UPDATED 2011-2012 College Basketball Pre-Season Top 25


unc basketball

Now that we know which college basketball players are entering the NBA Draft, which are returning to school, and which have transferred, we can get a better grasp on our insanely early 2011-2012 pre-season Top 25.   Some teams were majorly impacted in a negative while others received a boost.  Here is a look at how the college basketball rankings could look prior to next season.

UPDATED: 5/10/11

By: David Kay

How many of these pre-season top 25 teams will make it deep into March Madness next year? Which one of these teams will college basketball experts pick to win it all?

1. North Carolina (Previous Ranking: 1)
With the starting frontcourt of Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Tyler Zeller all returning, UNC will bring back all five starters and only lose reserve post player Justin Knox from last year’s very young, but extremely talented team.  The backcourt will be stacked with Kendall Marshall, Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald, and Reggie Bullock who returns from injury.  Add in McDonald’s All-Americans James McAdoo and P.J. Hairston and the Heels will be loaded.

2. Kentucky (PR: 2)
Brandon Knight and DeAndre Liggins are off to the NBA but Terrence Jones returns to solidify UK as national title contender 1B behind UNC.  John Calipari once again pulled it off on the recruiting scene, signing four McDonald’s All-Americans led by probable one-and-done’s Anthony Davis, Michael Gilchrist, and Marquis Teague.  Not to mention, Kyle Wiltjer who won the 3-pt competition in the MAA game. Darius Miller will provide senior leadership while sharpshooter Doron Lamb will also be back.  Size may be an issue like it was this past season with Josh Harrellson gone, but talent certainly will not be a concern.

3. Ohio State (PR: 4)
Jared Sullinger and William Buford held true to their words and are back in Columbus next season making the Buckeyes the team to beat in the Big Ten again.  Gone are Jon Diebler, David Lighty, and Dallas Lauderdale, but sophomores-to-be Aaron Craft, DeShaun Thomas, and Boston College transfer Evan Ravenel will be more than ready to fill their spots in the starting line-up.  Add in McDonald’s All-Americans Amir Williams and Shannon Scott and the development of several talented sophomores who did not see much playing time this past season, and OSU has a chance to be as good as they were in ’10-‘11.

4. Duke (PR: 5)
It will be hard to replace the senior leadership of Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, but Coach K. should have another title contender on his hands even though Kyrie Irving left early for the NBA.  Ryan Kelly, and Mason and Miles Plumlee will be joined by their younger brother Marshall in the frontcourt giving the Blue Devils a lot of size and versatility.  The key will be the arrival of shooting guard Austin Rivers who is the best scorer in the 2011 class.  He will be a fixture in what should be a three-guard line-up that will also feature Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins, Tyler Thornton and freshman Quinn Cook who will have big shoes to fill at the point.

5. Syracuse (PR: 3)
The Orange brings back everyone from last season except for Rick Jackson.  They will be exceptionally talented at guard with Brandon Triche, Scoop Jardine, and Dion Waiters returning and freshmen Michael Carter-Williams and Trevor Cooney joining the fray.  Jim Boeheim’s frontcourt will be versatile and long as it usually is with Kris Joseph, emerging sophomores Fab Melo, Baye Moussa-Keita, and C.J. Fair, and McDonald’s All-American power forward, Rakeem Christmas.

6. Louisville (PR: 7)
Rick Pitino lost Terrence Jennings early to the draft, but still brings back nine players from his 11-man rotation this past season.  Plus, Jared Swopshire will return from injury and former Wake Forest big man Tony Woods becomes eligible after sitting out a year due to transfer rules.  The Cards also bring in a pair of McDonald’s All-Americans in Wayne Blackshear and Chane Behanan.  In other words, Louisville will have a plethora of talent to put on the floor with their always headache-causing full-court pressure attack.

7. UConn (PR: 6)
Even though they lose the heart and soul of their team, Kemba Walker, the Huskies return their core of young talent.  Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, and Roscoe Smith were all freshmen this past season but sure did not play like it late in the season.  Alex Oriakhi will be back to clean up the glass.  Jamal Coombs-McDaniel is transferring after being arrested on drug charges which bumps the Huskies down a spot.

8. Pitt (PR: 10)
The run of Big East teams continues.  Ashton Gibbs’ decision to pull his name out of the NBA Draft is huge for Jamie Dixon’s team.  Even though they lose three starters, Dixon is one of the best coaches in the country in getting his guys to buy into his system.  That is not a knock on the talent since guys like Gibbs, Nasir Robinson, Trevon Woodall, and Dante Taylor are still around, it is more of a tip of the cap to the program and success Dixon has built at Pitt.

9. Vanderbilt (PR: 11)
With Jeffery Taylor coming back for his senior season, Vandy will return their top nine scorers from this past season including sharpshooter John Jenkins and developing center Festus Ezeli.  That type of experience should put them a notch below Kentucky in the SEC.

10. Memphis (PR: 13)
Josh Pastner had an extremely talented, but very young team this past season.  With everybody returning except for big man Will Coleman, the more mature, experienced Tigers should be the cream of the Conference USA crop and back in the national picture especially when you add McDonald’s All-American Adonis Thomas.  Will Barton could end up being one of the best wing scorers in the country next year.

11. Kansas (PR: 8)
I received a lot of flack for initially putting KU at number eight but I will repeat this; Bill Self has proven that the Big 12 Title runs through Lawrence and until they are dethroned, KU will be the favorite and a likely top-fifteen pre-season team.  That being said, the Jayhawks lose a lot of talent in the Morris twins, Josh Selby, Brady Morningstar, Tyrel Reed, and Mario Little.  The good news is that promising big man Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor decided to return and Kansas has added some quality recruits since the end of the season.  There will be a lot of turnover to the Kansas roster but that has not been a problem in year’s past.

12. Florida (PR: 17)
The Gators might have the deepest collection of guards in the country with returning starters Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton, Scottie Wilbekin, Rutgers transfer Mike Roasrio, and one of my favorite freshmen of the 2011 class, Bradley Beal.   All five are scorers though so it will be interesting to see how the rock will be shared.  Billy Donovan does lose his starting frontcourt but Patrick Young could be poised for a breakout season in the middle while guys like Erik Murphy and Miami transfer Adam Allen will try and fill the void inside.

Jordan Taylor Wisconsin

13. Wisconsin (PR: 15)
Never, under any circumstance, underestimate a Bo Ryan-coached team.  I say it every year, yet the Badgers are usually floating around the bottom part of the pre-season Top 25 despite never finishing lower than fourth place in the Big Ten since Ryan took over in 2001.  Wisconsin does lose their senior frontcourt of Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil but bring back Bob Cousy Award Finalist Jordan Taylor and Josh Gasser in their backcourt.  Jared Berggren, Mike Bruesewitz, and Ryan Evans will be asked to fill the void up-front.

14. Baylor (PR: Not Ranked)
Due to Perry Jones’ surprising decision to return for his sophomore season rather than turn pro, the Bears jump this high from honorable mention.  Baylor will once again have ridiculous length in their frontcourt with Jones, Anthony Jones, Quincy Acy, and J’mison Morgan all back in Waco.  Add in top flight recruit Quincy Miller and Deuce Bello, and the Bears 2-3 zone should cause nightmares for their opponents.  Finding consistency at the point and a perimeter scorer to replace LaceDarius Dunn will be a concern though.

15. Arizona (PR: 20)
The defending Pac-10 champs lose superstar Derrick Williams and reserve Jamelle Horne, but everyone else returns to Tucson.  Add in another great recruiting class and depth will be the strength of next year’s Wildcat team.  A huge sigh of relief was heard throughout Wildcat Country when Sean Miller turned down the Maryland job and with good reason.  Miller should have Zona as the team to beat in the new Pac-12 after re-establishing the program this past season.

16. Villanova (PR: 14)
After a second straight late season tailspin, the pressure will be on Jay Wright next year.  Despite having no seniors on the roster, the Cats return blossoming big man Mouphtaou Yarou and talented point guard Maalik Wayns who will be handed the reins to the Wildcat offense now that the Coreys are gone.  Guys like Dominic Cheek, Isaiah Armwood, and James Bell will have to take their play to the next level for Nova to reach their potential.

17. Xavier (PR: 18)
The Musketeers will once again be the team to beat in the A-10.  Led by conference player of the year Tu Holloway who is coming back to Xavier after testing the NBA Draft waters, the Musketeers bring back their top three scorers which includes speedy guard Mark Lyons and big man Kenny Frease.  Depth will be a bit of an issue due Jay Canty and Jordan Lathan deciding to transfer, but Xavier faired pretty well this season with a seven-man rotation so they should be fine.

18. Michigan (PR: 12)
Darius Morris’s decision to stay in the NBA Draft drops the Wolverines since my initial rankings.  They do return their entire roster from a team that surprised many this past season and nearly knocked off Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.  Michigan has a lot of talent including All-Big Ten Freshman Team members Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jordan Morgan, and should be in the upper tier of the Big Ten.

19. Temple (PR: 25)
The Owls return everybody but Lavoy Allen and should compete with Xavier for the A-10 title.  Their triple threat in the backcourt of Juan Fernandez, Ramone Moore, and Khalif Wyatt might be one of the most underrated guard combos in the country.

20. Washington (PR: 24)
Losing Isaiah Thomas to the NBA hurts, but Lorenzo Romar still has some talent.  Abdul Gaddy will return from a season ending injury and be asked to lead this team while Terrence Ross could emerge as the go-to wing scorer.  The Huskies have size inside, shooters on the wing, and freshman Tony Wroten Jr. should be one of the best newcomers out West.

21. Gonzaga (PR: 20)
After a year of struggles by their standards, the Zags should bounce back next season since they only lose Steven Gray to graduation and Demtri Goodson who chose to transfer in hopes of pursuing a football career.  The Bulldogs will boast a solid front line led by Robert Sacre and Elias Harris and if they can get more consistent play from their guards, Gonzaga should be a fixture in the top 25.

22. Cincinnati (PR: NR)
Mick Cronin had the Bearcats playing extremely well this past season due to their aggressiveness on both ends of the floor.  Cincy loses a couple of key contributors but still brings back their top four scorers from last season.  Add in a solid recruiting class and the Cats should once again be very competitive in the Big East.

23. Alabama (PR: 23)
The NIT runner-ups return their top three scorers from this past season in JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell, and Trevor Releford.  If Anthony Grant can build off the foundation he has seemingly laid, Bama should be the best of the SEC West and on the right side of tourney bubble next season.

Marquette basketball

24. Marquette (PR: NR)
With their run to the Sweet 16 this past season, Buzz Williams proved he knows how to coach up his guys and have them play as hard as any team in the country.  The Golden Eagles will have to replace Mr. Versatility Jimmy Butler, but return a solid core led by Darius Johnson-Odom and Jae Crowder.

25. UCLA (PR: 9)
The Bruins take a big drop due to the early exits of Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee to the NBA.  Along with returning starters Reeves Nelson and big man Joshua Smith, UCLA might have the deepest frontcourt in the country with the Wear twins becoming eligible after transferring from UNC.  The concern will be at guard where Lazeric Jones, Jerime Anderson, and Tyler Lamb will have to step up their game.

Other Considered:
Missouri, Texas A&M, Florida State, Michigan State, Mississippi State, New Mexico

David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank.  He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities.

You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.

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  1. Cincy returns their top 4 scorers & a top 15 recruiting class from a 26-9 team & is not ranked in top 25 or even considered? REALLY? C’mon!

  2. And what about Michigan State? What? You think the Spartans are done because of one bad year?…And way to WAY over-rate Michigan…..again.

  3. paulmbanks says

    Other than Branden Dawson


    what has Michigan State have coming in that makes you think they deserve to be up here? This year’s freshmen class was VERY underwhelming. I don’t see them coming all big time this year. then there’s what State has lost in their seniors…sorry they’re one-and-done, and ranked somewhere #35-#45 overall

  4. paulmbanks says

    I think Cincinnati will be good, but I’m not all that sold on their coaching though

  5. davidkay says

    Paul said it best about Sparty… and he’s a MSU fan…

    Cincy would be in the 30-35 range… yes, they defend but I need more than one good year to be sold that Mick Cronin can get it done on a yearly basis after so many of mediocrity… and I think it’s funny someone called Yancy Gates a “legit” low post presence…

  6. paulmbanks says

    I get that problem all the time, but only on gmail. new comments from people who havent emailed you before, always get duplicated and triplicated for some reason. if you add the address to your safe senders or approved senders list, it should take care of it

    Michigan is not overrated here. Big Ten will be way down, and Mich will be the 2nd best team far and away….I expect nothing out of State. Izzo’s had a great run. he has to re-load sometime

  7. bigoldthor says

    So you expect Zeller, Henson, and Barnes to return to UNC while you expect Knight and Jones to exit for the NBA. Not saying it couldn’t happen, but on what intel are you basing that?

    I hear Henson and Barnes are both considered high Top 10 draft prospects and Zeller maybe Top 20 or better. You don’t think the almost certain likelihood of instant riches will entice even one of them to make the jump?

    I’m 90% on Jones leaving and and 50-50 on Knight.

  8. paulmbanks says

    Roy Williams is meeting with all three players this week. But word is Harrison is 60-40 staying. Don;t know about the other 2.

    And Kyrie is rumored to be leaning towards staying too. When Sullinger said he was staying, I thought “well, he’ll get to play the four next year instead of the five- which makes sense since it’s the only position he can play in the NBA” now that some of these other guys are allegedly coming back it’s because of the lockout! they know it’s on. In fact, ESPN’s main NBA reporter said this morning that summer league is already pretty much not going to happen and the chances of a NBA lockout are 9/10

  9. everything I’ve read heard has the UNC dudes all staying… so that’s my rationale there…

    Calipari guys have a history of being one and done (just look at last year) I agree Jones is gone but I think Knight could still say since he is a good student… it’ll be interesting to see how the likely lockout plays a role in these decisions… guys have until April 24th to declare and May 8th to withdraw so there is still a month to figure it all out… these rankings are based on my best guess

  10. davidkay says

    Henson and Zeller announced today they are returning to school like I predicted, so the UNC at #1 argument strengthens

  11. syracuse is overrated every year they are definately a MEDIA FAVORITE… but UNC IS #1 again

  12. First of all, UNC is going to be cutting down the nets in March due to the fact that all of Carolina’s starters are coming back. Kentucky has a good class coming in, but the debate is Carolina has an experienced down-low and a very impressive front-court. The Tarheels post players are machines. Blocks were a big part of the defense and will continue to be till next year. Harrison Barnes was playing his best ball at the end of the 2011 season. All the hype last year was Carolina is way too young for a National Title, but now with experience Carolina will win the National Title in March 2012. The Tarheels will stay number one until they hold up the national title trophy.

  13. Madxster says

    Xavier will actually have alot of depth this year. Latham never played and Canty had limited palying time.

    Xavier returns the A10’s best 3 pt shooter who was injured last year and 2 players who could have started but sat out due to transfer rules. Add in three returning starters and a solid recruiting class.

    They now have possibly the hardest OOC schedule as well.

  14. what about texas. thompson,hamilton, and joseph declared for the nba draft but they got brown and are gaining myck kabongo a couple others and maybe daniels and plus joseph may not even get draft.
    in my opinion texas is better then teams from uconn and beyond.

  15. davidkay says

    Pepe- Texas loses all five starters and has way too many question marks to be in the top 25, let alone just below teams like UConn… Kabongo and Brown will be a nice backcourt combo but who is gonna play in the post???

  16. Thats right UNC all the way BABY!!!

    Love my Tar Heels.

  17. Amy Puryear says

    lets go dores..vanderbilt coming

  18. TrevorDarnell says

    Are you seriously telling me that a team coached by Tom Izzo isnt in the top 25? Come on man he is a top 2 coach in the nation, this team lost 1 good player and everyone else is returning, get your head out of your a** and start reading up on this stuff, come on now! Just cause of one off year does not mean that this team isnt in the top 25, they have a good recruiting class coming in, a lot is expected out of them this year! GO GREEN!

  19. ND went from #55 to # 4 in 2011, why not the same in 2012 behind Abro man

  20. Kesha Langer says

    Baylor all the way! They have some great additions coming. Plus bring back P.J. 3 and this team can sky rocket.

  21. WVU will end ranked regardless of what the preseason polls say, young, athletic, and defense first

  22. I agree with Louisville’s high ranking, however, you guys really missed the boat when you failed to even mention starting PG Peyton Siva (also a former McDonalds All American). This kid is amazing, and like many Seattle area hoopers; he deserves more props.

  23. Yep, It is time for Roy Williams to bring another chamosonship to UNC. Last yr. he lost 4 players and still had a heck of a yr. It was painfull at times looking at their guard play. Kendall Marshall came in and did a great job. Bullock will be back after his injury ( he was the highly touted one) Just like when Lawson, Tyler and Ellington came back a few yrs. ago as Henson , Zeller and Barnes did this year…the heels are out to bring it home!

  24. INDIANA HOOSIERS! jordan hulls cody zeller verdell jones lll and victor oladipo! indiana will be really good this year. wisconisn wont be as good as everyone thinks and same with purdue losing dwan johnson and e’twaun moore. ohio state will be good but not good since they lost 3 of there starting 5

  25. Studouglassgod says

    Michigan will be in the top 10 this yr the loss of Darius Morris hurts us a little but the freshman Trey Burke from ohio who was mr basketball in Ohio will fill in his spot just fine…Tim hardaway will have a break out season and stu Douglass Matt vogrich and Zach Novak will be Draining threes

  26. I’m not sure where you are getting your info, but great topic.

    I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more.
    Thanks for magnificent information I was looking for this info
    for my mission.

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