Folks, I'm very sorry for my tardiness. I've almost dropped the ball on one of the most important columns of the year. I know you're waiting with baited breath to find out if we, or anyone else, has a chance to cut down the nets next year.
Obviously, there's several minute variables, like players leaving for the NBA, undeclared recruits, and a little thing called scheduling. However, none of these should greatly affect the outcome of the next season in the most easily-predictable sport on the planet. I've spared you the time of having to sift through it all, and complied my report.
Andy Katz already weighed in about 4 news cycles ago.
So without further hesitation, I offer you my intelligently researched, however belated, peek into the next college hoops season. There really is no questioning the validity of these predictions that I have based on analysis as factually sound as anyone in the sports journalism realm...
25) Iona - I've heard other people talk about this team a lot, especially in reference to being a 'sexy pick.'
24) Notre Dame - Sounds about right.
23) Marquette - A lot of holes to fill, but Buzz Williams should have his team 'Dancin' come March...Lord knows he can.
22) Virgina Tech - It's hard not to place them here when Seth Greenberg standing behind you with a megaphone telling you how good they are.
21) USF -- They finished in the top part of the Big East, won 2 tournament games, and have hung with the best...but I'm not ready to believe in a team called 'South Florida' yet.
20) Alabama - Nick Saban will have his team ready to play.
19) Dartmouth - It is their turn to be the Ivy League's 'sleeper team' this year. Wait, they're in the Ivy League, right?
18) Gonzaga - Any time there's a player named 'Stockton' on your team, you're bound to be in the Top 25. Mark Few is still setting the pace for all-time regular-season win percentage...and it shows.
17) North Carolina - This could be a 'down' year for the Heels. Still, plenty of potential to go around.
16) West Virginia - Sounds about right.
15) Kansas St. - Rodney McGrouder is about to join Luke Haragody and Drew Neitzl in rare company as college hoops' 3rd-ever player to receive a 7th year of eligibility.
14) Syracuse - The 'Cuse is replacing good talent with even better talent. However, unlike the other teams that do this, Syracuse doesn't have what it takes to crack the Top 10.
13) Georgetown - They have this penetrating PG and that post-up center. Expectations are high, as usual, in the District.
12) Michigan State - They've got some decent talent waiting to gel. Izzo has scheduled tough this year [even though the sched isn't out yet]. My prediction is they'll be good for 2 or 3 embarrassing losses on national TV in November. If they stick around, they might be able to make a push come March. [Text, Copyright CBSSports.com 98, 99, 00, 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12]
11) Vanderbilt - Just received word that they've put a deposit down to hold this rank for the next 10 years...
10) Florida - ...taking a cue from Gainsville. I actually believe they've trademarked the usage of '#10 Florida.' The Mothership is going to be shoveling tons of royalties into Billy Donovan's lap the next few years.
9) Saint Louis - There may be 8 guys you've never heard of and 1 you MIGHT have, but trust me, they're poised. Saw them during Bracket Busters out the corner of my eye at Dave & Busters. Seriously, Billiken Nation rise UP.
8) Kentucky - One name: Jihad Muhammad Shabazz Napier...I think that's his name...supposed to be really good.
7) Pitt - I mean, right? They're returning, like, mad dudes from their CBI championship team. Speaking of post-season tournament champions...
6) Stanford - They're the only team who's 'p****d off for greatness.' Also, other teams who've watched their film ain't seen what film shows.
5) Butler - Brad Stevens is clearly the second-best coach of a mid-major team. He must be, I hear his name all over ESPN.
4) Texas - There's a good vibe around Austin that next year's team is going to set a new benchmark for 'precipitous drop to the NIT." In fact, rumor is Rick Barnes is so ambitious as to even have been muttering the letters "CBI" on recruitment calls.
3) Lehigh - C'mon, they beat Duke! 'Norfolk State's not pre-ranked for beating Mizzou, but Lehigh is?' Even though Mizzou was a more talented team than Duke, it doesn't mean they were a more talented team than Duke. if you beat Duke, you're really, really, REALLY talented. i would even place them higher than Duke, HOWEVER...
2) Duke - Because even when you're better than Duke, you're not better than Duke.
1) VCU - How good of a coach is Shaka Smart? Give him a dancing kangaroo, siamese twins, Jiminy Glick & Ryan Leaf and he'll still get you to a Final Four. He's already made the last 3, so no reason to believe he won't be cutting down the nets in [insert next year's venue].