One writer's top ten: Men's basketball



1. Duke ... The Blue Devils had a good -- not great -- team coming back as they had to replace Mason Plumlee and Seth Curry. However, that good team got a boost from two key newcomers, Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood and freshman phenom Jabari Parker.

2. Kentucky ... On paper, there is no better team than Kentucky. John Calipari again has assembled a ridiculously good recruiting class, and some scouts say there could be as many as eight NBA players on this roster. Championships, however, aren't won on paper, and the Wildcats face the same question they always have: How quickly will the freshmen become a team?

3. Louisville ... The defending national champions lost their emotional and floor leader, point guard Peyton Siva, but Rick Pitino brought in a good recruiting class and the Cardinals should be a Final Four contender again. That's especially true considering the other half of that dynamic backcourt, Russ Smith, is back, and Pitino added a good guard in junior-college transfer Chris Jones.

4. Michigan State ... The Spartans are a different than the other top teams in that they will rely on a lot of returning players, including two key seniors, forwards Adreian Payne and Keith Appling. The question facing the always rough-and-tumble Spartans is this: How will the new rules on fouls and tighter officiating affect the way they play?

5. Arizona ... Sean Miller has the Wildcats rolling. They have a lot of talent returning from a team that won 27 games. But he also added two high impact players -- 6-foot-8 freshman power forward Aaron Gordon (ranked as high as the No. 2 player in the country) and Duquesne transfer and former Chartiers Valley point guard T.J. McConnell.

6. Syracuse ... The Orange played in the Final Four last season and with a good group coming back should be a contender for the ACC title as well as the national title. The key will be senior forward C.J. Fair, who averaged 14.5 ppg last season and was picked as the preseason player of the year in the ACC.

7. Michigan ... John Beilein has changed successfully from a coach who has to rely on funky schemes and trick defenses to make up a talent gap -- that's how he built his career at smaller schools -- to being the coach of an elite program. The Wolverines lost two players to the NBA but still have Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary and are favored to win the Big Ten.

8. Kansas ... The Jayhawks are another team of youngsters. They likely will have three freshmen starting or at least playing key roles. The biggest name among them is Andrew Wiggins, who some regarded as the top prospect in the country coming out of high school.

9. Florida ... The Gators might struggle early because of injuries and three departed starters. But, like a lot of coaches, Billy Donovan has a couple of good newcomers and a good mix of experience, depth and toughness which should mean an excellent team at tournament time.

10. Oklahoma State ... The Cowboys are a darkhorse to get to the Final Four because one of the best players in the country, Marcus Smart, decided to make the NBA wait another year and returned. That alone puts them on the map in the Big 12, and the Cowboys also feature two outstanding forwards in Le'Bryan Nash and Markel Brown. If they can develop any depth, they, not Kansas, could be the team to beat in the Big 12.


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