Dick Vitale: Preseason Top 40
I know, I know. The college basketball season doesn't start for several months. But I am so excited about the 2009-10 season. People come up to me and ask if I think their favorite team will do well.
So I sat down and drafted my early rankings for the upcoming campaign. Here's the list, the elite class that I consider the top in the land. Disagree with some of my choices? It's college basketball, baby, so let the exciting debates begin!
DICK VITALE: PRESEASON TOP 40 FOR 2009-10 SEASON
1. Kansas: Bill Self's team is led by Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins, two members of my All-Rolls-Royce first team. The Jayhawks are loaded with the Morris twins, Tyshawn Taylor and newcomer Xavier Henry.
2. Kentucky: John Calipari has made a major difference and his first season in Lexington should be special. The Wildcats were aided with the return of Patrick Patterson. Then check out diaper dandies like John Wall and DeMarcus Cousins. Fans of Big Blue will be jumping with joy.
3. Michigan State: Tom Izzo's squad made it to the finals last season, creating excitement galore in Detroit. Kalin Lucas is arguably the premier player in the Big Ten. Look for big things from Delvon Roe, while Raymar Morgan needs to return to earlier form.
4. Texas: AJ Abrams is gone, but Rick Barnes still has reason for optimism. Damion James pulled out of the NBA draft to return to Austin. The Longhorn recruiting class, led by Avery Bradley, is outstanding. The Big 12 will have a great battle between Kansas and Texas.
7. Villanova: Jay Wright had to be thrilled when Scottie Reynolds said no to the NBA and came back to the Big East. Wright has a super class coming in, plus Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes among the returning talent.
8. North Carolina: The Tar Heels will not have to rebuild; they will simply reload. Most schools would fall way down after losing Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green. Roy Williams has one of the best recruiting classes coming in, while players like Ed Davis will step up big time.
10. Illinois: Bruce Weber has a solid nucleus returning, plus a fine recruiting class. Most look at Michigan State and Purdue as the top threats in the Big Ten. Don't sleep on the Illini as a challenger.
18. Mississippi State: If Renardo Sidney is eligible, this could be a top-10 team. Jarvis Varnado's return made coach Rick Stansbury smile.
23. Butler: Brad Stevens has his entire team returning. This is not a mid-major lineup, my friends.
40. Memphis: First-year coach Josh Pastner has big shoes to fill, but his squad will compete for another C-USA crown.