshear (So)/Angel Nunez (So)
SG: Russell Smith (Jr)/Mike Marra (Jr)
PG: Peyton Siva (Sr)/Kevin Ware (So)/Elisha Justice (Jr)/Terry Rozier (Fr)

Gone: G/F-Kyle Kuric, SG-Chris Smith, F-Jared Swopshire (transfer)

3. KENTUCKY WILDCATS
There are a lot of “if’s” surrounding UK.  Since they won the title, they will likely lose their top six players assuming all five of their underclassmen starters declare for the draft.  If that’s the case, their roster will be rather short-handed as you can see below.  However, the Wildcats are still in the running for some of the top undeclared recruits in the 2012 class; Shabazz Muhammed, Nerlens Noel, Anthony Bennett, Amille Jefferson, Tony Parker, and Devonta Pollard.  Assuming a couple of those guys choose Kentucky, they figure to once again be stacked next year with three talented freshman already committed and N.C. State Ryan Harrow taking over the reins at the point.

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Willie Cauley (Fr)
PF: Kyle Wiltjer (So)
SF: Alex Poythress (Fr)
SG: Archie Goodwin (Fr)/Jon Hood (Jr)
PG: Ryan Harrow (So)/Twany Beckham (Sr)/Jarrod Polson (Jr)

Gone: C-Anthony Davis, SF-Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, PF-Terrence Jones, PG-Marquis Teague, G/F-Darius Miller, SG-Doron Lamb, C-Eloy Vargas

4. KANSAS JAYHAWKS
After the outstanding coaching job Bill Self did this past season, count me in the “never underestimate Kansas” group.  Replacing Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor won’t be easy and center Jeff Withey could bolt for the NBA as well.  Elijah Johnson will have to emerge as the team’s go-to scorer while sophomore point guard Naadir Tharpe takes over as the floor general.  Perry Ellis should be an impact freshman and KU also gets Ben McLemore and Jamari Taylor on the floor after both guys sat out this past season due to eligibility issues.  Self will have a lot of new faces in much larger roles, but that was the case this season and things turned out pretty well, huh?

Projected Depth Chart
C: Jeff Withey (Sr)/Landen Lucas (Fr)
F: Perry Ellis (Fr)/Jamari Taylor (Fr)/Kevin Young (Sr)/Justin Wesley (Jr)/Zach Peters (Fr)
G/F: Travis Releford (Sr)/Andrew White (Fr)/Merv Lindsay (So)
SG: Elijah Johnson (Sr)/Ben McLemore (Fr)/Anrio Adams (Fr)
PG: Naadir Tharpe (So)

Gone: PF-Thomas Robinson, PG-Tyshawn Taylor, SG-Conner Teahan

5. N.C. STATE WOLFPACK
This might seem way too high to have the Wolfpack but when you consider how well Mark Gottfried had his team playing in March and their extremely talented recruiting class; it’s not crazy to think that N.C. State can win the ACC.  That will be less likely if either C.J. Leslie or Lorenzo Brown leave for the NBA.  However, if they are both back, N.C. State returns four starters and also welcomes in three McDonald’s All-Americans; T.J. Warren, Rodney Purvis, and Tyler Lewis.  I’m definitely drinking the Kool-Aid.

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Richard Howell (Sr)/Deshawn Painter (Sr)/Jordan Vandenberg (Sr)
PF: C.J. Leslie (Jr)/Tyler Harris (So)/Thomas de Thaey (So)
G/F: Scott Wood (Sr)/T.J. Warren (Fr)
SG: Rodney Purvis (Fr)/Jaqawn Raymond (So)
PG: Lorenzo Brown (Jr)/Tyler Lewis (Fr)

Gone: PG-Alex Johnson, G/F-C.J. Williams

6. DUKE BLUE DEVILS
Despite Austin Rivers leaving for the NBA, there won’t be a shortage of talent at Duke.  They return four experienced players in the backcourt and welcome another sharpshooter in McDonald’s All-American Rasheed Sulaimon.  Assuming Mason Plumlee comes back for his senior season, there will be more depth in the frontcourt with redshirt freshmen Marshall Plumlee and Alex Murphy suiting up.  The Blue Devils are reportedly in the running to land UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi who would provide with a much-needed physical inside presence.

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Mason Plumlee (Sr)/Marshall Plumlee (Fr)
PF: Ryan Kelly (Sr)/Josh Hairston (Jr)/Alex Murphy (Fr)
SG: Andre Dawkins (Sr)/Michael Gbinije (So)
SG: Seth Curry (Sr)/Rasheed Sulaimon (Fr)
PG: Quinn Cook (So)/Tyler Thornton (Jr)

Gone: G-Austin Rivers, C-Miles Plumlee

7. FLORIDA GATORS
Billy Donovan loses two starters but everybody else will be back for the Gators.  Scottie Wilbekin, Casey Prather, and Mike Rosario will step into bigger roles on the perimeter joining this past season’s leading scorer, Kenny Boynton.  Backcourt depth will once again be a strength as Florida brings in three talented freshmen guards who are all capable of contributing right away.  The frontcourt has an inside presence (Young), a stretch four (Murphy), and an energetic role player (Yeguette.)

Projected Depth Chart
C: Patric Young (Jr)/Walter Pitchford (So)
PF: Erik Murphy (Sr)/Will Yeguette (Jr)/Cody Larson (So)
G/F: Casey Prather (Jr)/Michael Frazier (Fr)
SG: Kenny Boynton (Sr)/Mike Rosario (Sr)/Dillon Graham (Fr)
PG: Scottie Wilbekin (Jr)/Braxton Ogbueze (Fr)

Gone: PG-Erving Walker, SG-Bradley Beal

8. MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
It will take a team effort to replace everything that Draymond Green brought to the floor for Sparty but if any coach knows how to maximize ability and get a team to jell, it’s Tom Izzo.  Keith Appling will have to emerge as the team’s go-to scorer with in-coming freshman Gary Harris adding to a young, but talented group of wing players.  MSU will have a bruising, physical frontcourt with Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne.  I’ve learned my lesson and won’t sleep on the Spartans next year.

Projected Depth Chart
C: Derrick Nix (Sr)/Alex Gauna (So)
PF: Adreian Payne (Jr)/Kanny Kaminski (Fr)/Matt Costello (Fr)
SF: Branden Dawson (So)/Russell Byrd (So)/Denzel Valentine (Fr)
SG: Gary Harris (Fr)/Brandan Kearney (So)
PG: Keith Appling (Jr)/Travis Trice (So)

Gone: PF-Draymond Green, SG-Brandon Wood, SF-Austin Thornton

9. SAN DIEGO STATE AZTECS
Consider the Aztecs one of my sleepers for next season.  They return their four-headed backcourt including talented scorer, Jamaal Franklin.  Transfer forwards J.J O’Brien and Dwayne Polee will add more size, athleticism, and versatility to the frontcourt along with do-it-all freshman Winston Shepard.  With all that talent, San Diego State should be the cream of the non-power six conference crop.

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Deshawn Stephens (Sr)/Alec Williams (Sr)/Skylar Spencer (Fr)/James Johnson (So)
F: J.J. O’Brien (So)/Dwayne Polee (So)/Winston Shepard (Fr)
G/F: Jamaal Franklin (Jr)/Matt Shrigley (Fr)
SG: Chase Tapley (Sr)/James Rahon (Sr)
PG: Xavier Thames (Jr)/LaBradford Franklin (Jr)

Gone: F/C-Garrett Green, F/C-Tim Shelton

10. NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
As expected, UNC is losing four of their starters with underclassmen Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall turning pro.  They could still lose another if James McAdoo decides to leave.  I think McAdoo returns though and combined with Reggie Bullock, P.J. Hairston, and Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald who both will return from season-ending injuries; there will not be a shortage of talent for Roy Williams.  I have two major questions/concerns though.  How will McDonald’s All-American point guard Marcus Paige and Stillman White do in taking over at the point for Marshall?  With so much inexperience up-front, will they have any sort of inside presence?

Projected Depth Chart
C: Desmond Hubert (So)/Joel James (Fr)
PF: James McAdoo (So)/Jackson Simmons (So)/Brice Johnson (Fr)
G/F: Reggie Bullock (Jr)/P.J. Hairston (So)/J.P. Tokoto (Fr)
SG: Dexter Strickland (Sr)/Leslie McDonald (Jr)
PG: Marcus Paige (Fr)/Stillman White (So)

Gone: SF-Harrison Barnes, C-Tyler Zeller, PF-John Henson, PG-Kendall Marshall, F-Justin Watts

11. SYRACUSE ORANGE
Dion Waiters has already declared for the draft and Fab Melo figures to be gone as well meaning ‘Cuse loses four key contributors from this past season.  A lot of the load will rest on the shoulders of Brandon Triche and C.J. Fair with talented, but seldom-used Michael Carter-Williams expected to take over at point guard.  Rakeem Christmas will need to be more of an impact player in the paint with the big body of DeJuan Coleman adding more size inside.  Jim Boeheim won’t have depth like he did this past season but there is plenty of length and athleticism to cause a whole lot of problems with their always effective 2-3 zone.

Projected Depth Chart
C: Baye Moussa Keita (Jr)/DaJuan Coleman (Fr)
PF: Rakeem Christmas (So)/James Southerland (Sr)
SF: C.J. Fair (Jr)/Jerami Grant (Fr)
SG: Brandon Triche (Sr)/Trevor Cooney (Fr)
PG: Michael Carter-Williams (So)

Gone: G-Dion Waiters, SF-Kris Joseph, PG-Scoop Jardine, C-Fab Melo, G/F-Mookie Jones (transfer)

12. MISSOURI TIGERS
Repeating this past season’s success won’t be easy for Frank Haith who loses four starters.  However, getting Laurence Bowers back from injury and the addition of three transfers; Earnest Ross, Keion Bell, and Jabari Brown should make the transition much smoother.  Dynamic guards Phil Pressey and Michael Dixon will once again run the show.  JUCO transfers Tony Criswell and Quantel Denson should make Mizzou a bigger, deeper team next year.

Projected Depth Chart
F/C: Tony Criswell (Jr)/Quantel Denson (Jr)Ryan Rosburg (Fr)/Eric Moeller (Fr)
F: Laurence Bowers (Sr)/Stefan Jankovic (Fr)
G/F: Earnest Ross (Jr)/Negus Webster-Chan (Fr)
G: Michael Dixon (Sr)/Keion Bell (Sr)/Dominique Bull (Fr)
PG: Phil Pressey (Jr)/Jabari Brown (So)

Gone: SG-Marcus Denmon, G/F-Kim English, PF-Ricardo Ratliffe, SG-Matt Pressey, C-Steve Moore, PF-Kadeem Green (transfer-Ohio)

13. WISCONSIN BADGERS
Per usual, the Badgers will always be able to compete for a Big Ten Title with their stellar defense and deliberate offensive attack.  Yes, replacing Jordan Taylor will be a huge task but there is experience and skill returning at every other position.  In fact, the 2012-13 Badgers could be one of the deeper teams Bo Ryan has coached since coming to Madison.   There won’t be a go-to scorer like Taylor but UW has plenty of weapons with guys like Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren, Josh Gasser, and Ben Brust being able to share the offensive load.  Redshirt freshmen George Marshall and Jared Uthoff should become immediate contributors along with Mr. Basketball in Wisconsin, Sam Dekker.

Projected Depth Chart
C: Jared Berggren (Sr)/Frank Kaminsky (So)/Evan Anderson (So)
F: Ryan Evans (Sr)/Jared Uthoff (Fr)/Zach Bohannon (Jr)
F: Mike Bruesewitz (Sr)/Sam Dekker (Fr)/Duje Dukan (Jr)
SG: Ben Brust (So)/Traevon Jackson (So)
PG: Josh Gasser (Jr)/George Marshall (Fr)

Gone: PG-Jordan Taylor, G/F-Rob Wilson

14. OHIO STATE BUCKEYES
Jared Sullinger and William Buford will be gone and if DeShaun Thomas leaves for the NBA as well, OSU will struggle to reach their level of success the past few seasons.  I think Thomas returns though with a chance to be the Buckeyes’ true go-to scorer on offense.  Aaron Craft and Lenzelle Smith Jr. return in the backcourt and will have to develop into consistent offensive weapons.  Other than that, OSU will need young guys like Sam Thompson, Amir Williams, and Shannon Scott to take a step if they want to be in the Big 10 title hunt.

Projected Depth Chart
C: Evan Ravenel (Sr)/Amir Williams (So)/Trey McDonald (So)
F: DeShaun Thomas (Jr)/LaQuinton Ross (So)
G/F: Sam Thompson (So)/J.D. Weatherspoon (Jr)
SG: Lenzelle Smith (Jr)/Jordan Sibert (Jr)
PG: Aaron Craft (Jr)/Shannon Scott (So)

Gone: C-Jared Sullinger, SG-Willian Buford

15. CINCINNATI BEARCATS
Mick Cronin deserves a ton of credit for the success Cincy has had the past two seasons, especially this year when things could have easily spiraled out of control.  The ‘Cats lose two starters but return everybody else including sharpshooter Sean Kilpatrick and some talented young players who either redshirted or saw limited minutes last season.

Projected Depth Chart
C: Cheikh Mbodj (Sr)/Kelvin Gaines (So)
F: Justin Jackson (Jr)/Titus Rubles (Jr)/Octavius Ellis (Fr)
G/F: Sean Kilpatrick (Jr)/Shaquille Thomas (Fr)/Jermaine Sanders (So)
G: JaQuon Parker (Sr)/Jeremiah Davis (So)
PG: Cashmere Wright (Sr)/Ge’Lawn Guyn (So)

Gone: C-Yancy Gates, SG-Dion Dixon

CLICK HERE FOR 16-25 AND TEN TEAMS WHO MISSED THE CUT.

 

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.  David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu.  He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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