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North Carolina, Kentucky headline off-season Power 24

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With the entry deadline for the 2011 NBA Draft behind us, time for an updated Power 24 here at Bracketville.  The first two selections were pretty easy: North Carolina and Kentucky.  Harrison Barnes and a host of other talented Tar Heels return to Chapel Hill.  UNC came within a game of the Final Four this past March, and Carolina should be an early favorite to cut down the nets in 2012.  Close behind is Kentucky.  Yes, the Wildcats lost Brandon Knight, but Terrence Jones decided to stay and will be joined by yet another top-flight recruiting class.

If you think of the Top 4 teams as potential No. 1 seeds, the remaining slots belong to Syracuse and Ohio State.  The Orange return a host of talent and figure to open play in November as the Big East favorite.  Once Jared Sullinger decided to stay in Columbus, the Buckeyes became the team to beat in the Big Ten – again.

The rest of the Top 10 looks like this … Connecticut, Louisville, Duke, Vanderbilt, Arizona, and Memphis.

Wisconsin opens at No. 11 thanks to Jordan Taylor staying in Madison.  The Badgers are followed by Kansas, Alabama, Michigan and Florida in the Top 15.  Then we find Marquette, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Xavier and Missouri rounding out the Top 20.  The Big East will be good again – but not as strong as this past season.

Our final Power 24 spots go to … Florida State, Texas, Gonzaga, and UCLA.

You could easily make a case for several other teams.  Others considered were Baylor, Texas AM, George Mason, Michigan State, Villanova, Washington, West Virginia, Temple, Georgetown, Georgia, Colorado, and Butler.  Butler will again be good, but it’ll be hard to replace to replace both Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard.

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