It is never too early for a Top 25 Poll for the 2013-14 college basketball season. We aren’t to the draft deadline but at this point we have a pretty good idea of who is in and who is out. The Andrew Wiggins decision will play into this poll. If he goes to Kentucky it stays the same. If he chooses another perennial power they will rise in the poll. If he chooses Florida State or a dark horse school he is good enough to change their 2013-14 season.
1 – Kentucky – John Calapari has 44 of the nation’s top 50 reruits committed to come to Lexington next year. While that number is an impossible exaggeration there is no doubt that Calapari has reloaded with a plethora of highly rated talent, conjuring up memories of the 2012 championship team.
2 – Louisville – Whether Russ Smith comes back or not Louisville still has Chane Behanan and Luke Hancock. Add in a fantastic class of incoming freshman guards and the Cardinals don’t skip a beat as they seek to keep the title in the Bluegrass State for a third consecutive year.
3 – Michigan State – Adreian Payne is the key to this ranking. Payne had a fantastic 2012-13 and was one of the most exciting and versatile big man in the nation. Izzo has only one recruit signed for next season, a three star prospect. If Payne bolts for the draft look for Michigan State to be a Middle-of-the-Top-25 team.
4 – Duke – The great teams reload and that is what Coach K will do with Jabari Parker. Rasheed Sulaimon is returning and with Duke’s proven ability at forcing young players into maturity, the Devils will look to stay in the top ten next season.
5 – Arizona – The Wildcats had an up-and-down season but look to solidify those woes with five-start recruit, Blake-Griffin-impersonating, Aaron Gordon. Gordon has made a move to challenge Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker as the best player of the 2013 class. No matter his ranking, Gordon is good enough to make Arizona the favorite to win the Pac 12.
6 – Marquette – Buzz Williams’ rerouting class is ranked sixth overall and returns a great core from a deep tournament run. Marquee will enter the season as the favorite in the Big East and for good reason.
7 – Ohio State – Replacing Deshaun Thomas won’t be easy but returning the nation’s most notorious pit bull in Aaron Craft helps. LaQuinton Ross will have to continue to build on his great NCAA tournament performance to keep the Buckeyes at the top of the Big Ten.
8 – Michigan – Trey Burke is gone and Tim Hardaway Jr. is likely on his way to the draft as well. Brilliant flashes from Big Dog III, hot shooting by Nik Stauskas and a beast-like performance by Mitch McGary in the tournament has hopes high once again in Ann Arbor. Combine the returning cast with three four-star recruits and there is reason for John Beilein to be optimistic.
9 – Florida – Billy Donavan has the Gators firing on all cylinders once again. Florida was one of the hottest teams in the country at times this season and the addition of five-star recruits Kasey Hill and Chris Walker will do nothing but help the Gators stay atop the perennially weak SEC.
10 – North Carolina – The Tar Heels ended the season winning a game in the tournament after winning eight of their last 10 games before the dance. Roy Williams reloads with a solid recruiting class that could become spectacular if Andrew Wiggins choses to wear Carolina blue for his one year of college basketball.
11 – Wisconsin – The Badgers were on the cusp on being great this year but fell short in the tournament to Marshall Henderson and Ole Miss. Bo Ryan had a young team that had struggles this year. Next year Sam Dekker and company will use their year of grinding in the tough to fight for the top spot in what is likely to be the toughest conference in the nation once again.
12 – Syracuse – Jim Boeheim loses Michael Carter-Williams to the NBA but brings back several stalwarts from this years Elite 8 team. He brings in the sixth ranked recruiting class, looking for someone to step up and fill the shoes of Carter-Williams.
13 – Colorado – The Buffaloes return all of their scoring from a team that surprised everyone last season. Their only loss is Sabatino Chen. We can expect the Buffaloes to compete for the Pac-12 title in 2013-14.
14 – Virginia Commonwealth– It’s probably better to just not count Shaka Smart out in the preseason since he is always in the conversation at the end of the season. Smart returns Treveon Graham and Juvonte Reddic who were the offensive leaders for the Rams this season.
15 – UCLA – Steve Alford inherits a pretty good situation at UCLA. It’s not often a team wins their conference and has their head coach fired. Alford got great news with Kyle Anderson saying he was staying. Combine that with a solid recruiting class already committed to the Bruins and Alford is set up for success following Ben Howland’s departure.
16 – Memphis – Josh Pastner shunned all comers this year and stayed in Memphis, and for good reason. He returns his leading scorer in Joe Jackson and brings in the second ranked recruiting class in the country. That should make them competitive as they join the conference formerly known as the Big East.
17 – Tennessee – Cuonzo Martin’s Vols fell one or two wins short of breaking the bubble this season but finished fairly strong. They return their scoring power plus add the nation’s number two ranked two-guard in Robert Hubbs.
18 – Gonzaga – If Kelly Olynyk returns the Zags will likely be ranked higher but with Elias Harris and Mike Hart definitely gone, the Zags will have work to do. They still return Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. which guarantees they will have one of the nation’s best backcourts once again.
19 – Notre Dame – Mike Brey has to replace workhorse Jack Cooley but returns the core of a pretty good Irish team. Three four star recruits look to add depth and enjoy the lime green uniforms that the Irish are now famous for.
20 – Indiana – Don’t count Tom Crean out. After laboring in sanction-land for so long he has built a great program and is still capable of winning. Losing Victor Oladipo and Cody Zeller to the draft and Christian Watford to graduation is a big hit but the Hoosiers still have Yogi Ferrell and bring in the nations third-best recruiting class.
21 – Virigina – They will try to build on their first encouraging season in a few years. The young Cavaliers made a trip to the NIT but look to be in the picture in the ACC and the Top 25 next season. All of Tony Bennett’s scoring returns including Joe Harris who was good for more than 16 points per contest this year.
22 – Boise State – The Bronocos are one of those mid-major teams that made some noise this season and look to continue building to make more noise next season. Anthony Drmic and Derrick Marks both return, they combined for 34 points-per-game this year.
23 – LSU – Johnny O’Bryant III and Anthony Hickey return and LSU has the 9th-ranked recruiting class heading into next season. It’s hard to not be optimistic about what’s going on in Baton Rouge.
24 – Florida State – The Seminoles deserve this ranking, with or without Andrew Wiggins. While Wiggins keeps everyone guessing, the Seminoles lose only Michael Snaer and bring in two four-star prospects.
25 – Iowa – After going 25-13 and finishing second in the NIT the Hawkeyes are looking to become a regular in the Top-25 and become the program they were building toward a decade ago. With their last tournament appearance coming back in 2006 the Hawkeyes, and their fans, are hungry to return to the dance.