Too Early Top 25: College Basketball

By Ryan Hammer on July 6, 2016

After March Madness, draft decision day and the NBA draft, it is time to look forward to yet another college basketball season. And what better way to start it off than with a way too early top 25 based on returners, previous results, recruits, etc.

1. Duke: The Blue Devils are an easy No.1 selection, returning star guard Grayson Allen and bringing in two 5-star recruits in Harry Giles and Jason Tatum. This Duke team is out for nothing less than a national championship so expect nothing less.

2. Kentucky: John Calipari loses stars and brings in new ones to buy into the same Wildcat team basketball. With four 5-star recruits taking the spots of Ullis and Murray, Kentucky blue will seek Calipari’s 4th Final Four run in his eight years at Kentucky.

3. Oregon: The Ducks bring back an experienced group, including leading scorer Dillon Brooks who decided to opt out of the draft and spend another year at school. This team proved last year that their No.1 seed was no fluke and will be out for blood now that they have cemented their dominance in the PAC 12.

4. Villanova: The reigning national champions lose two key seniors, but Jay Wright brings in a strong class with 5-star, 6-foot-9 power forward Omari Spellman leading the group. Kris Jenkins looks to take the leadership role after losing Arcidiacono and hitting the most important shot in his life.

5. Kansas: As always, expect nothing but greatness from the Jayhawks, including what would be their 13th straight BIG 12 championship. Transfer Malik Newman from Mississippi State is one of the most talented players in the country. With him, Josh Jackson enters Bill Self’s prestigious program as the No.2 recruit in the nation.

6. Michigan State: Losing All American and AP player of the year Denzel Valentine will be a struggle for Izzo and co., but with Miles Bridges and Josh Langford accompanied by two 4-star recruits, the Spartans will seek another BIG 10 championship.

7. Wisconsin: A rough start to the season led to the hard draw in the NCAA tournament for the Badgers but they lose no one on their roster and keep guard Nigel Hayes from the draft to finish his four years. Wisco will be a serious BIG 10 title contender.

8. UNC: Tony Bradley, 5-star center, will try and fill in for All American Brice Johnson, UNC’s best player this past season. With the help of Kennedy Meeks and backcourt depth Roy Williams, the Tarheels should be just fine, but may live in the shadows of Duke after a sensational run to the national championship. That being said, Williams will expect nothing less of himself and his squad than to return to that stage.

9. Texas: Guard Isiah Taylor will lead the Longhorns again for his final year of eligibility with coach Shaka Smart bringing in a 5-star center to accompany him. After an unexpected late burst into greatness, Texas established themselves as one of the most dangerous teams in the BIG 12 and in the country.

10. Virginia: Malcom Brogden is near impossible to replace, but with London Perrantes leading Tony Bennett’s Cavaliers as one of the best guards in the country, Virginia should strive for an ACC title. Not the best recruiting class but look for UVA’s defense to lead them to many victories.

11. Arizona: This team has arguably the best backcourt in the country for the upcoming year led by Allonzo Trier, who averaged 15 points per game as a freshman. With Ray Smith returning after his medical red shirt season with an ACL injury, the Wildcats have size too. With a 5-star SF and a 5-star PG coming in, Arizona has the depth as well as the talent to make a huge run this year.

12. Xavier: The Musketeers proved they are no fluke of a small school team after rightfully gaining a 2-seed with only five losses during the regular season. Xavier returns five of their six top scorers, so experience will be on their side. Their best recruit — a 4-star, 6-foot-7 PF — looks to bolster the depth.

13. Indiana: The weight of this team without Yogi Ferrel will be entirely on sophomore big man Thomas Bryant, who decided to stay another year and put a hold on his professional career. Curtis Jones, number 40 on the ESPN 100, is a top tier shooter that will help support the backcourt.

14. Louisville: Assuming the NCAA does not enforce any extra post-season ban for the upcoming season, Rick Pitino expects big things from his crew. Chinanu Onuaku deciding to play another year at school is the key for the Cardinals that will help them stay a top 25 team.

15. Florida State: A previous bubble team, the Seminoles lose a talented SF Malik Beasley to the NBA draft, but have been heavy recruiting mainly through the local IMG Academy, which is host to some of the best young athletes in the world. Xavier Rathan-Mayes returns for his third year. Rathan-Mayes was on Wooden Award watch going into last season and is one of the purest scoring guards in the country.

16. Gonzaga: Losing your two best players is one thing, but when they both play down low, the coaching staff may see trouble. But, the Zags return a 7-foot-1 center who red shirted his sophomore year, Ryan Edwards, who will go along nicely with the other 7-foot-1 center, senior Przemek Karnowski, who started every game this year for the Bulldogs and received all WCC honors doing it. Gonzaga additionally has two McDonald’s All-American recruits entering their program.

17. UCLA: The Bruins see a sensational freshmen class entering as always, but the difference this year is that almost all of their lineup returns this year. Three top 100 recruits will look to make direct impact. UCLA has seen consecutive disappointing seasons the last few years but this might just be the year that they come out from the depths and take a stand in the PAC-12.

18. USC: Jonah Matthews, 6-foot-1 SG from Santa Monica, is the lone ESPN 100 recruit entering the Trojan squad, but it will not matter. USC returns their full starting lineup along with Shaqquan Aaron, who sat out his sophomore year after transferring from Louisville after his freshman season.

19. Maryland: Mark Turgeon brings in two 4-star guards to replace Melo Trimble. That is only until Melo Trimble removes himself from the draft on the last day of eligibility and decides on a third year of school. Losing Diamond Stone and Jake Layman to the draft will hurt the Terps, but Trimble will ultimately have all of the weight on his shoulders as he was part of the final list for the Wooden Award last season. Maryland also gets back Dion Wiley who was out last season due to injury.

20. West Virginia: Bob Huggins and Press Virginia will play their unique fast paced game as always with the help of their returning center Devin Williams. Dominant down low, Williams averaged a double-double with 13 points per game and 10 rebounds per game last season. A painful first round exit to SF Austin will hype up this Mountaineers team for the upcoming season.

21. Purdue: AJ Hammons was one of the better players in the nation and BIG 10, so losing him will hurt the front court for the Boilermakers. Rising sophomore Caleb Swanigan decided to spend another year at school after averaging 10 points and eight rebounds per game. With help from Isaac Haas down low, Swanigan’s front court will still be one of the best in the nation. Look for Swanigan to expect BIG 10 and possibly All American honors.

22. Seton Hall: New Jersey’s finest loses one senior but keeps star guard Isiah Whitehead, who broke out this season to lead a late season rush for the Pirates to get a favorable seed in the NCAA tournament. Whitehead averaged 18 points per game last season, so he should be one of the early favorites for Big East player of the year.

23. Creighton: After a surprisingly good season of 20-15 and reaching the Elite 8 of the NIT, Creighton adds a key piece back to the puzzle: Marcus Foster. Foster is a Kansas State transfer who sat out his third year of school because of his transfer. He averaged 30 minutes per game in his two years as a Wildcat.

24. St.Mary’s: A small conference team missed out on last year’s tournament bids even with being involved in the AP top 25 poll multiple times. Returning their full starting five, this team has one thing on their mind and that is not only the WCC regular season championship but beating Gonzaga to the WCC tournament championship and automatic bid to the tournament.

25. San Diego State: The Aztecs have dominated the Mountain West the last decade. Steve Fisher will be coaching his 18th straight season at SDSU with the same backcourt that he ended last season with. Handing away their Mountain West championship in a rough loss to Fresno State, SDSU still reached the Final 4 of the NIT and seeks nothing but revenge and an NCAA tournament bid next season.

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