We’re roughly midway through the 2015-16 college football season, so that means that it’s time to divert a small amount of your attention toward college basketball.
You know, that other thing that takes up all of your time.
Because it’s part of the process, the staffers at Today’s U banged their heads together while coming up with their preseason TU Preseason CBB Top 25 polls. The No. 1-ranked team on each list received 25 points; the No. 2-ranked team received 24; and the No. 3-ranked team received 23, so on and so forth.
Senior guard Marcus Paige and super-mini Nate Britt will help lead a group powered in part by junior Kennedy Meeks and senior Brice Johnson through the rough and tumble ACC. Despite losing to Wisconsin–the national runner-up–during the 2015 Sweet 16, North Carolina appears to be in great shape for another run into March this season.
Freshman guard Kenny Williams and frosh forward Luke Maye could also contribute.
2015-16 roster, via GoHeels.com
Sophomore guard Melo Trimble made a name for himself in 2014-15, so look for him to score his way to a lot more mentions this season–he’s good, and Maryland has enough surrounding talent do damage this year. Five-star freshman center Diamond Stone should greatly complement the veteran presence of Jake Layman and Duke transfer Rasheed Sulaimon.
Coach Mark Turgeon definitely has something cooking in College Park; a Big Ten championship and romp through March is in reach.
2015-16 roster, via UMTerps.com
John Calipari doesn’t rebuild; he reloads. Once again, thanks to his great recruiting, Kentucky has the No. 1-ranked class in the nation. Highlights include 5-star center Skal Labissiere, 5-star shooting guard Jamal Murray and 5-star point guard Isaiah Briscoe.
Oh, and he has sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis, who is an aged one by Kentucky standard, and senior Alex Poythress, who is ancient by Kentucky standards. The ‘Cats may not rattle off 38 consecutive wins, but they’ll be good.
2015-16 roster, via UKAthletics.com
4. Iowa State Cyclones (Big 12)–121 points
Junior Monte Morris is one of the best point guards in the country. Ball security and distribution is his middle name, and the Flint, Mich. native has led the NCAA in assist-to-turnover for two consecutive seasons.
Morris helps, and so does the return of Georges Niang, a versatile forward who’s known for clutch baskets. Coach Fred Hoiberg jumped to the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, but Steve Prohm seems like a capable suitor; he went 104-29 while with Murray State and could have Iowa State revving come March.
2015-16 roster, via Cyclones.com
Senior Malcolm Brogdon returns to lead a team that didn’t lose until March of 2014–and those losses hurt the most, costing the Cavaliers what could have been a run to the Final Four. Justin Anderson moved on to the NBA, but Virginia picked up former Memphis star Austin Nichols via transfer during the offseason.
Coach Tony Bennett signed the nation’s No. 43-ranked recruiting class of 2015, highlighted by 4-star power forward Mamadi Diakite–the No. 33-ranked prospect of his class, per 247 Sports.
2015-16 roster, via VirginiaSports.com
The defensing national champion Blue Devils will be a force for as long as coach Mike Krzyzewski is in charge. With that said, he’ll have a great lineup with which to work in 2015-16, one that’ll be complemented by the nation’s No. 2-ranked recruiting class, per 247Sports. Grayson Allen, then just a freshman, matured during 2015 March Madness.
This year, Allen will be joined by potential 2016 lottery pick, 5-star freshman guard Brandon Ingram and 5-star shooting guard Derryck Thornton–and 4-star forward Chase Jeter. Graduate senior Marshall Plumlee should serve as a solid anchor for the rotating wheel of scorers and playmakers.
Losing Jahlil Okafor hurts, but Duke, which is stacked with athletes, shouldn’t have a problem moving forward this season.
2015-16 roster, via GoDuke.com
The eligibility of Cheick Diallo, a highly coveted 2015 prospect, influenced Kansas’ ranking on this poll. Overall, and despite the loss of Kelly Oubre, Jr. to the NBA, the Jayhawks look to be in great shape heading into this season thanks to the experience of junior guard Wayne Selden and senior forward Perry Ellis.
Kansas has the No. 5-ranked recruiting class, too–not just Diallo. Be on the lookout for Rock Chalk.
2015-16 roster, via KUAthletics.com
Senior guard Buddy Hield makes things go ’round in Norman, so expect him to be Oklahoma’s leading man this season. Senior guard Isaiah Cousins and senior forward Ryan Spangler should help ease the loss of two key starters. Access to redshirt freshmen Dante Buford, a forward, and Bola Alade, a guard, should help coach Lon Kruger’s depth chart this season.
The addition of 3-star wingman Christian James also improves the situation for the Sooners.
2015-16 roster, via SoonerSports.com
Villanova will need a few things to fall in its favor this season, but coach Jay Wright’s program certainly has the ability to make some noise this season. Senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono and junior guard Josh Hart will have to hold everything together while the gameplan gets set for 2015-16. The Wildcats are certainly in line for a tournament berth–not much doubt there.
Staying power. That’s the issue. Can the Wildcats finally shake the early-exit bug and do what’s been expected during the past couple of seasons? It could be a tough start without Dylan Ennis, who transferred to Oregon, and without former stars JayVaughn Pinkston and Darrun Hilliard.
But then again, it could be the beginning of something quite beautiful as 5-star freshman guard Jalen Brunson prepares to hit the court and lead Villanova to where it belongs.
Wichita State’s dominance of the Missouri Valley has been a well-documented accomplishment, and it’s ability to compete on the biggest of stages against the biggest opponents can’t be denied. Experience also counts for something, and senior guard Ron Baker–one of the best overall players in the NCAA–is set to reunite with senior guard Fred VanVleet.
Together, they’ve made the Shockers one of the most enjoyable, fundamentally sound teams in the land. Coach Greg Marshall deserves credit, too. Without his leadership and development, Wichita State would still be “just some mid-major.”
2015-16 roster, via GoShockers.com
Like Wichita State, Gonzaga is more of a big dog than a small pup in the world of college hoops. Despite playing in a non-Power 5 conference, the Bulldogs have become a mainstay on bracket-busting radars across the land due to their trademark runs and ability to win meaningful games.
Redshirt senior Kyle Wiltjer, formerly of Kentucky, adds a blend of finesse and power to the forward position, while senior Przemek Karnowski stands to hold down the middle. Coach Mark Few lost a nice backcourt leader in Kevin Pangos, but he should be able to manufacture quality tandems with this year’s slew of guards.
2015-16 roster, via GoZags.com
Five-star small forward Jaylen Brown and 5-star power forward Ivan Rabb lead California’s No. 7-ranked recruiting class into 2015-16. The pair of star freshmen could give the Golden Bears a much-needed push as they navigate through what should be a very competitive Pac-12.
When fully healthy, junior guard Jabari Bird adds a nice scoring touch to coach Cuonzo Martin’s club. Keep an eye out for the Bears in 2015-16–they might just become a sweetheart come March.
2015-16 roster, via CalBears.com
13. Arizona Wildcats (Pac-12)–66 points
Coach Sean Miller will have to dig into his bag of player development now that Stanley Johnson, Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson have taken their careers to the next level. Guard T.J. McConnell is gone, and guys like him aren’t easily replaced.
Luckily, though, Miller happens to have the No. 4-ranked recruiting class in the nation, and that haul should help get over some of those growing pains. Freshmen such as 5-star forward Ray Smith and 5-star shooting guard Allonzo Trier could be a part of an early remedy for Miller, who is known as one of the top coaches in the country.
Senior guard Gabe York and senior center Kaleb Tarczewski will also carry some influence.
2015-16 roster, via ArizonaWildcats.com
Losing Branden Dawson and Travis Trice to graduation and the NBA shouldn’t keep Michigan State from doing it what it does best this season. The Spartans’ 2015 recruiting haul didn’t make national waves, but it’s incredibly well-rounded from inside to outside. Deyonta Davis, a 4-star power forward, could end up as the next star big man in East Lansing.
Senior forward Denzel Valentine, sophomore Lourawls “Tum-Tum” Nairn and senior shooter Bryn Forbes will make Tom Izzo’s team tough in March. Now that practice has started, an eighth Final Four under Izzo is officially in the works for the Spartans.
Their tickets are pre-stamped anyway, right?
2015-16 roster, via MSUSpartans.com
Senior guard Yogi Ferrell will probably start as Indiana’s go-to man this season. But given the amount on coach Tom Crean’s roster, he’ll probably have at least two or three consistent helpers this season. The Hoosiers signed the No. 26-ranked recruiting class of 2015, giving them more reason to believe that past disappointments could turn into future pleasures in Bloomington.
As for the newcomers, look for 5-star power forward Thomas Bryant and 4-star power forward Juwan Morgan this season. Max Bielfeldt, another big man, left Michigan to play out his final year of eligibility. His demeanor and leadership should pay off for the Hoosiers.
The talent has always been at Indiana; it’s just been a matter of proper dedication, motivation and execution. Well, the lack thereof, really. But you never know, this season could be something much better for the Crimson and Crean.
Now that we’ve covered the bases with the top 15, feel free to take a look at the rest of the field.
17. Utah Utes (Pac-12)–37 points
Note: This post was updated to reflect a pre-publish error–in case you didn’t notice, Virginia was mistakenly left off this list. (I blame my “Virginia” and “UVA” cells in Excel. My fault!)
Others receiving votes: Purdue 7, Cincinnati 7, Oregon 6, NC State 5, UCLA 5, Xavier 4, Boise State 3, Rhode Island 2, Dayton 2, Florida State 1