UPDATED: 2015-2016 College Basketball Way-Too-Early Preseason Rankings

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PLEASE NOTE: Fred Hoiberg is off to the NBA, his replacement is on campus, Jamal Murray has committed to Kentucky and Thon Maker is officially staying in high school for another year. I think — I hope? — we’ve reached a point where we can say we know what next season’s rosters will look like.

And with that comes our latest — and final? — installment of the Preseason Top 25. There aren’t a ton of changes, but the top five looks different now than it did before.

1. North Carolina

  • Who’s back: Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Joel Berry, Nate Britt
  • Who’s gone: J.P. Tokoto, 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. 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, Rasheed Sulaimon, Jaylen Brantley
  • Why they’re here: Getting Trimble to announce that he will be coming back to school is huge, as is 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, and adding Sulaimon gives the Terps talent at every position.

3. Kentucky

  • Who’s back: Tyler Ulis, Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress
  • Who’s gone: Karl Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker, Dakari Johnson
  • Who they’re getting: Skal Labissiere*, Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe, Charles Matthews, Mychal Mulder
  • Why they’re here: The Wildcats get bumped up to No. 3 in our updated rankings. I still have some questions about how this group will end up coming together, but there’s no questioning the talent level. If Lee develops the way many expect him too and if the back court of Ulis, Briscoe and Murray can find a way to coexist, you’re looking at a group that is capable of winning the national title. Not bad for a “down year” on the recruiting trail.

4. Kansas

  • Who’s back: Perry Ellis, Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene, Svi Mykhailiuk, Landen Lucas
  • Who’s gone: Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander
  • Who they’re getting: Carlton Bragg, Cheick Diallo, LeGerald Vick
  • Why they’re here: Kansas has gotten quite a bit of good news this spring. In addition to finding out Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden are returning to school, the Jayhawks will be adding top five big man Diallo to the mix. He’ll had some much-needed toughness and energy to the Jayhawk front line. The x-factor for this team now becomes whether or not Mykhailiuk can live up to the hype he had when he signed with Kansas last summer.

5. Iowa State

  • Who’s back: Georges Niang, Monte’ Morris, Naz Long, Jameel McKay, Matt Thomas
  • Who’s gone: Fred Hoiberg, Bryce Dejean-Jones
  • Who they’re getting: Steve Prohm, Hallice Cooke, Deonte Burton
  • Why they’re here: The talent is still there — Niang and Morris are potential all-americans, and the Cyclones will have plenty of veteran role players available — but the man that brought them all together is not. The Cyclones were never really a good defensive team under former coach Fred Hoiberg, but they were an offensive juggernaut. Can Steve Prohm continue the program’s winning ways, or was Iowa State’s success a result of Hoiberg’s brilliance?

6. Virginia

  • Who’s back: Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, London Perrantes, Marial Shayok
  • 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. The key for this group will be the development of Shayok as a potential replacement for Anderson.
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7. 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, Derryck Thornton, Luke Kennard, Chase Jeter, Sean Obi
  • Why they’re here: We’re assuming they get Ingram, which would be a major addition, but the bigger news is that Duke has now landed their point guard for 2015-16: Derryck Thornton. He’s not Tyus Jones, and he’s not going to replace Quinn Cook’s leadership, but he is a five-star point guard recruit.

8. Villanova

  • Who’s back: Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, Daniel Ochefu, Kris Jenkins, Phil Booth
  • 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.

9. 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: With Gathers and Prince returning, 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?

10. Arizona

  • Who’s back: Kaleb Tarczewski, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Elliott Pitts, Dusan Ristic, Gabe York
  • Who’s gone: Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Brandon Ashley, T.J. McConnell
  • Who they’re getting: Justin Simon, Ray Smith, Chance Comanche, Allonzo Trier, Ryan Anderson, Kadeem Allen
  • Why they’re here: Sean Miller is once again bringing in a loaded class, which he’ll need as the Wildcats will likely lose four of their five starters from last season. That said, Anderson was a nightly double-double threat at Boston College and the trio of Simon, Smith and Trier will all be instant impact guys on the perimeter.

11. Cal

  • Who’s back: Ty Wallace, Jabari Bird, Jordan Mathews, Kameron Rooks
  • Who’s gone: David Kravish
  • Who they’re getting: Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Stephen Domingo, Tyson Jolly, Davon Dillard
  • Why they’re here: It was important for Cuonzo Martin to get Wallace and Bird back for another year, as his perimeter attack with Rabb in the middle has the chance to be really dangerous. Adding Brown late only sweetens the deal for the serious Pac-12 contenders.

12. Michigan State

  • Who’s back: Denzel Valentine, Lourawls Nairn, Bryn Forbes, Matt Costello, Gavin Schilling
  • 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. Adding Davis will help inside, but this group would be even more potent had they managed to hang onto Caleb Swanigan.

13. Wichita State

  • Who’s back: Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet, Gregg Marshall, Evan Wessel, Rashard Kelly, Shaquille Morris
  • Who’s gone: Darius Carter, Tekele Cotton, Ria’n Holland, Tevin Glass
  • Who they’re getting: Conner Frankamp, Markus McDuffie, Landry Shamet, Eric Hamilton, Tyrone Taylor, Anton Grady
  • Why they’re here: Losing Cotton and Carter is going to hurt, but with the Big Three — VanVleet, Baker and Marshall — all back, the Shockers will once again be in good shape. Also key for the Shockers is the addition of graduate transfer Anton Grady, who’s just the player they needed with Darius Carter out of eligibility.

14. Georgetown

  • Who’s back: Isaac Copeland, L.J. Peak, Tre Campbell, Paul White, D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera
  • Who’s gone: Josh Smith, Mikael Hopkins, Jabril Trawick
  • Who they’re getting: Marcus Derrickson, Jessie Govan, Kaleb Johnson
  • Why they’re here: Getting Smith-Rivera back is huge, as he’ll be the senior leader for a team that had a terrific 2014 recruiting class. Will the Hoyas have enough talent and size on the interior?

15. Oklahoma

  • Who’s back: Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield, Ryan Spangler, Jordan Woodard
  • Who’s gone: Frank Booker, TaShawn Thomas
  • Who they’re getting: Christian James, Akolda Manyang, Rashard Odomes
  • Why they’re here: The return of Hield (and four starters overall) makes the Sooners a threat in the Big 12 along with Kansas and Iowa State. But there is the depth question, and how they account for the loss of Thomas is the biggest key for OU.

16. Indiana

  • Who’s back: Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr., Troy Williams, Robert Johnson, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Nick Zeisloft
  • Who’s gone: Max Hoetzel, Stanford Robinson
  • Who they’re getting: Thomas Bryant, Juwan Morgan
  • Why they’re here: The four things that Tom Crean needed to have happen did: He landed a commitment from Bryant, a shot-blocking and rebounding presence around the rim, while getting Ferrell, Blackmon and Williams back for another year.
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17. Michigan

  • Who’s back: Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton, Zak Irvin, Kameron Chatman, Ricky Doyle, Spike Albrecht, Aubrey Dawkins
  • Who’s gone: Max Biefieldt
  • Who they’re getting: Moritz Wagner, Duncan Robinson
  • Why they’re here: The Wolverines struggled last season while dealing with injuries, but they return everyone that matters from last season, have a front line with a year of experience under their belt and John Beilein. I’ll bet on that.

18. Xavier

  • Who’s back: Trevon Bluiett, Jalen Reynolds, Myles Davis, Remy Abell, J.P. Macura, James Farr
  • Who’s gone: Dee Davis, Matt Stainbrook
  • Who they’re getting: Kaiser Gates, Edmund Sumner
  • Why they’re here: We’re expecting Bluiett, Reynolds and Macura to take big steps forward.

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
  • Why they’re here: You’re going to be the guy to bet against Bo Ryan turning this into a top 25 team? We’re not.

20. Louisville

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

21. Gonzaga

  • Who’s back: Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski, Domas Sabonis, Josh Perkins, Silas Melson, Kyle Draginis
  • 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)
  • Why they’re here: Their front line will be awesome once again. But how will they overcome losing Pangos and Bell in the back court?

22. 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
  • Why they’re here: There’s a ton of talent on this roster, the question is what Steve Alford is going to be able to get out of it.

23. 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
  • Why they’re here: The combination of Luke Fischer and Henry Ellenson with all those talented guards around them is quite promising.

24. 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
  • Why they’re here: Demetrius Jackson has a chance to be an all-american next season.

25. 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
  • Why they’re here: One of the hottest teams in the country down the stretch, the Commodores bring back nearly every key piece and add a solid recruiting class to the mix. Damian Jones will be a first team all-SEC caliber player.

THE NEXT FIVE: Utah, SMU, Purdue, LSU, Texas A&M

ALSO CONSIDERED: Butler, Cincinnati, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, N.C. State, Oregon, San Diego State, UConn

Report: Western Kentucky’s Lamonte Bearden staying in 2018 NBA Draft

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Western Kentucky guard Lamonte Bearden will stay in the 2018 NBA Draft after hiring an agent, according to a report from ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The 6-foot-3 Bearden just completed his redshirt junior season with the Hilltoppers as he averaged 11.8 points, 3.4 assists and 2.3 rebounds per game. A slippery guard with good size, Bearden shot 47 percent from the field and 82 percent from the charity stripe while also getting in the passing lanes for 1.7 steals per game.

Although Bearden has good size and athleticism at lead guard, his perimeter jumper has been inconsistent during his college career. He was 31 percent from three-point range (a career high) this past season. Starting his college career at Buffalo, Bearden helped lead the Bulls to the NCAA tournament before opting to play in Conference USA for Western Kentucky.

The Hilltoppers will certainly miss Bearden’s presence in their backcourt as the program has seven new players signed for next season.

USC makes a statement landing Class of 2019 four-star forward Isaiah Mobley

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USC ended a strong week of recruiting with another major statement on Friday afternoon as four-star Class of 2019 forward Isaiah Mobley pledged to the Trojans.

The second major Class of 2019 commitment for USC during the week, the 6-foot-9 power forward joins five-star big man Onyeka Okongwu. The Compton Magic teammates should be able to help replace the loss of Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, with Mobley playing the skilled, floor-spacing Boatwright’s role and Okongwu providing the interior energy of Metu.

Having two highly-touted big men commit in the same week is huge for USC. And it looks like the start of even bigger things in a continually-evolving SoCal recruiting war against Pac-12 rival UCLA.

Landing both Mobley and Okongwu is significant for the Trojans for a number of reasons. As previously mentioned, both come from the famous Compton Magic grassroots program that runs on the adidas Gauntlet. While landing AAU teammates from a regional program is common for high-major programs of USC’s stature, the commitments signify that the Trojans are the ones with the biggest pull with the Magic at the current moment.

And the Magic used to get raided by UCLA.

In the past few years, the Bruins signed T.J. Leaf, Ike Anigbogu, Jaylen Hands and Jalen Hill from the Compton Magic. Now, it’s USC who looks to be in the driver’s seat recruiting the program.

The Trojans aren’t done, either.

Newly-hired USC assistant coach Eric Mobley is the father Isaiah Mobley, as well as five-star Class of 2020 big man Evan Mobley. As Rivals national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi noted in his story about Isaiah, “Barring something strange happening, look for the younger Mobley to join his brother and father by committing to USC within the next two weeks.”

That would mean the Trojans would have landed three top-30 caliber big men in the span of a few weeks. That allows the USC coaching staff to recruit other positions extremely hard. Outside of Kentucky, USC has arguably the best future recruiting status of any program in the country.

The Trojans have taken full advantage of UCLA letting go popular assistant coach David Grace. The Bruins are still pulling in top-100 prospects, as evidenced by Grant Sherfield and Jaime Jaquez’s commitments in the Class of 2019, but losing two Magic kids in a week to a rival has to sting.

Considering where USC was last fall with the FBI investigation, who saw this type of recruiting swing coming? Other programs involved in the investigation like Arizona, Auburn and Oklahoma State have landed solid recruits. They also haven’t pulled in nearly the high-level talent that the Trojans currently have committed.

Even amidst the uncertainty surrounding the FBI investigation, USC is still pulling in elite talent while beating local rivals. It’ll be fascinating to see if the Trojans can continue to recruit at this level as they try to fill out the rest of an important recruiting class.

USF signs Oklahoma State transfer Zack Dawson

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USF landed a major addition on Friday as the school announced the signing of Oklahoma State transfer guard Zack Dawson.

The 6-foot-3 Dawson is a former consensus top-100 prospect coming out of high school as he’ll have to sit out the 2018-19 season due to NCAA transfer rules. A native of the region, Dawson will have three years of eligibility remaining once he’s able to play again.

Dismissed from Oklahoma State on Dec. 14 for violating team rules, Dawson averaged 4.4 points and1.6 assists per contest as he only suited up in five games for the Cowboys. Once Dawson is eligible to play for USF, he gives the Bulls a potentially dynamic backcourt along with rising sophomore guard David Collins.

“We are excited to welcome Zack back home to Florida as a member of the Bulls family,” USF head coach Brian Gregory said in a release. “He is a dynamic and versatile guard who can impact the game in a variety of ways. Zack comes from one of the best high school programs in the state, South Miami High School, so he immediately brings a championship attitude here to the University of South Florida.”

This is a really nice pickup for the Bulls, as they utilized a local transfer to help bolster the roster. Landing top-100 kids out of high school is going to be tough until USF boosts its basketball credibility. But getting a former top-100 player on the transfer market is a solid approach to building the Bulls into a respectable threat.

Michael Porter Jr.: ‘I’m the best player in this draft’

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The more I think about it, the more that Michael Porter Jr. is becoming the most interesting prospect at the top of the 2018 NBA Draft.

As a high school senior, he was considered by many to be the top player in the class, a 6-foot-10 combo-forward with a lethal three-point shot, NBA dunk contest athleticism and the versatility to, one day, be a multi-positional defender that would seamlessly fit into fit into the modern NBA.

But his one and only season at Missouri was derailed by back surgery, and that has allowed the rest of the class of 2017 to shine while we have focused on everything else that comes with drafting Porter. The reputation that he had for the majority of his high school career of being soft. The intel that was coming out of Missouri, that he was cocky and arrogant and something of a bad teammate. Questions about whether or not he is truly a wing or a four, more like a more athletic Lauri Markkanen.

When the only thing that we’ve had a chance to see this season is an out-of-shape Porter struggling in postseason games, it shouldn’t really be a surprise that his hype train has derailed.

“I know without a doubt that I’m the — I played against all these guys, they’re all great players — but I’m the best player in this draft,” Porter told ESPN. “And I just can’t wait to show what I’m capable of.”

And therein lies the conundrum for any team drafting him.

I have little doubt that Porter is going to be able to score and score a lot in the NBA. I think he and Bagley are the safest bets to average 20 points at the NBA level before their rookie contract runs out.

But putting up points and playing on winning basketball teams are not one and the same. For a ten-year stretch after his rookie season, Rudy Gay averaged at least 17.2 points while making the playoffs once during that stretch. Is that what Porter is going to turn into at the next level? Or will be find a way to become the kind of NBA defender his athleticism says he should be and, by the time he signs his first contract extension, end up the player that Paul George is?

The mitigating factor here is that Porter is going to do a fantastic job in every interview he has. He’s an intelligent, charismatic and articulate kid that is going to be able to sell himself. The red flags that he has aren’t going to show when he’s sitting down in front of NBA general managers.

They would have shown up — or been written off — if there was a season’s worth of game-tape available, but there isn’t. What that means is that scouts are going to have to decide whether or not Porter, who by all accounts had a very impressive senior season in high school, is that player or the one that had the reputation for being soft for years before that.

And all of that is going to come after the doctor’s have a chance to examine his back to see if the surgery he underwent fixed what was wrong, or if this is the kind of situation where a recurrence is likely.

The result is the widest range for any player at the top of the draft.

He could sell someone on taking him as a top four pick. He could also slide his way down to the Knicks at No. 9 or the 76ers at No. 10.

Which is what makes him the most interesting prospect at the top of this draft.

P.J. Washington ‘definitely going back to school’ without first round guarantee

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Kentucky forward P.J. Washington is one of the handful of players that currently finds themselves in the tenuous position of having their name in the NBA draft pool without having a clear picture of where, exactly, they are going to end up getting picked.

Will they be a late-first round pick? Will he be an early second round pick? Will he even be drafted at all?

Washington told reporters at the NBA combine this week that, if he’s a first round pick, he’ll be heading to the NBA. If he only gets a second round guarantee, he’ll be returning to school.

As we detailed last week, getting selected in the second round does not mean a player is destined to end up being broke his first year out of school. In the last six drafts, only one college player picked in the top ten picks of the second round (31-40) did not receive a guaranteed contract. In the 2017 NBA Draft, every college player selected in the top 50 received a guaranteed deal of at least one year, and Thomas Bryant was the only player whose one-year guaranteed deal was at the league minimum.

That doesn’t mean that Washington should leave Kentucky if he’s going to be a second round pick. If he returns to school, becomes a 42 percent three-point shooter (and can make free throws) and proves that he’s more versatile defensively than he was his year, then he could move up into the first round in a weaker 2019 draft.

It’s a risk for him, financially, to leave after this year if he doesn’t get that first round guarantee. It’s also a risk to return to school, where the best-case scenario isn’t always what happens.

I don’t envy the decision he has to make, but I am glad that Washington will have every chance in the world to be informed about the decision.