- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 4, 2012

*-projected conference champion

1. Louisville* (30-10 last season): Will defense win a championship for guard Peyton Siva and the Cardinals? Don’t count it out, even if Rick Pitino’s team isn’t the most offensively efficient bunch.

2. Indiana* (27-9): Cody Zeller’s back, which means the Hoosiers may well have their best team in two decades and their first Final Four outfit since 2002.

3. Kentucky* (38-2): The defending national champions aren’t quite as loaded as they were a year ago. With their usual strong freshman class, they’re still a decent bet to reach the Final Four.

4. Ohio State (31-8): Whatever deficiencies and questions the Buckeyes might have, guard Aaron Craft and forward Deshaun Thomas will go a long way toward solving them.

5. Syracuse (34-3): There’s plenty to replace in central New York and almost always something tantalizing in the pipeline; the Orange have averaged 29.9 wins over the last four seasons.

6. Duke* (27-7): The Blue Devils earned less than a No. 2 seed just twice in the last 16 years. Coach K is as automatic as it gets with cranking out strong regular season teams, hence the top-10 ranking.

7. Michigan (24-10): Combine two returning guards (Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr.) and two well-regarded forwards (Glenn Robinson III and Mitch McGary) and expectations are soaring in Ann Arbor.

8. Michigan State (29-8): The ever-reliable Tom Izzo will ensure the Spartans stay relevant even after the departure of do-everything guard Draymond Green.

9. Florida (26-11): Leading scorer and fearless shooter Kenny Boynton could have the Gators back on the doorstep of their first Final Four since their back-to-back national titles in the mid-Aughts.

10. UCLA*(19-14): All eyes are on Indianapolis, where the NCAA will eventually render a decision on the eligibility of freshman Shabazz Muhammad. With him, the Bruins could be exceptional.

11. Kansas* (32-7): Book another 30 victories and a Big 12 title for the Jayhawks, whose consistency of excellence under Bill Self never ceases to amaze.

12. UNLV* (26-9): When the coaching carousel commences in March, remember the name Dave Rice, who has augmented an already strong team in Sin City with an impressive array of new talent.

13. N.C. State (24-13): As always, proceed with caution with the Wolfpack, who for the first time since 1975 were the media’s preseason pick to win the ACC.

14. Creighton* (29-6): Star Doug McDermott and the Bluejays are the spot-on favorites in the Missouri Valley and could manage a multi-weekend stay in the ACC tournament.

Story Continues →