SportsRatings' pre-season 2009-2010 college basketball preview ranks 343 Division I teams. This installment covers teams 1 to 25. For the full list, click here.
- Kentucky (SEC #1) Last year: 22-14 (#63) TPP Back: 66.3% Recruiting: #1
Key returnees: Patrick Patterson (#1 21.9 TPP/G), Perry Stevenson (#3 9.7), Ramon Harris (#4 5.8), Darius Miller (#5 4.5)
Key losses: Jody Meeks (#2 16.6 TPP/G)
Top recruits: John Wall (PG 6-4 195), DeMarcus Cousins (C/F 6-11 260), Daniel Orton (C/F 6-10 255), Eric Bledsoe (PG 6-1 190), Jon Hood (G/F 6-6 195)
Analysis: You lose some, you win some. UK lost top scorer Meeks (23.7 ppg) and most of their reserves along with their old coach, but retained top producer Patterson and the rest of the starters. And look what John Calipari brought with him: one of the best recruiting classes ever, right up there with the Fab Five. Wall was the top prize nationally this year and Cousins wasn't far behind. This Wildcat team should be great out of the box and scary by the season's end; Calipari could have his first official Final Four trip.
- Kansas (Big 12 #1) Last year: 27-8 (#15) TPP Back: 98.2% Recruiting: #12
Key returnees: Cole Aldrich (#1 21.3 TPP/G), Sherron Collins (#2 13.3), Tyshawn Taylor (#3 7.3), Brady Morningstar (#4 7.2), Marcus Morris (#5 6.5)
Key losses: Quintrell Thomas (#10 1.4 TPP/G)
Top recruits: Xavier Henry (SG 6-6 220), Elijah Johnson (G 6-2 180), Thomas Robinson (PF 6-9 230)
Analysis: KU returns their top 9 players, including leading scorer Collins (18.9 ppg) and leading rebounder Aldrich (11.1), both of whom are pre-season all-Americans. The best of last year's top recruiting class returns (Taylor, the Morris brothers, Mario Little, and Travis Releford) giving Kansas over 98% of their production back from last year's Sweet Sixteen squad. Topping it off they have three standout recruits coming in who will have to battle for playing time. It's no wonder they're (almost) everyone's pre-season #1.
- Texas (Big 12 #2) Last year: 23-12 (#28) TPP Back: 77.1% Recruiting: #4
Key returnees: Damion James (#1 14.9 TPP/G), Dexter Pittman (#2 9.6), Justin Mason (#4 7.3), Gary Johnson (#5 7.3)
Key losses: A.J. Abrams (#3 9.5 TPP/G)
Top recruits: Avery Bradley (SG 6-3 175), Jordan Hamilton (SF 6-7 210), Shawn Williams (SF 6-7 215), J'Covan Brown (G 6-1 185)
Analysis: The Longhorns have assistance from all angles to help them make strides from last year's decent, but not satisfying, season. They return all but a few key players, losing some size with Connor Atchley's departure but 300-lb Dexter Pittman is their most productive player per-minute and could have a breakthrough season. Their great recruiting class has two solid guards to offset the loss of Abrahms, and Florida transfer Jai Lucas is the icing on the cake. Texas will be the primary team battling Kansas for the Big 12 crown.
- Villanova (Big East #1) Last year: 30-8 (#8) TPP Back: 57.3% Recruiting: #7
Key returnees: Scottie Reynolds (#2 10.5 TPP/G), Reggie Redding (#4 8.4), Corey Fisher (#5 7.4)
Key losses: Dante Cunningham (#1 15.2 TPP/G), Dwayne Anderson (#3 10.4)
Top recruits: Mouphtauo Yarou (F 6-10 250), Dominic Cheek (G/F 6-6 185), Maalik Wayns (PG 6-1 185), Isaiah Armwood (PF 6-7 205)
Analysis: Losing your top scorer and rebounder (Cunningham) is never good, but getting a player like Scottie Reynolds back as a senior helps ease the pain. The Wildcats return five of their 8-man core from last year's Final Four squad, and add Duke transfer Taylor King to the mix. Then there are the newcomers: Yarou is one of the nation's top big men (now listed at 250 on Nova's roster), while Cheek is slighter in stature but nearly as highly touted. A Big East title and repeat Final Four performance are both in play for this team.
- Georgia Tech (ACC #1) Last year: 12-19 (#82) TPP Back: 65.2% Recruiting: #3
Key returnees: Gani Lawal (#1 15.3 TPP/G), Iman Shumpert (#3 8.4), Zachary Peacock (#4 6.9)
Key losses: Alade Aminu (#2 12.9 TPP/G), Lewis Clinch (#5 8.2)
Top recruits: Derrick Favors (C 6-9 200), Mfon Udofia (PG 6-2 180), Kammeon Holsey (F 6-7 190)
Analysis: Forget last year's 2-14 ACC record; this is a whole new team. Or it will be by the season's end. Lawal, the team's 2nd leading scorer and top rebounder, is the one they really needed back; he's improving fast enough to have an all-American season. But it's the recruiting class led by Favors that really looks to turn the team's fortunes around. Six players strong, it also includes Glen Rice's son Glen Rice, a 6-4 shooting guard. With the ACC substantially weaker this year they could be the conference's best team by tournament time.
- Minnesota (Big Ten #1) Last year: 22-11 (#24) TPP Back: 89.8% Recruiting: #18
Key returnees: Damian Johnson (#1 10.3 TPP/G), Al Nolen (#2 7.4), Ralph Sampson III (#3 7.1), Lawrence Westbrook (#4 7.2), Blake Hoffarber (#5 5.5)
Key losses: Jamal Abu-Shamala (#9 3.2 TPP/G)
Top recruits: Royce White (F 6-8 240), Rodney Williams (SF 6-7 210)
Analysis: Another surprise pick for top conference team, Minnesota had a middling year in the Big Ten last season but are poised for a big leap. Returning their top eight players, the Gophers just need someone to have a breakout year, be it leading scorer Westbrook, best per-minute performer Johnson, or big man Sampson. Or perhaps it will be one of Tubby Smith's recruits; both White and Williams have added substantial size since high school and could push the returning players. This year's squad has the potential to be very good.
- Mississippi State (SEC #2) Last year: 23-13 (#71) TPP Back: 97.8% Recruiting: #19
Key returnees: Jarvis Varnado (#1 18.2 TPP/G), Phil Turner (#2 10.2), Barry Stewart (#3 8.3), Dee Bost (#4 8.3), Ravern Johnson (#5 8.3)
Key losses: Brain Johnson (#11 1.7 TPP/G)
Top recruits: Renardo Sidney (PF 6-10 260), John Riek (C 7-1 240)
Analysis: The Bulldogs, winners of the SEC tournament last year, return everyone of importance in their effort to defend their crown and improve upon their first-round NCAA exit. Leading the way is top scorer, rebounder, and (nation-leading) shot blocker Varnado, a solid all-American candidate. At 6-9 he's also their tallest returning player, so Rick Stansbury recruited some major size in Sidney and Riek, part of this year's top 25 recruiting class. The Bulldogs have everything in place to win the West division and challenge on a national level.
- Duke (ACC #2) Last year: 30-7 (#4) TPP Back: 64.2% Recruiting: #11
Key returnees: Kyle Singler (#1 15.5 TPP/G), Jon Scheyer (#3 12.8), Brian Zoubek (#4 5.3), Nolan Smith (#5 5.4)
Key losses: Gerald Henderson (#2 13.8 TPP/G)
Top recruits: Ryan Kelly (PF 6-10 220), Andre Dawkins (SG 6-4 190), Mason Plumlee (PF 6-10 230)
Analysis: Between Henderson and reserves like Greg Paulus, Duke loses a fair chunk of quality from last year's strong team, mostly guards. For years the Blue Devils have lacked a strong inside presence—even President Obama noted this—but now they're wanting for a point guard as well as a true center. Two big recruits help in the latter department but the former is a question. Will Scheyer pull a Bobby Hurley and become a true quality point? If he does, Duke has a chance for a great post-season as well as the usual great regular season.
- West Virginia (Big East #2) Last year: 23-12 (#23) TPP Back: 80.7% Recruiting: #32
Key returnees: Devin Ebanks (#1 13.3 TPP/G), Da'Sean Butler (#2 12.5), Kevin Jones (#4 7.8), Darryl Bryant (#5 5.2)
Key losses: Alex Ruoff (#3 12.7 TPP/G)
Top recruits: Dalton Pepper (SG 6-5 215)
Analysis: The 08-09 Mountaineers were a top ten team in theory but finished tied for 7th in their conference and lost in the first round of the NCAAs. They should be just as good this year but with more to show for it if point guard Joe Mazzulla can play as well as he did two years ago. Bob Huggins brings in four solid recruits including Pepper and center Dan Jennings. With top three-point threat Ruoff (15.7 ppg) gone Butler and Bryant will have to pick up the slack, but under Mazzulla West Virginia should win a higher placing in the less-crowed Big East.
- Clemson (ACC #3) Last year: 23-9 (#18) TPP Back: 59.9% Recruiting: #13
Key returnees: Trevor Booker (#1 20.9 TPP/G), Demontez Stitt (#5 6.2)
Key losses: K.C. Rivers (#2 13.9 TPP/G), Raymond Sykes (#3 8.0), Terrence Oglesby (#4 6.7)
Top recruits: Milton Jennings (PF 6-9 225), Noel Johnson (G/F 6-6 190), Devin Booker (PF 6-8 235)
Analysis: The Tigers lose over 27 point per game between Rivers and Oglesby as well as their top three-point threats. This year's team will form around the excellent Booker (top scorer and rebounder) and several quality reserves that return, along with an excellent recruiting class brought in by coach Oliver Purnell. MacDonald's All-American Jennings is the cream of the crop, while Johnson is a good-sized guard. Booker's brother Devin also joins the team and is said to be a similar type of player; if that's true he has a bright future ahead of him.
- Oklahoma St. (Big 12 #3) Last year: 23-12 (#41) TPP Back: 59.5% Recruiting: #16
Key returnees: James Anderson (#1 15.5 TPP/G), Obi Muonelo (#2 11.9), Marshall Moses (#5 6.7)
Key losses: Byron Eaton (#3 11.8 TPP/G), Terrel Harris (#4 11.8)
Top recruits: Ray Penn (PG 5-9 160), Roger Franklin (SF 6-5 220)
Analysis: The Cowboys return two of their four double-digit scorers to a team that underachieved last year, mainly during a stage when they lost six of eight. The return of top player Anderson, as well as Muonelo, Moses, and Keiton Page, forms a solid foursome that will be well complemented by Matt Pilgrim, a big forward who transferred from Hampton to Kentucky before Billy Gillespie's departure. Providing depth are six quality recruits, one of the better classes in the country. This team will improve along with its frosh reserves.
- Tennessee (SEC #3) Last year: 21-13 (#55) TPP Back: 94.7% Recruiting: #83
Key returnees: Tyler Smith (14.4 TPP/G), Wayne Chism (#2 13.2), J.P. Prince (#3 10.1), Bobby Maze (#4 6.9), Brian Williams (#5 6.3)
Key losses: Josh Tabb (#8 3.4 TPP/G)
Top recruits: Kenny Hall (PF 6-8 215)
Analysis: Smith, Chism, Prince, and Maze are all back for their senior year, a remarkable situation for a top program. Just a few years ago it seemed that Smith (17.4 ppg) was a sure one-and-done after he transferred from Iowa. Last year's Volunteers didn't live up to expectations following a 2008 season when they reached #1 in the polls. This year should be more like that year than last year, with all the experienced talent working perfectly for Bruce Pearl's uptempo style. For good measure Pearl brings in blue chip Hall and Southern Illinois transfer Josh Bone.
- Butler (Horizon #1) Last year: 26-6 (#35) TPP Back: 100.0% Recruiting: #154
Key returnees: Gordon Hayward (#1 15.4 TPP/G), Matt Howard (#2 14.8), Shelvin Mack (#3 10.0), Willie Veasley (#4 6.3), Ronald Nored (#5 3.3)
Key losses: None
Top recruits: Andrew Smith (C/F 6-10 230)
Analysis: Last year due to heavy personnel losses I projected a dismal season for the Bulldogs; instead they repeated their '08 success while starting three true freshmen. Now there's no doubt about the team's expectations as every single player returns to the squad, including top scorer and rebounder Howard, who hit 55% of his field goal attempts. Big guard Hayward hit 45% of his three point attempts and was second in scoring and rebounding. Coach Brad Stevens proved his worth last year, and this year's team could really be something special.
- North Carolina (ACC #4) Last year: 34-4 (#1) TPP Back: 26.0% Recruiting: #2
Key returnees: Deon Thompson (#5 9.9 TPP/G)
Key losses: Tyler Hansbrough (#1 19.7 TPP/G), Ty Lawson (#2 19.1), Wayne Ellington (#3 14.7), Danny Green (#4 14.1)
Top recruits: John Henson (PF 6-10 200), Dexter Strickland (SG 6-3 175), Leslie McDonald (SG 6-4 185), David Wear (PF 6-9 225), Travis Wear (PF 6-9 225)
Analysis: The losses are staggering, almost 3/4 of the team's production and a big part of their recent identity leaves with Hansbrough. But starter Thompson is back along with some good reserves, the best of whom is forward Ed Davis who has the potential to be among the best playaz evah at UNC. Another reason to like the Tar Heels this year is their great recruiting class led by power forwards John Henson and the Wear twins. But since they didn't get John Wall, with Lawson gone the big question is who will play point for the 'Heels.
- Kansas St. (Big 12 #4) Last year: 22-12 (#52) TPP Back: 62.2% Recruiting: #15
Key returnees: Jacob Pullen (#1 8.0 TPP/G), Denis Clemente (#2 8.4), Jamar Samuels (#4 7.2), Dominique Sutton (#5 7.1)
Key losses: Darren Kent (#3 7.2 TPP/G)
Top recruits: Wally Judge (PF 6-9 220)
Analysis: Start with the fact that Kansas State was better than its record last year; add that they return four of their top five players, which implies that the 38% production loss can be weathered; and add a strong recruiting class so that the team improves over the year, and the Wildcats can be seen as a top 25 team and potential Big 12 contender. McDonald's All-American Judge will contribute immediately, and other recruits such as guards Rodney McGruder and Nick Russell could excel as well. If it all comes together this team will surprise people.
- Oregon St. (Pac-10 #1) Last year: 18-18 (#89) TPP Back: 85.4% Recruiting: #17
Key returnees: Seth Tarver (#1 10.3 TPP/G), Roeland Schafenaar (#2 10.2), Calvin Haynes (#4 7.9), Omari Johnson (#5 4.6)
Key losses: Rickey Claitt (#3 7.1 TPP/G)
Top recruits: Roberto Nelson (SG 6-4 190)
Analysis: Two years ago Oregon State went 0-18 in league play. Last year they improved to 7-11. Could they make the same improvement again and go 14-4, and win the Pac-10? Probably not, as a lot of the improvement I foresee is due to recruits who will have to mature over the course of the season. Nelson is solid guard prospect and along with Aussie center Angus Brandt and point Jared Cunningham are the best of the Beavers' five recruits. Point guard Claitt is the team's only significant loss so the opportunity for a breakout season is there.
- Indiana (Big Ten #2) Last year: 6-25 (#238) TPP Back: 64.0% Recruiting: #6
Key returnees: Tom Pritchard (#1 7.1 TPP/G), Verdell Jones (#3 7.2), Devan Dumes (#5 5.4)
Key losses: Kyle Taber (#2 6.7 TPP/G), Nick Williams (#4 5.5)
Top recruits: Maurice Creek (SG 6-5 200), Derek Elston (F 6-9 220), Christian Watford (SF 6-8 215)
Analysis: Can Indiana go from having their worst team ever to contending for the Big Ten crown in one year? Probably not. But what's a pre-season top 343 without a few crazy calls? Last year's recruiting class kept the program on life support; this year's is far better and significantly, Tom Crean will have a full roster this year, even adding Georgetown transfer Jeremiah Rivers. It'll be a rough start as the Hoosiers have some tough games early, but over the course of the year the team will make great strides, maybe missing an NCAA berth but winning the NIT.
- UCLA (Pac-10 #2) Last year: 26-9 (#33) TPP Back: 35.1% Recruiting: #8
Key returnees: Nikola Dragovic (#5 9.0 TPP/G)
Key losses: Darren Collison (#1 14.1 TPP/G), Josh Shipp (#2 11.7), Alfred Aboya (10.4), Jrue Holiday (#4 9.3)
Top recruits: Tyler Honeycutt (SF 6-9 180), Mike Moser (SF 6-8 195), Brendan Lane (PF 6-9 205)
Analysis: The losses read like a whose-who of UCLA's recent NCAA Final Four string, with Shipp and Collison both on all three of those teams. The good news is that almost all the reserves, which includes some high level players, return. Of them, Drew Gordon has the highest per-minute production and should see extra time. But it's the five man recruiting class that nudges the Bruins into the top 25, with three slim forwards leading the way. With former reserves and freshman taking important roles, UCLA will take time to develop this year.
- Purdue (Big Ten #3) Last year: 27-10 (#11) TPP Back: 85.0% Recruiting: #48
Key returnees: JaJuan Johnson (#1 13.8 TPP/G), Robbie Hummel (#2 13.6), E'Twaun Moore (#3 10.3), Chris Kramer (#4 7.1), Keaton Grant (#5 4.9)
Key losses: Marcus Green (#7 4.4 TPP/G)
Top recruits: D.J. Byrd (G/F 6-5 215)
Analysis: With all five starters back for a second straight year and 85% production returning, Purdue makes sense as a consensus top 10 pick. But they were in largely the same boat last year and they didn't make much headway due to injuries. And that's a potential problem this year. Hummel's back is better, but that could change at any time. The team isn't very deep past their six top players, and the new recruits are a mixed bag. If the core of the team stays healthy Purdue could be a top five team; if not, they'll tread water again.
- Michigan (Big Ten #4) Last year: 21-14 (#22) TPP Back: 84.3% Recruiting: #30
Key returnees: Manny Harris (#1 16.5 TPP/G), DeShawn Sims (#2 14.3), Zack Novak (#3 5.0), Stu Douglas (#4 4.5)
Key losses: Kelvin Grady (#5 3.8 TPP/G)
Top recruits: Darrius Morris (PG 6-4 180)
Analysis: This may seem a small upgrade for the Wolverines from last year's Success rating of #22, but consider that their Strength rating was only #51 and it's a big jump. Clearly Harris and Sims are the key players on this team, with nearly identical scoring and rebounding stats (Harris 16.9/6.8; Sims 15.4/6.8) despite their different roles. The two form one of the best duos in the Big Ten and they're joined by a decent recruiting class led by Morris and shooting guard Matt Vogrich (6-4 180). UM will be one of many Big Ten teams battling for supremacy.
- Seton Hall (Big East #3) Last year: 17-15 (#85) TPP Back: 83.2% Recruiting: #152
Key returnees: Jeremy Hazell (#1 13.6 TPP/G), Robert Mitchell (#2 12.3), Eugene Harvey (#3 10.7), John Garcia (#4 10.0)
Key losses: Paul Gause (#5 8.4)
Top recruits: Ferrakohn Hall (PF 6-8 215)
Analysis: Even without considering newcomers, the Pirates return 5/6 of last year's production from a decent team that had the misfortune to be stuck in the Big East. Now add the new faces. Recruitingwise, there's only one freshman, the solid but not amazing Hall. But three significant transfers gain eligibility this year: Herb Pope (11.1 points, 6.8 rebounds) from New Mexico State, Keon Lawrence (11 ppg) from Missouri, and Jeff Robinson from Memphis who will be eligible 2nd semester. It all should add up to a strong Seton Hall team in 09-10.
- Marquette (Big East #4) Last year: 25-10 (#29) TPP Back: 36.0% Recruiting: #9
Key returnees: Lazar Hayward (#2 15.6 TPP/G), Jimmy Butler (#5 6.6)
Key losses: Wesley Matthews (#1 16.4 TPP/G), Jerel McNeal (#3 15.6), Dominic James (#4 10.6)
Top recruits: Junior Cadougan (PG 6-1 205), Erik Williams (SF 6-7 200), Jeronne Maymon (F 6-6 250)
Analysis: Marquette's vaunted backcourt of Matthews, McNeal, and James is no more. So how can the team move up from #29 to #22? Really they don't; the team's Strength was #19, so they'll experience a fall. But it will be blunted by seven incoming recruits, who along with a breakthrough year from Hayward could have the team nearly back where it was—but not until the end of the season. Before that, the Eagles might lose enough games to relegate them to the NIT. How about a classic Indiana-Marquette matchup in the NIT finals?
- California (Pac-10 #3) Last year: 22-11 (#37) TPP Back: 89.9% Recruiting: #76
Key returnees: Jerome Randle (#1 16.0 TPP/G), Jamal Boykin (#2 10.7), Patrick Christopher (#3 10.3), Theo Robertson (#4 10.2)
Key losses: Jordan Wilkes (#5 6.3 TPP/G)
Top recruits: Brandon Smith (PG 6-0 170)
Analysis: The Bears had a good team last year but underachieved, losing in the first round of both the Pac-10 and the NCAA tournies while losing five of their last seven games. But almost the entire team gets another chance as Cal returns their top four and eight of their top nine players, totalling 9/10 of last year's production. Leading scorer Randle (18.3 ppg) and leading rebounder Boykin (6.4/game) are joined by Christopher (14.5 ppg) and Robertson (13.1 ppg, 49% on three pointers!) to give Mike Montgomery reason for optimism.
- Oklahoma (Big 12 #5) Last year: 30-6 (#9) TPP Back: 29.9% Recruiting: #5
Key returnees: Willie Warren (#3 10.4 TPP/G), Tony Crocker (#5 6.0)
Key losses: Blake Griffin (#1 27.5 TPP/G), Taylor Griffin (#2 10.5), Austin Johnson (#4 9.8)
Top recruits: Keith Gallon (C 6-9 300), Tommy Mason-Griffin (PG 5-11 200), Andrew Fitzgerald (C 6-8 260)
Analysis: There are two reasons to keep Oklahoma in the top 25 despite losing Blake Griffin: Willie Warren, and the Sooners' top-5 recruiting class. National player-of-the-year Griffin accounted for over 35% of Oklahoma's production; with his brother Taylor it adds up to 50%. But sophomore Warren is poised for a breakout year as team leader, and among Oklahoma's five strong recruits are two big men, the 300-lb "Tiny" Gallon and Fitzgerald, keeping a big interior presence. Mason-Griffin will take over at point and continue the "Griffin" era in Norman.
- Illinois (Big Ten #5) Last year: 24-10 (#14) TPP Back: 62.4% Recruiting: #24
Key returnees: Mike Davis (#1 14.1 TPP/G), Demetri McCamey (#3 9.6), Mike Tisdale (#5 7.8)
Key losses: Chester Frazier (#2 11.1 TPP/G), Trent Meacham (#4 8.2)
Top recruits: D.J. Richardson (SG 6-3 175), Brandon Paul (SG 6-3 175)
Analysis: Illinois exceeded all expectations last year with a stellar season that saw the Illini tied for 2nd in the Big Ten, though they lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament. This year the team loses some good players but returns three starters and a number of reserves. The addition of two 6-3 175 pound freshman shooting guards will complement Davis' and 7-1 Tisdale's size. The Illini snuck up on some teams last year and that won't happen again, but they'll be more prepared for the post-season than they were a year ago.