The day after the 2012 NCAA tournament ended, Value Add projected that Kentucky would fall dramatically in 2013 but then be a dominant No. 1 again in 2014. However, Arizona, Duke, Louisville and Michigan have closed the gap dramatically since then, and Marcus Smart’s decision to stay at Oklahoma State makes them a potential contender. Here is the countdown of the projected Top 25 teams at www.valueaddbasketball.com.
There are just five teams in the AP Top 25 who did not make the Value Add Projected Top 25. Oregon (50th), Wichita State (46th), Creighton (45th), Gonzaga (37th) and Notre Dame (34th) will all have plenty of changes to show they belong and are better than the raw Value Add numbers. The values for all players and teams can be found at www.valueaddbasketball.com.
25, New Mexico, Top 50 Players: None
24, Iowa, Top 50 Players: Aaron White (41st) is averaging a double-double through two games and the 6-8 junior pushes Iowa into the Value Add Top 25. They will be challenged for top team in the state by Georges Niang (20th) and Iowa State.
23, North Carolina, Top 50 Players: The NCAA is investigating UNC’s only top 50 player, PJ Hairston (33rd), so James Michael McAdoo may have to live up to his potential after last year’s injury to give UNC a shot to compete. The AP has them much higher at 12th, but Value Add remains skeptical.
22, Colorado, Top 50 Players: A 6-foot-5 future NBA guard like Spencer Dinwiddie (11th) could be an All-American, and his ability to get it into a dominant big man like Josh Scott (37th) will make Colorado hard to beat again.
21, Indiana, Top 50 Players: None
20, Marquette, Top 50 Players: As a 6-8, 300-pounder who hit 84 percent of his free throws, Davante Gardner (50th) can dominate many teams, but Creighton’s Doug McDermott (19th) is the clear National Player of the Year prospect from the new Big East as he scored 37 Monday. Marquette looked like a national contender until Vander Blue’s surprise move to leave for the draft and star JUCO big man Jameel McKay’s decision to transfer to Iowa State without every playing a game for Marquette.
19, Syracuse, Top 50 Players: Value Add isn’t quite as high on Syracuse as the writers (No. 9 AP), but CJ Fair (38th) will try to recreate the Final Four run and if Trevor Cooney is anywhere near as improved as he looked in his 27 point, 4 steal first game then Syracuse could shoot much higher than this.
18, Ohio St., Top 50 Players: Aaron Craft (40th) may be the best perimeter ballhawk in the country, but he can get back to the top 10 player he was as a sophomore and can help establish Ohio State as a contender again if he can rattle Marquette’s young guards Saturday for a road win.
17, Baylor, Top 50 Players: Cory Jefferson (31st) can dominate inside to give Baylor a chance anytime out.
16, Arkansas, Top 50 Players: None
15, Virginia Commonwealth, Top 50 Players: VCU had 14 more steals in the season opener, and with a strong, experienced, dominant duo in future NBA power forward Juvonte Reddic (32nd) and 6-5 Treveon Graham (47th), the Rams have the strength to match the speed of a contender.
14, Virginia, Top 50 Players: Akil Mitchell (39th) can cap his college playing days by leading Virginia back to some NCAA tournament wins with his big play inside.
13, Memphis, Top 50 Players: None
12, Connecticut, Top 50 Players: He is probably too small to make it in the NBA, but Value Add is in love with Shabazz Napier (9th), and picks him as a repeat All-American who can take UConn to new heights. His 18 point, 7 assist game to start the season shows what he can do, and he topped that with his second career triple-double Monday against Yale.
11, Michigan St., Top 50 Players: Gary Harris is pegged as the 6th best player in the country, and his 20 point, 10 rebound, 6 assist opener is a sign of his future career as a shooting guard in the NBA. Spartan fans will groan at seeing Value Add basically flip them with rival Michigan, as the AP writers say it is Michigan State who is No. 2 in the country.
10, UCLA, Top 50 Players: What looked like it could be a title year was rattled by an investigation of Shabazz Muhammad and at the outset of the season and basically ended with Jordan Adams (2nd) broken foot right before the tournament. However, Value Add has UCLA back in the top 10 with Adams projected as the second best player in the country and fellow sophomore Kyle Anderson (34th) giving the Bruins two of fantastic trio.
9, Wisconsin, Top 50 Players: Not only does future NBA shooting forward Sam Dekker (10th) project as a 2nd team All-American, but he is joined by top 50 point guard Ben Brust (43rd) AND Josh Gasser, who projected as their star last year before missing the entire season with an injury.
8, Kansas, Top 50 Players: We have 6-7 freshman Andrew Wiggins as a 2nd team All-American on his way to the NBA as a small forward and potential No. 1 overall pick. He can hit from behind the arc as well as going to the hoop.
7, Florida, Top 50 Players: None
6, Oklahoma St., Top 50 Players: Marcus Smart (4th) decided to bid for a player of the year and national title instead of running an offense in the NBA this year gives them a chance at the title, and Phil Forte (24th) backed his top 25 preseason ranking with 22 points in the opener.
5, Arizona, Top 50 Players: Duquesne transfer TJ McConnell (14th) was Value Add’s surprising Top 20 player before transferring, and joins Nick Johnson (36th) in the backcourt and star freshman big man Aaron Gordon (13th) may only be here for a year before playing forward in the NBA to let Arizona join Duke and Michigan as the only team with three top 50 players.
4, Duke, Top 50 Players: One of only three teams with three top 50 players in Rasheed Sulaimon (17th), Quinn Cook (29th) and star recruit Jabari Parker (27th) were joined by transfer Rodney Hood (ranked 100th) in ALL scoring 20 points in the opener. Be scared.
3, Louisville, Top 50 Players: We are thrilled Russ Smith (12th) did not go into the draft. He is the best player in the country many nights, and only his crazy inconsistency holds him down to No. 12 overall. Still enough to make Louisville a contender again.
2, Michigan, Top 50 Players: Value Add projects Glenn Robinson (1st) to follow Trey Burke to give Michigan consecutive National Player of the Year awards. Players make BY FAR their biggest improvement between their freshman and sophomore years, and that has Michigan as the only team with three projected Top 20 players in Robinson, Nik Stauskas (7th) and Mitch McGary (18th, missed first game with an injury). Despite all that talent, it will be a war to be the best team in the state as Michigan State is No. 2, according to the writers.
1, Kentucky, Top 50 Players: When we projected 2014 over a year out, Kentucky looked like a clear champion this year – but the are not far ahead of the field. Alex Poythress projects as the 51st best player, meaning Kentucky just misses being the fourth team in the country with three top 50 players behind freshman phenoms Julius Randle (35th) and Andrew Harrison (45th).
Kentucky is the slight favorite, but the field is much more open than it initially appeared. The top five teams all have a combined Value Add higher than 40 percent.