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June 21, 2008

Roundtable: Forgotten team in Top 25

At the College Basketball Roundtable, we ask each of our national writers their opinion on a topic from the past week.

THIS WEEK: Which team is the most glaring omission from our latest preseason Top 25?
JASON KING

Baylor.

Yes, I'm an alum. But this is anything but a homer pick. The Bears return every key piece of a team that lost to Purdue in the NCAA Tournament.

There won't be many schools in the nation that tout a backcourt as strong as Curtis Jerrells, Henry Dugat, Tweety Carter and LaceDarius Dunn. And Kevin Rogers should be one of the premier forwards in the Big 12.

The key for Baylor will be improving defensively and beating a quality opponent or two. The Bears were 0-4 in home sellouts last season and 2-6 against teams that finished in the top half of the Big 12.

MIKE HUGUENIN

Where's the love for Xavier? Yes, the Musketeers who lost to UCLA in the Elite Eight lose three starters and two of their top three scorers. At the same time, this was a team that had six players averaging between 10 and 13 points per game. Sean Miller is an excellent coach, and there's a good recruiting class coming - headed by four-star center Kenny Frease and four-star point guard Terrell Holloway.

Of the Musketeers' five incoming freshmen, four are guards. That makes sense because they don't need much help up front. Junior forward Derrick Brown, a terrific athlete, probably becomes the go-to guy on offense. Junior forward Jason Love will get more minutes and he's a rebounding machine. Swingmen C.J. Anderson and B.J. Raymond now will get more shots.

The Musketeers will miss Stanley Burrell's defense and intensity, but overall, the Musketeers will be just fine and will be in the top 15 when the season ends.

BOB McCLELLAN

Arizona State got jobbed when it didn't make the NCAA Tournament last season at 19-12 overall and 9-9 in the Pac-10. We jobbed the Sun Devils, too.

Who's back? Everyone who averaged more than two points per game, starting with Rivals.com Second-Team Freshman All-American James Harden (17.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg). He's only going to get better he was the youngest player in the Pac-10 last season and the guy already knows how to score from all angles. Word out of Tempe is Harden has been working his tail off this summer and is headed for a monster season.

Fellow freshman Ty Abbott started all 34 games, was the team's third-leading scorer (9.9 ppg) and led the team in 3-pointers. A third freshman, Rihards Kuksiks, became a starter down the stretch and averaged 8.7 points in the final 12 games.

So you've got three freshmen waiting to make that leap to sophomore-hood and you know that's supposed to be a quantum leap not to mention Jeff Pendergraph (12.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg) returning for his senior season.

ASU will deserve a humble apology come March.

ANDREW SKWARA

There are a handful of teams that could make us look silly for leaving them out of the top 25, but Miami is the one that scares me the most. While most of the teams that just missed the cut have at least a question or two, the Hurricanes don't appear to have any.

After a breakthrough season that ended in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Miami returns its top five scorers. That includes Jack McClinton, who might be the second-best shooting guard in the nation behind Davidson's Stephen Curry. McClinton racked up 38 points in the Hurricanes' first-round NCAA victory over a good Saint Mary's team.

They also are adding five-star recruit Dequan Jones, an explosive 6-foot-6 wing who will contribute immediately.

The Hurricanes have talent, experience, depth and a star player to lean on. I could see them going to the Sweet 16 and maybe even further.



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