Category archive: Georgia Bulldogs

If the 2014 NBA draft lives up to its hype, the upcoming college basketball season could rival or supersede any since the turn of the century.

That's a big if.

But the buzz isn't going away and won't unless the returning and incoming talent takes a dramatic drop from preseason projections.

Let's assume Kansas freshman Andrew Wiggins, Kentucky freshman Julius Randle and Oklahoma State sophomore Marcus Smart are locks for the top three to five spots in the NBA draft. Who else registers with NBA decision-makers to fill out the top 10?

Jabari Parker, freshman, Duke Blue Devils

Parker will pair up with Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood to create a dynamic tandem for the Blue Devils. Parker's overall basketball IQ makes him a cinch to be in the top 10. He will be in the running for ACC Player of the Year with Hood, Virginia's Joe Harris and Syracuse's C.J. Fair.

Joel Embiid, freshman, Kansas Jayhawks

Wiggins has swallowed most of the oxygen coming from Lawrence, but Bill Self potentially has one of the best big men he has coached at KU in Embiid. He is a sponge, soaking up knowledge, and could be the most dominant big man outside of Randle this season.

Glenn Robinson III, sophomore, Michigan Wolverines

Robinson is described as having a pro game with excellent shooting skills. The trick will be how he handles being much more of a featured presence for the Wolverines.

Mitch McGary, sophomore, Michigan Wolverines

McGary could have easily bolted from Michigan after its Final Four run last season. He was a hot candidate in an incredibly weak draft, yet he chose to return. Now, he's battling back issues. The upside is there, but he needs to show well for a full season.

James Young, freshman, Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky coach John Calipari isn't hesitating promoting Young's skill set. If he has Michael Kidd-Gilchrist's work ethic but is even better in the skill department, Young could be a sleeper to shoot up into the top five in June.

Aaron Gordon, freshman, Arizona Wildcats

Gordon was the MVP of the United States' under-19 gold-medal-winning team in the Czech Republic in July. His athleticism was on full display in the event. But Gordon will need to show he can shoot and defend to ensure he's a top-five talent.

Andrew Harrison, freshman, Kentucky Wildcats

Harrison will step in as the Wildcats' point guard. If he stands out, the long line of highly placed Calipari-coached point guards will continue to dominate the lottery.

With alignment on hold until after next season, the lines have been drawn, the places set. Now, it's time for programs that have lost their way to lock in and start the climb out of mediocrity.

Such as:

Wake Forest

The Demon Deacons stuck with Jeff Bzdelik for a fourth season after winning just 13 games in each of the past two seasons. Transfers have become all too common in the program. There was progress last season: winning six conference games, beating ACC champ Miami and knocking off NC State. But the Demon Deacons couldn't win on the road. Climbing out of the bottom third will be even tougher this year with the additions of Syracuse, Pitt and Notre Dame, not to mention the forthcoming switch of Maryland for Louisville. Wake Forest athletic director Ron Wellman and Bzdelik are good friends. Wellman put his stake in Bzdelik and has to see this through. Now is the time for the Demon Deacons to make a move to ensure that the rocky road was worth the wait. The Wake Forest fan base is one of the most passionate in the league. It's a shame that it hasn't had the opportunity to create a feared, frenzied atmosphere like the one it had less than 10 years ago.

Nebraska

The Cornhuskers are investing in basketball like never before. Nebraska is playing in $179 million Pinnacle Bank Arena. Coach Tim Miles is entering his second season. He has a young team in Lincoln, and there will be growing pains. Still, there needs to be a return investment. The Huskers must make Lincoln a feared road stop in the Big Ten going forward. Nebraska has a chance to show promise. The time is now to make a move before even the most passionate fans begin to lose interest.

West Virginia

The Mountaineers' transition to a new league might have been the toughest of any team that moved. That shouldn't have derailed a program Bob Huggins had rolling to a Final Four just over three years ago. Huggins has too much pride to let West Virginia wallow in mediocrity, but the talent drain was in effect last season. There were recruiting mistakes and opportunities lost. The Mountaineers must make Morgantown as difficult a road stop for opposing teams. Moving into the league's top four is more than doable for the Mountaineers.

Seton Hall

The Pirates might be one of the biggest beneficiaries of a move to a smaller conference. Seton Hall was lost amid the bloated old Big East. Now the opportunity is there for the Hall to climb. A strong 2014-15 recruiting class should give hope. There is optimism for one of the most difficult high-major jobs in the Northeast. Kevin Willard is entering his fourth season as a .500 coach, but he could be judged with a clean slate in a new league where the true round-robin schedule will be a fair barometer. The new Big East desperately needs the New York-market teams to matter in March. St. John's appears to be ready to accept the responsibility. The Pirates must do their share, too.

Utah

If you've never seen the Huntsman Center rocking, then you've missed out on one of the top home courts in the West. The problem is that those instances, since the late Rick Majerus was on the sideline, have been limited. Crime-fighting coach Larry Krystkowiak has the right demeanor, character and credibility to deliver a winner, but the corner must be turned soon. Utah can -- and should -- be one of the rising teams in a conference that allows plenty of chances for schools to take a turn near the top. If once downtrodden Colorado can be a regular, established contender, then Utah can as well. Krystkowiak said he believes in the younger players in the program. Now it must ignite the passion that once made Salt Lake City an intimidating destination.

Georgia

Georgia has always been one of the more intriguing SEC teams not named Kentucky or Florida. The Bulldogs are within range of plenty of talent, notably in Atlanta, even going against hometown Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs have a determined and loyal fan base that craves a winner. Mark Fox has coached and recruited pros, but he hasn't been able to get that talent to win consistently in the postseason. The SEC is wide open beyond the top two teams, with room after that for whoever can produce. If there ever was a time to make a move back into being a team of consequence, this is it.

Houston

When Guy Lewis was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame last month, it brought back memories of the Cougars' dominance in the 1980s. That era is long gone while Houston has spent time in the Witness Protection Program. Now the Cougars have come out of their shell in the American Conference, where there is a real opportunity for Houston to get on the national stage. Once Louisville leaves, UConn, Memphis and Cincinnati will need challengers. Temple and SMU might take their shot. Houston, though, can draw from as much, if not more, of a talent base than any school outside of Memphis. The Cougars might never have a better chance to be a factor than right now. The 1980s aren't coming back, but Houston has a shot to create its own revival.

Locked out by NBA owners, Kemba Walker is spending his October working out with his former Connecticut teammates.

Walker doesn't have second thoughts about declaring for the NBA draft. He was gone as soon as the Huskies won the national title, and his decision was probably made far earlier.

As college basketball practices begin Friday evening and the lockout continues, it is worth pondering the players who might be questioning their moves last spring and what their old college teams would look like right now if they'd made the decision to stay in school.

It was no secret that the lockout was a likely occurrence. The possibility was hardly a secret. Yet plenty of questionable moves were made by players who decided to stay in the draft. Some were selected later than they were projected; others weren't selected at all.

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Hopson
AP Photos/Henny Ray AbramsUndrafted Scotty Hopson certainly could've helped the rebuilding efforts at Tennessee.

Scotty Hopson, Tennessee: Hopson had no business leaving for the NBA, even if Bruce Pearl had not been fired. Hopson was never a consistent shooter and didn't continue to progress on an upward trajectory. He wasn't selected in the NBA draft like his teammate Tobias Harris, who landed in the first round. Had Hopson realized he wasn't going to get picked -- something that he had to have heard many times -- then he would have been a key bridge for new coach Cuonzo Martin. Martin could have used Hopson's experience and shooting to keep the Volunteers relevant in a transition year. Hopson would have been a volume shooter and improved his chances of being selected in 2012. Instead, Hopson and the Vols both lost. Tennessee is in rebuilding mode and will have a hard time staying afloat in the SEC.

Jereme Richmond, Illinois: Richmond clearly had issues, as evidenced by his arrest on assault and weapons charges in August. So it might have been best for all parties that he split. But maybe, just maybe, had he decided to return to Illinois he wouldn't have found himself over the summer as an undrafted, lost young man. This may be a reach, but it would be interesting to see what could have occurred in his life had he decided to stick out his commitment to Illinois. If he had bought into the program for a second year, he would have helped offset some significant senior losses for the Illini. In the end, Illinois wins by not having his baggage on the squad. Richmond lost by declaring, not being selected and now seemingly untouchable due to his arrest. Illinois is a team that has the potential to be a sleeper in the Big Ten with Brandon Paul and Meyers Leonard. But there are plenty of question marks to lock in the Illini as an NCAA tournament team.

Carleton Scott, Notre Dame: Scott surprised the Irish by staying in the NBA draft. He had a chance to play one more season with Tim Abromaitis and help Notre Dame offset the loss of valued senior leader Ben Hansbrough. Scott was never going to be a star for the Irish. He wasn't going to be a lock for the NBA, either. His best bet was to play professional basketball somewhere internationally. Notre Dame was going to take a step back with Hansbrough's departure anyway, but the Irish could have used another anchor inside to keep their head above water in a rugged middle of the conference. Now the Irish is depleted in the post. Scott could have definitely helped there.

Cory Joseph, Texas: Joseph did find his way into the first round, barely. So it's hard to completely fault him here, despite failing to leave his mark in Austin. The Longhorns have one of the top guards in the country in freshman Myck Kabongo. Joseph could have complemented Kabongo and allowed the Horns to have a stellar backcourt. Texas will still have talent, but will be lacking experience. The Longhorns were going to lose Tristan Thompson and Jordan Hamilton early to the draft. But it wasn't a given that Joseph was going to leave, too. The triple hit might be too much for UT to overcome with so many teams competing for the Big 12 title.

Shelvin Mack, Butler: Would Mack have gone to three straight national championship games? The odds would have been exceedingly low. Losing Matt Howard was a crushing blow to the Bulldogs. I didn't blame Mack for leaving last April because of the sting of losing two straight national championship games. Mack had come back without teammate Gordon Hayward and now he was expected to do it again without Howard? Still, the lockout is on, and Mack isn't in Washington playing for the Wizards. Put Mack on the Bulldogs next to Ronald Nored and newcomer Roosevelt Jones with Andrew Smith and Khyle Marshall inside, and the Bulldogs are once again an intriguing threat to go deep. If the lockout lasts well into the winter, Mack may watch Butler games and find himself at Hinkle Fieldhouse longing for his final season of eligibility. It would be a shame if the lockout lasts for months and Mack sits idle. He had one more run in him.

Travis Leslie and Trey Thompkins, Georgia: The Bulldogs made the NCAA tournament last season. If Leslie and Thompkins had come back alongside returnee Gerald Robinson, UGA would have made the NCAAs again. The SEC is stronger this season with possible NCAA teams Kentucky, Florida, Vandy, Alabama and Mississippi State. Georgia would have comfortably made it six. Instead, the Bulldogs are rebuilding or at least seriously retooling under Mark Fox.

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Tyler Honeycutt & Malcolm Lee
Kim Klement/US PresswireUCLA will still contend in the Pac-12, but Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee might've been the difference in taking the next step in March.

Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee, UCLA: The Bruins have a loaded frontcourt with Reeves Nelson, Josh Smith and North Carolina transfers David and Travis Wear. But the Bruins are lacking proven, productive experience on the perimeter. That could be the difference between an NCAA berth and a team that could have made a run toward New Orleans. Honeycutt and Lee didn't get drafted in the first round, going in the second instead. And now they can't play in the NBA for the foreseeable future. UCLA will still be a Pac-12 title contender and NCAA team. But the possibilities had those two returned to Westwood have to gnawing at coach Ben Howland.

Josh Selby, Kansas: Selby wasn't eligible and then he was hurt and never played a full season for the Jayhawks. He didn't get into the first round, either. And it's too bad. Selby should have shown more maturity, or at least someone associated with him maybe could have advised him better. He needed to play a full season to prove that he could do it. If he had, then the Jayhawks would be much more likely to make a Big 12 title run and Final Four quest. The Jayhawks were still selected to win the Big 12 on Thursday. But that might be more out of fear of selecting Baylor or Texas A&M and getting burned by KU once again.

DeAndre Liggins, Kentucky: Liggins did well enough to warrant a second-round selection, and the Wildcats aren't hurting, either. They are a consensus top-four selection in the preseason. But Kentucky still lacks overall experience. Sure, Terrence Jones and Darius Miller are back, but toss in Liggins and suddenly the Cats don't have to rely so much on the freshmen. Liggins would have fit in even better with his length, and the style UK will play this season with the long set of newcomers that John Calipari brought in this season. Liggins may long to be in Rupp Arena if the lockout drags and the Wildcats are pushing for a return trip to the Final Four.

Jordan Williams, Maryland: Williams was selected high in the second round and fulfilled his dream of being an NBA draft pick. His return may not have changed Gary Williams' decision to retire. But had the talented sophomore stayed he would have been beloved by new coach Mark Turgeon, who thirsts for a big halfcourt playes like Williams. He would have been one of the premier bigs in the country and relished his role as the anchor on a Maryland team that would have fed him even more in the post. Maryland probably wasn't an NCAA team even if Williams had returned, but he would have been featured even more as a junior. Now he sits idle and the Terps under Turgeon are in complete rebuild mode.

Darius Morris, Michigan: Morris missed a potential tying bucket against Duke in the NCAA tournament. If he had returned to join Tim Hardaway Jr., there is a chance the seeds would have been reversed if the two teams played again this season. Morris could have been a difference for Michigan. Instead, the Wolverines lack experience next to Hardaway and he loses a quality sidekick who can be just as disruptive as he can be offensively. Morris was picked by the Lakers in the second round, but he's not playing for them now. Michigan may get another crack at Duke if the two teams win first-round games in the Maui Invitational. Meet in Maui with Morris and the Wolverines probably would have been the pick. Instead, Michigan is once again the underdog, seeking respect as a consistent national player.

Connecticut is putting on the full-court press to join the ACC in case the league decides to expand again. And Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and North Carolina coach Roy Williams both told ESPN.com they would like to see the league eventually go to 16 teams, with two eight-team divisions.

But there is no sense of urgency in the ACC, especially since the Big East for the moment is making Pitt and Syracuse stay for 27 months per the league's bylaws. The conference has plenty of time to figure out how to schedule its 14-team league.

So the attention now returns to the SEC with Monday's official announcement that Texas A&M will join the conference for the 2012-13 season. That gives the league 13 teams.

Should there be more?

Like Krzyzewski and Williams, Kentucky coach John Calipari would eventually like to see his conference get to 16.

"I don't think this stuff is done yet," Calipari said. "I've said for months that there may be four conferences with 16 or 18 teams each. But I can tell you that the SEC at 13, 14 or 16 is going to be stable. We're fine. If they're going to add, I'd like us to go and get Virginia Tech, Maryland and Missouri to go along with Texas A&M. We're not going to do anything at the expense of academics. You're also going to see basketball step up in the next five years in the SEC."

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John Calipari
Howard Smith/US PresswireJohn Calipari would like to see the SEC add Missouri, Virginia Tech and Maryland.

Calipari tweeted Monday that he thought the move to add the Aggies was tremendous for the league and new coach Billy Kennedy, a native of SEC country (Louisiana).

"Texas A&M is a great school academically, has a well-run athletic department and will fit well," Calipari said. "Their fan base is ridiculous, just like all of us. The SEC is different. The SEC is about schools with strong fan bases and geography. We want the markets. There is no buyout in the SEC because no one wants to leave."

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said he would have been fine with the SEC staying put at 12 teams, but he's not against the expansion.

"I like the simplicity of an even number and I'm not sure it was completely necessary," Stallings said. "I don't think we're finished seeing movement and if so, if we end up at 14 or 16, if that's what the commissioner's office said we need, then I'm fine with it. Our league isn't going anywhere. We're as stable as any league in college athletics and we have visionaries who run our league. If they think we're better suited to be at 14 or 16, then I'm OK with that."

The SEC will run into issues on further expansion since it would be hard to take a team from a state where there is already a conference member. The new ACC buyout of up to $20 million poses a problem, too. But the new markets in new states is what Calipari was talking about when he rattled off Missouri, Maryland and Virginia Tech. Still, it would be extremely difficult to pry the Terrapins away from playing Duke and North Carolina every year or the Hokies from rival Virginia after Tech expended a lot of political capital with the Cavaliers to not block the school's move from the Big East to the ACC eight years ago.

The SEC's current number of 13 will be a scheduling issue for football and basketball. Football still has divisions, which is a matter unto itself as the league decides what to do with the Aggies and how to handle an unbalanced schedule.

The SEC got rid of divisions for men's basketball for this season, but the scheduling format still mirrors the football East-West split with each team playing its old side twice and the other once for the 2011-12 season.

Stallings was on an SEC committee to determine a 12-team, no-division schedule for 2012-13. The consensus was to have everyone play each other once (11 games), with seven more games coming from doubling up against league opponents to get to 18 league games. The SEC currently plays 16. The same formula is expected to be applied to a 13-team, no-division SEC next season. The Atlantic 10, which has 14 teams, has a format of playing only 16 league games with every team playing each other at least once, three teams twice.

The question for the SEC will be which rivalries are protected in a doubling-up scenario. There are a few natural ones to protect like Alabama-Auburn, Ole Miss-Mississippi State and Vanderbilt-Tennessee with newer ones like Kentucky-Florida and maybe more traditional ones like Tennessee-Kentucky or Florida-Georgia kept, as well. There could be a need to ensure Texas A&M plays LSU twice as well, or perhaps twice with Arkansas, a former rival from the Southwest Conference.

Whatever the case, Stallings doesn't seem all that worried.

"I think we just have to have an open mind going forward," he said. "We'll come to the best concept relative to 13."

Georgia and South Carolina are the two programs in the SEC East that probably get the least amount of publicity.

But that could change if the SEC East continues its upward climb.

Three of six East teams are ranked in the Top 25 (No. 7 Tennessee, No. 16 Kentucky and No. 24 Florida) and a fourth -- Vanderbilt -- has made its case to be included. South Carolina is 7-1 and its loss was at Michigan State on Nov. 16. The Gamecocks' double-OT victory at Western Kentucky could be a quality win, too. And beating rival Clemson at home keeps South Carolina moving in the right direction heading into Saturday's game at No. 2 Ohio State. The last test on the nonconference slate comes from suddenly surging Boston College on New Year's Day.

South Carolina coach Darrin Horn was prophetic when he promoted freshman point guard Bruce Ellington as Devan Downey's replacement. Ellington is the team's leading scorer (13.4 ppg) and assist man (4.1 apg).

"He's good, really good, an athletic point guard, and he's going to make plays when they count,'' Horn said. "He's been so good, and the scary part is he's going to be a lot better.''

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Bruce Ellington
Jake Drake/Icon SMIAs Devan Downey's replacement at South Carolina, point guard Bruce Ellington is averaging a team-best 13.4 ppg.

The preseason expectation for South Carolina was sixth in the division because of Downey's departure.

Horn said he knew his team would compete from the first day of practice. "I never thought this team wouldn't bring it,'' Horn said.

The Gamecocks will have played four true road games before they hit the SEC schedule (at Michigan State, at Western Kentucky, at Ohio State and at Furman). The key for this team will be to survive a brutal SEC stretch (everyone will have something similar in the East) at Vanderbilt (Feb. 5), Florida (Feb. 9), Georgia (Feb. 12), at Tennessee (Feb. 16) and at Kentucky (Feb. 19).

Georgia coach Mark Fox has more talent at his disposal with preseason SEC player of the year Trey Thompkins. The forward missed the first month of the season with a high ankle sprain, and the Bulldogs stumbled in Orlando by losing in double overtime to Notre Dame and to then-No. 20 Temple. But those are losses to teams that will likely be in the NCAA tournament. Wins over Colorado, at Saint Louis, UAB and at Georgia Tech may not be against NCAA teams, but they showed Georgia's steady improvement.

The SEC West has two of the worst teams in major college basketball (Auburn and LSU), two average squads (Arkansas and Alabama) and two programs in Mississippi State (once it gets its whole team back Jan. 1) and erratic Ole Miss that can at least make runs as bubble teams.

But the SEC East by itself could place all six teams in the NCAA tournament, which would be a first for the conference, according to league spokesperson Craig Pinkerton.

"There are no bad teams,'' Fox said. "Every team in the SEC East is good. It's got to be the strongest from top to bottom ever in the SEC East.''

The reason for NCAA tournament optimism at Georgia and South Carolina is due to the quality schedules both teams with benefit from playing in the SEC East. Each SEC East team gets 10 games against potential NCAA teams. The SEC West teams have only six, three at home and three on the road. "I went and played at Michigan State without a return to get some national exposure. I'm going to Ohio State [and will get a return next season], and I know this year I'll get Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee and Vanderbilt -- all at home,'' Horn said.

"That's 10 for sure résumé games in our division,'' said Fox, almost finishing Horn's statement. "I don't think the other power conferences, except the Big Ten, are as deep."

"I think if you win eight or nine games in the SEC, but four or five are within our division, which would be against NCAA tournament teams, [then you've got a great chance to get an at-large bid],'' Horn said. But he added that Georgia can't afford to lose a home game like Arkansas State, or South Carolina can't lose a home game against Jacksonville State.

The Bulldogs have options on offense with Thompkins, Gerald Robinson Jr., Travis Leslie and Jeremy Price, who are all capable of putting up more than 15 ppg. But their 3-point shooting (33.6 percent) is still suspect and the free throw shooting is mediocre (61.8 percent).

"Trey is probably at 95 percent right now, and once the league starts he'll be good to go,'' Fox said. "We had to reinvent our team when he got hurt [Thompkins missed the first three games]. And we had no time with Colorado, at Saint Louis, Orlando, UAB and at Georgia Tech. But I'm happy at 6-2. It could have been a disaster. We've got more guys who can score, and it takes the heat off a bit [from Thompkins and Leslie]. Both have to be good for us to do what we want to accomplish.''

And that's get to the NCAA tournament. This collection of Bulldogs still hasn't won in the postseason. Georgia has a tremendous opportunity to get out in front in the SEC East with a three-game homestand against Tennessee (Jan. 18), Mississippi State (Jan. 22) and Florida (Jan. 25) before a game at Kentucky (Jan. 29). The toughest sledding for the Bulldogs may come soon after with a nonconference home game versus Xavier on Feb. 8. They then visit South Carolina (Feb. 12), play Vanderbilt at home (Feb. 16), visit Tennessee (Feb. 19) and Florida (Feb. 24) and host South Carolina (Feb. 26).

"We have raised our programs at Georgia and South Carolina,'' said Fox, "where none of us are afraid to put our five against your five.''

PITTSBURGH -- As the season tips off Monday night with a soft opening (something akin to debuting a new restaurant to family and friends during the week before the big weekend rush), there are still legitimate concerns about some significant players who are out.

• Pitt will play Rhode Island without starting forward Nasir Robinson (right knee surgery) in the opener of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. (The other opening games at the event include UC Irvine at Illinois, Navy at Texas and Seattle at Maryland). Robinson said early Monday that he has been biking to get movement back and is hopeful he can play on Nov. 18 against Maryland in the semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

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Trey Thompkins
Don McPeak/US PresswireAn ankle sprain will keep SEC preseason player of the year Trey Thompkins out of Georgia's season opener.

• Georgia coach Mark Fox said Sunday night that SEC preseason player of the year Trey Thompkins won't play in the Bulldogs' opener Friday against Mississippi Valley State because of a high right ankle sprain. Fox said the Georgia training staff is aggressively treating the sprain.

The Bulldogs have a rough early season schedule with a home game against Colorado on Nov. 16, which is hardly a pushover with NBA-level players in Cory Higgins and Alec Burks. They then visit Saint Louis on Nov. 20, which would have been a much more difficult game had the Billikens not suspended two of their best players in Kwamain Mitchell and Willie Reed.

Georgia's schedule gets tougher with a game against Notre Dame in the first round of the Old Spice Classic in Orlando on Nov. 25. Once that tournament is over, the Bulldogs play always-pesky UAB before its rivalry game at Georgia Tech on Dec. 7.

Do the Bulldogs need Thompkins for all of them? No. But, for a team in a rugged SEC East, losing games early can add up when it comes time for selection or seeding in March. Had the schedule been softer earlier, then there might not be as much cause for concern.

• It's hard to project if Kansas will have point guard Josh Selby for the opener against Longwood on Friday. There has been no indication from the NCAA that he will be cleared of an amateurism issue.

• The most discussed player who is dealing with an amateur issue is Kentucky's Enes Kanter. But unlike Selby, Kanter can't practice. The question for Kanter is: Did he receive more than the allowable expenses while playing for a Turkish professional team as a teenager? His case will be interesting for the NCAA since the organization got rid of the one-for-one game suspension rule. This comes down to expenses. How will the NCAA interpret what was fair for a player to receive and still maintain any amateurism before he transferred to the United States to play? Of course, this is with the understanding that there was no signed contract or agent agreement.

Kentucky is clearly a more legitimate contender with Kanter playing inside. But he's not as far along as DeMarcus Cousins was a year ago, and he doesn't have the maturity or locker-room ability that Patrick Patterson had last season. Kanter's overall impact is still hard to gauge, especially early in the season when he's still trying to adjust to the college game.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said Monday that he's treating it as if Kanter is an injured player who he is not able to contemplate playing since he's not practicing. Kentucky opens Friday against East Tennessee State, and there is no expectation that Kanter will be cleared for the game. The Wildcats then visit Portland to play the Pilots on Nov. 19 before facing Oklahoma in the first round of the Maui Invitational on Nov. 22.

• Baylor coach Scott Drew hasn't given any indication whether senior guard LaceDarius Dunn will be cleared to play for the Bears' opener against Grambling State. Dunn has been suspended from competition after an assault charge was leveled against him.

• Iowa State learned late Monday afternoon that Minnesota transfer Royce White is ineligible to play. The Cyclones were waiting to see if White had to sit out the year in residence (even though he never played for Minnesota) since he was suspended over multiple issues (theft for one). The NCAA denied White's waiver Monday. Iowa State is appealing the decision, and the school announced that it will appeal to a committee of faculty representatives and athletic directors. White transferred to Iowa State on July 12.

Coach Fred Hoiberg said White has been a major impact player for the Cyclones, giving them a scorer in the post and a beast on the boards. He said White bench pressed 185 pounds 22 times, "which would have made him one of the top players at the NBA combine." Iowa State opens the season against Northern Arizona on Friday. The Cyclones desperately need White in the rough Big 12, especially with the departure of Craig Brackins. The Cyclones' primary post is 6-foot-11 senior Jamie Vanderbeken, but he would not compare to the production that the 6-foot-8 White could produce, if eligible.

"We are disappointed in the decision, but we will start the appeal process immediately,'' Hoiberg said Monday afternoon in a statement. "We will exhaust every option available to try and restore Royce's eligibility. Royce is disappointed as well, but he is appreciative of our intent to appeal the decision."

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, Xaviervideo

If you're looking to predict which programs-in-a-rut are primed for a long-awaited breakout season, look no further than North Carolina State and Georgia.

Both have an infusion of talent. Both finished well enough last season to create a positive vibe going into the offseason. And both have a preseason buzz that has created even more bounce around the programs.

Whether that translates into a run through what will be a difficult nonconference slate has yet to be determined. What can't be disputed is that there is an attitude adjustment at these upstart programs.

Both head coaches -- Sidney Lowe at NC State and Mark Fox at Georgia -- say it's palpable.

"It's been a great atmosphere," Lowe said. "Everyone is having more fun right now. The talent is definitely there and the atmosphere is good and the other guys are excited to be having more guys come in. I would say there is a great buzz, and you can feel it from when they stretch to how they talk to each other every day."

The buzz in Raleigh is attributable to the arrival of Lowe's most heralded class in guards Ryan Harrow and Lorenzo Brown and forward C.J. Leslie, who went to nearby Word of God Christian Academy. They join a unit that will be led by senior forward Tracy Smith and sharpshooting sophomore forward Scott Wood. Those two were part of a Wolfpack team that posted the same number of conference (5) and overall wins (20) as North Carolina last season.

Georgia, which knocked off NCAA-bound teams Georgia Tech, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Florida last season (along with bubble team Illinois), brings back two of the most talented players at their respective positions in the SEC in forward Trey Thompkins and guard Travis Leslie. The Bulldogs also are debuting highly productive transfer guard Gerald Robinson (Tennessee State) and forward Marcus Thornton, a one-time Clemson signee.

"The mentality is different here," said Fox, entering his second season after moving to the South from Nevada. "They are now functioning like successful people. We don't have to baby-sit academics or behavior. We can focus on the basketball, and we've got more pieces to the puzzle. We're older, and we can start upperclassmen."

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Sidney Lowe
Ron Metz/Icon SMIThe pressure is on Sidney Lowe to translate NC State's talent into an NCAA tournament bid.

Lowe is entering his fifth season in Raleigh. And even though the Wolfpack are younger at key spots, this is easily his best chance to make the NCAA tournament for the first time. The timing is right with the ACC -- save Duke -- facing plenty of questions. Moving up from the bottom toward the top has never been more attainable in this league.

A new athletic director, former Maryland AD Debbie Yow, is in place after the departure of Lee Fowler, the man who hired Lowe. The coach has favored-son status because he played for the Pack and, like associate head coach Monte Towe, won a national championship at the school. But getting to the NCAAs in Year 5 probably would be a good idea if he wants to stave off further scrutiny, especially considering that Herb Sendek took NC State to five straight Big Dances before leaving for Arizona State.

Lowe said Friday that the team's freshmen are starting to understand how hard they have to work but that they are still trying to pick up the speed and strength of the college game. It will come at them fast in the nonconference run with a challenging schedule that includes a trip to the Charleston Classic (and a possible title game against Georgetown), back-to-back road games against Wisconsin (Dec. 1) and Syracuse (Dec. 4), and a home game versus Arizona (Dec. 19). Within the ACC, the Pack will have to play Duke and North Carolina twice each.

"The buzz is real around town," Lowe said. "But we have to get ready to play. It's good to have this, though, rather than the other way."

Fox is just in Year 2 as he tries to survive the brutal SEC East, where five of the six teams have realistic shots at the NCAA tournament (Florida, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Tennessee and UGA).

Thompkins (17.7 ppg) and Leslie (14.8 ppg) are projected by many as potential NBA first-round picks, but if the Bulldogs are to elevate themselves in the SEC and nationally, the newcomers will be key. Fox said that Thornton should be able to excel in the SEC and that Robinson's speed and quickness will be an asset the Dawgs haven't had.

"There's no way he doesn't start," Fox said of the TSU transfer. And if preseason workouts are any indication, forward Jeremy Price will have an impact, as well, after averaging seven points a game last season.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," Fox said. "We expect to be successful, and we're confident. We're going to have a good team. We won some games last year, so we experienced success. But we have to do that consistently."

As with NC State, we'll know early whether Georgia is a serious contender. Home games against UAB and improved Colorado, road games at rival Georgia Tech and fellow upstart Saint Louis, and a tough field at the Old Spice Classic (opening with Notre Dame) certainly will test this team before SEC play begins. Hosting Xavier in the middle of the league schedule (Feb. 8) is another challenge that could come in handy for power-rating purposes.

"The strength of schedule is there; we just need to win some of those games," Fox said. "I knew when I got this job that the division we're in would make rebuilding harder. But I also knew once we rebuilt it, that it could work to our advantage."

Credit Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski for giving college upperclassmen more opportunities to not only get seen, but to improve for a quick sojourn in Las Vegas later this month.

The USA Basketball experience at the national team level has become an NBA deal.

But according to Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, an assistant on the national team since 2006, Coach K pushed to solely fill the USA Select Team that will compete against the national team with collegiate upperclassmen.

"Hopefully we didn't miss anybody," Boeheim said. "The only reason this is happening is because Mike made sure of it. It's a great thing to get the college guys exposure and a chance to play like this."

Boeheim met with the junior national team committee last month to come up with a roster, combing through some of the nation's elite upperclassmen. Incoming freshmen like Harrison Barnes (North Carolina), Jared Sullinger (Ohio State) and Kyrie Irving (Duke) have already been on a USA team (Irving just won gold in San Antonio at the U18 tournament last month) or will likely get the opportunity shortly when they're in the NBA.

But giving these upperclassmen a chance to compete for the United States and improve their all-around games this summer was a must. Potential star seniors like Purdue's Robbie Hummel (knee surgery), Michigan State's Kalin Lucas (Achilles) and Northwestern's Kevin Coble (foot) were all still rehabbing and not ready to be invited to the event.

Boeheim said they tried to include all of the top players heading into next season, but there were some omissions like Washington's Isaiah Thomas, Ole Miss' Chris Warren, Michigan State's Durrell Summers, Colorado's Alec Burks and Virginia Tech's Malcolm Delaney. They all have legitimate gripes for not being on the roster.

Washington coach Lorenzo Romar, who, along with Villanova's Jay Wright, will be a co-head coach during the July 19-24 training camp in Las Vegas, was a bit miffed at Thomas being left off the roster. Still, Romar, who was back from Germany on Thursday after watching the U17 team compete at the world championships, is looking forward to the opportunity to coach an all-star collegiate team for a week.

Despite some omissions, the roster is still a who's who of potential stars for this season:

Lavoy Allen, Temple: Should compete for A-10 Player of the Year honors with Richmond's Kevin Anderson.

William Buford, Ohio State: Should be the go-to shooter for the Buckeyes as they learn to play without Evan Turner.

LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor: Will have to go solo without Tweety Carter in the backcourt, but has Perry Jones instead of Ekpe Udoh to help form an elite outside-inside combination.

Jimmer Fredette, BYU: Fredette is having a terrific summer so far and his game is improving daily. His shooting will get him drafted and if he can prove in Vegas that he can defend, it will help his stock even more.

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Scotty Hopson
Don McPeak/US PresswireOnce a McDonald's All-American, will Hopson make "the leap" to stardom this season?

Scotty Hopson, Tennessee: Hopson could really step out and show NBA personnel that he can be a deft shooter for the Vols during the season.

Scoop Jardine, Syracuse: This is an interesting selection, but with Boeheim as the chair of the committee it makes sense to give Jardine a shot. He should be one of the better point guards in the Big East.

JaJuan Johnson, Purdue: Johnson decided against declaring for the NBA draft and should be one of the top shot-blockers this season as he tries to lead the Boilermakers to the national title.

Jon Leuer, Wisconsin: Leuer's profile continues to rise. He'll be the go-to player for the Badgers, a Big Ten Player of the Year candidate and an NBA draft pick next year.

Shelvin Mack, Butler: He could and should be one of the top guards in the country. Mack has a pro body and will only increase his scoring load without Gordon Hayward. This is another golden chance to prove to the NBA how good of a pick he will be in a year.

Marcus Morris, Kansas: KU coach Bill Self said Morris is a star in waiting. Morris will get his shot at proving that to everyone in Las Vegas.

Jacob Pullen, Kansas State: Pullen is a shooter and will need to be on the ball even more without Denis Clemente. This should provide good preparation for him.

John Shurna, Northwestern: Shurna got plenty of pop for making the gold-medal-winning U19 team last summer. He continues to grow into top talent in the Big Ten.

Kyle Singler, Duke: Singler enters the season as one of the favorites for national player of the year honors. He made a sound, intelligent choice to remain in school as he rounds his game out even more.

Chris Singleton, Florida State: Singleton is a very solid defender, and if he's a real leader he could be the reason the Seminoles stay relevant this season.

Nolan Smith, Duke: Smith might be the best late-clock shooter on this team and in all of college. If he plays well here, he'll certainly improve his draft profile. He's one of the reasons Duke could win the title again.

Trey Thompkins, Georgia: The Bulldogs are my sleeper pick this season and a lot of it is because of Thompkins. He blossomed for the U.S. last summer and is getting another shot to prove how much he has developed.

Mike Tisdale, Illinois: Tisdale cut late last summer by USA Basketball. He gets another shot to prove he belongs in this group. He's long and lanky as well as a good shooter, but he'll have to prove that he can board and defend against strength.

Kemba Walker, Connecticut: The Huskies will be his team next season. He can fly up court, but has to learn to play under control in order to be an NBA-level player.

Chris Wright, Dayton: Wright flew under the radar a bit and this could give him plenty of opportunities to raise his profile if he can play well during this week.

Tyler Zeller, North Carolina: The Tar Heels will be led by Barnes and John Henson, but Zeller still has NBA skills with his fundamentals, size and reach. But during this week, he needs to prove that he is durable.

You'll notice that no Pitt players like point guard Ashton Gibbs or big man Gary McGhee are on the roster. That's because the Panthers will be in Ireland on a summer trip.

It is unknown as to how many scrimmages this select team will have against the national team, which is prepping to go to the World Championships in Turkey next month.

"This is a great opportunity for these guys to go out and play and get a little bit of structure," Romar said by phone from Cleveland's King City Classic. "They'll be playing against great players."