NCAA Men’s Basketball Preview

Ben Glassman

In the past couple of weeks, the brass of the NBA has looked as dysfunctional as ever. While it looks as though the 2011- 2012 season is all but lost for professional basketball thanks to the labor dispute, we can be certain that fans will still get their fair share of hoops thanks to the reliable old NCAA. That being the case, it’s time to present the Maroon-News’s preseason top-25 teams.

1. North Carolina: AP preseason All- American sophomore Harrison Barnes will look to lead a talented Tar Heel squad past the Elite Eight where it was ousted by Kentucky. UNC was the unanimous number one in the preseason coaches’ poll with the exception of one coach, and will rely on sophomores Barnes and Ken­dall Marshall as well as junior John Hen­son and senior Tyler Zeller to take them to the finals.

2. Ohio State: The Buckeyes will be led by sophomore Jared Sullinger, who has surprised many this offseason by opting out of the NBA draft and return­ing to Columbus for another chance at the championship. The preseason All- American will team up with senior Wil­liam Buford and fellow sophomore Aaron Craft to try to bring coach Thad Matta his first championship.

3. Kentucky: Most polls have the Wildcats ahead of Ohio State with solid reason. Coach John Calipari brings in an­other stellar freshman class this year with forwards Anthony Davis and Michael Gil­christ and guard Marquis Teague. Sopho­more Terrence Jones will be in charge of leading the young squad and is almost a shoe-in for SEC player of the year.

4. Connecticut: Last year’s champs have a rough task at hand in replac­ing tournament MVP Kemba Walker, but the genius that is Jim Calhoun should find a way to do it. Guard Jer­emy Lamb, who finished second on the team in scoring last year, and forward/ center Alex Oriakhi will be called upon frequently if the Huskies wish to repeat.

5. Duke: The Blue Devils lost their three biggest scoring threats from last year in Kyrie Irving, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler, but Coach K can take some solace in welcoming freshman Austin Rivers to the squad. Rivers will join Seth Curry in the backcourt with Miles, Ma­son and Marshall Plumlee providing sup­port up front. What puts Duke in front of Syracuse in my mind is its depth; An­dre Dawkins, Michael Gbinje, Alex Mur­phy and Ryan Kelly will all see a lot of minutes if Duke plays deep into March.

6. Syracuse: Preseason All-Big East First Teamer Kris Joseph returns as the Orange’s leading scorer. Along with ev­erybody’s favorite sparkplug, Scoop Jar­dine, Joseph and coach Jim Boeheim will try to navigate their way through a very competitive Big East Conference towards the NCAA Tournament. Expect Syracuse to be in the conversation for a number one regional seed come March.

7. Louisville: The Cardinals lost last year’s leading scorer in Preston Knowles, and the roster is riddled with freshmen, but the combination of forward Kyle Kuri, court-general guard Peyton Silva and coach Rick Pitino should impress this season. Freshman Chane Behanan could be a mismatch monster on the offensive side of the court, which would add a whole other dimension to the Cards’s offense.

8. Florida: With all of Billy Donovan’s front line gone, the Gators will rely heav­ily on guards Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker, who combined for 28.8 PPG last season. With the addition of freshman Brad Beal, Florida will likely play with at least three guards. If they can shoot well, the Gators will be a lot of fun to watch this year.

9. Pittsburgh: All-Big East First Team selection Ashton Gibbs returns to the Oakland Zoo after leading the team with 16.8 points per game and shooting an as­tounding 49.0 percent from beyond the arc. Jamie Dixon and Co. will be definite threats come tourney time.

10. Memphis: Memphis returns 13 players from last year’s squad including sophomores Will Barton and Joe Jackson who will team up to run the backcourt. Sophomore forward Tarik Black rounds out a solid starting five that will cause opponents considerable trouble all year.

11. Baylor

12. Kansas

13. Xavier

14. Wisconsin

15. Arizona

16. Michigan

17. UCLA

18. Alabama

19. Texas A&M

20. Vanderbilt

21. Cincinnati

22. Gonzaga

23. Marquette

24. Missouri

25. Texas

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