Commentary

Dickie V's Preseason Top 40

Updated: September 8, 2008, 2:22 PM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

The summer is coming to a close, so it is time to share my annual preseason rankings of the nation's Top 40 teams. All of these teams have the same goal: get to the Final Four, baby!



DICKIE V's PRESEASON TOP 40

1. North Carolina. With Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green all returning, the Tar Heels are the clear-cut preseason numero uno.

2. Louisville. Rick Pitino's squad is a legitimate Final Four contender. The addition of Samardo Samuels up front is a big plus.

3. Connecticut. Hasheem Thabeet will be a major force up front for Hall of Famer Jim Calhoun. Look for big things from A.J. Price in the backcourt.

4. UCLA. Coach Ben Howland is happy to have Darren Collison returning to the backcourt. The Bruins have one of the premier recruiting classes coming in.

5. Texas. A.J. Abrams and Damion James provide a solid 1-2 punch for the Longhorns. D.J. Augustin is gone, but this will still be a very dangerous team under Rick Barnes.

6. Notre Dame. Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney lead an experienced Irish team.

7. Michigan State. Tom Izzo will miss Drew Neitzel, but the Spartans will be among the best in the Big Ten.

8. Gonzaga. Watch out for Mark Few's team. The return of Jeremy Pargo is a big plus.

9. Duke. The Blue Devils lost DeMarcus Nelson, but Kyle Singler, Greg Paulus, Gerald Henderson & Co. have something to prove.

10. Pittsburgh. DeJuan Blair will be tough to stop up front and the Panthers should enjoy another solid season.

11. Purdue. Matt Painter's team sneaked up on a lot of people last season. With Robbie Hummel leading the way, the Boilermakers have high hopes.

12. Marquette. Tom Crean is gone, but Buzz Williams has the top-flight trio of Dominic James, Jerel McNeal and Wesley Matthews back.

13. Memphis. No Derrick Rose, no Chris Douglas-Roberts, no problem. John Calipari has a lot of talent returning plus several standout recruits.

14. Tennessee. Bruce Pearl will rely on Tyler Smith inside to key his SEC challenger.

15. Georgetown. Adding Greg Monroe up front will make this a team to keep an eye on in the rugged Big East.

16. Villanova. Jay Wright has his key players returning, led by Scottie Reynolds.

17. Florida. Billy Donovan's Gators will return to the Big Dance, keyed by Nick Calathes.

18. Arizona State. James Harden will be one of the premier players in the Pac-10. The Sun Devils will go from surprise team to conference challenger.

19. Davidson. Stephen Curry will carry this team to another big season. Forget about the Cinderella tag this season.

20. Virginia Tech. Seth Greenberg's team fell short of the Big Dance last season. That won't be an issue this time around.

21. Miami-Florida. Jack McClinton is one of the best players that America has not heard enough about. Frank Haith does a fine job with the Hurricanes.

22. Wisconsin. Bo Ryan will always have the Badgers in the hunt in the Big Ten.

23. Arizona. The return of Chase Budinger makes Lute Olson very happy. If Brandon Jennings didn't go to Europe, this would be a top-10 team.

24. Kentucky. When Patrick Patterson is healthy, watch out. Billy Gillispie's club will be returning to prominence.

25. Kansas. Bill Self lost five players to the NBA draft. He has a young but talented team that should still make noise.

26. Syracuse. In a different league, the Orange would be a contender. In the Big East, it is so, so tough...

27. Oklahoma. I know people are talking about football down in Norman. Jeff Capel's club, led by Blake Griffin, will give fans something else to cheer about.

28. West Virginia. Bob Huggins will have his team battling, scrapping and clawing again.

29. Wake Forest. This young team is talented. You will hear a lot about super sophs Jeff Teague and James Johnson.

30. Baylor. Scott Drew has rebuilt this program in a short time. Remember the name LaceDarius Dunn!

31. USC. Even without O.J. Mayo, the Trojans will be a tough team. Taj Gibson & Co. will not be an easy touch.

32. Clemson. Oliver Purnell lost a lot of senior talent, but K.C. Rivers is back.

33. St. Mary's. As long as Mr. Mills comes back to school, this team will make noise in the WCC.

34. Alabama. If Mark Gottfried gets back a healthy Ronald Steele, the Tide can reverse last season's misfortune.

35. UNLV. Lon Kruger has won 91 games in his four seasons with the Runnin' Rebels.

36. Mississippi State. If Jamont Gordon had stayed in school, this team would be in the top 20.

37. UAB. Robert Vaden is back. He flirted with the NBA draft but withdrew before the deadline.

38. Ohio State. A lot will depend on the big diaper dandy, B.J. Mullens. Thad Matta is a flat-out winner, my friends.

39. San Diego. Last season was not a fluke ... just ask Connecticut.

40. Xavier. Sean Miller's team lost a lot of talent, but the newcomers will make a difference.

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.