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April 9, 2008

First look at Rivals.com's 2008-09 Top 25

The season just ended Monday night, but that doesn't mean we can't already look ahead to the 2008-09 season.

Thus, here's our early very early look at a preseason top 25. We "voted" under the assumption that everyone who hasn't announced he's going pro is going to return to school. Is that going to happen? Of course not.

In fact, reports surfaced that Kevin Love was declaring for the draft the day after we voted on this list. Because of scenarios like this one, we'll revise this list after the early entry deadline passes.

Rivals.com 2008-09 Preseason Top 25: Apr. 8
1. North Carolina (36-3)
The Tar Heels could be scary good on the inside. If Tyler Hansbrough returns, he'll be joined by a pair of five-star big men.
2. UCLA (35-3)
Even without Kevin Love, the Bruins have enough to get back to Final Four. They have several key players returning and they're adding a top-five recruiting class.
3. Memphis (38-2)
In a dream scenario, Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts stay in school and the Tigers get back to the title game. Center Joey Dorsey would be their only major loss.
4. Texas (31-7)
No team may return more. Every starter and key reserve would return as long as guard D.J. Augustin and forward Damion James say "no" to the NBA.
5. Kansas (37-3)
Don't rule out a repeat national championship for the Jayhawks until Brandon Rush and Darrell Arthur sign with agents. Explosive guard Sherron Collins will replace departing senior Russell Robinson in the starting lineup.
6. Connecticut (24-9)
The Huskies can contend for national title even if 7-foot-3 Hasheem Thabeet turns pro. The real key is the health of guard A.J. Price, who tore an ACL in the NCAA Tournament.
7. USC (21-12)
Tim Floyd undoubtedly is talking to star freshman O.J. Mayo about the Trojans' chances of a Final Four trip next season. They return everyone else and add prize recruit Demar DeRozan, the No. 1 shooting guard in the 2008 class.
8. Purdue (25-9)
The Boilermakers should be even better after making a surprising second-place finish in the Big Ten. Their rotation featured four freshmen, including first-team All-Big Ten forward Robbie Hummel.
9. Kansas State (21-12)
Michael Beasley hasn't said he's leaving early yet. Until he makes it official, the Wildcats still have the best player in the nation.
10. Gonzaga (25-8)
The Bulldogs are expected to return six of their top seven scorers on a team loaded with talent. Look for freshman forward Austin Daye, a former five-star recruit, to blossom into a star.
11. Duke (28-6)
Despite the loss of senior DeMarcus Nelson, the Blue Devils still boast a stellar backcourt. They add five-star guard Elliot Williams. But they still lack an inside scoring threat.
12. Notre Dame (25-8)
The Irish won't surprise anyone next season. Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody is back, along with starting guards Kyle McAlarney and Tory Jackson.
13. Pittsburgh (27-10)
Finding a good outside shooter to replace Ronald Ramon is the only real concern for the Panthers. They have one of the nation's top point guards (Levance Fields) and a stellar frontcourt tandem (Sam Young) and DeJuan Blair).
14. Tennessee (31-5)
Guards Chris Lofton and JaJuan Smith have exhausted their eligibility. But the Vols remain a talent-laden club led by clutch forward Tyler Smith. Five-star recruit Scotty Hopson will provide instant help.
15. Wake Forest (17-13)
No team is adding more. The Deacons landed the nation's No. 1 recruiting class by signing three five-star prospects. That trio will mesh with promising sophomores-to-be Jeff Teague and James Johnson.
16. Florida (24-12)
Billy Donovan is too good of a coach and the Gators will have too much talent not get back to the NCAA Tournament. Donovan signed his second consecutive top-five recruiting class.
17. West Virginia (26-11)
Joe Alexander could be the Big East Preseason Player of the Year, and Alex Ruoff may be the league's top 3-point shooter. But savvy point guard Darris Nichols, a four-year starter, must be replaced.
18. Georgetown (28-6)
The Hoyas are saying goodbye to Roy Hibbert and Jonathan Wallace, but welcome the No. 1 prospect in the 2008 class, power forward Greg Monroe. It also could be a breakthrough season for talented junior DaJuan Summers.
19. Michigan State (27-9)
Drew Neitzel leaves, but the Spartans may get better offensively. Freshman point Kalin Lucas showed flashes of greatness this season, Raymar Morgan has the tools to be a go-to scorer and five-star recruit Delvon Roe is a future pro.
20. Ohio State (24-13)
Coach Thad Matta has reeled in another top-10 recruiting class. Seven-footer B.J. Mullens, the No. 1 center in the 2008 class, will allow 7-foot freshman Kosta Koufos to step outside more and take advantage of his shooting range.
21. Oklahoma (23-12)
Freshman big man Blake Griffin made a huge impact for the Sooners this season, racking up 10 double-doubles. Prize recruit Willie Warren could be even better. A dynamic guard with great physical gifts, Warren may be an instant star.
22. Villanova (22-13)
Star guard Scottie Reynolds will be looking for more help from former five-star recruits Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes next season. If that duo plays to their potential, the Wildcats could be a dark-horse contender for the Big East title.
23. Syracuse (21-14)
Injuries ravaged the Orange backcourt this season. If they stay healthy next season, there will be no excuse for missing the NCAA Tournament again. The Orange should have as much talent as anyone in the Big East.
24. Marquette (25-10)
The Golden Eagles lost coach Tom Crean, who took the Indiana job, but they'll return six of their top seven scorers if guards Dominic James and Jerel McNeal stay in school.
25. Xavier (30-7)
The Musketeers lose two starters guards Drew Lavender and Stanley Burrell and top reserve/leading scorer Josh Duncan from an Elite Eight team. But they return three double-digit scorers and add four-star center Kenny Frease.
Others considered: Arizona, Arizona State, Baylor, Davidson, Kentucky, Louisville, Miami, Mississippi State, San Diego, UNLV.

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