John Clay's Top 25

November 6, 2011 

1) N. Carolina

The Heels have more talent with more experience than any other team in the country. Harrison Barnes is the key. If he takes another step forward, the Heels will be hard to beat come March.

2) Kentucky

The Cats won't be better than North Carolina out of the gate, but John Calipari has a loaded toolbox with which to work. By year's end, he could have built something special, like say, the ladder to hang an eighth banner.

3) Connecticut

The late addition of Andre Drummond to the Huskies' roster puts Jim Calhoun in position to make another run at yet another national title. That is, if UConn can get its APR troubles under control.

4) Syracuse

Jim Boeheim recently said this is the best team he's had in awhile, and the thing about Boeheim is that he doesn't say positive stuff like that too often. We'd better listen.

5) Ohio State

Not quite as bullish on the Buckeyes as some others, though any team returning Jared Sullinger, Aaron Craft and William Buford is going to be tough to play. The concern here is about Thad Matta's depth.

6) Duke

True freshman Austin Rivers will be running this year's Clones for the Throne campaign. Mike Krzyzewski needs to have a No. 2 talent blossom to ride shotgun with Rivers.

7) Louisville

While John Calipari has been commanding all the national and statewide attention, Rick Pitino has been (a) seething, and (b) building a fairly formidable roster. The Cards might currently be No. 2 in the state, but they could still end up in the Final Four.

8) Memphis

Boy wonder Josh Pastner struggled with his children's group last year, but the Tigers surely have matured from the experience. Adonis Thomas is a notable addition to a talented if precocious group.

9) Vanderbilt

The Commodores have the experience to deal with not only their opponents, but Kevin Stallings' tendency to wear them down by the end of the season. If Jeffery Taylor plays up to his vast capabilities, the Commodores could reach the Final Four.

10) Florida

Not sure if Billy Donovan has ever played an all-guard lineup, but there's always a first time. He already had a slew of quick, intrepid guards before adding freshman Bradley Beal and transfer Mike Rosario to the mix.

11) Xavier

The Muskies could be this year's Butler, or this year's Butler and VCU. Tu Holloway's return brought even more energy to Coach Chris Mack's Twitter account.

12) Kansas

The Jayhawks are not awash in the usual talent, but that may make Bill Self's team that much more dangerous. Tyshawn Taylor must put it together for Kansas to have a shot at being a top-10 team.

13) Pittsburgh

Jamie Dixon has a veteran group of ni tty-gritty guys, just the kind that have taken the Panthers to eight consecutive NCAA Tourn ament appearances.

14) Wisconsin

Jordan Taylor has the killer moves of a premiere point guard, one who can fill up the stat sheet. He could carry the Badgers on his back to at least another Sweet Sixteen run.

15) Baylor

Coaxing Perry Jones into returning to Waco was a Scott Drew coup; now the Bears have to get mercurial freshman Quincy Miller to bear down and play up to his talent level.

16) Alabama

JaMychal Green is just about ready for his breakout campaign, one that could take Anthony Grant's Tide on a thrill ride not seen in Tuscaloosa, as far as hoops go, for some time.

17) Cincinnati

Mick Cronin's top four scorers return to the Queen City, but the key is Yancy Gates. He's the one with prime-time potential.

18) Michigan

Darius Morris slipping out the door on the Wolverines to the NBA curbs the enthusiasm here. Freshman Trey Burke needs to augment John Beilein's deep, veteran bunch.19) UCLA

The Wear brothers are eligible and may lend a helping hand to Ben Howland, who is fighting to get the Bruins back to national prominence.

20) Michigan St.

Some are counting the Spartans out, but don't bet against Tom Izzo, especially when he's coming off a down year. Two subpar years in a row just doesn't seem like an option.

21) Texas A&M

The Aggies have the talent, but can new Coach Billy Kennedy overcome his health problems to help lead the team along? Khris Middleton is a budding star.

22) Florida St.

Leonard Hamilton just keeps hanging around, knocking on the door with his blue-collar groups. One of these years, the Seminoles are going to break through.

23) Gonzaga

Down a bit of late, the Zags did lose star guard Steven Gray. But Mark Few welcomes everyone else back, including three possible point guards.

24) Marquette

Buzz Williams was supposed to be the new coach at Oklahoma. Instead, he's right back in Milwaukee, and the Golden Eagles will be right back in the top 25.

25) Arizona

Sean Miller lost stud Derrick Williams but gained a powerhouse freshman class that should get better as the year progresses.

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