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Official Rant Sports Preseason Top 40 College Basketball Rankings

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Rant Sports Preseason Top 40

Rant Media Network

Another year of college basketball is on the horizon.

On Friday, Oct. 12, the season officially kicked off with the start of practice. Midnight Madness events from coast to coast highlighted the evening, from dunk contests to dance moves to everything in between, there is no doubt that the excitement for another season is building.

While many of the rankings out there will cover the top 25 teams within college basketball, Rant Sports intends to expand things a bit, stretching that list to include the nation's top 40 squads.

The Rant Sports Top 40 will be updated and re-released each Monday afternoon throughout the season. From non-conference upsets to league rivalries and late season runs, follow the entire shakeup from start to finish as another year approaches and the race towards March begins.

Without further ado, let's take a look at the 2012-13 Rant Sports Preseason Top 40:

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No. 40- West Virginia

Deniz Kilicli

There's a lot to replace in Morgantown, but Deniz Kilicli is back and Aaric Murray is ready to go. An improved back court is led by Gary Browne and Jabarie Hinds, while former Dayton transfer Juwan Staten is also looking to contribute. The Mountaineers have the talent to compete within the upper half of the Big 12 standings in their inaugural year.

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No. 39- St. John's

D'Angelo Harrison
Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

After missing all of last season, St. John's head coach Steve Lavin is back on the sidelines and that's the most important factor for the Red Storm moving forward. A team full of freshmen and sophomores may be young and inexperienced, but their veteran coach and talented lineup should have what it takes to compete in 2012-13.

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No. 38- Oklahoma State

Le'Bryan Nash

If Oklahoma State fails to make the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season, head coach Travis Ford may be looking for a new job. The good news is that Le'Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart are highlighting this talented bunch.

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No. 37- Saint Mary's

Matthew Dellavedova

Senior guard Matthew Dellavedova leads the way for a Saint Mary's squad that should once again challenge Gonzaga atop the West Coast Conference. The Gaels have emerged as a consistent NCAA Tournament threat over each of the past few seasons.

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No. 36- Pittsburgh

Tray Woodall

After a disappointing campaign in 2011-12, Pittsburgh is looking to bounce back this upcoming season. Tray Woodall returns in the back court, while incoming freshman Steven Adams could a one-and-done lottery pick come next June.

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No. 35- St. Joseph's

C.J. Aiken

In a move that surprised some, St. Joseph's was selected as the preseason favorite to win the Atlantic-10 Conference. C.J. Aiken is a defensive nightmare and the main reason why the Hawks should dance for the first since 2008.

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No. 34- Alabama

Trevor Releford
Kelly Lambert-US PRESSWIRE

Trevor Releford and Trevor Lacey form a two-headed monster in the back court that should once again have Alabama in SEC contention. Sophomores Nick Jacobs and Levi Randolph should be in for improved seasons, while Devonta Pollard highlights the squad's newcomers.

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No. 33- Stanford

Chasson Randle

Led by Chasson Randle in the back court, the future is improving for Stanford under head coach Johnny Dawkins. Aaron Bright and Anthony Brown also return while the Cardinal welcome in three, former top-100 recruits.

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No. 32- Saint Louis

Kwamain Mitchell

Rick Majerus will not coach the team this season due to health issues, but Jim Crews takes over a talented bunch that has more than enough talent to win the Atlantic-10 Conference. Kwamain Mitchell and Mike McCall Jr. will lead this squad in 2012-13.

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No. 31- VCU

Shaka Smart

The loss of Bradford Burgess hurts, but VCU returns nearly every key contributor from last season's squad. We know Shaka Smart can coach and once again the Rams figure to be amongst one of the best, non-power six teams in the country.

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No. 30- Minnesota

Trevor Mbakwe
Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

Trevor Mbakwe was given another chance by head coach Tubby Smith and this follows an NCAA waiver that granted him a sixth year of eligibility. The Golden Gophers have more than enough talent to dance once March comes, but just how high can they climb in the loaded Big Ten standings?

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No. 29- Murray State

Isaiah Canaan

After a memorable season a year ago, Murray State will once again feature a dangerous team capable of making some noise in March. All-American candidate Isaiah Canaan is back and ready to build off a career season in 2011-12.

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No. 28- Tennessee

Jarnell Stokes

After the mid-season addition of Jarnell Stokes nearly led Tennessee into the NCAA Tournament, expectations are exactly that in 2012-13. Head coach Cuonzo Martin is ahead of schedule in rebuilding the Vols after violations surfaced in connection to former Tennesse coach, Bruce Pearl.

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No. 27- Kansas State

Rodney McGruder
Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE

Bruce Weber takes over the Kansas Stateprogram after Frank Martin made the decision to leave for South Carolina. Rodney McGruder is back and Weber may just be in a better situation in little Manhattan than he would have been at Illinois.

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No. 26- Butler

Andrew Smith

After missing the NCAA Tournament a season ago, the drought shouldn't extend much further than that. Rotnei Clarke is eligible and top-100 freshman Kellen Dunham is on campus. With Andrew Smith anchoring things down low, Kameron Woods and Khyle Marshall look to give the Bulldogs even more support offensively.

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No. 25- Cincinnati

Sean Kilpatrick
Frank Victores-US PRESSWIRE

With Cashmere Wright and JaQuon Parker leading the way in the back court, Cincinnati has increasing expectations in 2012-13. However, junior wing Sean Kilpatrick is the team's go-to-guy and looking to build off a career season from a year ago.

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No. 24- Notre Dame

Jerian Grant

After exceeding expectations a season ago, Notre Dame is ready to compete atop the Big East standings in 2012-13. Jerian Grant, Jack Cooley and Eric Atkins headline this group's returnees, while Scott Martin returns with a sixth year of eligibility.

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No. 23- Gonzaga

Kevin Pangos
Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Another year, another Gonzaga squad capable of competing with the nation's best. Kevin Pangos looks to be amongst the top guards out west, while Elias Harrisprepares for one more go-around with the Bulldogs.

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No. 22- Texas

Rick Barnes
Brendon Maloney-US PRESSWIRE

While the ongoing NCAA investigation into starting point guard Myck Kabongo continues to circulate, the expectations of the Longhorns are much improved from a season ago. Incoming freshman Cameron Ridley looks to hit the ground running for head coach Rick Barnes.

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No. 21- Wisconsin

Bo Ryan

No more Jordan Taylor for the Badgers, but the talent and toughness remains. Head coach Bo Ryan has continuously proved to the nation that the Badgers are ready to buckle down and win the gritty match-ups in college basketball.

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No. 20- UNLV

Mike Moser

UNLV forward Mike Moser burst onto the scene a season ago and now the budding star looks to guide the Runnin' Rebels to even more success in 2012-13. Head coach Dave Rice is quietly building a powerhouse in Vegas and the addition of top-10 freshman Anthony Bennett is the greatest indication of that.

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No. 19- Memphis

Tarik Black
Nelson Chenault-US PRESSWIRE

Can head coach Josh Pastner get this Memphis squad back amongst the nation's elite? The lineup runs deep and expectations are soaring for sophomore forward Adonis Thomas, so the Tigers will once again look to make noise atop the Conference USA standings.

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No. 18- Creighton

Doug McDermott
Marvin Gentry-US PRESSWIRE

Doug McDermott. The junior forward is more than just a candidate for National Player of the Year in 2012-13, but the motor that makes Creighton run. Following a win in the NCAA Tournament a season ago, the Blue Jays look to turn the corner and make a deep run come March.

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No. 17- UCLA

Joshua Smith
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE

UCLA might be the nation's biggest enigma heading into the 2012-13 season and that's because star freshmen Shabazz Muhammad and Kyle Anderson have yet to hear back from the NCAA regarding their clearance to play. The Bruins are stacked and a Final Four contender if Muhammad and Anderson get onto the court this season.

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No. 16- Duke

Mason Plumlee
Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

Coach K faces the uncertainty regarding the replacement of a few of his starters from a season ago, but as past years have proven, Duke will be just fine. Seth Curry and Mason Plumlee provide veteran leadership for a squad that is searching for underclassmen to step up.

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No. 15- Baylor

Pierre Jackson
Brendan Maloney-US PRESSWIRE

The front line for Baylor took a big hit this off-season, but welcome in freshmen Isaiah Austin and Ricardo Gathers. Senior point guard Pierre Jackson provides incredible speed in the back court alongside Brady Heslip and sophomore high-flyer, Deuce Bello.

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No. 14- Michigan State

Branden Dawson

Can Michigan State replace do-it-all forward Draymond Green? Well, a Tom Izzo-coached squad should have no trouble progressing forward, regardless. Big things are expected from Keith Appling in the back court and sophomore Branden Dawson down low.

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No. 13- North Carolna

James Michael McAdoo

The talent that left Chapel Hill for the NBA is irreplaceable, but don't worry Tar Heel fans, North Carolina will recover well. James Michael McAdoo should be a superstar as a sophomore, while Reggie Bullock and P.J. Hairston prepare to step into the limelight themselves.

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No. 12- Kansas

Jeff Withey

After falling to Kentucky in the national championship game last spring, Kansas once again reloads for another run. The Jayhawks were the unanimous preseason favorite in the Big 12, as Jeff Withey provides leadership down low and budding star Ben McLemore looks to take the league by storm.

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No. 11- Florida

Patric Young
Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

The Florida back court took some hits this off-season, but the Gators are ready to compete atop the SEC yet again under the guidance of head coach Billy Donovan. Kenny Boynton and Patric Young are one of the best inside-outside duos in the country, while Mike Rosario and Erik Murphy bolster the Gators' lineup even further.

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No. 10- San Diego State

Jamaal Franklin

San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher says this team is not yet his most talented. Well, it shouldn't take much time for that to change. Jamaal Franklin looks to build off a career season, while Chase Tapley also returns. Former St. John's forward Dwayne Polee Jr. has the athleticism to be a major X-factor for the Aztecs.

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No. 9- Arizona

Solomon Hill
Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE

Sean Miller's most heralded freshmen class has arrived on campus and aspirations of a Pac-12 title are on the line heading into the season. Solomon Hill is the team's veteran leader, while sophomore guard Nick Johnson looks for an improved second year. The talent is too rich for the Wildcats not to emerge as a considerable threat come March.

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No. 8- Missouri

Phil Pressey

Newcomers will be the theme for Missouri head coach Frank Haith in 2012-13, but the consistent play of Phil Pressey is the Tigers' overall key. Alex Oriakhi, Keion Bell, and Earnest Ross are all eligible to play, while the return of forward Laurence Bowers adds even more of a threat to Missouri's rotation. Michael Dixon Jr. also returns in the Tigers' back court.

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No. 7- Syracuse

Michael Carter-Williams

The losses from a season ago run deep, but Syracuse has more than enough talent to capture the Big East crown in 2012-13. While Louisville provides the elite threat, the Orange aren't far behind with a loaded front court rotation. Brandon Triche returns as the team's back court leader, but sophomore Michael Carter-Williams will be the guard to keep an eye on.

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No. 6- North Carolina State

C.J. Leslie
Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

After a run to the Sweet 16 a year ago, North Carolina State returns nearly all of their key contributors from a season ago. C.J. Leslie and Lorenzo Brown have All-American potential while head coach Mark Gottfried welcomes in a loaded freshmen class highlighted by shooting guard Rodney Purvis.

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No. 5- Michigan

Trey Burke

The return of point guard Trey Burke was crucial and in turn, the expectations surrounding the Wolverines are soaring. Michigan has Final Four potential, but the key may just lie in the hands of junior guard, Tim Hardaway Jr. It's time for the Wolverines to take advantage of a loaded roster and make that run that they are capable of.

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No. 4- Ohio State

Deshaun Thomas
Michael Ivins-US PRESSWIRE

After a run to the Final Four in 2012, how do the Buckeyes replace All-American forward Jared Sullinger? They don't, they simply turn elsewhere and that starts with junior point guard Aaron Craft and budding superstar Deshaun Thomas. Amir Williams could be in for a big sophomore season with the available minutes down low in 2012-13.

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No. 3- Kentucky

John Calipari
Anthony Gruppuso-US PRESSWIRE

The defending national champions will be back and Kentucky once again has the talent to contend for a title in 2013. Freshman Nerlens Noel highlights the squad down low, while Archie Goodwin and Alex Poythress add to the new crop of incoming talent. The now-eligible Ryan Harrow takes over the point guard duties while sophomore forward Kyle Wiltjer looks to find his own niche after coming off the bench a season ago.

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No. 2- Louisville

Peyton Siva
Michael Ivins-US PRESSWIRE

Louisville is loaded this season and fresh off a run to the Final Four in 2012. Peyton Siva provides the back court leadership, but sophomores Chane Behanan, Kevin Ware, and Wayne Blackshear hold the key. Gorgui Dieng has molded himself into a fine NBA Draft prospect.

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No. 1- Indiana

Cody Zeller
Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

Indiana is back. Actually, they were back a season ago, but now expectations are through the roof. Led by Cody Zeller down low, head coach Tom Crean has nearly his entire roster back from a season ago. A loaded freshmen class that was originally expected to lift the Hoosiers back onto the national scene in finally on campus. Well ahead of schedule, Indiana has all intangibles to cut down the nets on that first Monday in April.