With the early entry process over and with just about every elite recruit having picked a school, we now have a pretty good idea of what college basketball will look like in 2015-16. Over the next three weeks, we’ll be taking an early look at next season.
Today, we’re Looking Forward at some programs that are on the rise:
Maryland: A year ago at this time, the Terps had lost five players to transfer and head coach Mark Turgeon was getting ready to see his face plastered on every Hot Seat list produced by the internet. Fast forward to today, and the Terps will be teaming an all-american point guard in Melo Trimble with a front line that includes potential draft pick Jake Layman and top five recruit Diamond Stone on a team that will be in the preseason top five. It may be hard to believe, but a program on the eastern seaboard will be the favorite to win the Big Ten in 2016.
California: Cuonzo Martin turned this ship around quickly. The Bears finished 7-11 in the Pac-12 last season but they’re going to enter the 2015-16 season as a preseason top 15 team. Not only do they return the trio of Tyrone Wallace, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews, but they’ll add top five freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb to the mix as well. There will be questions about Cal’s depth and their size up front, but they’ll be able to put as much talent on the floor as anyone in the conference.
Marquette: I’m higher on the Golden Eagles than a lot of people, but I think that Steve Wojciechowski will have this group finishing near the top of the Big East and ranked in the top 25. Luke Fischer should be better with a season under his belt, while he’ll team with top ten recruit Henry Ellenson on the front line. Throw in the myriad of talented perimeter players that Wojo has on the roster, and there are plenty of pieces for Marquette to make a significant improvement on last season’s 13-19 record.
Vanderbilt: The Commodores began SEC play 1-7 last season, but they finished the year as one of the hottest teams in the conference. They won eight of their last ten games — including the last five of the regular season — before making the Elite 8 of the NIT. With the majority of their rotation, including star big man Damian Jones, returning and a top 20 recruiting class joining the program, Kevin Stallings’ should have one of the SEC’s best teams next season.
Florida State: The Seminoles should compete for a spot in the NCAA tournament next season as Leonard Hamilton has added a talented recruiting class, headlined by Dwayne Bacon, to a team that returns most of the roster that competed in ACC play last year. Xavier Rathan-Mayes will see his name on a couple of preseason all-american lists.
Oregon: The Ducks won 11 of their last 13 games in the Pac-12 after a 2-3 start, playing their way into the Pac-12 tournament title game and the round of 32 of the NCAA tournament despite playing with a roster limited by three offseason dismissals. Joe Young has graduated, but the rest of the roster returns while Tyler Dorsey and Dylan Ennis join the program. The Ducks should once again be a top 25 team.
Texas A&M: The Aggies return Danuel House, Jalen Jones and Alex Caruso from a team that just missed the NCAA tournament. But that’s not what’s so promising about this program. Their recruiting class is. The Aggies have landed one of the best classes in the country, landing some o the top talent in the state of Texas. They should be competing in the SEC as soon as this season.
Rhode Island: The Rams not only return the young core of E.C. Mathews, Jared Terrell and Hassan Martin, but they will also add Kuran Iverson, a former top 30 recruit and Memphis transfer, in December. URI will be a favorite to win the Atlantic 10 this season.