After seven long months, the college basketball season is finally near. With a lot of stars returning (which is unusual) and of course some new faces, this season should be an entertaining and interesting one. Without further introduction, here is my annual preseason top 25.
To me, this is a no brainer. The Blue Devils bring in a recruiting class for the ages that includes four of the top eight players in the class, including Marvin Bagley III, who is often regarded as a once in a decade talent. They have the best frontcourt in the nation with Wendell Carter and Marvin Bagley, to go alongside two very NBA ready guards in Gary Trent Jr. and Grayson Allen. The only question for this Duke team is whether freshman point guard Trevon Duval can consistently make shots and become the teams “leader,” despite only being a freshman. But, given his talent and demeanor, I doubt that will be an issue. Duke is the clear cut number one.
This Jayhawks team brings back a lot of talent and experience. They return one of the best players in college basketball, Devonte Graham while also bringing back solid contributors Svi Mykhailiuk and Lagereld Vick. Also, expect big things from former 5 star Malik Newman, who transferred from Mississippi State after having a mediocre freshman year, but the talent is definitely there. Expect Billy Preston, a McDonald’s All American from the prestigious Oak Hill academy to also make an impact. This team has the good combination of talent and experience to make a deep run.
3. Michigan State
This year’s team is a classic Tom Izzo team, in the best way possible. This year’s Spartans have plenty of experience in graduate senior Ben Carter and senior Tum Tum, who seems like he’s been in East Lansing for a solid eight years. But, the huge differentiating piece is that the the entire 2016 recruiting class, including Miles Bridges, Cassius Winston, Nick Ward, and Josh Langford will return. Not to mention they also add 5 star stretch four Jaren Jackson. This team is extremely deep and is flooded with talent. Since this isn’t their first go around together (minus Jackson), I expect strong chemistry and a ton of success.
This Wildcats team is a little different than their typical roster in the sense that they don’t have three guys that are guaranteed one and done lottery picks. I like this team because they are deep in talent, although the injuries to Jarred Vanderbilt and Jemarl Baker are major blows, they still go a solid eight deep. I can see this team struggling early on due to their inexperience, but through the leadership of point guard Quade Green, and the talented wings of Hamidou Diallo and Kevin Knox, they will figure it out. They will probably play some small ball with 6’7″ freshman PJ Washington at the four, but his athleticism more than makes up for it. Once this team clicks, it will be a scary sight.
As some of you may know, I am usually a big fan of the Wildcats. They return one of my favorite players in the NCAA Allonzo Trier, who also happens to arguably be the best scorer in the NCAA. Sean Miller has surrounded Trier with plenty of talent including the number three overall prospect in the 2017 class, Deandre Ayton. But, the only reason I am a little bit skeptical about this team is because they lack experience, when many other talented teams in the field have a lot of it.
This Nova team has a lot to prove. Last year they revisited the stereotype that they underperform in the NCAA tournament after losing before the Sweet 16 again. The Wildcats have made it to the Sweet 16 just one time in their last seven tournament appearances, and that one time was the year they won it all. Also, they loose two big players in Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins, but reload with players that have been waiting their turn to have a star role, such as Donte Divencizo and Mikal Bridges. Also expect starpower from junior Jalen Brunson and former five star Omari Spellman, who is a freshman.
If the Trojans can keep their minds off the FBI investigation, they could be in for a special season. They return their top four scorers from last year, who are now all upperclassmen. Andy Enfield also adds McDonald’s All American Charles Obannon Jr. and Duke transfer Derryck Thornton will finally get to suit up for USC. This team is deep and knows how to play and win together.
8. West Virginia
There’s absolutely nothing that can prepare you to play against Bob Huggins’ Mountaineers. Each year they get better and better at their signature full court trap, which is brutal for any backcourt, no matter how good you are. They also return their leading scorer Jevon Carter, who I feel like has been in college for about 12 years. The Mountaineers certainly aren’t the eighth most talented team in the country, but with Carter at the helm, and Huggins calling the shots, this team has a very high ceiling.
9. Wichita State
The Shockers are trying to get more credibility, they moved into the AAC, and scheduled games against Baylor and Oklahoma before conference play. They return everyone who averaged over five points per game last year, including snipers Landry Shamet and Conner Frankamp, who both shot 44% from three last year. Those two shooters will open up lanes for last year’s leading scorer, Markis McDuffie, who is a beast when slashing through the lane. We will get a better idea of how good the Shockers really are this year due to their schedule, and I think they will be pretty legit.
10. North Carolina
The reigning national champions look nothing like they did the year before. They only return one of their top five scorers from last year, and that’s Joel Berry. Berry is out for the first couple of games (NBA2K is very serious) but when he comes back, he will need to carry the majority of the load. Coach Roy Williams is going to need to rely on his younger guys such as Seventh Woods and Jalen Felton, in order to maintain success throughout the season. This team losses a lot from last year, but never count out Roy Williams.
Below are my rankings for teams 11-25.
13. Notre Dame
19. Seton Hall
25. Rhode Island
As usual, we have our blue bloods headlining the top ten, but we also have teams with a lot of chemistry and experience playing together. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that I think talent and experience are essentials to success in college basketball. Of course there are some cases where a team can get by with out one of them, but usually, that is the recipe for success come late March.