Evaluating the early top 25

Even with Jeff Withey and Travis Releford returning, KU will have a tough time repeating its success. AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez

It's that time of the spring, when I take my good friend Andy Katz's early top 25 rankings for the upcoming college basketball season, take my red pen out and make some of my adjustments to it. Obviously, it's too early to accurately forecast every team's final 2012-13 roster for quite a while, but here are some of my initial reactions to Andy's poll.

No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats: Too high

I don't doubt John Calipari. But I do doubt Katz's selection of the Wildcats at No. 3. Of course, Kentucky has reloaded, especially after picking up the signature of 6-foot-10 frontcourt defensive demon Nerlens Noel during Wednesday night's announcement on ESPNU. While Noel adds to another excellent recruiting class, it is not at the level of the Class of 2011.

In the meantime, Kentucky's current roster will be decimated by the loss of up to five underclassmen and a senior, who all could be headed for the NBA draft. The Wildcats should be in the preseason top 10, but No. 3, at the moment, is too high.

No. 4 Kansas Jayhawks: Too high

If any of us ever doubted Bill Self's coaching ability, and few have, that assertion went out the window this season as he led the depleted Jayhawks to the national championship game. But while next season's Kansas team will be deeper and maybe more athletic, replacing Thomas Robinson and Tyshawn Taylor will not be easy. Newcomers Ben McLemore and Perry Ellis should blend nicely with returnees Jeff Withey, Elijah Johnson and Travis Releford, but the big question for me will be: Who will replace Taylor at the point guard spot?

No. 9 Florida Gators: Too high

If you have the Gators here because Bradley Beal is returning, that's understandable. Unfortunately, he will be, at worst, a mid-lottery selection in June's NBA draft and is likely to declare by the end of the month.

The nucleus returning for Billy Donovan is certainly worthy of a top 25 ranking, especially if freshman point guard Braxton Ogbueze can step in for the departing Erving Walker right away. The front line consisting of Patric Young, Erik Murphy and a hopefully healthy Will Yeguete will be very solid in the SEC.

No. 12 Syracuse Orange: Too low

With four of its six top scorers departing, it would appear as though Syracuse will be facing a major rebuilding job this season. However, the Orange are still loaded with top-10 talent, in my opinion. Six-five point guard Michael Carter-Williams is ready to step out of the shadows and into stardom. He'll team with senior Brandon Triche and 6-4 sniper Trevor Cooney, a top-50 recruit who redshirted this past season. C.J. Fair will anchor a front line that will include a talented incoming freshman scorer in Jerami Grant, and improving sophomore center Rakeem Christmas.

No. 19 Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Too low

This is a wild-card pick for me, because the Irish return their top three scorers and add a solid recruiting class. More importantly, there is an outside chance they could retain former All-Big East performer Tim Abromaitis and Scott Martin, if either or both gain an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA because of past injuries.

Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins form one of the better young backcourts in the country and 6-6 incoming freshman Cameron Biedscheid will help immediately. If Mike Brey gets lucky with the NCAA, this could be a top-10 team next season.

No. 25 Missouri Tigers: Too low

As the Tigers depart for the SEC after winning the Big 12 tournament title, they will return three potential all-league starters in dynamic point guard Phil Pressey, feisty Michael Dixon Jr. and Laurence Bowers, who missed last season with a knee injury. In addition, transfers Earnest Ross (Auburn), Keion Bell (Pepperdine) and Jabari Brown (Oregon) all have the talent to play immediately.

One person close to Missouri's staff told me that next season's team will be more talented than the 2011-12 version of the Tigers. So, while I don't see them hovering around the top of the polls, I think they'll be better than No. 25.

Unranked Pittsburgh Panthers: Too low

I am going to take a shot here and say that the Panthers are going to crack the top 25. Despite the loss of Big East preseason player of the year Ashton Gibbs and fellow senior Nasir Robinson, the Panthers will be improved.

Jamie Dixon has a small but potentially very productive recruiting class, led by pure point guard James Robinson from famed DeMatha High School. The X factor may be New Zealander Steven Adams, who arrived in the United States in midseason as ESPN's sixth-ranked high school player. He is a fabulous athlete whose presence will be felt instantly on the defensive end.

Unranked Ohio Bobcats: Too low

Every key player from the Bobcats' Sweet 16 run returns, and new coach Jim Christian will do a great job of replacing John Groce, who has left for Illinois. Christian, who had outstanding success at Kent State, knows his way around the MAC. And while 6-foot point guard D.J. Cooper is certainly a very talented and flashy player, the keys to this team may be shooting guard Walter Offutt, the team's leader, and multiskilled forward Ivo Baltic. This 29-win team was no flash in the pan.