2015-2016 College Basketball Way-Too Early Preseason Top 25

34 Comments
source: Getty Images
Getty Images

PLEASE NOTE: We have since updated our Preseason Top 25.

The updated rankings, which reflect decisions made by the likes of Buddy Hield, Yogi Ferrell, Caris LeVert, Kyle Wiltjer and Derryck Thornton, can be found here.

1. North Carolina

  • Who’s back: Everyone. Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks.
  • Who’s gone: Desmond Hubert.
  • Who they’re getting: Luke Maye
  • Why they’re here: Marcus Paige is going to be healthy, the Tar Heels return their entire front line and Joel Berry and Justin Jackson will have a full offseason to turn into the complimentary players they showed flashes of being at the end of the season.

2. Iowa State

  • Who’s back: Georges Niang, Monte’ Morris*, Naz Long, Jameel McKay, Matt Thomas, Fred Hoiberg*
  • Who’s gone: Bryce Dejean-Jones
  • Who they’re getting: Hallice Cooke, Deonte Burton, Chieck Diallo*
  • Why they’re here: Assuming that Hoiberg is back in Ames next season, it looks like he’s going to have the best team of his coaching career. Morris and Niang will be back with Burton, a Marquette transfer, getting eligible in December and McKay back to control the paint. Even if they miss on Diallo, the Cyclones are looking at being a top five team.

3. Maryland

  • Who’s back: Melo Trimble, Jake Layman*, Jared Nickens, Michal Cevosky
  • Who’s gone: Dez Wells, Richaud Pack
  • Who they’re getting: Robert Carter, Diamond Stone, Jaylen Brantley
  • Why they’re here: Getting Trimble to announce that he will be coming back to school is huge, as would the return of Layman, because the Terps are going to have plenty of firepower up front. Georgia Tech transfer Carter and top ten recruit Stone will headline one of the better front lines in the Big Ten.

4. Kentucky

  • Who’s back: Tyler Ulis*, Marcus Lee*, Alex Poythress*, Dakari Johnson*
  • Who’s gone: Karl Towns*, Willie Cauley-Stein*, Aaron Harrison*, Andrew Harrison*, Trey Lyles*, Devin Booker*
  • Who they’re getting: Isaiah Briscoe, Skal Labissiere*, Charles Matthews
  • Why they’re here: So much of Kentucky’s 2015-2016 team is in the air. Who is returning to school? Who is going pro? Will they get any of the McDonald’s All-Americans that have yet to commit to a school? Will Labissiere be eligible? We’ll have a much better idea by the end of the month.

5. Virginia

  • Who’s back: Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, London Perrantes
  • Who’s gone: Darion Atkins, Justin Anderson*
  • Who they’re getting: Jarred Reuter
  • Why they’re here: The Cavs return essentially their entire roster from the 2015-2016 team with the notable exception of Anderson. Without him, they really struggled to score at times. If Anderson does actually return to school, UVA would probably shoot up as high as No. 2.

6. Kansas

  • Who’s back: Perry Ellis*, Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Wayne Selden*, Brannen Greene*, Svi Mykhailiuk
  • Who’s gone: Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander*
  • Who they’re getting: Carlton Bragg
  • Why they’re here: Bill Self. Beyond that, there’s not a lot that I love about this team next season beyond Bill Self. Mason and Graham will be a very good back court, and getting Selden back will be a key. How much does Mykhailiuk develop, and will Bragg turn into a low-post hoss?

7. Villanova

  • Who’s back: Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, Daniel Ochefu
  • Who’s gone: JayVaughn Pinkston, Darrun Hilliard
  • Who they’re getting: Jalen Brunson, Tim Delaney, Donte Divincenczo
  • Why they’re here: Losing Hilliard and Pinkston is really going to hurt, but there are two things that make be feel really good about this Villanova team: Hart is going to be an all-Big East player this season, and Brunson is the real deal.

8. Baylor

  • Who’s back: Rico Gathers*, Taurean Prince*, Jonathan Motley, Lester Medford
  • Who’s gone: Kenny Chery, Royce O’Neale
  • Who they’re getting: King McClure, Jake Lindsey, Wendell Mitchell, Joseph Acuil
  • Why they’re here: Assuming that Gathers and Prince return, the Bears will have one of the best front lines in the country. The big issue for them is going to be their ball-handling. Can Lester Medford handle full time point guard duties?

9. Michigan State

  • Who’s back: Denzel Valentine, Lourawls Nairn, Bryn Forbes
  • Who’s gone: Travis Trice, Branden Dawson
  • Who they’re getting: Eron Harris, Deyonta Davis, Matt McQuaid
  • Why they’re here: West Virginia transfer Harris is going to have a chance to be a very, very good player in this back court. They need Nairn to take a significant step forward, particularly offensively, but Valentine may end up being the Big Ten Player of the Year.

10. Arizona

  • Who’s back: Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Elliott Pitts, Dusan Ristic, Gabe York
  • Who’s gone: Stanley Johnson*, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson*, Brandon Ashley, T.J. McConnell, Kaleb Tarczewski*
  • Who they’re getting: Justin Simon, Ray Smith, Chance Comanche, Allonzo Trier, Ryan Anderson
  • Why they’re here: Sean Miller is once again bringing in a loaded class, which he’ll need as the Wildcats will likely end up losing their entire starting lineup from a season ago. There will likely be a learning curve here, but there is enough talent — on the roster and the coaching staff — to make some noise.

11. Georgia

  • Who’s back: Charles Mann, Kenny Gaines, Yante Maten, J.J. Frazier
  • Who’s gone: Marcus Thornton, Nemanja Djurisic
  • Who they’re getting: Jaylen Brown*, William Jackson, William Ogbeide, E’Torrion Wilridge
  • Why they’re here: If they don’t get Brown — which is probably more likely than them landing him — we’re looking at a top 20-25 team.

12. N.C. State

  • Who’s back: Trevor Lacey, Cat Barber, BeeJay Anya, Kyle Washington
  • Who’s gone: Ralston Turner, Desmond Lee
  • Who they’re getting: Terry Henderson
  • Why they’re here: The Wolfpack have enough talent on their roster to compete for an ACC title next season.

13. Xavier

  • Who’s back: Trevon Bluiett, Jalen Reynolds, Myles Davis
  • Who’s gone: Dee Davis, Matt Stainbrook
  • Who they’re getting: Kaiser Gates
  • Why they’re here: We’re expecting Bluiett and Reynolds to take a big step forward.

14. Duke

  • Who’s back: Matt Jones, Grayson Allen, Marshall Plumlee, Amile Jefferson
  • Who’s gone: Tyus Jones*, Jahlil Okafor*, Justise Winslow*
  • Who they’re getting: Brandon Ingram*, Luke Kennard, Chase Jeter, Sean Obi
  • Why they’re here: If Jones comes back, they’ll be a top ten team. If they don’t end up getting Ingram, they’re probably closer to No. 25.

15. Louisville

  • Who’s back: Quentin Snider, Shaqquan Aaron, Mangok Mathiang
  • Who’s gone: Terry Rozier, Montrezl Harrell, Wayne Blackshear
  • Who they’re getting: Trey Lewis*, Donovan Mitchell, Ray Spalding, Deng Adel
  • Why they’re here: Part of it is loving their freshmen class, part of it is faith in Rick Pitino and part of it is the assumption that they have more additions coming.

16. Cal

  • Who’s back: Ty Wallace*, Jabari Bird*, Jordan Mathews, Kameron Rooks
  • Who’s gone: David Kravish
  • Who they’re getting: Ivan Raab*, Caleb Swanigan*, Stephen Domingo, Davon Dillard

17. UCLA

  • Who’s back: Bryce Alford, Tony Parker, Isaac Hamilton*, Thomas Welsh
  • Who’s gone: Kevon Looney, Norman Powell
  • Who they’re getting: Jonah Bolden, Prince Ali, Aaron Holiday, Alex Olesinki

18. Georgetown

  • Who’s back: Isaac Copeland*, L.J. Peak, Tre Campbell, Paul White
  • Who’s gone: D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Josh Smith, Mikael Hopkins
  • Who they’re getting: Marcus Derrickson, Jessie Govan, Kaleb Johnson

19. Wisconsin

  • Who’s back: Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig
  • Who’s gone: Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker*, Josh Gasser, Traevon Jackson, Duje Dukan
  • Who they’re getting: Brevin Pritzl, Charlie Thomas, Alex Illikainen, Jahlil Iverson

20. Marquette

  • Who’s back: Duane Wilson, Sandy Cohen, Jajuan Johnson, Luke Fischer
  • Who’s gone: Juan Anderson, Matt Carlino, Derrick Wilson
  • Who they’re getting: Henry Ellenson, Matt Heldt, Traci Carter, Haanif Cheatham, Sacar Anim

21. Notre Dame

  • Who’s back: Zach Auguste, Demetrius Jackson, Steve Vasturia, Bonzie Colson
  • Who’s gone: Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton
  • Who they’re getting: Rex Pflueger, Elijah Burns, Matt Ryan

22. Gonzaga

  • Who’s back: Kyle Wiltjer*, Przemek Karnowski, Domas Sabonis, Josh Perkins
  • Who’s gone: Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, Byron Wesley
  • Who they’re getting: None as of right now (Jesse Wade will be on his LDS mission)

23. Vanderbilt

  • Who’s back: Damian Jones, Riley LaChance, Wade Baldwin
  • Who’s gone: James Siakam
  • Who they’re getting: Camron Justice, D’jery Baptiste, Samir Sehic, Joseph Toye

24. Oregon

  • Who’s back: Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell, Dwayne Benjamin, Elgin Cook
  • Who’s gone: Joseph Young
  • Who they’re getting: Tyler Dorsey, Kendall Small, Trevor Manuel

25. Butler

  • Who’s back: Kellen Dunham, Roosevelt Jones, Andrew Charbacsz, Kelan Martin
  • Who’s gone: Alex Barlow, Kameron Woods
  • Who they’re getting: Nate Fowler, Sean McDermott

Bluiett back to Xavier for senior season

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images
2 Comments

Xavier lost one significant piece to the professional ranks this spring, but will return another.

Trevon Bluiett, the team’s leading scorer last year, announced via social media that he will be back to play his senior season with the Musketeers.

Chris Mack will return the bulk of a roster that struggled February only to make a run to the Elite Eight, but getting Bluiett for a final season makes the Musketeers especially dangerous. The 6-foot-6 Bluiett scored a team-high 18.5 points per game last year while also putting up 5.7 rebounds and 2.1 assists per night. He shot 37.1 percent from 3-point range, the second-best mark on the team. His return, even with point guard Edmond Sumner going pro amid his ACL tear recovery, makes Xavier one of the top teams in the Big East heading into the 2017-18 season.

Bluiett himself is enough to keep Xavier relevant in the league, but when he’s coupled with the likes of returners JP Macura, Sean O’Mara and Quentin Goodwin, plus a recruiting class featuring two four-star prospects, it’s not difficult to see a path for Mack’s group to a place where they can compete with the likes of Villanova and Seton Hall atop the league.

Welsh and Holiday returning to UCLA

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

UCLA sustained some major, though expected, attrition from its roster this spring. On Tuesday, the Bruins announced a pair of significant contributors that will be back.

Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday will both return next season to the UCLA program, according to the school.

Welsh, a 7-foot center, averaged 10.8 points and 8.7 rebounds as a senior last year for the Bruins. He shot 58.5 percent from the floor and blocked 1.2 shots per game, and decided to declare for the NBA Draft without an agent before ultimately deciding to return to Westwood.

“Thomas has worked hard all spring,” UCLA coach Steve Alford said in a statement. “We supported him testing the NBA waters and are excited to have him returning for his senior year. He simply continues to develop each and every season.

“Thomas will be one of the top centers in college basketball next year and, undoubtedly, has a great chance to be a first-round pick in next season’s draft.”

The 6-foot-1 Holiday averaged 12.3 points and 4.4 assists last season while sharing a backcourt with Lonzo Ball, whose departure, along with those of TJ Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton will leave UCLA with a very different look next season. The positive results, however, may not fluctuate too significantly with Welsh and Holiday coming back to play alongside two five-star recruits, Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands, as well as Lonzo’s younger brother LiAngelo.

West Virginia’s Macon forgoing final year

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
Leave a comment

West Virginia’s attempt to dethrone Kansas atop the Big 12 took a bit of a hit Tuesday.

Elijah Macon, a 6-foot-9 forward, announced his decision to forego a fifth year in Morgantown in order to pursue a professional career.

“First things first I would like to say thank you Bob Huggins and Erik Martin for believing in a young 15-year-old boy growing up from the Southside of Columbus, OH losing my mother and still having you guys push me to be the man I have become,” Macon said according to the school. “I can do nothing but thank you for all you and Mountaineer Nation (have) done for me. Unfortunately, I will not be returning for my senior season at WVU and instead sign with a(n) agent and play professional basketball. Thank you guys for all the love and support!”

Macon wasn’t a major contributor for the Mountaineers last season, averaging 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds in 16 minutes per game, but he was an experienced and tough player who was well-versed in Huggins’ style and demands. Given the pace that the newly-fashioned Press Virginia plays at, depth is also paramount for them as a program.

Macon’s departure, though, may have been expected or at least partly anticipated by West Virginia. The Mountaineers signed five players in its most recent recruiting class, putting them one over their allotment of 13, so something had to give. West VIrginia will stay have interior depth, anchored by junior Esa Ahmad, so the loss of Macon is one they likely can weather, even if it may take some time to acclimate the newcomers.

“Elijah is in the process of completing classes during this summer school period that ends June 2 and will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in August,” Huggins said in a statement released by the school. “I respect his decision to become a professional basketball player and to go make money to support his family. He had a great four years with us, and we wish him nothing but the best.”

Key returning to Alabama for sophomore season

Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Alabama’s top scorer is returning to school.

Braxton Key has withdrawn his name from the NBA draft and will be back with the Tide for his sophomore season, the school announced Tuesday.

“I spoke to coach Avery (Johnson) just over a week ago and informed him of my decision to withdraw my name from the NBA Draft and return to the University of Alabama for my sophomore season,” Key said in a statement. “I made that official when I sent my paperwork to the NBA league office Monday morning. I want to express my appreciation to my teammates, Coach Johnson and the entire coaching staff for giving me their full support while I went through this process.

“I am excited for the future of the Alabama basketball program and looking forward to getting to work as we prepare for next season. Roll Tide and Buckle Up!”

The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 12 points and 5.7 rebounds per game while shooting 43.3 percent from the field as a freshman. He gives Alabama four returning starts to pair with one of the country’s highest-regarded recruiting classes, headlined by five-star guard Collin Sexton. The Tide will also have an eligible Daniel Giddens, who previously transferred in from Ohio State.

Key didn’t seem likely to stay in the NBA draft, especially after he wasn’t invited to the combine, but his ultimate decision is a huge one for Avery Johnson as he looks to break through in his third season in Tuscaloosa with his first NCAA tournament appearance. 

Report: Justin Jackson to return to Maryland

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Maryland forward Justin Jackson is expected to return to school for his sophomore season, according to a report from FanRag Sports.

Jackson is an intriguing talent, a 6-foot-7 combo-forward with a 7-foot-3 wingspan that shoots 44 percent from three. But he’s also still developing his offensive game and consistency on the defensive end of the floor, which is why he was projected as a second round pick in this year’s draft.

With Jackson back in the fold, Maryland is a borderline top 25 team. They lost Melo Trimble to the professional ranks, but that’s something that Mark Turgeon has prepared for. With a sophomore class that also includes highly-regarded point guard Anthony Cowan and sharp-shooter Kevin Huerter, the Terps have a promising season ahead of them.