Thursday, March 22, 2007

2007-08 Top 25

Is it ridiculous to pick a college hoops top 25 for next season while this one is going on? Yes. But since I know that Dickie V is going to be screaming out his pick for next year the moment the nets are cut, I figured I should get out in front of this. Plus, it is low risk/high reward. If my picks are way off, I just leave the post buried. But if they are right on? Well, then I can trot this thing out over and over. Hey, at least I'm honest.

The hardest thing about picking this sort of thing is knowing who is coming back and who isn't. I've made some guesses and assumptions when needed, but I'm focusing on teams who will be good either way. And even though Oden and Durant both sound like kids who want to stay in college (and really who doesn't want to stay in college after a fun freshman year?), I believe they will both wind up in the league.

1. Kansas Julian Wright is probably gone and Brandon Rush might follow him out the door, but a team with Mario Chalmers, Sherron Collins, Darrell Arthur, and Sasha Kahn is still a terrific core. Not only that, but Rush might need to stay to boost his draft stock and Wright has said he wants to stay a third year and get his degree. Either way, KU is going to be loaded.

2. Memphis I know this seems a little crazy, but I honestly think Memphis can make a run at going undefeated next year. With most of their best players returning and the addition of absolute stud point guard Derrick Rose, the Tigers could resemble the old UNLV teams that used to rank #1 coming out of the Big West.

3. North Carolina If everyone was coming back, I would probably put them at #2, right behind Kansas. But Hansborough might be gone and Brandon Wright is sure to be in the rookie-sophomore game a year from now. That said, Lawson will probably be back (unless he keeps playing like he has been in the tourney - he might play his way right out of Chapel Hill) and Wayne Ellington could emerge as a monster scorer next year.

4. USC I know O.J. Mayo is equal parts crazy prima donna and media punching bag, but right now he plans on playing his freshman year in L.A. And the guy is sick, make no mistake. Plus, while Nick Young is probably a lottery pick, Tim Floyd is getting back Gabe Pruitt, Taj Gibson, and a host of solid role players. The Trojans are suddenly quite good at basketball. Other than brief flares during the Harold Minor and Sam Clancy eras, this is the first time SC has been a basketball power since Paul Westphal played there.

5. Kansas State From left out to top five? Believe it. Not only do the Wildcats have the right coach in Huggins, but he also has a host of freakish athletes committed to playing for him. This team will be incredibly talented next year, led by possible 2008 #1 pick Michael Beasely and sophomore swingman Bill Walker (who looked great in his six games before hurting his knee).

6. UCLA I hate their style of play, but the Bruins are going to be good for quite a while, especially with Darren Collison coming back and stud power forward Kevin Love coming in. If nothing else, the battle for LA is going to be intense.

7. Indiana Kelvin Sampson should have his program in full swing next year and D.J. White will have matured a bit. However, the real reason I have the Hoosiers this high is because they have frosh Eric Gordon coming in next year. He's not the NBA prospect that some other high school stars are (a Ben Gordon-esque 6'2" combo guard, so kind of a tweener right now), but this guy was born to play college basketball. He is going to be AWESOME.

8. Louisville Between many Big East powers looking at a down year and the Cardinals coming of age this winter, I think Louisville stands to be the class of the conference next year. Edgar Sosa will only learn from the tough finish to his amazing game (seriously, the guy was 22-for-22 on field goals and free throws before missing three straight shots. 22-for-22!) and Derrick Caracter should be a legit post option by next year, with Palacios rebounding like a madman.

9. Georgia Tech They probably won't make this big of a leap next year, but if Young and Crittenton come back, I expect the Jackets to take a huge step forward. They should challenge UNC for the ACC crown.

10. Mississippi State There is room for a new top team in the SEC with Florida going into reloading mode. Most probably have Tennessee filling this spot, but if you saw the Bulldogs play in the NIT, you know what I'm talking about. They are going to be good. Jamont Gordon is a legit All-American candidate.

The Next 15:
11. Arizona (I know they looked like crap this year and that I've loaded this list with Pac-10 teams, but Zona will have Budinger, Jordan Hill, and Marcus Williams coming back, with new stud point guard Jerryd Bayless at the controls)
12. UConn (they are closer than people think)
13. Ohio State (no Oden, but plenty of talent coming back)
14. Maryland
15. Virginia Commonwealth (no, seriously),
16. Florida (I know they can reload, but top 10 is asking a bit much)
17. Tennessee
18. Duke
19. Georgetown (Green and maybe Hibbert are gone, but Summers is back)
20. Washington (the Huskies are going to grow up fast next year)
21. Nevada (the Pack still has Sessions and Kemp)
22. Pittsburgh
23. Michigan State
24. Oregon (Porter, Taylor, and Hairston are back, but the loss of Brooks is huge)
25(tie). Arkansas and Texas

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