A day after the National Championship, we always run a Top 25 for the following season. Then players declare for the draft, and transfer, and recruits make decisions … and here’s our updated Top 25 for the 2015-2016 season.
1. North Carolina. Tar Heels remain in the top spot despite the loss of slasher/wing defender JP Tokoto. Paige and Jackson will be a great backcourt, and the frontcourt is loaded. Don’t forget – there’s that little academic scandal looming!
2. Kansas. Jayhawks leap into the No. 2 spot by adding Cheick Diallo, a highly-touted NYC recruit who was terrific in the McDonald’s All-Star game. The Jayhawks can almost match the depth of the Tar Heels. Will have better balance than last year, and the losses of Alexander and Oubre are addition by subtraction.
3. Maryland. Team to beat in the Big 10. Anything less than the Final Four will be a disappointment.
4. Oklahoma. Buddy Hield stayed, he could be a 1st team All-American, and the Sooners faithful rejoiced.
5. Gonzaga. Best 1-2 punch in the country might be Wiltjer and Sabonis. Will dominate the regular season again, but Mark Few’s postseason questions will linger.
6. Kentucky. Everyone waited for John Calipari to land the top recruits (like the last few years) but that never materialized, and as such the Wildcats will be good, but a 5th Final Four in six years seems unlikely. Briscoe and Labissiere will join Ulis, Lee and Poythress, but they won’t have the depth of last year.
7. Duke. Lost four starters, including Final Four MOP Tyus Jones, but are back in here because Coach K has the #1 recruiting class for the second year in a row. Four 5-star recruits, and the highest-ranked one, Brandon Ingram, picked Duke over Kansas, Kentucky and Louisville.
8. Iowa State. Fred Hoiberg will have the Cyclones contending in the Big 12, especially with Georges Niang returning. Burton, Long, Morris and Nader are a solid supporting group. The biggest question is whether or not Hoiberg jumps to the NBA if dominoes fall in the pros next month.
9. Indiana. The Hooisers kept everyone of consequence, and added 6-foot-10 center Thomas Bryant, a Top 30 recruit. If Tom Crean can’t get Indiana to make an NCAA run next season with his three best players staying …
10. California. Previously hadn’t sniffed the Top 25, but when you land 5-star standouts Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, plus 4-star recruit Tyson Jolly, and mix them with guards Tyrone Wallace (17.1 ppg), Jordan Mathews (13.6 ppg) and Jabari Bird (105 ppg), you’ve got the best team in the Pac-12.
11. Wichita State. Van Vleet and Baker are back, and so is Gregg Marshall. So they’ll win 25-ish games and be a sleeper in March, again. A reason to be extra excited, Shockers fans: Anton Grady, a 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 14.3 ppg and 7.9 rpg last year at Cleveland State, is using his graduate transfer year to play for Wichita State.
12. Virginia. The Justin Anderson loss is massive, even though seven of their top nine players return. Defensively there are no questions. Offensively? Yeah.
13. Michigan State. Surprising Final Four trip will be difficult to duplicate, but stud transfer (Eron Harris) and returning wing Denzel Valentine should have the Spartans near the Top of the Big 10.
14. Villanova. Same as last year – very good squad, should roll in the Big East, but will they be able to do anything in March?
15. Florida State. Bullish on the Seminoles in the ACC, who will be led by Xavier Rathan-Mayes and incoming freshman Dwayne Bacon.
16. Wisconsin. Suffered heavy losses in Kaminsky and Dekker, but return enough – and Bo Ryan is still on the sidelines – that the Badgers will be dancing again, and could enter March within striking distance of a 3rd straight trip to the Final 4.
17. Dayton. Archie Miller didn’t go anywhere, so the Flyers will be in great shape in the A-10 and dangerous in March again.
18. Notre Dame. Will Jackson and Auguste be the best inside-outside combo in the ACC? I’ll hang up and listen. Don’t forget Bonzie Colson, who had a promising freshman year.
19. LSU. Ben Simmons should be a 1st team All-American, and will guide the Tigers to the NCAA tournament with the help of fellow freshman Antonio Blakeney. Could have been Top 5 if Martin and Mickey stayed.
20. SMU – Rise into the Top 25 because big man Markus Kennedy is staying in school. He’ll pair with Nick Moore and Keith Frazer and the Mustangs should win the AAC again.
21. Tulsa. Everyone is back.
22. Connecticut. Kevin Ollie remains in Storrs, and the roster is talented. Like how I put three AAC teams in a row?
23. San Diego State – Malik Pope, a freshman with a pro future, stayed in school. Leading scorer and rebounder Winston Shepard will be a senior and keep an eye on Jeremy Hemsley, a high school star last year in California.
24. Michigan. Caris LeVert passed on the NBA and returned to the Wolverines, which probably had John Beilein doing the running man.
25. NC State. Had the Wolfpack in the Top 10 before the surprising departure of Trevor Lacey, the team’s leading scorer. Barber, Abu and Anya should keep the Wolfpack hovering around the Top 25 all season.
11 teams that just missed
Arizona. Sean Miller will have them in the NCAA Tournament.
Texas. Lost their best two players, but Shaka Smart should have them dancing.
Miami. Entire starting lineup returns.
Vanderbilt. Sleeper to finish 2nd in the SEC? Top three scorers are back, recruits aren’t bad, either.
West Virginia. Staten’s a tough loss, but there’s enough talent on the roster to get back to March.
Texas A&M. House (14.8 ppg) and Jones (13.7 ppg) are back, and will be joined by four 4-star recruits.
Rhode Island. Sleeper in the A-10. Best three players – Matthews, Martin and Terrell are all back.
Oregon State. Wasn’t a senior on the team, and next year, Gary Payton II should have the Beavers dancing.
Mississippi State. Hello, Malik Newman!
Louisville. No chance Rick Pitino falls too far, despite heavy losses.
Ohio State. The Buckeyes, as usual, will be competitive in the Big 10, and a team with potential in March.