2014-2015 Men’s College Basketball Preview

2014-2015 College Basketball Preview

Definitive Top 11 for 2014-2015

1. Arizona
2. Kansas
3. Duke
4. Kentucky
5. Florida
6. Wisconsin
7. North Carolina
8. Gonzaga
9. Ohio State
10. Virginia
11. Louisville

The Next Squads

12. Iowa State
13. Villanova
14. UCLA
15. Texas
16. Syracuse
17. Iowa
18. Wichita State
19. UConn
20. Michigan
21. San Diego St.
22. Colorado


There are other good teams, but this is a top 22 year – a gap between these and the remaining teams. Let’s start with the top!


#1 – Arizona

PG – TJ McConnell
SG – Stanley Johnson
SF – Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
PF – Brandon Ashley
C – Kaleb Tarszcewski

Bench – Gabe York, Elliot Pitts, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Craig Victor, Dusan Ristic, Kadeem Allen

Before Ashley got hurt last year, they were in my opinion the best team in the country. They’ve got Ashley back this year, and add more than they lost. They lost Nick Johnson and Aaron Gordon – both NBA draft picks – but I like what they have coming in (combined with the growth of everyone else) more than that loss. Strong statement.

McConnell is a perfect point guard for a super talented team like this. Gritty, tough, doesn’t make mistakes, makes open shots. He’s great. Stanley Johnson has been hyped as the best prep player ever from California. Strong statement as well. That acclaim comes mostly from his status a top 5-10 recruit who almost never lost in his years at Mater Dei (Santa Ana). But he’s a stud. 6-6/6-7 SG/SF who from all reports is a super character guy in addition to having all the skills and being a good (not great) athlete. I’m confident he’ll be better than Nick Johnson (who I liked a lot) by the end of the year. Hollis-Jefferson I love. I think he’s actually a more effective college piece than Gordon was, although the two are quite similar. Super athletic, super active, good character guy. Ashley and Tarczewski will both be NBA players. Ashley is highly skilled and has my favorite big man game in college since probably Antawn Jamison. Tarczewski isn’t tremendously skilled, but he’s a true seven-footer, and it’s pretty amazing he’s still in college (junior who was a top 10 recruit at 7 feet – those guys never stay in college more than 2 years).

Great starting five.

The bench is great too. York was a big recruit who’s now a junior and a good athlete/handler/shooter. Great combo guard to bring off the bench. Parker Jackson-Cartwright had progressive parents and is a top 20 PG from LA – in the tier of super PG recruits right below Tyus Jones and Emmanuel Mudiay. He’s kind of a munchkin, but that’s good in my world. Kadeem Allen was national juco player of the year last year – did 26ppg and is a 6-3 guy who can do it all. He actually might jump into the Nick Johnson spot. Craig Victor is a 50-60 type recruit who can give frontcourt depth and may be a star himself later. Pitts is a 6-5 shooter – only a sophomore. They also got Dusan Ristic who is a bit of a mystery but he’s a 7 footer from Serbia who supposedly has giant upside. We’ll see.

Regardless, this is a team with talent, experience, depth, size, and skill. They’re my national title pick, no question.

#2 – Kansas

PG – Frank Mason
SG – Wayne Selden
SF – Kelly Oubre
PF – Perry Ellis
C – Cliff Alexander

Bench – Jamari Traylor, Landen Lucas, Devonte Graham, Svlatoslav Mykhailiuk, Brannen Greene, Connor Frankamp, Hunter Mickelson

Wayne Selden is – along with D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Norman Powell – my favorite player in the country. He’s #33 on my all-time list as of November 2014. I expect him to blow up this year. He kind of deferred to Wiggins and Embiid last year, and I heard he played hurt most of the year. Now he should be a feature guy and healthy – I expect big things and then (unfortunately) a bounce to the league.

PG will float between Frank Mason, Devonte Graham, and Connor Frankamp: two sophomores and a freshman but all were top 50 recruits and I like both Frankamp and Mason. Graham has my current favorite highlight reel of all incoming freshman. This is a guy who has the potential to creep onto my all-time list. I’m excited. Oubre is a top 10 recruit who is an athlete 6-7/6-8 with a pretty southpaw j. Great Wiggins replacement and probable lottery pick at the end of the year. He also has really cool eyes. It sounds weird, but just roll with it. Donna Karan remains to hold down the post and be extremely underrated, and Cliff Alexander is a monster. He’s the Embiid replacement but probably a better college fit (and worse NBA player). Elton Brand is the closest comparison that comes to mind. 6-8 monster who was top 5 in every recruiting ranking.

Traylor and Lucas are back for more depth. Brannen Greene has good size and skill (can really shoot) and would start for just about any other team. Mickelson is 6-10 Arkansas transfer of whom big things are expected, and Mykhailiuk is a 6-8 17-year-old who is seen as a high-upside guard. Yep a 6-8 guard with a lot of hype attached. Whoa - this video is worth watching. He probably will struggle to get time this year, but probably will be a star by his second or third year and may be in the NBA soon.

This is an AWESOME team with incredible talent and depth, but probably too young and inexperienced to take Arizona’s top spot.

#3 – Duke

PG – Tyus Jones
SG – Quinn Cook
SG – Rasheed Sulaimon
PF – Amile Jefferson
C – Jahlil Okafor

Bench – Justise Winslow, Grayson Allen, Matt Jones, Marshall Plumlee, Semi Ojeleye

Okafor is the big difference maker. I saw him several times in college last year, and guys with his size, hands, skill, and head-on-straight simply don’t happen. He might be the most dominant player in college basketball from day one, and I expect him to be the #1 draft pick at the end of the year. No team can match him (although all the teams ranked around here have the best possibilities to slow him down). Tyus Jones is a nice PG from the great state who just has polish oozing off him. Very good athlete, good shooter, good floor general, top 5-10 recruit. I’m guessing he gets the PG slot and Quinn Cook moves off the ball. You all know Cook – I’m a fan, both of the game and the Ginuwine resemblance. Sulaimon moves to the other guard position in this three-guard look that I’m projecting. Lots of speed, quickness, and shooting to surround Okafor. Jefferson is a long athlete with a motor. We’ll see how he develops, but he definitely can do the dirty things for this team.

Winslow is a top 20 recruit who is renowned for his defense and almost assuredly will play a major role in the rotation for that. He’s 6-6/6-7 220ish and can probably guard 1-4. Allen is a top 20 recruit who can REALLY shoot and REALLY bounce. Hard to see him not earning a good chunk of minutes this year as well. Jones, Plumlee, and Ojeleye are all talented guys who give extra depth at guard, center, and wing respectively.

This team has it all to win the title, but I like them a touch less than the two above – hence, #3.

#4 – Kentucky

PG – Andrew Harrison
SG – Aaron Harrison
SF – Alex Poythress
PF – Karl-Anthony Towns
C – Willie Cauley-Stein

Bench – Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Marcus Lee, Trey Lyles, Dakari Johnson

Kentucky is loaded, but I think they are overhyped (quite a statement considering I have them #4). Ever since Aaron hit those tournament threes people seem to have forgotten that the Harrisons weren’t exceptional last year. Granted, the freshman to sophomore jump is huge, but I don’t like these guys as much as, say, Selden or Jones or Johnson above. Still – LOTS of size and good talent in the UK backcourt. I didn’t even mention Ulis (who probably is a better 1 than Andrew Harrison) and Devin Booker, who were both top 20 recruits. Very strong. I should note that I think Ulis could make Kentucky an even better powerhouse in years ahead because he’s too small to bounce early but hyper talented and a great leader who could perfectly set up the confused young talent that UK grabs every year. EEP thinks Ulis is small Chris Paul.

Poythress and Cauley-Stein are both only juniors, which is hilarious because they seem like such old, underperformers at Kentucky. They still have all the NBA talent they always have had, and likely will be 1st round picks after this year (Cauley-Stein for sure). Towns actually is the top NBA prospect on this team. 7-0 and skilled – think a less athletic, baby-faced LaMarcus Aldridge.

I really like Lee – a 6-9 sophomore who is super bouncy and really active. Guys like him get buried on the UK depth chart, but he’ll get more run this year. Lyles is a skilled 6-10 stretch 4 type (top 10 recruit) and Dakari Johnson was the #2 center prospect behind Embiid last year. That’s some talent.

This team is GIGANTIC (apart from Ulis, everyone is oversized). They’ve got size on all three teams ranked above them, and depth to match them (if not more). But I think their skill position players aren’t as strong as those of KU, Duke, and Arizona, so they make the Final Four, but don’t advance.

#5 – Florida

PG – Kasey Hill
SG – Michael Frazier III
SF – Dorian Finney-Smith
PF – Jon Horford
C – Chris Walker

Bench – Eli Carter, Brandone Francis, Chris Chiozza, Alex Murphy, Devin Robinson

I should probably pencil in Florida (and Wisconsin) for the Elite Eight every year. Too much talent with too good coaching and such incredible consistency. Congrats Billy! They lost a bunch of guys but were crazy deep last year so they still have a lot. And the most talented guys on the team are all back and a year older. Hill was a top 15 recruit last year (top 3 PG) and he’ll be a stud this year…maybe enough to bounce and be a late lottery pick at year’s end. Walker LOOKS like a sure fire lottery pick, but he didn’t become eligible last year until December and Florida was so deep and good at that point that he didn’t really break the rotation. He could easily be a stud this year and a top 10 draft pick. Not sure about his skill, but he’s 6-10 and super athletic.

Frazier will be their leading scorer – lights out shooter and solid overall skills. Finney-Smith is long, skilled and versatile – great Casey Prather replacement. Horford is doing a grad school year at Florida after his solid role-player career at Michigan. Murphy is a 6-8 junior Duke transfer who was a top 30-40 recruit but never did much for Coach K. Eli Carter is a Rutgers transfer who produced well there and should offer good backcourt depth. Chiozzi, Francis, and Robinson are the freshman, all in the 40-70 range, which means all are very good and also likely to play four years. Arguably the best kinds of recruits. Robinson looks like a pro – 6-8 with guard game and deep deep range (surprisingly good athlete too – under control, but can get up). Good work Billy!

Looking forward to them matching up with Kentucky, and probably expect Florida to place higher in the regular season SEC (Kentucky will lose to a couple teams they shouldn’t) but think Kentucky will be superior (oh so slightly) at the end of the year.

#6 – Wisconsin

PG – Traevon Jackson
SG – Josh Gasser
SF – Sam Dekker
PF – Nigel Hayes
C – Frank Kaminsky

Bench – Bronson Koenig, Zak Showalter, Duje Dukan, Ethan Happ

Like I said, pencil in any Wisconsin team to the Round of 32 and any talented Wisconsin team into the Elite Eight. This is one of the MOST talented Wisconsin teams ever. Everyone is all about Kaminsky since the tournament last year – deservedly so. He’s a legit 7-footer with legit skill. That’s special. But Dekker has been the most talented guy on this team the past few years. Both are probable first round NBA picks. Jackson and Gasser are very experienced guys who are winners.

Hayes and Koenig to me are the key pieces in this lofty ranking and pushing for more. Both were top 50 recruits last year (very high for Wisconsin) and their talent was visible last year. Hayes in particular is very unique for Bo Ryan – 6-8, athletic, aggressive, and rugged. And he’s pretty skilled too. Koenig has the full package from what I saw. J, handles, quicks, and a bit of street in his game. These guys give Wisconsin a dynamic create-something-out-of-nothing flair that’s a special addition to the Bo Ryan winning train. Dukan and Showalter offer depth, and Happ is the top freshman – a 6-8 combo forward who averaged 33 and 15 for a small Illinois school. Probably won’t do much this year, but looks like he could be a strong Ryan player in the years ahead.

#7 – North Carolina

PG – Marcus Paige
SG – Theo Pinson
SF – JP Tokoto
PF – Brice Johnson
C – Kennedy Meeks

Bench – Nate Britt, Joel Berry, Justin Jackson, Isaiah Hicks, Joel James, Desmond Hubert

I like this team. Paige is an Iowa guy, and maybe the best PG in the nation. Pretty southpaw J! Theo Pinson is a top 10 freshman who is a 6-6 guard with a little Julius Hodge in him (but a much better shot than Hodge…better athlete too). Maybe a little Jamal Crawford in him. He’s good at creating shots (and making bad shots – sometimes a blessing, sometimes not). Dynamic. Tokoto is a super athlete (from Wisconsin!) who would be an NBA player if he could shoot. But he can’t. At all.

I expect Brice Johnson to blow up this year. Explosive big. I’m a little worried about him because he was too good last year to not be their featured guy, which makes me think he might have head problems. We’ll see this year, as no one should be above him on the depth chart. He’s a 6-10 serious athlete who did 10 and 6 last year and should do a LOT more. He’s a probable lottery pick. Meeks is super round and a happy dude. I’m a fan. He’s the Kevin Love-esque outlet passer in college hoops as well. And in addition, dude can play.

UNC has depth too. Britt played a major role last year, and although I don’t see him ever being a star, I do expect him to be very valuable all four years (he’s a soph). Joel Berry is a top 40 recruit who will also get in this PG mix. Hicks and Jackson both have big-time potential. Hicks a top 15 recruit (6-9) last year who didn’t get much run, but that should change this year. Jackson is a top 10 freshman who is a 6-8 skilled wing. Serious talent in Chapel Hill. James and Hubert offer large, experienced depth.

UNC is probably #5 in talent, but definitely not better when coaching and intangibles come into play than Florida and Wisconsin. I expect a big year and a lot of good things for UNC this year, though. I like this team.

#8 – Gonzaga

PG – Kevin Pangos
SG – Gary Bell
SF – Byron Wesley
PF – Kyle Wiltjer
C – Przemek Karnowski

Bench: Josh Perkins, Silas Melson, Eric McClellan, Angel Nunez, Kyle Draginis, Domantas Sabonis

Another of the best Gonzaga teams we’ve seen. Pangos and Bell have been there FOREVER (both are seniors) and are a great talent/experience combo. They also can both handle and shoot, and this is a wonderful combo for tournament success. Talented, experienced guards. Wesley transferred in from USC where he averaged 18ppg and 6rpg. Not a bad addition. Wiltjer is a 6-10 Kentucky transfer who could be a monster for them. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking I should rank them higher. Karnowski is a 7-1, 295 junior who did 10 and 7 last year. That’s serviceable.

The bench is deep and talented too – Perkins and Melson are a pair of 6-3 guards who may be the next Pangos and Bell. Both were top 100 recruits (Perkins in the 40s) which is big time talent for Gonzaga. Sabonis is Arvydas’s son, and he’s a skilled and motorized 6-10 freshman. McClellan will be eligible mid-year, but he averaged 14ppg for Vanderbilt before transferring. Nunez and Draginis both played meaningful minutes last year. That’s 11 deep for Gonzaga. Mark Few is tremendously impressive. I’m moving them to #8 ahead of Ohio State (they were #12 when I started writing this). Done!

#9 – Ohio State

PG – Shannon Scott
SG – D’Angelo Russell
SF – Sam Thompson
SF – Anthony Lee
C – Amir Williams

Bench – Jae-Sean Tate, Kam Williams, Keita Bates-Diop, Trey McDonald, Marc Loving

Scott, Thompson, and Williams are the three guys left from the great recruiting class Matta pulled in a few years back, which creates the rare situation of having three talented seniors on a team. This also means that all three have underachieved to some level. Mostly, their deficiencies have been on the offensive end, which makes D’Angelo Russell – a top 10 recruit who was the top SG in the country – a great addition. He’s got a nice all around game (and a nice southpaw j). Anthony Lee is also a senior – a 6-9 transfer from Temple who averaged 14 and 9 last year (he’s another grad school transfer). That’s a strong lineup.

The guy I’m looking for more from this year – and maybe finding a way to punch into the starting lineup – is Marc Loving. He’s a sophomore who is 6-7 and very skilled. Looks like he should be a star and will definitely get time this year. To me, huge development from him combined with an as-expected impact from Russell could push Ohio State even higher than this ranking. Bates-Diop (22), Williams (58 last year – redshirted after early season mono), and Tate (28) are the other freshmen. Lots of talent for present and future at OSU. Thad is a top coach.

#10 – Virginia

PG – London Perrantes
SG – Malcolm Brogdan
SF – Justin Anderson
PF – Anthony Gill
C – Mike Tobey

Bench – Devon Hall, BJ Stith, Darion Atkins, Marial Shayok, Isaiah Wilkins, Evan Nolte

Well this is the outlier (even compared to Wisconsin) in the top 10. Tony Bennett has the Wisconsin pedigree, and he made good on it with a squad of non-highly-recruited players winning 30 games and the ACC and earning a 1 seed in the tournament. They lost two solid players, and especially Joe Harris’s departure can’t be underestimated. But they return EVERYONE else. A lot of people are plugging Brogdan, a 6-5 junior who did 13 and 6 last year, for ACC player of the year. Perrantes is a solid 1 who is just a sophomore now after starting all last year. Anderson was a top 50 recruit and is a big time athlete (with a southpaw j that has questionable prettiness) from the wing (6-6). He could make major moves this year, his third at UVA. Gill did 9 and 4 as a sophomore at South Carolina two years ago and probably will step into the PF spot. Tobey is 6-11 and very serviceable. Stith is a top 60 freshman (dad was indeed Bryant). Other guys offer depth, and you have to believe that Tony Bennett will find/create strong hoopers here. #10 could easily be too low.

#11 – Louisville

PG – Chris Jones
SG – Terry Rozier
SF – Wayne Blackshear
PF – Montrezl Harrell
C – Mangok Mathiang

Bench – Anton Gill, Quentin Snider, Anas Mahmoud, Jaylen Johnson, Shaqquan Aaron, Chinanu Onuaku

Louisville is an official member of the Big East/ACC (along with Miami, BC, Pitt, Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame…seriously).

Russdiculous is gone, and a big big loss. But Louisville should be good. Jones, Blackshear, and Harrell are all big-time players who were major contributors last year. Harrell is in the running for most intimidating player in the nation. He’s a true beast. Rozier and Gill were both top 50-60 type recruits last year and should really help to fill in those Russdiculously large shoes though. Gill is 6-4, Rozier 6-1, and both are combo gaurds. They also got Snider, a top 40 recruit who is a true point guard. Definitely a good backcourt.

Mathiong is a raw 6-10 sophomore who might become Gorgui Dieng in the next couple years. Will be a rim protector this year. Onuaku (6-10), Aaron (6-7), and Johnson (6-9) are all top 50-70 recruits. Perfect Pitino types, keeping the cupboard full for years ahead. They need breakouts from Rozier, Gill, or Blackshear (or Aaron) to jump above this ranking. Pitino makes special things happen though, and I’ll be pulling for the Big East teams to win the ACC.

To me, those are unquestionable the top 11 teams, and there is a notable dropoff after this point. One of the above should win the national title, but of course, it wouldn’t be surprising (and would be cool) if someone else did. Which is why my ranking continues!

#12 – Iowa State

PG – Monte Morris
SG – Bryce Dejean-Jones
SG – Naz Long
SF – Dustin Hogue
PF – Georges Niang

Bench – Jameel McKay, Abdel Nader, Clayton Custer, Sherron Dorsey-Walker, Matt Thomas, Georgios Tsalmpouris

I LOVE the Cyclones’ program. The Mayor is my hero; he somehow creates a wonderful hoop culture with an array of transfers (plus a handful of pretty talented recruits). I’m definitely going to a game sometime soon – maybe a good February road trip this winter – who’s in??? Fly to Minneapolis and drive with me to Ames! Make it happen!

Morris is incredibly impressive. He’s a 6-2 PG who averaged 7 and 4 as a freshman but get this; he set an NCAA record for assist-to-turnover ratio at almost 5:1. As a freshman. Now he’ll really run the show, and he’ll be both smart and dynamic. I’m excited. Dejean-Jones was a big-time recruit back in the day and a stud at UNLV more recently – 14ppg, 4rpg, 3apg last year. Naz Long averaged 7ppg last year and basically just hit last minute clutch threes repeatedly. Dorsey-Walker didn’t play much as a freshman, but was highly thought of (6-4 guard). Custer is a top 100ish freshman PG. Thomas was a top 50 recruit last year who can really shoot and will be better all around last year (he made the second most 3s for a freshman in ISU history).

That’s a great backcourt situation. The frontcourt is also strong. Niang is a junior now and probably the team leader – he averaged 17ppg and 4.5rpg last year and is big and skilled. I like his game. Dustin Hogue is the Cyclone’s 6-6 “power forward” who has the skill to be a three but rebounds like a beast (12ppg and 8.4rpg last year). They are a bit short, but Jameel McKay – top juco recruit – is 6-9 and long and athletic and Georgios Tsalmpouris is a 7-1 skilled freshman from Greece who had a bunch of pro offers – he averaged 27ppg, 17rpg, 10bpg, and 3apg for his under-17 regional team. Haha. Nader is a small forward who averaged 11ppg in two seasons at Northern Illinois. The talent, depth, and production here are great.

#13 – Villanova

PG – Ryan Archidiacono
SG – Josh Hart
SG – Darrun Hilliard
PF – JayVaughn Pinkston
C – Daniel Ochefu

Bench: Kris Jenkins, Dylan Ennis, Mikal Bridges, Phil Booth

They were one of my sleeper picks last year that I was totally right about, and they lost only one main contributor so they won’t be sneaking up on anyone. This is probably the best team in the non-ACC Big East, and it’s mostly because Jay Wright is awesome. I really like Archidiacono – 6-3 one who’s pretty good at everything…I like watching him play – hope Bryant McIntosh can turn into something like him. Pinkston and Hilliard will likely be their leading scorers, but this is a balanced team. Bridges and Booth are 80-90 freshmen – good depth for the future.

And next year they get Jalen Brunson!!!

#14 – UCLA

PG – Bryce Alford
SG – Norman Powell
SF – Kevon Looney
PF – Tony Parker
C – Thomas Welsh

Bench: Jon Octeus, Jonah Bolden, Isaac Hamilton, Wanaah Bail

This is one of my top must-watch teams due to their combination of Norman Powell (in my super three favorite players this year with Wayne Selden and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera) and a pile of big time newcomers. I actually was a big fan of Alford last year – I liked the backup backcourt of him and Zach LaVine better than their starters (Slo-mo Kyle Anderson and Team Cancer Jordan Adams, both of whom actually grew on me over the year, but still). Alford can really handle it, really shoot it, and is a good athlete. I like him. Powell – oh man. I love that guy. Everything about him looks great, but his handle and j need to be quite a bit tighter to be in the Baby Foye conversation. But dude is EXPLOSIVE. He’ll smash on people in games in jaw-dropping fashion. Looney is a top 10 freshman from Milwaukee who’s got it – 6-9, handles, shot, good athlete – he’ll be in the league probably after this year, very probably after two.

Parker was a top 30 recruit a few years back – did 7 and 5 as a sophomore last year and should be a strong inside presence this year. Welsh is a top 40 freshman who is a legit 7 footer – his highlights didn’t look that good, and I’m not sure that he’ll actually start, but he’s the true center on the roster. Highlights of true bigs never look good…almost never. Bolden is another 5-star recruit who’s a 6-10 freshman; originally from Australia. He’s got major upside. Athletic and long and looks like he could have some skill. Definitely looks like a future pro, but raw and a bit skinny now. Bail has a great name, and offers good size and depth (he’s a sophomore).

Hamilton and Octeus could both start. Hamilton is Jordan’s little brother – he was a top 20 recruit last year who signed with UTEP and never went, instead transferring to UCLA and sitting out last season. I have a hard time envisioning anyone in the Hamilton family being a PG, but people are saying that he can be a 1, at 6-5. Impressive talent. Octeus is a senior who did 13, 5, and 2 last year at Colorado St. He’ll be a strong and immediate contributor. If I were coaching, I’d probably put Parker and the 5, Looney at the 4, and have Powell, Alford, and Octeus play together. I really like this team.

#15 – Texas

PG – Isaiah Taylor
SG – Javan Felix
SG – Demarcus Holland
PF – Jonathan Holmes
C – Cameron Ridley

Bench: Myles Turner, Kendal Yancy, Damarcus Croaker, Connor Lammert, Martez Walker, Prince Ibeh, Jordan Barnett

Texas is an interesting squad. They had so much talent for so long and were bad. And then last year their talent was so-so and they actually played decent basketball and won 24 games, including a round of 32 appearance (I refuse to call it the third round). Now this year they’ve added some big-time talent (see: Myles Turner) and return everyone. Literally everyone. I’ve seen some sources putting them in the top 5 this year, and I’m not ready for that, but the mid-teens seems reasonable.

The funny thing is – I’ve hardly seen them play. I’ve actually seen more of Turner than the actual Texas squad. I didn’t put Turner in the starting five, but I can’t imagine him not being there. He’s a great bet for a top 5 NBA draft pick (I’m putting him #3 right now) – 6-11 long and athletic, and he can shoot too. He’s actually a good Lamarcus Aldridge comparison too (GOOD bigs in this freshman class).  But Holmes averaged 13 and 7 last year and Ridley (who is a legitimate whalerus) did 11 and 8. I don’t think any of them can play the three, and all three are all-league players. Not a bad thing for Rick Barnes. Lammert and Ibeh were both pretty high recruits (both juniors now), and Barnett is a top 100 6-7 forward to add to the mix. That’s six impressive frontcourt players.

Taylor did 13 and 4 as a freshman and is the leader coming into his sophomore year. I definitely need to see more of them, as those are big time numbers for a freshman guard. Holland and Felix are both juniors – neither is a star but both can handle and shoot. Yancy and Walker both got significant minutes as freshmen last year, and Yancy in particular had some hype with him. Again, lots of young talent, but they’re a big question mark for me. I’m still not sure how I didn’t see them at all last year. High on the must-watch list this year. I’ll be hollering at you Jason!

#16 – Syracuse

PG – Kaleb Joseph
SG – Trevor Cooney
SF – Michael Gbinije
PF – Rakeem Christmas
C – Dajuan Coleman

Bench: Ron Patterson, Chris McCullough, Tyler Roberson, BJ Johnson

Cuse will always be a strong team because of Boeheim and the system, and this year’s version definitely has potential, but I have a hard time seeing them in the top cluster of teams this year.

Cooney is a lights out shooter and pretty good athlete and handler. Joseph is a fun looking freshman – ranked about 30 in the country. Gbinije is versatile and athletic – can probably play 1-4 for Cuse, but none of them exceptionally. Good role player though. Christmas was supposed to be in the NBA forever ago – top 10 recruit who’s 6-9 and really athletic, but he’s never done much. This year will be his last and he only averaged 6ppg, 5rpg, and (“only” doesn’t apply here) 2bpg. Coleman is a former top 15 recruit has got to get his weight under control. Roberson and McCullough are the two bench guys to watch. Roberson is an athletic 3 who was a top 30 recruit last year, but didn’t get much burn. I could see him taking Gbinije’s spot in the lineup. McCullough is a 6-10 freshman who’s very bouncy – he could find his way into the starting lineup as well and does look like a future NBA guy (20ish recruit this year).

#17 – Iowa

PG – Mike Gesell
SG – Josh Oglesby
SF – Jarrod Uthoff
PF – Aaron White
C – Adam Woodbury

Bench: Peter Jok, Gabriel Olaseni, Anthony Clemmons, Trey Dickerson, Dominique Uhl, Brady Ellington

I love Iowa, although the loss of Roy Devyn Marble takes away that guy who really is a beast for his position, they still have a ton of good, although probably no great, pieces. Gesell is solid as ever – I’m a fan. Oglesby or Jok will start at the 2, and they could easily both start. Jok is younger with more upside, but Oglesby is solid and a senior. Uthoff I think is a bit of a wildcard – he’s got some Gordon Hayward in him – 6-8/6-9 but with a nice skill set and good athleticism. If he gets his mind right, he could be a stud in the Big Ten and get himself drafted. He did 8 and 5 as a first-year sophomore last year. White is the best player on this team and will be an All Big Ten player. He’s a rugged athlete with pretty good size – 13ppg and 7rpg last year. Woodbury is goofy and awkward but giant (7-1) – was a top recruit too so the upside is clearly there. What makes Iowa cool though is that McCaffrey goes deep into the bench and plays a lot of guys aggressive minutes. Jok, Olaseni, and Clemmons all played a lot last year and none are amazing, but none look weak in any way. Dickerson was a Juco All American last year, and Uhl and Ellington are the freshmen – not highly rated, but neighter were Jok or Uthoff who both have serious upside. Fun team that runs a good system – I’m a big fan.

#18 – Wichita State

PG – Fred VanVleet
SG – Tekele Cotton
SG – Ron Baker
PF – Darius Carter
C – Bush Wamukota

Others: Tevin Glass, Eric Hamilton, Corey Henderson, Rashard Kelly, Zach Brown, Shaquille Morris, Evan Wessel

VanVleet, Cotton, and Baker have been there FOREVER. Actually Baker and VanVleet are still only juniors but this trio has won a LOT of games and they can play. VanVleet was conference player of the year last year, and Baker is continually talked about as an NBA first rounder. A backcourt with this much talent and winning experience will lead a successful team. I know almost nothing about everyone else, and losing Cleanthony Early will be big. That combo of size/skill/athleticism is tough to replace, especially when you have to compete with teams like those at the top of my ranking.

#19 – UConn

PG – Ryan Boatwright
SG – Rodney Purvis
SG – Omar Calhoun
PF – Phil Nolan
C – Amida Brimah

Bench: Terrance Samuel, Kentan Facey, Daniel Hamilton, Sam Cassell Jr., Rakim Lubin

I’m really excited to see UConn play. Purvis was my co-favorite freshman along with Marcus Smart two years ago – he did 9 and 3 or so at NC St and then transferred, sitting out last year. He’s – like most of my favorite players – a 6-4 combo guard with a complete game. Athletic, can shoot, can handle, looks pretty smooth. I’m excited. And Boatwright is going to have the space this year to be the leader. His game is nice for sure, but he’ll need to figure himself out: two years ago he averaged 17ppg, but dropped to 13ppg last year without the uptick in performance elsewhere. Last year he occasionally looked like he wasn’t sure about his role with Shabazz becoming the stud he became.

Calhoun also needs to get his ish together (funny that I say that about two players from last years’ national title team). He was a top 30 recruit who averaged double figures as a freshman and then completely disappeared last year. I don’t know what to expect from him this year, and he could actually be behind Hamilton or Cassell on the depth chart. Yes, that is ET Part 2. He’s a top Juco transfer who played just a single year of college ball, so he’ll be a sophomore. He can play. Doesn’t remind me of his dad at all, but can really really shoot it (from highlights – lots of bad shots, but making bad shots). Hamilton is Isaac and Jordan’s brother. He’s the youngest of the family, and also was a top top recruit (20ish).

Nolan and Brimah aren’t particularly skilled but both are huge. Brimah in particular will find his way to the NBA. He blocked 92 shots as a skinny freshman last year. He’ll be bigger and better this year (7 footer).

And I have to note how great it is to watch Kevin Ollie coach. I’d play for that guy.

#20 – Michigan

PG – Derrick Walton
SG – Caris LeVert
SG – Zak Irvin
PF – Max Bielfeldt
PF – Mark Donnal

Bench: Spike Albrecht, Kameron Chatman, DJ Wilson, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Aubrey Dawkins, Andrew Dakich, Ricky Doyle

Similar to Wichita State, Michigan has a stellar backcourt and weaknesses elsewhere. Walton was a top 30 recruit last year and looked strong as a freshman. I expect very very big things from him this year. LeVert did 13 and 4 last year and everyone is projecting him to jump into a big time scorer who will be a first round pick after this year. 6-7 long athletic SG who can really shoot. Irvin was a top 20 recruit last year and is obviously a scoring machine. He’ll have a big role this year, and I expect him to do big things.

After that, though, Michigan isn’t too special. There are a couple interesting freshmen (Chatman and Wilson, especially) and several guys with interesting backgrounds (Abdur-Rahkman just for his four names and Dakich and Dawkins for their famous dads: Dan and Johnny).

There are a lot of other interesting teams out there, but not interesting enough for a full map of their roster. Here are highlights, conference by conference.

American Athletic Conference

1. UConn
2. SMU
3. Memphis
4. Cincinnati

SMU: SMU was going to be among the most exciting teams to talk about and watch this year. And then Emmanuel Mudiay got caught up in the Prime Prep mess. The Deion Sanders school (yes, the hoops powerhouse that Deion Sanders basically put together, this is a real thing) is in trouble. But Mudiay is fine – playing in China on a one year $1.2 million contract. But I’m sad. He probably would have been my #1 most anticipated high school player since…Derrick Rose, maybe? But he looked nicer than DRose in high school (smoother, but not as bouncy). Mudiay is a stud, and I can’t see him and Okafor not going 1-2 in the draft. They are head and shoulders above the rest and both are likely can’t miss NBA stars.

So yeah, all that is about the player who DIDN’T end up going to SMU. They do have talent. Justin Martin and Jordan Tolbert are both transfers from major conference schools (Texas Tech and Xavier) who averaged double figures last year, added to entrenched stars Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy. Plus Keith Frazier – top 40 recruit last year – is now a sophomore and should be a third star. They’ve got Luther Head’s little brother (Crandall) and a lot of experienced depth (Ben Moore, Cannen Cunningham, Sterling Brown, and Ryan Manuel all were important contributors last year) to play for Larry Brown. They’ll make the dance and could do some things there. But with Mudiay, they would’ve been in the top 10. Oh well; now Mudiay is just the 76ers dream acquisition (Embiid plus Noel would probably push them to Mudiay over Okafor).

Memphis: They lost a lot – four guys who averaged 8.7 or more ppg. The guys to pay attention to here are Austin Nichols (I expect him to be a big-time performer in the conference this year and a future NBA guy), Nick King, Kuran Iverson, and Shaq Goodwin. All were top recruits, and all have size, skill, and athleticism. Dominic Magee is a top 60 6-3 PG from LA – their top recruit this year. But Nichols, King, Iverson, and Goodwin are the guys who will make this team very interesting (3 sophs and Goodwin is a junior).

Cincinnati: Not particularly interesting other than Shaquille Thomas, who has super bounce. Gary Clark is a top 70 freshman.

Houston: Adam Drexler is a junior here; transferred in from Loyola Marymount. Guess who his dad is. They also have Devonta Pollard coming in as a juco transfer; Pollard was a top recruit a few years back.

Tulane: I haven’t seen them, but they return EVERYONE from last year, including three guards who all averaged at least 13.9 ppg last year. I want to watch.

UCF: He wasn’t super highly rated overall, but BJ Taylor was one of 20 Parade All Americans and is a 6-2 guard who averaged 35 a game as a senior in high school. He’ll probably put up big numbers for UCF sooner than later.

Atlantic Coast Conference

1. Duke
2. North Carolina
3. Virginia
4. Louisville
5. Syracuse
6. NC State
7. Notre Dame
8. Pitt

Boston College: They won’t be good, but they have Olivier Hanlan, a 6-4 guard who is the second leading returning scorer in the conference. He’ll be a junior after averaging 18.5ppg last year.

Miami: They have Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan eligible this year – both played major roles in their past schools (Kansas State and Texas) and will do so again for Miami. JaQuan Newton is a top 50 6-2 PG from Philadelphia.  Led his team to the Catholic League title last year – big time. They also get props for the contributions of sophomore Manu Lecomte (8ppg and 2apg as a freshman last year), who at 5-11, 159 is essentially me.

NC State: Trevor Lacey has been a feature in Alabama’s profile the past few years, and now he’s eligible to play at NC State. He’ll be the starter at the 2; he’s 6-3 and can definitely play. Anthony Barber did 9ppg and 4apg as a big time freshman last year. If he can get a jump shot, he’ll play in the NBA. Good size, elite speed/quickness. I’m looking for a big sophomore season from him. They also bring back Ralston Turner in the backcourt. Nice trio. They have two top 60 freshmen in 6-6 Caleb Martin and 6-8 Abdul-Malik Abu (plus Caleb’s twin Cody).

Notre Dame: Demetrius Jackson and Jerian Grant are easily in the conversation for coolest Notre Dame players ever, and both will be featured on this team. I especially like Jackson, who should do big things as a sophomore this year. They also have Pat Connaughton who did 14ppg, 7rpg, 3apg and shot 38% from three last year.

Pittsburgh: Pitt is always worth watching simply because Jamie Dixon is a good dude who gets the most out of his players. Losing Lamar Patterson and Talib Zanna will be huge, but James Robinson, Michael Young, and Cameron Wright will do big things. Plus, Pitt always has someone unexpected really turn into a quality player. They aren’t nearly at the talent level they’d been the past 5-8 years or so, though.

Wake Forest: Codi Miller-McIntyre can play. After him…sorry Kevin. That’s your boy, though.

Atlantic 10 Conference

1. VCU
2. Dayton

VCU: Shaka’s teams will always be good. This one has a lot of talent too. Treveon Graham will probably be conference player of the year. They have a ton of experiences depth. And Terry Larrier and Mike Gilmore were both top 100 recruits (which is really big time for VCU).

Dayton: They lost a bunch from their strong squad last year, but Jordan Sibert is back and should be a star.

Fordham: Jon Severe is a 6-2 sophomore who averaged 17ppg as a freshman last year. That’s the type who does 25ppg in the years ahead.

George Mason: Just a note – Julian Royal is eligible this year after transferring from Georgia Tech and is expected to be a top newcomer to the conference. He’s the third of the AAU high school teammates from Atlanta who briefly considered going to Northwestern together (Shannon Scott at Ohio State and Dai’Jon Parker at Vanderbilt are the other two). All were top 60 recruits, and none went to Northwestern clearly, but none have also truly panned out. I’ll be interested to see how Royal does for George Mason this year.

St. Louis: They have arguably the best mascot in the nation. I also just learned that their top player last year – and Atlantic 10 conference player of the year – is on my team. Like literally. Jordair Jett plays on my Sunday city league team, and last year he was A10 conference player of the year. He was the best player in the A10 last year. Now he’s the best player on my Sunday city league team. Good for us. Very, very good.

Big East Conference

1. Villanova
2. Georgetown
3. Marquette
4. St. John’s
5. Seton Hall

Butler: It was sad to see them drop so much in the revamped basketball-only Big East last year (which for that reason, makes it my permanent favorite conference).  They do return a bunch of talented, important contributors. Roosevelt Jones, Kellen Dunham, and Kameron Woods are most prominent.

Creighton: The void following Doug McDermott’s departure will be tough to overcome.

Georgetown: They have some talented guys, and I thought they underperformed last year, so maybe I should rank them. I’m biased, of course – D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is the third of my trio of favorite players in the country (with Selden at Kansas and Powell at UCLA, if you missed that before). I LOVE Smith-Rivera. He did 18ppg, 5rpg, and 3apg last year. A 6-3 strong combo guard with a pretty jump shot and, at least through the TV, good person aura. Poor Man’s Randy Foye…who could ask for anything more? I’m a huge fan.

Jabril Trawick is a senior and solid contributor to be a sidekick. They have several interesting freshman: 6-5 LJ Peak, 6-9 Isaac Copeland, 6-8 Paul White. White played with Okafor in high school, and I saw him play in some 5-6 games. I really like him. He’s too skinny right now, but highly polished on office. Pretty jump shot – automatic from 18 and in, plus fluid handles and good passing for his size. I like him. Copeland is ranked even higher. But, of course, they have Josh Smith, which probably will prevent them from being a good team.

Marquette: This is one of the teams I’m most excited to see. They lost a lot, but all the young guys I’m thrilled about should take on big roles. First and foremost is Deonte Burton, who I predicted a giant freshman year for – he gave me 7ppg and 2rpg. Not exactly what I expected, but still in position to blow up this year. And I’ll call it! Jajuan Johnson and Duane Wilson were the other two top 50 freshman recruits last year. Johnson is a scorer who got some run last year, but is a bit skinny and a bit wild. Hopefully he’ll tone it down this year. Duane Wilson had a stress fracture early last year, and ended up redshirting. I’m excited to see him. They also bring in Matt Carlino in the backcourt, a grad transfer from BYU who did 14ppg and 4apg. He’ll actually be the starter at point, but Wilson should get run backing him up. They are very small though. Burton might play the 4 a bunch…which actually will make them even more cool. I have a hard time with Wojo at Marquette. I have a long term affinity for Marquette, and Wojo…I think you all know my friend’s story about meeting him. I’m not a fan. But I still want to see Marquette succeed. They already got a commitment from Henry Ellenson, a top 10 recruit from rural northern Wisconsin, for next year, so Wojo is doing well off the court. We’ll see what happens.

Providence: The gaping absence of Bryce Cotton is second only to the Doug McDermott hole at Creighton.

St. John’s: Steve Lavin has them perpetually on my “interesting” and fun to watch list and perpetually making the NIT with their excellent talent and mediocre playing of basketball. Most of the guys I described last year are still there, a year older and probably not tremendously more mature. D’Angelo Harrison is now a senior and has scored a million billion points (17.5ppg last year, his lowest since his freshman season). Jamal Branch still has smooth, pretty game with no shot. Chris Obekpa is still a shot blocker supreme. Sir’Dominic Pointer is a still a strong role-playing talent. The big thing to watch here is the progression of Rysheed Jordan. He and Anthony Barber at NC State are essentially the same guy in my mind. Hyper-quick, big point guards who, if they improve their jump shots, are strong bets to carve out nice NBA careers. Rysheed Jordan. Watch for him to blow up.

Seton Hall: I’ll continue to watch the progression of Jaren Sina and guiltily hope he’s not great following his departure from NU when Bill Carmody was fired. Interestingly, Chier Ajou joins Sina at the Hall this year after transferring away from NU. I don’t get how these schools are connected, or how two guys left NU (basically) to go to Seton Hall. Anyway, there are two much bigger reasons to watch Seton Hall this year. First, Sterling Gibbs can play. Second, Isaiah Whitehead is a stud freshman. Probably the #2 SG in high school after D’Angelo Russell (Ohio State) and is the best Seton Hall recruit since Eddie Griffin (R.I.P.). Whitehead is a scoring machine who might be Seton Hall’s best player from day one. They also add top 40 forward Michael Nzei. Seton Hall might be back on the map soon.

Xavier: Low expectations as a whole, but I want to see top 40 freshman 6-5 wing Trevon Bluiett.

Big 12

1. Kansas
2. Iowa State
3. Texas
4. Kansas State
5. Baylor
6. Oklahoma
7. Oklahoma State
8. West Virginia

Baylor: Baylor always deserves mention simply because of Scott Drew’s high level recruiting. The Bears lost four key players, but they still return a lot. Kenny Chery, Taurean Prince, Royce O’Neal, and Rico Gathers all were serious contributors last year. Ish Wainwright didn’t do much, but is a big-time talent and I have high expectations of him as a sophomore. Plus he’s 6-5, 245 and really skilled and athletic, which is always interesting. Allerik Freeman was a top 50 type recruit last year who redshirted with an injury last year. He’s a 6-3 combo guard so you know that I’m interested. Lester Medford is a 5-11 guard who was a juco all-american last year (#13 Juco), and Deng Deng has a great name and was the #4 juco recruit last year. Definitely interesting.

Kansas State: Marcus Foster will be a first team All Big 12 player – he did 16 a game last year. They return a bunch of contributors: Jevon Thomas did 3 assists/game as a freshman, Nino Williams did 6 and 4, Wesley Iwundu did 7 and 4 as a freshman last year, and Thomas Gipson did 12 and 7. They also add 6-4 Maine transfer Justin Edwards who did 15, 5, and 3 and supposedly has a 46 inch vertical. Much fun.

Oklahoma: A lot of preseason publications are higher on the Sooners than I am. Admittedly, I didn’t see a lot of them last year, but I ‘ve not seen enough to make them a top 20 team like some are. They lost two important contributors (one very important), but bring back quite a bit from a 23-win team. Most important is Buddy Hield, a 6-4 scorer who did 17 and 4 last year. This is a young team that will probably peak next year.

Oklahoma State: The Marcus Smart drama from last year is gone, and the Cowboys will definitely be worse, but they’re still talented. Somehow Le’Bryan Nash is still there and has become a more and more effective and efficient player. He still might carve an NBA niche for himself. Phil Forte might be the best shooter in college basketball. Or the world. Lights out. Michael Cobbins is back after his torn Achilles last year (they really could have used him last year). They also add Anthony Hickey who was a three-year starter at LSU who put up decent numbers.

TCU: They weren’t good last year, but they bring back Kyan Anderson who did 17ppg and 5apg last year and Karviar Shepherd who was a top 50 recruit last year and did 9 and 7 as a 6-10 freshman. They also add Trey Zeigler, who was great at Central Michigan (15ppg) but then didn’t do much at Pitt. Third school for his senior year.

West Virginia: Juwan Staten is one of the best players in the nation. 6-1 guard who averaged 18ppg, 6rpg, and 6apg. Great player, but he’ll need some help. Devin Williams is a 6-9, 255 sophomore who did 8 and 7 as a freshman. And get this: they have a juco transfer named BillyDee Williams. Truth. I’m a fan.

Big Ten

1. Wisconsin
2. Ohio State
3. Iowa
4. Michigan
5. Minnesota
6. Nebraska
7. Michigan State
8. Illinois
9. Maryland
10. Indiana
11. Northwestern

Illinois: They bring back quite a bit from a 20-win team. Rayvonte Rice did 16 and 6 last year. He’ll be a first team All Big Ten player. Ahmad Starks, Nnanna Egwu, and Kendrick Nunn are all interesting returning pieces as well. I’m expecting big things out of Nunn, who played high school ball at Simeon with Jabari Parker and will be a sophomore this year. Tracy Abrams would have been a big boost, but he tore his ACL and will be out for the year.

Indiana: Indiana gets cooler and cooler every year. Well, it’s mostly Yogi Ferrell, who was a total stud last year (17ppg and 4apg as a sophomore). Could be Big Ten player of the year. Indiana also has a trio of hyper athletic wing players: sophomores Troy Williams and Stanford Robinson and top 20 freshman James Blackmon Jr, who’s a legit scorer. If Vonleh had come back, this would be a top 20 team, but as is, their frontcourt is weak.

Maryland: The Terps are in the Big Ten. Robert Carter (top 40 recruit, transfer from Georgia Tech), Jake Layman (6-8 wing), Dez Wells, and Evan Smotrycz all have averaged double figures in major college basketball. They also add three top 100 recruits: Melo Trimble (6-2 guard), Dion Wiley (6-4 guard), and Jared Nickens (6-6 wing). They will surprise some people in their first year in the Big Ten.

Michigan State: They’re notable in that this is the worst Michigan State team in my lifetime. I haven’t actually checked on it, but this team really lacks talent in a way that never happens in East Lansing. Brandon Dawson is a beast and could easily play his way into the NBA draft’s first round, but he hasn’t really shown tremendous skill thus far. And the rest of the team? Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine have experience, but neither is in my mind a strong Big Ten starter. And they don’t have much coming in; two four-star guys, but their impact this year isn’t likely to be large (Lourawis Nairn and Javon Bess). Izzo will make the most of what he’s got, but I’d rather have Northwestern’s roster than the Spartans’, and that’s not something I could have ever imagined. Next year they have a top 15 PF coming in and another top 100 recruit, so they’ll be back.

Minnesota: The Gophers return a lot. Andre Hollins and Deander Matheiu is a talented and experienced backcourt. Maurice Walker, Joey King, and Elliot Eliason are big, talented, and experienced. Lil Pitino’s recruiting has been underwhelming so far (and Minnesota had BIG TIME talent last year – three top 20 recruits who went to Duke, Stanford, and UNLV), but a little winning could change that. They’ll be a top Big Ten team, though, because of how much they return. I’ll be going to games.

Nebraska: This was a hugely surprising team last year, and Terran Petteway was the biggest reason. He averaged 18ppg and 5rpg last year and is only a junior this year. Shavon Shields and Walter Pitchford are also juniors with size and skill. They went 11-7 in conference last year and return a lot more than they lost. Tim Miles will get some serious national attention as an exceptional coach this year.

Northwestern: We got a couple big wins last year with Coach Collins, but this is the really interesting year, as Collins’ own recruits – the most highly rated recruits in NU history – take the floor. Check them out: Vic Law (top 70), Bryant McIntosh (120ish), and Johnnie Vassar (not ranked highly, but watch the video). Gavin Skelly and Scottie Lindsey have decent reputations as well. They do return Tre Demps, JerShon Cobb, and Alex Olah too. I like Nate Taphorn’s potential. And I need to mention Dave Sobolewski, who has been a three-year starter, but might hardly see the floor this year, which is kind of sad. Anyway, we can’t set expectations too high, but I’ll be watching NU with interest.

Penn State: DJ Newbill alone makes them worth watching – 6-4 SG who did 18 and 5 last year. He’s a senior now and will run the show.

Purdue: AJ Hammons is a junior, and he will get drafted whenever he comes out. Not a star, but he’s 7-0, 250 and did 11 and 7 last year. But, they lost a lot and I expect them to be not so good. Notable though is that Isaac Haas is a top 50 freshman who is 7-2, 285. They could go giant if they want. But they won’t be good. At all.

Rutgers: I don’t expect them to be good – it would take a big jump from last year’s performance. Myles Mack and Kadeem Jack both deserve mention though. Both are seniors, and Mack did 15ppg and 4apg and Jack did 14ppg and 7rpg.

Conference USA

I’m not actually going to break down any teams here. I just want to show my years and pine for the days of Conference USA when it was on par with the major conferences. The conference now includes Western Kentucky, Middle Tennessee St, North Texas, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, UT San Antonio…calling it a shell of what it used to be is an understatement. I will say that UAB picked up a recruit – William Lee – who has been ranked as high as 26, which makes him a marquee stud for the team and the conference.

Mountain West

1. San Diego State

San Diego State: Xavier Thames is a big loss, as is Josh Davis, but they return everyone else. Winston Shepherd is probably the next star. They also have maybe their best recruiting class yet. Three top 100 recruits (Malik Pope, Trey Kell, and Zylan Cheatham) join, although Pope’s health is questionable after a broken leg last year. JJ O’Brien, Matt Shrigley, Aqeel Quinn, Dwayne Polee, and Skylar Spencer all offered positive contributions last year. SD St might be the best team I didn’t rank (or I could just make them #21 – done).

Boise State: I just want to highlight that Chandler Hutchinson is a 6-7 guard who is a top 60 recruit and thereby is the highest rated recruit in Boise State history. Guys like this are usually monsters at non-power conference schools.

UNLV: Rashad Vaughn is one of those top 20 freshmen from Minnesota who didn’t attend. Instead, he’ll be the featured weapon in UNLV’s offense from day one and could easily be a first round draft pick after one year. He’s a 6-6 SG who went to the same high school as my cousin Christy and is seen as an essentially sure-fire pro. Goodluck Okonoboh and Dwayne Morgan are top 60 recruits joining. If Vaughn hangs around, this team will be ready to win as soon as next year. All three freshmen are expected to start this year.

Pac 12

1. Arizona
3. Colorado
4. Utah
5. Stanford
6. California
7. Oregon
8. Washington

California: I love that Cuonzo Martin is the coach. So good. But they have some talent retuning as well: Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews, Jabari Bird, and David Kravish are all legit – Bird is expected to be a star (top 20 recruit last year). They also have a 7-1 freshman from England named Kingsley (first name). Awesome.

Colorado: Losing Spencer Dinwiddie to the NBA hurts, but he’s the only loss from a 23-win team. Askia Booker is a senior. Wesley Gordon is a soph who did 6ppg, 6rpg, and 1.3bpg last year. Xavier Johnson and Josh Scott both are talented, big, and athletic. They also bring in Dominique Collier, a top 50 6-3 guard who is the two-time Colorado Mr. Basketball. He’ll do his best Dinwiddie impression (I hope he grows the ‘stache). They’re my #22 after San Diego St.

Oregon: Joseph Young is my #4 favorite player in the country. He did 19 and 3 in his first year in Eugene after transferring from Houston. JaQuan Lyle is a top 50 type recruit who will help. However, they lost a ton – via sexual assault…nice job Ducks. But three big players got kicked off the team, rightfully so. I’ll watch them just to see Young, but I don’t have high expectations as a whole.

Oregon State: Gary Payton II is a juco transfer expected to start at his pop’s alma mater. Otherwise, not much notable here.

Stanford: Chasson Randle is back , as is Anthony Brown, two great starting pieces. Rosco Allen is now a junior and was a big time recruit two years ago, but was hurt all of last year. He could help out in the frontcourt. Reid Travis is the other top 30 recruit from Minnesota who didn’t go to Minnesota. But in truth, a guy who is from Minneapolis and goes to Stanford really should go to Northwestern if he doesn’t go to Minnesota. If Allen and Travis step up, this could be a top 25 team.

Utah: The Utes won 21 games last year – not bad. They also bring back Delon Wright (Dorrell’s little brother), who I’ll forgive for picking #55 for his jersey because he’s good. 6-5 (and skinny) and did 16ppg and 8rpg last year. He’ll be an award winner in the Pac 12 this year. In addition Jordan Loveridge (15ppg 7rpg) and Brandon Taylor (11ppg, 3 apg) return along with a few experienced bigs. I think Utah will be one of the best teams in the Pac 12 this year. They also bring in Brekkott Chapman, who was a top 50 overall recruit – very big time for Utah. Definitely an interesting Utah squad.

Washington: They were one of my sleeper teams last year. And with their 9-9 finish in conference, they kind of lived up to it. But 17-15 overall? Not so much. The big reason for my prediction still remains – Nigel Williams-Goss. He’ll be a sophomore this year and still is under the radar even though I think he’s a sure-fire NBA PG. He’s a good (not great) athlete with size, a good shot, and most importantly, wisdom. He’s a smart player and a great leader. I’m a big big fan. Can I pick them for a sleeper team two years in a row? It’ll be tough because they lost CJ Wilcox who did 18ppg last year on his way to a first round NBA selection.

Southeastern Conference

1. Kentucky
2. Florida
3. Arkansas
4. LSU
5. Georgia

Alabama: They weren’t good last year and lost their best player, but they have a top 50 freshman who happens to be 5-11, 160, which means he can play and will be fun to watch.

Arkansas: Watch the 30 for 30 documentary on Nolan Richardson, and you’ll be a Mike Anderson fan. Count me in their number, and it’s such a cool story that Anderson is now the Razorbacks’ head coach. They also should be good this year, and you can bet I’ll be pulling for them to take out the likes of Florida and Kentucky. They won 22 games last year and return most of the key pieces. Ky Madden (13ppg, 3apg), Michael Qualls (12ppg, 5rpg), and especially Bobby Portis (12ppg, 7rpg) should make for a great season for Arkansas. Watch Portis – he’s a 6-10, 240 sophomore who was a top 15 recruit and probably will play his way into the NBA’s first round this year.

Auburn: Bruce Pearl will be in his second year coaching at Auburn, and he’ll have some interesting pieces available. KT Harrell was a top 50 recruit back in the day and he’s now a senior after averaging 18ppg and 4rpg last year. They also added Antoine Mason, a 6-3 guard who transferred in from Niagara and is the leading returning scorer in the nation – he averaged 25.6ppg there. Not bad.

Georgia: I don’t know a tremendous amount about them, but they won 20 games and made the NIT and return almost everyone. Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann run the show from the backcourt, but they’ve got depth in the frontcourt as well.

LSU: They have a couple frontcourt studs – both of whom will get NBA looks – in Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey, both big, skilled, athletic sophomores. Their top recruit is a 7-1, 290 pound freshman. Much fun. They also brought in a top juco PG named Josh Gray. PG is a loose definition; while he averaged 6apg, he also averaged 35ppg. Haha. Much much fun. The real fun will begin next year, though…provided that Mickey and Martin hang around. Ben Simmons, arguably the #1 recruit in the country for the class of 2016 is heading to LSU.

South Carolina: They really struggled last year, but there are two really notable pieces here. Frank Martin coaching and Sindarius Thornwell, who did 13ppg, 4rpg, and 3apg as a 6-5 freshman. He’ll be one of the best players in the SEC this year and could have an NBA future.

Tennessee: The Vols lost almost everyone, but they have Josh Richardson back for his senior year (6-6 guard who did 10ppg last year) but the interesting piece is Robert Hubbs III, another 6-6 guard who was a top 30 recruit two years ago but was hurt most of last year. Eyes open.

Texas A&M: Avery Johnson is a freshman here. Yes, Avery Johnson, Jr. I wonder if he has an abnormally high-pitched voice.

Vanderbilt: I’m just watching this final year of Dai-Jon Parker’s career. Vanderbilt needs him to do more than he’s done, but it looks like NU missing on him wasn’t that big of a miss.


Harvard: For as underwhelming as he was with the Michigan program, Tommy Amaker has done wonders with Harvard. They won 27 games last year and lost 3 serious contributors, but bring back their three leading scorers, including probable conference player of the year Wesley Saunders (6-5 wing who did 14ppg, 5rpg, and 4apg) and PG Siyani Chambers who is their all-around leader. They should dominate the Ivy League again and be in position for a tournament run.

BYU: Check out Tyler Haws, a 6-5 senior guard who averaged 23ppg last year. A true gunner and pretty entertaining. I’m pretty sure they have a couple serious studs coming back from missions in the next year or two, but I’m not sure. Anyway, they’ll be solid this year, but probably not much more.

Pepperdine: Lamond Murray Jr. is a sophomore J.

UC Irvine: Mamadou Ndiaye is a 7-6 sophomore who’s actually pretty decent. He averaged 8ppg, 6rpg, and 3bpg as a freshman. He’ll get some highlights this year, and likely play his way to the NBA, although probably not this year.

Way too early 2015 NBA Draft projection

1. Jahlil Okafor, Duke
2. Emmanuel Mudiay, China
3. Myles Turner, Texas
4. Stanley Johnson, Arizona
5. Wayne Selden, Kansas
6. Karl Anthony Towns, Kentucky
7. Kelly Oubre, Kansas
8. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Arizona
9. Brice Johnson, North Carolina
10. Cliff Alexander, Kansas
11. Marcus Paige, North Carolina
12. Chris Walker, Florida
13. Kevin Looney, UCLA
14. Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
15. Montrezl Harrell, Louisville
16. Norman Powell, UCLA
17. Nigel Williams-Goss, Washington
18. Bobby Portis, Arkansas
19. Rashad Vaughn, UNLV
20. Caris Levert, Michigan
21. Frank Kaminsky, Wisconsin
22. Brandon Dawson, Michigan State
23. Kasey Hill, Florida
24. Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona
25. Andrew Harrison, Kentucky
26. Sam Dekker, Wisconsin
27. Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina
28. Delon Wright, Utah
29. Aaron Harrison, Kentucky
30. Alex Poythress, Kentucky
31. Le’Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State

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