NCAA 2013-14 preseason rankings: Kentucky the early favorite to cut down the nets


It's time to look ahead to next year. Louisville and Michigan will again be serious contenders, but Kentucky might have the best team of all.

They've barely finished cleaning the confetti off the Georgia Dome floor, but it's never too early to look ahead to next season. Dallas might be almost a full year away, but we already have a pretty good idea of who the top contenders should be. So without further ado, here is our way-too-early preseason Top 25 for 2013-14.

1. Kentucky

Seven footer Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress have decided to return for their sophomore seasons. And with five of the top 11 in the ESPN100 on their way in, John Calipari should have a replenished roster, even with Nerlens Noel jumping to the NBA. The addition of top-recruit Andrew Wiggins would be unreal for Big Blue Nation.

2. Michigan State

The only graduating starter is the mercurial Derrick Nix. If Adreian Payne and super frosh Gary Harris decide to forego the NBA Draft, there's no real weakness to this team. Tom Izzo could have his best squad since he won it all in 2000.

3. Arizona

The Wildcats lose Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill, but return a boatload of talent in the frontcourt. T.J. McConnell, who sat out this past season after transferring from Duquesne, will pair with Nick Johnson to give Arizona one of the best defensive backcourts in the country. Elite recruit Aaron Gordon will be a human highlight reel for coach Sean Miller.

4. Duke

The Dukies lose three key seniors -- Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly -- but get one of the best recruits in the country in Jabari Parker. Coach K will need Quinn Cook and Rasheed Suliamon take big steps forward to contend in 2014.

5. Florida

Having lost their top three scorers from last season, the Gators will re-tool with center Patric Young anchoring the offense. Coach Billy Donovan always seems to compete, even when he has inferior talent. But with two top-15 recruits on board for next season, that shouldn't be a concern in Gainesville.

6. Michigan

The Wolverines have four potential first-round picks and none of them are seniors, so it's tough to say where this team ends up. Trey Burke is gone for sure, and the verdict is still out on Tim Hardaway Jr., Glenn Robinson III and breakout star Mitch McGary. Regardless of who goes pro, John Beilein has two top 40 recruits to play around with, no matter how it shakes out.

7. North Carolina

After making a surprising run in 2013, the Tar Heels will be a more confident team come November. Breakout star P.J. Hairston is coming back for his junior year, and James Michael McAdoo is always a threat to notch a double-double. Roy Williams' team loses only one starter -- Dexter Strickland -- and has three incoming freshmen in the ESPN100.

8. Louisville

Peyton Siva and Gorgui Dieng are both gone, and Russ Smith is likely gone. There will be plenty of change for Rick Pitino's bunch as they prepare for their national title defense. Still, Pitino can flat-out coach, and it seems silly to bet against the Cardinals.

9. Marquette

The Golden Eagles return most everyone from a team that made the Elite Eight this past season. If Buzz Williams can get some consistent shooting from his squad, this team is poised for another deep run in March.

10. Syracuse

With Michael Carter-Williams a likely first-round pick, the Orange will lose three starters. Anticipate C.J. Fair to pick up the slack on offense in his senior season and forward Jerami Grant to play more minutes in his sophomore campaign. Coach Jim Boeheim also has two top 50 recruits coming in, headlined by power forward Tyler Roberson.

11. Virginia Commonwealth

Shaka Smart always has his teams digging in for 40 minutes of pressure defense, and four of his top five scorers will return. Don't sleep on the Rams.

12. Colorado

If Andre Roberson, the nation's leading rebounder for two years straight, decides to return to school, the Buffaloes will bring back nearly every impact player on their roster. Tad Boyle is one of the best young coaches in college basketball and will have CU competing with Arizona for the Pac-12 title.

13. Ohio State

With leading scorer Deshaun Thomas declaring for the NBA draft, the Buckeyes will need Sam Thompson and LaQuinton Ross to fill the offensive void. Aaron Craft is entering his senior season, and he will continue to provide stifling perimeter defense and a flair for the dramatic. Thad Matta has work to do with center Amir Williams, who enters his junior season as the tallest player on the team and with the most upside on defense.

14. Memphis

Josh Pastner isn't the best coach around, but he really gets after it on the recruiting trail. The Tigers will, once again, have tons of talent in the backcourt and bring in a top-five freshman class. If Shaq Goodwin can hold down the paint, Memphis will be a very dangerous team.

15. Wisconsin

From year to year, Bo Ryan's team is one of the most impossible to predict. How do you project a team that never has any good players but still wins a bunch of games in the Big Ten? The Badgers rely on defense and free throw shooting to allow opposing teams to beat themselves. Wisconsin loses seniors Ryan Evans, Jared Berggren and Mike Bruesewitz, but I doubt they will miss a beat.

16. Gonzaga

Stud center Kelly Olynyk hasn't announced his plans for his senior season, and much of Gonzaga's plans revolve around the seven-footer. Elias Harris graduates, but Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. will both play their junior year to -- hopefully for Zags fans -- complement the big man inside. Mark Few has no recruits in the ESPN100, but history says he will pluck some overseas talent to re-load his roster.

17. Notre Dame

The Irish always seem to be solid-yet-unspectucular each season, and they will have a chance to finally break through in 2013. Three of Notre Dame's top-four scorers return for coach Mike Brey. Five-star point guard Demetrius Jackson will make an impact from day one.

18. Indiana

Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller are both going pro. Role players Hulls and Watford will be gone, so point guard Yogi Ferrell could be the only returning starter for Tom Crean. Power forward Noah Vonleh will head to Bloomington for his freshman season as the No. 8 recruit in the ESPN100.

19. UCLA

After winning the Pac-12, firing their coach and finding out their best player is a year older than previously thought, UCLA had a solid season. Despite the turmoil, Steve Alford has a talented team with Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson as players to watch in their sophomore seasons.

20. Kansas

Ben McLemore is gone, meaning the Jayhawks will lose all five of their starters from 2012. Returning sophomore Perry Ellis and a few top 30 recruits will need to help coach Bill Self reload the program.

21. Tennessee

If the Volunteers can get solid, consistent point guard play from anyone on the roster, they could be a top-15 team before not too long. Most of the team returns from last year's team that really turned it on late in the season during SEC play.

22. Harvard

The Crimson won their first NCAA Tournament game when they knocked off No. 3 seed New Mexico. If Wesley Saunders decides to declare for the NBA it would be a blow to coach Tommy Amaker, but the rest of his roster is expected to return.

23. Virginia

The Cavaliers flirted with the NCAA Tournament, and most of their roster is set to return next fall. Look for Joe Harris to have a big senior year.

24. Stanford

The Cardinal have all the components needed to be a quality team. They'll have experience, size and the ability to shoot the ball from behind the arc. It's just a matter of coach Johnny Dawkins getting his guys to avoid the mental blunders that have hampered them the past few seasons, especially on the road.

25. Wichita State

The Shockers stunned everyone with a Final Four run last month. They'll lose Carl Hall and Malcolm Armstead, but there's plenty of returning talent that knows what it takes to survive and advance.

Russell Steinberg contributed to this post.


More in College Basketball:

Kevin Ware rehabbing with "Mamba mentality"

Casual Hoya: Otto Porter enters NBA draft

Kentucky recruits shine at Jordan Brand Classic

5 biggest questions for 2013-14

Trey Burke's amazing ascent to the top

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