Preseason Top-25: 25-21

Preseason polls are worth the paper they are printed on, and this being the Internet, there is no paper involved at all. It is still very early, but here are my thoughts on just who are the best 25 basketball teams in the nation.

No. 25 Memphis

2003-04 Record: 22-8 (12-4 C-USA/T-1st)
Starters Returning:4
Key Returners:F Sean Banks (17.4 ppg) F Rodney Carney (13 ppg)
Key Additions: Darius Washington, Simplice Njoya (transfer)
Key losses:Antonio Burks (16 ppg)

What we like about Memphis: Memphis returns four starters from a team that won 22 games and won a share of Conference USA. Sean Banks was one of the top freshmen in the nation last season. Rodney Carney has a lot of untapped talent that could come out as he becomes more of an option. He had 26 and 10 in the NCAA first round loss to South Carolina. Darius Washington is one of the best freshmen to come to college. John Calipari knows how to coach.

What worries us about the Tigers: Banks had some attitude problems in the offseason, including missing tryouts for the US Under-21 team. Carney has shown flashes of explosiveness in preseason games, but does not always show up for regular season contests. Washinton will need to carry a huge load from day one. Top recruit Shawne Williams did not qualify academically.

Why No. 25 We think Banks will thrive as the team's top option. Washington will probably get consideration for national freshmen All-American teams. They along with Carney are the best scorers and there is a talent drop off after them. They should be tough for a round, maybe two, but they just don't have enough for a long NCAA Tourney run.

No. 24 Florida

2003-04 Record: 20-11 (9-7 SEC/2nd East)
Starters Returning: 5
Key Returners: Anthony Roberson (17.9 ppg) Matt Walsh (15.8 ppg)
Key Additions:Taurean Green, Corey Brewer, Al Horford
Key losses:Christian Drejer, Bonell Colas

What we like about Florida: There is a lot of talent in Gainesville. Roberson is a fantastic shoot-first point guard. When hot Walsh can score with the best of them. All five of the players who started in the NCAA Tournament return. Billy Donovan has brought in one of the nation's top recruiting classes.

What worries us about the Gators: Despite a lot of talent, this team never caught stride last year. Roberson has yet to prove he's the type of floor leader who can win the big games. Donovan's teams have a tendency to get upended very early in the NCAA Tournament. The Gators will have to rely on a lot of freshmen to provide depth.

Why No. 24 This team may have the talent to be ranked higher, but I just don't trust Donovan and the Gators. If everything clicks and some of the young players develop quickly, then this team can do some damage in March. If not, expect another first round flameout.

No. 23 Washington

2003-04 Record:19-12 (12-6 Pac-10/2nd)
Starters Returning:5
Key Returners:G Nate Robinson (13.2 ppg), F Brandon Roy (12.9 ppg)
Key Additions:F Jamaal Williams (transfer)
Key losses: G Curtis Allen (4.9 ppg)

What we like about Washington: The Huskies emerged as the surprise team in the Pac-10 last season. Nate Robinson may very well be the Pac-10's best player and Brandon Roy is one of the most underrated players on the West Coast. The Huskies are loaded on the perimeter and have a lot of confidence. Lorenzo Romar is quickly establishing himself as one heck of a coach.

What worries us about the Huskies: Was last year a fluke or are they ready to build on the late season run. The frontcourt is shaky at best. Too many of the post players like to score from the outside. Conroy plays the point, but at times looks to score more than run the offense.

Why No. 23 I hate to bet against Robinson, but this team still has some holes that worry us. They caught fire last season but were not a very good team early in the year. Was the team we saw at the end of the year the real Huskies?

No. 22 Michigan

2003-04 Record: 23-11 (8-8 Big 10/T-5th)
Starters Returning: 4
Key Returners: G Daniel Horton (12.2 ppg), G Lester Abram (13.1 ppg)
Key Additions:F Ronald Coleman
Key losses: F Bernard Robinson (12.1 ppg)

What we like about Michigan: Michigan won the NIT last year and returns the bulk of that team. Only Bernard Robinson fails to return. This team has experienced depth and seems poise for a run at the better of the two post season tournaments. Horton is a great point guard, while Abram and Courtney Sims seem poised for big seasons.

What worries us about the Wolverines: This is a team that has yet to prove they can make it to the Big Dance. This is a make or break year for Tommy Amaker and he has to prove he's a great coach. Michigan has to rely on what they have on hand as they did not bring in a ton of big time recruits.

Why No. 22 Michigan is unproven, but could be in store for some big things. We like their chances, but are not quite sold on them enough to rank then higher.

No. 21 Wisconsin

2003-04 Record:25-7 (12-4 Big Ten/T-2nd)
Starters Returning:3
Key Returners: G Mike Wilkinson (13.1 ppg), F/G Alando Tucker (12 ppg)
Key Additions: Sharif Chambliss (transfer), Brian Butch (redshirt)
Key losses:Devin Harris (19.5 ppg), Freddie Owens (6.5 ppg)

What we like about Wisconsin: The Badgers were a very good team last year and return a lot of that team's core. They also add four talented redshirts and three true freshmen. This is a team that should be better in March than they are in November. Mike Wilkinson is a terrific player, while Alando Tucker is one of the best athletes in the Big Ten. Brian Butch was a prep All-American who sat out last season to get stronger.

What worries us about the Badgers: They will certainly miss Harris who was the team's heart and soul. They still have to find their point guard. They will have to rely on a ton of new players.

Why No. 21 Had Harris stayed for his senior year, this squad would likely be a top-five team. As it is they have a lot of talent, but they also have a lot of youth that makes you a little wary.


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