- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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Florida is the pre-preseason No. 1. No question about it. The Gators are the favorite to win the 2008 national title.
Just look at the roster. The Gators have a senior class of Joakim Noah, Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Taurean Green. They just have to find the perfect 3-point shooter to replace Lee Humphrey and complement this group. The decision could be to go with a different, two-playmaker look and use Walter Hodge at the point and slide Green to shooting guard.
There's a good chance that Marreese Speights can fill Chris Richard's sixth-man role and pick up the necessary layups and dunks off the Horford double-teams.
The addition of Nick Calathes should add some scoring off the bench. And who knows? Top recruits Patrick Patterson and Jai Lucas could be on their way to Florida, too. Any reason the Gators aren't the favorite for a third straight title?
OK, it's time for a wake-up call. If we lived in a world where players didn't leave college early when they are projected first-round picks, Florida fans could start booking their trips to San Antonio. Alas, that isn't the case. The reality is that Horford, Noah, Brewer and possibly Green will all be in the NBA next season. And, if that's the case, with the departure of seniors Humphrey and Richard, the Gators could be back to where they were prior to this remarkable two-year run: outside the top 25. That doesn't mean they won't be in the NCAA Tournament. But it's hard to project the Gators in the top 25 with the expectation that the core of the team is leaving. So, for these purposes, based on what we think will occur (a dangerous proposition in itself), we have to leave the Gators off this list. Of course, if the Gator "04s" decide to return, they'll shoot to the top of the list. As always, we have the right to revisit this list multiple times (and we will).
On with our projections, culled from the non-analysts in our group:
Teams we'll regret not having, but reserve the right to toss in here after we know all the early-entry fallout: Davidson, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Washington, NC State, Miami, Providence, Virginia, Maryland, VCU, Alabama, Butler, BYU, Southern Illinois, Vanderbilt, Connecticut, Georgia, Arkansas, Auburn and LSU.
Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.