By Luke Winn
May 03, 2012

Taking all NBA draft decisions, transfers and recruiting commitments through May 2 into account, as well as doing extensive reconsideration, review and soul-searching since my first, sleep-deprived stab at ranking teams on the day after the national title game, these are my final-final pre-Power Rankings for 2012-13.

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
1 Indiana Hoosiers
Such is the state of college basketball heading into next season, that our realistic options for a preseason No. 1 comprise:

A) A team that had the seventh-best defense in its conference in 2011-12, and will be starting a freshman point guard.

B) A team that had the 13th-best offense in its conference last season, and lost the two most efficient players from its starting lineup.

C) A team that did not appear in any postseason tournament last season (including NIT, CBI, CIT, etc.) and was the subject of an extensive fall-from-grace expose in SI.

D) A team that lost its top six rotation players to the NBA draft.

So whom do you choose at No. 1: Indiana, Louisville, UCLA or Kentucky? The Hoosiers make the most sense as an early title pick. They should have the country's best offense, built around sophomore center Cody Zeller, a national player of the year candidate. The defense, which ranked 64th in efficiency last season, could jump into the 20-30 range if Tom Crean's campaign to reduce fouling makes further progress, the Victor Oladipo-Will Sheehey combo plays more minutes together on the wing, and a top-five recruiting class adds more athleticism to the rotation. If the defense makes no gains, then Indiana will be next season's Missouri -- a fun team to watch, but one that packs it in well before the Final Four.
2 Louisville Cardinals
The Cardinals are the inverse of Indiana: Their No. 1-ranked defense put them in the national title conversation, but their 103rd-ranked offense held them back. How will they score more in 2012-13? By getting breakout years from sophomore forwards Chane Behanan and Wayne Blackshear, giving transfer Luke Hancock (a superb facilitator at George Mason) major minutes on the wing, and creating easy points for point guard Peyton Siva in pick-and-roll situations, because he lacks a jump shot. You have to wonder what might have happened against Kentucky in the Final Four had Louisville solved the pick-and-roll puzzle sooner. After Anthony Davis demoralized them time and time again as the help defender, the Cardinals counterpunched in the second half by ceasing to use Davis' man, Gorgui Dieng, as the screener -- and had Dieng pull an interesting, butt-out maneuver on Davis in the lane. In the tape below, watch how the pick-and-rolls evolved from the first half to the second:

3 UCLA Bruins
The One-and-Done Era has forced preseason rankings to become spectacularly speculative, given the influence elite freshman playing for elite teams are bound to have on the national title race. The Bruins' position is based mostly on the arrival of the Class of 2012's best two wing prospects, Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson, who rank Nos. 2 and 3 among all incoming freshmen. For the sake of having reality-based expectations, these were the stat lines of wings who were top-five overall recruits during the one-and-done era:

A few superstars in that chart, and no real flops; the least-productive player was Texas' Avery Bradley, but his initial value to the Longhorns was expected to be more on defense, anyway. For UCLA to be Final Four good, both Muhammad and Anderson will have to fall above the average stat line, because the Bruins have no real stars in their supporting cast.
4 Kentucky Wildcats
Wildcats coach John Calipari does a commendable job of adapting his offense to his ever-rotating ensemble on a year-by-year basis, and while we can't be sure what it'll looking like in 2012-13 -- much of that is dependent on the development of point guard Ryan Harrow -- my guess is that it'll be heavy on this play:

That's "stretch" power forward Kyle Wiltjer, the one returnee from last season's rotation, running a simple pick-and-pop play with Marquis Teague. Wiltjer was on the court for just 11.6 minutes per game as a freshman, but in that time, he had a higher shots-taken percentage (25.0) than any other Wildcat. That's a wild stat on team loaded with NBA-bound star power, and it suggests that Wiltjer could be their leading scorer as a sophomore. He's hard-wired to put up shots.
5 N.C. State Wolfpack
I've been playing around with John Pudner's new Value Add Basketball database, and we seem to agree on the Wolfpack -- he has them sixth for next season, and they're fifth here. What Pudner's ranking formula, which is based on adding the "value over replacement" of the players on 2012-13 rosters, suggests is that State would have still been in the 16-17 range had forward C.J. Leslie not passed on the NBA draft. Value Add isn't in love with Leslie, ranking him as the 175th-best player in D-I for next season. It puts higher values on point guard Lorenzo Brown (the 48th-rated player, and only State rep in the top 100), incoming freshman scoring machine Rodney Purvis, and senior sharpshooter Scott Wood.
6 Florida Gators
The Gators went well above their No. 7 seed status in the NCAA tournament, throttling Marquette and coming within one bad stretch of second-half possessions of beating Louisville for a trip to the Final Four. Freshman Brad Beal -- who should be a top-five pick in the upcoming NBA draft -- emerged as their best player during the postseason, but that shouldn't obscure the fact that fellow shooting guard Kenny Boynton had the better overall season, and returns as a legit All-America candidate in '12-13. Power forward Patric Young has the same potential, especially since his usage rate (a measly 19.9 percent this season) is bound to skyrocket with a pass-first point guard, Scottie Wilbekin, stepping into the starting lineup in place of the departed Erving Walker.
7 Ohio State Buckeyes
This, obviously, will be a very different Buckeyes team than the Sullinger Show we saw the past two seasons: hybrid forward DeShaun Thomas will be offensive option No. 1, point guard Aaron Craft could very well be option No. 2, and the hope is that LaQuinton Ross, who missed his whole freshman season due to academic issues, will emerge as a perimeter threat. The constant, though, is defense, and OSU remains in the top 10 because it figures to have another elite D. Thomas showed an uncharacteristic amount of defensive potential in the NCAAs; sophomore Amir Williams can be an impact shot-blocker; junior Lenzelle Smith is an underrated perimeter defender; and, as always, the Craft Turnometer will be spinning:

The graphic is updated with full-season results, based on SI's video review. Craft had a personal turnover rate of 7.96 per 100 possessions during the NCAAs, and accounted for 37.5 percent of the Buckeyes' turnover production during the tournament.
8 Kansas Jayhawks
The Jayhawks, like the Buckeyes and, higher up on this board, Louisville, will be decidedly in the defense-first club. Center Jeff Withey, with his volleyball-swatting pedigree, finished this season No. 1 in shot-blocking percentage -- at 15.27 percent compared to Anthony Davis' 13.75. If Withey can stay on the floor for longer minutes (he averaged 24.8 per game), he should be able to battle Craft and Kentucky's Nerlens Noel for national defensive player of the year honors, and KU's perimeter duo of Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford is athletic enough to defend any opposing guards. Role concerns are what keep the Jayhawks out of my top five; they had one of the country's most imbalanced scoring attacks, heavily favoring Thomas Robinson (who used 29.7 percent of possessions) and Tyshawn Taylor (27.7 percent), and for the first time in recent memory, there is no natural next-in-line offensive leader.
9 Michigan Wolverines
Something to keep an eye on: The Wolverines ranked eighth nationally in percentage of shot attempts taken from beyond the arc (44.2), and 13th the previous season (43.0). That's just how John Beilein's perimeter-based scheme works. But they just lost three players whose shot-distributions skewed toward long-range (Zack Novak, Stu Douglass and Evan Smotrycz) and are adding one of the country's best low-post recruits in Mitch McGary. Star point guard Trey Burke is an average three-point shooter and Tim Hardaway Jr. made just 28.3 percent of his 187 three-point attempts this season. To best fit his personnel, how far will Beilein tilt his offense away from the three, and in favor of attacking off the dribble, or pounding the ball inside to McGary and fellow power forward Jordan Morgan?
10 Missouri Tigers
The addition of UConn transfer Alex Oriakhi, who can play immediately due to the Huskies' postseason ban, could have a huge impact on the SEC race. While Oriakhi had a miserable junior season in Storrs, he showed as a sophomore that he can be one of the game's better defensive power forwards -- something the defensively challenged Tigers desperately need. He and fellow senior Laurence Bowers, who missed all of 2011-12 with an ACL tear but was Mizzou's leading shot-blocker the previous season, should form a respectable frontcourt. The Tigers are well-positioned to recover from the losses of hyper-efficient guards Marcus Denmon and Kim English, too, as backup Michael Dixon Jr. is ready to take on a go-to-guy role as a senior. He used a team-high 24.4 percent of possessions when he was on the floor last season, and could be the best isolation player in all of college hoops in '12-13. I ran a filter on Synergy Sports Technology's database for players from multi-bid leagues with at least 50 iso possessions last season, and only Wichita State's Joe Ragland -- whose career is over -- ranked ahead of Dixon. Here's the full top five in isolation efficiency:

11 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
On Wednesday, the NCAA denied Tim Abromaitis -- an MBA-holder and three-time winner of the Big East's Scholar Athlete of the Year -- a sixth season of eligibility, which he petitioned for after missing 2011-12 with an ACL injury. Notre Dame coaches knew Abromaitis was unlikely to win his appeal because he voluntarily redshirted earlier in his career. They're holding out hope that fellow senior Scott Martin -- who missed '08-09 transferring from Purdue and then '09-10 with a knee injury -- can get cleared for a sixth year, which would give their offense a valuable glue guy. But here's the thing: The Irish should be able to contend for the Big East title no matter what happens, because they have one of the country's most underrated inside-outside duos in Jack Cooley and Jerian Grant, both of whom the Value Add system considers top-50 players. I wouldn't be surprised if Cooley, Georgetown's Otto Porter and Louisville's Chane Behanan are the top three contenders for Big East player of the year.
12 North Carolina Tar Heels
I love the idea of a four-guard, VMI-tempo attack this year at Carolina, which would take advantage of its overflowing backcourt (point guard Marcus Paige, combo guards Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald, wings P.J. Hairston, Reggie Bullock and J.P. Tokoto) and hopefully mitigate its shallow frontcourt (forwards James Michael McAdoo and Desmond Hubert). What I worry about is how deep of a defensive drop-off the Heels will experience now that John Henson and Tyler Zeller -- who were by far their best, high-impact defenders -- have moved on to the NBA. McAdoo showed a lot of promise in the NCAA tournament, but his rebounding and shot-blocking numbers as a freshmen were pedestrian, and he wasn't a menacing shot-challenger, either: @FreeportKid's final UNC charting numbers had Henson allowing opponents to shoot 29.9 percent against him, Zeller 30.3 and McAdoo 41.7. It would be a big help if 6-foot-10 freshman center Joel James can provide some immediate defensive assistance in the post.
13 Baylor Bears
The two early favorites for the Naismith and Wooden Awards are Indiana's Cody Zeller and Creighton's Doug McDermott, but the inevitable darkhorse candidates will emerge -- much in the way McDermott did last season. Can Bears point guard Pierre Jackson be one of them? With Perry Jones (25.5 percent of shots) and Quincy Miller (24.3 percent) gone, there are plenty of available field-goal attempts, and it wouldn't be surprising to see Jackson put up a few 30-point, high-assist games and get in the picture. The best other guard candidates are Murray State's Isaiah Canaan, Lehigh's C.J. McCollum and UCLA freshman Shabazz Muhammad, who should be the focal point of the Bruins' offense from Day 1.
14 Duke Blue Devils
Quinn Cook couldn't get consistent playing time (or a steady spot in the starting lineup) for the Blue Devils as a freshman, but in short stints, he was their most efficient backcourt player, with a 117.8 ORating, and he seems like a quality, long-term solution at point guard, with Seth Curry playing a more natural, off-ball role. There's plenty of tinkering left to do with the perimeter rotation -- Andre Dawkins could redshirt, Tyler Thornton remains in the mix, and freshman Rasheed Sulaimon will warrant minutes, as will redshirt frosh Alex Murphy -- but interior defense remains Duke's biggest issue. It's coming off a season where it ranked 136th in two-point field-goal percentage D, and unless that improves, it's tough to see the Blue Devils overtaking N.C. State for the ACC title.
15 Gonzaga Bulldogs
I wonder what might have happened in the Przemek Karnowski sweepstakes had Mason Plumlee not opted to stay at Duke for his senior season, creating a starting-center job opening in Durham. The Blue Devils were a late entry into the race for Karnowski, a skilled Polish 7-footer who might have been a five-star recruit had he played prep-school ball in the U.S. There will be no Krzyzewski-coaching-Karnowski situation, though; he opted to commit to the Zags, who had been recruiting him for two years and as a result, pulled off another international coup on the level of Elias Harris (out of Germany) and Kevin Pangos (Ontario, Canada). This should give Gonzaga one of the country's better offensive front lines in Harris, Sam Dower, Karnowski and Kelly Olynyk, but I have enough concerns about their interior D that I'm hesitant to make them a top-10 team right off the bat. Departed center Robert Sacre was an elite defender who will not be easy to replace.
16 Memphis Tigers
While Draymond Green will be the most-missed player in the country next season -- I don't have Michigan State in the top 16 because I think his do-everything game and leadership skills will be so hard to replace that it'll create a UConn post-Kemba Walker type of situation -- Memphis' Will Barton could be a close second. Five nonconference losses extinguished all the early hype around the Tigers last season, and a first-round exit from the NCAA tournament took them out of the conversation in March, which meant that Barton's brilliant sophomore campaign didn't get all that much attention. He was one of the country's best high-usage (25.6 percent of possessions), high-efficiency (115.7 ORating) scorers, plus he led Memphis in defensive rebounding (18.5 percent) despite being just 6-6. If 6-6 sophomore-to-be Adonis Thomas, whose promising freshman year was cut short by an ankle injury -- one that probably kept him from declaring for the draft -- can put up production anywhere near Barton levels, the Tigers could become a top-10 team.

The Next 16: 17. Syracuse,18. Michigan State,19. Creighton,20. Wisconsin,21. UNLV,22. VCU,23. San Diego State,24. Arizona,25. Marquette,26. Minnesota,27. St. Louis,28. Texas,29. Tennessee,30. West Virginia,31. Georgetown,32. Butler

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)