Early Entry Breakdowns: The Five Winners

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Read through the rest of our Early Entry breakdowns here.

Indiana: The Hoosiers are going to be one of the top three teams in the country heading into next season, if not No. 1. The biggest reason why is their biggest player, Cody Zeller. Zeller had a chance to be a top ten pick in this year’s draft, but he opted to return to school. Why? Improve his draft stock? Win a Big Ten and/or national title? Get revenge on Kentucky? Well, frankly, the why doesn’t matter. What does matter is that the Hoosiers will have arguably the nation’s best offensive presence in the low-post back for another year, and it should put them into perfect position to make a run at Indiana’s first Final Four in a decade.

Michigan: At first, it didn’t look like Michigan was going to end up on this list. Sure, Tim Hardaway’s decision to return to school was a key. So is the recruiting class that John Beilein is bringing in — headlined by top 50 recruits Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson. But with early reports that Trey Burke, Michigan’s all-conference point guard, was making his way to the NBA, the Wolverines looked like they were going to lose their sparkplug. But Burke did decide to return to school, and now the Wolverines should be a top ten team and a legitimate threat to Indiana to win the Big Ten title.

North Texas and Lehigh: North Texas and Lehigh are teams that you will rarely see talked about on a national level in college hoops, but thanks to the decisions of a couple of stars, both the Mountain Hawks and the Mean Green — two of the nation’s best nicknames, I might add — will be factors despite playing in out-of-the-way conferences. Lehigh got good news when their star CJ McCollum, who led the upset of Duke in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, announced he would be back for his senior season. Expect McCollum to have a season somewhere between Jimmer’s senior year and Steph Curry’s sophomore campaign.

UNT got big news when Tony Mitchell decided to remain in school, but it wasn’t always clear things were heading that direction. Mitchell initially announced that he would be heading back to school, but he nearly changed his mind when head coach Johnny Jones took the same job with LSU. Mitchell will headline a young, but very talented Mean Green team.

Florida: Yes, the Gators lost Brad Beal to the NBA, but anyone that thought that Florida was going to be keeping a guy destined for the top five wasn’t thinking rationally. The better news is that the Gators got both Kenny Boynton and Patric Young back for their senior and junior season, respectively. With the roster that the Gators bring back and a solid recruiting class coming in, that should be enough to keep Florida at the top of the SEC.

NC State: The Wolfpack got lucky. Not only did Lorenzo Brown make the smart decision to skip out on the NBA Draft, but CJ Leslie also came back for another season under Mark Gottfried. NC State will be the favorite to win the ACC this year, in no small part due to the presence of Brown and Leslie. With a trio of talented wing recruits, a spot-up shooter in Scott Wood and a bruiser on the block in Howell, Brown and Leslie give NC State a scoring punch they would otherwise be lacking at the point and at the four.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.