Category archive: Washington Huskies

The FIBA U-19 World Championships may not resonate here at home, but the goal of winning gold has never been more explicit within USA basketball.

As the seriousness of the men's national team has taken on a new level in the last eight years, the junior national team has followed that example.

Coaches are returning. Players are, too. Suddenly, playing for Team USA has value -- as it should.

But this is not an all-star team. This is a team that will compete in Prague next week, crafted to fit Florida's Billy Donovan's coaching style. He wanted a team that could press, rebound, defend and generate turnovers. The havoc fits the way one of his assistants -- VCU's Shaka Smart -- loves to coach.

"I like this team a lot,'' Donovan said. "More than anything this group of kids understands the sacrifice and attitude and work ethic.''

Here is the final 12-man roster and Donovan's assessment of what they've done and can do for Team USA, which begins play in the Czech Republic on June 27. The gold-medal game is set for July 7.

Michael Frazier, 6-4, G, So., Florida
"He comes in as the best shooter. One of the things we struggled with was behind the line. He really provides shooting. In our scrimmage against Air Force he was 4 of 6. He can be a spot-up shooter against a zone and help us space the floor a bit.''

Aaron Gordon, 6-6, F, Fr., Arizona
"He's really, really athletic. He's got a great motor. He can play the 3, the 4. He's really, really good in the press. He's really, really active, and he's going to be a very good player with a great motor.''

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Harrell
Debby Wong/USA TODAY SportsMontrezl Harrell will have an increased role at Louisville this season and his experience with Team USA should help.

Jerami Grant, 6-6, F, So., Syracuse
"He's been sick with strep throat. But he'll be healthy [for the tournament]. Like Gordon, he gives us another versatile frontcourt guy. Like Gordon, he can play a 3, 4 and 5 and his shooting has gotten better. He was on the team a year ago. He gives us great length and is versatile.''

Montrezl Harrell, 6-7, F, So., Louisville
"He's like Gordon and Grant in that he's really athletic. His skill level has gotten better [since last year]. He's really active. We can do a lot of things defensively with those three guys in Gordon, Harrell and Grant. We can press and switch and they can guard a lot of different positions, get out and run a little bit. We could play all three at the same time.''

Jahlil Okafor, 6-10, C, Whitney Young HS, Chicago
"He's really, really skilled in the low post. He's got a big body with a long wingspan. The way we're playing fast, running and pressing, he's the guy we can throw the ball inside and he'll make good things happen. He's a lot more mature than his age. He's going to play well with the pick-and-roll. He's a big, strong kid. We can go high-low with him and he can work his way to the basket. He's got a good skill level.''

Elfrid Payton, 6-3, G, Jr., Louisiana-Lafayette
"He came in as the surprise. He's really rangy and a very good defender. He can play multiple positions. He's really crafty with the ball and can get in the lane. The best thing he does is pass. He's a really good on-ball defender.''

Marcus Smart, 6-4, G, So., Oklahoma State
"He's been great leadership-wise. I think he's gotten better shooting the ball. His presence and competitiveness and strength and size will help us. So will his will. He came back to school and to us and that really helps our team. He has an incredible presence. I will play him at the point. But he'll also play the 2 and 3. We've got a lot of guys who can play different positions.''

Jarnell Stokes, 6-8, F, Jr., Tennessee
"He's really physical. He was with us last year and he can be a monster around the basket for us. Last year, we kept more guards. This year, more frontcourt guys.''

Rasheed Sulaimon, 6-3, G, So., Duke
"He's a good scorer. He was with us last year. He's shooting the ball with more consistency. He's more comfortable with the international line. We've got to get him to take over more of a leadership role. He was on the trip last year with Smart [when Donovan led them to the gold in Brazil for the U-18 title]. And he played a lot with Duke and that's important.''

Mike Tobey, 6-11, F, So., Virginia
"He's been really good. I think he'll really help us against the zone. After the first day or two, he adjusted and played really well.''

Nigel Williams-Goss, 6-3, G, Fr., Washington
"He's got a lot of the intangibles. He's a great leader and a really good motor. He's more advanced than his age. He's always played at a high level. He'll play the 2 for us.''

Justise Winslow, 6-6, F, St. John's HS, Houston
"He's a 6-6 guy that can play the 2, 3, 4 and really good in the press. The thing that's good for him is his overall skill, passing and unselfishness. He can guard several different positions. He's really athletic. He's a pass-first player that can slash to the basket.''

Washington could have done what the majority of teams heading out of the country are doing: Practice at home for 10 days, then go on a foreign excursion with a few exhibition games and return home an improved team.

But UW coach Lorenzo Romar didn't want to miss a potential once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him, his team and senior Aziz N'Diaye.

So Romar raised the price of the trip (a number that he didn't offer up) to include a trip to N'Diaye's home country of Senegal from Sept. 5-8, after the Huskies compete and sightsee in Spain, France and Monaco, Aug. 25-Sept. 4.

The team will not play games in Senegal. This is all about a cultural experience and a chance for N'Diaye to go home and share his nation with his teammates and coaches.

Romar said his impetus was the documentary "Elevate," about basketball players coming out of West Africa.

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Aziz N'Diaye
Rick Scuteri/US PresswireUW center Aziz N'Diaye is getting the chance to go home to Senegal.

"I was overwhelmed watching how these kids are trying to come to America,'' Romar said. "They are trying to get an education and get to the next level. I looked at their surroundings. I thought it would be great for all of us to see that.''

This trip isn't quite the same as the missionary work being done by Georgia State coach Ron Hunter, who is presently in South Africa distributing shoes to children, along with his team and representatives from Samaritan's Feet.

Nevertheless, this is a chance for the players to experience something they would not normally as a college basketball player.

"It means a lot and I appreciate it,'' said N'Diaye, a 7-foot center who averaged 7.8 points and 7.3 rebounds a game last season.

N'Diaye's father and brother now live in Rhode Island, but his mother and two sisters are still in Senegal, and he hasn't been home to see them in two years. That visit, along with the experience for his teammates, is what N'Diaye is anticipating the most.

"It will be an experience for them,'' N'Diaye said of his teammates and coaches. "They'll see how the lifestyle is different than here. It's a chance to give back. It will mean a lot to our community and to me. I was fortunate to come here to prep school and play basketball.''

Romar said getting N'Diaye home was the added bonus of the trip.

"He hasn't been home in a long time,'' Romar said. "His family doesn't know us. They don't know his teammates and the guys he's living with. Our guys don't understand how he grew up and where he came from. And it's the chance to bring the two together for our guys culturally.''

The players and coaches, who will stay at a hotel in Dakar, received five to six shots in advance of the trip. There will be trips to see the landscape, animals, and possibly a basketball clinic.

Romar is hoping to get a chance to take the group to Goree Island off the coast of Dakar. Goree Island was the departure spot for the West African slave trade. There is a house, built by the Dutch in 1776, that is still standing and serves as a museum. The Huskies will take a UW professor with them on the trip to put things in an educational context.

"For our guys, for everyone involved, it will be an eye-opening experience,'' Romar said. "Aziz is a special, great, great human being and he's one of the most low maintenance I've ever coached. It's good to reward him for trusting us and coming here and letting us come to his home, so we can see the world he lives in and understand him better.''

Before Senegal, there will be basketball of course. And the Huskies certainly need the practices and trip prior to Dakar to improve.

Washington won the Pac-12 by one game last season, but didn't earn an NCAA tournament berth after losing in the conference tournament, a stunning development for a "big six" conference.

The Huskies then lost two key underclassmen to the NBA in Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten.

"This is a new group, and there are a lot of players in supporting roles who will have to step up and being identified,'' Romar said. "People forget that we do return Scott Suggs, who had a knee injury, for his fifth year. C.J. Wilcox will be one of the best shooters in the country. We have a talented guard in Abdul Gaddy, and this year he'll show exactly why he was so highly thought of out of high school. He will emerge and do a great job for us.''

The Huskies will continue jet-setting during the season with two trips east to play in the Hall of Fame Classic in Connecticut against Seton Hall and then either Ohio State or Rhode Island, before a return trip to the Nutmeg State Dec. 29 to play at UConn.

Washington also hosts three potential NCAA tournament teams in Colorado State, Saint Louis and Nevada -- all before a conference schedule in what is expected to be an improved Pac-12.

The Huskies will have perhaps the most unique foreign trip this month, but they'll have plenty of company overseas.

Here is a list of programs going on foreign trips in the month of August:

America East
Boston University: Canada, Aug. 16-21

ACC
Boston College: Spain, Aug. 26-Sept. 3
NC State: Spain, Aug. 5-15
Virginia: Belgium, France, Netherlands, Aug. 8-14

Atlantic Sun
Florida Gulf Coast: Bahamas, Aug. 8-12
Jacksonville: Dominican Republic, Aug. 11-17

Atlantic 10
Charlotte: Bahamas, Aug. 13-17
George Washington: Italy, Aug. 15-26
Richmond: Italy, Aug. 10-25
VCU: Italy, Aug. 5-15

Big East
Seton Hall: Spain, Aug. 13-23

Big Sky
Northern Colorado: Australia, Aug. 6-16
Eastern Washington: Canada, Sept. 6-13

Big South
Charleston Southern: Dominican Republic, Aug. 4-9

Big Ten
Purdue: Italy, Aug. 7-17

Big 12
Kansas: France, Switzerland, Aug. 5-14
Kansas State: Brazil, Aug. 8-17
Oklahoma State: Spain, Aug. 8-18

Big West
Cal State-Northridge: Canada, Aug. 21-26
Pacific: France, Aug. 10-20
UC Davis: Italy, Aug. 26-Sept. 5

Colonial
Georgia State: South Africa, July 31-Aug. 9 (humanitarian trip) Old Dominion: Italy, Greece, Aug. 14-24
Northeastern: Canada, Aug. 17-24

Conference USA
Tulane: Bahamas, Aug. 11-15
Tulsa: Canada, Aug. 14-19

Horizon
Loyola (Ill.): Italy, Aug. 9-23

Independents
Cal State Bakersfield: Bahamas, Sept. 1-7

Ivy
Harvard: Italy, Aug. 19-29
Princeton: Spain, Aug. 29-Sept. 9

MEAC
Morgan State: Bahamas, Aug. 13-18
Norfolk State: Bahamas, Aug. 8-13

MAC
Buffalo: Canada, Aug. 10-16
Central Michigan: Bahamas, Aug. 16-21
Western Michigan: Italy, Aug. 17-27

Missouri Valley
Indiana State: Bahamas, Aug. 12-14
Missouri State: Costa Rica, Aug. 7-13

Mountain West
Colorado State: Bahamas, Aug. 5-8
UNLV: Canada, Aug. 16-22
Wyoming: Canada, Aug. 5-11

Northeast
Bryant: Italy, Aug. 20-30

Ohio Valley
Austin Peay: Canada, Aug. 17-23

Pac-12
Arizona: Bahamas, Aug. 9-14
Colorado: France, Belgium, Netherlands, Aug. 13-22
Oregon State: France, Spain, Aug. 18-28
UCLA: China, Aug. 22-29
Utah: Brazil, Aug. 4-15
Washington: Spain, France, Monaco, Senegal, Aug. 25-Sept. 8
Washington State: Australia, Aug. 3-16

SEC
Arkansas: Italy, Aug. 10-19
Georgia: Italy, Aug. 1-11
Missouri: Netherlands, Belgium, France, Aug. 8-18
Tennessee: Italy, Aug. 5-15

Southern
College of Charleston: Canada, Aug. 8-11

Southland
Nicholls State: Australia, Aug. 1-12
Northwestern State: Canada, Aug. 12-17

Sun Belt
South Alabama: Canada, Aug. 12-17

WAC
Seattle: China, Aug. 21-Sept. 3
Texas State: Costa Rica, Aug. 13-18

West Coast
San Francisco: Mexico, Aug. 12-16

UCLA's recent mediocrity hasn't been celebrated or seen by the rest of the Pac-12 as an opportunity.

Instead, the conference desperately needs the Bruins to come back -- and fast. Having Arizona dip, even just for one season, didn't help either.

So when the coaches gathered this week for the annual spring meetings in Phoenix, the mood was upbeat. The Pac-12 -- that ultimate big-boy punching bag in college basketball lately -- has two of the nation's top three recruiting classes. And they're from the league's two most prestigious programs.

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Lorenzo Romar
Anthony Gruppuso/US PresswireYou know it's a down year when your regular-season champ doesn't make the NCAA tournament.

"I think any buzz for our league is good for everybody,'' Oregon State coach Craig Robinson said. "As competitors, we would like the buzz to be about us, but as long as it's somebody in our conference and especially a brand name like UCLA, that can only be good for the rest of us.''

The Pac-12 had only two teams make the NCAA tournament in 2012, and one of those (Cal) was in the First Four in Dayton and lost. Regular-season champ Washington didn't get a bid, an embarrassing situation for the conference, which became the first big six league to not have its regular-season winner receive a bid.

Utah arrived in the conference and was abysmal in its first season, finishing 3-15 in the Pac-12 and 6-25 overall. Arizona State fell apart and finished 10-21. USC was decimated by injuries and was the worst of all, finishing a stunning 1-17 in league play and 6-26 overall.

The saving face of the Pac-12 was actually new member Colorado. The Buffaloes won the conference tournament, beat UNLV in the NCAA tourney and hung around with Baylor before losing in the Round of 32.

But perception of the league being down wasn't a reach. It was reality. The numbers and results didn't lie. The Pac-12 was an almost hard-to-fathom 1-25 against the RPI top 40 in nonconference play.

So with Arizona loaded up with four ESPNU 100 recruits in the Class of 2012 and UCLA having secured Kyle Anderson in the fall, the Bruins kept up the momentum in the spring by grabbing another top-five recruit (Shabazz Muhammad) and a four-star big man (Tony Parker).

That's not just good for those two schools, it's welcomed by the rest of the league.

Don't think Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott didn't take notice of the Bruins' big April.

"It's extremely important,'' Scott said. "The public and media follow big brands, and it doesn't get any bigger than UCLA basketball in our conference.

"Having them have a strong recruiting class [and] a new Pauley Pavilion to move into is great news for our conference. We've got new TV deals. The timing couldn't be better.''

The conference's coaches have long complained about the television package and a general lack of national exposure. A few years ago, first-place Cal was at USC in a critical game and it wasn't even televised.

Well, the Pac-12 finally has a new TV package that will allow every conference game to be televised on one of three networks: ESPN, Fox or the new Pac-12 Network. The league will shift from a straight Thursday-Saturday/Sunday schedule to one that has more flexibility.

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Jesse Perry
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesThe Pac-12 tourney has had some thrillers over the years, but few in L.A. bothered to notice.

In addition, the conference tournament now has a chance to have a sellout with the league choosing Las Vegas as the neutral destination. The Pac-12 had struggled mightily to draw consistent crowds to the Staples Center in Los Angeles. That shouldn't be the case at a destination venue like the MGM Grand, where the Pac-12 will become the fourth conference to play its conference tournament in Vegas, joining the Mountain West (Thomas & Mack Center), WCC and WAC (both at the Orleans Arena).

What will this conference look like by next March, though?

A year ago, the league was gutted by early entrants to the NBA draft at USC, UCLA, Washington, Washington State, Arizona and Stanford.

"Our league wasn't going to be good in the nonconference in November or December because of who left,'' Oregon coach Dana Altman said. "And then UCLA lost Reeves Nelson [dismissed early in the season] and so we weren't in a position to do well.''

Now they must be.

"We need some top-10 teams,'' said Cal coach Mike Montgomery, who has consistently been a Pac-12 title contender at Stanford and Cal. "We didn't have any, and it hurt us. Based on the recruiting, Arizona and UCLA should be in the mix.

"You need good teams going in. It will help us all if we're competing against better teams. Our RPI goes up. One through nine we were pretty good last year.''

The early onus will be on UCLA. The Bruins have to show well at the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y., with Georgetown and ESPN.com preseason No. 1 Indiana in the four-team field.

"We've had some bad losses out there,'' Montgomery said of the Pac-12's shoddy nonconference record lately. "Typically, everyone looks at UCLA and makes a judgment. It may not be fair or right and they haven't been the best team, but when they [are down], it hurts everybody. It's incumbent on everybody to win the games [you're supposed to win] in the pre-conference.''

Montgomery didn't excuse his own team. The Bears beat no one of significance outside league play last season and were annihilated by Missouri and UNLV.

"We didn't perform well, and that hurt our league,'' Montgomery said. "The impressions start early. We shouldn't lose games we shouldn't lose, because then when the league plays each other, we're screwed. We can't do anything to improve the reputation. That's on all of us to have a better November and December heading into the conference.''

USC coach Kevin O'Neill isn't doubting the Pac-12's ability to bounce back this season with several NCAA tournament teams.

"And we plan on being one of them,'' O'Neill said of the Trojans, led by Jio Fontan, who missed last season with a knee injury. "UCLA and Arizona had top recruiting classes, and that helps everybody improve. I think it's great. We'll see how they react to stressful situations.

"All our teams look good on paper, and we should be one of the top leagues in the country. We lost more pros in this league than the five other power leagues together the last few years. We're producing great players and most are doing well. But all of that is going to change. It's going to be a great year for our league.''

NEW YORK -- Washington, under coach Lorenzo Romar, has been defined by its guard play, which includes undersized players with games that seem larger than life.

Sure, there was the Jon Brockman era, when he was the dominant persona with his board work and gritty play at both ends of the court.

But if you think Washington and Romar, you immediately consider the names of Brandon Roy, Will Conroy, Nate Robinson and Isaiah Thomas.

Now you can add Tony Wroten Jr. to that list, as the next Romar disciple.

Three days into fall practice and Romar couldn't be more pleased. The early indication is that Wroten Jr. will take his turn as the next Husky who brings brashness, moxie and an overall presence to the game.

"Tony is very unique,'' said Romar, who was in New York this past Thursday with Marquette coach Buzz Williams, whose team will play the Huskies in the Jimmy V Classic on Dec. 6. Villanova's Jay Wright and Missouri's Frank Haith were also in NYC, and their teams will also face each other that night.

"[Wroten Jr.] has great size for a point guard, and he's an exceptional passer," Romar said. "His athleticism allows him to be a real terror on the defensive end. He's trying to pick up our concepts now, and he's learning where he needs to be. But sometimes while he's making mistakes, he makes a play. He's just very, very unique with a unique skill set."

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Lorenzo Romar
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty ImagesIf Lorenzo Romar's Huskies are to contend in the Pac-12, they will rely on some young and new faces.

The NBA lockout has had some Huskies alumni, including Thomas and Roy, involved in pickup games throughout the early fall. Thomas and Wroten Jr. are both Seattle-area products and have gone against each other quite a bit.

The Huskies have not stood out during the regular season the past two seasons. However, they have shined when it counts, winning the Pac-10 tournament last season and then beating Georgia in the second round of the NCAA tournament before falling in the final possessions to North Carolina in the third round.

If this team is to be different during the regular season, then it will have to manage quite a challenging nonconference schedule by Husky standards. Washington is playing at Romar's old coaching gig in Saint Louis, the third pick in the A-10, on Nov. 20, and then it has consecutive games in New York's Madison Square Garden against Marquette on Dec. 6 and Duke on Dec. 10. One thing that may help the Huskies in their quest to challenge for the Pac-12 title is playing Cal -- one of the favorites -- only once. And that's at home in the Pac-12's new unbalanced schedule. Of course, you could turn that around and note that the Huskies still play home-and-home series with Arizona and UCLA, two fellow contenders.

To get through this schedule, the Huskies will need Wroten Jr. to be a lot like Thomas or Robinson or Roy. "And people forget about Will Conroy. He shared it with Nate Robinson, and Conroy was our all-time assist leader," Romar said. "He was very charismatic and had a lot of personality. He played with that chip on the shoulder. Tony is playing the same way."

Romar also returns Abdul Gaddy, who has had an enigmatic career the past two seasons as he dealt with too much hype as a freshman and then tore his ACL midseason last year. Still, Romar was quick to say that Gaddy's assist-to-turnover ratio was 3-to-1 (49 assists to 16 turnovers) before his injury last season. "He dunked the ball off that same leg he repaired so he's fine," Romar said. "You wouldn't think he's ever been hurt."

The Huskies start the season, though, depleted after guard Scott Suggs broke a bone in his right foot, which will keep him out for up to two months and possibly more.

"He had the most experience of any guard on the roster and [was] our leading 3-point shooter and was playing his best basketball," Romar said. "It hurts to lose him."

Romar said a best-case scenario is for Suggs to be back in time for the trip to New York in early December.

All of this puts even more emphasis on the impact of the 6-foot-5 Wroten Jr., who will be asked to lead a team that has plenty of new faces and young ones like sophomore Terrence Ross. "We have seven new faces," Romar said. "We have six who have played in a championship situation [in the Pac-10], on the road and in NCAA tournament games. It's a unique mix, and it's a matter of them coming together."

At this time last year, Ben Hansbrough's name didn't appear on the Wooden Award preseason watch list.

Five months later, he edged out Connecticut's Kemba Walker for Big East Player of the Year.

Using that as a backdrop, let's remember that the list of 50 Wooden nominees is flawed, much like any of the award lists. The Wooden Award does not allow its voters to nominate any freshmen or transfers (either four-year or junior college) on their ballots.

And with college basketball as loaded with talent as any year since 2007-08, narrowing it down to 50 is not easy. So below I've attempted to come up with the names that didn't make it, either as "just missed the cut" omissions or just because they're freshmen or transfers. These guys aren't on the list (which can be found here), but might show up when it's updated during the season.

This group is by no means definitive, either. There's no telling who else might emerge nationally as the games get under way.

Let's take a look …

The omissions (in alphabetical order):

Julian Boyd, Long Island: The Blackbirds are the favorite again in the Northeast Conference and the main reason is because Boyd is back and ready to dominate the stat sheet.

D.J. Cooper, Ohio: The diminutive point guard does a little bit of everything; he averaged 15.8 ppg, 7.5 apg and 5.0 rpg for the Bobcats last season.

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Duke's Seth Curry
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesSeth Curry hasn't done enough to warrant a mention on a preseason watch list, but he might end up being a Wooden addition.

Jared Cunningham, Oregon State: Cunningham has some of the best hops in the sport and a chance to be a Pac-12 star, allowing the Beavers to finally move up in the standings this season.

Seth Curry, Duke: Curry was a standout shooter for the Blue Devils on their trip to China and could be one of the top scorers on the team.

Brandon Davies, BYU: Davies was recently reinstated to the Cougars, and the offense is expected to flow through him inside and out as BYU mounts a campaign to win the WCC in its first year in the league.

Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's: SMC coach Randy Bennett envisions this as one of the best teams he's ever had, but a lot of that will have to do with whether Dellavedova can shoot like Mickey McConnell did last season.

Greg Echenique, Creighton: Echenique was a rebounding force for Venezuela this summer and should do even more for the Bluejays with a full season to work with.

TyShwan Edmondson, Austin Peay: The Governors should be the favorite in the Ohio Valley with a legit scorer like Edmondson, who has a strong man, Will Triggs, to take pressure off him.

Kyle Fogg, Arizona: Fogg is next in line to assume a leadership position for the Wildcats, who are in a position to compete for Pac-12 titles for years to come.

Kevin Foster, Santa Clara: As a sophomore, Foster sort of came out of nowhere to average 20.2 ppg and become one of the nation's top 3-point shooters.

Chris Gaston, Fordham: The Rams aren't any good, but the nation's leading returning rebounder (11.3 rpg) at least deserves a shout-out in this space.

Yancy Gates, Cincinnati: UC coach Mick Cronin said he'd be surprised if Gates wasn't one of the 10 names on the Big East preseason first team.

Malcolm Grant, Miami (Fla.): The Hurricanes have to play most of the season without big man Reggie Johnson, so Grant will have more opportunities to shine.

Rob Jones, Saint Mary's: Jones could be a double-double regular for the Gaels, and for Saint Mary's to win the WCC, Jones will have to be a star.

Doron Lamb, Kentucky: John Calipari says Lamb will be the Wildcats' best player. Just Coach Cal mind games, or the truth?

Meyers Leonard, Illinois: Leonard didn't contribute a whole lot as a freshman, but he was a hidden gem on the U.S. U-19 team in Latvia this summer. The Illini are expecting big things out of him.

C.J. McCollum, Lehigh: McCollum is the nation's leading returning scorer (21.8 ppg) and is in the top five in steals (2.5 spg). Oh, and he did that as a freshman. What more do you need to know?

Cameron Moore, UAB: The Blazers have been consistently good under Mike Davis and have had unheralded C-USA stars. Moore is the latest.

Toure' Murry, Wichita State: If the Shockers win the Missouri Valley over Creighton, a lot of the credit will end up going to the veteran Murry.

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Ryan Pearson
Rafael Suanes/US PresswireRyan Pearson looks to lead Mason to another run to the NCAAs.

Brandon Paul, Illinois: Illini coach Bruce Weber was a bit surprised Paul didn't crack the top 50 on the Wooden list, given his overall importance to this team.

Ryan Pearson, George Mason: The Patriots are a trendy pick for the Top 25 and a lot of that has to do with the versatility of Pearson.

Damier Pitts, Marshall: The Thundering Herd are a real sleeper to gain an NCAA tourney berth out of Conference USA in large part because of Pitts.

Herb Pope, Seton Hall: Pope has come back from multiple life-threatening situations and has a real shot as a senior to put it all together and finally shine.

Terrence Ross, Washington: The Huskies can't be dismissed as a major player for the Pac-12 title, and if they win it, Ross will be a significant reason why.

Robert Sacre, Gonzaga: Sacre has matured into a solid post player, and that progress shows no signs of stopping as the Zags once again compete for the West Coast title.

Mike Scott, Virginia: If the sleeper Cavs mount a run to the NCAA tournament, the oft-injured Scott will be the reason why.

Renardo Sidney, Mississippi State: If Sidney is in shape and plays up to his potential, he has SEC Player of the Year potential and could be the difference between the Bulldogs making the NCAAs or NIT.

Andrew Smith, Butler: The Bulldogs will have fewer stars this season, but Smith has a chance to outshine Khyle Marshall and newcomer Roosevelt Jones with his scoring prowess in the post.

Chace Stanback, UNLV: Stanback's suspension to start the season is only one game, so that won't diminish his ability to lead the Rebels in their hunt for a Mountain West title.

Raymond Taylor, Florida Atlantic: FAU quietly won the Sun Belt East Division last season and Mike Jarvis' diminutive point guard was the catalyst behind the regular-season championship.

Hollis Thompson, Georgetown: If the Hoyas are to make the NCAA tournament again and be a pest in the upper half of the Big East, then Thompson needs a breakout season.

Kyle Weems, Missouri State: Doug McDermott is the one everyone is talking about in the Valley, but let's not forget that Weems is the reigning MVC Player of the Year. Too bad for the Bears he's their only returning starter.

Kendall Williams, New Mexico: The sophomore guard was the leading scorer in four postseason NIT games for the Lobos and should only get better with the addition of Australian Hugh Greenwood.

The transfers

Dewayne Dedmon, USC: Trojans coach Kevin O'Neill firmly believes this JC transfer is an NBA talent who could dominate the post and average a double-double for SC.

Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State: The former UTEP big man is ready to have a bust-out season for a team that has serious bounce-back potential after a disappointing 2010-11 campaign.

Mike Rosario, Florida: The former Rutgers scoring guard finally has plenty of support around him and will put up numbers for a winner.

Rakim Sanders, Fairfield: The Boston College transfer should flourish after dropping down a level, and he should get coach Sydney Johnson another trip to the NCAA tourney. Johnson is beginning his first year at Fairfield after leading Princeton to the 2011 tourney.

Royce White, Iowa State: White is finally ready to be a star on the college scene after multiple transgressions at Minnesota.

Brandon Wood, Michigan State: The Spartans picked up a rare senior transfer (taking advantage of the graduate transfer rule) from Valparaiso who could be one of the best shooters in the Big Ten.

Tony Woods, Oregon: The embattled Woods arrived from Wake Forest after legal issues and has a chance to really shine as a double-double player for the first time in his career.

The freshmen

Bradley Beal, Florida: Beal has a chance to be a productive player in a frontcourt that has a vacuum after multiple seniors departed.

Gary Bell Jr., Gonzaga: Coach Mark Few has been anticipating Bell's arrival for over a year now. He's expected to step in and deliver right away.

Wayne Blackshear, Louisville: The Cardinals fancy themselves a Big East title contender, and that's partly because they consider Blackshear a star in the making.

Jabari Brown, Oregon: Brown was the star of the Ducks' trip to Italy with his scoring prowess, and expect that to continue in the Pac-12.

Jahii Carson, Arizona State: There is some question right now as to Carson's eligibility, but if he's good to go, the Sun Devils might become relevant in the Pac-12 again.

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Anthony Davis
Brendan NolanThere seems to be little doubt that freshman Anthony Davis will have a major impact for UK.

Erik Copes, George Mason: Copes was bound for George Washington before Karl Hobbs was fired; now he'll be a headline performer for the Patriots and first-year coach Paul Hewitt.

Anthony Davis, Kentucky: Davis has a chance to be the SEC Player of the Year and the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, so expect him to be on the midseason list when freshmen are allowed.

Andre Drummond, Connecticut: He will be an immediate star and help lift the Huskies into the national title chase again. He's more than likely a future top-five pick in the NBA.

Myck Kabongo, Texas: Coach Rick Barnes has had quite a bit of success with big-time freshmen guards, and Kabongo is next in line.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kentucky: Gilchrist will be another star on what will be a headline team throughout the season.

Johnny O'Bryant, LSU: Coach Trent Johnson needs the Tigers to start trending upward again, and he has a shot with the arrival of the big man from Mississippi.

LeBryan Nash, Oklahoma State: OSU is a bit of a mystery team in the Big 12, but the All-American from Dallas could push the Cowboys into contention.

Austin Rivers, Duke: Rivers will have the ball in his hands quite a bit and appears to be the next Duke star in a lengthy list of recognizable names.

Josiah Turner, Arizona: The Wildcats will win the Pac-12 regular-season title if Turner is as good as advertised.

Cody Zeller, Indiana: If coach Tom Crean is going to turn the Hoosiers into a relevant team this season, it will be because of Zeller and his impact in the Big Ten.

The Cleveland Cavaliers made a highly publicized play for Michigan State coach Tom Izzo in June 2010, but Izzo turned down a lucrative financial offer to stay with the Spartans.

A year later, Minnesota Timberwolves general manager David Kahn asked about Washington coach Lorenzo Romar. But it's not going any further than that initial inquiry. Romar isn't heading to Minneapolis.

Will that be the only flirtation with a college coach in the NBA this offseason? Have we entered an era when college coaches may not venture into the NBA because for the high-level coaches, the money won't be much of a difference?

Possibly.

"If it's based on money, I'm not sure coaches will make that transition, especially if they like where they are," Romar said. "The guys that make that type of NBA money are already established."

It seems NBA teams are now seeking the coaches who have been players or assistants such as Mark Jackson or Dwane Casey.

"I just don't see it happening," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said of elite college coaches making the jump. "I think the NBA will continue to recycle guys unless it's a former college guy like Kelvin Sampson."

Sampson has been an assistant with the Milwaukee Bucks and was recently interviewed by the Pistons. He's gone the assistant route after running afoul of NCAA rules at Oklahoma and Indiana.

"Once you take the top guys out, guys like Phil Jackson, Doc Rivers, the average salary is much more comparable to the college coaches," said Duke associate coach Chris Collins, whose father, Doug, is the head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers. Elite college coaches like John Calipari, Billy Donovan and Mike Krzyzewski are already making more than $3-4 million per year.

"To do it, it has to be that you want to challenge yourself in something new," Collins said. "Financially, coaches like Lon Kruger and some of those other guys, it was a such a big-money deal it was hard to say no. Mike Montgomery, did it and it was something he couldn't turn down."

Leonard Hamilton was in a similar situation when Michael Jordan plucked him from Miami to coach the Washington Wizards. Hamilton got a significant payday but was fired, then landed back in Florida, this time coaching Florida State.

"The trend is to go find a coach that has a relationship with the players," Hamilton said. "But I'm not so sure it won't come back again. The rules are changing with allowing zone, and teams aren't running as many sets."

Still, Hamilton said there will be coaches who see the allure of coaching in the NBA regardless of the financial terms that may be similar.

"A lot of coaches have the aspiration to coach at the highest level," Hamilton said. "If they had the opportunity, I think most coaches, regardless of pay, would welcome it. I think it will change in the near future where college coaches will get the chance again."

A few more news and notes ...

• The schedules for the 2011-12 season are starting to shape up, including in the Hoosier State. As previously announced, Butler will play Purdue, and Indiana will take on Notre Dame at an event at Conseco Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. But the Bulldogs also will play at Indiana after the two schools agreed to be part of a multiteam event during which they'll play three home games against weaker teams. Butler associate head coach Matthew Graves said the Bulldogs aren't in a traditional neutral-site tournament this season but will play in the Maui Invitational in 2012. Butler also signed a home-and-home series with Gonzaga beginning next season in Spokane with the Bulldogs getting the return game in 2012-13. Butler also will host Xavier and Louisville and travel to Stanford next season.

• Missouri coach Frank Haith is trying to offset a number of departures, as the Tigers have only three scholarship players for 2012-13. That's why he took on transfers Keion Bell (Pepperdine), George Goode (Louisville) and Earnest Ross (Auburn) and is now looking at Brian Oliver (Georgia Tech). Oliver is deciding among Penn State, Seton Hall and Missouri, according to a source.

• Former Arkansas sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke is down to Butler and Oklahoma for his new destination, according to a source. Clarke would have one season of eligibility remaining but must sit out next season.

It's safe to say Washington's Lorenzo Romar can't offer any crisis management tips for coaching colleagues after the Venoy Overton case.

He said he was blindsided by the recent second-degree charges against Overton of promoting prostitution, in this case involving an 18-year-old woman. The allegations came after Overton earlier avoided prosecution after two sexual situations involving teenage girls.

Overton is currently in King County Jail and there is a $150,000 bail. He has a June 30 arraignment.

Yet he played in two NCAA tournament games this March -- a win against Georgia and a loss to North Carolina -- after being suspended for the Pac-10 tournament.

Why?

"If I had knowledge at that time, it would have been far different than the way we handled it," Romar told ESPN.com by phone Wednesday. "I had zero knowledge of it."

Romar said the first time he knew about the extent of Overton's criminal activity was when he got the call that he had been arrested. The Huskies were initially operating under the information that Overton had been cited for providing alcohol to a minor. That gross misdemeanor, reached in a plea deal, was the only charge that arose out of a police investigation.

But there was more. Allegedly Overton not only provided alcohol to two 16-year-old girls he met online, but he also had sex with them (the age of consent in Washington is 16). One of the girls accused Overton of rape, but prosecutors did not file charges because she failed "to clearly communicate a lack of consent." The incident came after an investigation in summer 2009 that involved accusations that he sent sexually explicit text messages to his 15-year-old cousin. Overton's troubles are well-documented in a recent report in the Seattle Times.

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Lorenzo Romar and Venoy Overton
Stephen Dunn/Getty ImagesThe career of Venoy Overton, seen here with Lorenzo Romar after the 2010 Pac-10 tourney, will be remembered more for the embarrassment it brought to UW.

The only charge out of that case involved the alcohol and that's what Romar and the university used as a basis for making their decision.

"Venoy had been improving a lot of areas in his life and making a lot of progress when he joined us," Romar said. "I thought there had been a lot of progress."

Nevertheless, Romar and UW can't run away from the bad publicity that followed when Overton was allowed to play in the NCAA tournament. Interestingly, Overton ultimately cost the Huskies when he botched two of the final possessions in a close round of 32 game against North Carolina, choosing not to pass off to leading scorer Isaiah Thomas. Thomas was miffed after the game that he didn't get a chance to score, let alone shoot, for the Huskies in the final possessions (before a last shot) against the Tar Heels.

Overton said at the time he was doing what he was told, which was to go toward the basket and create.

In the end, though, that's just basketball. Overton's decisions on the court clearly pale in comparison to what he was alleged to have been doing off the court.

And it stings the Huskies and Romar.

"I'm hoping people look at our body of work and see that the last nine years what has happened and judge us on that, not on what I call an isolated situation," Romar said. "It was unique. It wasn't one that we had dealt with before. I don't think there's a rulebook for this. I have a certain standard for the program and a standard that I felt we had been maintaining."

Romar didn't want to go into the specifics of the case, but as a father he said he was sick about the charges.

"You want this to go away, but it won't," Romar said. "We went nine years without this sort of thing. Hopefully we can go another nine years and continue to do the right thing. This is certainly not a pattern for us."

The lesson for Romar and other coaches is that there must be due diligence before reinstating. Clearly Overton did enough to warrant the Pac-10 tournament suspension. But bringing him back for the NCAA tournament warranted even more vetting.

Romar said he acted on what he knew. He had to have university support to do so. He did. And he got burned -- badly.

The investigation into sex with a pair of 16-year-olds was probably enough to warrant sitting Overton for all of the postseason. He was a senior playing in his final games, but there are consequences to your actions, no matter when they happen.

Washington's program will survive this ugly incident. The Huskies have another impressive recruiting class coming in. Terrence Ross should be a star next season and Abdul Gaddy should be fully healthy. U-Dub will be in the mix for another NCAA tournament berth.

The decision to reinstate Overton was a mistake, even with limited information. There was still enough gray area from his previous issues to warrant a stiffer penalty.

Romar's position was that Overton had suffered quite a bit in not being able to share in the joy of a Pac-10 tournament title. He didn't want to dismiss Overton from the program with the information he had at the time.

Now he wishes he'd known everything. He says he didn't, and there's not much more he can do about it at this point. He didn't commit the crime, after all. But the bottom line is Washington played a player who was clearly troubled.

The Huskies want this story to go away. And it will once Overton's legal case concludes. The stain of scandal will eventually wear off.

But now you can be assured Romar and other coaches who end up dealing with something similar will be even more cautious about reinstating a player. If they don't, they'll potentially suffer the same consequences: shame and embarrassment.

Quick hitters on a Monday heading into the Sweet 16:

• We can't have it both ways -- criticizing the officials for not officiating until the final seconds of the Rutgers-St. John's Big East tournament game and then officiating until the final buzzer in other games. I'm not going to shill for the officials, but they got it right in the Pitt-Butler game. Those were fouls at the end of the game by Butler's Shelvin Mack and Pitt's Nasir Robinson. They were incredibly dumb fouls at the worst time, but they were fouls. The officials didn't affect the game. The players did by putting themselves in position to be called for legit fouls.

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Cory Joseph
William Purnell/Icon SMICory Joseph tried to call a timeout in the final seconds of Texas' loss to Arizona.

• The five-second count on Texas' Cory Joseph was debatable by a half-second. But the official had the count in his head and was standing right there. It's hard to debate that point. And Texas shouldn't have even put itself in that position to lose to Arizona the way it did.

• Official Doug Shows also was not wrong with the clock in the Washington-North Carolina game, judging the amount of time remaining in the game by the whistle (0.5 seconds) rather than when the ball hit the floor (one-plus seconds). Once again, Washington had no business being in a position to worry about an official. The Huskies missed so many opportunities to either tie or win the game. It wasn't the officials' fault that Justin Holiday tried to pass the ball over John Henson or that Venoy Overton ignored Isaiah Thomas in two of the three final possessions.

• Princeton has received inquiries about whether it would allow coach Sydney Johnson to talk to Bradley and Towson. Huh? Johnson has done a sensational job resurrecting the Tigers program. But Bradley and Towson? Sure, there are connections with Bradley's AD Mike Cross, who was at Princeton, and Johnson has Maryland ties in the Towson area. But leaving his alma mater, Princeton, a place where he has a great emotional investment, for one of these two schools would only be a money grab.

Meanwhile, Princeton has to do more to step up and keep Johnson. These are no longer the days of Pete Carril, when a coach was just happy to be there. It's a competitive marketplace, and even if Georgia Tech or NC State were to call -- which are much more palatable jobs -- the Tigers, led by AD Gary Walters, must make the Princeton job work within the marketplace. There is money within the alumni base who love seeing their school in the NCAA tournament -- go get it. Princeton is an Ivy League power. Harvard has raised the recruiting ante in the Ivy, and now there is going to be serious competition for the top spot and a bid. So the competition to keep coaches has increased. Johnson is a better fit where he is now and will likely see that to be the case, if he hasn't already, unless he gets an offer from an ACC school.

• The Big East has two teams left in the NCAA tournament, but it's not a reflection on the regular season. The Big East deserved every one of the 11 bids. Those are two different arguments. I never believed outside of Pitt that the Big East had a team that could even reach the Final Four. Connecticut still could and, of course, so can Marquette, but the odds are less likely based on the East regional. But crushing the Big East in the NCAAs is a moot argument. The 11 bids were deserved.

• Can you imagine if Kentucky's Terrence Jones had stuck with his first choice and gone to Washington? I thought about that while watching how well the Huskies scored Sunday. That would have been quite a team.

• No one has said much about the job John Calipari did with Kentucky this season. All I know is he has the Wildcats within one game of the Elite Eight again with nearly a new roster. That's quite impressive.

• The noise about the selections last Sunday should have been more directed to the seeding and the bracketing. Texas, even though the Longhorns lost, shouldn't have been a No. 4 and Florida, even though the Gators won, shouldn't have been a No. 2. Why was Richmond a 12-seed after winning the A-10 tournament? Oakland could have been a 12 more than a 13. Butler did play to its 8-seed by losing in the Horizon League. And the bracket in the East was just too strong with Kentucky, North Carolina and Ohio State all jammed together. The Sweet 16 bracket now is too imbalanced.

• The NIT better start handing out some free tickets for the semifinals in New York. It might be tough to fill the seats with the College of Charleston playing Wichita State for one berth, Colorado against Kent State for another and the possibility of Washington State as a third. The NIT bracket was lopsided, too, with one quadrant loaded with four teams that could have been in New York (New Mexico, Alabama, Miami and Missouri State).

Darius Morris should be a star next season for Michigan. He has a chance to be a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate along with Purdue's Robbie Hummel, assuming the rest of the underclassmen stars like Jared Sullinger leave.

• Losers from the weekend -- UCLA, Michigan, Washington, Texas -- should feel good about next season. All four of those teams are going to be major factors in their respective conferences next season.

Editor's Note: Andy Katz's revised top 25 was published on Friday with Purdue at No. 2. With Saturday's news of Robbie Hummel's devastating retorn ACL, Katz has issued an updated version:

1. Duke: No reason to move the Blue Devils. Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith had tremendous summers working out with the USA Basketball select team. The buzz around newcomer Kyrie Irving is just as high. The karma is all good in Durham with Mike Krzyzewski winning a gold medal at the FIBA World Championship in Turkey and the Blue Devils getting a commitment from one of the best players in the 2011 class in Austin Rivers.

2. Michigan State: The Spartans did dump Chris Allen, an indication that the differences between Allen and Tom Izzo were too wide to overcome. But Izzo is feeling quite good about the continued recovery of Kalin Lucas from an Achilles injury. Lucas will be treated carefully in practice over the next month as the Spartans see how much he can push himself. But Izzo is confident Delvon Roe is as healthy as he's been at MSU and fully expects Durrell Summers to be a star and Draymond Green to be a vocal leader.

3. Pittsburgh: The Panthers don't have the star power of the aforementioned top three. But this Panthers team is like an old-school Big East team that has experienced players who have been together and found roles. The summer trip to Ireland provided more positive bonding time for Jamie Dixon's crew as it takes on the role of Big East favorite. There were no flaws this summer, making it more palatable to move the Panthers up a few spots.

4. Kansas State: The Wildcats continue to have a positive vibe from their near brush with a Final Four berth. Kansas State returns Jacob Pullen and an expectation that returnees like Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels will continue to blossom. Clearly the rest of the Big 12 believes in the Wildcats, as well, since they were picked to win the league for the first time.

5. Ohio State: The Buckeyes have one of the top freshmen in the country in big man Jared Sullinger. Sure, they lost Evan Turner, but the rest of the wings return and the buzz on the Buckeyes remains that this team was more than Turner a year ago. If players like William Buford, David Lighty and Jon Diebler can handle the responsibility, the Bucks should be a national contender.

6. Kansas: Moving the Jayhawks up to No. 7 is clearly predicated on Josh Selby being eligible for the majority of the season. KU is waiting for Selby to get his academic clearance from the Eligibility Center. He can practice while this is pending, but Kansas needs him out on the court during the real stuff. There is still plenty of talent in Lawrence -- led by Marcus Morris, who coach Bill Self is convinced will be a star -- but Selby is the key for the Jayhawks to be top-10 good.

7. Villanova: The Wildcats didn't rely on Scottie Reynolds in his last few games as much and they survived. Reynolds' eligibility expired and Corey Fisher is the next one to pick up the mantel. Jay Wright had another solid offseason, coaching the USA Basketball select team. There is an expectation now that Wright's teams won't dip. Like Pitt, Villanova is considered a regular near the top of the league on a yearly basis.

8. Gonzaga: The Zags had quite a summer with Elias Harris, Kelly Olynyk and Robert Sacre all playing for their respective national teams. Gonzaga put together arguably the toughest nonconference schedule in the country, too. If Demetri Goodson and Steven Gray can elevate their game as lead guards after the departure of Matt Bouldin, the Zags will be deserving of a top-10 ranking.

9. Florida: The Gators return all five starters from last season's No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament. But the addition of Patric Young is surely going to bolster this squad. Young won gold for the USA junior national team this summer and proved to be an invaluable member of that squad. His tenacity, hustle plays and overall team focus means he could be a difference-maker for Florida this season.

10. Syracuse: The Orange move up six spots from the May poll in large part because coach Jim Boeheim is almost never wrong about evaluating and projecting his team's talent. Most of the time he hits on the major contributors and Boeheim said Kris Joseph is ready to be a star. He also expects big man Fab Melo to have a monster season, notably on the defensive end where he can block shots and grab rebounds. While it's hard to see yet where and how much C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters will play, they have already impressed, meaning the freshman class will make this team even deeper.

11. Kentucky: If Enes Kanter's eligibility was a certainty, the Wildcats would move up into the top 10. His amateurism eligibility decision is still to be determined. But what can be stated is Kentucky showed on a trip to Canada that the returning players are up for the challenge of a new role. Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins should flourish as John Calipari plays more of his dribble-drive-motion offense. Newcomers like point guard Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones and Stacey Poole are all ready to make major contributions.

12. Missouri: The Tigers move up a notch, even without newcomer Tony Mitchell, whose eligibility is in question and in a best-case scenario wouldn't be available until the Big 12 schedule starts. But Mike Anderson can't play the role of being underappreciated anymore. Missouri returns Kim English, a healthy Justin Safford, Marcus Denmon and adds a recruiting class that needs to get more love. Anderson is pushing the significance of point guard Phil Pressey and power forward Ricardo Ratliffe. If both are as impactful as projected, Mizzou may be a league title contender.

13. Illinois: My colleague Doug Gottlieb tabbed the Illini to win the Big Ten. I'm not going that far with Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State to contend with. But Illinois has no excuse if this is not an NCAA season at the very least. Bruce Weber can't say enough about how much incoming freshman Jereme Richmond will mean to this team. Add him to an already talented roster that includes Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, D.J. Richardson and returning lead guard Demetri McCamey and the Illini have their best chance since 2005 to challenge for a conference title.

14. North Carolina: Losing the Wear twins and senior Will Graves, the team's top 3-point threat, meant the Tar Heels had to drop a few slots. The talent is in place up front with the return of John Henson and Tyler Zeller and the addition of the top freshman in the country in Harrison Barnes. But the guard play is still a work in progress and an unknown with erratic Larry Drew II and the still-inexperienced Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald being joined by newcomers Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall.

15. Memphis: The Tigers did get Will Barton eligible after there were questions earlier in the summer once he missed the team's trip to the Bahamas. But all is good now. The Tigers certainly have the talent to be projected higher, but remember they didn't make the NCAAs last season and are leaning heavily on newcomers like Barton, Joe Jackson and Tarik Black. If the Tigers are to be worthy of the top 10, then returnees like Wesley Witherspoon and Will Coleman will have to continue their improvement.

16. Baylor: This is by far the biggest drop in my poll from May to October. The Bears were probably too high in that original poll. Losing Ekpe Udoh and Tweety Carter was significant and maybe I was putting too much emphasis on newcomer Perry Jones. But the reason for this drop is LaceDarius Dunn. He is currently suspended from game competition, but was just reinstated to the team to practice and attend class after allegations that he broke his girlfriend's jaw. But the uncertainty of Dunn's availability casts major doubt on whether the Bears can be a serious contender in the Big 12.

17. Washington: Like Jay Wright, there was positive karma with Lorenzo Romar sharing the coaching duties in Las Vegas for the USA Basketball select team. And the guard play is extremely solid with the return of Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy, wings Justin Holiday and newcomers led by Terrence Ross. Losing Quincy Pondexter shouldn't be underplayed, though. We'll know early enough about the Huskies when they go to the Maui Invitational with a possible semifinal matchup against Kentucky.

18. Butler: Shelvin Mack had a sensational summer and the buzz continues to build that he's one of the top guards in the country. Mack played on the USA select team and the more confident he becomes, the better chance Butler has of being back in the mix for a deep March run again. Sure, losing Gordon Hayward early to the NBA is hard to take for this group, but if Ronald Nored is healthy enough to be as much of a scorer as he was a defender and Matt Howard adds even more productivity and stays out of foul trouble, the Bulldogs won't disappoint.

19. Georgetown: The Hoyas return one of the best backcourts in the Big East with Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark. If Julian Vaughn, Hollis Thompson and newcomers Nate Lubick and Moses Abraham can help offset the loss of Greg Monroe, Georgetown will be in the chase in the Big East. The Hoyas put themselves in position early with another tough slate of nonconference games (going to Old Dominion, Temple and Memphis, to Kansas City to play Missouri, and adding a home game against always-tough Utah State) to gauge where this team will be in January.

20. Tennessee: I probably had the Vols slightly too high in May and the NCAA investigation swirling around the program doesn't help, let alone the self-imposed sanctions against the entire coaching staff that have left a cloud over the season. It shouldn't affect the on-court performance of the players, but it will certainly be a distraction for the coaches as they have to deal with questions throughout the fall. Tennessee still has one of the top newcomers in guard Tobias Harris, and if Scotty Hopson can make shots in bunches, the Vols should still finish in the top three in the loaded SEC East.

21. San Diego State: The Aztecs have quietly gone through the summer with their roster intact, led by one of the more underrated forwards in the country in Kawhi Leonard. Malcolm Thomas is another stud for coach Steve Fisher. If the point guard situation gets settled, the Aztecs should be a top-25 squad. San Diego State challenged itself with five straight games away from home to open the season, including going to Gonzaga before heading off to three games in Oxford, Ohio, as part of the CBE Classic. If the Aztecs survive that stretch, they'll be in a solid position to enter the MWC season as the favorite, fending off BYU, New Mexico and UNLV.

22. Minnesota: The Gophers got two players back that would have certainly helped in March. Lead guard Al Nolen, who became academically ineligible in February last season, is good to go, as is forward Trevor Mbakwe, who sat out last season pending an assault case. Mbakwe is back in the good graces at the school, which stood by him during the case. The Gophers went to Canada in August and returned an even more determined lot. Don't sleep on this squad, especially in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic. Nolen, Mbakwe, Devoe Joseph, Blake Hoffarber, Ralph Sampson III and Rodney Williams are all capable of leading the Gophers to a tournament win and into the top 25.

23. Purdue: On Friday, I ranked Purdue No. 2 and wrote that "the Boilermakers haven't had a single hiccup during the offseason." Less than 24 hours later, Robbie Hummel retore his right ACL during the team's first full practice. The loss can't be overstated. The Boilers still have a pair of All-Big Ten players in JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore and are still very much an NCAA tournament team, but it's hard to foresee this being a Final Four contender without Hummel.

24. Temple: The Owls got pushed down a peg by my newfound belief in Minnesota. Temple is still my pick to win the A-10 with the return of Lavoy Allen and guard Juan Fernandez. The Owls once again have a monster schedule that should tell us plenty by January, with an opener against Seton Hall, quality games in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, playing Maryland in D.C., hosting Georgetown and going to Villanova. The Owls go to Duke, too, but that's not until late February. Oh, and of course, this team has one of the top coaches in the game in Fran Dunphy.

25. Georgia: I was bullish on the Bulldogs in May and I haven't dropped off in October with the return of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, two of the top talents in the SEC. Georgia also adds Tennessee State transfer Gerald Robinson, who should open up some scoring on the perimeter. UGA will certainly be pushed in an SEC East that could produce up to five NCAA tourney teams, but the Bulldogs have some summer buzz and momentum heading into that Old Spice Classic tournament in Orlando, especially with an opener against Notre Dame.

Who got pushed out of the poll?
Virginia Tech: The Hokies were No. 22 in my May poll, but they lost one of their key rotation players in J.T. Thompson to a knee injury. Of course, the return of Malcolm Delaney means they will be in the hunt for a top-two finish in the ACC and an NCAA berth. But the Hokies weren't an NCAA team last season and losing a key player pushed them down a few spots for now.

A dozen more to watch (in alphabetical order): BYU, Florida State, New Mexico, Texas, UNLV, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wichita State, Wisconsin, Xavier

With the official start of practice Friday night, it feels like a good time to revisit my preseason top 25, which hasn't been touched since the final underclassman decisions were made in mid-May.

Not much has changed near the top. Duke is still No. 1, and will be in the majority of long-standing polls in the mainstream media and fledgling ones across the blogosphere.

But these Blue Devils aren't the 2009 Tar Heels. Duke is unquestionably the national favorite, but it's hardly an intimidating force. The schedule will favor the Devils in every game they play, but if they were to get beat by Kansas State or Gonzaga in Kansas City or by Michigan State at Cameron, or by Butler in New Jersey, no one would stop and consider it a tectonic shift in the season.

As for the rest of the poll, the pair of Big Ten teams at No. 2 (Purdue) and No. 3 (Michigan State) has not moved. But eligibility issues and suspensions over the past five months have forced some changes elsewhere in my top 25. Summer success, injuries and a re-evaluation of some teams has also caused some alterations.

So here is my new poll in advance of the season:

1. Duke: No reason to move the Blue Devils. Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith had tremendous summers working out with the USA Basketball select team. The buzz around newcomer Kyrie Irving is just as high. The karma is all good in Durham with Mike Krzyzewski winning a gold medal at the FIBA World Championship in Turkey and the Blue Devils getting a commitment from one of the best players in the 2011 class in Austin Rivers.

2. Purdue: The Boilermakers haven't had a single hiccup during the offseason. They have been quiet, which is just fine for a team that could be Duke's toughest challenge. Robbie Hummel continues to be on schedule to play this season after suffering an ACL tear in February. JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore join Hummel and offer Purdue the treat of three seniors who are all-Big Ten players. This team is a prime candidate for a spot in Houston.

3. Michigan State: The Spartans did dump Chris Allen, an indication that the differences between Allen and Tom Izzo were too wide to overcome. But Izzo is feeling quite good about the continued recovery of Kalin Lucas from an Achilles injury. Lucas will be treated carefully in practice over the next month as the Spartans see how much he can push himself. But Izzo is confident Delvon Roe is as healthy as he's been at MSU and fully expects Durrell Summers to be a star and Draymond Green to be a vocal leader.

4. Pittsburgh: The Panthers don't have the star power of the aforementioned top three. But this Panthers team is like an old-school Big East team that has experienced players who have been together and found roles. The summer trip to Ireland provided more positive bonding time for Jamie Dixon's crew as it takes on the role of Big East favorite. There were no flaws this summer, making it more palatable to move the Panthers up a few spots.

5. Kansas State: The Wildcats continue to have a positive vibe from their near brush with a Final Four berth. Kansas State returns Jacob Pullen and an expectation that returnees like Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels will continue to blossom. Clearly the rest of the Big 12 believes in the Wildcats, as well, since they were picked to win the league for the first time.

6. Ohio State: The Buckeyes have one of the top freshmen in the country in big man Jared Sullinger. Sure, they lost Evan Turner, but the rest of the wings return and the buzz on the Buckeyes remains that this team was more than Turner a year ago. If players like William Buford, David Lighty and Jon Diebler can handle the responsibility, the Bucks should be a national contender.

7. Kansas: Moving the Jayhawks up to No. 7 is clearly predicated on Josh Selby being eligible for the majority of the season. KU is waiting for Selby to get his academic clearance from the Eligibility Center. He can practice while this is pending, but Kansas needs him out on the court during the real stuff. There is still plenty of talent in Lawrence -- led by Marcus Morris, who coach Bill Self is convinced will be a star -- but Selby is the key for the Jayhawks to be top-10 good.

8. Villanova: The Wildcats didn't rely on Scottie Reynolds in his last few games as much and they survived. Reynolds' eligibility expired and Corey Fisher is the next one to pick up the mantel. Jay Wright had another solid offseason, coaching the USA Basketball select team. There is an expectation now that Wright's teams won't dip. Like Pitt, Villanova is considered a regular near the top of the league on a yearly basis.

9. Gonzaga: The Zags had quite a summer with Elias Harris, Kelly Olynyk and Robert Sacre all playing for their respective national teams. Gonzaga put together arguably the toughest nonconference schedule in the country, too. If Demetri Goodson and Steven Gray can elevate their game as lead guards after the departure of Matt Bouldin, the Zags will be deserving of a top-10 ranking.

10. Florida: The Gators return all five starters from last season's No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament. But the addition of Patric Young is surely going to bolster this squad. Young won gold for the USA junior national team this summer and proved to be an invaluable member of that squad. His tenacity, hustle plays and overall team focus means he could be a difference-maker for Florida this season.

11. Syracuse: The Orange move up six spots from the May poll in large part because coach Jim Boeheim is almost never wrong about evaluating and projecting his team's talent. Most of the time he hits on the major contributors and Boeheim said Kris Joseph is ready to be a star. He also expects big man Fab Melo to have a monster season, notably on the defensive end where he can block shots and grab rebounds. While it's hard to see yet where and how much C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters will play, they have already impressed, meaning the freshman class will make this team even deeper.

12. Kentucky: If Enes Kanter's eligibility was a certainty, the Wildcats would move up into the top 10. His amateurism eligibility decision is still to be determined. But what can be stated is Kentucky showed on a trip to Canada that the returning players are up for the challenge of a new role. Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins should flourish as John Calipari plays more of his dribble-drive-motion offense. Newcomers like point guard Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones and Stacey Poole are all ready to make major contributions.

13. Missouri: The Tigers move up a notch, even without newcomer Tony Mitchell, whose eligibility is in question and in a best-case scenario wouldn't be available until the Big 12 schedule starts. But Mike Anderson can't play the role of being underappreciated anymore. Missouri returns Kim English, a healthy Justin Safford, Marcus Denmon and adds a recruiting class that needs to get more love. Anderson is pushing the significance of point guard Phil Pressey and power forward Ricardo Ratliffe. If both are as impactful as projected, Mizzou may be a league title contender.

14. Illinois: My colleague Doug Gottlieb tabbed the Illini to win the Big Ten. I'm not going that far with Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State to contend with. But Illinois has no excuse if this is not an NCAA season at the very least. Bruce Weber can't say enough about how much incoming freshman Jereme Richmond will mean to this team. Add him to an already talented roster that includes Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, D.J. Richardson and returning lead guard Demetri McCamey and the Illini have their best chance since 2005 to challenge for a conference title.

15. North Carolina: Losing the Wear twins and senior Will Graves, the team's top 3-point threat, meant the Tar Heels had to drop a few slots. The talent is in place up front with the return of John Henson and Tyler Zeller and the addition of the top freshman in the country in Harrison Barnes. But the guard play is still a work in progress and an unknown with erratic Larry Drew II and the still-inexperienced Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald being joined by newcomers Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall.

16. Memphis: The Tigers did get Will Barton eligible after there were questions earlier in the summer once he missed the team's trip to the Bahamas. But all is good now. The Tigers certainly have the talent to be projected higher, but remember they didn't make the NCAAs last season and are leaning heavily on newcomers like Barton, Joe Jackson and Tarik Black. If the Tigers are to be worthy of the top 10, then returnees like Wesley Witherspoon and Will Coleman will have to continue their improvement.

17. Baylor: This is by far the biggest drop in my poll from May to October. The Bears were probably too high in that original poll. Losing Ekpe Udoh and Tweety Carter was significant and maybe I was putting too much emphasis on newcomer Perry Jones. But the reason for this drop is LaceDarius Dunn. He is currently suspended from game competition, but was just reinstated to the team to practice and attend class after allegations that he broke his girlfriend's jaw. But the uncertainty of Dunn's availability casts major doubt on whether the Bears can be a serious contender in the Big 12.

18. Washington: Like Jay Wright, there was positive karma with Lorenzo Romar sharing the coaching duties in Las Vegas for the USA Basketball select team. And the guard play is extremely solid with the return of Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy, wings Justin Holiday and newcomers led by Terrence Ross. Losing Quincy Pondexter shouldn't be underplayed, though. We'll know early enough about the Huskies when they go to the Maui Invitational with a possible semifinal matchup against Kentucky.

19. Butler: Shelvin Mack had a sensational summer and the buzz continues to build that he's one of the top guards in the country. Mack played on the USA select team and the more confident he becomes, the better chance Butler has of being back in the mix for a deep March run again. Sure, losing Gordon Hayward early to the NBA is hard to take for this group, but if Ronald Nored is healthy enough to be as much of a scorer as he was a defender and Matt Howard adds even more productivity and stays out of foul trouble, the Bulldogs won't disappoint.

20. Georgetown: The Hoyas return one of the best backcourts in the Big East with Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark. If Julian Vaughn, Hollis Thompson and newcomers Nate Lubick and Moses Abraham can help offset the loss of Greg Monroe, Georgetown will be in the chase in the Big East. The Hoyas put themselves in position early with another tough slate of nonconference games (going to Old Dominion, Temple and Memphis, to Kansas City to play Missouri, and adding a home game against always-tough Utah State) to gauge where this team will be in January.

21. Tennessee: I probably had the Vols slightly too high in May and the NCAA investigation swirling around the program doesn't help, let alone the self-imposed sanctions against the entire coaching staff that have left a cloud over the season. It shouldn't affect the on-court performance of the players, but it will certainly be a distraction for the coaches as they have to deal with questions throughout the fall. Tennessee still has one of the top newcomers in guard Tobias Harris, and if Scotty Hopson can make shots in bunches, the Vols should still finish in the top three in the loaded SEC East.

22. San Diego State: The Aztecs have quietly gone through the summer with their roster intact, led by one of the more underrated forwards in the country in Kawhi Leonard. Malcolm Thomas is another stud for coach Steve Fisher. If the point guard situation gets settled, the Aztecs should be a top-25 squad. San Diego State challenged itself with five straight games away from home to open the season, including going to Gonzaga before heading off to three games in Oxford, Ohio, as part of the CBE Classic. If the Aztecs survive that stretch, they'll be in a solid position to enter the MWC season as the favorite, fending off BYU, New Mexico and UNLV.

23. Minnesota: The Gophers got two players back that would have certainly helped in March. Lead guard Al Nolen, who became academically ineligible in February last season, is good to go, as is forward Trevor Mbakwe, who sat out last season pending an assault case. Mbakwe is back in the good graces at the school, which stood by him during the case. The Gophers went to Canada in August and returned an even more determined lot. Don't sleep on this squad, especially in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic. Nolen, Mbakwe, Devoe Joseph, Blake Hoffarber, Ralph Sampson III and Rodney Williams are all capable of leading the Gophers to a tournament win and into the top 25.

24. Temple: The Owls got pushed down a peg by my newfound belief in Minnesota. Temple is still my pick to win the A-10 with the return of Lavoy Allen and guard Juan Fernandez. The Owls once again have a monster schedule that should tell us plenty by January, with an opener against Seton Hall, quality games in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, playing Maryland in D.C., hosting Georgetown and going to Villanova. The Owls go to Duke, too, but that's not until late February. Oh, and of course, this team has one of the top coaches in the game in Fran Dunphy.

25. Georgia: I was bullish on the Bulldogs in May and I haven't dropped off in October with the return of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, two of the top talents in the SEC. Georgia also adds Tennessee State transfer Gerald Robinson, who should open up some scoring on the perimeter. UGA will certainly be pushed in an SEC East that could produce up to five NCAA tourney teams, but the Bulldogs have some summer buzz and momentum heading into that Old Spice Classic tournament in Orlando, especially with an opener against Notre Dame.

Who got pushed out of the poll?
Virginia Tech: The Hokies were No. 22 in my May poll, but they lost one of their key rotation players in J.T. Thompson to a knee injury. Of course, the return of Malcolm Delaney means they will be in the hunt for a top-two finish in the ACC and an NCAA berth. But the Hokies weren't an NCAA team last season and losing a key player pushed them down a few spots for now.

A dozen more to watch (in alphabetical order): BYU, Florida State, New Mexico, Texas, UNLV, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wichita State, Wisconsin, Xavier