I'm kidding... sort of. The first games can't get here soon enough so I decided to take a stab at the top 25 teams entering the 2013-14 college basketball season.
1. Kentucky Wildcats
In Chad Ford's top 100 prospects for the 2014 draft class, seven (7!!!) of the top 30 players listed are members of this Kentucky squad. Loaded is an understatement. (ESPN Insider Alert)
What will Randle do?
In most years, when the defending national champions only lose two of their top eight players, they enter the year favorites to repeat... This is not like most years. The Louisville and Kentucky storyline is shaping up to be the marquee story entering what could/should be a hallmark year for college hoops fans.
What will Russdiculous do for an encore?
3. Kansas Jayhawks
As Jon Rothstein says, "Death, taxes, and Kansas winning the Big 12." The players may change, but Bill Self, Kansas, and winning do not. I think you can count on these Jayhawks to be Big 12 champs once again with Andrew Wiggins and Wayne Selden leading the way.
What will Wiggins do?
4. Michigan State Spartans
Having only lost graduating Senior Derrick Nix, these Spartans have a lot of ammo at Tom Izzo's disposal. The question that's begging to be asked: will either Adreian Payne or Gary Harris take "the leap" and emerge as their go-to guy?
5. Arizona Wildcats
How second year players Kaleb Tarczewski and Brandon Ashley carry on the momentum they created with their strong finishes last year, will determine much of this Wildcats teams faith. T.J. McConnell is a big-time pickup to run the show for Sean Miller's squad. Is Aaron Gordon as good as they say, and will he play the 3 or 4?
6. Florida Gators
A KenPom favorite from last year who lose their top three scorers, this squad should be underrated entering the 2013-14 season. I expect Patric Young to take a big step forward this year. Couple him, the well-rounded play of Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yuguete's stifling defense and a strong incoming freshman class and Billy Donovan's crew won't go down without a fight.
Without their top 3 scorers from a season ago, can this offense remain potent?
7. Duke Blue Devils
Duke also loses their top three scorers from a season ago but have standout freshman Jabari Parker to lead the way. I think the key question is without the shooting of Seth Curry and Ryan Kelly, will Duke's offense be able to be nearly as efficient? Rasheed Sulaimon needs to build on his strong freshman season.
8. Oklahoma State Cowboys
In Marcus Smart I trust. Smart has gambled on himself before and won, and I expect him to do much of the same this year. Smart and LeBryan Nash form as formidable a duo as we will see in college hoops next season. Will the men in Stillwater be able to dethrone their rivals in Lawrence?
9. North Carolina Tar Heels
Assuming PJ Hairston can keep out of trouble, UNC will be explosive next season. After their late season success switching to a predominantly three, and often four, guard offense, I expect them to do much of the same next year. I think UNC, Duke and Syracuse will be battling it out all year to determine the champions of the new-look ACC.
UPDATE: Hairston suspended indefinitely, and obviously hurts the Tar Heels.
10. Connecticut Huskies
The Huskies lose no key contributors from a team that went 20-10 and surprised many in Kevin Ollie's first season. Now that they are NCAA tournament eligible, I expect another big jump from UConn in year 2 of the Ollie regime. Tough to find a better backcourt in the country than Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright. I am likely higher on this team than most.
11. Syracuse Orange
In recent years, Jim Boeheim's bunch has just reloaded rather than have to rebuild. Even with the losses of James Southerland, Michael Carter-Williams, and Brandon Triche, expect much of the same from the Orange. A frontline of CJ Fair, Jerami Grant, DaJuan Coleman, Rakeem Christmas, and Baye Keita may be the best in the country. How will this bunch fare (no pun intended) in a new conference?
12. Ohio State Buckeyes
Without Deshaun Thomas, I think a lot of pundits have this team a little too highly ranked for next season. Unless Aaron Craft takes a major step forward offensively, Lenzelle Smith and LaQuinton Ross could be asked to shoulder a ridiculous scoring load. However, I would not bet against Thad Matta, as all that man does is win.
13. Michigan Wolverines
Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary will keep this team competitive and afloat coming off a run to the National Championship game. I would imagine the media polls will overrate this team at the beginning solely because of that run, but this is still a solid squad nonetheless. Nik Stauskas can flat out put the ball in the basket.
14. Creighton Blue Jays
Having one of the best, if not the best, scorers in the country coming back for their senior campaign cannot hurt. I expect another monster year from Doug McDermott. The Team USA Mini-Camp experience showed McDermott can score at any level. Grant Gibbs being granted a sixth year of eligibility makes this as potent a Blue Jays team in quite some time. The key will be defensively: can this team get stops?
15. Harvard Crimson
Siyani Chambers was somewhat of a revelation last year as the Ivy League Freshman of the Year. He stepped up in a huge way after the losses of Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry. With those two back in the fold, and Wesley Saunders having taken a huge step as a Sophomore, I expect this to be a monster season for the Crimson. They have arguably the best Ivy League roster in recent memory.
16. Virginia Commonwealth Rams
Returning four of their top five starters, and motivated after a relatively early exit in the NCAA Tournament, I expect this VCU squad to go far when March rolls around. Spearheading the havoc on the defensive end will be Briante Weber, and offensively, Treveon Graham, Juvonte Reddic, and Rob Brandenberg all should take next steps in their development.
17. Tennessee Volunteers
Jeronne Maymon returning to form after injury caused him to miss all of last season will be the biggest question this team has to answer. If he is healthy, the combination of him, Jordan McRae and and Jarnell Stokes should leave the Vols fighting with Florida as the second best team in the SEC.
18. Memphis Tigers
It seems like Memphis has fallen short of expectations basically every year under Josh Pastner, but the results and stats show that is simply not true. Fresh off a 31-5, (16-0) record from a year ago, this squad heads to the AAC looking for similar success. Much of that success will rest on the shoulders of Joe Jackson and Shaq Goodwin.
19. Marquette Golden Eagles
Year in and year out, Buzz Williams' bunch is resilient. I expect this year to be no different. Gone to supposed greener pastures is Vander Blue, but someone must step up in Milwaukee. Will that man be Todd Mayo or Junior Cadougan? Or post player Davante Gardner?
20. Iowa Hawkeyes
Every key player returns from last year's team. I am a firm believer that teams that do not lose anyone from an underachieving, or not very good team, always enter the following year underrated. I think Iowa is a prime example. The Big Ten won't be as good as it was last year, and these Hawkeyes will be right there ready to make some noise, led by Aaron White and Roy Devyn Marble.
21. Oregon Ducks
Is Mike Moser enough to swing the balance of power in the Pac-12 over to these guys in Eugene? Coupled with the continued development of talented freshman Dominic Artis, Willie Moore, and Damyean Dotson, I believe so. And a trend has occurred in recent years regarding the Pac 12: everyone is always so quick to state how overrated and pathetic the conference is, that by the time the tournament comes around the top teams in the conference are somehow underrated. As the case in three of the past four years, with Oregon last year, and Washington in 2010 and 2011.
22. Wisconsin Badgers
Annually, two things usually occur regarding these guys: they are one of the computer's favorite teams/darlings due to their style of play, and the media underrates them at the beginning of year. Still trying to figure out how or why the ladder occurs, considering this team has never finished worse than fourth in the Big Ten during the Bo Ryan era. Bo Knows Basketball.
23. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Kevin Pangos will need to take that next step and establish himself as a legitimate WCC POY candidate for this Bulldogs team to make a deep run in March. Not landing either Mike Moser (UNLV) or Josh Davis (Tulane) as potential transfers who were interested in heading to Spokane hurt this team as they lack front court prowess.
24. Indiana Hoosiers
This team loses an awful lot from one of the nation's best teams a year ago. Can Yogi Ferrell and Will Sheehey become two of the top players in the Big Ten and lead the charge? Noah Vonleh needs to be able to adapt to the college game quickly if Indiana intends to compete with the forces at the top of this conference. Lots of questions to be answered in Bloomington.
25. UCLA Bruins
One of the nations most disappointing teams just a season ago, returns Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams and the Wear twins. Finding a position and role for Kyle Anderson will be one of the Bruins main questions heading into the season.