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Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Early Top 12 for 2013-14

By Dick Vitale
ESPN.com

A number of players have declared early for the NBA draft. That group certainly influenced my look at the top teams for next season.

I know it is early, and it is subject to change as other player moves happen. For the moment, here is my look at the best that college hoops will have to offer in the 2013-14 campaign.

1. Kentucky Wildcats
For those who thought the Cats were going to be down for long, think again. Once again, John Calipari has a super recruiting class, this one even better than last year's. Why is Kentucky No. 1? Besides the recruiting class, led by the Harrison twins, Kentucky has veterans returning to provide experience. Kyle Wiltjer, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein can help the newcomers learn the ropes, and that can make a difference. The 2012 national champions had players like Terrence Jones, Darius Miller and Doron Lamb available and it helped.

2. Michigan State Spartans
Having Gary Harris, Keith Appling, Branden Dawson and Adreian Payne back is good enough for me to believe the Spartans are legit contenders to cut down the nets at Cowboys Stadium. Tom Izzo is a master at tournament time and the 2014 tournament should be exciting.

3. Duke Blue Devils
This will be a different Duke team without Mason Plumlee, Seth Curry or Ryan Kelly. Rodney Hood will be eligible after transferring from Mississippi State. Jabari Parker is one of the premier diaper dandies in America. The return of Andre Dawkins will also help.

4. Arizona Wildcats
Sean Miller has a talented nucleus returning, including Nick Johnson. The addition of Aaron Gordon, who was MVP at the McDonald's All American Game, is a major positive for the frontcourt after the loss of Solomon Hill.

5. Louisville Cardinals
The defending national champions lose a lot (Peyton Siva was a senior, Gorgui Dieng is going to the NBA and Russ Smith may join him), but it helps to have Chane Behanan. NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player Luke Hancock and Wayne Blackshear will be back.

6. Florida Gators
Patric Young decided to return and that is a plus for Billy Donovan. Casey Prather, Will Yeguete, Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier are also back, and Donovan has an excellent class coming in.

7. Ohio State Buckeyes
Even without Deshaun Thomas, the Buckeyes expect Amir Williams and Sam Thompson to do more. Aaron Craft will be one of the best guards in America.

8. Syracuse Orange
Jim Boeheim lost some talent like Michael Carter-Williams, but he will reload in his first season in the ACC.

9. Michigan Wolverines
Trey Burke is gone, but the foundation has been built. Remember the names of diaper dandies Zak Irvin and Derrick Walton.

10. North Carolina Tar Heels
The return of P.J. Hairston and James Michael McAdoo helps, plus bigger things are expected from Marcus Paige. They would have been top-five if Reggie Bullock returned.

11. Kansas Jayhawks
Bill Self always has a contender. The Jayhawks lose Jeff Withey and Ben McLemore, but will Perry Ellis become the next star? Self also has another solid recruiting class.

12. Oklahoma State Cowboys
The return of Marcus Smart has the Cowboys high on the list. Travis Ford has to be ecstatic with that development.