Indiana tops SB Nation's preseason college basketball top 25

Andy Lyons

Led by preseason Player of the Year Cody Zeller, Tom Crean's Indiana Hoosiers find themselves at the top of SB Nation's preseason top 25 for 2012-13.

1. Indiana

Who they lost: G Verdell Jones, F Tom Pritchard, G Matt Roth

Who they brought back: F Cody Zeller, F Christian Watford, G Jordan Hulls, G Victor Oladipo, G Maurice Creek, F Will Sheehey

Who they added: G Yogi Ferrell, F Jeremy Hollowell, F Hanner Perea

"Is Indiana back?" became one of the most prominent (and tiring) debates of the 2011-12 season, but it's been finally put to bed by the hoards of preseason polls topped by the Hoosiers. Now you can add this one to the list.

The return of either Christian Watford or national preseason Player of the Year Cody Zeller guaranteed preseason top five status, but having both is the reason they're widely believed to be the favorites to cut down the nets in April. Sharp-shooting Jordan Hulls, the explosive Victor Oladipo and a healthy Maurice Creek provide the foundation for the preseason favorites. Oh, and Tom Crean has brought in one of the nation's top recruiting classes, headlined by five-star point guard Yogi Ferrell.

Just have to get that whole defense thing figured out.

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2. Louisville

Who they lost: F Kyle Kuric, G Chris Smith, F Jared Swopshire

Who they brought back: G Peyton Siva, F Chane Behanan, C Gorgui Dieng, F Wayne Blackshear, G Russ Smith, G Kevin Ware, F Stephan Van Treese

Who they added: G Luke Hancock, F Montrezl Harrell

The team that probably gave Kentucky its toughest test in the big dance comes in, appropriately, at No. 2. Rick Pitino loses leading scorer Kyle Kuric, but replaces him with former two-time Illinois Player of the Year (over Anthony Davis) Wayne Blackshear, who only played one month last season because of injuries. Blackshear showed flashes of his potential in that game against UK, finishing with a nine-point performance that included a pair of spectacular dunks. The Cardinals also return Big East preseason Player of the Year Peyton Siva and West region MVP Chane Behanan. Junior center Gorgui Dieng, who set the school record for blocked shots in a single season a year ago, is probably the squad's top NBA prospect. Newcomers Luke Hancock (George Mason transfer) and Montrezl Harrell will contribute immediately and help make the Cardinals arguably the deepest team in America.

3. Kentucky

Who they lost: F Darius Miller, F Anthony Davis, F Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, F Terrence Jones, G Marquis Teague, G Doron Lamb

Who they brought back: F Kyle Wiltjer

Who they added: G Ryan Harrow, C Nerlens Noel, C Willie Cauley-Stein, G Archie Goodwin, F Alex Poythress, G Julius Mays

Why fight it? This is what they do, and it works. Now, the college basketball world just has to keep up with the name changes. Anthony Davis, the insanely gifted center who was the No. 1 player in the class of 2011 and eventually became the national Player of the Year in his only college season becomes Nerlens Noel, the insanely gifted center who was the No. 1 player in the class of 2012. Terrence Jones, the beastly forward blessed with an incredible combination of size and skill becomes Alex Poythress, a consensus top 10 recruit with a nearly identical frame and game.

Had Kentucky not been so successful over the past three seasons relying on freshmen stars, the Wildcats probably wouldn't be deserving of a top five ranking. Calipari's results, however, dictate that yet another team with so many unknown quantities ought to be given the benefit of the doubt.

4. Ohio State

Who they lost: C Jared Sullinger, G William Buford, G Jordan Sibert, G J.D. Weatherspoon

Who they brought back: F Deshaun Thomas, G Aaron Craft, G Lenzelle Smith, F Evan Ravenel, F LaQuinton Ross, F Sam Thompson, C Amir Williams

Who they added: G Amedeo Della Valle

Jared Sullinger began last season as the overwhelming choice for national preseason Player of the Year, but even though he had a solid sophomore campaign, he probably wasn't even Thad Matta's best player during the final month of the season. That distinction belongs to Deshaun Thomas, the preseason first AP All-American who who can score from just about any spot on the floor and finally committed himself to defense once the 2012 postseason rolled around. Rock steady point guard Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith, Amir Williams, Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross are all also back, forming a nucleus that is more than capable of making it back to the Final Four.

5. Florida

Who they lost: G Erving Walker, G Bradley Beal

Who they brought back: G Kenny Boynton, F Patric Young, G Mike Rosario, F Erik Murphy, G Scott Wilbekin, F Will Yeguete

Who they added: G Braxton Ogbueze, G Michael Frazier, G Dillon Graham

Florida's last two seasons have ended with heartbreaking defeats in the Elite 8. In both instances - against Butler in 2010 and Louisville last season - the Gators had leads late in the second half and couldn't figure out how to seal the deal. Kenny Boynton, Patric Young and Erik Murphy were all members of both of those teams, and enter the 2012-13 campaign focused on taking Billy Donovan's team that one step further for the first time since 2007.

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6. Duke

Who they lost: G Austin Rivers, F Miles Plumlee, G Andre Dawkins

Who they brought back: G Seth Curry, F Mason Plumlee, G Tyler Thornton, F Ryan Kelly, G Quinn Cook, F Josh Hairston

Who they added: G Rasheed Sulaimon, F Amile Jefferson, F Marshall Plumlee, F Alex Murphy

Miles Plumlee and Austin Rivers are all off to get paid to the play the game, but Ryan Kelly, Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry, Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton and a third Plumlee (redshirt freshman Marshall) have the potential to create a team better than the one which was stunned by Lehigh in the round of 64. The team was dealt an offseason blow when senior guard Andre Dawkins announced he was taking a year off from basketball.

The returning group of players combined to form one of the worst defensive Duke teams in recent history, but Coach K had an entire offseason to rectify that. Scoring shouldn't be an issue, especially with gifted freshmen Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson entering the fold.

7. N.C. State

Who they lost: G C.J. Williams, F DeShawn Painter, G Alex Johnson

Who they brought back: F C.J. Leslie, F Richard Howell, G Lorenzo Brown, G Scott Wood

Who they added: G Rodney Purvis, F T.J. Warren, G Tyler Lewis

The trendy pick in the ACC, the Wolfpack have one of the most dynamic starting fives in the country with returnees Lorenzo Brown, C.J. Leslie, Richard Howell and Scott Wood joined by electric freshman Rodney Purvis. The challenge for Mark Gottfried in year two will be instilling a killer instinct, as these are guys who haven't won a lot (or at all, in Purvis' case) at the college level.

8. Missouri

Who they lost: G Marcus Denmon, G Kim English, F Ricardo Ratliffe, G Matt Pressey

Who they brought back: G Michael Dixon, G Phil Pressey, F Laurence Bowers

Who they added: F Alex Oriakhi, G Keion Bell, G Earnest Ross, G Jabari Brown, F Negus Webster-Chan, F Stefan Jankovic

It's hard to justify ranking a team which lost its top three scorers this high, until you see that Frank Haith has added four transfers who would start on just about any squad in America. Oriakhi, Bell and Ross are all proven contributors at the college level, while Brown -- a top 20 recruit in the class of 2011 -- played just two games at Oregon last season before deciding it wasn't the right fit. Guards Michael Dixon and preseason SEC Player of the Year Flip Pressey are back from last year's Big 12 tournament championship team, which earned a two seed in the big dance. Haith will also be able to utilize the services of former all-conference forward Laurence Bowers, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL.

9. Michigan

Who they lost: G Zack Novak, G Stu Douglass, F Evan Smotrycz

Who they brought back: G Trey Burke, G Tim Hardaway Jr., F Jordan Morgan, G Matt Vogrich, F Jordan Morgan, F Jon Horford

Who they added: F Mitch McGary, F Glenn Robinson III, G Nik Stauskas, G Spike Albrecht, G Chris LeVert

For the first time since the early '90s, the folks in Ann Arbor are dreaming about a potential national title in basketball. The biggest reason for those dreams is the return of star guard Trey Burke, who led the Wolverines in scoring, assists, steals and blocked shots as a freshman last season. He and Tim Hardaway Jr. could make up the Big Ten's top backcourt. The other major cause for excitement is one of the nation's best group of incoming freshmen, headlined by top 25 big man Mitch McGary and the insanely athletic Glenn Robinson III.

10. North Carolina

Who they lost: F Harrison Barnes, F John Henson, G Kendall Marshall, C Tyler Zeller

Who they brought back: G Reggie Bullock, G Dexter Strickland, G P.J. Hairston, F James McAdoo, G Leslie McDonald

Who they added: G Marcus Paige, F Brice Johnson, C Joel James, F J.P. Tokoto

Like Kentucky, UNC's situation appears far worse than it is when you initially see the names departing from the program. Tyler Zeller was already out the door because of graduation, but soon after the season ended, the talented underclassmen trio of John Henson, Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall all announced they were out the door as well. It's a blow for Roy Williams, without question, but it also means more minutes for Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald, P.J. Hairston, Reggie Bullock and James McAdoo, who looked like a pro in limited action last season. This UNC team isn't as NBA-ready as the 2011-12 squad, but if they manage to do what that team couldn't and stay healthy, they could be better-suited to make a run to the Final Four.

11. Kansas

Who they lost: F Thomas Robinson, G Tyshawn Taylor, G Conner Teahan

Who they brought back: C Jeff Withey, G Elijah Johnson, G Travis Releford

Who they added: F Perry Ellis, G Ben McLemore, F Andrew White, G Anrio Adams, F Landen Lucas, F Jamari Traylor, F Zach Peters

Bill Self is beginning to get the Tom Izzo, "you can't bet against this guy" treatment, and it's well deserved. Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor are both gone, but the rebuilding/reloading doesn't appear to be as daunting as it did 12 months ago for Self, and that season ultimately wound up coming to an end on the first Monday in April. The Jayhawks are still (always?) the safest bet in the Big 12.

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12. UNLV

Who they lost: F Chace Stanback, G Oscar Bellfield, F Brice Massamba, G Kendall Wallace, G Reggie Smith

Who they brought back: F Mike Moser, F Anthony Marshall, G Justin Hawkins, F Carlos Lopez, F Quintrell Thomas

Who they added: F Khem Birch, F Anthony Bennett, F Savon Goodman, G Bryce Dejean-Jones, G Katin Reinhardt, C Demetris Morant, G DaQuan Cook

Double-double machine Mike Moser, who was probably the best player in college basketball over the season's first month, spurned the NBA to try and get his first taste of victory in the NCAA Tournament. He, Anthony Marshall and Pitt transfer Khem Birch compose a trio of forwards that can match up with any in the country. The issue for Dave Rice, however, will be finding consistency from his backcourt. The addition of incoming freshman sharp-shooter Katin Reinhardt should assist in offsetting the loss of second leading scorer Chase Stanback.

13. Syracuse

Who they lost: F Kris Joseph, G Dion Waiters, G Scoop Jardine, C Fab Melo

Who they brought back: G Brandon Triche, F C.J. Fair, F Rakeem Christmas, F James Southerland, G Michael Carter-Williams

Who they added: C DaJuan Coleman, F Jerami Grant

The mass exodus from last year's team means a lot of talented guys who haven't produced a lot have to step up in a major way this season. At the top of that list is Michael Carter-Williams, who will make the leap from seldom-used freshman to starting point guard. Ultra-talented freshmen DaJuan Coleman and Jerami Grant will also be thrown straight into the fire. The good news is there is some stability returning in the form of veterans Brandon Triche, C.J. Fair and Rakeem Christmas. All three played sizable roles on last year's Elite 8 squad.

14. Creighton

Who they lost: G Antoine Young

Who they brought back: F Doug McDermott, C Gregory Echenique, G Grant Gibbs, F Ethan Wragge, G Jahenns Manigat, G Josh Jones

Who they added: G Isaiah Zierden, G Andre Yates, G Nevin Johnson, C Geoffrey Groselle

Preseason All-American Doug McDermott and his Bluejays lose only point guard Antoine Young from last year's Missouri Valley championship squad. Creighton should again have little trouble scoring, but to be a legitimate Final Four threat they're going to have to improve tremendously on the defensive end.

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15. Michigan State

Who they lost: F Draymond Green, G Brandon Wood, G Austin Thornton

Who they brought back: G Keith Appling, C Derrick Nix, F Branden Dawson, C Adreian Payne, G Travis Trice, G Russell Byrd

Who they added: G Gary Harris, F Matt Costello, G Denzel Valentine, F Kenny Kaminski

Tom Izzo doesn't have one guy who can replace Big Ten Player of the Year Draymond Green, but he certainly has enough parts to mold a team that could be as good as last season's Spartans. The presence of Keith Appling, Travis Trice and McDonald's All-American Gary Harris might eventually coax Izzo into playing at a faster pace this season. He also gets back Derrick Nix and Branden Dawson, a combination of size (Nix) and athleticism (Dawson) that should form one of the most formidable frontcourt duos in the country.

16. Memphis

Who they lost: G Will Barton, G/F Wesley Witherspoon

Who they brought back: G Joe Jackson, F Tarik Black, G Chris Crawford, G/F Adonis Thomas, G Antonio Barton

Who they added: F Shaq Goodwin, F Damien Wilson, G Geron Johnson

There's serious talent talent both returning and coming in, but it's hard to underplay the significance of losing Will Barton. Still, the Tigers should once again be the class of C-USA, which only means that their non-conference performance will again play a more crucial role in their tournament seeding than it will for just about any other team in the country. They'll have a chance to make a national statement early in the loaded Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

17. Arizona

Who they lost: G Kyle Fogg, C Jesse Perry, G Brendon Lavender, G Josiah Turner, C Kyryl Natyazhko, C Alex Jacobson, F Sidiki Johnson.

Who they brought back: F Solomon Hill, G Nick Johnson, F Kevin Parrom, G Jordin Mayes

Who the added: G Mark Lyons, F Brandon Ashley, F Grant Jerrett, C Kaleb Tarczewski, G Gabe York, F Matt Korcheck

Sean Miller brings in one of the most talented recruiting classes in Arizona history, and in this day and age that's reason enough to rank a team that didn't make the NCAA Tournament this past season. Team MVP Solomon Hill is back, a healthy Kevin Parrom should provide a significant boost, and Xavier transfer Mark Lyons could prove to be the missing link at point guard.

18. Baylor

Who they lost: F Perry Jones III, F Quincy Acy, F Anthony Jones, F Quincy Miller

Who they brought back: G Pierre Jackson, G Brady Heslip, G A.J. Walton, G Deuce Bello, F Cory Jefferson, F J'Mison Morgan

Who they added: C Isaiah Austin, F Ricardo Gathers, G L.J. Rose

The losses of Perry Jones and Quincy Acy were already huge, but Quincy Miller going back on his initial decision to return to Waco was the blow that really took the wind away from Scott Drew. Still, Drew returns an experienced and offensively gifted backcourt of Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip, as well as talented reserve Deuce Bello, who should get more of a chance to shine in his sophomore season. There's also the addition of immensely talented 7-foot freshman Isaiah Austin to be excited about.

19. UCLA

Who they lost: G Lazeric Jones, G Jerime Anderson, F Reeves Nelson, G De'End Parker, F Brendan Lane, C Anthony Stover

Who they brought back: F Travis Wear, F David Wear, F Josh Smith, G Tyler Lamb

Who they added: G Shabazz Muhammad, F Tony Parker, G Kyle Anderson, G Jordan Adams

The Bruins are all over the place in preseason rankings because of the usure status of freshmen stars Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. Anderson has now been cleared to play by the NCAA, but Muhammad - the player many rated as the best in the class of 2012 - is sill awaiting word. Ben Howland's team is slotted here with the assumption that Muhammad will not be eligible this season. If that chages, go ahead and slide them up a spot or eight.

20. Gonzaga

Who they lost: C Robert Sacre

Who they brought back: F Elias Harris, G Kevin Pangos, G Gary Bell Jr., F Sam Dower, F Guy Landry Edi, G David Stockton

Who they added: No one

The 'Zags Achilles heel was widely-regarded to be post play last season, but the Bulldog frontcourt competed incredibly well against Ohio State in a tough round of 32 loss. Losing Sacre will hurt, but an improved Elias Harris should help alleviate that. Leading scorer Kevin Pangos is back for his sophomore campaign, and talented forward Sam Dower has the potential to be one of the biggest breakout players in the country.

21. Notre Dame

Who they lost: F Tim Abromaitis, F Alex Dragicevich

Who they brought back: F Jack Cooley, G Jerian Grant, G Eric Atkins, G/F Pat Connaughton,

Who they added: F Cameron Biedscheid, G Scott Martin, F Zach Auguste, C Garrick Sherman, F Eric Katenda, F Austin Burgett

The Irish always seem to do well when expectations are low and then underachieve after a surprisingly efficient season raises the bar for the next one. This would be a good time for Mike Brey to buck the reputation of not being able to get past the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament.

22. Wisconsin

Who they lost: G Jordan Taylor, G Rob Wilson

Who they brought back: F Ryan Evans, F/C Jared Berggren, G Ben Brust, F Mike Bruesewitz

Who they added: F Sam Dekker, G Zak Showalter, F Zach Bohannon, G George Marshall

Replacing All-American Jordan Taylor is a tall task, but nothing Bo Ryan has done over the past decade gives us a reason to believe this Badger team won't spend most of this season in the top 25. The job got even tougher when starting point guard Josh Gasser was lost for the season with an ACL tear late last month. The floor general duties now fall on redshirt freshman George Marshall, who will have help in the backcourt from last season's breakout star, Ben Brust. Big ma Jared Berggren has the potential to be one of the better post players in the Big Ten.

23. Kansas State

Who they lost: F Jamar Samuels

Who they brought back: G Rodney McGruder, G Will Spradling, G Angel Rodriguez, F Jordan Henriquez, F Thomas Gipson, G Martavious Irving

Who the added: F DJ Johnson, G Michael Orris

It may not be as high-profile a job, but Bruce Weber inherits a better situation at K-State than the one he left behind (or was forced to leave behind) at Illinois. Much of the reason for that is the return of Rodney McGruder, one of the most underrated players in the country. Angel Rodriguez and Thomas Gipson are also back after starting a combined 39 games as freshmen last season.

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24. San Diego State

Who they lost: F Garrett Green, F Tim Shelton

Who they brought back: G Jamaal Franklin, G Chase Tapley, G Xavier Thomas, G James Rahon, F DeShawn Stephens

Who they added: F J.J. O'Brien, F Dwayne Polee, F James Johnson, F Winston Shepard, F Skylar Spencer, F Matt Shrigley

There's no shortage of guard talent here, but Steve Fisher doesn't know much about his frontcourt, where St. John's transfer Dwayne Polee and freshman Winston Shepard will be asked to step in and contribute immediately. Reigning Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaan Franklin isn't going to catch anyone by surprise this season. He and Chase Tapley will again make up one of the nation's most lethal backcourts.

25. Cincinnati

Who they lost: G Dion Dixon, F Yancy Gates

Who they brought back: G Sean Kilpatrick, G Cashmere Wright, G Ge'Lawn Guyn, F Justin Jackson, G JaQuon Parker, F Cheikh Mbodj

Who they added: C David Nyarsuk, F Titus Rubles, F Shaquille Thomas

Though the Bearcats haven't returned to the perennial top 15 status they knew in the halcyon days of Bob Huggins, they're as close as they've been since then. Mick Cronin has guided UC to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances for the first time since their streak of 14 straight appearances in the big dance was snapped in 2006. The productive duo of Dion Dixon and Yancy Gates will be difficult to replace, but Sean Kilpatrick is a top contender for Big East Player of the year, and newcomers David Nyarsuk, Titus Rubles and Shaq Thomas should provide an immediate boost in the frontcourt.

THE NEXT FIVE:

26. Texas

27. Florida State

28. Tennessee

29. VCU

30. Murray State

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