2009 College Basketball Season Preview – Top 25 NCAA Basketball Teams

2009-2010 College Basketball Season Preview
by Ryno of Predictem.com

Listed below, you’ll find a 2009-2010 college basketball season
preview
for the top 25 NCAA basketball teams. Please also be sure
to check out our expanded team previews on our college basketball main page
as well! (One team will be posted each day for the following 20 days or
so).

1. Kansas Jayhawks - The Jayhawks won the national championship in 2008 and lost all but one of their key players from that team. It only took one year for them to reload and become the favorites to win the 2010 national championship. This team is loaded with talent, including experience and youth. Cole Aldrich, a 6-foot-11 junior center, is perhaps the best big man in college basketball and is basically an automatic double-double. Sherron Collins, the one key player who remains from the 2008 team (although he did not play in the Final Four), is a calm, cool and collected point guard. The 5-foot-10 senior can run the offense or take on the scoring load himself. Tyshawn Taylor emerged last season as a future star for the Jayhawks. Alongside Collins and Taylor in the backcourt is freshman McDonald’s All-American Xavier Henry, a 6-foot-6 lefty with an NBA body. Center Jeff Withey, who transferred from Arizona, is a promising talent who can back up Aldrich or play with him. This team has the starting lineup, the depth and the coaching (Bill Self) to coast to the Final Four.

2. Kentucky Wildcats - There’s no doubt Kentucky has some of the best talent in college basketball, but most of it is new talent. After the Billie Gillespie experiment didn’t go so well, the Wildcats hired former Memphis coach John Calipari to take over. And as soon as Calipari got the job, the consensus top two recruits followed him to Lexington. John Wall, a 6-foot-4 point guard regarded as the No. 1 recruit in the country, is an electric point guard with unprecedented athleticism for that position. Wall is exceptionally quick with the ball, making him almost impossible to guard, and he can dunk over anyone. Kentucky fans will have fun watching this guy play for one year before he moves on to the NBA. Demarcus Cousins is a 6-foot-10 power forward rated as the No. 2 recruit. He can dominate inside or step out and hit mid-range jumpers. The combination of Cousins and returning 6-foot-8 junior power forward Patrick Patterson will form one of the best inside duos in the country. Patterson passed up on the NBA Draft to return to school. It could be a slow start for the Wildcats as Calipari tries to mesh all of the talent together, but once they get rolling they have high expectations.

3. Texas Longhorns - Kansas isn’t the only elite team in the Big 12. Texas will be right there on the Jayhwaks’ tail all season long. Damion James, a 6-foot-7 forward, had an opportunity to be a first round pick in the NBA Draft but he came back to campus. Down low, 6-foot-10 bulky center Dexter Pittman has the ability to push opposing players around. Joining the mix are two elite freshmen - Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton. Bradley, a top five recruit, is a combo guard who can take over a game on offense. He can make plays for others or penetrate into the lane and score almost at will. Hamilton is a lengthy, athletic small forward with the potential to be a star but he has to develop his game. Jai Lucas is also new to this team, but he has experience after transferring from Florida. The small, quick point guard will give the Longhorns a steady option running the show. Dogus Balbay and Justin Mason are solid role players, but the Longhorns have certainly upgraded their backcourt.

4. Villanova Wildcats - The theme among the top four seems to be experience combined with newcomers, and it’s no different with Villanova. Scottie Reynolds is one of the top returning point guards in the country, and his backcourt mate Corey Fisher can run the point or score some points as well. Jay Wright has an exciting recruiting class with Mouph Yarou, Maalik Wayns, Dominic Cheek and Isaiah Armwood. Yarou gives the Wildcats the inside presence they’ve been lacking, and don’t forget about redshirt freshman Maurice Sutton, who is a promising young big man as well. Wayns is similar to Reynolds and Fisher in that he can run the point or light it up from outside the arc. Cheek is an athletic 6-foot-5 guard with a scorer’s mentality. He can certainly fill it up from the perimeter or he can drive to the basket and finish with authority. Armwood, a 6-foot-7 forward, is a pure athlete who will crash the offensive boards and try to get easy buckets. And then there’s Taylor King, the 6-foot-7 forward who transferred from Duke. King gives Wright an extra body in the frontcourt, but his best asset is his silky smooth 3-point shot. Wright will likely go with a four-guard attack and his players will just penetrate and kick until they find an open player beyond the arc. Reynolds, Fisher, Cheek, Wayns, King, Corey Stokes and Reggie Redding (ineligible for the first semester) can all light it up from 3-point range.

5. Michigan State Spartans - The Spartans surprised many by going all the way to the national championship game before losing to North Carolina. Now, Michigan State brings back almost its entire roster as it attempts to get back to the Final Four. This defensive-minded team is led by point guard Kalin Lucas, a quick 6-foot-1 playmaker who won Big Ten Player of the Year last season. Lucas has a deep cast of role players, but the key to MSU’s success this season is perhaps Raymar Morgan. The 6-foot-7 forward was out for much of last season with a sickness, but he should be 100 percent this year. Morgan is strong enough to back down just about any opposing wing player, but he can use his quickness to get by any big man. Delvon Roe was a highly regarded recruit two years ago, but he struggled as a freshman last season because he was coming off a knee injury. If he is back to what he used to be, he will make the Spartans even that much more dangerous.

6. North Carolina Tar Heels - The defending champs lost a lot of talent, as Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Danny Green are all gone. The next star in Chapel Hill is Ed Davis, a 6-foot-9 athletic power forward with the potential to be a top three pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. The combination of Davis and Deon Thompson can compete with any big man duo in the country. The return of Marcus Ginyard, a 6-foot-5 wing who can lock down any team’s best player on defense, will be a huge boost. John Henson and Dexter Strickland are two freshmen who will help the Tar Heels immediately. Henson is similar to Davis - he is a 6-foot-9 forward with incredible athletic ability and the potential to be a star, but he has to get stronger and continue to improve his game. Strickland is a 6-foot-3 point guard who can also play off the ball and has a very nice outside jumper.

7. Duke Blue Devils - The Tar Heels get the slight boost over the Blue Devils because they’re the defending champs, but Duke returns better talent. Kyle Singler is one of the top returning players in college basketball. The 6-foot-8 forward is tougher than he looks. He can outwork bigger players inside or he can step out and knock down 3-pointers all day. Not only is Singler an exceptional talent, but his attitude and leadership gives the Blue Devils that extra edge. Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith return in the backcourt. Both players can play point guard or play off the other. Scheyer has more of a scorer’s mentality, while Smith has more of a defensive mindset. The frontcourt is always the issue for Duke and it may still be the issue, but Coach K at least brought in a couple extra bodies to help out Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek. Mason Plumlee is an athletic freshman who is very active inside. His shooting ability is not very good, but if he stays near the rim he will be an asset. Ryan Kelly is 6-foot-9, so he does give Duke some more size, but he likes to stay outside the arc and shoot jumpers. Another freshman, 6-foot-3 guard Andre Dawkins, graduated high school early and should be eligible to play for the Blue Devils.

8. Washington Huskies - Isaiah Thomas was one of the top point guards in the Pac-10 as a freshman last season, but now he will be joined by perhaps an even better point guard. Thomas is a 5-foot-8 penetrating guard with the quickness to get into the lane at will. Joining him is Abdul Gaddy, the No. 2 point guard recruit in the country behind Kentucky’s John Wall. Gaddy is a pure point guard with the size to see over defenders. He needs to improve his jumper, but Gaddy will be ready to run the offense from the get-go. Venoy Overton, Quincy Pondexter and Matthew Bryan-Amaning were all key players last season as the Huskies won the Pac-10 regular season champs. If those three players improve and contribute even more this season, the Huskies have a great chance of winning the Pac 10.

9. Purdue Boilermakers - Matt Painter has turned Purdue into a perennial contender, but the Boilermakers are yet to prove their worth in the NCAA tournament. For the third straight year, Purdue should be one of the top teams in the Big Ten. The Boilermakers aren’t particularly deep, but they are experienced and solid at every position. JaJuan Johnson gives them size and stability down low. Robbie Hummel, if he can stay healthy, is a versatile 6-foot-8 forward who can score from anywhere on the court. In the backcourt, E’Twaun Moore is one of the top guards in the Big Ten but don’t forget about Keaton Grant, Lewis Jackson and Chris Kramer. Jackson, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, will run the point for the Boilermakers, while Kramer serves as the defensive stopper and Grant will be the team’s sixth man.

10. Tennessee Volunteers - The decision by Tyler Smith to postpone his NBA dreams and come back to Tennessee makes the Volunteers one of the top teams in the SEC. The Vols were inconsistent last season, but they return a strong roster, led by Smith, a 6-foot-7 small forward, and versatile big man Wayne Chism. Bobby Maze did a nice job running the point for the Vols last season and will provide the team with a solid senior floor leader. Scotty Hopson has the potential to be a star, but he didn’t fully develop as a freshman. The 6-foot-7 wing is very athletic and has a sweet rainbow jumper. He is perhaps the wild card for this team. If Hopson makes the leap and becomes a star, Tennessee could be a Final Four team, but without him other players will have to step up. Channing Tatum and Josh Tabb are two players who stepped up at times last season. Both players can really shoot from outside, and if the two of them can do so on a consistent basis it will give the Vols an offensive boost.

11. West Virginia Mountaineers - After Villanova, the Big East is wide open this season and West Virginia has as much talent as any team in the conference. Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks lead a long, athletic team with a tough mentality. Because of the long arms of 6-foot-7 Butler, 6-foot-9 Ebanks, 6-foot-8 Kevin Jones and 6-foot-9 John Flowers, it’s tough to get the ball down low against this team. The Mountaineers will pound the boards and fight hard on defense. Darryl Bryant and Joe Mazzulla can both run the point. Mazzulla was injured last season and Bryant took over as a freshman. Bryant is more of a scoring point guard, but he will likely be the starter and Mazzulla will likely come in off the bench.

12. Butler Bulldogs - After losing nearly all of its key players going into last season, Butler looked like it hadn’t lost anybody. They proved all season long to be a top 25 team and now everybody is back. There is no limit to how good this mid-major can be. Gordon Hayward, Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack could be as strong of a returning trio as there is in college basketball. Howard is a hard-working big man and the heart and soul of this team. Hayward and Mack stood out as freshmen last season and led the U-19 Team USA team to a gold medal over the summer. Hayward is a string bean 6-foot-9 forward with the versatility to play any position. He can use his size to score inside but he is served best playing like a guard. With his exceptional jumper and ball-handling skills, he can best be compared to Duke’s Kyle Singler. Mack is a strong point guard with the ability to get to the rim and score or just run the team’s offense.

13. California Golden Bears - There is no doubt that California has the talent to warrant this ranking, but the Golden Bears didn’t always prove it last season - especially after their disappointing lost to Maryland in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Mike Montgomery quickly turned this team into one of the top teams in the Pac-10. Jerome Randle is the returning leading scorer in the conference. The 5-foot-10 scoring point guard can use his quickness to throw up his floater in the lane or he can light it up from the perimeter. Speaking of lighting it up from the perimeter, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson can do the same. Robertson was shooting over 60 percent from 3-point land at one point in the middle of last season, while the 6-foot-5 Christopher has an NBA body and NBA skills. He passed on the NBA to return to Cal for one last chance at making a run in the NCAA tournament.

14. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets - The Yellow Jackets won just two games in the ACC last season, but the return of almost every key player and the addition of McDonald’s All-American Derrick Favors and an incredible recruiting class makes Georgia Tech an instant top 25 team. Favors is a 6-foot-10, 270-pound power forward with the size and skills to dominate around the rim. Favors will have the benefit of playing alongside Gani Lawal, a 6-foot-9 junior who had 15 double-doubles last season and led the ACC in rebounding. Iman Shumpert is a 6-foot-5 point guard who came along slowly as a freshman but is ready to break out as a sophomore with all of the added talent around him. Favors isn’t the only freshman who will have an impact this season - Mfon Udofia, Kammeon Holsey, Glen Rice Jr., Brian Oliver and Daniel Miller will all factor into the rotation as well.

15. Connecticut Huskies - The Huskies lost some serious talent with the departure of Hasheem Thabeet, A.J. Price and Jeff Adrien, but they have enough left over to make a run at the top of the Big East. With Price gone, Kemba Walker will step in at point guard and show his quickness and play-making ability. Jerome Dyson was injured for much of last season, but he is back and will be the star for the Huskies. The 6-foot-3 guard is super athletic and has a scorer’s mentality. Stanley Robinson has always had the potential to be a star, but the 6-foot-9 forward has never stepped up and proved his full worth. Newcomers Ater Majok, Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel will all be expected to play a lot of minutes right away.

16. Mississippi State Bulldogs - Mississippi State surprised many SEC fans and won the conference tournament to reach the NCAA tournament. With that momentum, the return of star big man Jarvis Varnado, and two rather interesting additions in the frontcourt, the Bulldogs have a chance to be special this year. Varnado is a 6-foot-9 Ben Wallace-type player with the ability to absolutely dominate on the defensive end and block any shot. John Riek, a 7-foot-2 center, had a lot of hype a couple years ago but he hasn’t yet stepped foot on the court in a college basketball game. He even tried to make the NBA, but that didn’t work either. Now, assuming he becomes eligible, he will play for Mississippi State. But nobody really knows how effective he will be. Renardo Sidney is another player who has had trouble proving he will be eligible, but there is no doubt that he has elite talent. The 6-foot-9 power forward was a McDonald’s All-American, and can use his bulky frame to dominate down low or he can step out and hit jumpers.

17. Oklahoma Sooners - Blake Griffin is now in the NBA, but Jeff Capel has turned the Sooners into a perennial top 25 team. Willie Warren is the new star at Oklahoma. The 6-foot-3 combo guard is an incredible outside shooter, but he can also use his strength to get to the basket and finish above the rim. The addition of freshman Tommy Mason-Griffin will allow Warren to play off the ball primarily, as Mason-Griffin is one of the top point guard recruits in the country. Another freshman who will have a huge impact immediately will be Keith Gallon, a 6-foot-9 powerful big man who likes to step out and play like a guard at times.

18. Clemson Tigers - K.C. Rivers graduated and Terrence Oglesby
shockingly announced in the offseason that he was leaving the team to play
professionally in Europe, but this team still has a lot of talent. Trevor
Booker
, a 6-foot-7 powerful power forward, is undersized against most
opposing big men but he is so physical that he can have his way against
most players. Joining Booker in the frontcourt is Milton Jennings,
a McDonald’s All-American who seems to be a Shane Battier clone. . The 6-foot-9
forward can score inside or outside, but most importantly he is a team player
and a leader.

19. Minnesota Golden Gophers - Last season, Tubby Smith turned Minnesota into a top 25 team. Now, he will try to keep the Golden Gophers in the top 25 and make a run at a Big Ten title. Al Nolen and Lawrence Westbrook give Minnesota experience in the backcourt. Damian Johnson can score some points, but the 6-foot-7 small forward is most importantly a defensive stopper. Colton Iverson and Ralph Sampson III both came along slowly as freshmen last season, but if the two big men improve they will be huge assets for the Gophers.

20. Cincinnati Bearcats - Fans in Cincinnati are excited about their team, and rightfully so. Senior guard Deonta Vaughn returns as one of the top players in the Big East. Redshirt freshman Cashmere Wright will step in at point guard and allow Vaughn to focus more on scoring. Sophomore power forward Yancy Gates emerged last season as a formidable inside presence. Even with him, the Bearcats may struggle down low at the beginning of the season, but 6-foot-11 Oklahoma State transfer Ibrahima Thomas joins the team after the first semester. The star of the team, however, could be a freshman. Lance Stephenson, a 6-foot-5 guard with NBA strength and athleticism, has been in the spotlight for the past three years in high school. Now, he jumps into the spotlight of the Big East.

21. Florida State Seminoles - FSU lost a first round NBA Draft pick in point guard Toney Douglas, but the talent remaining gives the Seminoles an opportunity to finish near the top of the ACC. Freshman Michael Snaer, a 6-foot-5 athletic wing, will try to fill the void left by Douglas. Snaer was a McDonald’s All-American, as was 6-foot-9 sophomore forward Chris Singleton. Solomon Alabi, a 7-foot-1 center, could be a lottery pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, but first he will try to dominate down low and lead the Seminoles back to the NCAA tournament.

22. UCLA Bruins - The Bruins lost their top three players - Darren Collison, Josh Shipp and Jrue Holiday - but some promising young talent returns and Ben Howland brings in yet another elite recruiting class. Malcolm Lee and Jerime Anderson only averaged around three points per game as freshmen last season, but the two guards are expected to step in and become stars for the Bruins. The same goes for sophomore big men Drew Gordon and J’mison Morgan. Freshmen Mike Moser, Tyler Honeycutt, Reeves Nelson, Anthony Nelson and Brendan Lane could all contribute.

23. Florida Gators - The bad news for the Gators was Nick Calathes leaving to play pro ball in Greece, but the good news was Alex Tyus changing his mind and not transferring. The big man is the top returning player on Billy Donovan’s roster and with the athletic 6-foot-9 power forward on board the Gators should be an NCAA tournament team. Kenny Boynton is one of the top point guard recruits in the country and should be a good replacement for Calathes.

24. Michigan Wolverines - The Wolverines are all about Manny Harris. The 6-foot-5 guard does it all for Michigan. He can fill it up from beyond the arc, use his ball-handling skills to penetrate and set up teammates, or use his athleticism to score inside. But Harris isn’t the only player teams have to pay attention to. DeShawn Sims, a 6-foot-9 power forward, can score in the post or shoot mid-range jumpers. When Harris and Sims run the pick-and-roll, it’s nearly impossible to defend.

25. Oklahoma State Cowboys - James Anderson is one of the most underrated players in college basketball. The 6-foot-6 wing will likely be a first round pick in the NBA Draft whenever he opts to go, but for now he will try to lead the Cowboys to the NCAA tournament. Anderson and 6-foot-5 guard Obi Muonelo can both light it up from 3-point range. This team likes to run-and-gun and outscore its opponents. OSU’s weakness is its size and rebounding, but transfer Matt Pilgrim will help out in that department.