clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Updated way too early college basketball top 25 for 2015-16

New, comments

A great deal has changed in the last month, but not our choice for the No. 1 team heading into the 2015-16 college hoops season.

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

Now that we know the 91 players who have declared themselves eligible for the NBA Draft, let's reevaluate our super early 2015-16 top 25 from the moments immediately following Duke's national championship victory over Wisconsin. There are a couple of newcomers and a whole lot of shaking up, but the name at the top remains the same.

1. North Carolina Tar Heels

2014-15 Record: 26-12

2014-15 Finish: Sweet 16

Carolina hit its stride at the perfect time last season, but its inconsistencies in the previous months left it with a No. 4 seed and a date with Wisconsin in the Sweet 16. The Heels led that game by four with less than seven minutes to play before the Badgers' superhuman ability to answer the bell in a game's final five minutes kicked in.

Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson announced soon after the season that they were returning to Chapel Hill for another year, and preseason ACC Player of the Year Marcus Paige followed suit shortly after. The one surprise defection was junior forward J.P. Tokoto, who declared himself eligible for the draft despite admitting, "I know I'm not a first round pick." Tokoto was a starter in each of the past two seasons, but his departure doesn't hurt Roy Williams' chances of winning his third national title as much as losing one of his other starters would have.

2. Iowa State Cyclones

2014-15 Record: 25-9

2014-15 Finish: Round of 64

Fred Hoiberg has had plenty of star power during his time in Ames, but returning a core nucleus of Georges NiangMonte MorrisJameel McKayAbdel Nader and Naz Long will give him the one luxury he's always been forced to work without: consistency. The stunning loss to UAB has made lots of folks forget why Iowa State was such a trendy Final Four pick heading into the tournament, but this group should be able to remind everyone pretty quickly next November.

3. Virginia Cavaliers

2014-15 Record: 30-4

2014-15 Finish: Round of 32

Losing Justin Anderson drops UVA from the No. 2 spot, but likely first-team preseason All-American Malcolm Brogdon and virtually every other major contributor is back from a team that lost just four games last season. If the Cavs hadn't run up against Michigan State in each of the past two NCAA Tournaments, no one would be doubting this team's status as a preseason top-five lock.

4. Kansas Jayhawks

2014-15 Record: 27-9

2014-15 Finish: Round of 32

Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander are off to the NBA, but Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden and Frank Mason will all be back for another run at a 12th consecutive Big 12 title. Five-star freshmen Cheick Diallo and Carlton Bragg will be joining the fold as well. Bill Self's team appears fully equipped to land a top-three seed for what would be a ridiculous 10th straight year.

5. Maryland Terrapins

2014-15 Record: 28-7

2014-15 Finish: Round of 32

Melo Trimble is back, Jake Layman is back and five-star center Diamond Stone is coming in. The addition of Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter will also be a monster boost for a Terrapin squad that could easily be the preseason favorite in the Big Ten.

6. Kentucky Wildcats

2014-15 Record: 38-1

2014-15 Finish: Final Four

The shock of Kentucky whiffing on the recruiting trail for the first time under John Calipari has us all sort of forgetting that they return the formidable inside duo of Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress, as well as one of the best point guards in the country in Tyler Ulis. Oh, and that recruiting? They're only bringing in the country's top-ranked player and another of his five-star friends. There won't be any (or at least there shouldn't be any) undefeated chatter this summer, but the Wildcats are going to be fine.

7. Duke Blue Devils

2014-15 Record: 35-4

2014-15 Finish: National Champion

Landing five-star recruits Derryck Thornton and Brandon Ingram couldn't have been more enormous for the Blue Devils' chances of repeating. They might not be Tyus Jones and Jahlil Okafor, but they're close enough to give Coach K a shot.

8. Oklahoma Sooners

2014-15 Record: 24-11

2014-15 Finish: Sweet 16

Buddy Hield's decision to return to school might have meant more to Oklahoma than any other player's return in the country meant to his respective program. Losing TaShawn Thomas still hurts, but it hurts far less knowing Hield is coming back to Norman.

9. Michigan State Spartans

2014-15 Record: 27-12

2014-15 Finish: Final Four

Travis Trice and Branden Dawson are gone, and the Spartans will likely be ranked lower when the calendar turns than they were at the start of the season, but by now we all know how the Tom Izzo story always ends.

10. Indiana Hoosiers

2014-15 Record: 20-14

2014-15 Finish: Round of 64

Despite all the Tom Crean jokes and unrest in Bloomington, Indiana has the potential to be awfully good in 2015-16. The Hoosiers will be bringing back virtually everyone from a tournament team that could score with anyone this past season. They're also bringing in one of the best big men in the class of 2015 in five-star center Thomas Bryant out of Huntington Prep, who fills a gigantic void. Crean needs to win big in 2015-16, and he has all the tools to make that happen.

11. Arizona Wildcats

2014-15 Record: 34-4

2014-15 Finish: Elite Eight

Sean Miller is bringing in yet another loaded class, but it's unlikely that the Wildcats will have the preseason expectations they've had the past two years. Still a safe bet that they'll be the squad to beat in the Pac-12.

12. Villanova Wildcats

2014-15 Record: 33-3

2014-15 Finish: Round of 32

Jay Wright will be down three starters from last season's No. 1 seed, but bringing in McDonald's All-American Jalen Brunson to accentuate Ryan Arcidiacono should once again give him one of the best backcourts in the country.

13. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

2014-15 Record: 32-6

2014-15 Finish: Elite Eight

Losing Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton is a massive blow. However, Demetrius Jackson is back to run the show, Steve Vasturia will still be filling it in from the corner, and both Zach Auguste and Bonzie Colson showcased just how good they can be during the Fighting Irish's memorable March run.

14. SMU Mustangs

2014-15 Record: 27-7

2014-15 Finish: Round of 64

The Mustangs were the clear class of the AAC all season, and returning four of his top five scorers will give Larry Brown a good chance to erase the lingering memory of his team's controversial loss to UCLA in the Round of 64.

15. Texas Longhorns

2014-15 Record: 20-14

2014-15 Finish: Round of 64

Talent was never the issue for Texas this season, and Shaka Smart is going to have plenty to work with in his first season in Austin. Don't be surprised if he's the early front-runner for national Coach of the Year simply because the Horns are performing the way they should have in 2014-15.

16. Louisville Cardinals

2014-15 Record: 27-9

2014-15 Finish: Elite Eight

Losing 78 percent of your scoring from a team whose biggest issue was, well, scoring, is troubling. However, Rick Pitino feels good about the development of some of his younger players who were forced to play sparingly behind guys like Montrezl Harrell and Terry Rozier. The good news is Pitino is bringing in two five-star recruits (Donovan Mitchell and Deng Adel) and a pair of the most highly sought-after fifth-year transfers in the country (Damion Lee and Trey Lewis).

17. Wichita State Shockers

2014-15 Record: 30-5

2014-15 Finish: Sweet 16

Gregg Marshall re-upping with the Shockers likely played a large role in Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet doing the same. Wichita State is going to be a national player for the fourth straight year.

18. Gonzaga Bulldogs

2014-15 Record: 35-3

2014-15 Finish: Elite Eight

Losing Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Byron Wesley means this group won't have the same "Final Four contender" buzz as this past season's or the 2012-13 squad. Still, the two-headed inside monster of Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis will be back, as is leading scorer Kyle Wiltjer, who toyed briefly with the idea of jumping to the league.

19. Butler Bulldogs

2014-15 Record: 23-11

2014-15 Finish: Round of 32

Notre Dame coming so close to upsetting Kentucky sort of made everyone forget how close Butler was to knocking off the Irish. They'll return three double-figure scorers in Kellen Dunham, Roosevelt Jones and Andrew Chrabascz, in addition to a potential breakout star in rising sophomore Kelan Martin. N.C. State transfer Tyler Lewis will also be brought in to run the point.

20. Wisconsin Badgers

2014-15 Record: 36-4

2014-15 Finish: National Runner-Up

There's no way to mask the fact that 2015-16 figures to be something of a step backwards for Bo Ryan's club -- the question is how far back. The National Player of the Year is definitely gone and the guy who might have even more NBA potential (Sam Dekker) likely is as well, leaving Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes as the only vestiges from a team that was one game away from winning the national title. Still, fully doubting Ryan and company's ability to pull off something remarkable is always a mistake.

21. California Golden Bears

2014-15 Record: 18-15

2014-15 Finish: No postseason

Suddenly, with the additions of five-star recruits Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb, Cuonzo Martin has a loaded roster to work with. While the freshmen have generated and will continue to generate the bulk of the offseason buzz in Berkeley, getting both Ty Wallace and Jabari Bird to return to school might have been just as crucial for 2015-16 success.

22. Michigan Wolverines

2014-15 Record: 16-16

2014-15 Finish: No postseason

A slew of injuries never gave Michigan a chance this season, but the Wolverines never got down. They wound up pulling off a handful of memorable upsets down the stretch. With Caris LeVert choosing to spurn the NBA, John Beilein figures to have things rolling again in Ann Arbor next winter.

23. Cincinnati Bearcats

2014-15 Record: 23-11

2014-15 Finish: Round of 32

These are happy times for Mick Cronin. He's been cleared to return to full-time coaching duties and is bringing back all five starters from a Bearcats team that exceeded everyone's expectations last season.

24. Georgetown Hoyas

2014-15 Record: 22-11

2014-15 Finish: Round of 32

D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera returning couldn't be more important for JT III's team.

25. Miami Hurricanes

2014-15 Record: 25-13

2014-15 Finish: NIT Runner-Up

The Hurricanes were one of the last teams left out of the Field of 68, a fact that the returning core of Sheldon McClellan, Angel Rodriguez and Tonye Jekiri will be out to avenge.

Next 10:

26. NC State Wolfpack

27. Purdue Boilermakers

28. Utah Utes

29. Baylor Bears

30. UCLA Bruins

31. Texas A&M Aggies

32. Xavier Musketeers

33. LSU Tigers

34. Florida State Seminoles

35. West Virginia Mountaineers