They just so happen to be the best team — well, at least the No. 1 team — in the country.
The title of the second best team in the ACC has been up for grabs, however.
Entering the season, the trendy pick to win the league was NC State, and based on the way that they’ve played of late, that’s still a possibility. Lorenzo Brown has played better of late, Scott Wood finally looked like a dangerous shooter against Stanford, TJ Warren has been a beast and Richard Howell is a double-double machine. But the bad news? Brown has been anything but consistent, CJ Leslie — the Wolfpack’s most talented player — has been their third best front court player, Tyler Lewis doesn’t appear ready to play at the ACC level and the team only goes seven deep.
North Carolina looks like they could end up being even more of a stretch. If the beatdown they took at the hands of Indiana wasn’t enough to convince, the fact that they’ve given up 55 points in a half to UAB and 61 points in a half to East Carolina should be a major cause for concern. (For comparison’s sake, UNC gave up a combined 116 points in those two halves while Georgetown gave up a total of 113 points in three straight wins over Tennessee, Texas and Towson.)
Florida State hasn’t been all that impressive. Maryland’s Alex Len has been sensational and Dez Wells has had a couple of really impressive performances, but until Maryland’s back court play gets more consistent, it will be tough to take the Terps seriously as much more than a tournament team.
That leaves us with Miami, who has won five straight games since they have gotten Durand Scott back into the lineup. Those five wins? At home against Detroit, at home against Michigan State, at UMass, at home against previously undefeated Charlotte (by 31) and, on Tuesday night, by 22 points at Conference USA contender UCF.
Could Miami be the second best team in the ACC?
Well, they have a front line big enough to compete with anyone in the league. Reggie Johnson is a double-double machine that happens to double as a rhino on the block with three-point range. Kenny Kadji is the perfect kind of stretch four that can provide some space for Johnson inside. Shane Larkin might be the most underrated point guard in the country, as he’s averaging 15.9 points, 3.9 assists and shooting 51.9% from three this season. Throw in Durand Scott (who is playing the best basketball of his career), Trey McKinney Jones, Rion Brown and Julian Gamble, and Miami has a balanced attack that features five players averaging double figures.
Miami picked the right season to peak. With the rest of the ACC down, Jim Laranaga has enough talent to make a push to be the second best team in the league.
The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs.
On Tuesday afternoon, Jeff Borzello of ESPN.com turned himself into persona non grata in the Bluegrass State as he penned a column that ranked Kentucky as college basketball’s biggest underachiever over the course of the last four seasons.
Full disclosure: He has text messages from me telling him to rank Kentucky first on that list. Part of that is because I enjoy seeing Borzello’s mentions get bombarded with hate from Big Blue Nation. There’s nothing I love more than being able to quote poet laureate DJ Khaled when talking with him: “Congratulations! You played yourself.”
But … I also kind of think that he’s got a point. At the very least, I can put together a pretty convincing argument saying as much.
Look at it from a year-by-year perspective:
In 2013, the Wildcats were the reigning national champions having landed the nation’s No. 1 recruiting class headlined by the nation’s No. 1 recruit, Nerlens Noel. There are a myriad of reasons why the season went the way it did — Ryan Harrow was a headcase, Noel tore his ACL, the pieces were never going to fit together — but the Wildcats ended up in the NIT. There’s no way around it: that season was an utter disappointment.
The following year was the first time that the “Kentucky 40-0” train kicked into motion. The Wildcats landed five five-stars recruits — Julius Randle, the Harrison twins, etc. — and proceeded to flop their way all the way to 10 regular season losses and an eight-seed in the NCAA tournament. They got hot in the tournament and played their way to the national title game, but I’d we have to consider that season “underachieving”. The regular season still matters, doesn’t it?
In 2015, they won their first 38 games. They were the best team I’ve seen since I’ve been in this business. But they lost in the Final Four to Wisconsin. If you’re one of the people that says 2014’s postseason run wipes away their regular season struggles, shouldn’t you consider 2015 a failure because an undefeated team didn’t, you know, stay undefeated? For the sake of this argument, you can’t have it both ways. Either the regular season matters or NCAA tournament results are the be-all and end-all.
This past season, the Wildcats were a preseason top five team and ended the year as a No. 4 seed that couldn’t get out of the first weekend of the tournament. Again, there are reasons for it — Skal Labissiere’s struggles being the main culprit — but based on all of our preseason expectations, Kentucky underachieved.
In total, they’ve won one SEC regular season title outright, a share of another SEC regular season title, two SEC tournament titles and reached two Final Fours while missing one tournament outright.
Now, reasonable minds can disagree here, and trust me, I understand the absurdity in labeling a team that’s put together that résumé as an underachiever, but I just cannot see how anyone makes the argument that they have lived up to expectations since winning the 2012 national title.
Because the key word there is “expectations”.
Success in sports — hell, success in life in general — is all relative. Chris Beard got two different high major jobs this spring because he made it to the second round of the NCAA tournament in his first year at Arkansas-Little Rock. There are people that think Bill Self is overrated as a head coach because he’s only been able to get to two Final Fours and win one national title while spending the last dozen years as the reigning Big 12 regular season champion.
And what John Calipari did with that 2012 title is turn his program into college basketball’s ultimate pressure cooker.
That title changed the way that college basketball works at the highest level. Once Coach Cal proved that it was possible to win a ring by starting over with a new crop of freshmen every year, the idea that he needed time to work through the kinks of building a team around a bunch of 19-year-olds became obsolete. If he could do it with that group, what’s stopping him from doing it this year?
The fact that the title came in the middle of a five-year run where the Wildcats reached four Final Fours set a baseline standard for what is expected out of his Kentucky teams. Anything short of playing during the season’s final weekend is a disappointment in the eyes of the media and anything short of inching closer to UCLA’s record 11 national titles means that the season was a wash in the eyes of many Kentucky fans.
When greatness is the baseline, anything short of that feels like an underachievement, even if “underachieving” is now making it to the Final Four as an eight-seed or winning a share of the SEC title while exiting in the first weekend of the tournament.
And that, 750 words later, brings me to my larger point: Might we be setting ourselves up for something similar with this iteration of the Wildcats?
To be clear, we have Kentucky sitting at No. 2 in our Preseason Top 25, in front of Kansas, reigning champions Villanova and an Oregon team who essentially brings back everyone from a top-five, Pac-12 champ. And keep in mind that the SEC should be — how can I say this diplomatically? — rebuilding next year. Even if Kentucky is overrated, their record come March is going to look good.
But it’s still pretty easy to look at this roster and see where the flaws lie.
For starters, their back court, while talented, essentially features three guys who want the ball in their hands in De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Isaiah Briscoe. Furthermore, Briscoe’s perimeter shooting was a major liability during his freshman season, and Fox likely won’t be all that much better. Monk, the only one of these three that can really be considered an off-guard, is a wildly entertaining player whose strength is slashing to the rim and playing in transition. As a shooter, he’s quite inconsistent. He might hit six threes in a row. He might then make four of his next 30. That’s not an exaggeration.
The problem, then, is that those are the only three guards on the roster that should see any playing time. Mychal Mulder has the reputation of being a shooter, but if he’s playing 20 minutes a game for the Wildcats next season that’s a red flag.
The key to last year’s Kentucky team ended up being the emergence of Derek Willis, who came out of nowhere midway through SEC play to shooting 44.2 percent from three. But he did that playing primarily at the four, which worked because Kentucky’s front court was not as talented last season as it will be this season and because Jamal Murray was in the lineup. That gave Kentucky two shooters to spread the floor for Tyler Ulis — and, at times, Briscoe — to penetrate.
What happens next season? Will Willis see minutes at the four over the likes of Wenyen Gabriel and Sacha Killeya-Jones? Is he quick enough to play major minutes at the three?
And that leads me to my next point: Just how good is Kentucky’s front court? They have a lot of bodies — they have six scholarship big men even with Marcus Lee transferring — but how many of them are impact players? Bam Adebayo certainly is, but if he’s on the floor, can Kentucky play Tai Wynyard or Isaac Humphries, two Land Warriors whose usefulness disappears when they’re more than eight feet from the rim? Gabriel and Killeya-Jones are both promising prospects, but at this point, are they more prospect than player? Killeya-Jones is. Gabriel will likely have a bigger impact as a freshman, but he’s also a 210 pound power forward that is capable of making threes as opposed to being a shooter with three point range; there’s a big difference.
Kentucky is loaded with talent and has a roster full of kids with tremendous long-term potential, but that doesn’t guarantee that all of those pieces are going to fit together perfectly in their one year in Lexington.
That’s something that Kentucky’s 2012 team and Duke’s 2015 team have made us forget.
Sometimes, stockpiling freshmen creates super-teams that can dominate all year long and win a national title. Sometimes, even with Hall of Fame head coaches leading the way, the team as a whole isn’t a good as the sum of the parts.
Whether or not those teams are successful depends totally on context and expectations, and when the expectation is for a team to be the best in the country, league titles and Sweet 16 trips are disappointing. It’s a natural by-product of preseason prognostication, and it’s something that the Wildcats could end up falling victim to again this season.
Just keep this in mind: The fact that Kentucky’s most recent four-year run can be called an underachievement tells you more about the state of that program than anything else will.
Looking Forward: The new names to know for the 2016-17 season
The NBA Draft’s Early Entry Deadline has come and gone. Just about every elite recruit has decided where they will be playing their college ball next season. The coaching carousel, which ended up spinning a bit faster than initially expected, has come to a close for all of the major programs.
Harry Giles, Frank Jackson, Marques Bolden and Jayson Tatum, Duke – Just like we’ve seen so many times over the past few years, Duke and Kentucky own the top two recruiting classes entering the 2016-17 season. The Blue Devils’ latest haul is led by four, five-star prospects, headlined by the 6-foot-10 Giles, who could be the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft if he’s fully healthy and shows the explosiveness he had as a double-double machine in high school. But he is coming off of an ACL injury that cost him his senior season and Giles never got through two consecutive seasons of high school basketball. Health is his key.
The 6-foot-8 Tatum is a smooth wing who is immensely skilled in the mid-range and polished in many facets of the game. He’s the next in a long line of recent Duke wings who left for the NBA after a year in Durham. The 6-foot-3 Jackson will be asked to handle point guard responsibilities after the departure of Derryck Thornton Jr., so he might be the most important player in this class for next season. The Lone Peak High School product is an athletic two-way guard who can also space the floor and should be ready from the get-go. The late addition of the 6-foot-10 Bolden gives the Blue Devils another rim protector and a classic back-to-the-basket scorer who can operate on both blocks with both hands. This class is ridiculous — potentially the best Coach K has ever had — and given the return of veterans like Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones and Luke Kennard, Duke is the easy choice for preseason No. 1.
De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo and Wenyen Gabriel, Kentucky
Duke’s group only slightly outclasses John Calipari’s latest group and the Wildcats boast arguably the best backcourt in the country in a pair of freshmen. The 6-foot-3 Fox is the best two-way guard in the class as he’s a menace on defense and an athletic freak who is impossible to stop in transition. The lefty is a consistent perimeter jumper away from being a major force. SEC football fans might remember former Arkansas wide receiver Marcus Monk and his little brother, Malik Monk, will slide in as a starting guard in Lexington next season. The 6-foot-4 Malik is an explosive scorer who can play well above the rim or extend the floor with deep range on his jumper. He’s a streaky player at times, but he’s capable of huge scoring nights.
The 6-foot-9 Adebayo is a powerful presence around the basket who looks to tear down the rim on dunks and gobbles up rebounds on the glass. His raw power and physical presence should be a big help for Kentucky on the interior. The 6-foot-9 Gabriel might be the key for next season’s success for this team. Gabriel told NBCSports.com at the Nike Hoop Summit that Calipari wants him to play on the wing next season, which is an interesting development since Gabriel was a post player throughout high school. Gabriel’s transition to the wing is possible — he’s a quick defender who can also extend his range — but he’s still never played the position before.
Josh Jackson, Kansas: The Jayhawks might not have the depth that Duke and Kentucky have, but the might have landed the ultimate prize in the 6-foot-7 Jackson. An ultra-athletic and competitive wing, Jackson is a well-rounded player who can score, defend, rebound, handle and pass. Like Giles and Tatum, Jackson has already won multiple gold medals with USA Basketball in international competitions and he’s a seasoned vet compared to your typical college freshmen. Throwing him into a Kansas lineup that returns a lot of talent and experience puts the Jayhawks firmly back in the driver’s seat in the Big 12 race.
Lonzo Ball, UCLA: Do yourself a favor and stay up late to watch this 6-foot-5 point guard play as much as you can this season because Ball has a special basketball IQ and court presence. Possessing outrageous vision and a great all-around feel for the game, Ball can find teammates for easy buckets and is perhaps the best outlet passer that’s joined college hoops in the last few seasons. Also a good rebounder at guard, Ball has a funky-looking release on his jumper, but it’s been going down during his whole career to this point. The big thing to watch is how Ball co-exists with Bryce Alford and UCLA’s other returning backcourt pieces.
Markelle Fultz, Washington: It’s crazy to think that the 6-foot-5 Fultz might be better than all of the players already mentioned on this list. After a monster spring on the high school all-star circuit, Fultz is the No. 2 prospect in the Draft Express 2017 mock draft — and for good reason. A wizard handling the ball, Fultz has shown killer instincts as a scorer and he’s also started to show some D’Angelo Russell-like vision when it comes to making passes that thread the needle. The Huskies are going to need Fultz to come in and be very productive after losing Dejounte Murray and Marquese Chriss, but he’s capable of having a huge year.
Dennis Smith and Omer Yurtseven, N.C. State: This could be the best inside-outside duo of freshmen in the country as the explosive 6-foot-3 Smith will run a lot of high ball screens with the Turkish 7-footer. Although he’s coming off of a torn ACL that prevented him from playing last season, Smith has already spent the spring semester at school rehabbing and getting to know the team. A great athlete who is good in ball screen situations, Smith will be a very tough cover for ACC point guards. Yurtseven hasn’t played the American game yet, but he’s a skilled center who projects as a potential one-and-done first-round pick. A skilled scorer who can also rebound, Yurtseven would have been a top-15 prospect in this loaded Class of 2016 had he played his high school ball in America.
Jonathan Isaac, Florida State: The latest jumbo wing to keep an eye on is the 6-foot-10 Isaac. Because of his size on the perimeter, Isaac can shoot over the top of smaller defenders with his smooth jumper or attack the basket with his improving handle. Isaac can also rebound in traffic at rim level and is a capable defender of multiple spots on the floor thanks to his length and athleticism. Florida State had a lot of perimeter talent that didn’t fit well together last season, but Isaac doesn’t need the ball in his hands at all times to impact a game. He could be a better fit for the Seminoles than Malik Beasley was. The question becomes whether Florida State puts Isaac at the three with a huge lineup, or opts to put more speed and skill on the floor with Isaac as a four.
Miles Bridges, Michigan State: Tom Izzo has one of his best recruiting classes ever at Michigan State and it’s headlined by the 6-foot-6 Bridges. Already at 225 pounds, Bridges is a big and strong wing who can play multiple spots on the floor. Because he can rebound, play on the perimeter or also score inside, Bridges could play a number of different positions in East Lansing next season as he could be a matchup nightmare in the Big Ten.
Terrance Ferguson, Rawle Alkins, Kobi Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, Arizona
This will be the most fascinating freshman class to watch play together because of the perimeter talent displayed by this group. The 6-foot-6 Ferguson is a smooth perimeter shooter who is also one of the best dunkers to enter college hoops in the last few years. The 6-foot-4 Alkins brings his rugged New York toughness to the Pac-12 as he’s tough to check attacking the basket and is also getting better as a distributor. A blur in the open floor, the 6-foot-5 Simmons is one of the fastest players in the country, but he’s also very wild at times. Markkanen, the Finnish 6-foot-10 big man, might be the most talented player in this group, but he hasn’t played against American competition very much and it remains to be seen how he’ll translate. The big key for this group will be sharing the ball. Alkins and Simmons can both get tunnel vision when it comes to attacking the basket and there isn’t a natural distributor among this group.
Omari Spellman, Villanova: The defending champs lost Daniel Ochefu in the middle, but they return most of the rest of the team (minus Ryan Arcidiacono) and gain this skilled five-star big man. The 6-foot-9 Spellman is a ton to handle on the inside around 280 pounds and he’s skilled as a scorer and rebounder. If Spellman can step in and produce, Villanova will be a major contender again next season.
Mustapha Heron, Auburn: Bruce Pearl has landed some solid recruits during his Auburn tenure, but the 6-foot-5 Heron is his signature signee. A powerful wing who is very tough to stop on the drive, Heron is the type of scorer who can come in and produce right away.
Andrew Jones, Texas: Texas landed itself a late-blooming guard in Jones, as he’s a talented scorer who can also play a little bit on the ball. With the Longhorns losing so many players to graduation this offseason, Jones is going to be asked to come in and play right away and he’ll be fun to watch with returning players like Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis.
Zach Collins, Gonzaga: The Zags might have one of the best rotation of big men in the country next season with the addition of this McDonald’s All-American. The 6-foot-11 Collins is a tough interior presence who should be able to immediately make an impact in the WCC next season.
Jarrett Allen, ???: We’re not sure where he’ll end up yet, but keep an eye out for the decision of 6-foot-10 big man Jarrett Allen. The native of Texas is still considering Houston, Kansas and Texas and many believe the Longhorns are the favorite. Regardless of where he ends up, Allen is an impact big man and potential one-and-done prospect who can defend the rim or score inside.
The deadline has come and gone, meaning outside of a few highly-regarded freshmen, we now know what the rosters for just about every team in the country is going to look like this season.
So without further ado, here is the official — and, hopefully, final — NBCSports.com Preseason Top 25:
Returning: Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Matt Jones, Amile Jefferson, Chase Jeter
Newcomers: Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson, Javin DeLaurier, Marques Bolden
Why they’re here: With Grayson Allen returning to school, Duke should be the consensus No. 1 team in the country. Allen and Kennard will fit perfectly on the perimeter with Jackson and Tatum while Jefferson will slide in nicely alongside Giles, giving Coach K what may be the most explosive offensive team that he’s ever coached. The x-factor here is, obviously, the health of Giles’ knees. He’s now had both knees surgically repaired and will have not played basketball for a year by the time Duke’s season kicks off.
Returning: Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins, Isaac Humphries, Isaiah Briscoe
Newcomers: De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Tai Wynyard
Why they’re here: Kentucky is No. 2 — more like No. 1b — because we were concerned about where they would get perimeter shooting from to space the floor. Fox, Monk and Adebayo will let Coach Cal return to his dribble-drive motion past, but the question is just how good of a shooter Gabriel and Killeya-Jones will be at the four and whether or not Willis can slide in and play small forward for a team at this level.
Returning: Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham, Svi Mykhailiuk, Carlton Bragg, Landen Lucas, Lagerald Vick
Why they’re here: That back court of Mason and Graham will be bolstered by Jackson, a supremely talented recruit that has the dog in him to fit in well with that group. If Svi and Bragg can take a step forward, Lucas, Azubuike and Lightfoot should be able to handle the pivot for a team that will be the favorite to win the Big 12.
Returning: Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, Mikal Bridges. Newcomers: Eric Paschall, Dylan Painter, Omari Spellman
Why they’re here: Losing Ryan Arcidiacono’s leadership is really going to hurt these Wildcats, but Brunson should be able to step into those shoes and have a major impact as the primary ball-handler immediately. Getting Hart back for his senior season is the difference-maker here, as the trio of Hart, Jenkins and Bridges will be a nightmare for anyone to deal with.
Returning: Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey, Chris Boucher, Jordan Bell, Casey Benson
Newcomers: Dylan Ennis*, M.J. Cage, Keith Smith, Payton Pritchard, Kavell Bigby Williams
Why they’re here: The Ducks were one of the best teams in this country this past season and not only will they return the majority of their key pieces, but they add Villanova transfer Ennis and a solid three-man recruiting class. The key is going to be whether or not Brooks opts to return to school for his junior season.
6. Michigan State
Returning: Eron Harris, Gavin Schilling, Matt McQuaid, Tum Tum Nairn
Newcomers: Miles Bridges, Joshua Langford, Cassius Winston, Nick Ward, Ben Carter
Why they’re here: The Spartans lose a ton — Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes, Matt Costello — but they also add a ton, bringing in a class headlined by Miles Bridges that is as talented as any that Tom Izzo has brought in in recent years. Their ceiling is high, but the question that needs to be answered is just how well they fit together and just how effective Winston and Nairn will be running the point.
Returning: London Perrantes, Isaiah Wilkins, Devon Hall, Marial Shayok, Darius Thompson, Jarred Rueter
Newcomers: Austin Nichols, Kyle Guy, Jay Huff, Mamade Diakite, DeAndre Hunter, Ty Jerome
Why they’re here: Losing Anthony Gill and Malcolm Brogdon is a tough blow to overcome, but the Cavaliers now have a program that can survive personnel losses like that. Nichols will shine in that system, and we’re expecting one of Perrrantes, Hall, Shayok or Thompson to take a step forward offensively.
8. North Carolina
Returning: Joel Berry II, Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Nate Britt, Theo Pinson, Kenny Williams
Newcomers: Tony Bradley, Brandon Robinson, Seventh Woods
Why they’re here: Assuming that the Tar Heels get the guys back that they’re supposed to get back, they should actually have a better team next season than some may realize. Might they actually be able to repeat as ACC regular season champions?
Newcomers: Ray Smith, Rawle Alkins, Terrence Ferguson, Lauri Markkanen, Kobi Simmons
Why they’re here: There are some very valid questions about how Arizona’s roster is going to fit together next season. With Trier, Alkins, Ferguson and Simmons all on the roster, will there be enough shots to go around? I’ll trust Sean Miller to get the most out of these guys, but there’s a chance that this No. 9 ranking could end up looking silly next March.
Returning: Quentin Snider, Donovan Mitchell, Mangok Mathiang, Ray Spalding, Deng Adel, Anas Mahmoud
Newcomers: Tony Hicks, V.J. King
Why they’re here: The Cardinals are another team that are going to be better than I realized next season. They lose Damion Lee, but expect Mitchell, Adel, Spalding and Mahmoud to all take significant steps forward.
Returning: Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig, Ethan Happ, Vitto Brown, Zak Showalter, Jordan Hill, Khalil Iverson, Charlie Thomas, Alex Illikainen
Newcomers: Andy Van Vliet, Brevin Pritzl
Why they’re here: The Badgers return literally everyone from this season, barring a surprise transfer or a player jumping to the NBA. We know about Hayes and Koenig, but don’t be surprised to see Ethan Happ turn into the best player on the roster by next season.
Newcomers: Nigel Williams-Goss, Johnathan Williams III, Zach Collins, Zach Norvell, Killian Tillie, Rui Hachimura
Why they’re here: The Zags may end up being better next season than they were last season, as Williams-Goss, Williams III and Collins may all end up being all-WCC players. They need Karnowski to decide to return for a fifth-year to anchor their defense.
Why they’re here: We all saw how good Xavier can be this season, and they return the majority of their pieces. The big question with them next season will be in the front court, which is why we have them sitting at 13th.
Returning: Thomas Bryant, James Blackmon Jr., Robert Johnson, O.G. Anunoby, Juwan Morgan
Newcomers: Josh Newkirk, De’Ron Davis, Grant Gelon, Devonte Green, Curtis Jones
Why they’re here: The Hoosiers are another team that is very up in the air at this point, even with Thomas Bryant back in the fold. Blackmon and Anunoby should be key, but Williams’ loss hurts and Yogi’s graduation is a massive void.
Returning: Isaac Hamilton, Bryce Alford, Thomas Welsh, Aaron Holiday, Jonah Bolden
Newcomers: Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf, Kobe Paras, Ike Anigbogu
Why they’re here: UCLA is the ultimate wildcard. If Ball has the impact that he’s expected to have, they’ll be a top five team. I could also see them being a .500 team. Your guess is as good as mine.
16. Florida State
Returning: Dwayne Bacon, Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Terance Mann
Newcomers: Jonathan Isaac, Trent Forrest, Mfiondu Kabevgele, C.J. Walker
Why they’re here: There are talented pieces on this roster, and they should fit together better than the pieces on last year’s roster. Isaac is the wildcard here.
Returning: Melo Trimble, Jared Nickens, Dion Wiley, Michal Cekovsky
Newcomers: Anthony Cowan, Kevin Hurter, Micah Thomas
Why they’re here: Because we’re assuming that Trimble is coming back to school. Cowan is going to be good, but if Trimble isn’t there, this team is going to be in full rebuilding mode, and even if he is, this ranking may still be somewhat high.
Returning: Charles Cooke, Scoochie Smith, Kendall Pollard, Kyle Davis, Darrell Davis, Sam Miller
Newcomers: Josh Cunningham, Trey Landers
Why they’re here: They return basically everyone from last year’s team, including head coach Archie Miller, and add a former top 100 recruit in Josh Cunningham.
19. Rhode Island
Returning: E.C. Matthews, Jared Terrell, Hassan Martin, Kuran Iverson, Jarvis Garrett, Danny Hurley
Newcomers: Stanford Robinson, Mike Layssard, Jeff Dowtin, Cyril Langevine, Michael Tertsea
Why they’re here: The Rams are as talented as any team in the Atlantic 10 in recent memory. Can Danny Hurley put the pieces together?
20. Virginia Tech
Returning: Zach LeDay, Seth Allen, Justin Bibbs, Chris Clarke, Justin Robinson, Kerry Blackshear Jr., Devin Wilson, Ahmed Hill, Ty Outlaw
Why they’re here: We know how good their guards are. The key for them is going to be how much of an impact Washington has in the front court.
Returning: Caleb Swanigan, Vince Edwards, Isaac Haas, Dakota Mathias, Ryan Cline, P.J. Thompson, Basil Smotherman
Newcomers: Carsen Edwards, Spike Albrecht
Why they’re here: In one of the more surprising NBA Draft decisions, Caleb Swanigan opted to return to school for his sophomore season, meaning that the Boilermakers will once again have one of the biggest front lines.
Returning: Mo Watson, Cole Huff, Isaiah Zierden, Khyri Thomas
Newcomers: Justin Patton, Marcus Foster
Why they’re here: Watson and Foster will headline the Bluejays one of the nation’s best back courts. Their ceiling will be determined by just how good Cole Huff and Justin Patton end up being on their front line.
24. Saint Mary’s
Returning: Emmett Naar, Dane Pineau, Calvin Hermanson, Joe Rahon, Evan Fitzneg, Jock Landale
Newcomers: Jordan Ford, Elijah Thomas
Why they’re here: The Gaels were a year away last season, when they won 29 games and a share of the WCC regular season title. They return everyone from that team, which was top 25 in offensive efficiency.
Nebraska’s second-leading scorer from last season will return for his senior season as Andrew White III announced Wednesday he will withdraw his name from the NBA Draft.
“I felt good about the pre-draft process, White said in a statement released by Nebraska. “It was encouraging, and I gained as much ground as anyone throughout the process. I wanted one more year to fine tune my game and put myself in better position for the NBA next summer.
“I want to thank the teams who invited me their in-house workouts, and Nebraska for supporting me during this process. It has been very helpful in gathering information in preparation for my future Thank you to everyone who has been following my progress throughout the spring and being understanding and supportive, as I evaluated whether to turn pro or return for my senior year.”
White, a Kansas transfer, tallied 16.6 points per game last season while shooting 48.1 percent from the floor and 41.2 percent from 3-point range. He also pulled down 5.9 rebounds per game.
“We are excited to have Andrew remain with our program,” coach Tim Miles said. “This has been a valuable time for him, as he has tested his skills against some of the best competition and received very important insight from key NBA personnel.
“We look forward to continuing to help Andrew’s development to improve his NBA profile even more than he already has done through this process. I believe next year could be our most complete team with a great opportunity for success in the Big Ten and NCAA tournament, I’m happy Andrew will be with us to go out and prove it.”
The news is certainly welcome for the Cornhuskers and Miles, who will be under pressure to show improvement after back-to-back disappointing seasons following an NCAA tournament appearance in 2014. Shavon Shields, last year’s leading scorer, has exhausted his eligibility and the Huskers will need White to help fill the void.
The Terrapin guard will be back to for his junior season in College Park, according to multiple reports.
Trimble went from freshman first-rounder to question mark after a rough end to his sophomore season for Maryland in which his points per game, shooting percentage (both overall and from 3-point range) and rebounding dipped from his first season. Only his assists per game showed any sort of improvement. He waited until the last possible day to announce his intentions to return to school, but really his options were limited after seeing his production drop.
His decision to come back to school gives him a shot to restore his draft stock while Maryland gets its floor general back to help ease the transition from last year’s Sweet 16 squad that lost Diamond Stone, Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman. The Terps might not be a sure-fire top-25 team with Trimble back, but their NCAA tournament chances are now significantly higher.