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College Basketball Preseason 2012-13 Top 25

SI's 2012 Preseason Top 25
With preseason player of the year Cody Zeller at its disposal and a bevy of other talent, Indiana tops SI's 2012-13 Preseason Top 25. But don't be fooled: There is plenty of competition that could throw a few obstacles in the Hoosiers' way this season.

Below you'll find our Top 25 order, as well as an excerpt from each team's Athlon scouting report and a link to the full team preview.

Let the games begin.

 
1
Indiana Hoosiers
Indiana returns four starters from a team that won 27 games, including three against top-five opponents and two in the NCAA tournament. Two of the returnees -- Cody Zeller and Christian Watford -- could have departed for the NBA, but passed on going pro. The Hoosiers also bring back two experienced reserves and welcome in a top-10 recruiting class. Quite a change for a program that had only won 28 games in the previous three seasons.
Indiana Hoosiers preview continued
 
2
Louisville Cardinals
A 31-point loss to Providence, a defeat to South Florida on Senior Night and a 49-point performance at Syracuse were all forgotten after Louisville won the Big East tournament and made it to the Final Four. Most of the prime contributors return, led by point guard Peyton Siva, center Gorgui Dieng and forward Chane Behanan. The Cardinals should also be healthier after losing four players to injuries for at least 25 games last season.
Louisville team preview continued
 
3
Kansas Jayhawks
It's hard to imagine a team losing a top-five NBA draft pick in the paint and a four-year starter at the point and somehow getting better. But that's the scenario facing the Jayhawks as they enter the 2012-13 season. On the heels of their thrilling run to the national championship game, Self's squad returns several key pieces from last year's team and will look to replace leading scorers Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor with one of the deepest and most talented recruiting classes of the Self era.
Kansas team preview continued
 
4
Kentucky Wildcats
Stop us if you've heard this one before: John Calipari's Kentucky team will be among the most talented in the country, but the big question is whether the Wildcats are too young to go all the way. The storyline is the same for a fourth straight season -- with one twist. Last year's team closed the deal, giving Calipari his first NCAA title. Only one contributor from that team returns, but the Cats have reloaded with yet another top-ranked recruiting class. Can Calipari repeat?
Kentucky team preview continued
 
5
NC State Wolfpack
Senior swingman Scott Wood is a true believer. When almost everyone else was talking about NC State rebuilding under new coach Mark Gottfried, the Wolfpack shooting guard was focused on making the NCAA tournament. NC State not only made the tournament for the first time since 2006, it also advanced to the Sweet 16. With four starters back and three McDonald's All-Americans arriving, Wood has bigger goals for this season.
NC State team preview continued
 
6
Michigan Wolverines
If a program's ultimate success is measured in terms of NCAA wins, it's time for Michigan to make a move into the tournament's second weekend. And for the first time in Beilein's tenure, the Wolverines may be in a good position to do that. A highly-regarded recruiting class, the decision by guard Trey Burke to return for his sophomore season and a level of depth Michigan hasn't enjoyed in a long time should combine to make the Wolverines dangerous.
Michigan team preview continued
 
7
Ohio State Buckeyes
Aaron Craft wasn't projected to be a key performer coming out of high school, but the feisty junior is now the catalyst of Thad Matta's ninth Ohio State team, especially with the departures of Jared Sullinger and William Buford. Craft can't replace their production, but he's proved himself to be perhaps the best on-ball defender in the country and knows how to get the ball to the right spots on offense. The Buckeyes once again are young but believe in their heady on-court leader. That's important, because Matta will have to reshape his team after not employing a particularly deep rotation last season.
Ohio State team preview continued
 
8
Duke Blue Devils
The stunning ending to last season, when unheralded Lehigh knocked Duke out of the NCAA tournament, jolted the Blue Devils to their core. For only the second time since 1996, the Blue Devils failed to win at least one game in the NCAAs. While a foot injury to forward Ryan Kelly slowed Duke in March, it was an overall lack of size on the perimeter that hampered the team. This season, coach Mike Krzyzewski believes that won't be a problem with the arrival of 6-foot-4 freshman guard Rasheed Sulaimon to go along with a pair of 6-8 freshman small forwards, Alex Murphy (redshirt) and Amile Jefferson.
Duke team preview continued
 
9
Florida Gators
Losing 11-point leads in the Elite Eight in back-to-back seasons stings. But so does playing in the NIT, where Florida found itself in 2008 and '09. Clearly, the Gators have returned to elite status. But can they take the next step? "We'll have to create an identity in the backcourt," veteran coach Billy Donovan says. "We have experience in the frontcourt, but when you lose a top-three pick (Bradley Beal) and starting point guard (Erving Walker) it changes the complexion of your team."
Florida team preview continued
 
10
UCLA Bruins
With UCLA's basketball program facing considerable strife, on and off the court, this year's recruiting class has turned the tide for the Bruins. Howland and his staff brought in arguably the nation's top class, led by two of the top five recruits in the country in Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson. They will join a roster with talent and experience but lacking discipline, with the fate of the season potentially resting on one big man's broad shoulders.
UCLA team preview continued
 
11
Syracuse Orange
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim prefers to look at the players he has and not the ones who are gone. While three starters -- seniors Scoop Jardine and Kris Joseph plus NBA first-round pick Fab Melo -- and Big East Sixth Man of the Year Dion Waiters are gone, Syracuse should maintain its customary spot at or near the top of the Big East standings. Senior guard Brandon Triche and sophomore forward Rakeem Christmas return as starters, while senior James Southerland and juniors C.J. Fair and Baye Keita should step into bigger roles this season after gaining a wealth of experience last year.
Syracuse team preview continued
 
12
North Carolina Tar Heels
No one is going to feel sorry for North Carolina. But a year after losing four of the top six vote-getters for the All-ACC team, the Tar Heels head into 2012-13 short on proven talent. Gone are stalwarts Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, who were selected in the first 17 picks of the NBA draft. Only three players on the team - Dexter Strickland, swingman Reggie Bullock and forward James Michael McAdoo -- have started a game.
North Carolina team preview continued
 
13
Michigan State Spartans
Michigan State is ramping up its depth, quickness and versatility for life after Draymond Green. When Tom Izzo is equipped in these areas, his Spartans usually make a run at the Final Four. Michigan State has the horsepower to make that type of run in 2013, but this year's go-to scorers are unproven.Izzo believes leadership is the biggest question mark in the wake of Green's graduation.
Michigan State team preview continued
 
14
Missouri Tigers
After a fantastic first season -- at least until a shocking loss to No. 15 seed Norfolk State in the NCAA tournament -- coach Frank Haith and the Tigers are starting over. Missouri bid farewell to five seniors, including All-America Marcus Denmon and all conference selections Kim English and Ricardo Ratliffe. It also said goodbye this offseason to the Big 12 as it officially joined the SEC. Guards Phil Pressey and Mike Dixon are the only Tigers who have logged minutes for Haith, so the team will have a distinctly different look as it wades into its new league. The Tigers regain the services of forward Laurence Bowers, who missed the '11-12 season with a knee injury, and welcome in five recruits and six transfers.
Missouri team preview continued
 
15
Arizona Wildcats
Three years after Lute Olson's retirement, coach Sean Miller has repositioned Arizona as a Final Four contender. This will be the first season in which Miller has everything working together -- size, depth, experience, pedigree and recruiting momentum. Though Arizona had some problems with a number of off-the-court incidents last season, a top-tier recruiting class should help the Wildcats excel.
Arizona team preview continued
 
16
San Diego State Aztecs
San Diego State has arrived on the national stage and should stay there. The Aztecs return four starters, including Mountain West Conference Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin. The addition of three transfers, including athletic wing Dwayne Polee II (St. John's) and forward JJ O'Brien (Utah), and the arrival of highly-regarded freshman forward Winston Shepard have heightened expectations.
San Diego State team preview continued
 
17
Creighton Bluejays
Creighton's tradition consists of numerous good seasons, but the Bluejays have struggled in March. But this is a team that could change that. Creighton is the heavy favorite in the MVC and should be a factor nationally. Not since 2003, when Kyle Korver led the Bluejays to 29 wins, have expectations been so high in Omaha. Though Creighton is a wonderful offensive team, led by All-America forward Doug McDermott, making a run in March depends on improving the defense.
Creighton team preview continued
 
18
Memphis Tigers
Josh Pastner has had Conference USA's most talented roster each of the past two seasons, but those teams were short on experience. The top three scorers two years ago were all freshmen, while the top five scorers last season were either in their first or second seasons with the program. This year will be different.
Memphisteam preview continued
 
19
UNLV Runnin' Rebels
The Rebels, once one of the premier programs in college hoops, haven't won a conference title since sharing the Mountain West championship in 2000. But under second-year coach Dave Rice, it appears that the buzz is finally back for the Runnin' Rebels. Part of the reason for enthusiasm is the run-and-gun, dunk-filled play that Rice incorporated during a 26-win debut season that included a 90-80 upset of then-No. 1 North Carolina. Another reason is a highly-decorated group of transfers and a top recruiting class.
UNLV Runnin' Rebels team preview continued
 
20
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The more pressure on Notre Dame the better as far as coach Mike Brey is concerned. Winners of 49 games the last two seasons (27-9 in the Big East) with second- and third-place finishes in the conference, the Irish return nearly every significant contributor from the 2011-12 season. Don't be surprised if the Fighting Irish make a run for the Big East title.
Notre Dame team preview continued
 
21
Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Zags made their 13th consecutive NCAA tournament under Few, but the road to the Dance wasn't quite the same as it had been in the past. It was the first time in a dozen years that Gonzaga didn't claim at least a share of the WCC regular-season crown. However, the Bulldogs wound up beating West Virginia before losing to Ohio State. A 14th straight trip to the NCAAs is all but certain for one of the most consistent programs in the nation.
Gonzaga team preview continued
 
22
Wisconsin Badgers
Jordan Taylor left Wisconsin without a Big Ten title, an achievement the talented guard coveted and one that has eluded the UW program since 2007-08. Taylor, who started 87 games and played in 136 over four seasons, never experienced an NCAA Regional Final. Yet despite that disappointment, Taylor believes that UW, which has reached the Sweet 16 in each of the last two seasons under Bo Ryan, is poised for greater success. Can UW end its Big Ten title drought and make a deeper NCAA Tournament run in 2013? The Badgers should field a deep and veteran frontcourt, two experienced guards and several new faces who could contribute immediately.
Wisconsin team preview continued
 
23
VCU Rams
Shaka Smart captured the imagination of the college basketball world two seasons ago by steering his VCU team to the Final Four with a bravado that showed in his players. At no point in its Final Four run did VCU feel as if it was an underdog. That approach will pay dividends as VCU moves out of the CAA and into the rugged Atlantic 10. Smart has the luxury of taking a veteran roster into the new league; five of his best players are upperclassmen, and two sophomores -- Briante Weber and Treveon Graham -- played extensively in their first collegiate season.
VCU team preview continued
 
24
Baylor Bears
Sparked by coach Scott Drew, the Bears' turnaround is one of the most impressive in college basketball history. Baylor won a school-record 30 games last season before losing to eventual national champion Kentucky in the NCAA South (ck) regional final. Three players were selected in the NBA draft and Drew signed a recruiting class that was ranked No. 4 nationally by Scout.com. Successful as the Bears were a year ago, there could be even better things in store in 2012-13 thanks to what may be the deepest backcourt in the country and the addition of a future NBA lottery pick in the paint.
Baylor team preview continued
 
25
St. Louis Billikens
Saint Louis advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time in a dozen years and despite losing its leading scorer, this group could be more formidable than the one that won 26 games last season. There is, however, one caveat -- the Billikens must forge ahead without coach Rick Majerus, who took a leave because of medical issues. Jim Crews, who joined the staff prior to the '11-12 season, will take over for Majerus on an interim basis. The Billikens must also replace big man Brian Conklin who averaged 13.9 points on a squad that wasn't exactly known for its high-octane offense.
St. Louis team preview continued
 

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