Purdue will be hungry in 2010-11
Boilermakers' experience distinguishes them from the rest in early Top 25
A Top 25 looking ahead to next season is certain to be flawed when it's done this early.There are assumptions made that could prove incorrect. But there is no choice. The NBA draft early-entry deadline is still a few weeks away on April 25, with the withdrawal date soon after on May 8.
The "Next" Butler
Butler captured the nation's attention with its run to the final. Insider looks at which mid-major teams have the best shot at replicating the Bulldogs' tournament success in the 2010-11 season.
However, when putting together a Top 25 this early, you have to take into consideration what should or likely will happen with some of the elite teams.Syracuse will likely lose Wes Johnson. Couple that with the departure of seniors Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku and it's hard to argue that the Orange should be in the poll, despite a highly ranked recruiting class coming in. Virginia Tech could be very good, but doesn't know if Malcolm Delaney will return, putting a damper on the Hokies' preseason pulse. Georgia Tech already lost Gani Lawal. Derrick Favors is expected to be gone, too. Tennessee is another team that brings in a nice recruiting class, but one can't just dismiss the losses of Wayne Chism, J.P. Prince and Bobby Maze. We will do this exercise once the early-entry withdrawal date has come, and then again before the start of the summer and again in the fall.
With that in mind, expect this Top 25 to change quite a bit between now and November as players shuffle in and out of the draft. For now, here is the first of at least four Top 25 lists before the opening tip. If you don't like what you see, hang tight -- there's plenty of offseason to go.
1. Purdue: Assuming that Robbie Hummel recovers fully from his torn ACL, the Boilermakers will be a senior-laden, driven team, with Hummel joining JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore. Purdue would be a feel-good story to get to the Final Four after having its hopes dashed this season due to Hummel's injury. It's hard to find an elite team that would have as many senior stars.
2. Duke: This could change if Kyle Singler doesn't return, but he appears more likely to stay. If that's the case, he joins Nolan Smith, Mason and Miles Plumlee and additions Kyrie Irving and redshirt Seth Curry. Other teams are getting pushed down in the poll due to players being on the fence, but there's no indication yet that Singler is gone.
3. Butler: No chance Brad Stevens bolts. Don't think Gordon Hayward leaves, either. Matt Howard will be back. So too will Shelvin Mack, Shawn Vanzant, Zach Hahn and Andrew Smith. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski picked the Bulldogs to be the favorites next season. Hard to see them fading. If there is another team that will be more driven than Butler next season, I don't see it.
4. Michigan State: Hummel should come back from his ACL for Purdue. A ruptured Achilles can be a longer rehab so Kalin Lucas may not be ready at the beginning of the season. Still, once he is, the Spartans will again be challenging for a Final Four berth as Draymond Green emerges as a star. Everyone but Raymar Morgan will be back and they'll be joined by a top-flight recruiting class. Izzo could continue to make his mark in history with yet another trip to the Final Four, his seventh.
5. Pitt: The Panthers were the surprise of the Big East last season by landing a 2-seed in the Big East tournament and a 3-seed in the NCAA tournament in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. No one should be shocked by Pitt returning this season as the Big East favorite. The whole team returns. Ashton Gibbs is the leader of this group and makes money shots for the Panthers.
6. Baylor: The Bears probably will lose Ekpe Udoh to the NBA draft. But Baylor added one of the top big men in the country in Perry Jones. Tweety Carter is gone, but LaceDarius Dunn is back. Baylor will be the team to beat in the Big 12, a new phenomenon that puts plenty of pressure on Scott Drew.
7. Georgetown: This could be a reach, but I didn't get a sense Sunday night that Greg Monroe is definitely gone. If he does come back, the Hoyas will be in with Pitt as the co-favorites in the Big East. The Hoyas return their backcourt of Austin Freeman and Chris Wright and will have the embarrassment of getting blown out by Ohio in the first round of the NCAAs to motivate them. If Monroe does go to the lottery, the Hoyas will slide down these rankings.
8. Kansas State: The Wildcats get Jacob Pullen back, as well as the core of their inside crew. Losing Denis Clemente is a major hit for the heart of this team. But the Wildcats proved they can take on just about anyone defensively. Toughness is now the norm under Frank Martin.
9. Xavier: The Musketeers played Kansas State in an epic Sweet 16 game in Salt Lake City. Xavier will likely lose Jordan Crawford, but nearly all the other key contributors return to what should be the class of the Atlantic 10. The Musketeers are not just a model program for those outside the power six, but for the country as a whole. Most schools would love to mimic XU's success.
10. Villanova: The Wildcats do lose Scottie Reynolds and Reggie Redding, but if you watched them last season you saw the new wave of Nova players. There's no reason to believe Villanova won't be a top-three Big East team with Corey Fisher, Corey Stokes, Maalik Wayns leading the perimeter and Mouphtaou Yarou anchoring the post.
11. West Virginia: The Mountaineers can't replace big shot Da'Sean Butler. He was too special for West Virginia to discount his importance in a poll. Devin Ebanks also has a decision to make if he takes the chance he'll be a high pick. If he stays, the Mountaineers will have plenty of pop, with Kevin Jones and John Flowers joining a returning backcourt of Joe Mazzulla and Darryl Bryant. Deniz Kilicli will only get better in the post.
12. Ohio State: The Buckeyes are expecting player of the year Evan Turner to leave. While Turner was out injured, the Buckeyes were a bit of a middling team. But now they will have time to deal with his departure. If for some reason there is a stunner and he comes back, the Buckeyes will shoot up into the top five. But without him the Bucks have solid guard play with Jon Diebler, William Buford, David Lighty and the frontcourt of Dallas Lauderdale and super freshman Jared Sullinger in the post.
13. Memphis: That was quick. The Tigers are back with the top recruiting class in the country, led by Will Barton and Joe Jackson. They'll join returning star Elliot Williams. Second-year coach Josh Pastner has the pieces to be the class of C-USA again and a real threat for a deep run. Defections to the NBA draft actually have Memphis ranked ahead of Kentucky. We'll see if that holds.
14. Florida: The Gators return the entire core of their team, led by a backcourt that was underrated at times with Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton. Add a rising clutch shooter in Chandler Parsons and a top-10 recruiting class led by Patric Young and Casey Prather and it's no wonder the Gators are confident they have turned the corner with their NCAA bid this season. Florida could be the pick in the SEC.
15. Kentucky: The Wildcats are here because of what I anticipate occurring. We don't know what will happen, but you must expect they'll get a recruiting haul this spring. There are plenty of big-time recruits still available. Expect John Wall, Patrick Patterson, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Daniel Orton to declare for the draft. But the return of Darius Miller and Darnell Dodson, with the addition of a few locks in Stacey Poole and Enes Kanter mean the Wildcats will be in the hunt again.
16. Kansas: Just like Kentucky, you have to give Kansas time to finish its spring recruiting haul. Coach Bill Self has put the pressure on his staff to hit a home run in recruiting. You have to believe the Jayhawks will land at least one of the high-profile remaining players. Cole Aldrich, Sherron Collins and likely Xavier Henry are gone. But Marcus Morris is a stud, and his twin, Markieff Morris, is only getting better. Tyshawn Taylor will be featured more next season, and the role players at Kansas are better than most.
17. Vanderbilt: A.J. Ogilvy hasn't said anything yet that would suggest he's gone. So let's assume he's back in the post, and John Jenkins and Jeffery Taylor are on the wings. Once again, that gives the Commodores a solid set of players that should be in contention for a possible SEC East title and yet another NCAA bid.
18. Gonzaga: The Zags drop just a bit because of the departure of Matt Bouldin. You can't underestimate what Bouldin has meant to this team and program over the past four seasons. But there is still plenty to give the Zags hope for a deep NCAA run. Elias Harris' decision to stay in school -- coupled with the return of Steven Gray, Demetri Goodson and Robert Sacre inside -- means the Zags are poised to be a serious threat once again.
19. North Carolina: We can't dismiss the Tar Heels' issues on the perimeter this past season. Sure, they played well during the NIT to get to the title game against Dayton. John Henson started to show his potential. Larry Drew played with much more confidence. Ed Davis should be back after getting hurt, and the arrival of Harrison Barnes means the Tar Heels add one of the top players in the country. But there's nothing wrong with North Carolina having to earn its hype this season after a floundering winter.
20. New Mexico: The Lobos got exposed a bit in their second-round loss to Washington in the NCAA tournament. Losing senior Roman Martinez won't be easy to deal with, because he was such a glue guy. But the Lobos will likely return Darington Hobson (who might test the draft waters), alongside Dairese Gary, Phillip McDonald and A.J. Hardeman, a star group that should make them the favorite in the Mountain West.
21. Brigham Young: The Cougars should return Jimmer Fredette and his scoring pop that should make BYU a tough out every time it plays. Losing Jonathan Tavernari means the Cougars won't have the complement to Fredette. But don't fret, since the Cougs are still solid at every other position.
22. Ole Miss: The Rebels don't lose a single key player from an NIT final four team. Ole Miss will have a star backcourt in Terrico White and Chris Warren. The only reservation I have with this group is if the Rebels can be counted on to avoid the erratic play in the SEC that has put them on the wrong side of the bubble recently.
23. Texas: The Longhorns have enough talent to be much higher in this poll. But their swoon last season makes it hard to put them much higher. Losing Damion James and Dexter Pittman is a major hit. But the talent hasn't waned with the addition of Tristan Thompson and the likely return of Avery Bradley, Jordan Hamilton, Gary Johnson and healthy point guards Dogus Balbay and Varez Ward.
24. Illinois: The Illini were on the cusp of getting into the NCAAs this season, and with the addition of Jereme Richmond they should have all the pieces in place to be a major factor in the Big Ten race. If Bruce Weber can avoid the same swings this group went through this season -- led by Demetri McCamey, Brandon Paul, D.J. Richardson, Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale -- the Illini shouldn't have an issue getting a bid.
25. Temple: There are three main things going for the Owls to be in the field once again: Fran Dunphy, Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez. Did I say Fran Dunphy? He maximizes talent like no other. The Owls aren't going away.
On the cusp: UNLV, Tennessee, Washington, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, UTEP, Missouri, Louisville, Richmond, San Diego State
Three sleepers:Durand Scott. Miami should be a major force in the league. Saint Louis: The Billikens may not be picked higher than Richmond -- which loses David Gonzalvez but returns Kevin Anderson -- or even Dayton in the A-10 preseason standings, but SLU had no seniors and reached the CBI finals this season before losing to VCU.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.