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April 10, 2008

Kansas an easy pick as final No. 1

You can't debate the top two spots in the Rivals.com 2008 Postseason Poll.

Kansas and Memphis played for the national title in a game that went to overtime, and both reached the final as No. 1 seeds. Jayhawks coach Bill Self said if his team played the Tigers 10 times, each team probably would win five.

But Monday night, KU claimed the third championship in school history by being the more physical team and by making big plays and free throws down the stretch. It was a well-earned title, Here is the Rivals' Postseason Top 25:

Rivals.com 2008-09 Preseason Top 25: Apr. 8
1. Kansas (37-3)
The Jayhawks used solid guard play, superior size and great depth to win a national championship. Sherron Collins, Sasha Kaun and Cole Aldrich made huge contributions off the bench along the way.
2. Memphis (38-2)
The Tigers may lament this as "the one that got away" for a long time. Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts were sensational in the Tournament ... until the final 30 seconds of the title game.
3. North Carolina (36-3)
Roy Williams' bunch got knocked on its heels early against Kansas and never quite recovered. But it otherwise was a terrific season for Tyler Hansbrough and Co.
4. UCLA (35-4)
Freshman center Kevin Love was every bit as good as advertised, but Darren Collison's tournament disappearances proved costly in the end.
5. Louisville (27-9)
The Cardinals were playing outstanding basketball at the end of the season and didn't make the Final Four only because Hansbrough rose to the occasion in the East Regional final.
6. Texas (31-7)
The Longhorns were roped in by Memphis, but D.J. Augustin emerged as a star and Damion James became a full-fledged force.
7. Davidson (29-7)
Stephen Curry and the little engine that could came the closest to knocking off eventual national champion Kansas.
8. Xavier (30-7)
The Musketeers proved themselves among the nation's best with a run to the Elite Eight behind seniors Josh Duncan, Drew Lavender and Stanley Burrell.
9. Stanford (28-8)
The season already is a distant memory for the Cardinal, with the Lopez twins declaring for the NBA draft and coach Trent Johnson apparently leaving for LSU.
10. Tennessee (31-5)
The Vols peaked with their Feb. 23 victory at Memphis. They went only 6-3 after taking down the then top-ranked Tigers.
11. Wisconsin (31-5)
The Badgers did what Bo Ryan teams do they won by playing tenacious defense and sharing the ball on offense.
12. Georgetown (28-6)
The Hoyas stumbled surprisingly early in the NCAA Tournament when their normally solid defense couldn't stop Davidson's Curry.
13. Washington State (26-9)
The Cougars made the Sweet 16 on the strength of their stingy man-to-man defense led by Kyle Weaver.
14. Butler (30-4)
"The Butler Way" kept bouncing along nicely under first-year coach Brad Stevens and senior guards A.J. Graves and Mike Green.
15. Notre Dame (25-8)
Sophomore forward Luke Harangody stunned nearly everyone, including himself, by transforming into the Big East Player of the Year.
16. Pittsburgh (27-10)
Were it not for the injury to point guard Levance Fields the Panthers would have been top-10 material. They still won the Big East Tournament.
17. Purdue (25-9)
Matt Painter signed a terrific freshman class and coaxed them within a game of a share of the Big Ten title.
18. West Virginia (26-11)
The Mountaineers had a rough regular-season stretch after a narrow home loss to Georgetown but reasserted themselves in a run to the Sweet 16.
19. Western Kentucky (29-7)
The Hilltoppers capped a memorable season with a Sweet 16 appearance and a great comeback against UCLA that fell short.
20. Drake (28-5)
The Bulldogs jumped out of nowhere under first-year coach Keno Davis by raining 3-pointers (ninth nationally in "3s" per game) and taking care of the ball (24th nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio).
21. Michigan State (27-9)
The Spartans were a disappointing also-ran in the Big Ten race, but they rallied to make the Sweet 16 with a big win over Pittsburgh.
22. Duke (28-6)
The Blue Devils went 6-5 in their last 11 games and looked like a shell of their early season selves in the NCAA Tournament.
23. Mississippi State (23-11)
The SEC West champ may have been overlooked at the end of the year, but the Bulldogs gave eventual national runner-up Memphis all they wanted in the second round of the NCAAs.
24. Marquette (25-10)
The Golden Eagles pushed Stanford to the limit in the second round of the NCAA Tournament but couldn't stop Brook Lopez in the end.
25. Vanderbilt (26-8)
The Commodores were upset by Siena in the first round of the NCAAs, but Shan Foster carried them to a surprisingly solid season.
Others considered: Arkansas, Clemson, Connecticut, Gonzaga, Indiana, Kansas State, Texas A&M and Villanova.

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