Top 25 Countdown: Others receiving votes

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Throughout the month of October, CollegeBasketballTalk will be rolling out our previews for the 2012-2013 season. Check back at 9 a.m. and just after lunch every day, Monday-Friday, for a new preview item.

To browse through the preview posts we’ve already published, click here. To look at the rest of the Top 25, click here. For a schedule of our previews for the month, click here.

Butler:

  • Last Season: 22-15, 11-7 Horizon (t-3rd); Lost in the CBI semifinals
  • Key Losses: Ronald Nored, Chrishawn Hopkins
  • Key Returnees: Andrew Smith (10.9 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Khyle Marshall (9.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg), Roosevelt Jones (7.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Rotnei Clarke, Kellen Dunham
  • Outlook: Butler is always a tough team defensively, they are much more athletic than you would expect a Butler team to be, and they addressed their biggest issue from last season (perimeter shooting) with the additions of Clarke and Dunham. The problem? The point guard spot. They lost their best defender (Nored) to graduation and their best play maker (Hopkins) to the dreaded violation of team rules.

Cincinnati:

  • Last Season: 26-11, 12-6 Big East (t-4th); Lost to Ohio State in the Sweet 16
  • Key Losses: Yancy Gates, Dion Dixon
  • Key Returnees: Sean Kilpatrick (14.3 ppg, 4.6 rpg), Cashmere Wright (10.9 ppg, 4.6 apg, 2.0 spg), JaQuon Parker (9.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Justin Jackson (5.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 1.6 bpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Titus Rubles, Shaquille Thomas
  • Outlook: Cincinnati’s perimeter attack is promising as they bring back Kilpatrick, who will compete for Big East Player of the Year, and one of the most underrated point guards in the conference in Wright. The key will be Parker’s ability to rebound and defend at the four spot, which allows the Bearcats to play small. Cincinnati will  have to do that quite often, as they have quite a few question marks up front.

Davidson:

  • Last Season: 25-8, 16-2 SoCon (1st); Lost to Louisville in the Opening Round
  • Key Losses: None
  • Key Returnees: De’Mon Brooks (15.7 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Jake Cohen (14.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg), Nik Cochran (10.9 ppg, 3.6 apg), JP Kuhlman (10.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Chris Czerapowicz (10.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: None
  • Outlook: Davidson won the usually-balanced Southern Conference by four full games last season. They went into Kansas City and knocked off Kansas. They gave Louisville a fight in the first round of the NCAA tournament. And they bring everyone back from last season. The Wildcats have a chance to be very, very good this season.

Drexel:

  • Last Season: 29-7, 16-2 CAA (1st); Lost in the NIT Quarterfinals
  • Key Losses: Samme Givens
  • Key Returnees: Frantz Massenat (13.7 ppg, 4.8 apg), Damion Lee (12.0 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Chris Fouch (10.8 ppg)
  • Key Newcomers: Tavon Allen, Casey Carroll
  • Outlook: With VCU leaving the CAA, the Dragons look like they will be the favorite to repeat as conference champions. Losing Givens will hurt, but Bruiser Flint has plenty of big bodies at his disposal. The perimeter attack will be as good as ever, as Massenat will be preseason 1st team all-CAA while Lee (a sophomore) has a chance to be the conference player of the year before he graduates.

Florida State:

  • Last Season: 25-9, 12-4 ACC (3rd); Lost to Cincinnati in the Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Bernard James, Luke Loucks, Deividas Dulkys
  • Key Returnees: Michael Snaer (14.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg), Ian Miller (10.3 ppg), Okaro White (7.7 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Montay Brandon, Aaron Thomas, Devon Bookert, Boris Bojanovsky
  • Outlook: Florida State is always going to be a tough team defensively. They are always going to have big, physical post players. That’s never going to change. This year, they’ll have one of the best all-around guards in the country in Snaer in the mix. The key will be if Miller or the talented crop of freshmen guards can develop and provide Snaer with some offensive support.

Kansas State:

  • Last Season: 22-11, 10-8 Big 12 (5th); Lost to Syracuse in the Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Frank Martin (coach), Jamar Samuels
  • Key Returnees: Rodney McGruder (15.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg), Angel Rodriguez (8.3 ppg, 3.2 apg), Jordan Henriquez (7.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 2.4 bpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Bruce Weber (coach), Michael Orris, Darrell Johnson
  • Outlook: The Wildcats have a solid core to build their team around. McGruder is a potential Big 12 Player of the Year candidate while Rodriguez is a guy that will be on quite a few breakout performer lists. Throw in Will Spradling in the back court on a front court anchored by Henriquez and the big-bodied Thomas Gipson, and K-State’s got a chance to win the league if they can adapt to Bruce Weber’s coaching style.

Marquette:

  • Last Season: 27-8, 14-4 Big East (2nd); Lost to Florida in the Sweet 16
  • Key Losses: Darius Johnson-Odom, Jae Crowder
  • Key Returnees: Vander Blue (8.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.6 apg), Junior Cadougan (6.3 ppg, 5.4 apg), Davante Gardner (9.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg), Todd Mayo (7.9 ppg)
  • Key Newcomers: Trent Lockett, Steve Taylor, Jamal Ferguson
  • Outlook: Marquette has a slew of quality players on their roster, particularly on their perimeter, but there are a couple question marks I have for this group. Is there a go-to guy on the roster? How good will Arizona State transfer Trent Lockett be playing meaningful games? Who has the ball in their hands at the end of a clock? Who fills the role of the face-up power forward vacated by Crowder?

Miami:

  • Last Season: 20-13, 9-7 (t-4th);  Lost in the Second Round of the NIT
  • Key Losses: Malcolm Grant, DeQuan Jones
  • Key Returnees: Durand Scott (12.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.1 apg), Kenny Kadji (11.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 41.8% 3’s), Reggie Johnson (10.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg), Shane Larkin (7.4 ppg, 2.9 apg)
  • Key Newcomers: Bishop Daniels
  • Outlook: The ‘Canes look like they could end up being the best team in the ACC outside of the Triangle this season. Kadji and Johnson form a nice inside-outside duo in the front court while Scott and Larkin headline a versatile group on the perimeter. If Miami is going to make some noise, this is the year to do it: six of their top seven players are seniors.

Minnesota:

  • Last Season: 23-15, 6-12 Big Ten (9th); Lost in the NIT Final
  • Key Losses: Ralph Sampson III
  • Key Returnees: Trevor Mbakwe (14.0 ppg, 9.1 rpg, 1.7 bpg), Rodney Williams (12.2 ppg, 5.6 rpg), Julian Welch (9.5 ppg, 2.9 apg, 43.8% 3’s)
  • Key Newcomers: Charles Buggs, Wally Ellenson
  • Outlook: Looking at the Gopher’s rotation, there is a lot to like. For starters, double-double machine Mbakwe is back for a sixth-year. Will Williams alongside him up front and a trio of talented perimeter players in Welch and the two Hollinses, Tubby Smith has an NCAA tournament-caliber team. The point guard spot will once again be a year-long question mark, however.

Murray State:

  • Last Season: 31-2, 15-1 OVC (1st); Lost to Marquette in the Round of 32
  • Key Losses: Donte Poole, Ivan Aska, Jewuan Long
  • Key Returnees: Isaiah Canaan (19.0 ppg, 3.6 apg, 45.6% 3’s), Ed Daniel (6.8 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 1.5 bpg), Zay Jackson? (4.9 ppg, 2.3 apg)
  • Key Newcomers: Erick McCree, Jeffery Moss, CJ Ford
  • Outlook: Murray State lost quite a few important players from last season’s team, but the good news is that they do get back an all-american in Canaan and the athletic and energetic Daniel. Those two will put up numbers and Murray State will wins a lot of games, but a stronger OVC combined with Jackson’s off-season arrest makes a return trip to the dance anything but a guarantee.

North Texas:

  • Last Season: 18-14, 9-7 Sun Belt (5th)
  • Key Losses: Johnny Jones (coach)
  • Key Returnees: Tony Mitchell (14.7 ppg, 10.3 rpg, 3.0 bpg), Chris Jones (14.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 4.3 apg, 2.4 spg), Jordan Williams (10.9 ppg), Alzee Williams (10.5 ppg)
  • Key Newcomers: Tony Benford (coach), TJ Taylor, Keith Coleman, Clarke Overlander, PJ Hardwick
  • Outlook: Normally, teams that finish fifth in the Sun Belt aren’t destined to be top 25 programs, but this Mean Green team is anything but normal. Mitchell is a lottery pick that never was eligible at Missouri. Jones and Jordan Williams were academically ineligible for the second semester last season. Taylor signed with Oklahoma out of high school and Marquette out of Junior College. Roger Franklin transferred in from Oklahoma State. Benford has a very, very good team on his hands.

Oklahoma State:

  • Last Season: 15-18, 7-11 Big 12 (9th)
  • Key Losses: Keiton Page, Cezar Guerrero
  • Key Returnees: Le’Bryan Nash (13.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg), Markel Brown (10.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 2.4 apg), Brian Williams (9.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg), JP Olukemi* (9.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Marcus Smart, Phil Forte, Kamari Murphy, Kirby Gardner
  • Outlook: There’s a lot to like with this Oklahoma State team, especially if Olukemi gets his waiver to be eligible all season. Nash and Smart give the Cowboys more consensus top ten recruits than the entire ACC. Markel Brown is a Sportscenter Top Ten play waiting to happen. But they have no size and question marks at the point. Smart has drawn rave reviews at that spot, but can he run the show at the Big 12 level?

Saint Mary’s:

  • Last Season: 27-6, 14-2 WCC (1st); Lost to Purdue in the Opening Round
  • Key Losses: Rob Jones, Clint Steindl
  • Key Returnees: Matthew Dellavedova (15.5 ppg, 6.4 apg), Stephen Holt (10.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 3.2 apg, 1.8 spg), Brad Waldow (8.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Chris Reyes
  • Outlook: Losing Jones will hurt, but with a very talented back court — headlined by Dellavedova and the underrated Holt — returning, Randy Bennett’s club should be able to compete with Gonzaga for the WCC title once again. Two things to keep an eye on: the development of the sophomore Waldow up front, and what, if any, sanctions will come out of the investigation into the Gaels’ recruiting.

South Dakota State:

  • Last Season: 27-8, 15-3 Summit (2nd); Lost to Baylor in the Opening Round
  • Key Losses: Griffin Callahan
  • Key Returnees: Nate Wolters (21.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 5.9 apg), Jordan Dykstra (11.3 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 47.3% 3’s), Chad White (9.3 ppg, 47.2% 3’s), Brayden Carlsen (7.3 ppg, 46.1% 3’s)
  • Key Newcomers: Connor Divine, Jacob Bittle, Matt Donlan
  • Outlook: The Jackrabbits bring back Wolters, who is undoubtedly one of the most valuable players in the country. Their game plan is simple: give Wolters the ball, let him try to penetrate, and put shooters in four spots on the floor around him. Those shooters are back, too, although losing Callahan will hurt. When the threes are dropping, this team is fun to watch and tough to beat. Keep an eye on them.

Stanford:

  • Last Season: 26-11, 10-8 Pac-12 (7th); Won the NIT
  • Key Losses: Josh Owens, Andrew Zimmerman
  • Key Returnees: Chasson Randle (13.8 ppg, 43.8% 3’s), Aaron Bright (11.7 ppg, 3.7 apg, 43.6% 3’s), Dwight Powell (5.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg), Anthony Brown (8.1 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
  • Key Newcomers: Rosco Allen, Grant Verhoeven, Christian Sanders
  • Outlook: The Cardinal have plenty of talent on their roster. Randle is one of the country’s best kept secrets, while Brown and Bright provide some balance on the perimeter. Stanford’s front line is the difference maker for this team. Allen, Verhoeven and Powell have plenty of potential, but this team is probably still a year away from peaking.

Tennessee:

  • Last Season: 19-15, 10-6 SEC (t-2nd); Lost in the Second Round of the NIT
  • Key Losses: Cameron Tatum, Renaldo Woolridge
  • Key Returnees: Trae Golden, Jarnell Stokes, Jeronne Maymon
  • Key Newcomers: Derek Reese, Armani Moore, D’Montre Edwards
  • Outlook: Did you know that Tennessee finished second in the SEC last season? And they bring back essentially their entire roster? That includes Stokes, who had a very successful season despite enrolling in January, when he was supposed to be a high school senior. The Vols are going to be a tough, physical team that is no fun to play. On the nights they get scoring from their wings, they’ll be very difficult to get a win against.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Gonzaga lands their first post-Final Four commitment

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Gonzaga capitalized on their run to the national title game by landing a commitment from French point guard Joel Ayayi, who announced the news on twitter.

Ayayi is an interesting long-term prospect, according to Draft Express. He has the size and the frame to eventually be a significant contributor in the college game, but he’s raw. His handle needs work, as does his ability to create off the dribble and find teammates off of the bounce.

That said, he’s 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-7 wingspan and the ability to shoot it from the perimeter, and if Gonzaga can do anything, it’s develop players that enter their program.

VIDEO: Zion Williamson, top three prospect in 2018, breaks defender’s ankles

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Zion Williamson, one of the most sought-after recruits in college basketball, had himself a highlight-worthy moment at the Adidas Gauntlet event in Dallas over the weekend, breaking a defender’s ankles before hitting a three.

Illinois lands important commitment from four-star Class of 2017 guard Mark Smith

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Illinois landed a very important Class of 2017 commitment on Wednesday as guard Mark Smith pledged to the Illini.

The 6-foot-4 Smith was previously a Missouri commit for baseball, but some issues with his arm caused him to look back into basketball last summer. A native of Edwardsville, in the St. Louis metro area, Smith came out of nowhere to win the Illinois Mr. Basketball award as a senior this season as he averaged 21.9 points, 8.4 assists and 8.2 rebounds while becoming a consensus national top-100 prospect.

Rivals rates Smith as the No. 52 overall prospect in the Class of 2017 as he could come in and earn immediate minutes at Illinois next season at either guard spot.

This is a very important commitment for head coach Brad Underwood and the Illini as the new head coach was able to hold off some elite programs like Kentucky and Michigan State for Smith’s services.

Northwestern gets commitment from Boston College transfer A.J. Turner

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Northwestern landed a transfer on Wednesday as former Boston College wing A.J. Turner pledged to the Wildcats, a source confirmed to NBCSports.com.

The 6-foot-7 Turner just finished his sophomore season with the Golden Eagles as he averaged 8.4 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. A well-rounded wing who also shot 37 percent from three-point range, Turner will have to sit out one season due to NCAA transfer regulations before getting two more years of eligibility.

With Scottie Lindsay and Vic Law only having limited time left in Evanston, Turner provides a bit of insurance on the wing for the Wildcats for the future as he’s a proven rotation player coming from the ACC.

If you think 137 players declaring for the draft is stupid, you’re probably stupid

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The NBA Draft’s full early entry list came out on Tuesday afternoon, and there were 137 underclassmen listed on it.

137.

For 60 spots in the NBA Draft, only 30 of which guarantee you a contract in the NBA.

And that’s before you factor in the 45 international players that also declared for the NBA Draft, as well as the crop of seniors — Josh Hart, Monte’ Morris, Jaron Blossomgame, Alec Peters — that are going to end up hearing their names called. All told, there are going to be roughly 200 players competing to be one of the 60 people that end up getting drafted on June 22nd, and you don’t have to be any good at math to realize that 200 is a much, much bigger number than 60.

This unleashed a torrent of bad takes on the decision of these players.

And bad may not be doing those takes justice.

Because the bottom-line is this: You cannot paint the decision on whether or not to go pro with a broad brush.

For some players, making money of any kind is something they need to do to support their family, whether it’s what they’ll get with a first round guarantee, the $75-100,000 they’ll get for making a training camp roster to subsidize their time in the D-League while teams develop them or the money they can make in the D-League or overseas. You don’t know what their financial situation is. Maximizing their ability to capitalize on every available dollar they can make off of their athletic gifts may be more important than working towards a degree.

And it’s worth noting here that a guaranteed contract isn’t the only way to make a living in professional basketball. To say nothing of the money that can be made overseas or the number of second round picks and undrafted players that make guaranteed money — which is more than you probably realize — it needs to be noted that D-League salaries are getting a bump this year with the new CBA.

The NBA has also instituted something new called a “two-way contract”. Without getting into the legalese, it’s essentially a retainer worth well into the six figures that they will be able to give to two players that will allow them to retain that player under contract while sending them between the D-League and the NBA roster. In a sense, it creates an extra 60 NBA roster spots for players that have 0-3 years worth of professional basketball on their résumé.

Some players are simply declaring without signing with an agent because they want to get feedback directly from NBA personnel on what their professional prospects. Some will hear that they need to return to school to work on their body, or work on their jumper, or mature as a person to be able to handle everything that comes with being a professional. Others will be told they’re going to make a lot of money by staying in the draft, or that they need to go back to school because, frankly, they are not professional basketball players. Not getting invited to the NBA combine is a pretty good indication of where you stand in the eyes of NBA teams.

Still other players are putting their name into the draft to leave their options open should they be recruited over by the program they are a part of. Take Frank Jackson, for example. If he can return to school and thrive as Duke’s point guard, maybe he turns into a top 20 pick. But what happens if Trevon Duval, the best point guard in the Class of 2017 and a top five pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, picks Duke? Would it be in Jackson’s best interest to come back to Duke when he won’t be playing the position that he needs to learn to play to turn himself into a lasting NBA player?

Jackson, like the roughly 100 underclassmen that have declared without an agent, has until May 24th to make his decision on whether or not he will keep his name in the draft. Until then, he can return to school without damaging his eligibility.

The entire reason that the NCAA changed their rules to allow players to test the waters is so that they can make the most important decision of their lives with as much information as humanly possible. This thing exists for the sole purpose of allowing the kids to have as much knowledge about their options as possible.

And that is exactly what these kids are doing.

So the idea that this rule, or players taking advantage of that rule, however high that number may be, is a bad thing is stupid.