CHN Preseason Top 50: 2nd Edition

    
June 23rd, 2007

Now that players have finalized their NBA plans.. its time to take another shot at the offseason Top 50. My last attempt was April 9th, and besides the Draft decisions, there were also a few coaching changes and player defections that change things as well.

I've left the original comments from April intact but added notes on changes since then in parentheses.

1. UCLA - Back to back Final Four trips could yield championship if Afflalo returns. (Was 1. Afflalo decided to roll the dice and enter the draft. No matter.. With Kevin Love at the 5 and Shipp in Afflalo's place, Bruins are the country's best-crafted starting five.)

2. North Carolina - This assumes Wright is gone but Hansbrough returns. This team is still loaded regardless. (Was 3. Wright did end up leaving.. but as I said in April, this team's loaded.)

3. Memphis - Even without Derrick Rose, Calipari's squad is primed for a Final Four run. (Was 4. Nothing new on the Tigers front.. and that's a good thing.)

4. Kansas - Even if one of Rush or Wright go pro, this is a top 5 team.. but there's a good chance they wont win it all. (Was 2. Wright decided to go pro while Rush returns.. whether or not he's 100% is the question.)

5. Tennessee - If Lofton returns, the Vols lone flaw is lacking a dominant defensive center. (Was 6. Not only is Lofton back.. but stud Iowa transfer Tyler Smith is eligible to play this season.)

6. Louisville - With continued improvement from Derrick Caracter, there's no limit to the Cards success. (Was 5. Same story here.)

7. Texas - Even without Durant, the Longhorns are in good hands with stud point guard DJ Augustin. (Was 9. This seems like a risky pick.. but Horns are still stacked with youthful talent.)

8. Michigan State - Last year Neitzel became a star, next year Raymar Morgan becomes one. (Was 10. Only news here is that Maurice Joseph left for Vermont.. no biggy..)

9. Duke - McRoberts was never a go to player anyways, the Blue Devils are primed for a major bounce back. (Was 11. Still not worried about McRoberts.. this year's crop of freshmen will pick up the slack.)

10. Marquette - No major losses here. The only thing holding the Eagles back is James' shooting %. (Was 12. Same story here as James smartly skipped out on the Draft).

11. Alabama - Maybe they'll make me look bad again, but a healthy Steele would make all the difference. (Was 14. Nothing new on the Tide front.)

12. Indiana - Some have this team higher, but the Hoosiers won't be that much better than last year. (Was 19. Still not a huge fan.. but Gordon's the real deal, and there's a big drop off in my mind after Top 10).

13. USC - If Nick Young leaves, the Trojans would drop some, but Tim Floyd is stockpiling athletes. (Was 8. Not only did Young go pro.. but Pruitt did as well. Still newcomers OJ Mayo and Davon Jefferson will pick up the slack.)

14. Washington State - I don't love this team by any means, but no big losses from a 26 win squad. (Was 15. Felt obligated to keep the Cougars in the top 15.)

15. Arkansas - Whoever gets this job walks into an automatic NCAA Tournament bid. (Was 13. Charles Thomas getting arrested didnt help the cause.. but John Pelphrey is a fine head coach.)

16. Georgetown - I'm still feeling both Hibbert and Green will go.. with one back, things obviously change. (Was 32. Was wrong about Hibbert.. he's back. Still, not as geeked up about Hoyas as some of their fans.)

17. Clemson - This team should finally break out like Oregon did last year. (Was 17. Tigers have to eventually make the tourney.. right?)

18. Stanford - Cardinal had no business being in tourney, but are legit Sweet 16 team in 08. (Was 20. Nothing new here.. just an all-business squad.)

19. Kansas State - Walker's the real deal, but this depends on Beasley ending up in Manhattan or not. (Was 22. Beasley's staying.. but can Frank Martin coach? We'll find out.)

20. Mississippi State - I love Jamont Gordon's game. Key might be better play from Varnado. (Was 23. Nothing new for Bulldogs except they seem to be getting more media attention.)

21. West Virginia - Huggins' style is different from Beilein's, but he'll find a way to win as always. (Was 20. In Huggins I trust.. at least when it comes to winning games.)

22. Ohio State - Without Oden, unheralded reserves like Hunter and Lighty will emerge as big time players. (Was 7. Didn't see Cook & Conley going too.. but don't sleep on the Buckeyes.)

23. Gonzaga - Raivio was never a big game player anyways, the return of Heytvelt has this team back in polls. (Was 24. Once again, the class of the Northwest.)

24. UCONN - Young Huskies flopped, but Calhoun won't let that happen again.. right? (Was 26. My April comment summed it up.)

25. Kentucky - Loss of Morris stings, but Gillispie is proving to be a coaching magician. (Was 29. Addition of Patrick Patterson fills major gap in UK's lineup.)

26. Pittsburgh - Loss of Gray alone can be offset, but Graves and Kendall were also major contributors. (Was 25.)

27. Butler - With Graves and Green back, Bulldogs will be good again.. but they're due for some bad luck. (Was 27.)

28. Oregon - Loss of Brooks shouldn't be understated, and Ducks are only a year removed from mediocrity. (Was 28.)

29. Notre Dame - Irish lose two top scorers, but the inside play of Kurz and Harangody is best in Big East. (Was 18. While everyone else sleeps on Notre Dame.. dont be surprised at their success.)

30. Washington - Too bad Hawes is gone, this could have been a top 15 team. (Was 30.)

31. Syracuse - Lack of bigs hurt, but emergence of Rautins gives Cuse a nice 3-guard rotation. (Was 39. Flynn & Green will make fans forget about lost seniors.)

32. NC State - Late run was exciting, but still.. they only won 5 conference games last year. (Was 33. Still not on Wolfpack bandwagon like most others.)

33. Xavier - With Burrell and Lavender back, still the top team top to bottom in the A10. (Was 35.)

34. Southern Illinois - Some have Salukis Top 25, but like Brooks above, loss of Tatum is big deal. (Was 34.)

35. New Mexico State - Fringe tournament team returns 5 of 6 top scorers. (Was 36. Loss of Theus to NBA will hurt long term.. but they'll be fine this year.)

36. Arizona - Some feel Wildcats are Top 20.. but the freshman cant offset Shakur, Williams, and Radenovic. (NR.)

37. Maryland - Terps will be young, but look for big year from improving Osby. (Was 37.)

38. Georgia Tech - Forget Young, Crittenton might score 20 a game and they have all the pieces. (Was 16. Didn't think Javaris would leave.. but Tech could still make big dance.)

39. Davidson - Its hard not to jump on the Stephen Curry bandwagon. (Was 40.)

40. Villanova - The Coreys come to the rescue to offset Sumpter & Nardi losses (NR.)

Next 10: BYU, Florida, Georgia, George Mason, Illinois, Missouri*, Providence, Texas A&M, Wichita State, Wisconsin

Dropped From Top 40: DePaul (Wilson Chandler goes pro), Nevada (Sessions goes pro), Oklahoma State (Curry goes pro)

* Edit: I realized the morning after this article went online that I did not take into account Wilson Chandler's departure in keeping DePaul in the Top 50. Missouri was my next in line, and they are now squeezed onto the list instead.