Top 25 college basketball teams analyzed

Andrew Bagnato gives his view of the preseason landscape: 1. Arizona This might be coach Lute Olson’s best team, and that’s saying something. Will expectations weigh as heavily as they have in past seasons in Tucson? 2. Kansas The Jayhawks have a speedy point guard (Aaron Miles), a gritty guard (Kirk Hinrich) and an All-American forward (Nick Collison). 3. Oklahoma The Sooners got a taste of success when they reached the Final Four a year ago and think they can go farther next spring. Three senior guards_Hollis Price, Quannas White and Ebi Ere_lead the way. 4. Pittsburgh The Panthers return five starters from a team that won 29 games and reached the Sweet 16. Guard Brandin Knight averaged 15.6 points and 7.2 assists last season. 5. Florida Coach Billy Donovan has three senior starters with Final Four experience. The Gators’ biggest problem will be filling Udonis Haslem’s big shoes in the low post. 6. Duke This is an unusually low ranking for the Blue Devils. But after losing Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy and Carlos Boozer, it seems as if Duke has more questions than it has answers. 7. Alabama The defending Southeastern Conference champions return four starters. The Crimson Tide fizzled in the NCAAs, losing to Kent State in the second round. That should provide plenty of motivation. 8. Texas The Longhorns may get lost in the shuffle in the loaded Big 12. But sophomore guard T.J. Ford made huge strides last season. 9. Xavier One of these years, a little guy is going to break through to the Final Four. Could it be Xavier? Forward David West may be the best player in the nation. 10. Oregon The Ducks are one of the nation’s more entertaining teams, and they figure to keep running this year behind guards Luke Ridnour and Luke Jackson. 11. Maryland Yes, the Terrapins are the defending champions until someone takes away their crown. But the Terps have to replace the core of the team that provided 58.7 points per game. 12. Gonzaga The Bulldogs’ first-round loss to Wyoming in the NCAA tourney still hurts. But it could provide motivation to a team that thought it deserved a better draw last spring. 13. UCLA The Bruins are, as always, a puzzle. Senior forward Jason Kapono is as reliable as anyone in the country, but Cedric Bozeman is a question mark at point guard. 14. Mississippi State When 6-foot-9-inch, 255-pound forward Mario Austin decided to return for his junior year, the Bulldogs automatically became a favorite in the SEC. 15. Kentucky The Wildcats overcame poor chemistry to reach the Sweet 16 last spring. This year coach Tubby Smith doesn’t have a lot of glitzy names, but he has a deep, athletic roster. 16. Michigan State Point guard Marcus Taylor left early for the NBA. The Spartans will rely heavily on sophomores Chris Hill, Alan Anderson and Kelvin Torbert, who absorbed some painful lessons as freshmen. 17. Indiana Now that the glow of the Final Four has worn off, the Hoosiers have to figure out how to replace Jared Jeffries’ scoring and Dane Fife’s perimeter defense. 18. Connecticut The Huskies reached the Elite Eight last spring behind star forward Caron Butler, who then left for the NBA. Coach Jim Calhoun has assembled an interesting mix of talent to try for a repeat run. 19. Missouri The Tigers have been a perennial tourney disappointment, but last year, as a 12th seed, they charged to the Elite Eight. The pressure is on to repeat. 20. Virginia The Cavaliers will be strong at point guard, with Keith Jenifer, Todd Billet and Majestic Mapp, who has missed the last two seasons with knee injuries. But the Cavs may go as far as their defense takes them. 21. Marquette The key to the season could be the improvement of new point guard Travis Diener. 22. Louisville The Cardinals are headed in the right direction but probably are a year away from making a national splash. 23. Western Kentucky The presence of 7-1 senior Chris Marcus makes the Hilltoppers a threat. 24. Georgia Coach Jim Harrick won’t have a starter over 6-9, so the Bulldogs may struggle against bigger teams. 25. Minnesota The Golden Gophers have improved steadily under coach Dan Monson, but this year the pressure is on to contend for a Big Ten title.