With so many transfers and major recruiting battles yet to be decided, it's ridiculous to try and accurately rank the top teams for the 2012-13 season at this moment in time...which is exactly what we're about to do.
Obviously, I reserve the right to change my mind based on future offseason events. Yes, obviously.
Why fight it? Sure, they're going to lose the bulk of their top scorers, but the guys directly behind them on that list would have been starters for virtually every other team in America. Also, I know there are rumors swirling that contradict this, but I'll still me more surprised if either Nerlens Noel or Shabazz Muhammad go somewhere else than I will be if both pick Kentucky. It's hard to see them being as overwhelming a favorite heading into the 2013 NCAA Tournament as they were this season, but I won't be stunned it all if they're the No. 1 overall seed for a second straight year.
The team that probably gave the Wildcats their toughest test in the big dance comes in at No. 2. Rick Pitino loses leading scorer Kyle Kuric, but replaces him with former two-time Illinois Player of the Year (over Anthony Davis) Wayne Blackshear, who only played one month this season because of injuries. Blackshear showed his potential in that game against UK with two spectacular dunks. The Cardinals also return Big east Tournament MVP Peyton Siva and West region MVP Chane Behanan, along with center Gorgui Dieng who set the school record for blocked shots in a single season during his sophomore campaign.
"Is Indiana back?" became one of the most prominent (and annoying) debates of the 2011-12 season, but it's one that shouldn't be an issue at all just a year later. Christian Watford is still reportedly mulling a jump to the NBA, but if Cody Zeller - the reigning Big Ten co-Freshman of the Year who looked sensational against Kentucky and Davis in the Sweet 16 - elects to stay put, the Hoosiers will maintain their lofty preseason status. Oh, and Tom Crean is bringing in the nation's No. 2 recruiting class, headlined by five-star point guard Yogi Ferrell.
Bradley Beal and Erving Walker are both reportedly pondering a bolt for the NBA, but if Kenny Boynton, Patric Young, Mike Rosario and Mike Rosario all stick around, then there's no question that this should still be a top ten team. A healthy Will Yeguete will help make their frontcourt stronger than it was during their run to the Elite Eight.
5. Ohio State
As expected, Jared Sullinger declared for the NBA Draft on Wednesday, but Sully probably wasn't even Thad Matta's best player during the final month of the season. That distinction belongs to Deshaun Thomas, who can score from just about any spot on the floor and finally committed himself to defense once the postseason rolled around. Aaron Craft, Lenzelle Smith and LaQuinton Ross are all also back, forming a nucleus that is more than capable of making it back to the Final Four.
At least one (probably two) Plumlees and Austin Rivers are all off to get paid to the play the game, but Ryan Kelly, Seth Curry, Quinn Cook, Tyler Thornton, Andre Dawkins and a third Plumlee (redshirt freshman Marshall) have the potential to create a team better than the one which was stunned by Lehigh in the round of 64. The returning group of players combined to create one of the worst defensive Duke teams in recent history, but Coach K now has an entire offseason to rectify that. Scoring, however, shouldn't be nearly as much of an issue.
7. North Carolina
Like Kentucky, UNC's situation appears far worse than it is when you initially see the names departing the program. Tyler Zeller was already out the door because of graduation, but soon after the season ended, the talented underclassmen trio of John Henson, Harrison Barnes and Kendall Marshall all announced they were out the door as well. It's a blow for Roy Williams, without question, but it also means more minutes for Dexter Strickland, Leslie McDonald, P.J. Hairston, Reggie Bullock and James McAdoo, who looked like a pro when he got more minutes in March with Henson sidelined. There's also a strong chance that UConn big man Alex Oriakhi will transfer into the program. He would be eligible to play right away because of the Huskies' postseason ban for next season.
The losses of Perry Jones and Quincy Acy are huge, but if Quincy Miller chooses to hang around in Waco for a second season, there's no reason for the Bears to not again compete for the Big 12 title. The veteran and offensively gifted backcourt of Pierre Jackson and Brady Heslip is back, as is talented reserve Deuce Bello, who should get more of a chance to shine in his sophomore season. Scott Drew also brings in immensely talented 7-foot freshman Isaiah Austin.
With the four other members of the Associated Press All-American first team all likely headed to the NBA, there's a very real chance that Doug McDermott will head into the 2012-13 season as the preseason national Player of the Year. He and his Bluejays should again have little trouble scoring, but to be a legitimate Final Four threat they're going to have to improve tremendously on the defensive end.
Double-double machine Mike Moser, who was probably the best player in college basketball over the season's first month, has opted to stick around for another year and is the main reason the Rebs figure to garner some serious preseason love. He and Anthony Marshall figure to form the most lethal scoring duo in the Mountain West. The addition of incoming freshman sharp-shooter Katin Reinhardt should assist in offsetting the loss of Chase Stanback.
THE NEXT 15:
11. N.C. State
14. Michigan State
15. Notre Dame
22. San Diego State
23. Kansas State