Craddock’s college basketball Top 25



Kernel columnist Nick Craddock makes his selections for the college basketball top 25.

1. Duke: The defending national champions return their core of players plus freshman phenom Kyrie Irving and transfer Seth Curry, the brother of Stephen Curry. ‘Nuff said.

2. Michigan State: The Spartans are on top of a talented heap of Big Ten teams and coming off back-to-back Final Fours, there’s no reason to think Tom Izzo and Co. can’t make it three in a row. However, how Kalin Lucas has healed from an injured Achilles tendon is still the major question mark.

3. Ohio State: The Buckeyes lost National Player of the Year Evan Turner to the NBA, but might have gained the National Freshman of the Year in Jared Sullinger. That’s lofty expectations for a frosh to fulfill, but enough talent surrounds him to ease the pressure.

4. Kansas State: The only thing I fear more than Jacob Pullen’s beard is the fiery personality of Wildcats’ head coach Frank Martin, especially when he has such a deep team making those in the Little Apple believe a Big 12 title—at the minimum—is in store.

5. Villanova: Corey Fisher takes the mantle from Scottie Reynolds as the leader in head coach Jay Wright’s revolving door of guards. Having a triumvirate of capable guards has proven successful for Wright recently, so why doubt it? (Corey Stokes and Maalik Wayns are Fisher’s sidekicks)

6. Pittsburgh: Consistently one of the powers in the Big East in the past decade, this veteran team and preseason conference favorite should chug along this year.

7. North Carolina: The Tar Heels boast one of, if not the best freshman in the nation in Harrison Barnes. Simply put, the Tar Heels shouldn’t fail to make the Big Dance again this year.

8. Florida: Sure, the Gators have largely underachieved since their 2007 national championship, but with all five starters returning, Florida should be able to get back to the NCAA tournament and win a game.

9. Kansas: Tyshawn Taylor and the Morris twins form a nice trio, but how successful the Jayhawks can be rests on the eligibility of freshman Josh Selby.

10. Kentucky: The Cats would be ranked higher had Enes Kanter been ruled eligible. Now the Turk’s eligibility has been revoked, it’s hard to put the Cats in the elite group of teams when they lack a clear post presence.

11. Purdue: Losing Robbie Hummel to injury has taken the Boilermakers out of the national championship discussion for now. For most teams, losing a player of Hummel’s caliber would be disastrous, but E’twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson still form a dynamic tandem capable of leading their team to big things.

12. Butler: Last year’s darlings of March Madness have set the bar high for what is possible by mid-major programs. This season, the Bulldogs have the best chance of any mid-major program to make a run. Losing Gordon Hayward to the NBA doesn’t seem like that big of a deal right now. Time will tell.

13. Illinois: The Illini haven’t had a team this loaded since their 2005 national runner-up team. Last season’s 21-15 record was a bit disappointing. This season, expect Illinois to get more production from the talent assembled.

14. Gonzaga: The Zags are not leaving the national stage apparently. And Stephen Gray is a heckuva floor general.

15. Syracuse: Replacing Wes Johnson, now in the NBA, will be difficult. Jim Boeheim surely hopes that

7-foot freshman Fab Melo can ball like that other ‘Melo did.

16. Baylor: Offsetting the loss of Tweety Carter and Ekpe Udoh won’t be easy, but freshman Perry Jones was a nice coup for the Bears. LaceDarius Dunn’s off-the-court problems could spill onto on-the-court problems if he misses many games.

17. Memphis: With several stud freshmen at his disposal, former John Calipari protégé Josh Pastner is picking up where his former boss left off.

18. Washington: One of the few bright spots in the Pac 10 last year, the Huskies seem to be the cream of the crop out west this season.

19. Missouri: Look for guard Kim English to become even more of a lights out scorer this season.

20. Georgetown: Another deep team from the Big East. Austin Freeman should be back to his early season form from a year ago after being diagnosed with diabetes late in the season.

21. Texas: Will the Longhorns play like the team that was the No. 1 in the nation for a time, or like the team that faded down the stretch?

22. West Virginia: Replacing Devin Ebanks and Da’Sean Butler won’t be easy, but don’t sleep on these gritty Mountaineers.

23. Brigham Young: Senior guard Jimmer Fredette, a preseason All-American, can fill up the basket with any of the best shooters in the nation. The Cougars have been a benchmark for consistency during head coach Dave Rose’s five-year tenure: an average of 25 wins per season and five postseason appearances. Not too shabby.

24. Georgia: UK head coach John Calipari’s sleeper pick in the SEC, the Bulldogs have shown improvement under head coach Mark Fox and juniors Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie (that little dude that dunked on DeMarcus Cousins) form a prolific one-two punch.

25. Tennessee: A program maligned with off-the-court issues, most recently concerning head coach Bruce Pearl’s recruiting practices, and fresh off a loss to Division II Indianapolis in their final exhibition game, the Vols will probably slide in and out of the top 25 several times this season. Still, the freshmen class, notably Tobias Harris, is rather talented.