College Basketball

2014-2015 Pre-Preseason Top 25

The 2015 Final Four will tip off in Indianapolis in 362 days…what better time to predict who is going to be there than now? Here is an early (emphasis on early) look at the 2014-15 top 25. Included are players returning, leaving, and incoming players with their Rivals rating with their name.

Worth mentioning: Stephen F. Austin, Oregon, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, New Mexico, Baylor, UCLA

25. Syracuse 

Key Returners: Trevor Cooney, Rakeem Christmas, DaJuan Coleman, Michael Gbinije
Key Losses: Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant, C.J. Fair, Baye-Moussa Keita
Additions: PF Chris McCullough (16), PG Kaleb Joseph (55)

Overcoming the loss of Ennis, Grant, Fair and Keita won’t be easy and Boeheim will have his work cut out for him, but expect the Orange to be near the top in a stacked ACC next year.

24. Michigan State

Key Returners: Matt Costello, Travis Trice, Branden Dawson, Kenny Kaminski, Denzel Valentine
Key Losses: Adreian Payne, Keith Appling, Gary Harris
Additions: PG Lourawls Nairn (61), SF Javon Bess (3 star)

Expect Trice, Dawson, Valentine, Costello and Kaminski to lead Tom Izzo’s squad next year. It is tough to tell how good they will be, but you can never count out Izzo.

Marcus Foster 2

In order for Kansas State to be successful next year, Marcus Foster has to continue to be great.

23. Kansas State

Key Returners: Marcus Foster, Nino Williams, Nigel Johnson, Wesley Iwundu, Thomas Gipson, D.J. Johnson
Key Losses: Shane Southwell, Will Spradling
Additions: SF Javon Bess (3 star), PF Stephen Hurt (3 star)

Kansas State returns all their key parts from a solid season a year ago. A name to keep an eye on is Marcus Foster. Foster will be Preseason All-Big 12 player and could lead the Wildcats to contending for the conference championship.

22. Nebraska

Key Returners: David Rivers, Benny Parker, Terran Petteway, Leslee Smith, Shavon Shields, Walter Pitchford, Taj Webster
Key Losses: Mike Peltz, Ray Gallegos
Additions: C Jacob Hammond (3 star), PG Tarin Smith (3 star)

Tim Miles obviously has Nebrasketball heading in the right direction. The Huskers made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament this season, next year they hope to register their first ever win in the Big Dance.

21. Stanford

Key Returners: Stefan Nastic, Chasson Randle, Marcus Allen, Anthony Brown, Christian Sanders
Key Losses: Dwight Powell, Aaron Bright, Robbie Lemons, Andy Brown, Josh Huestis, John Gage
Additions: PF Reid Travis (40), C Michael Humphrey (74), PG Robert Cartwright (78), SG Dorian Pickens (126)

A surprise Sweet Sixteen team this season, the Cardinal return most of their team for next year. Losing big man Dwight Powell is tough, but Johnny Dawkins reloads with three top 100 recruits.

20. Iowa State

Key Returners: Monte Morris, Naz Long, Matt Thomas, Dustin Hogue, Georges Niang, Abdel Nader
Key Losses: Melvin Ejim, DeAndre Kane
Additions: PG Clayton Kuster (90)

It’s never easy to replace the Big 12 Player of the Year or a fifth-year Senior, but Fred Hoiberg will give Iowa State another great chance to contend for the Big 12 title.

19. Gonzaga

Key Returners: Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr., Kyle Dranginis, Przekmek Karnowski, Gerald Coleman
Key Losses: David Stockton, Brian Bhaskar, Sam Dower, Drew Barham
Additions: PG Jesse Wade (3 star), Kyle Wiltjer (Transfer)

Kevin Pangos returns for his Senior season at Gonzaga and expect all the same from the Bulldogs next year. Another West Coast Conference Championship should be added to the trophy case under Mark Few next season.

18. VCU

Key Returners: JeQuan Lewis, Briante Weber, Mo Alie-Cox, Jordan Burgess, Treveon Graham, Melvin Johnson
Key Losses: Rob Branden, Juvonte Reddic
Additions: SF Terry Larrier (39), PF Justin Tilman (137), PF Michael Gilmore (3 star), PG Jonathan Williams (3 star)

After a heartbreaking loss in the NCAA Tournament to Stephen F. Austin, Shaka Smart’s team returns a lot of their key players from last season. Smart also has some talent coming in with two top 150 recruits.

17. Virginia

Key Returners: Anthony Gill, Malcolm Brogden, Justin Anderson, Mike Tobey, Evan Notle
Key Losses: Joe Harris, Akil Mitchell, Thomas Rogers
Additions: SG B.J. Stith (48), PF Isaiah Wilkins (107)

Tony Bennett proved this season that Virginia can be a winning and successful program in the ACC. With Malcolm Brogden returning, the Cavaliers could repeat as conference champions, but it will not be easy with Duke and North Carolina in their way.

16. Oklahoma

Key Returners: Frank Booker, Jordan Woodard, Isaiah Cousins, Buddy Hield, Ryan Spangler
Key Losses: Tyler Neal, Cameron Clark
Additions: PF Dante Buford (128), C Khadeem Latin (124), C Jamuni McNeace (3 star)

Lon Kruger’s club loses Cameron Clark but returns a lot of key pieces from last season where they were a surprising second place in the Big 12. Gonzaga transfer Ryan Spangler showed a lot of good signs last season, if he can continue to improve then the Sooners’ ceiling is very high next season.

15. San Diego State

Key Returners: Dakari Allen, Dwayne Polee II, Aqeel Quinn, Winston Shepard, J.J. O’ Brien, Matt Shringley, Skylar Spencer
Key Losses: Xavier Thames, Josh Davis
Additions: SF Malik Pope (17), SF Zylan Cheatham (73), SG Trey Kell (118), PG Kevin Zabo (3 star)

It should be no surprise a team coached by Steve Fisher makes an appearance in the top 25. The loss of Xavier Thames won’t be an easy one but Malik Pope will definitely help the Aztecs get over that loss.

14. SMU 

Emmanuel Mudiay

Emmanuel Mudiay could lead SMU to the top of the American Athletic Conference next season.

Key Returners: Ryan Manuel, Sterling Brown, Keith Frazier, Markus Kennedy, Nic Moore, Cannen Cunningham, Ben Moore, Yanick Moreira
Key Losses: Shawn Williams, Nick Russell
Additions: PG Emmanuel Mudiay (2)

How good is Larry Brown? SMU had 15 wins in his first season then 27 this season. Next season they have the number two overall recruit and will be a contender for the American Athletic Conference Championship. It’s going to be a fun basketball season in University Park, Texas.

13. Wichita State 

Key Returners: Evan Wessel, Darius Carter, Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton
Key Losses: Cleanthony Early, Nick Wiggins, Kadeem Carter
Additions: PF Eric Hamilton (3 star), C Tom Wakumota (JC), SG Corey Henderson (3 star), PF Rashard Kelly (3 star), SF Zach Brown (3 star)

After an extremely memorable two years at Wichita State, Gregg Marshall is now expected to win and advance deep in the tournament. We will see what he can do in 2015 with the majority of his points coming back.

12. Louisville

Key Returners: Wayne Blackshear, Montrezl Harrell, Terry Rozier, Chris Jones
Key Losses: Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Tim Henderson, Stephan Van Treese
Additions: SF Shaqquan Aaron (27), PF Jaylen Johnson (56), C Chinanu Onuaku (65), PG Quentin Snider (31)

After losing to Kentucky in the Sweet Sixteen, Rick Pitino said this was “the end of an era.” The big question for Louisville is if Montrezl Harrell is going to return for another season. If he does return (I am ranking them as if he is returning) then Louisville is going to have another great team. If he does not return, the four top 100 recruits will have to step in and play right away.

11. Florida

Key Returners: Dorian Finney-Smith, Michael Frazier II, Chris Walker, Kasey Hill
Key Losses: Patric Young, Scottie Wilbiken, Will Yeguette, Casey Prather
Additions: SF Devin Robinson (20), SG Brandone Francis (26), PG Chris Chiozza (38)

Florida was regarded as the best team all college basketball season, only to lose to the eventually National Champion, UCONN, for the second time this year. It was a very disappointing end to Florida’s great year. Next year Billy Donovan won’t have his Seniors leading the way, but does still have some great pieces to make another Final Four run.

10. Michigan

Key Returners: Glenn Robinson III, Spike Albrecht, Mitch McGary, Derrick Walton Jr., Jon Horford, Zak Irvin, Caris LeVert
Key Losses: Nik Stauskas, Jordan Morgan
Additions: SF Kameron Chatman (29), SF D.J. Wilson (135), SG Austin Hatch (3 star), PF Ricky Doyle (3 star)

Imagine if Michigan had a healthy Mitch McGary all season long. How good would they have been? Wolverine fans are hoping McGary will be in Ann Arbor and healthy next year. If he sticks around, Michigan could be the favorite in the Big Ten. If he leaves, Jon Horford has to realize what he needs to do for his team.

9. Texas

Key Returners: Isaiah Taylor, Javan Felix, Jonathan Holmes, Connor Lammert, Prince Ibeh, Cameron Ridley
Key Losses: NONE
Additions: SF Jordan Barnett (101)

Texas essentially returns their entire team from a solid year this past season. Rick Barnes led his team into the NCAA Tournament after being on the hot seat two years ago. The Longhorns have a very bright future ahead of them. The brightest part? They are considered one of the favorites for 7-footer Myles Turner.

8. Connecticut

Key Returners: DeAndre Daniels, Ryan Boatright, Amida Brimah, Phillip Nolan
Key Losses: Niels Giffey, Tyler Olander, Shabazz Napier, Lasan Kromah
Additions: SG Daniel Hamilton (18), SG Sam Cassell Jr. (3 star), PF Rakim Lubin (3 star)

The defending National Champions lose the 2014 MOP and a key piece in Niels Giffey, but if DeAndre Daniels comes back to team up with Ryan Boatright, a repeat in 2015 is definitely not out of the question for Kevin Ollie and the Huskies.

7. Wisconsin

Frank the Tank

If Wisconsin gets Frank Kaminsky back next year, the Badgers will be favorites in the Big Ten.

Key Returners: Nigel Hayes, Traevon Jackson, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Frank Kaminsky, Jordan Hill, Duje Dukan
Key Losses: Ben Brust, Zach Bohannon
Additions: SF Ethan Happ (140)

The key for the Badgers next season is Frank Kaminsky. If Kaminsky returns, Wisconsin is as good as anyone. If he leaves, Bo Ryan’s club will be ranked in the 20’s.

6. Villanova

Key Returners: Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono, Patrick Farrell, JayVaughn Pinkston, Daniel Ochefu, Darrun Hilliard II
Key Losses: Tony Chennault, Nick McMahon, James Bell
Additions: SF Mikal Bridges (84), SG Phil Booth (85)

Losing James Bell will be a tough hurdle to overcome, but the Wildcats have a plethora of their team coming back from a good year in 2014. Although Villanova may have underachieved in the NCAA Tournament this year, don’t be surprised if Jay Wright’s team is competing for a National Championship in Indianapolis next April.

5. Kentucky 

Key Returners: Marcus Lee, Dakari Johnson, Andrew Harrison, Aaron Harrison, Alex Poythress
Key Losses: Julius Randle, James Young, Willie Cauley-Stein
Additions: PF Trey Lyles (8), C Karl Towns (11), SG Devin Booker (30), PG Tyler Ullis (33)

Kentucky, as usual, is a big question mark for next year until we know who is staying and who is leaving. It is expected that Julius Randle, James Young, and Willie Cauley-Stein will all declare for the NBA Draft. The Harrison twins, Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress and even Marcus Lee could leave and get drafted if they chose to, which would set Kentucky back a little bit.

4. Kansas

Key Returners: Wayne Selden Jr., Naadir Tharpe, Brannen Greene, Conner Frankamp, Perry Ellis, Frank Mason
Key Losses: Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Tarik Black
Additions: PF Cliff Alexander (4), SG Kelly Oubre (12)

Kansas is another team where we have to wait and see. Is Joel Embiid staying or leaving? If he leaves, the Jayhawks still have Cliff Alexander coming to Lawrence, who is an absolute man down low. If he stays, then the frontcourt of Alexander and Embiid will be the best in the country.

3. Duke

Key Returners: Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Marshall Plumlee
Key Losses: Jabari Parker, Tyler Thornton, Rodney Hood, Josh Hairston, Andre Dawkins
Additions: C Jahlil Okafor (1), PG Tyus Jones (5), SF Justise Winslow (9), SG Grayson Allen (34)

Although Duke is not returning much, they have three top ten recruits coming to Durham next season. It’ll be very interesting to see how Coach K handles having three, maybe even four, one-and-dones on the same team next year.

2. North Carolina

MArcus Paige

With Marcus Paige returning to Chapel Hill next season, it could be a special year for North Carolina.

Key Returners: Kennedy Meeks, Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto, Nate Britt
Key Losses: James Manor, Denzel Robinson, Leslie McDonald, Wade Moody, James Michael McAdoo
Additions: SF Justin Jackson (10), SF Theo Pinson (19), PG Joel Berry (25)

Although North Carolina is losing James Michael McAdoo to the NBA Draft, the Tar Heels return their leading scorer in Marcus Paige. If Paige can play all of next season like he did at the end of this season along with three top 25 recruits, we could see Roy Williams win his third title in Chapel Hill.

1. Arizona

Key Returners: Gabe York, T.J. McConnell, Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Kaleb Tarczewski, Nick Johnson
Key Losses: Aaron Gordon, Jordin Mayes
Additions: SF Stanley Johnson (3), PF Craig Victor (28), PG Parker Jackson-Cartwright (57), Kadeem Allen (Juco)

All season Arizona was ranked in the top five and they could be even better next season if Nick Johnson returns. Sean Miller is now known as the best coach to never have made a Final Four…expect that to change next year with a great group coming back and an excellent recruiting class making their way to Tucson.

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