Preseason College Basketball Top 25 for 2014-15 Season

Written by Paul Banks of the Washington Times, and David Kay of the The Sports Bank.
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April 9, 2014

  1. Arizona- Aaron Gordon is expected to turn pro, but Sean Miller should have everybody else back. That includes Pac-12 Player of the Year, Nick Johnson, and Brandon Ashley who returns from a foot injury that sidelined him for the final month and a half of the season. Arizona will be so loaded next season that the extremely talented and versatile McDonald’s All-American, Stanley Johnson will come off the bench. Depth was a major concern after Ashley’s injury this past season, but that won’t be the case in 2014-15.

  2. Wisconsin- After finally getting Bo Ryan over the hump and advancing to the Final Four, a repeat performance seems very possible. Wisconsin only loses sharpshooter Ben Brust and brings back the remainder of its roster, including developing big man Frank Kaminsky. Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Nigel Hayes should step into a starting role and make the Badgers a bigger, more physical team with Sam Dekker sliding back to his more natural small forward spot.

  3. Kansas- There are a couple of variables involved here; whether Joel Embiid declares for the 2014 NBA Draft, and if Kansas can land one of the top recruits in the country in big man Myles Turner, who remains uncommitted but has the Jayhawks on his final list. Talented freshmen forwards Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre are already on board, and Bill Self returns Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis while also getting Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson as eligible. The point guard position remains a question mark, but Kansas should win another Big XII Title and compete for the national title.

  4. Duke- There are a lot of rumors swirling that Jabari Parker will return for his sophomore season, but until an announcement is made official, I am assuming he is NBA bound along with Rodney Hood. Duke does bring in four McDonald’s All-Americans, including the top player in the 2014 class, Jahlil Okafor, who is a dominant low-post presence, which is something this past season’s Blue Devils were lacking. Newcomer Tyus Jones will share the backcourt with Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon, while Amile Jefferson slides over to his natural power forward position. If Parker does return, Duke and Arizona will be battling for the No. 1 spot.

  5. North Carolina- The Tar Heels had their share of ups and downs this past season but received great news when Marcus Paige announced he would be back for his junior year. James Michael McAdoo will leave for the NBA, but Roy Williams returns the majority of this past season’s rotation and also welcomes in three McDonald’s All-Americans who should add needed depth on the wing.

  6. Virginia- Tony Bennett does lose two key starters from his ACC Championship squad, but he has built the Cavaliers program to fit his style of coaching, starting on the defensive end. Once again, there won’t be a superstar on this team, but the depth and balance offensively should be enough to once again make Virginia a threat in the ACC and on the national stage.

  7. Michigan- Add Michigan to the list of “what if” teams. Nik Stauskas is likely headed to the association along with Glenn Robinson III, but what about Mitch McGary who was sidelined for the season with a back injury? I am assuming he returns to Ann Arbor along with blossoming wing Caris LeVert and sophomores-to-be Zack Irvin and Derrick Walton. If McGary does leave for the NBA, I’d probably drop Michigan to the late-teen’s.

  8. Florida- Despite losing four starters, Billy Donovan brings back some quality talent and adds a solid freshman class along with transfers Eli Carter of Rutgers and Duke’s Alex Murphy; the latter player becomes eligible after the first semester. Kasey Hill and Chris Walker must step into starting roles, and the status of Damontre Harris, who was suspended for all of this past season, would greatly help Florida’s chances next season.

  9. Villanova- After an impressive regular season, the Wildcats’ 2013-14 campaign ended in disappointment after a first-round exit in the Big East Tournament and not making it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Jay Wright only loses one starter and should have another extremely balanced team that will hands down be the favorites in the Big East next season.

  10. Colorado- It has been reported that Spencer Dinwiddie is leaning toward entering the 2014 NBA Draft, but I am assuming he will come to his senses and stay for his senior season. Dinwiddie missed most of this past season due to injury, so if Tad Boyle gets him back, the Buffaloes will be stacked since every other major contributor returns.

  11. SMU- SMU won’t have to sweat it out on Selection Sunday next year. Larry Brown returns his nucleus from this past season and also welcomes in McDonald’s All-American Emmanuel Mudiay and possibly Texas Tech transfer Jordan Tolbert, who could be granted immediate eligibility rather than sitting out a year. Mudiay will be a major difference-maker though. He’s a huge reason why I like the Mustangs as the early favorites to win the American Athletic Conference.

  12. Iowa State- Fred Hoiberg loses his top two players from this past season but (surprise, surprise) brings in a pair of transfers who should be major contributors right away in former Marquette commit Jameel McKay and Northern Illinois forward Abdul Nader. Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue, Naz Long, and Monte Morris are all back in the fold, and it wouldn’t shock me if the Cyclones land a key transfer in the offseason like they did with DeAndre Kane this past offseason (Bryce Dejean-Jones, perhaps?)

  13. Texas- The Longhorns were one of the surprise teams in college basketball this past season, and with the entire roster intact for next year, expectations will certainly be raised. Rick Barnes has a gem in Isaiah Taylor ,and Barnes’ once-young team should blossom even more in 2014-15 with another year of experience under its collective belt.

  14. Kentucky- I am assuming the worst for John Calipari after Kentucky’s run to the national title game and expecting seven underclassmen to declare for the 2014 NBA Draft. In typical Coach Cal fashion, the cupboard won’t be empty for the Wildcats with four McDonald’s All-Americans coming to Lexington. As it stands right now, depth is a concern on the wing, but I’d expect Calipari to add a transfer or two in the offseason. If any of the underclassmen end up returning to Big Blue Nation, the Wildcats will steadily climb up these rankings.

  15. Gonzaga- Per usual, Mark Few’s squad will be a steady Top-25-caliber club. The Zags return a terrific backcourt combo in Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. while also welcoming Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer to the lineup. Wiltjer will provide some offensively versatility that should allow developing big man Przemek Karnowski space to operate down low.

  16. Connecticut- The biggest question for Connecticut is how Ryan Boatright handles taking over without Shabazz Napier at his side. DeAndre Daniels’ terrific play in the tourney means he will probably turn pro, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Omar Calhoun ends up transferring. Boatright won’t have to do it alone though. Kevin Ollie brings in a pair of key transfers in former N.C. State shooting guard, Rodney Purvis and JUCO guard Sam Cassell Jr.

  17. Ohio State- The Aaron Craft era ends at Ohio State, and Thad Matta also loses LaQuinton Ross and Amadeo Della Valle as they chose to pursue professional careers. Adding Temple transfer Anthony Lee is a major get since he will be eligible to play right away, while D’Angelo Russell headlines a solid recruiting class. The key for the Buckeyes though will be the play of seniors Shannon Scott, Sam Thompson and Amir Williams.

  18. Oregon- The Ducks lose a few solid contributors but bring back scoring guard Joseph Young and Damyean Dotson. Dominic Artis has gotten lost in the mix a bit and needs to have a breakout year with talented freshman JaQuan Lyle recently committing to Oregon and expected to push him for minutes. JUCO transfer Michael Chandler should be a force inside as the Ducks aren’t expected to miss much of a beat in 2014-15.

  19. Wichita State- The Shockers completed a rare feat by entering the 2014 NCAA Tournament with an unbeaten record, but don’t expect the same next year. Wichita State does bring back its talented backcourt led by the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year, Fred VanVleet, and Ron Baker. The biggest question will be up front where Gregg Marshall must replace the production of Cleanthony Early and the team’s two big men.

  20. Michigan State- With their top-three players gone, expect the Spartans to take a step back next season. I think Denzel Valentine has breakout potential, and Branden Dawson must stay healthy for Michigan State to remain among the Big Ten’s elite. Two major questions though: how will Travis Trice handle taking over as the prime point guard, and who will step up inside to replace the production of Adreian Payne?

  21. Louisville- I am assuming Montrezl Harrell leaves for the NBA, which means the Cardinals will lose four starters – including All-American Russ Smith. Rick Pitino will have a young squad primarily consisting of underclassmen, and that might cause him some headaches in Louisville’s transition to the ACC.

  22. Oklahoma- The Sooners made major strides in the Big XII last season, and that should continue next season with four starters returning. Lon Kruger has a talented group of guards featuring Buddy Hield, but must find someone to replace Cameron Clark’s production at forward.

  23. BYU- Matt Carlino recently announced that his intentions to transfer, while big man Erik Mika leaves for his 2-year mission, but Dave Rose returns a ton of talent. On top of that Rose has a few players returning from missions, as well as a couple of key transfers joining the fray. The Cougars were one of the top offensive teams in the country this past year, and with Tyler Haws back in the fold, expect another high-powered point-producing team that should give Gonzaga a run for its money in the WCC.

  24. Syracuse- I’m a little concerned about the Orange for next season. The team struggled with scoring in �13-’14 and with C.J. Fair, Tyler Ennis, and likely Jerami Grant all gone, there are a lot of holes to plug. Trevor Cooney needs to become more than just a three-point threat, while Jim Boeheim must figure out if Michael Gbinije is ready to take over the point guard position and if Kaleb Joseph will be handed the keys like Ennis was. Young guys like B.J. Johnson and Tyler Roberson also need to step into the spotlight to help replace Fair and Grant.

  25. UCLA- Kyle Anderson and Zach LaVine have already declared for the 2014 NBA Draft, and I am expecting Jordan Adams to follow suit. Add in the loss of the Wear twins inside and Steve Alford has quite a bit of turnover on his roster. A former UTEP commit will add some skill on the wing, while McDonald’s All-American forward Kevon Looney should be a force on the boards. Steve’s son Bryce will play a major role as well being the lone point guard on the roster.

  26. Others considered: N.C. State, Pittsburgh, VCU, San Diego State, Illinois, Baylor, Dayton, Nebraska, Maryland, Utah, Georgetown, Clemson, West Virginia

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