A couple weeks back --- at the deadline for early entries to declare for the NBA Draft --- Duke checked in at No. 1 in the second version of this insanely early exercise.
And now? Read on.
(OK, yes, this is a top 35 rather than top 30, in large part because it is easier to identify more good teams now that some more players have returned to school).
1. Purdue. Both JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore are back in the fold, and that means the Boilermakers will be an exceptionally imposing team. Assuming both get better and Robbie Hummel is healthy, there might not be a more obvious pick to pencil into a trip to Houston than Matt Painter's team.
2. Duke. The Blue Devils will be excellent, the one clearly elite team the ACC will be able to offer. Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler make for a fantastic 1-2 combo for the defending national champions, who will understandably be penciled in at No. 1 by many folks with Seth Curry eligible and a solid recruiting class on the way.
3. Michigan State. Tom Izzo makes Final Fours. He'll have the pieces to do it for a third straight year next season.
4. Pittsburgh. At the very least, there's no way the Panthers will be chronically underrated here. Pittsburgh always maximizes, and while it might not be a Final Four team, it will be talked about as a possibility at some point late in the regular seson.
5. Ohio State. There's a lot coming back for the Buckeyes, just not Evan Turner. But they will still be loaded with talent, and certainly look at worst like a top-10 team at worst.
6. Kansas State. Things start getting dicey here. The loss of Denis Clemente will probably have a significant effect on the Wildcats, but they'll still bring back a bunch from an Elite Eight team. Like Pittsburgh, the gut here is they remain in the Final Four discussion deep into next season but probably fall a game or two shy. But there's a lot of time between now and then.
7. Villanova. Again, this is another team that would seem to have some questions after losing a star guard (Scottie Reynolds). But there's still a bunch of talent dotting the Wildcats' roster, and they should be among the best teams in the Big East next year.
8. Baylor. A gamble this high? Yes. But Baylor will be hanging out in the top 20 (if not top 15) in a lot of places in the preseason. There's still enough here to make things interesting, especially if Kansas and Texas take steps back as expected.
9. Washington. Subject to change if Terrence Jones doesn't end up in Seattle.
10. Memphis. I'll buy the hype now and pay the penalty later. There's no coach we'll learn more about next season than Josh Pastner.
11. Brigham Young. Jimmer Fredette is back, as expected, but reserve guard Michael Loyd Jr. is gone. The Cougars remain a fascinating possibility to hover about the top 10 next year.
12. Temple. The Owls got Lavoy Allen back at the withdrawal deadline, and that should be plenty (along with Jordan Crawford's departure from Xavier) to keep them at the top of the Atlantic 10.
13. Kansas. A great wild card. The last time the Jayhawks' talent was wiped out, they were a No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament and made it to the regional semifinals. That was just in 2009. Wouldn't be surprised if 2011 worked out similarly. Kansas always reloads.
14. Butler. So what will the Bulldogs be without Gordon Hayward? How about roughly the same as what was expected of them a year ago. The remaining players from this year's national finalists are good enough to be a top-15 team. Just don't expect a Final Four encore unless things really break in Butler's favor.
15. Syracuse. Clearly, there's a handful of players who will be placed in larger roles who must produce accordingly (here's looking at you, Kris Joseph and Brandon Triche). But the Orange should be fine, and will probably be a rankable commodity for much of the season.
16. Missouri. With Mike Anderson staying in Columbia along with a good chunk of his team, Mizzou sure looks like one of the more overlooked quantities. Big mistake. The Tigers will be strong --- and might even be good enough to poach a win or two from Kansas along the way.
17. Florida. Not sure what to really make of the Gators, even with Alex Tyus back. But at least for the first time in four years, there isn't some sort of craziness surrounding Billy Donovan's program. For now, anyway.
18. Wisconsin. Much like Pittsburgh, Wisconsin almost always exceeds expectations. Just trying to stay ahead of the curve here.
19. Kentucky. It wasn't quite the massive recruiting haul folks come to expect from John Calipari. But it was still good, and the Wildcats will still be a top-20 team --- or better on some nights.
20. Virginia Tech. There might not be a team that was a bigger winner at the withdrawal deadline than the Hokies, who got Malcolm Delaney back from the abyss. He'll join a team built to win in 2011 --- Dorenzo Hudson, Jeff Allen, J.T. Thompson and Florida transfer Allan Chaney. If the Hokies are ever going to make truly serious noise under Seth Greenberg, it'll happen next season.
21. UNLV. Defense is and never will be the Runnin' Rebels problem. They should wind up in the top three of the Mountain West and be a pain to knock out of the NCAA tournament. Nothing new to see here.
22. Richmond. Kevin Anderson returned to school, and along with him came the Spiders' chances of contending for an A-10 crown.
23. Illinois. The schizophrenic Illini, whose results last season made less sense than just about anyone's, got Demetri McCamey and Mike Davis back at the deadline. Is that enough to get back to the NCAA tournament? It should be.
24. North Carolina. What is it with unintended roster experiments on Tobacco Road. After Duke won a national title despite really only having three guards in its rotation, North Carolina is going to make a run at returning to the NCAA tournament with John Henson and Tyler Zeller as its frontcourt. Those guys would be fine starters, but it would help to have someone behind them. Nonetheless, if "In Barnes We Trust" turns out to be an acceptable motto, the Tar Heels will still be a decent team.
25. Gonzaga. Fact: The Zags haven't escaped the first weekend of the NCAA tournament in seven of the last nine years. Adam Morrison --- the college-dominating version of himself, anyway --- isn't walking through those doors, so Gonzaga should be forced to prove something rather than anointed a top-10 team. Not saying it won't happen, but count me as cautious.
26. Georgetown. Greg Monroe is gone, but Chris Wright and Austin Freeman are back for another go-round. The Hoyas don't look like a national title contender, but they'll be a pain to deal with nonetheless.
27. San Diego State. Much of a team that gave Tennessee a good run in the first round of the NCAA tournament will return. The Aztecs should be an interesting team to keep an eye on.
28. Xavier. It stinks that Jordan Crawford is gone, since his presence would have made the Musketeers a Final Four possibility. Instead, they'll probably fight their way into the tournament and be the No. 10 seed no one wants to deal with. Not a horrible existence, really.
29. West Virginia. The Mountaineers' two best players are gone, but don't be the one to discount Bob Huggins. He'll have a team that plays rugged, plays hard and wins 20-some games.
30. Tennessee. Not sure the Volunteers will be as good as Florida and Kentucky, but they never seem to fully fade away under Bruce Pearl. They'll be a handful for anyone on their best nights.
31. Wichita State. The class of the Missouri Valley could loiter about the bottom of the top 25 next season.
32. Dayton. Let's try this again, shall we? With Chris Wright (not the Georgetown version) back, the Flyers will a tough team to contend with. The defending NIT champs also bring in an impressive freshman class that should immediately make an impact.
33. Arizona. Just a hunch, but the Wildcats are going to be back before you realized they were missing. Oh, you realized they were missing last year? It was just a figure of speech. But seriously, Sean Miller's team could be poised to make a push for one of the top spots in the Pac-10.
34. Mississippi State. Assuming Renardo Sidney does wind up playing for the Bulldogs eventually. Yep, that's a big assumption.
35. Florida State. If this went 45 deep, Clemson, Maryland and N.C. State would probably pop up as well. As for the Seminoles, they'll bring back a bunch of guards who have played (though not won) in back-to-back NCAA tournaments. It's a guessing game to figure out the No. 4 team in the ACC. Today, the Seminoles are my best hunch.
Ten more teams that were also considered: California, Connecticut, Clemson, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, N.C. State, Saint Louis, Texas, Texas A&M