Vitale: Early preseason top 40

Will the Dukies be celebrating again in 2011? Dickie V thinks they have as good a shot as anyone. Andrew Synowiez/US Presswire

Now that Tom Izzo has decided to stay at Michigan State, I feel comfortable with my early look at next season's top 40 teams.

The 2010-11 season should be another competitive one. The Big Ten will be loaded, the Big East will have its share of top-notch teams despite losing a lot of talent and Kentucky will respond after losing a host of stars.

But when it's all said and done, I like Coach K and the Dukies to go back-to-back, à la 1991 and 1992, baby!


1. Duke: With Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and the Plumlee brothers returning -- plus an eligible Seth Curry and diaper dandy Kyrie Irving -- Coach K clearly has the team to beat.

2. Michigan State: Izzo made a great decision to return to East Lansing. He has the talent to challenge for the championship with Kalin Lucas and Durrell Summers leading the Spartans.

3. Purdue: With a healthy Robbie Hummel rejoining JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore, Matt Painter's club will be in the hunt, too.

4. Ohio State: Imagine how good they'd be if Evan Turner had returned. Thad Matta has one of the top recruiting classes in America to go with David Lighty, Jon Diebler and William Buford.

5. Villanova: Jay Wright doesn't have Scottie Reynolds returning, but he still has lots of talent at his disposal. Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes provide veteran leadership.

6. Kentucky: John Calipari won't rebuild; he will simply reload. Brandon Knight is the latest diaper dandy to have an immediate impact on a Calipari-led program.

7. Syracuse: The Orange lost Wes Johnson to the NBA, but Hall of Famer Jim Boeheim has a solid nucleus and several newcomers to keep an eye on.

8. Florida: Billy Donovan's club will challenge Kentucky for supremacy in the SEC. Kenny Boynton should have a sensational season in Gator Country.

9. Kansas State: The return of Jacob Pullen will keep Frank Martin very happy. The Wildcats will be the team to beat in the Big 12.

10. North Carolina: Roy Williams and the Tar Heels will bounce back from last season's roller-coaster ride. Remember the name Harrison Barnes. He may be the premier freshman in America.

11. Baylor: LaceDarius Dunn decided to return to school instead of entering the NBA draft, which keeps Scott Drew's team in the national spotlight.

12. Pittsburgh: Jamie Dixon has done a super job at Pittsburgh, and he has a veteran club returning to show for it, with guard Ashton Gibbs leading the way.

13. Tennessee: Bruce Pearl welcomes diaper dandy Tobias Harris, who should have an instant impact.

14. Butler: Last year was not a fluke. Brad Stevens has another national championship contender, led by Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack. If Gordon Hayward had come back, this would have been a top-5 team.

15. Gonzaga: Mark Few has one of the best sophomores in America, Elias Harris. The Zags will be heard from again this season.

16. Washington: Lorenzo Romar's squad came on strong last season. Quincy Pondexter is gone, but Isaiah Thomas & Co. will make noise out West.

17. Texas: Rick Barnes will rebuild quickly thanks to another solid recruiting class. This one is led by guard Cory Joseph and forward Tristan Thompson.

18. Illinois: Demetri McCamey's decision to return to Champaign made Bruce Weber's team worthy of top-20 status.

19. Memphis: Josh Pastner has a top-5 recruiting class, according to ESPN's gurus. Will Barton and Joe Jackson should see lots of playing time right away.

20. Kansas: Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins are gone, but the Morris twins return and Bill Self welcomes Josh Selby, a newcomer with lots of potential. Selby is currently hurt but should be ready for the season.

21. Georgetown: Even without Greg Monroe, the Hoyas have the experience to compete in the Big East. Austin Freeman and Chris Wright form a dynamic backcourt.

22. Missouri: Mike Anderson said no to Oregon, and the fans in Columbia have to be thrilled. This team plays tenacious defense and will make some noise come tournament time.

23. San Diego State: Steve Fisher has done a great job running the Aztecs. San Diego State should be the team to beat in the competitive Mountain West.

24. Virginia Tech: Seth Greenberg was disappointed when his team was left out of the Big Dance last season. With Malcolm Delaney coming back, the Hokies won't have that problem in 2010.

25. BYU: Jimmer Fredette is a legit candidate for All-Rolls-Royce status. His decision to pull out of the NBA draft has the Cougars in the top 25.

26. Temple: Lavoy Allen and Juan Fernandez will provide a 1-2 punch for Fran Dunphy's club. The Owls should be dancing again.

27. Wisconsin: Bo Ryan is one of the most unsung coaches in America. He will get the most out of his talent once again, though the Big Ten is loaded.

28. Georgia: Remember the name Trey Thompkins. He should get the national exposure he deserves as a potential double-double man. Mark Fox has already made a difference down in Athens.

29. Richmond: This is a sleeper team, aided by another player who withdrew from the draft, Kevin Anderson. The A-10 is underrated, baby!

30. Louisville: Samardo Samuels left early, but Rick Pitino has a lot of young weapons. Watch for bigger things from Terrence Jennings and Rakeem Buckles.

31. UNLV: Lon Kruger has a veteran club returning. Tre'Von Willis can flat-out play.

32. West Virginia: Devin Ebanks and Da'Sean Butler are gone, but Bob Huggins will find a way to get it done. Kevin Jones has the potential to shine this season.

33. Minnesota: Never count out Tubby Smith's club. The return of Blake Hoffarber is a key for the Golden Gophers.

34. Florida State: Leonard Hamilton's team might have been in the top 25 if Solomon Alabi had come back. But Chris Singleton & Co. will still be a factor in the ACC.

35. New Mexico: Steve Alford enjoyed a great 2009-10 campaign. His Lobos will contend in the Mountain West again.

36. UTEP: Tim Floyd is back on the college basketball sidelines, and he will be happy he returned.

37. Xavier: Even without Jordan Crawford, Chris Mack has a number of weapons ready to challenge in the A-10.

38. Maryland: Even without Greivis Vasquez, Gary Williams -- a future Hall of Famer in my book -- will have the Terps hungry.

39. St. John's: Steve Lavin left ESPN for a return to the sidelines. He has an experienced club, led by D.J. Kennedy. The Red Storm will be on the rise.

40. Miami (Fla.): Remember guard Durand Scott -- he was special when I saw him at the ACC tournament. Frank Haith's club will surprise some people.