Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 19, 2004
Our story continues ...
The Jayhawks return to the preseason No. 1 slot for the first time since Wilt Chamberlain played in Lawrence, Kan.; the trio of Wayne Simien, Keith Langford and Aaron Miles hope to pull a UConn redux and end the season where they started it.
2. Wake Forest
For the first time in a long while, it's not Duke, not North Carolina and not even North Carolina State that's the best team on Tobacco Road. It's the Demon Deacons, lead by star point guard Chris Paul.
3. Georgia Tech
Who would have thought Will Bynum was going to be on a better team at G-Tech? The Yellow Jackets' national runner-up finish a year ago gave the team much-needed tournament experience.
4. North Carolina
Several college basketball experts have the Tar Heels as the best team in the land and Roy Williams will have people in Durham forgetting about Dean Smith - and Matt Doherty - if he can validate their claims.
Dee Brown and Deron Williams are one of the best one-two punches in the nation; head coach Bruce Weber has picked up right where former Illini coach and current Kansas head man Bill Self left off.
If Carmelo Anthony was still wearing Orange, there would be no contest as to who the top team in the country is. But even without him, they have quality players in the cupboard.
7. Oklahoma State
A Final Four participant a year ago; the Pokes could find themselves back there if John Lucas has anything to say about it.
The defending national champions will have the unenviable task of trying to repeat without the No. 2 and 3 picks in this year's NBA draft in Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon.
The Wildcats were one of seven teams to receive first place votes in the AP poll, showing how wide open this year's title race could be.
A lot rides on the chemistry of the team and play of seniors Channing Frye and Salim Stoudamire. The return of Isaiah Fox will add a much-needed big body to the UA lineup.
Coach K turned down a boatload of money from the NBA's Lakers only to try and figure out how to fill the void left by Chris Duhon and Luol Deng.
12. Mississippi State
The Bulldogs have won three straight SEC Championships and Lawrence Roberts should have them playing for a fourth.
13. Michigan State
MSU fans could be impressed come March if their team can make another run in the tournament.
Rick Pitino lost two huge high school recruits in Donta Smith and Sebastian Telfair, both of whom jumped to the NBA, but the Cardinals should be the crème of Conference USA.
The Terps made a strong push in the ACC tournament last year after a mediocre regular season.
A Sweet Sixteen team from a year ago could find itself back there with the top-five recruiting class added to the mix.
Led by Chris Taft, the Panthers are going to be hard-pressed to repeat as Big East champs because of a Big East Conference lineup of teams loaded from top to bottom.
The Tide were a bit of a surprise team a year ago; with Kennedy Winston leading the team, there are no more surprises in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
19. NC State
The Pack is another ACC team in the top 25 and should be helped out a great deal with Julius Hodge's decision to return to school instead of turning pro.
20. Notre Dame
Chris Thomas leads a talented Irish squad and gets a ton of help with the addition of former Wildcat Dennis Latimore.
The loss of Devin Harris to the NBA leaves the Badgers trying to find a replacement for Harris' on-court leadership
UW was a huge surprise last season and expectations in Seattle are soaring this year - especially with the return of Nate Robinson.
The Gators exited early from last season's NCAAs and will need a successful start to the 2004-'05 season to erase those bad memories.
John Calipari told Dick Vitale that Rodney Carney was one of the five best athletes in America. Carney will have a chance to validate his coach's claim come game time.
The Zags are always contending come March, but with the loss of do-everything guard Blake Stepp, this year's Bulldogs will have a much tougher time making a typical Gonzaga tournament run.