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Monday, April 8, 2013

Early Favorites for 2013-14 National Championship

Louisville is your 2013 National Champion, but could they repeat? Gorgui Dieng and Peyton Siva are gone for sure and Russ Smith may follow them, but they will have another strong team thanks to a pair of incoming guards. With Michigan, it remains to be seen who will leave. If everyone returns minus Burke, they will have a spot in this top 10 as well. Here is an early look at the top 10 teams for next season:

EDIT: Russ Smith is heading to the NBA, according to his dad.

1. Kentucky Wildcats

PG - Andrew Harrison/Jarrod Polson
SG - Aaron Harrison/James Young
SF - Alex Poythress/Jon Hood
PF - Julius Randle/Kyle Wiltjer/Derek Willis
C - Dakari Johnson/Willie Cauley-Stein/Marcus Lee

Analysis: Kentucky has by far the most talented roster and with a deeper team, shouldn't encounter the same problems they did this year. Coach Cal will be able to motivate players with playing time and having an actual floor general in Andrew Harrison will help everyone. This team can get to the rim, shoot the ball very well, and score in the post with guys like Dakari Johnson and Julius Randle. They also can go big with multiple different looks or go small and move Alex Poythress to the PF spot. The amount of looks this Kentucky team can give you is scary.

2. Duke Blue Devils

PG - Quinn Cook/Tyler Thornton
SG - Rasheed Sulaimon/Andre Dawkins(?)/Matt Jones
SF - Rodney Hood/Alex Murphy/Semi Ojeleye
PF - Jabari Parker/Josh Hairston
C - Marshall Plumlee/Amile Jefferson

Analysis: Duke has plenty of depth on the wings which is why its good that Jabari Parker seems to already be embracing the idea of playing inside next season. With Parker and Hood, Duke gets two of the biggest impact newcomers in college basketball and it should help fill the void left by Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee, and Seth Curry. Their biggest question mark is at the center spot where Marshall Plumlee will get every opportunity to win the job, but if he doesn't look for a lot of small lineups.

3. Michigan State

PG - Keith Appling/Travis Trice
SG - Gary Harris
SF - Denzel Valentine/Russell Byrd
PF - Branden Dawson/Kenny Kaminski/Alex Gauna/Gavin Schilling
C - Adreian Payne/Matt Costello

Analysis: Michigan State doesn't have the depth that Kentucky or Duke has, but Izzo has assembled a bench full of hard-nosed kids that are willing to play their roles and do the dirty work. In their starting lineup, look for Gary Harris to make the jump to an All-American level while Payne and Dawson will form a great duo down low. Michigan State will be a little smaller this year with Valentine replacing Nix in the starting lineup, but an extra ball handler and creator might end up helping their offense flow better. For the most part, this will be a very similar Michigan State team with another year of experience under Izzo - who always gets the most out of his players.

4. Arizona

PG - TJ McConnell
SG - Nick Johnson/Gabe York/Elliott Pitts
SF - Aaron Gordon/Rondae Jefferson
PF - Brandon Ashley/Grant Jarrett/Matt Korcheck
C - Kaleb Tarczewski/Angelo Chol

Analysis: Even though Arizona loses its two biggest contributors - Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill - they return a very young and talented roster with plenty of room to grow. Their recruiting class last year was great and they are building on it by adding Aaron Gordon and Rondae Jefferson, both of whom are hard-nosed and tough defenders. Arizona should be one of the best defensive teams in the NCAA with Tarczweski shutting down the post, Nick Johnson at guard, and the freshman handling the forward spot. The question will be whether this team can score enough to be a serious title threat.

5. Louisville

PG - Chris Jones/Terry Rozier
SG - Luke Hancock/Anton Gill
SF - Wayne Blackshear/Kevin Ware
PF - Chane Behanan/Akoy Agau
C - Montrezl Harrell/Stephan Van Treese/Zach Price/Mangok Mathiang

With or without Russ returning, this Louisville team should still remain int he top 5. We saw what Luke Hancock is capable of, so there should be no worry if he has to start next year. Getting him more minutes should be seen as a good thing. Behanan, Harrell, and Van Treese should hold down the inside. Chris Jones and Terry Rozier are both highly ranked point guards that are more prepared than your average 5 star recruited (coming from the JUCO and prep level respectively). Pitino will have this group terrorizing opposing guards in no time.

6. Syracuse

PG - Tyler Ennis
SG - Trevor Cooney/Ron Patterson
SF - CJ Fair/Michael Gbinjie/BJ Johnson
PF - Rakeem Christmas/Jerami Grant/Tyler Roberson
C - Dajuan Coleman/Baye Keita/Chinonso Obokho

Analysis: Tyler Ennis should come in and replace Michael Carter-Williams and do just fine. While he won't be as great of a presence on defense, his ability to control the game on offense and be consistent should be a welcomed sign to Cuse fans. CJ Fair will take over an even bigger role and he'll need either Ron Patterson, Trevor Cooney, or Duke transfer Michael Gbinjie to step up and take some pressure off him. Inside you'll probably see a twin tower look to start games, but look for Jerami Grant to have a big role on next year's team.

7. Florida

PG - Scottie Wilbekin/Kasey Hill/Braxton Ogbueze
SG - Michael Frazier
SF - Dorian Finney-Smith/Casey Prather
PF - Chris Walker/Will Yeguete
C - Patric Young/Damontre Harris

Analysis: The Gators lose two high scoring backcourt members in Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario, but they shouldn't have too much trouble replacement their inefficient scoring. Losing Erik Murphy hurts them more, a power forward who was able to spread the floor and hit shots from the outside. Without him, Florida will lose the wide open attack that worked so well for them this past season. Instead, they'll play with two legit big men at all times and their SF (Dorian Finney-Smith) won't even be able to spread the floor like Murphy. Florida may not score as easily this season, but they are in for another great defensive year and should be absolutely dominant on the boards. They have a team full of rebounders and return some key role players from last years squad.

8. Ohio State

PG - Aaron Craft/Shannon Scott
SG - Lenzelle Smith Jr/Kameron Williams
SF - Sam Thompson/Amadeo Della Valle
PF - LaQuinton Ross/Marc Loving
C - Amir Williams/Trey McDonald

Analysis: Ohio State returns plenty of talent, but losing Deshaun Thomas and Evan Ravenel creates two big holes. LaQuinton Ross will be the one expected to fill Thomas' scoring and he'll have no problem taking the same amount of shots as Thomas did. But Ravenel's size inside will be missed as well and the Buckeyes badly need some signs of life from Trey McDonald if they are to compete next year. They already had to play small with Thomas at center last year at times and asking Ross to do that just isn't ideal. In the backcourt, Ohio State should be even better than they were this year. Sam Thompson also could finally have his breakout season.

9. Georgetown

PG - Markel Starks
SG - Jabril Trawick/Stephen Domingo/Aaron Bowen
SF - Greg Whittington/Reggie Camerson
PF - Nate Lubick/Moses Ayegba
C - Mikael Hopkins/Josh Smith

Analysis: Georgetown loses their star in Otto Porter, but will return the rest of their team and get back Greg Whittington as well. The Hoyas got better when Whittington went out, but thats because it forced JTIII to put another ball handler on the court which ended up being a good move. Whittington is no Otto Porter, but can fill a similar role in the offense. With the rest of the team returning, they should be able to pick up some of the slack. The loss of Porter will be felt most when they enter the tournament, as they will lack even less fire power than this season when they lost is the Round of 64 - so don't expect the Hoyas to make a tournament run in 2014 either.

10. Indiana

PG - Yogi Ferrell/Maurice Creek
SG - Remy Abel/Stanford Robinson/Andre Etherington
SF - Will Sheehey/Jeremy Hollowell/Troy Williams
PF - Noah Vonleh/Hanner Mosquera Perea
C - Peter Jurkin/Luke Fischer

Analysis: Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo formed arguably the best duo in all of college basketball this year and will be extremely hard to replace. Indiana will be in need of some star power and they hope they have it in freshman power forward Noah Vonleh. Will Vonleh have a FPOY caliber year or just a solid year will be the difference in whether Indiana can revenge their early exit in this year's Sweet 16. They should still remain strong on the wings and Yogi Ferrell will be solid at the point.

The Rest (Very Rough Draft of 11-35, too many things up in the air to publish anything official. Complete top 25 will be out after the picture gets clearer later this month).

11. Marquette
12. Memphis
13. Colorado
14. Michigan
15. Connecticut
16. Iowa
17. North Carolina
18. Kansas
19. Tennessee
20. Wichita State
21. VCU
22. Maryland
23. Virginia
24. Alabama
25. Notre Dame
26. Wisconsin
27. Boise State
28. LSU
29. Gonzaga
30. Villanova
31. Indiana State
32. Louisiana Tech
33. Butler
34. BYU
35. New Mexico 

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