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2012-13 Top 25: Really, Really Early Edition

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  • Never Too Early

    Kentucky and Kansas will wrap up the 2012-13 season in Monday’s national championship. As such, it’s never too early to look ahead to next season. We present our 2012-13 Top 25 by projecting who will stay or go to the NBA more than seven months before next season’s tip-off.

    Where does a revamped Kentucky roster including transfer Ryan Harrow (pictured) land? Continue to find out.

  • 1. Kentucky

    John Calipari (pictured) has another big recruiting class coming in for 2012, which may include the top two players in Nerlens Noel and Shabazz Muhammad. As good as this year’s team has been, could next year’s projected rotation be better despite almost a complete overhaul? We think Muhammad and Noel land in Lexington for Bobby Knight’s worst nightmare.

  • 2. Indiana

    The Hoosiers lost to Kentucky in the Sweet 16 this year but gave the Wildcats all they could handle. Next season could see the school’s first national title since 1987 with the team’s five leading scorers likely back, including projected lottery pick Cody Zeller (pictured), Victor Oladipo, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford and Will Sheehey. If Zeller goes pro, this is still a Top 10 team.

  • 3. Louisville

    Could we see Pitino-Calipari II in the 2013 Final Four? The lightning-quick Peyton Siva (pictured) will be a force as a senior for the Cardinals, who also should see the returns of guard Russ Smith, shot-blocking center Gorgui Dieng and forward Chane Behanen, unless one of them makes a bonehead decision.

  • 4. Baylor

    You’ve got to hand it to Scott Drew; he has turned around Baylor and turned them into a consistent winner. The Bears should be in the mix for a title next season. There likely will be returns of many of the team’s key cogs, including Pierre Jackson, Brady Heslip, and Quincy Miller - and the addition of five-star 7-foot center Isaiah Austin. Brace yourselves for lots more of those insane neon uniforms…

  • 5. NC State

    Mark Gottfried (pictured) and his team celebrated barely getting into the tournament this March. But the Wolfpack made a spirited run to the Sweet 16 and should be a contender next season with the projected returns of C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown, a duo that combined for more than 27.0 PPG this season. Oh yeah, and they will add four-star shooting guard and hometown kid Rodney Purvis. Yes folks, the Wolfpack is officially back.

  • 6. Kansas

    The Jayhawks will lose the dynamic Tyshawn Taylor to graduation and Thomas Robinson likely will be gone to the NBA, but C Jeff Withey (pictured) - who has made his presence felt on the defensive end in March - along with G Travis Releford and G Elijah Johnson, the team’s third-leading scorer, will be back. Add five-star PF recruit Perry Ellis and Kansas isn’t going anywhere after its romp to New Orleans.

  • 7. Florida

    The Gators blitzed their way to the Elite Eight as a No. 7 seed with a frantic, relentless style but then choked away a bid to the Final Four. They could lose star freshman Bradley Beal to the NBA draft and four-year PG Erving Walker definitely will be gone. But if guards Kenny Boynton (pictured) and Mike Rosario and forwards Erik Murphy and Patric Young all are back, Florida is going nowhere.

  • 8. Syracuse

    Jim Boeheim no doubt is looking for a quieter season off the court and a better finish on it. It hurts to lose Scoop Jardine, Fab Melo and Dion Waiters, who may have been the Orange’s most-talented player, but ‘Cuse should return Brandon Triche (pictured), James Sutherland, C.J Fair, Baye Keita and bring in blue chip recruit Dajuan Coleman.

  • 9. Ohio State

    The Buckeyes likely will lose Jared Sullinger from their 2012 Final Four team, but bulldog PG Aaron Craft and F Deshaun Thomas (pictured), the team’s leading scorer in the tourney - both of whom are sophomores - should be back for Thad Matta. If Sullinger returns for his junior year? Immediately vault this team into the top three.

  • 10. North Carolina

    As always, the Tar Heels can replace talent with talent. They will lose Kendall Marshall, John Henson, Harrison Barnes and Tyler Zeller - four-fifths of their starting lineup - to the NBA. But that will allow rising sophomore F James Michael McAdoo, rising junior G Reggie Bullock and G Dexter Strickland (pictured) - who missed the 2011-12 season with an injury - to step in. With recruits like Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson and Joel James, the Heels should be fine.

  • 11. Notre Dame

    The Irish won’t be sneaking up on anyone next season. The next campaign should see an improvement on the 22-win season for Notre Dame, which will bring back its top three scorers in Jack Cooley (pictured), Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins. If the NCAA grants Tim Abromaitis a sixth year of eligibility, then ND will get an even bigger boost.

  • 12. San Diego State

    The Aztecs have become a consistent winner under Steve Fisher. They should bounce back from their round of 64 NCAA tournament loss to NC State by likely bringing back the team’s three leading scorers - Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley (pictured) and Xavier Thames. Throw in recruit Winston Shepard and the Aztecs will be dangerously good.

  • 13. Michigan

    The Wolverines will lose important seniors Stu Douglass and Zack Novak as well as Evan Smotrycz to transfer. But they will bring back Tim Hardaway Jr. (14.6 PPG) and could have back star point guard Trey Burke (14.8 PPG, 4.6 APG), who is undecided about entering the NBA draft. Plus, John Beilein went to work on the recruiting trail by landing Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III. Our guess is Burke goes pro but if he doesn’t, Michigan is a top five team.

  • 14. Alabama

    Watch out for the Tide, who showed signs of life last season under Anthony Grant. They bowed out with a tough, one-point loss to Creighton in the round of 64 but should return key contributors Gs Trevor Releford (pictured) and Trevor Lacey. If Tony Mitchell stops getting into trouble off the court, Alabama could make a deep run next March.

  • 15. Florida State

    Florida State was a darkhorse pick to make the 2012 Final Four. While the ‘Noles fell short, they still have a nice future ahead of them with leading scorer Michael Snaer (pictured) and G Ian Miller back. It also will allow bigger roles for Fs Okaro White and Terrance Shannon.

  • 16. Michigan State

    Does it really matter who is on the roster? Tom Izzo (pictured) will have his team defending, rebounding and playing with a winning mentality. Yes, the Spartans will lose the heart and soul of their team, Draymond Green, but second-leading scorer Keith Appling will be back and joined in the backcourt by five-star SG recruit Gary Harris. Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne should be able to fill the void in the frontcourt left by Green.

  • 17. Wisconsin

    Boy, Wisconsin gave Syracuse all it could handle in the Sweet 16. It will lose star guard Jordan Taylor to graduation, but everyone - save for Rob Wilson and his 4.0 PPG - is eligible to return in 2012-13. You know Bo Ryan (pictured) and the team will be peaking next March.

  • 18. VCU

    Shaka Smart (pictured) turned down overtures from Illinois good reason. He still has a lot to work with at VCU, which will lose team leader and top scorer Bradford Burgess to graduation - but the rest of a young core will return from a team that lost by two to Indiana in the round of 32 this March. If Smart reaches another Final Four next season, his price tag will just keep going higher.

  • 19. Memphis

    The Tigers will miss Will Barton, who averaged 18.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 2.9 assists as a sophomore. But Memphis should return its next four leading scorers - Joe Jackson, Tarik Black, Chris Crawford and Adonis Thomas - and should be in the mix next season.

  • 20. Arizona

    The Wildcats will have a young team in 2012-13; seniors Kyle Fogg and Jesse Perry will be out, but freshmen Nick Johnson (pictured) and Josiah Turner will be back. Arizona also has the top incoming recruiting class, according to ESPN Recruiting Nation, which includes five-star center Kaleb Tarczewski and power forward Brandon Ashley.

  • 21. Duke

    Austin Rivers and Miles Plumlee are gone, and Mason Plumlee could be out, too. The Blue Devils also have signed just one of ESPN’s Top 100 recruits, though they are in the mix for others. Coach K will bring back G Seth Curry (pictured), shooting F Ryan Kelly and give Marshall Plumlee his first run. The taste from a loss to Lehigh could get worse.

  • 22. Saint Mary’s

    The Gaels will again be a force to be reckoned with in the West Coast Conference next season. Star guard Matthew Dellavedova (15.5 PPG, 6.4 APG) can’t be measured in statistics, but those figure to get even better next season. Stephen Holt and Brad Waldow also should return a combined 18.2 PPG for Saint Mary’s.

  • 23. UNLV

    UCLA transfer and leading scorer Mike Moser (pictured) will be back for his senior season, and so will guards Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins. Mike Tyson and Flavor Flav are already on the Vegas bandwagon, which is picking up steam after a 26-9 record this year.

  • 24. Creighton

    Doug McDermott (pictured) will be a junior next year. Isn’t that scary? One of the best players in the country as a sophomore, McDermott averaged 23.2 points and 8.2 rebounds. Creighton had 29 wins and lost to North Carolina in the round of 32 in 2012. With center Gregory Echenique back alongside McDermott, the Blue Jays should go dancing again next March.

  • 25. UCLA

    As bad as Ben Howland and his program came off in a recent SI article, the Bruins finished with 19 wins and are looking up in 2012-13. The Wear twins and sophomore center Joshua Smith (pictured) will return alongside incoming point guard Kyle Anderson, the top floor general in the country, according to Rivals.com.

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