NCAA Top 25 preview


Dec. 12, 2004, midnight | By Adith Sekaran | 16 years, 1 month ago

Let the madness begin


Another season in NCAA men's basketball is beginning with just as much excitement as last year. The rankings are already getting interesting, as last year's champions, the University of Connecticut Huskies, are ranked seventh in the country, according to the Associated Press poll. The poll changes every week, and this information is from the week ending on Monday, Dec. 6.

1. Demon Deacons
The Wake Forest Demon Deacons are currently ranked number one. They are one of the seven teams ranked from the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC). The team had a strong showing winning the preseason, but lost by 18 to another strong team, Illinois. The Deacons are led by one of the nation's strongest starting point guards with sophomore Chris Paul. Paul improves everyone around him and there is rumor that he might be among the top picked in this year's NBA draft. The team also has another fundamentally sound player in junior Justin Gray, who was the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the Preseason NIT. The team will look to hold their number one ranking and will advance deep into the tournament. This team will easily make the Sweet 16 but struggle past that.

2. Jayhawks
This season will be the last chance for the Kansas Jayhawks. Most of their starters have been with the team for the last few years, and they will lose seniors Wayne Simien, Keith Langford, Aaron Miles and Michael Lee. Simien has already had three consecutive double doubles, averaging nearly 20 points and 13 rebounds. The seniors of this team will play with poise, leading the Jayhawks far in the tournament. I believe this team has the talent to at least make the Elite Eight and possibly, the Final Four.

3. Orangemen
The Orangemen of Syracuse can never be counted out. The long armed senior Hakim Warrick and the sharpshooter junior Gerry McNamara will lead them. Warrick is averaging nearly a double double in his six games this season putting up nearly 20 points and a bit over nine rebounds. McNamara is a multi-dimensional player because he can shoot the lights out and distribute the ball. Their coach, Jim Bohiem, has coached successful teams in the past and brings out the best of this team. Boheim will coach the team to at least the Sweet 16.

4. Yellow Jackets
The team that lost in the tournament finals, the Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech, is ranked number four. The team retains most of their starting rotation and will still be led by sophomore point guard Jarrett Jack. Senior BJ Elder is currently leading the team in points, averaging slightly more than 20 points a night. They have another solid scorer in Will Bynum. They have all the right pieces to make another strong run far into March. This team should make the Final Four.

5. Illini
The Illinois Illini are currently ranked number five but they will be ranked much higher very soon. They just pulled off a major upset of the number one team Wake Forest, dominating them by 18 points. The Illini led by 21 at the half and had a lead of 32 points at one time. They shot 56 percent that game and were led by their junior point guard Dee Brown. Senior guard Luther Head is averaging over 17 points a game. If this team continues playing the way they are, they could make a splash into the tournament and make it past the Elite Eight. However, the more realistic prediction for this team would be the Sweet 16 or the Elite Eight.

6. Cowboys
The Oklahoma State Cowboys are having problems getting their offense started. However, they are playing the same stifling defense they played during last season's run to the Final Four. Their opponents have all been held between 53 and 65 points. Senior point guard John Lucas III returns and is averaging close to 22 points in the first four games of this season. Senior forward Joey Graham is also adding 18 points a game. If their offense picks up slightly and they continue playing stingy defense, this team can have the same level of success as they did last season.

7. Huskies
The defending NCAA champions, the Connecticut Huskies, have lost their All-American center Emeka Okafor and guard Ben Gordon to the draft. Their coach, Calhoun, now has several inexperienced but talented players to coach. The Huskies made a solid recruit with freshman forward Rudy Gay, who is currently averaging ten points and over five rebounds a game. Junior Rashad Anderson who saw a lot of minutes last season is leading the team in scoring with 20 points a game. Last year's bench big men, freshmen Josh Boone and Charlie Villanueva, are getting more minutes and being more productive. Boone is averaging a double double while Villanueva is averaging eight points in his 19 minutes. This team will make the Sweet 16 but inexperience prevents much more.

8. Wildcats
The Kentucky Wildcats seem to always be a contender for the title, but their ranking is going to fall with their loss on December 4, 2004 to the North Carolina Tar Heels. Part of the reason for the team's consistency is because of their stellar coach Tubby Smith. Their leading scorer senior Chuck Hayes averages just about 14 points a game. They still have a solid player in Kelenna Azubuike, who scored 24 against the Tar Heels. Smith will coach this team deep into the tournament, definitely making an appearance in the Sweet 16.

9. Tar Heels
The Tar Heels of North Carolina are currently ranked number nine, but are bound to move up. Their coach, Roy Williams, is entering his second year at Carolina and they are expected to improve. The team has several NBA draft-bound players. Junior Rashad McCants leads the team in scoring averaging 20 points, and scored 28 against the Wildcats. Senior forward Jawad Williams is also scoring over 16 points a night. Junior Sean May is grabbing rebounds at a high rate, collecting 19 boards against the Wildcats. May is also adding offense of his own, with 15 points a game. If the Tar Heels play up to their potential, they can make the Final Four.

10. Blue Devils
The Duke Blue Devils from Durham, North Carolina, sit at the tenth spot. This team has been hurt by unexpectedly losing Luol Deng and their recruit, Sean Livingston to the draft. Livingston was expected to fill the big shoes of senior graduating point guard, Chris Duhon. Despite the losses, the Devils from Durham are still coached by Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who almost left for the Los Angeles Lakers. Coach K is one of the best coaches to ever coach in college basketball, and will lead his team to success. The team still has the best shooter in the country in junior J.J Redick, a to-be star in senior Daniel Ewing, and big man junior Shelton Williams. Ewing and Redick are both averaging 21 points a game, and Williams is averaging a double double. This team has the talent and will as always make an appearance far in the tournament. The Elite Eight should be the most reasonable assessment for this team.

11. Spartans
The Michigan State Spartans are ranked this high now, but are bound to fall after losing to Duke and being stunned by unranked George Washington. Tom Hizzo still coaches this team, and he always has tournament worthy teams. The team's top scorers, senior guard Kelvin Torbert and junior Maurice Ager, are both putting up 16 a night. Hizzo will guide this team as far as he can but with the team's best effort, the team will not get past the Sweet 16.

12. Terps
The Maryland Terrapins will look for another strong season. They have a fundamentally solid point guard in junior John Gilchrist, who will run the offense for the Terps. Gilchrist is entering his junior year and should be over his inconsistencies of the last two years. Both juniors Chris McCray and Nik Caner-Medley currently lead the team in scoring with 14 points a game. The team also has a talented big man with junior Travis Garrison, who will look to fill the shoes of the graduated Jamar Smith. Their two top recruits from a year ago, sophomores Ekene Ibekwe and D.J Strawberry, will look to improve. With Coach Garry Williams at the helm, this team can advance to the Elite Eight and possibly, the Final Four.

13. Panthers
The Pittsburgh Panthers are ranked at this spot and will look to have a successful season in the Big East. Their best player, senior Chevon Troutman, scores nearly 17 a night and grabs nine boards to go along with the offense. The team's wins have come from mostly unranked teams thus far, although they will be tested by Connecticut and Syracuse later in the season. This team will make the tournament, but lacks the talent to make it far.

14. Huskies
The Washington Huskies' ranking is going to fall after a loss to the Bulldogs of Gonzaga. The Huskies are going to be without their second leading scorer, junior Brandon Roy, for four to six weeks. Roy tore a ligament in his right knee and will require time to heal from arthroscopic knee surgery. The Huskies will miss Roy's 18 points and junior Nate Robinson, who is already averaging slightly under 22 points a night, will have to step up. Overall, Roy's injury will hurt the Huskies and they cannot expect to advance far in the tournament.

15. Bulldogs
At number 15 are the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Their junior big man Lawrence Roberts, who is averaging 16 points and 11 rebounds a game, leads them. The Bulldogs just beat Southern Alabama. Senior Winsome Frazier is adding 14 points a game, including an especially strong performance against Missouri-Kansas City, where he scored 30. The Bulldogs will probably make the tournament's first round but that is probably as far as they can expect to go.

16. Wolfpack
The third team from North Carolina is ranked at 16, as s enior Julius Hodge leads the Wolfpack from North Carolina State. Hodge leads the team in points, rebounds, and steals, and is averaging over 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists a game. He makes up for his teammates breakdowns, like in their game on December 4, 2004 against Purdue. Coaches have praised Hodge, and he will look to carry his team into the first or second round of the tournament.

17. Cardinals
The Cardinals of Louisville will look to advance far into the tournament. Coach Rick Pitino will never let them get complacent with losing. The team has several talented players, including junior forward Francisco Garcia, senior forward Ellis Myles and junior guard Taquan Dean. Dean and Garcia are averaging over 19 and 14 points a game, respectively. Myles is pulling down nearly ten rebounds. This team will probably make the Sweet 16, mostly because of their coach.

18. Longhorns
The Longhorns from Texas are ranked rather low for a Texas team. The Longhorns are very young, with seven freshmen out of the 13 players on the roster. However, they have a very solid point guard in freshman Daniel Gibson, as they have finally found a will to fill the void left by T.J Ford. Gibson leads the team with 13 points, and four and a half assists. Their coach, Rick Barnes, is a motivator and has had teams compete deep into the tournament. This team will look to make the Sweet 16.

19. Gators
The Florida Gators were ranked number one at one point last season and have fallen all the way to 19 this year. They are going to fall even further with a loss to unranked Miami on December 4. The Gators' top scorer is junior Matt Walsh, who averages over 15 points a game. Although the Gators have their seasoned coach Billy Donovan, he will not be enough to go anywhere in the tournament.

20. Irish
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are having troubles with their football program, but their basketball program looks decent. They were just stunned by the Michigan Wolverines with barely 20 seconds left; the Wolverines scored to give them the final lead 61-60. This might drop the Fighting Irish in the standings but they will rebound. The team is led in scoring by junior Chris Quinn, who is averaging over 17 points a game. They also have a talented point guard in senior Chris Thomas. Thomas is not only scoring 11 points a game, he also gets everyone else involved dishing out eight assists. This team will make the tournament and advance to at least the second round.

21. Wildcats
The Arizona Wildcats are always in the running for deep tournament success. The Wildcats' have a roster heavy with talented guards including freshman Jawaan McClellan and senior Salim Stoudamire. Stoudamire is averaging 17 points a game and can shoot the three ball. McClellan was Arizona's prime recruit, and has earned praise from teammates and coaches. McClellan scored 19 against Wyoming on December 4th. The Wildcats lost to the number one team, Wake Forest, by only three earlier this year. Their coach, Lute Olson, is used to success, making several Final Four runs as a coach, and he will coach this team to the Sweet 16.

22. Crimson Tide
The Alabama Crimson Tide have a dangerous offense, capable of scoring in a hurry. Their top three scorers, senior Earnest Shelton, junior Kennedy Winston and junior Chuck Davis, average 20, 18 and 17 points respectively. The Crimson Tide average nearly 92 points a game, which is one of the highest in college basketball. The Tide should expect to advance deep in the tournament with their explosive offense.

23. Buckeyes
The Iowa Buckeyes look to have a good year in basketball. The Buckeyes are led in scoring by two junior guards, Jeff Horner and Pierre Pierce. Horner and Pierce can both put up points and distribute the ball to other teammates. Horner averages slightly less than 17 points and seven assists, while Pierce averages 16 points and five assists. These two lead a potent offense, which averages over 85 points a game. This team can make the tournament, but past that will be a bonus.

24. Cavs
The Virginia Cavaliers are another ACC team to make the top 25. Senior forward Elton Brown leads the team, averaging near a double double, scoring 16 and grabbing nine and a half rebounds a game. However, although they beat Arizona on November 21st, the Cavs face a grueling schedule versus several strong ACC teams, including Duke, Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Wake Forest during the regular season. These are going to be difficult games and will hurt their record and chances for the tournament. This team could have a hard time at even making the tournament.

25. Badgers
The Badgers from Wisconsin are ranked at 25 after losing point guard Devin Harris in the NBA draft. If he were on the team they would be a Final Four-caliber squad. Instead, they are searching around for his replacement, who currently is Penn State transfer Sharif Chambliss. Chambliss had a nice outing against Maryland posting 15 points and three assists. Once this team gets its pieces together, they can make a run past the first or second round in the tournament.

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Adith Sekaran. Adith Sekaran is finally a senior at Blair. Adith is a man who is a big time sports fan and can spend any day to its' entirety watching sports or ESPN. Football season is his favorite, which he spends cheering on his ‘Skins to no … More »

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