- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 10, 2009

1. Kansas (27-8 in 2008-09)

Upside: Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins, holdovers from the 2008 title, lead the Jayhawks back to the promised land.

Downside: A few more Rock-Chalk rumbles with the football team stymie an incredible opportunity.

2. Michigan State (31-7)

Upside: Tom Izzo might be the game’s most complete coach, but having Kalin Lucas run the show helps.

Downside: Will the Spartans find a tough-guy leader to replace the impressive Travis Walton?

3. Texas (23-12)

Upside: T.J. Ford… Kevin Durant… and now Avery Bradley. Longhorns’ stud freshmen tend to shine.

Downside: Same as it ever was - who is going to run the show on the floor for Rick Barnes’ team?

4. Kentucky (22-14)

Upside: John Calipari nabbed John Wall and quickly reloaded an ecstatic, title-starved fan base.

Downside: Don’t be surprised if asterisks are in fashion again in Lexington before long.

5. Villanova (30-8)

Upside: In a guard’s game, Scottie Reynolds and the Wildcats might have the most backcourt quality.

Downside: The frontcourt matters, too, and Jay Wright needs to find some answers in the paint.

6. West Virginia (23-12)

Upside: With Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks, the Mountaineers won’t hesitate to spread their wings.

Downside: Bob Huggins’ crew must become more consistent in a less-imposing Big East.

7. Purdue (27-10)

Upside: Robbie Hummel’s back issues aren’t a factor, and the Boilermakers reach an in-state Final Four.

Downside: Addressing the rebounding issues that torpedoed last year’s team is a must.

8. Duke (30-7)

Upside: With Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith, the Blue Devils have three sure things.

Downside: A thin backcourt is destined to catch up with Coach K’s crew in March.

9. North Carolina (34-4)

Upside: Size matters, and no one possesses as much of it as Roy Williams’ loaded frontcourt.

Downside: The pesky point-guard question surfaces in Chapel Hill now that Ty Lawson is in the NBA.

10. Washington (26-9)

Upside: Isaiah Thomas and Abdul Gaddy make a young - but ubertalented - backcourt in Seattle.

Downside: The loss of Jon Brockman leaves a significant hole in the interior game.

11. Butler (26-6)

Upside: All five starters return, including Matt Howard and the versatile Gordon Hayward.

Downside: Early schedule is tough, but how much will Bulldogs be tested in Horizon League play?

12. Connecticut (31-5)

Upside: Jet-quick Kemba Walker ensures the point guard position won’t be a problem this season.

Downside: Huskies must adjust to life without Hasheem Thabeet manning the middle.

13. Michigan (21-14)

Upside: John Beilein’s crew only should get better in their third season under a real coach.

Downside: Somebody other than Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims needs to score with regularity.

14. Louisville (31-6)

Upside: Never underestimate the ability of Rick Pitino to coax 20-plus victories out of his teams.

Downside: Never underestimate the ability of crazy, bug-eyed women to give Pitino the heebie-jeebies.

15. Tennessee (21-13)

Upside: One erratic season later, every relevant player returns for what should be a smoother ride.

Downside: Can a team go deep into March with Bobby Maze or Melvin Goins at the point?

16. California (22-11)

Upside: Someone has to win the Pac-10; with a loaded backcourt, why not the Golden Bears?

Downside: The floor sinks significantly for Mike Montgomery’s outfit the second a starter gets hurt.

17. Oklahoma (30-6)

Upside: Charismatic sophomore Willie Warren has a chance to be the nation’s top guard.

Downside: The Sooners still could use Blake Griffin, who cannot be completely replaced.

18. Ohio State (22-11)

Upside: All five starters return for the early-entry-decimated Buckeyes, who could use some stability.

Downside: Point guard could be a headache, though count on Evan Turner to assume some ballhandling.

19. Dayton (27-8)

Upside: Flyers have nearly everyone back from a second-round team, including forward Chris Wright.

Downside: Brian Gregory’s team isn’t built for shootouts and didn’t score more than 74 points in March.

20. Clemson (23-9)

Upside: The power of Trevor Booker finally could get Oliver Purnell his first NCAA tournament victory.

Downside: There’s plenty of concern in the backcourt with K.C. Rivers and Terrence Oglesby gone.

21. Minnesota (22-11)

Upside: Time for the Gophers to settle in for a Tubby Smith-style run of borderline top-20 seasons.

Downside: The same crew as last year must upgrade its perimeter shooting significantly.

22. Siena (27-8)

Upside: Even with Kenny Hasbrouck gone, the Saints could march into the postseason’s second weekend.

Downside: Without a marquee victory, Siena will be doomed to a middle-of-the-road seed.

23. Maryland (21-14)

Upside: At his very best, Greivis Vasquez can carry a team as far as anyone in the sport this season.

Downside: If James Padgett and Jordan Williams don’t deliver, Terps will be in trouble in the paint.

24. Tulsa (25-11)

Upside: Before he’s a first-round pick, 7-footer Jerome Jordan can restore Tulsa as a national factor.

Downside: The Golden Hurricane will be ignored in the watered down Conference USA.

25. Vanderbilt (19-12)

Upside: Five starters (including A.J. Ogilvy) are back and injury-free for the well-coached Commodores.

Downside: With Kentucky, South Carolina and Tennessee in the same division, it’ll be hard to stand out.

AND 15 MORE

26. Xavier (27-8): New coach (Chris Mack) but same old success for ever-steady Musketeers.

27. Mississippi State (23-13): Upside in Starkville skyrockets if Renardo Sidney is ever eligible.

28. Illinois (24-10): Bruce Weber should prod another 20-win season out of the Illini.

29. Oklahoma State (23-12): Return of guard James Anderson ensures the Cowboys’ viability.

30. BYU (25-8): Back from pancreatic cancer, coach Dave Rose again has a league favorite.

31. Texas A&M; (24-10): Aggies should match five-year average of 24 victories this season.

32. Pittsburgh (31-5): Undermanned and underestimated, Panthers will find a way back to NCAAs.

33. Gonzaga (28-6): There’s a bit of rebuilding but not enough to deny a 13th straight tournament trip.

34. Syracuse (28-10): Much of Orange’s hopes hinge on promising freshman Brandon Triche.

35. South Carolina (21-10): Downey’s return bodes well for Gamecocks’ March plans.

36. Boston College (22-12): Loss of Tyrese Rice hurts, but Eagles will finish in top half of the ACC.

37. Georgia Tech (12-19): After three losing seasons in four years, Yellow Jackets have much to prove.

38. Northern Iowa (23-11): Forward Adam Koch could do big things for MVC champ Panthers.

39. Georgetown (16-15): From Final Four to NCAA second round to NIT, Hoyas must reverse recent course.

40. Florida State (25-10): Center Solomon Alabi’s continued progress will be vital for Seminoles.

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