Men's national preview: Preseason Top 25
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 21, 2003
1. CONNECTICUT (67)
Emeka Okafor and Co. look to put the UConn men (one NCAA title) on same level as Diana Taurasi and UConn's women (four NCAA titles).
2. DUKE (3)
Chris Duhon is back for his final year while Luol Deng could be the impact freshman needed to take the Blue Devils all the way.
3. MICHIGAN ST. (1)
The Spartans should be in San Antonio in April if they can keep the injuries to a minimum and keep the ball in guard Chris Hill's hands.
The Wildcats lose leadership but gain talent; freshman Mustafa Shakur could be the impact player this team needs to compete for a title.
Quin Snyder and the Tigers start three seniors - including big man Arthur Johnson and sharpshooting Ricky Paulding - on what could be Snyder's best team.
6. KANSAS (1)
Bill Self steps in for departed Roy Williams, but doesn't quite have to start over with juniors Wayne Simein, Keith Langford and Aaron Miles back in gear.
Junior Hakim Warrick and sophomore Gerry McNamara give the defending NCAA champs enough firepower to endure losing Carmelo Anthony to the NBA.
Junior David Lee will be able to move back to natural power forward position, but will be expected to carry the Gators into March.
9. NORTH CAROLINA
Former Kansas coach Roy Williams takes over a disgruntled but talented squad that looks to prove the past two losing seasons were flukes in Chapel Hill.
WCC player of the year Blake Stepp, forward Ronny Turiaf and forward Cory Violette have the Bulldogs in familiar territory - among the nation's elite teams.
Falling in the Elite Eight after winning 32 games was a disappointment to the Wildcats, and it won't get easier after losing two of their top three scorers.
Brandon Mouton, James Thomas and Royal Ivey have enough in their tanks to keep the Horns competitive after losing player of the year T.J. Ford to the NBA.
Musical coaches may have hit Illinois harder than anyone, but sophomore Dee Brown may take away some of the sting of losing Bill Self to Kansas.
Kelvin Sampson has his work cut out for him, with just five players returning to an Elite Eight squad. Good news is one of the nation's best recruiting classes.
The Badgers' four returning starters each averaged more than 10 points per game, giving third-year coach Bo Ryan his most depth yet.
Rick Pitino looks ready to duplicate his successes at Providence and Kentucky, where it took him two and four years, respectively, to make a Final Four trip.
17. SAINT JOSEPHS
Jameer Nelson and his 20 points per game are back for one last go-round with the Hawks; four starters return to St. Joes deepest team under Phil Martelli.
Bob Huggins, the Bearcats' fearless leader, hopes to see his team rebound from a disappointing 17-12 campaign last season.
Losing leading scorer Julius Barnes won't hurt as much as it seems as four returning starters have this team poised to pass Arizona atop the Pac-10 again.
20. WAKE FOREST
The Demon Decons lost Josh Howard's 19.5 points per game but return a young team - with no seniors - that can make a tourney run over the next two years.
21. NOTRE DAME
Junior guard Chris Thomas fought through temptations to enter the NBA draft and will lead an Irish squad that can make some noise under up-and-coming coach Mike Brey.
Ben Howland left for his dream job at UCLA, leaving loads of talent and a pair of senior leaders - Jaron Brown and Julius Page - behind to keep on rolling.
Tom Crean has to deal with losing Dwyane Wade, but the return of junior guard Travis Diener and forward Scott Merritt will keep the Golden Eagles in the Top 25.
24. NORTH CAROLINA ST.
All-Conference guard Julius Hodge (17.7 ppg, 6.1 rpg) looks poised to take the Wolfpack on a run deep into the ACC and NCAA tournaments.
25. OKLAHOMA ST.
Eddie Sutton returns two solid starters - Tony Allen and Ivan McFarlin - but not much else to a team that lost to Syracuse in the NCAA's second round.