By Gary Parrish and Jeff Goodman
CBSSports.com College Basketball Insiders
Our first tag-team effort at the Preseason Top 25 (and one) wasn't nearly as complicated as we expected.
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The difficult part came on the back end of the poll -- where Goodman still has a difficult time putting his alma mater, Arizona, all the way up at No. 14 now that Derrick Williams has left Tucson.
Parrish did what he always does -- put Bo Ryan's Wisconsin Badgers in the Top 25.
The Big East had the most teams represented with a half-dozen while the SEC and Big 12 were next with four apiece. The ACC, Big Ten and Pac-12 each had three in the poll.
|1. North Carolina|
| Top returnees: Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Kendall Marshall, Dexter Strickland, Reggie Bullock. |
Top newcomers: James McAdoo, P.J. Hairston.
Outlook: This roster is, on paper, just as talented (and perhaps more talented) than UNC's national championship teams from 2005 and 2009. Barnes is a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate, and Henson, Zeller and Marshall are All-American talents. Barring an injury at the point guard position, the Tar Heels should be the ACC's champions... and the favorite to win much more.
| Top returnees: Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, Darius Miller. |
Top newcomers: Anthony Davis, Mike Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Kyle Wiltjer.
Outlook: John Calipari again has a freshman-heavy roster talented enough to win a national championship. Can he do it? Who knows? But the pieces are in place considering five guys are projected to be selected in the 2012 NBA Draft -- among them Davis, the likely No. 1 overall pick.
| Top returnees: Jeremy Lamb, Alex Oriakhi, Shabazz Napier, Roscoe Smith, Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander. |
Top newcomers: Andre Drummond, DeAndre Daniels, Ryan Boatright.
Outlook: The loss of Kemba Walker hurts, obviously. But Jim Calhoun still has a roster more talented from top to bottom than the roster that won last season's national championship. Lamb could be the Big East Player of the Year, and Drummond, a late and surprising addition, has all the physical tools to dominate at the college level and challenge UK's Davis for the top spot in next June's NBA Draft.
| Top returnees: Kris Joseph, Scoop Jardine, Brandon Triche, Dion Waiters, C.J. Fair, James Southerland, Mookie Jones, Fab Melo, Baye Moussa Keita. |
Top newcomers: Rakeem Christmas, Trevor Cooney, Michael Carter-Williams.
Outlook: The Orange aren't as individually talented as North Carolina, Kentucky or Connecticut, but Jim Boeheim has an experienced roster with lots of nice parts. The lone relevant missing piece from last season's 27-win team that won 12 Big East games is Rick Jackson. So if Jardine is more under control and Waiters and Melo develop as they should, this could be Boeheim's fourth Final Four.
|5. Ohio State|
| Top returnees: Jared Sullinger, William Buford, Deshaun Thomas, Aaron Craft. |
Top newcomers: Amir Williams, Sam Thompson, Shannon Scott, Trey McDonald, Evan Ravenel.
Outlook: Sullinger is the CBSSports.com Preseason National Player of the Year and a dominant big man capable of carrying the Buckeyes to the first Monday night in April. He's surrounding by a terrific cast led by Craft and Buford. These Buckeyes are your Big Ten champs, barring a pretty big surprise.
| Top returnees: Mason Plumlee, Miles Plumlee, Ryan Kelly, Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins. |
Top newcomers: Austin Rivers, Quinn Cook, Marshall Plumlee, Michael Gbinije, Alex Murphy.
Outlook: This roster isn't as talented as UNC's -- or even as talented as Duke's roster from last season. But Rivers is a star, the Plumlees are solid, and Curry and Kelly could have breakout seasons, at which point the Blue Devils could challenge the Tar Heels in the ACC and push for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
| Top returnees: John Jenkins, Jeff Taylor, Festus Ezeli, Brad Tinsley, Lance Goulbourne, Steve Tchiengang, Rod Odom, Kyle Fuller. |
Top newcomers: Dai-Jon Parker, Shelby Moats, Kedren Johnson.
Outlook: This is not your grandfather's Vanderbilt roster, i.e., one filled with "a bunch of smart kids who play the right way." Are they smart? Sure. But Jenkins, Taylor and Ezeli are also future pros, perhaps first-round picks, who could lead the Commodores to an SEC title and much, much more.
| Top returnees: Kyle Kuric, Peyton Siva, Jared Swopshire, Chris Smith, Rakeem Buckles, Mike Marra, Gorgui Dieng. |
Top newcomers: Wayne Blackshear, Zach Price, Chane Behanan, Angel Nunez.
Outlook: Rick Pitino's team won a surprising 25 games last season, but the expectations are higher this year. The Cardinals aren't as talented as their rivals in Lexington, but they are experienced and capable of competing with Connecticut, Syracuse and Pittsburgh at the top of the Big East.
| Top returnees: Will Barton, Joe Jackson, Tarik Black, Antonio Barton, Charles Carmouche, Chris Crawford, Wesley Witherspoon, D.J. Stephens. |
Top newcomers: Adonis Thomas, Stan Simpson, Ferrakohn Hall.
Outlook: The Tigers underachieved last season thanks to injuries, dismissals and inconsistent play from a roster full of newcomers, but they still came together late, won the Conference USA tournament and pushed Arizona to the buzzer in the NCAA tournament. The success at the end of the season combined with a roster that is now mostly experienced is enough to warrant this ranking. Expect Josh Pastner's team to roll through C-USA the way John Calipari's teams used to do.
| Top returnees: Ashton Gibbs, Nasir Robinson, Travon Woodall, Dante Taylor, Talib Zanna, J.J. Moore, Lamar Patterson. |
Top newcomers: Khem Birch, Malcolm Gilbert, Durand Johnson, John Johnson.
Outlook: Jamie Dixon has taken the Panthers to eight consecutive NCAA tournaments, and the ninth will come this season thanks to an experienced core of Gibbs, Robinson and Woodall. Pitt will miss Brad Wanamaker, obviously. But Dixon always seems to figure it out, one way or another.
| Top returnees: Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy, Patric Young, Scottie Wilbekin. |
Top newcomers: Brad Beal, Mike Rosario, Walter Pitchford.
Outlook: The backcourt (Walker and Boynton) that led Florida to the Elite Eight remains intact ... and two nice pieces (Beal and Rosario) have been added. If Young can develop into the pro prospect so many believe he can be, Billy Donovan could get his fourth Final Four.
| Top returnees: Perry Jones, Quincy Acy, Anthony Jones, A.J. Walton, Fred Ellis, J'Mison Morgan. |
Top newcomers: Quincy Miller, Deuce Bello, Pierre Jackson.
Outlook: Scott Drew once again has the Bears loaded. Perry Jones should be one of the nation's best bigs, Miller one of the best freshman. Adequate play around them could result in a Big 12 title.
| Top returnees: Tu Holloway, Mark Lyons, Kenny Frease, Jeff Robinson, Brad Redford. |
Top newcomers: Dezmine Wells, Dee Davis, Travis Taylor, Justin Martin.
Outlook: Holloway is good enough to give the Musketeers a chance against anybody and make them the clear A-10 favorites. Chris Mack has averaged 25 wins in his first two seasons at Xavier. He could exceed that this season and emerge as the next non-BCS coach to take a team on a deep run in the NCAA tournament.
| Top returnees: Thomas Robinson, Tyshawn Taylor, Elijah Johnson, Jeff Withey, Travis Releford. |
Top newcomers: Kevin Young, Justin Wesley, Naadir Tharpe, Ben McLemore
Outlook: The Big 12 title has gone through Lawrence, but this is Bill Self's least intimidating group. Robinson will be a beast up front, but Taylor needs to finally fulfill his potential -- and guys like Johnson and Withey need to do the same for the Jayhawks to remain on top in the league.
| Top returnees: Kyle Fogg, Solomon Hill, Kevin Parrom, Jesse Perry, Jordin Mayes, Brendon Lavender, Kyryl Natyazhko. |
Top newcomers: Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson, Angelo Chol, Sidiki Johnson.
Outlook: Sean Miller lost the No. 2 pick in last year's draft, Derrick Williams, but he has plenty of pieces back and welcomes in a strong freshman class, led by the backcourt of Turner and Johnson. The key could be how Parrom, arguably the team's top returning player, recovers from an offseason gunshot injury to his leg.
| Top returnees: Yancy Gates, Dion Dixon, Sean Kilpatrick, Cashmere Wright. |
Top newcomer: Jermaine Sanders.
Outlook: Mick Cronin loses a couple starters from last year's NCAA tournament team, but he brings back his top four scorers: Gates, Dixon, Kilpatrick and Wright. The Bearcats also add a couple of talented freshman in Sanders, so expectations are high.
|17. Texas A&M|
| Top returnees: Khris Middleton, David Loubeau, Kourtney Roberson, Najj Hibbert, Dash Harris, Ray Turner. |
Top newcomers: Jamal Branch, Elston Turner (Washington), Jordan Green.
Outlook: New coach Billy Kennedy inherits a team that could contend for the Big 12 title. There's no bona fide star, but Middleton is on the verge of becoming one. Kennedy can rely on Middleton and Loubeau up front, he has a big-time shooter in Turner and a more-than-capable backcourt with Harris and Branch.
| Top returnees: Robert Sacre, Elias Harris, Marquise Carter, David Stockton, Sam Dower, Kelly Olynyk. |
Top newcomers: Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell.
Outlook: Mark Few and the 'Zags return everyone of note except for guard Steven Gray. That's a significant hit, but one that the program should be able to overcome. The frontcourt is loaded with Harris and Sacre -- and then Dower and Olynyk coming off the bench. The key for Gonzaga is point guard play, where it's a three-way competition between Carter, Stockton and Pangos.
|19. Florida State|
| Top returnees: Michael Snaer, Deividas Dulkys, Okaro White, Ian Miller, Terrance Shannon, Xavier Gibson, Jon Kreft, Luke Loucks. |
Top newcomers: Jeff Peterson (Arkansas), Antwan Space, Kiel Turpin, Terry Whisnant.
Outlook: The 'Noles lost their top two scorers, including first-rounder Chris Singleton. But Leonard Hamilton still has no shortage of length, size and athleticism up front with James, Gibson, Kreft and White, and Snaer has the tools to become a prolific scorer. As has been the case, the key at FSU remains point guard play. The options are veteran Loucks, the steady Peterson and talented sophomore scorer Miller.
| Top returnees: Tim Hardaway Jr., Zack Novak, Jordan Morgan, Stu Douglass, Evan Smotrycz, Matt Vogrich, Jon Horford, Blake McLimans. |
Top newcomers: Trey Burke, Carlton Brundidge, Max Bielfeldt.
Outlook: If the Wolverines had Darius Morris back, we'd be talking about John Beilein's group as a legit Final Four contender. But everyone else is back. The Wolverines have veterans with Novak and Douglass and sophomores who received plenty of experience a year ago in Hardaway, Morgan and Smotrycz. Now they will need someone to step in and fill the void at the point left by Morris, and it may wind up being Burke.
| Top returnees: Reeves Nelson, Josh Smith, Lazeric Jones, Jerime Anderson, Tyler Lamb, Brendan Lane, Anthony Stover. |
Top newcomers: Travis Wear, David Wear, Norman Powell, De'End Parker.
Outlook: The Bruins will be a force up front with Nelson, Smith and the Wear Twins -- who are eligible after transferring back home after a season at North Carolina. The backcourt is the question mark. Jones had a solid season in his first with the Bruins a year ago but will need to make another jump -- and Ben Howland will need someone else to emerge on the wing as a replacement for Malcolm Lee.
| Top returnees: JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell, Trevor Releford, Charles Hankerson Jr., Ben Eblen. |
Top newcomers: Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph, Nick Jacobs, Moussa Gueye, Rodney Cooper, Retin Ojomoh.
Outlook: The Crimson Tide lost five of their top eight guys in the rotation, but Anthony Grant's team brings back its top three players: Green, Mitchell and Releford. That trio -- along with three Top 100 freshmen (wings Randolph and Lacey and big man Jacobs) -- has fans in Tuscaloosa excited about more than just football.
| Top returnees: Marcus Denmon, Kim English, Ricardo Ratliffe, Phil Pressey, Matt Pressey, Steve Moore, Kadeem Green. |
Top newcomer: Tony Lester.
Outlook: Frank Haith has had a rough go since taking over. First, it was the allegations by Miami booster Nevin Shapiro from Haith's days with the Hurricanes. Then came the season-ending knee injury to Bowers in the preseason. But Haith still has no shortage of quality perimeter players. The question is whether the Tigers have enough to go alongside Ratliffe on the front line.
| Top returnees: Jordan Taylor, Josh Gasser, Mike Bruesewitz, Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren, Rob Wilson. |
Top newcomers: Traevon Jackson, George Marshall, Jarrod Uthoff, Frank Kaminsky, Jordan Smith.
Outlook: Don't question Bo. That's our motto when it comes to Wisconsin basketball. Just put Bo Ryan and the Badgers in the Top 25 no matter what. Especially when he has arguably the top point guard in the nation with Taylor. Gasser and Bruesewitz will both have expanded roles with Jon Leuer, Keaton Nankivil and Tim Jarmusz gone.
| Top returnees: Maalik Wayns, Mouphtaou Yarou, Dominic Cheek, Maurice Sutton, James Bell. |
Top newcomers: JayVaughn Pinkston, Markus Kennedy, Achraf Yacoubou, Ty Johnson, Darrun Hilliard.
Outlook: Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes and Antonio Pena are gone, but the Wildcats will be improved. Jay Wright still has Wayns in the backcourt and he may have his best collection of frontcourt guys (Yarou, Pinkston, Kennedy) since he arrived on the Main Line. Wings Cheek and Bell will need to produce -- and if they do, the Wildcats could be Big East title contenders.
| Top returnees: Jorge Gutierrez, Allen Crabbe, Harper Kamp, Brandon Smith, Richard Solomon, Bak Bak. |
Top newcomers: Justin Cobbs (Minnesota), Christian Behrens, David Kravish.
Outlook: It's all about Kamp's health for Mike Montgomery and the Bears. If the undersized big man remains on the court, these guys have as formidable of a trio as anyone on the West Coast. Gutierrez does it all, Crabbe can shoot it from deep and Kamp just gets after it. Smith and Cobbs will likely battle for starting point guard duties.