With most of the NBA early entry decisions over, Rick Bozich finalized his pre-season Top 10 for the 2013-14 college basketball season.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The early forecasts suggested another partly cloudy season for college basketball in 2013-14, with persistent gusts of players rushing out the door to the NBA.
Ben McLemore followed by Gorgui Dieng followed by Victor Oladipo followed by Cody Zeller followed by Nerlens Noel followed by Anthony Bennett followed by Otto Porter followed by Trey Burke followed by more kicking and screaming about the hits that our favorite game keeps taking.
Then something happened more amazing than Rick Pitino getting a tattoo. Guys started announcing they were passing on pro basketball to play another season for tuition, books and training-table meals.
Not simply guys who were kidding themselves by tweeting that they were NBA-ready. I'm talking about legitimate first-round picks like C.J. Fair of Syracuse, Mitch McGary of Michigan, Doug McDermott of Creighton and now Gary Harris and Adreian Payne of Michigan State.
Now that most of the important decisions are in, it is considerably safer to predict the Top 10 pre-season teams for the 2013-14 season than it was 35 seconds after Louisville defeated Michigan for the NCAA title in Atlanta.
Sorry, Andrew Wiggins. I'm not even waiting on you. It's time to count down my pre-season 2013-14 Top 10.
10. Baylor – I usually scratch NIT teams from my list, but Scott Drew's team won the NIT – and then heard the remarkable news that Isaiah Austin and Cory Jefferson are not repeating the mistake Quincy Miller made last season by jumping to a cold seat on the bench.
9. Ohio State – DeShaun Thomas is taking his quick, and usually effective, trigger to the NBA, but I'm guessing the locker room will be a happier place without one guy taking better than 30 percent of the shots. LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott and Sam Thompson can all score.
8. Michigan -- I've seen the Wolverines ranked in the Top Five. That's a credit to McGary, Glenn Robinson III and coach John Beilein. But it's also silly to believe the Wolverines will be that good after losing Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway. Pardon me if I suggest that Spike Albrecht has enjoyed his final 17-point half as Burke's replacement.
7. Duke – It won't be easy replacing three seniors. But the Blue Devils will manage splendidly with Rodney Hood (transfer from Mississippi State), Jabari Parker and Matt Jones.
6. Arizona – If you watched Aaron Gordon and Rondae Jefferson on the all-star circuit, you know that Sean Miller will have to find space on his veteran team for two guys who can play 30 dynamic minutes a game.
5. North Carolina – The Tar Heels are one of four teams that remain in the Andrew Wiggins Sweepstakes – and some call UNC a sensible compromise choice. Even if that isn't the decision Wiggins makes, the return of James Michael-McAdoo and P.J. Hairston means that Roy Williams will have more veterans than expected to blend with a Top 10 recruiting class.
4. Florida – Mike Rosario and Kenny Boynton were nice players but they could never push the Gators past the Elite Eight. Chris Walker and Kasey Hill have Final Four ability, especially teamed with Patric Young, Casey Prather, Michael Frazier and a pair of talented transfers (Damontre Harris and Dorian Finney-Smith).
3. Kentucky – This is two spots lower than the consensus forecast for the top-ranked Wildcats, but when in doubt I vote with veteran guards. The Wildcats will have more NBA Draft picks than anybody in the field, which means my next two picks will have to defeat UK with talent that is experienced in the task of ego management. And these two squads have shown that skill.
2. Michigan State – Tom Izzo took a monstrous chance by focusing all of his recruiting juice on Jabari Parker – and then finishing in a runner-up spot. The misfire isn't as damaging as it could have been now that Harris and Payne have decided to return, giving Izzo four returning starters, a very formidable bench and two late recruits.
1. Louisville – The last NCAA champion to return its leading scorer as well as the Final Four Most Outstanding Player was Florida – and then the Gators backed-up their 2006 title by winning another in 2007. Louisville returns its leading scorer (Russ Smith) and the Final Four MOP (Luke Hancock). Replacing Dieng and Peyton Siva won't be a joy, but the return of Smith, two more starters, four top subs and a solid quartet of recruits means that Rick Pitino's team is Number One until somebody proves that the Cardinals are Number Two.