Early 2012-13 Ranking: A Look Ahead
Although the Sweet Sixteen looms later this week, its still time to start looking ahead to the 2012-13 season. Sure, the usual assortment of stars like Anthony Davis, Thomas Robinson, and Jared Sullinger will be heading to the NBA, there's still a ton of talent returning next year. Especially in the non-BCS ranks, many of this year's top teams were led by juniors and sophomores.
I've had to make many assumptions about the NBA Draft in compiling the following list. Once players make their official decisions, this ranking will be updated later in the summer. Also uncertain is where some remaining unsigned recruits will end up. In particular, Shabazz Muhammad (#1 by Rivals.com), Anthony Bennett (#7), Devonta Pollard (#9), and Nerlens Noel (#3 in 2013) remain up for grabs. I purposely made no assumptions about where unsigned prospects will end up.
Early Top 15
Miles Plumlee is the only senior on the roster, and although Austin
Rivers could certainly go pro, his season didn't warrant a top 10 selection.
The addition of guard Rasheed Sulaimon, ranked 32nd by Rivals helps overcome a
potential Rivers loss. This will be revisited if Rivers (and to a lesser
extent Mason Plumlee) do in fact enter the Draft.
2 Indiana Assuming Zeller doesn't go pro, the top 5 scorers return from a Sweet Sixteen team. Add a loaded class that includes Rivals #16 Hanner Parea, #17 Kevin "Yogi" Ferrell, and #48 Jeremy Hollowell, and you got yourself a title contender.
3 Michigan Rivals #3 Mitch McGary joins a squad that was already Top-20 caliber this year. Glenn Robinson III, 34th ranked, is another solid prospect that can offset the loss of senior Steve Novak. If Trey Burke were to go pro, this ranking would certainly change.
4 Baylor Perry Jones is as good as gone, and Quincy Miller could be tempted to bolt as well. But the cupboard isn't bare with the likes of Jackson and Heslip returning. Scott Drew also adds future pro Isaiah Austin along with 2 other 4-star recruits.
5 North Carolina Zeller graduates after a fine career, and Harrison Barnes, John Henson, and Kendall Marshall are likely to bolt for the pros. But players like Bullock, Hairston, and McAdoo are ready to step out of the shadows. #40 prospect Marcus Paige and #49 Brice Johnson are solid additions, but UNC could use one more superstar recruit.
6 Wisconsin While senior Jordan Taylor had a disappointing season according to some, he was still the main cog in the Badgers wheel. However, the other key players from this Sweet Sixteen team return, and will be joined by Sam Dekker, Wisconsin's first 5-star recruit since Joe Krabbenhoft in 2005.
7 Louisville Although Kyle Kuric and Chris Smith graduate, expect more of the same from Louisville next year: a starless team that wins by defense. PG Terry Rozier is the only recruit locked up right now.
8 Syracuse While Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine are major losses, Syracuse's 2012-13 hopes rest on offseason Draft decisions. Dion Waiters could go pro and Fab Melo is as good as gone. There's still talent remaining on the roster and the addition of #27 prospect DaJuan Coleman will help as well.
9 NC State Mark Gottfried inherited a talented roster, and did the best of it with a surprise Sweet Sixteen run. CJ Williams is a senior and CJ Leslie could decide to turn pro, but the rest of the roster returns intact. Even if Leslie leaves, NC State re-loads with 6th ranked prospect Rodney Purvis, #23 TJ Warren and #55 Tyler Lewis. Expectations will be higher than they've been in years.
10 Kentucky Kentucky's roster will most likely be decimated as Anthony Davis and Terrence Jones will undoubtedly leave, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is 70% gone (even if he says he's staying), and Doron Lamb and Marquis Teague are certainly First Round worthy. Plus Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas are seniors. Archie Goodwin, Alex Poythress, and Willie Cauley are all Top 40 prospects, but not as good as the guys they're replacing.
11 Creighton While Antoine Young is a major loss, the return of Doug McDermott gives Creighton one of the country's top handful of players. Along with 3 other returning starters, Creighton will be the class of the MVC.
12 Ohio St Jared Sullinger will presumably leave after his sophomore season, and William Buford is a senior. The x-factor is Deshaun Thomas. He played well enough down the stretch to warrant going pro, but he could certainly return as well. OSU does not have any reinforcement on the way as of now.
13 San Diego St The Aztecs were a surprise team this year, thanks to emerging stars Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley. Besides their return, the squad also welcomes a solid recruiting class, including 40th ranked Winston Shepard.
14 Kansas Tyshawn Taylor is the major senior loss, and Thomas Robinson will probably declare for the Draft. Its also conceivable that Jeff Withey declares for the pros as well. This would leave only 2 players that averaged over 5 ppg. Perry Ellis will be expected to come in and contribute from day one.
15 Michigan St Besides losing their leading everything in senior Draymond Green, Brandon Wood and Austin Thompson also graduate. Next year's freshmen class is similar in talent to this year's that produced Dawsen and Trice.
Teams 16 to 30: Kansas St, Memphis, Texas, and more.. Check back next week for teams 31 to 60.