1. North Carolina – Coach Roy Williams returns 3 of 5 starters from
a ’06-’07 squad that went 31-7 overall and tied for first in
the ACC (11-5). Sophomore Ty Lawson will run the point and should find a
lot of opportunities to dish to junior PF Tyler Hansbrough. Hansbrough is
coming of a season in which he logged almost 30 minutes per game averaging
18.4 points and 7.9 rebounds becoming a true force in the conference. Sophomore
guard Wayne Ellington (11.7ppg) gives the Tarheels another good option and
positions the team for another tournament run. Many will look at this second
ranked Sagarin squad (93.10) to have a relatively easy time of the regular
season but Duke always looms and a tough conference will test UNC to match
its 60% mark against the spread.
2. UCLA – Injury concerns from the off-season have been answered to
some degree for Ben Howland’s Bruins. Junior guard Darren Collison
did sit the first game, but his knee does not look to be a season long concern.
His contributions (12.7ppg, 5.7 apg) are necessary for the team to come
close to the 30-6 mark posted last year. Along with Collison, three other
starters return from a first place PAC-10 unit. Junior Josh Shipp averaged
13.3 point per contest and looks to be 100% coming off hip surgery this
summer. Incoming freshman PF Kevin Love will look to contribute immediately
and could play a big role for the Bruins. UCLA has a preseason Sagarin rating
of 88.4, good for seventh best and went 15 for 28 ATS in ’06-’07.
3. Memphis – The Tigers were the poster boys for Mid Major legitimacy
last year going 33-4 overall while sporting a perfect 16-0 Conference USA
mark. Coach John Calipari may be the best known name on the team, but all
five starters return and look to repeat the success of their last campaign.
Shooting guard Chris Douglas-Roberts averaged 15.4 points as a sophomore
and senior C Joey Dorsey is a stat sheet filler bringing his 8.5 ppg, 9.4
rpg and 2.2 ppg from last year. Can Memphis continue to play with the “Mid
Major” chip on their shoulder after their recent success? The Tigers
carry a fifth best Sag rating (89.71) and went 14-13-1 ATS last year.
4. Kansas – The Jayhawks are a perennial powerhouse and this year is
no different with 4 key contributors back from the starting lineup including
leading scorer Brandon Rush (13.8ppg). Rush is joined in the backcourt by
senior Russell Robinson and his 4.4 assists per tilt. Bill Self will look
to soph. PF Darrell Arthur (9.8ppg) to ease the loss of Julian Wright and
help the team achieve another first place Big 12 finish (33-5 overall).
Kansas notched a 15 of 29(51%) mark ATS in ’06-’07 and follows
only UNC on this poll in the Sagarin. (91.81)
5. Georgetown – The incumbent first place Big East team (13-3) returns
4 of 5 starters from a squad that won 30 games last year. Senior center
Roy Hibbert delighted Hoya fans with his decision to return to school after
flirting with the NBA. He boasts a junior season that averaged 12.9 points
a game along with 6.9 boards and 2.4 blocks per. Familiar names abound in
Georgetown with Coach John Thompson III trying to guide Patrick Ewing Jr.
through the expectations that come with his name. Senior guard Jonathon
Wallace will run the point and chipped in 11.4ppg along with his 3.1 assists.
The Hoyas had a poll best 68% win rate against the spread and are the sixth
rated Sag team at 89.07.
6. Louisville - The Cardinals welcome back 4 starters from a ’06-’07 squad
that tallied a 24-10 overall record and finished T-2 in the Big East (12-4).
Rick Pitino will lean on junior SF Terrance Williams and his 12.4 ppg and
7 rpg average to pace this 16th ranked Sagarin team (86.79). PG Edgar Sosa
lends in with 11.4ppg along with 2.6 dimes and SG Jerry Smith will look
to lead the conference again in three point shooting. For ’06-’07 Louisville
went 15-9-2 against the number.
7. Tennessee - Bruce Pearl may be looked at like a JV coach as long as Pat
Summitt is around, but the Volunteers’ look to play junior to few this year.
SEC player of the year Chris Lofton brings his 20.8ppg and 3.1rpg into his
senior year looking to better the Vol’s 24-11 overall mark and T-2 conference
finish (10-6). Fellow senior JaJuan Smith is another 30 minute man averaging
15.2 ppg and Iowa transfer PF Tyler Smith gained immediate eligibility and
is coming off a strong Big Ten season. Sagarin likes Tennessee 23rd at 86.14
and the Pearl’s squad was 51% ATS.
8. Michigan State - The Spartans were given an exhibition black eye by Grand
Valley State, but Tom Izzo looks to regroup and claim the seemingly vacant
Big Ten Crown. Coming off a 23-12 overall record and only managing a .500
in the conference last season, Sparty look to improve by returning all 5
starters, led by senior Drew Neitzel and his 18.1ppg. SF Raymar Morgan is
a solid contributor and junior Goran Suton is a super sixth man. Mich. St
sported a solid 61% mark against the spread and carries a 86.73 in the Sagarin
rank, good for 19th.
9. Indiana - Indiana is the other obvious suitor for the Big Ten title and
the buzz around incoming freshman Eric Gordon has the Hoosier faithful thinking
possibly more. Indiana is coming off a ’06-’07 that had them 21-11 and 3rd
in the conference at 10-6. If you like initials, seniors D.J. White and
A.J. Ratliff will provide leadership and experience and Coach Kelvin Sampson
has JUCO Player of the Year JaMarcus Ellis to look to as well. Indiana is
a top 25 in the Sag as well at 85.38 and went 12 of 26 ATS.
10. Washington St. - The Tigers tied a school record for wins in a season,
26, and notched it’s first tournament win in 24 years in the ’06-’07 campaign.
Tony Bennett has 4 of his starting 5 back and looks to contend for the PAC
10 title after tallying a 13-5 conference mark, good for second. He will
have plenty of senior leadership with the back court of Kyle Weaver (11.2ppg,
5.6rpg, 4.6 apg) and Derrick Low (13.7ppg) both of whom logged 30 plus minutes
last year. Another senior, PF Robbie Cowgill, is solid and started all 34
games a year ago. The Tigers find themselves Sagarin ranked lower among
this poll at 81.88 (59th overall) and went at 53% against the line.
11. Marquette - After a first round exit last year and 10-6 mark in the
conference, the Golden Eagles look ready to improve on both this year as
they return all 5 starters from the 24-10 ’06-’07 unit. Tom Crean gets back
junior PG Dominic James after some thoughts of entering the NBA draft. Averaging
4.9 assists, a more consistent shooting year will up his 14.9ppg average.
Juniors Jerel McNeal and Wes Matthews both played 30 minutes averaging a
combined 27.3ppg, 10.1rbg, and 6apg. The pollsters like Marquette better
than Sagarin, where they are 46th (83.11), and they went 12-11-1 against
12. Oregon - Ernie Kent’s Ducks went 29-8 overall and were a T-3rd in the
PAC 10 at 11-7. 4 regular starters are back for ’07-’08 with PG TaJuan Porter
coming off a 14.6ppg season that saw him set a conference record with 110
3pt FG’s made. SG’s Bryce Taylor and Malik Hairston look to provide leadership
while PF Maarty Leunen provides the versatility Oregon seeks to employ their
preferred style. A 84.94 Sagarin has the Ducks 29th and they are coming
off a 46% mark ATS.
13. Duke - Coach Krzyzewski has been accustomed to a higher rank than this
in the past, but the Blue Devils are coming off a season that saw 4 freshman
start as they went .500 in the ACC. 4 starters are back from a 22 overall
win season and Sagarin gives the Dukies love at 4th overall (90.52) Duke
will look to return to former glory with key contributors Greg Paulus and
DeMarcus Nelson providing solid stat lines, look for freshman forwards Kyle
Singler and Taylor King to impress early. The Devils beat the number 51%
of the time last year.
14. Gonzaga - A trendy underdog in years past, Gonzaga has year long expectations
again after landing the West Coast Conference title at 11-3. Mark Few’s
Bulldogs have 3 starters back including Josh Heytvelt. The junior is back
in good graces after a suspension stemming from a second half arrest last
year. He will be counted on along with PG Jeremy Pargo (12.1ppg, 4.6apg)
and soph. guard Matt Bouldin (8.9ppg, 3.6rpg). The Zag’s check in at 30th
in the Sagarin (84.85) and went 15-14-1 ATS.
15. Texas - Life without Kevin Durant could prove difficult, but Coach Rick
Barnes has the other 4 starters back from a Longhorn squad that posted a
25-10 overall mark, while going 12-4(3rd) in the Big 12. D.J Augustin returns
14.4ppg and 6.7apg to the point along with backcourt mate A.J. Abrams and
his 15.5ppg. Sophomore Justin Mason is a lock down perimeter defender and
will see significant time when Barnes goes with three guards. The Sag has
Texas at 13th overall (87.77) and the Longhorns were a 48% team against
16. Texas A&M - Mark Turgeon’s Aggies have 3 returning starters from
a 27-7 squad that posted a 2nd place Big 12 finish at 13-3. Senior F Joseph
Jones is a slick post passer and drops 13.4ppg while grabbing 6.8 rebounds
per. Guard Dominique Kirk provides good perimeter defense and junior swingman
Josh Carter nails 50% of his 3’s en route to averaging 11.8ppg. The Aggies
won at a 64% clip over the number and are a preseason 18th in the Sagarin
17. Arizona - The Wildcats may be a little shorthanded coming off a ’06-’07
that saw them T-3rd(11-7) in the PAC 10 and 20-11 overall. Lute Olsen has
two incumbent starters but has exciting freshman PG Jerryd Bayless to help
with that. He averaged 33.2ppg as a prep and will fit in with senior SG
Jawann McClellan (9.6ppg, 3.6rpg) in the backcourt. SF Chase Budinger averaged
15.6 points along with 5.8 boards and 2 assists per contest. The 14th ranked
Sag squad (87.29) beat the line 48% of the time.
18. USC - While other teams struggled in exhibition, the Trojans got stunned
by Mercer in one that counts. This year could wind up being the O.J. Mayo
show as the W. Virginia freshman comes to So. Cal. as arguably the #1 recruit
in the land. Another hyped frosh, PF Davon Jefferson will look to contribute
alongside C Taj Gibson (12.2ppg, 8.7rpg). Coach Tim Floyd may only have
2 starters back from a 25-12, 11-7(T-3rd) season, but the buzz is heavy
for this team. USC is 49th in the Sagarin (82.69) and managed 66% ATS last
19. Arkansas - The Razorbacks have 5 returning starters from 21 win ’06-’07
overall run. Their 7-9 SEC mark was good enough for 3rd and the balanced
squad will look to improve that finish. Coach John Pelphrey will count on
senior SF Sonny Weems (11.8ppg, 4.8rpg, 2apg) and PG Gary Ervin (9.9ppg,
4.8apg) for leadership and look to sophomore Patrick Beverly to continue
his overall good play. 84.15 in the Sag has Arkansas indexed 36th and they
come off a 11-11-2 season ATS.
20. Kentucky - The Billy Gillespie era is off to an unexpected start as
the Wildcats were upset by Gardner-Webb. Kentucky is coming off a 9-7(4th)
SEC schedule and a 22-12 overall mark. Gillespie did convince freshman PF
Patrick Patterson to stay committed to Kentucky and he will look produce
alongside 3 returning starters. Senior guards Ramel Bradley and Joe Crawford
combine for 27ppg and have the lion share of the backcourt minutes. The
Wildcats are the tenth ranked Sagarin crew at 88.08 and were 13 of 28 against
21. N.C. State - Coach Sidney Lowe has 4 of 5 starters back from the Wolfpack
that went 20-16 as they struggled to a T-10(5-11) in the ACC. Lowe will
look for continued development from junior SG Courtney Fells who averaged
10.9ppg and 3.8 rebounds in 33 minutes. Senior SF Gavin Grant is another
who will log big minutes (36mpg last year) and be counted on to fill the
stat sheet. PF Brandon Costner looks to add presence in the front court.
Sagarin rated at 83.36 is good for 44th and State went 10-14 ATS last season.
22 Pittsburgh - The Panthers return only 2 starters from a T-2nd(12-4) Big
East and 28-9 overall team. Jamie Dixon does have PG Levance Fields (9.2ppg,
4.6apg) and senior G Ronald Ramon(8.8ppg) Incoming freshman G Bradley Wanamaker
will look to step in and have immediate impact as Pitt tries to keep pace
with Georgetown. The preseason 9th ranked Sagarin group(88.19) was 50-50
against the spread.
23. Stanford - The Cardinal will look to improve from an ’06-’07 that had
them at 18-13 and sixth in the PAC 10 at 10-8. Coach Trent Johnson has the
luxury of 5 returning starters, with juniors Anthony Goods(12.8ppg) and
Lawrence Hill(15.7ppg) providing good scoring pop. The brothers Lopez troll
the frontcourt and add a combined 20.1ppg along with 11.5 boards and 4.1
blocks. A little softer in the Sag at 82.48(51st), Stanford handled the
line last year going 17-10-1.
24. Southern Illinois - The 3rd and final Mid Major in the top-25, the Salukis
are fresh off a 29 win season and a Missouri Valley Conference title(15-3).
3 starters return to Coach Chris Lowery’s ’07-’08 team. Senior F’s Randal
Falker (12.3ppg, 7.7rpg) and Matt Shaw (11.3ppg, 5.7rpg) will have to provide
quality leadership to match last year’s success. Junior PG Bryan Mullins
(6.3ppg, 3.6apg) will look to be steady at the point. So. Illinois is at
85.17 in the Sagarin(28th) and had a 15-12-2 season ATS.
25. Kansas St. - Frank Martin may only return 2 starters from the 23-12
overall, fourth place (10-6) Big 12 school, but that may not matter with
McDonald’s All American freshman Michael Beasley on the roster. Beasley
may be this year’s Kevin Durant and will look to add immediate punch alongside
senior F David Hoskins (14.5ppg). Senior G Clent Stewart will chip in on
this 61st ranked Sagarin lineup(81.41). The Wildcats posted a 68% clip versus
the number last year.