I have a lot of respect for anyone that compiles a pre-season ranking. For that reason, I rarely make judgments (at least publicly) on the many lists that start popping up around now. It is pretty easy to defend a wide variety of opinions on any one team. At this time last season, if you had said Syracuse was going to get a one-seed and North Carolina would miss the tournament, I would have politely disagreed and ended up looking foolish.
Andy Katz probably does the most famous off-season top 25. By the time he revealed the latest iteration last week, I suspect it was the result of many criticisms, constructive and otherwise, of his first draft in April. As such, it’s probably a good predictor of the pre-season media and coaches polls that will be unveiled shortly. Katz had Purdue ranked second until Robbie Hummel’s tragic ACL tear that will cost him the season. After that news, he dropped Purdue to 23rd. I find this stunningly low.
Look at it this way – Temple was previously 23rd in Katz’s list. If you added a healthy Hummel to Temple, I don’t think you would consider the Owls to be national-title material. If you think Hummel had some special value to Purdue that he wouldn’t have on another team, leave him out of the argument for a second. Pick any player in college basketball and add him to Temple’s roster. He still couldn’t make the Owls’ the second-best team in America.
There’s a big gap between 2 and 23 in college hoops. Perhaps an 18-year old Shaquille O’Neal could account for such a difference, but I don’t believe Hummel does. Purdue is no longer the favorite to be the best team in the Big Ten and their national title hopes are damaged, but it’s also premature to rule out those possibilities.