By Luke Winn
May 10, 2010

The deadline for underclassmen to pull out of the NBA draft has passed, with only one bewildering decision to turn pro: that of Mississippi State point guard Dee Bost, who bailed on his final two seasons for life in the lesser Euro-leagues. JaJuan Johnson's return to Purdue and Jimmer Fredette's to BYU put their teams near the top of my post-deadline Power Rankings, which are a slightly more reasonable endeavor than the rankings published the morning after the national title game. I reserve the right to tinker with these by October, but I imagine my preseason top 32 will look a lot like this one:

NCAA Basketball Power Rankings
1 Duke Blue Devils
Last Week: --
Last week I used around 1,200 words to examine what the Blue Devils might look like in 2010-11, projecting a pace increase (due to the Kyrie Irving-Nolan Smith duo, and no Brian Zoubek), an offensive rebounding void (due to no Zoubek) and a killer scoring bench (due to the Seth Curry-Andre Dawkins duo). But reader Stephen Henry wrote in to say that I should've focused on defensive style changes as well, making the good point that coach Mike Krzyzewski would get back to extending his man-to-man D and "overplaying passing lanes to get steals," due to Duke's added depth and athleticism on the perimeter. This was something that assistant Chris Collins had mentioned to me in our conversation for that column -- that with a starting lineup of five guys who thrive in the running game, the Blue Devils could try to pressure the ball more and convert turnovers into fastbreak buckets.

To give you a visual sense of this, I went back to the archives and watched the first 10 minutes of Duke's 2007 NCAA tournament game against VCU -- the last in a season-ending stretch of fast-paced games that foreshadowed their conversion to an ultra-fast team in '07-08. The frame at left shows an extended pressure-man D, with three defenders' heels outside the 3-point line. The frame at right shows Duke in the first few minutes of this year's national title game against Butler; as Shelvin Mack eyes up a trey, and Gordon Hayward, Willie Veasley and Ronald Nored are beyond the arc, every Blue Devil defender is inside of it:

The Blue Devils were so good in their more "packed-in" mode last season -- while they forced fewer turnovers than past Duke teams, they still allowed the second-lowest three-point percentage in the country (28.3) and ranked No. 4 overall in defensive efficiency -- that I imagine they won't make too drastic of a change. They did, after all, just win a national championship by playing extremely sound, non-gambling D.
2 Michigan State Spartans
Last Week: --
The Spartans and their Big Ten brethren at Purdue were the only teams considered for the No. 2 spot, and I felt that State lost slightly less (Raymar Morgan, as opposed to Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Chris Kramer and Keaton Grant) and gained slightly more (Keith Appling and Adreian Payne, as opposed to Terone Johnson and Anthony Johnson) than the Boilers did. It almost seems like State's biggest question mark coming into this next season is whether its faithful will ever warm up to its new uniforms, which were unveiled as part of a school-wide rebranding process in April. Despite Kalin Lucas' best efforts to model the new jerseys while wearing a protective boot, the look didn't go over all that well among fans on the Web. I agree with them: I always thought that "STATE" was a key part of Sparty's identity, and am sad to see it go. They've tinkered with their jerseys so many times over the past decade, and "STATE" was the only thing that was consistently present. There is some precedent for a jersey overhaul before a huge season, though: Between Magic Johnson's freshman and sophomore years, they went from block lettering to script, and that worked out all right.
3 Purdue Boilermakers
Last Week: --
Last month, I wrote about the 10 teams with the most on the line during the "NBA Draft Limbo" period, and made a few informed predictions on the decisions of key underclassmen. The prediction I worried most about being wrong, as the May 8 draft deadline approached, was that Boilers big man JaJuan Johnson would go back to school. Johnson, according to a few sources, was dangerously close to staying in the draft pool. There was a disconnect in the information he was being fed (by advisors, who were saying he had a first-round shot) and the reality (from NBA evaluators, who said he didn't), but he made the right decision at the 11th hour, remaining at Purdue for his senior season. Without him, the Boilers wouldn't have had a real shot at a national title -- or even any semblance of a frontcourt.
4 Kansas State Wildcats
Last Week: --
At the Jordan Brand Classic's International Game, I found K-State's perfect replacement for departed Puerto Rican point guard Denis Clemente: 17-year-old Carmelo Betancourt Carbonell, from the PR's Bucaplaa Basketball Club. Bounce Mag called Carbonell the "most playground" player in that game, which was an accurate description -- he led his team in assists, turnovers and general showboating. But he has the skills to be a solid college point guard in a more controlled setting, and seems like a logical candidate to continue the Puerto Rico-to-central-Kansas pipeline. In the meantime, the 'Cats are fine in the backcourt, with the league's Player of the Year favorite, Jacob Pullen, running the point and ultra-efficient sophomore Rodney McGruder ready to step up and be a solid two-guard. Their frontcourt army of Curtis Kelly, Jamar Samuels, Dominique Sutton, Wally Judge and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts is among the best in the country, too.
5 Kansas Jayhawks
Last Week: --
The Jayhawks might have been hoping to creep up on people this season, but the more I examine their roster, the more I'm convinced they're top-10 material. It's difficult -- impossible, almost -- to avoid a drop-off after losing two Lottery Picks (Cole Aldrich and Xavier Henry) and a senior point guard (Sherron Collins) who could join them in the first round. But consider the following:

• Newly committed point guard Josh Selby and Tyshawn Taylor are among the best 1-2 combos in the nation.
• The seniors supporting them, Tyrel Reed and Brady Morningstar, are excellent role players.
• Power forward Marcus Morris is ready to have a huge junior season with Aldrich gone, and Marcus' brother, Markieff, will make a big defensive impact.
• Selby, Taylor and Marcus Morris all have first-round NBA talent.
• The Jayhawks have quality depth in Elijah Johnson (at point), Thomas Robinson (power forward), Mario Little (wing), Travis Releford (guard) and Arizona transfer Jeff Withey (center).

What I'm saying here, basically, is that Bill Self's club is in remarkably good shape, and could very well earn a share of the Big 12 title for the seventh straight season.
6 Villanova Wildcats
Last Week: --
Jay Wright's career path will probably lead to the NBA at some point, and the Sixers' coaching job is open for the second straight offseason, but he's not interested. It's not a great personnel situation, and probably wouldn't last more than a few years -- definitely not enticing enough to get him to leave a stable gig at Villanova. What about the Nets, though? Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov is expected to be approved as the franchise's new owner by the NBA's board of governors on Tuesday, and Wright has been reported as a possible target in the team's coaching search. Would it be better to coach John Wall through a few lucrative, losing seasons than try to make a title run with a Corey Fisher-Maalik Wayns-Corey Stokes-Dominic Cheek backcourt? I'm a college basketball guy, so I'd opt for the latter. Those guards, plus frontcourt veteran Antonio Pena and rising sophs Mouphtaou Yarou and Maurice Sutton, could be special. But Prokhorov operates in a different monetary stratosphere than the Villanova athletic department -- or any college athletic department, for that matter. So we shall wait and see.
7 Pittsburgh Panthers
Last Week: --
The Panther I'm most curious about this season is power forward Dante Taylor, the former McDonald's All-American who came in and averaged 4.1 points and 3.7 rebounds in 13.9 minutes per game as a freshman -- hardly overwhelming numbers. Taylor's per-possession statistics, however, are intriguing. If he could keep up his offensive rebounding percentage of 16.1 over a larger chunk of playing time, he'd be considered one of the country's best offensive rebounders and be immensely valuable to Jamie Dixon. Of all the big men that DraftExpress projects to go in the first round in June, only one -- Kentucky's DeMarcus Cousins -- had an OR% higher than 16. Pitt's team offensive rebounding dropped off by nearly six percent after losing DeJuan Blair, and a breakthrough year by Taylor could help the Panthers get back among the elites in that category.
8 Ohio State Buckeyes
Last Week: --
There are certain big men in the high school class of 2010 that project to be great, but might not make a huge impact on the college game if they're one-and-done. Perry Jones, the 6-foot-11, five-star forward going to Baylor, is one of them. Terrence Jones, the 6-8, five-star forward who's deciding between Washington and Kentucky, is another. Both have serious upside, but will need time to develop. The star of the Buckeyes' monster 2010 recruiting class, 6-8 power forward Jared Sullinger, is a different story: Barring some kind of injury, he'll be a constant double-double guy for them in Year 1. He's polished, has post moves (and counter-moves), and knows how to use his size and weight to establish position. He has a real chance to be the best power-post player in the Big Ten next season, because he's more than ready to handle the physicality of the league.
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