It’s hard to believe, but as the calendar turns to November, it’s time to tip off another college basketball season.
And with it, here is the first College Basketball Power Rankings for the 2009-2010 season. All team’s records as well as finish in last year’s postseason are included.
1. Kansas (27-8, NCAA Second Round): Bill Self has the deepest and most talented team in all the land. A second title in three years might be in store for the good folks of Lawrence.
2. Michigan State (31-7, National Runner-Up): Kalin Lucas and most of last year’s National Runner’s Up are back for another title run in East Lansing. The only question is how the loss of emotional leader Goran Sutton will affect this team.
3. Villanova (30-8, NCAA Final Four): College basketball will always be a guard’s game, and no one has more talented guards than the Wildcats. But for Villanova to win a National Championship, McDonald’s All-American Mouphtaou Yarou will have to replace the departed Dante Cunningham’s production in the frontcourt (16.1 ppg, 7.5 rebounds).
4. Kentucky (22-14, NIT): The game’s most recognizable coach (John Calipari) is now on college basketball’s biggest stage in Lexington. If Calipari’s freshmen are as good as advertised, we very well might see the Wildcats in their first Final Four since winning it all in 1998.
5. Texas (23-12, NCAA Second Round): Add high school All-American’s Avery Bradley and Jordan Hamilton to four returning starters, and Texas has the deepest team in the country. However, there’s still no answer to the question that plagued the Longhorns last year: Who’s going to handle the ball?
6. North Carolina (34-4, National Champions): The defending National Champions will give everyone matchup problems with the biggest and most talented frontcourt in college basketball (Ed Davis, Deon Thompson, Tyler Zeller, John Henson). But is Larry Drew (1.5 ppg, 1.9 apg in 2009) ready to run the point?
7. Purdue (27-10, NCAA Sweet 16): All the pieces are in place for Purdue to make their first Final Four since 1980. Well, just as long as Robbie Hummel can stay healthy (he missed five games last year and was limited in several others with a back injury).
8. West Virginia (23-12, NCAA First Round): No one expected Bob Huggins to have West Virginia at the top of the Big East this quickly, but here they are. Now it’s time to see how they respond to being the hunted, rather than the hunter.
9. Tennessee (21-13, NCAA First Round): Any Bruce Pearl coached team will be able to score, we know that. But for Tennessee to become elite this year, they’ll need to improve on the 72.5 points a game they allowed defensively last year (284th in college basketball).
10. Ohio State (22-11, NCAA First Round): It seems like every year Thad Motta is breaking in a superstar freshman class, but for once he’s got a team of veterans. Evan Turner (17.1 ppg, 7.1 rpg), could have been an NBA lottery pick last spring.
11. California (22-11, NCAA First Round): Quick, who is the best team in the Pac-10: UCLA? Nope. Arizona? Naw. How about the Cal Golden Bears, headlined by Jerome Randle and Patrick Christopher, the best backcourt on the West Coast.
12. Duke (30-7, NCAA Sweet 16): As always, Duke will be one of the two or three best teams in the ACC. But just like last year’s Sweet 16 against Villanova, they’ll still struggle against quick and athletic guards.
13. UConn (31-5, NCAA Final Four): The Huskies are deep and athletic with Stanley Robinson, Jerome Dyson, Kemba Walker and Co. coming back to Storrs. But more than skill, will they be able to replace the leadership void left by A.J. Price and Jeff Adrien?
14. Butler (26-6, NCAA First Round): Everyone from last year’s surprising Butler team is back on campus in 2010. The scariest part? Only one of their top seven players is a senior.
15. Georgia Tech (12-19): Georgia Tech has as much talent as anyone besides North Carolina in the ACC. Now it’s time for coach Paul Hewitt to prove that he is as good a coach as he is a recruiter.
16. Washington (26-9, NCAA Second Round): Abdul Gaddy is the best freshman in the entire Pac-10. How well he interacts in the backcourt with returning starter Isaiah Thomas will determine how far the Huskies go in next spring’s NCAA Tournament.
17. Oklahoma (30-6, NCAA Elite Eight): Willie Warren came back to Oklahoma to prove he was more than Blake Griffin’s sidekick. Luckily, he’ll have Tony Crocker and freshman Keith “Tiny,” Gallon (6’9 300 lbs.) around to help.
18. Louisville (31-6, NCAA Elite Eight): Rick Pitino has plenty of good players at Louisville (Terrence Jennings, Samardo Samuels, Jerry Smith etc.). But will any of them be able to provide the star power of the departed Terrence Williams and Earl Clark?
19. Michigan (21-14, NCAA Second Round): John Beilein is back for his third year in Ann Arbor. And he’ll have arguably the best player in the Big 10 joining him, Manny Harris.
20. Georgetown (16-15): With so many young players last year, I’ll give Georgetown the benefit of the doubt for struggling as much as they did. But now that Greg Monroe, Chris Wright and Austin Freeman are a year older, there’ll be no excuse this time around.