(Assumes majority of underclassmen stay)
No. 25 Iowa State Cyclones (12-19 in 2002, Big XII. No postseason)
Location: Ames, Iowa
Returning Starters: Four
SG Jake Sullivan, 6-1 Jr. (16.0ppg, .447FG%, .472 3pt%, .900FT%)
SF Shane Power, 6-5 Jr. (13.6ppg, 4.5rpg, .438FG%)
G/F Marcus Jefferson, 6-5 Jr. (7.3ppg, 4.1rpg, .479FG%)
PF Omar Bynum, 6-7 Sr. (7.2ppg, 6.7rpg, .509FG%)
Other returnees: Jared Holman, 6-9 So. C
Recruiting class grade: A
PG Tim Barnes, 6-1, 165 Jr. (JC All-American)
SG Jerome Harper, 6-5, 200 Jr. (JC All-American)
SF Adam Haluska, 6-6, 225 Fr. (Ranked as the nation's 18th best SF)
F/C Jackson Vroman, 6-10, 230 Jr. (Four-star JC big man)
C Chris Alexander, 7-0, 235 Jr. (JC All-American)
Overview: After a one-year absence from the national rankings, head coach Larry Eustachy is set to have his Cyclones back in the thick of things thanks to a stellar recruiting class. Barnes will start immediately at the point and although he isn't as strong or big as former ISU All-American Jamaal Tinsley, he is a similar flashy playmaker type. Alexander and Vroman address the biggest weakness from 2002: size. Add these big men to the deadly outside shooting of junior Jake Sullivan, who is one of America's best pure shooters, and all of the sudden the ‘Clones are a very balanced team offensively. Big XII rivals got their shots in on Iowa State in 2002, but in 2003 it will be the Cyclones who are doling out the shots.
Player to watch: Jerome Harper.
No. 24 Wyoming Cowboys (22-9 in 2002, Mountain West. Lost in NCAA 2nd round)
Location: Laramie, Wyo.
Returning Starters: Four
PG Jason Strait, 5-11 So. (9.2ppg, 3.3apg, .396FG%)
SG Donta Richardson, 6-2 Sr. (11.9ppg, 2.7apg, .374FG%)
SF Marcus Bailey, 6-5 Sr. (14.6ppg, 4.2rpg, 2.4apg, .491FG%)
F/C Uche Nsonwu-Amadi, 6-10 Sr. (10.2ppg, 8.2rpg, .540FG%)
Other returnees: Joe Ries, 6-8 Jr. PF, David Rottinghaus, 6-5 Jr. SG
Recruiting class grade: C+
F Supo Jegede, 6-8, 205, Fr.
G/F Jerry Webb, 6-5, 215, Jr. (JC All-American swingman)
Overview: With the continued development of point guard Jason Strait, Wyoming has a right to expect good results from its team. Strait was outstanding in the Cowboys' two-game run in the NCAA tournament in 2002 and some thought that he even outplayed Arizona All-American Jason Gardner. With him running the show, expect Richardson and Bailey to benefit the most on the wings. Richardson could increase his shooting percentage to be more effective since he is already a solid penetrator. The loss of ultra-tough Josh Davis will hurt the frontcourt but with Uche Nsonwu-Amadi returning, the Cowboys will continue to be a physical team that attacks the glass and plays aggressive defense. Depth will be a question mark all year but the four returning starters are good enough to play a lot of minutes. As for the recruits, Jegede is a guy who hasn't yet stopped growing. The coaches expect him to be 6-10 before he leaves Laramie. Webb is a star in the JuCo ranks and a former JC teammate of Donta Richardson. He is expected to play a lot immediately.
Player to watch: Jason Strait
No. 23 Gonzaga Bulldogs (29-4 in 2002, WCC. Lost in NCAA 1st round)
Location: Spokane, Wash.
Returning Starters: Three
SG Blake Stepp, 6-4 Jr. (9.2ppg, 3.9apg, .356 3pt%)
PF Corey Violette, 6-8 Jr. (12.8ppg, 8.3rpg, .498FG%)
C Zach Gourde, 6-8 Sr. (13.3ppg, 6.4rpg, .536FG%)
Other returnees: Ronny Turiaf, 6-8 So. F (7.3ppg, 5.0rpg), Winston Brooks, 6-0 Sr. PG (plagued by wrist injury for most of 2002), Kyle Bankhead, 6-4 Jr. SG (4.0ppg, .412 3pt%), Dustin Villepigue, 6-8 Fr. F (redshirted in 2002)
Recruiting class grade: B
PF Sean Mallon, 6-7, 200 Fr. (Named one of West Coast's premier high school power forwards)
SG Tony Skinner, 6-4, 180 Jr. (Three-star JC prospect)
Overview: Losing All-American point guard Dan Dickau will be very hard to absorb for coach Mark Few and his Zags. Dickau was the WCC's Player of the Year and was also one of the best players in the entire country. Stepping in for him at the point will be Winston Brooks, a chiseled athlete with good playmaking skills. He will never be the kind of scorer that Dickau was but he has plenty of options around him to get the ball to. Junior shooting guard Blake Stepp had a down year shooting the ball (under 40% from the field) but since he was playing with a meniscus that was torn in three places all year, he has a good excuse. Expect his numbers to soar in 2003. The two-headed monster in the Zags' frontcourt is as good as any on the West Coast. Corey Violette and Zach Gourde can score and rebound as well as any frontline duo around. Violette might wind up being one of the better power forwards in the nation this year if he develops like he has during his first two years in Spokane. Add in sophomore forward Ronny Turiaf and freshman Sean Mallon and the Bulldogs can make an argument to having one of the best frontlines in America. Redshirt freshman forward Dustin Villepigue is expected to contribute also.
Player to watch: Corey Violette.
No. 22 Creighton Bluejays (23-9 in 2002, MVC. Lost in NCAA 2nd round)
Location: Omaha, Neb.
Returning Starters: Five
PG Tyler McKinney, 6-2 So. (4.3ppg, 2.1apg, .398FG%)
SG Terrell Taylor, 6-3 Sr. (12.6ppg, 2.8rpg, .381 3pt%)
SF Michael Lindeman, 6-6 Jr. (6.8ppg, 3.5rpg, .481FG%, .379 3pt%)
F Kyle Korver, 6-7 Sr. (15.1ppg, 5.5rpg, 3.3apg, 1.6spg, .478FG%, .429 3pt%, .890FT%)
F/C Brody Deren, 6-8 Jr. (9.9ppg, 5.1rpg, 1.6bpg, .529FG%)
Other returnees: Larry House, 6-4 Sr. SG (6.8ppg), Mike Grimes, 6-7 Jr. SF, DeAnthony Bowden, 6-1 Sr. G, Joe Dabbert, 6-10 Jr. C, Ismael Caro, 6-0 Jr. PG
Recruiting class grade: Inc.
No List found. Bluejays return top 11 players anyway.
Overview: Kyle Korver became the fourth Creighton player to earn All-American honors in 2002 when he was named to the AP's honorable mention list. The 6-7 do-it-all forward led the Bluejays in scoring, rebounding, assists, free throw percentage and three-point shooting. He's one of the nation's best all-around players. Shooting guard Terrell Taylor made the biggest name for himself, however, when he hit a three-pointer to beat Florida in the NCAA first round. He and Korver are the stars but it's the depth and role players that head coach Dana Altman's Bluejays possess that make Creighton a legitimate Top 25 team for 2003. For Creighton to make a Kent State-like run to the Sweet 16 and beyond, it will need continued outstanding play from Taylor and Korver as well as an improved junior season from Brody Deren, who looks like he could be an All-Conference player the rest of his time in Omaha.
Player to watch: Kyle Korver.
No. 21 Pepperdine Waves (22-9 in 2002, WCC. Lost in NCAA 1st round)
Location: Malibu, Calif.
Returning Starters: Four
PG Devin Montgomery, 6-0 Sr. (11.7ppg, 3.8apg, .469FG%, .506 3pt%)
SG Terrance Johnson, 6-6 So. (12.8ppg, 3.6rpg, .441FG%, .349 3pt%)
F Boomer Brazzle, 6-5 Sr. (11.2ppg, 5.1rpg, .475FG%, .358 3pt%)
F Jimmy Miggins, 6-6 Sr. (14.9ppg, 7.5rpg, 2.6apg, .480FG%)
Other returnees: Glen McGowan, 6-8 Jr. PF (9.8ppg, 3.9rpg), Will Kimble, 6-10 Jr. C, Gary Colbert, 6-3 Sr. PG
Recruiting class grade: C
C Derrick Grubb, 6-10, 250 Fr.
F Cody Horning, 6-8, 220 Fr.
Overview: Pepperdine got hot at the right time last year, winning 17 of its final 20 games before being eliminated by Wake Forest in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The good news for coach Paul Westphal and Co. is that four starters and seven of the Waves' top nine players return for 2003, including one of the West Coast's fastest rising star, sophomore guard Terrance Johnson. Johnson was named the WCC Freshman of the Year for his play in 2002 and looks destined to join former Wave guard Brandon Armstrong in the NBA once his career is over in Malibu (hint: never, ever leave a place like Malibu before you have to!). He and forward Jimmy Miggins are the two bona fide stars of the team but point guard Devin Montgomery makes this team go. He is an outstanding shooter, as evidenced by his above-50% three-point percentage, and he knows how to get the rest of his teammates involved. With the Waves being so deep, expect this team to be one of the more entertaining squads in the nation with their up-tempo style. 2003 is the year Gonzaga gets unseated by Pepperdine for the WCC title.
Player to watch: Terrance Johnson.
[Part two features teams ranked from No. 20-No. 16]