SportsRatings' pre-season '08-'09 college basketball rankings include all 341 teams in Division I. This installment covers teams 1 to 25. For the full list, click here.
North Carolina LY Results: 36-3 (#3) Production Back: 89.9% Recruiting Rank: 10
Top returnees: Tyler Hansbrough (#1 22.8 TPP/G), Wayne Ellington (#2 13.7), Danny Green (#3 11.6), Ty Lawson (#4 13.5), Deon Thompson (#5 7.7)
Top losses: Alex Stepheson (#7, 5.0 TPP/G)
Key recruits: Ed Davis (PF 6-8 215); Tyler Zeller (C 6-11 220); Larry Drew (PG 6-0 165)
Comments: The rich get richer. Not only do the Tar Heels return everyone of importance from their Final Four squad, they add one of the best classes in the nation. Not that those guys will see much playing time; they'll actually have to return for their sophomore years! Even with Hansbrough out with an injury to start the season, this is still far and away the best team in the country.
- Connecticut LY Results: 24-9 (#22) Production Back: 89.6% Recruiting Rank: 7
Top returnees: Hasheem Thabeet (#1 15.6 TPP/G), Jeff Adrien (#2 14.4), AJ Price (#3 13.7), Stanley Robinson* (#4 10.9 TPP/G)
Top losses: Doug Wiggins (#5 7.3)
Key recruits: Kemba Walker (PG 6-2 170), Ater Majok* (PF 6-10 215), Nate Miles (SG 6-7 170)
Comments: UConn will be good from the get-go, with Thabeet, Adrien, and Price returning and blue-chipper Walker contributing immediately. Then at mid-season, Robinson returns and Majok joins them; that's when we'll really see how good they might be. Last season they exited the NCAA tourney far too early, but that shouldn't be a problem this year.
- Louisville LY Results: 27-9 (#10) Production Back: 70.6% Recruiting Rank: 12
Top returnees: Terrence Williams (#1 13.3 TPP/G), Earl Clark (#2 13.5), Jerry Smith (#3 9.6)
Top losses: David Padgett (#4 11.7 TPP/G), Derrick Caracter (#5 6.2)
Key recruits: Samardo Samuels (PF 6-9 240), Terrence Jennings (PF 6-10 230)
Comments: The loss of David Padgett is bigger than it shows up here, as he missed a lot of the early season last year. But the Cardinals gain transfer Reginald Delk and have enough returning and incoming talent to make a serious run at the Final Four.
- Wake Forest LY Results: 17-13 (#57) Production Back: 98.6% Recruiting Rank: 11
Top returnees: James Johnson (#1 13.9 TPP/G), Jeff Teague (#2 9.8), Chas McFarland (#3 7.9), Ishmael Smith (#4 7.1), L.D. Williams (#5 5.8)
Top losses: Cameron Stanly (#9 1.0 TPP/G)
Key recruits: Al-Farouq Aminu (SF 6-8 200), Ty Walker (C 7-0 225), Tony Woods (6-11 220)
Comments: Last year was a pleasant surprise that ended disappointingly when the Deacs didn't reach the postseason after starting 16-8. This year almost every player who contributed is back, along with three excellent freshmen composed of super blue-chip Aminu and two near-7'0" centers. With North Carolina in the mix, winning the ACC will be about the same difficulty as getting to the Final Four, but certainly Wake won't be idle again after mid-March.
- Memphis LY Results: 38-2 (#2) Production Back: 45.5% Recruiting Rank: 3
Top returnees: Robert Dozier (#4 10.4 TPP/G), Antonio Anderson (#5 8.8)
Top losses: Chris Douglas-Roberts (#1 14.7), Derrick Rose (#2 14.1), Joey Dorsey (#3 12.4)
Key recruits: Tyreke Evans (P/SG 6-5 200), Wesley Witherspoon (SF 6-8 185), Angel Garcia (PF 6-10 200), Matt Simpkins (PF 6-8 210)
Comments: They fell just short of winning it all last March and now the Tigers lose their three top players to the NBA. But two starters return along with the bulk of their very good reserves. Add to that a powerful recruiting class and once again, Memphis simply reloads and takes another shot.
- Tennessee LY Results: 31-5 (#4) Production Back: 52.7% Recruiting Rank: 5
Top returnees: Tyler Smith (#1 15.1 TPP/G), Wayne Chism (#4 9.7)
Top losses: JaJuan Smith (#2 11.6 TPP/G), Chris Lofton (#3 11.3), Ramar Smith (#5 4.7)
Key recruits: Scotty Hopson (G/F 6-5 190), Renaldo Woolridge (SF 6-8 205), Emmanuel Negedu (PF 6-7 225)
Comments: The Vols have heavy losses, including team leader Lofton, but with Tyler Smith and great sixth man J.P. Prince returning, Tennessee still has a firm foundation. Filling in the gaps will be several members of a strong six-member recruiting class. And unless you're from Illinois you have to give Bruce Pearl props as a great coach.
- UCLA LY Results: 35-4 (#6) Production Back: 35.9% Recruiting Rank: 2
Top returnees: Darren Collison (#2 13.6 TPP/G), Josh Shipp (#4 9.3)
Top losses: Kevin Love (#1 22.0 TPP/G), Russell Westbrook (#3 11.5), Luc Richard Mbah a Mute (#5 9.5)
Key recruits: Jrue Holiday (P/SG 6-3 190), J'mison Morgan (C 6-10 270), Jerime Anderson (PG 6-1 170), Drew Gordon (PF 6-9 235), Malcolm Lee (SG 6-4 170)
Comments: The Bruins are booking trips to the Final Four the way John Wooden's teams won championships. Whether they can do it again depends on the development of their incoming recruits, two of whom are among the very best in the country. Yes, they have Collison and Shipp back, but losing Love and Westbrook hurts a lot; they're missing more than half of their total production points from last season. To the rescue: Jrue, J'mison, maybe even Jerime. UCLA will need this great class to shine to get to Detroit in March.
- Florida LY Results: 24-12 (#60) Production Back: 71.1% Recruiting Rank: 8
Top returnees: Nick Calathes (#2 15.4 TPP/G), Dan Werner (#3 10.1), Walter Hodge (#4 8.5), Chandler Parsons (#5 7.5)
Top losses: Marresse Speights (#1 16.6 TPP/G)
Key recruits: Kenny Kadji (C 6-10 250), Eloy Vargas (PF 6-9 210), Allan Chaney (PF 6-8 220), Ray Shipman (SF 6-4 195)
Comments: Florida was better than its record in '08-'09, so just by playing with more consistency they will get a lot farther than last year's NIT Final Four team. Returning four starters (the above listed plus Jai Lucas), the Gators do lose top man Speights but gain a strong incoming class, their second in a row. Now with enough players to fill the roster, it might be premature to set their sites on the real Final Four, but making the Big Dance itself should be an easily achievable goal.
- Duke LY Results: 28-6 (#7) Production Back: 75.8% Recruiting Rank: 34
Top returnees: Jon Scheyer (#2 12.3 TPP/G), Kyle Singler (#3 10.8), Gerald Henderson (#4 10.5), Greg Paulus (#5 10.5)
Top losses: DeMarcus Nelson (#1 13.0 TPP/G)
Key recruits: Elliot Williams (SG 6-4 170)
Comments: The last few times Duke has been really good they've faded down the stretch and exited the tournament early ('06, '08). Add in '07's collapse and the Blue Devils haven't had a decent finish in a while. Returning four starters helps, too, including Lance Thomas (Scheyer was actually sixth man despite his numbers). Also the recruiting class, though sparse (three players), is strong, particularly the super-athletic Williams. The other recruits, Miles Plumlee and Olek Czyk, may or may not be superstars but will add needed depth—and stick around longer than Williams is projected to.
- Florida St. LY Results: 19-15 (#62) Production Back: 42.7% Recruiting Rank: 4
Top returnees: Tony Douglas (#1 11.1 TPP/G), Uche Echefu (#3 9.8)
Top losses: Ralph Mims (#2 10.5), Jason Rich (#4, 9.1), Isaiah Swann (#5 9.0)
Key recruits: Chris Singleton (F 6-8 210), Xavier Gibson (C/F 6-10 210), Derwin Kitchen (SG 6-4 190)
Comments: The Seminoles lose a lot—four of the six players who started throughout last year, and well over half their total production—but gain a lot, too. The '08 class consists of six players, five of whom have star potential, particularly the three listed above. Add returning starters Douglas and Echefu, as well as 7-1 Solomon Alabi (back from injury) and FSU could be much better than last year—provided the new kids live up to their billing. I'm betting it happens, and Florida State returns to the NCAA for the first time in a decade.
- Michigan St. LY Results: 27-9 (#14) Production Back: 73.0% Recruiting Rank: 28
Top returnees: Goran Sutton (#1 13.0 TPP/G), Raymar Morgan (#2 12.4), Kalin Lucas (#4 6.9)
Top losses: Drew Neitzel (#3 11.6 TPP/G), Drew Naymick (#5 6.4)
Key recruits: Delvon Roe (PF 6-7 220), Korie Lucious (PG 5-11 160)
Comments: As bad as losing Drew Neitzel hurts, having Raymar Morgan back has to feel good. The Spartans' game will be noticeably different without Neitzel, but not necessarily poorer, as last year they played some fantastic basketball (mostly at home) and some deplorable ball, too (on the road). This year they again have a killer pre-conference schedule so we should know soon how well they cope with the change. Michigan State's small '08 class has three newcomers but all have great potential, with Roe the consensus player to watch.
- Marquette LY Results: 25-10 (#17) Production Back: 82.4% Recruiting Rank: 135
Top returnees: Jerel McNeal (#1 12.3 TPP/G), Lazar Hayward (#2 11.1), Wesley Matthews (#3 9.5), Dominic James (#4 9.4)
Top losses: Ousmane Barro (#5 6.9 TPP/G)
Key recruits: Joseph Fulce (SF 6-7 210)
Comments: The Warriors (sorry, Golden Eagles) don't have much in the way of a recruiting class for '08, just a few players, of whom JUCO Fulce is the best of the middling prospects. But luckily they don't need any help from newcomers as they return so much talent from last year's strong squad. Four and a half starters are back including all of the super-guard trio of McNeal, Matthews, and James.
- Villanova LY Results: 22-13 (#39) Production Back: 96.0% Recruiting Rank: 184
Top returnees: Scottie Reynolds (#1 10.6 TPP/G), Dante Cunningham (#2 10.5), Dwayne Anderson (#3 7.8), Shane Clark (#4 7.0), Antonio Pena (#5 5.4)
Top losses: Malcolm Grant (#10 2.7 TPP/G)
Key recruits: Maurice Sutton (C 6-11 205)
Comments: If there's an opposite to Kansas, it's Villanova. Losing no major players, returing a whopping 96% of production, and adding only a single recruit, Villanova takes the opposite path to prosperity in '08. The Wildcats hope to be more consistent this season, but that will be hard in the tough-as-nails Big East, where despite being #14 in the country the 'Cats are only 4th in the league, with seven other teams breathing down their neck in the next 30 spots.
- Kansas LY Results: 37-3 (#1) Production Back: 16.1% Recruiting Rank: 1
Top returnees: Sherron Collins (#6 7.7 TPP/G)
Top losses: Mario Chalmers (#1 14.1 TPP/G), Darnell Jackson (#2 13.2), Darrell Arthur (#3 11.5), Brandon Rush (#4 12.0), Russell Robinson (#4 9.0)
Key recruits: Travis Releford (SG 6-5 180), Marcus Morris (6-9 220), Markieff Morris (6-10 220), Tyshawn Taylor (6-2 160)
Comments: No team's destiny save perhaps Indiana will so depend on their incoming class as the Kansas Jayhawks. Last year's best team and NCAA champion was decimated—almost literally—by graduation et al, as the Jayhawks lose over 84% of last season's statistical production, including all five starters. Lucky for Bill Self he has the nation's top class for '08, with the Morris twin towers and guards Releford and Taylor all top prospects. Add in JUCOs Mario Little and Tyrone Appleton as well as forward Quintrell Thomas and you have seven very solid players. In fact, they somewhat resemble Kansas' squad last year: all great players, but no standout superstar that dominates the others. UCLA may have the top studs, but the breadth of the Jayhawks class puts it on top, and most if not all should be back next season. It may be a rocky start, but by next March—and certainly next year—Kansas should again be a team to be reckoned with.
- Oklahoma LY Results: 23-12 (#30) Production Back: 72.2% Recruiting Rank: 18
Top returnees: Blake Griffin (#1 15.9 TPP/G), Tony Crocker (#2 7.7), Austin Johnson (#3, 7.4), Taylor Griffin (#5t 6.8)
Top losses: Longar Longar (#4 7.8 TPP/G), David Godbold (#5t 6.8)
Key recruits: Willie Warren (G 6-4 195)
Comments: With Blake Griffin back, the Sooners look to pick up where they left off last year, seeking a deeper NCAA run and higher Big 12 finish than they achieved last season. With all their returning talent (three starters plus oft-starter Taylor Griffin) added to the incoming top-25 class (a group with varied potential but led by sure-thing Warren), the Sooners can make both happen this year.
- Xavier LY Results: 30-7 (#11) Production Back: 54.6% Recruiting Rank: 22
Top returnees: Derrick Brown (#1 12.7 TPP/G), CJ Anderson (#4 9.4)
Top losses: Josh Duncan (#2 10.9 TPP/G), Drew Lavender (#3 11.0), Stanley Burrell (#5 7.8)
Key recruits: Kenny Frease (C 6-11 265)
Comments: Last year's Elite Eight squad loses nearly half its production, including leading scorer Duncan, starter Lavender, and part-time starter Burrell. But Brown, Anderson, and BJ Raymond all averaged near double figures and Tulsa transfer Jamel McLean comes in. Although big center Frease is the only consensus blue chip of the recruits, point Terrell Holloway was close and three other guards in the class are also solid. If this squad peaks at the right time it could nearly repeat last year's success.
- Arizona St. LY Results: 21-13 (#52) Production Back: 96.3% Recruiting Rank: 110
Top returnees: James Harden (#1 17.7 TPP/G), Jeff Pendergraph (#2 12.6), Ty Abbott (#3 7.3), Derek Glasser (#4 6.7), Jerren Shipp (#5 5.1)
Top losses: Antwi Atuahene (#9 1.6 TPP/G)
Key recruits: Johnny Coy (SF 6-7 190)
Comments: ASU returns their five top players and all seven who regularly started games last season, amounting to over 95% of their production. The add some new faces, too, most significantly Coy and Taylor Rohde, who aren't superstars but will add depth. The Sun Devils started strong but limped into the NIT last year; this time, they should improve on their .500 Pac 10 record and make the other tournament.
- Washington LY Results: 16-17 (#70) Production Back: 74.0% Recruiting Rank: 19
Top returnees: Jon Brockman (#1 16.8 TPP/G), Quincy Pondexter (#2 7.9), Justin Dentmon (#3 6.8)
Top losses: Tim Morris (#4 5.4 TPP/G), Ryan Appleby (#5, 5.8)
Key recruits: Scott Suggs (SG 6-6 180), Tyrese Breshers (PF 6-7 230)
Comments: With Brockman back and a solid incoming group, Washington may have the breakthrough season it needs. The Huskies' bench holds some of their best players, so they are actually fairly deep with talent. Though tall, skinny shooting guard Suggs and the more substantial Breshers are the most touted, guards Elston Turner and Isaiah Thomas (thanks Mom & Dad, no pressure there!) have great potential as well among the newcomers. While the high ranking may be a bit optimistic, a winning season should be a given for this squad.
- Notre Dame LY Results: 25-8 (#21) Production Back: 82.8% Recruiting Rank: 341
Top returnees: Luke Harangody (#1 20.1 TPP/G), Kyle McAlarney (#3 11.8), Tory Jackson (#4 9.2), Ryan Ayers (#5 8.1)
Top losses: Rob Kurz (#2 13.3 TPP/G)
Key recruits: None
Comments: With no recruiting class to speak of (hence the #341 out of #341 ranking), the Irish are dependent on returning players. And they have a slew of dependable returnees, led by one of the most dependable players in the nation, Harangody, who averaged over 20 points per game and 10 rebounds last season while finishing #6 in my MVP ratings. Three other starters return, making up for Kurz, the only significant loss. But without new incoming blood the rotation isn't very deep, and if injuries occur the Irish could suffer more than most teams would (in this aspect, they're looking a bit like Duke's recent squads, which is a complement as well as a criticism). The potential for this group, however, is without a ceiling if things go right.
- Purdue LY Results: 25-9 (#16) Production Back: 87.1% Recruiting Rank: 107
Top returnees: Robbie Hummel (#1 13.2 TPP/G), E'Twaun Moore (#2 10.0), Keaton Grant (#3 8.6), Chris Kramer (#4 7.6)
Top losses: Scott Martin (#5 5.9 TPP/G)
Key recruits: Lewis Jackson (PG 5-9 170)
Comments: If Martin hadn't transferred out, the core of last season's surprise Big Ten contender would have remained completely intact. As it is, Purdue retains almost 9/10 of its 07-08 total production. And if sophomores Hummel and Moore improve even marginally, no one will miss the remaining 13%. While this year's recruiting class isn't anything like last season's, the Boilers do add a couple of decent guards in super-fast Jackson and Ryne Smith, and should contend for the Big Ten title again this year—but this time no one will be surprised.
- Texas LY Results: 31-7 (#5) Production Back: 76.9% Recruiting Rank: 71
Top returnees: Damion James (#2 15.1 TPP/G), Connor Atchley (#3 11.3), AJ Abrams (#4 11.6), Justin Mason (#5 8.1)
Top losses: D.J. Augustin (#1 15.5 TPP/G)
Key recruits: J'Covan Brown (SG 6-2 180)
Comments: The good news for Texas is the return of four great starters that produced the bulk of their points and rebounds. The bad news is the loss of Augustin, starting point guard and top scorer. Teams can be thrown off when their floor leader goes missing. But the Longhorns have dealt with major change before—just a year ago, in fact, when their entire offense was changed by Kevin Durant's departure. They'll adjust to the new reality perhaps using Abrams or Mason at point, and while a pure recruit at the position would have come in handy, they instead add shooting guards Brown and Varez Ward. Texas will again be in the hunt for the Big Twelve title.
- West Virginia LY Results: 26-11 (#27) Production Back: 58.0% Recruiting Rank: 21
Top returnees: Alex Ruoff (#2 12.9 TPP/G), Da'Sean Butler (#3 11.2), Joe Mazulla (#5 5.2)
Top losses: Joe Alexander (#1 14.7 TPP/G), Darris Nichols (#4 10.5)
Key recruits: Devin Ebanks (SF 6-8 185), Kevin Jones (PF 6-8 210)
Comments: Long before there was Joe the Plumber, there was Joe Alexander at West Virginia, and then during the tournament Joe Mazzulla made his name against Duke. The latter returns along with two starters but the former left for the NBA. Starter Nichols and starting center Jamie Smalligan are gone, too, leaving the Mountaineers with only 58% of their total production. But the returning core plus a solid crop of recruits should allow Bob Huggins to keep on truckin' in Morgantown, though nothing is certain as the Big East is truly a beast this year.
- Wisconsin LY Results: 31-5 (#8) Production Back: 60.7% Recruiting Rank: 31
Top returnees: Joe Krabbenhoft (#2 10.6 TPP/G), Marcus Landry (#3 9.9), Trevon Hughes (#5 7.8)
Top losses: Brian Butch (#1 11.0 TPP/G), Michael Flowers (#4 8.5)
Key recruits: Jared Berggren (C 6-10 230)
Comments: Every year it seems Wisconsin wins 25 games an no one cares. The last few years it's been 30 games, and still, people look for reasons why they're not as good as their record. Perhaps its because of their deliberate playing style, which results in low scores. It also skews the stats of their players, so Butch's 11.0 total performance points per game is actually very impressive given the small number of possession in a contest. Butch is gone, as is Flowers, but three starters return and the Badgers add four strong recruits, led by Berggren and shooting guard Robert Wilson.
- Baylor LY Results: 21-11 (#38) Production Back: 89.2% Recruiting Rank: 49
Top returnees: Kevin Rogers (#1 12.8 TTP/G), Curtis Jerrells (#2 12.3), LaceDarius Dunn (#3 10.0), Henry Dugat (#4 9.1), Tweety Carter (#5 6.4)
Top losses: Aaron Bruce (#6 5.0 TPP/G)
Key recruits: Anthony Jones (SF 6-9 190)
Comments: Baylor has needed a breakthrough for some time. Since the abbreviated 2006 schedule, and the promising 2007 and 2008 seasons that started better each time but ended in disappointment, the potential has been there, and this may be the year it's realized. The Bears return nearly all talent from a year ago save starter Bruce. 7-0 center Josh Lomers is back and forward recruits Jones and Quincy Ary will add some more size. Though improving on their 4th-place Big Twelve finish will be tough, the Bears should improve on their NCAA run from last season.
- Pittsburgh LY Results: 27-10 (#12) Production Back: 74.2% Recruiting Rank: 42
Top returnees: Sam Young (#1 15.3 TPP/G), DeJuan Blair (#2 14.0), Levance Fields (#3 11.3)
Top losses: Ronald Ramon (#4 7.6 TPP/G), Keith Benjamin (#5 6.8)
Key recruits: Nasir Robinson (SF 6-5 215)
Comments: Plagued by key injuries last year, Pitt had trouble hitting their stride beyond mid-season until the Big East tournament, which they won before bowing out in the 2nd round of the NCAA tourney. With their top three producers back from last year and the bulk of the reserves, too, this looks like another strong year for the Panthers. Four solid recruits in the '08 class are led by Robinson, though all may need time to develop behind the experienced returnees.