College Basketball Rankings: Bleacher Report's Preseason Top 25

C.J. Moore@@CJMooreHoopsCollege Basketball National Lead WriterNovember 10, 2015

College Basketball Rankings: Bleacher Report's Preseason Top 25

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    B/R

    This is one of the those years in which there's no clear-cut choice for preseason No. 1, as mentioned in a previous column a few weeks ago. Since then, five teams have gone back-and-forth as my preseason title pick.

    But wouldn't you know it, when the three ballots came across for Bleacher Report's preseason Top 25, all three voters had the same preseason No. 1. 

    There are nine teams that appeared on all three ballots in the top 10, and 15 of the top 16 teams made all three ballots. 

    Colleagues Jason King and Kerry Miller joined me in selecting the B/R preseason Top 25. If our No. 1 busts, at least all three of us can agree on taking a mulligan. 

    Happy hoops season.

    Also receiving votes: Texas, LSU, Cincinnati, Georgetown

    Editor's note: A clerical error led to Wichita State being left out of our original Top 25. The error has been fixed and the Shockers debut at No. 8 in our preseason poll. 

25. Miami

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    Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    What's to Like: Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan are one of the best scoring duos in the ACC, especially when Rodriguez is on. This is Year 2 for the transfers in Jim Larranaga's system, and the Canes should make the leap from bubble team to the NCAA tourney.

    It'll help that the frontcourt got some needed depth with the addition of former Oklahoma State big man Kamari Murphy and freshman Anthony Lawrence Jr., who can play both the 3 and a small-ball 4.

    Biggest Question Mark: The consistency of Angel Rodriguez.

    The senior guard is capable of carrying the Hurricanes to some big wins—as he did at Duke last year—but can also bury them with an awful shooting night. In Miami losses last year, Rodriguez shot 23.6 percent from the field. In wins, he shot 39.9 percent. The biggest change he needs to make is to realize when it's not his night shooting the ball and not force up as many shots.

    First Litmus Test: Puerto Rico Tipoff, Nov. 19-22

    Miami opens against Mississippi State, a team that should be improved under new coach Ben Howland, and then could see Utah, a Sweet 16 team from a year ago.

24. Connecticut

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    Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    What's to Like: The Huskies lost Ryan Boatright to graduation, but they're deeper than they were a year ago with the additions of grad transfers Sterling Gibbs (from Seton Hall) and Shonn Miller (from Cornell). Freshman guard Jalen Adams should also be able to contribute right away. 

    Gibbs averaged 16.3 points and shot 43.6 percent from beyond the arc last season. Miller, an All-Ivy League performer last season, averaged 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds. He'll provide some scoring from the power forward position that the team lacked last year. Boatright was great, but UConn had to rely on him too much sometimes. This team should be a lot more balanced and harder to guard.

    Biggest Question Mark: Can the Huskies get back to guarding like their 2014 title team?

    The defense was a disappointment last season. The team returned its best defender, Boatright, had a rim protector on the back line, Amida Brimah, and had plenty of length and athleticism at other spots. Yet UConn went from ranking 10th in adjusted defensive efficiency in its championship season to 65th last year, according to KenPom.com.

    The offense should be improved, but the Huskies aren't going to be feared again unless the defense returns.

    First Litmus Test: Battle 4 Atlantis, Nov. 25-27

    The Huskies open with Michigan and then could see old Big East foe Syracuse in the semis.

23. SMU

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    Jessica Hill/Associated Press

    What's to Like: The Mustangs return much of their core, including stars Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy, from last season's American Conference champs, and Larry Brown improved his talent overall with some key transfer additions. Former Texas Tech power forward Jordan Tolbert is eligible after sitting out last season, and former Duke wing Semi Ojeleye will be eligible at the semester.

    Biggest Question Mark: Focus.

    The Mustangs are ineligible for the postseason, so you could say they don't have much to play for, but one could argue the opposite. This should be a pissed-off team that tries to take out its frustration over the postseason ban on opponents.

    First Litmus Test: At Stanford, Nov. 19.

    Stanford is down this year, but that's still a tough road game. Three nights later, SMU will play a sneaky-good Yale squad.

22. Notre Dame

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    Tony Dejak/Associated Press

    What's to Like: The Irish offense.

    Notre Dame was one of the hardest teams to guard in the country last year, in part due to the playmaking abilities of Jerian Grant and the matchup nightmare Mike Brey created by playing Pat Connaughton at the 4. Those two guys are gone, but Brey still has some fun weapons to build an elite offense around.

    Demetrius Jackson learned a lot from Grant and has the ability to be a star. Zach Auguste is one of the best pick-and-roll big men in the country. Steve Vasturia and V.J. Beachem, like Connaughton, can play multiple positions and allow Brey to go small. Undersized big man Bonzie Colson is a crafty scorer who shot 59.5 percent from the field last year.

    Biggest Question Mark: How do the Irish replace the leadership of Grant and Connaughton?

    Not only were they were great players, but Grant and Connaughton were the heart and soul of Notre Dame's team last year. The Irish still have talent, but those are two of the toughest guys in the country to replace, considering everything they did on and off the court for that program. The bench is also unproven, with last year's top bench guys, Colston and Beachem, moving into the starting lineup.

    First Litmus Test: Advocare Invitational Semis, Nov. 27

    Assuming the Irish can get by Monmouth in the opening round, they'll face the winner of Iowa and Dayton in the semis. Iowa returns four starters, and Dayton returns three starters from last year's Sweet 16 team.

21. Utah

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    Charlie Riedel/Associated Press

    What's to Like: The Utes return four of five starters, and JUCO transfer Lorenzo Bonam replaces Delon Wright in the starting lineup. Replacing one of the best point guards in the country with a JUCO guy isn't exactly ideal, but remember, Wright also started his career at a junior college.

    The Utes should be elite on the defensive end once again with the return of Jakob Poeltl. Poeltl is one of the best defenders in the country, and he was an efficient scorer as a freshman, making 68.1 percent of his shots.

    Biggest Question Mark: Replacing the playmaking of Wright.

    Wright has excellent vision and created a lot of easy shots for his teammates. The Utes still have proven scorers in Brandon Taylor, Jordan Loveridge and Poeltl. The biggest challenge could be for Poeltl, who scored a majority of his buckets off Wright penetration or pick-and-rolls with the point guard.

    First Litmus Test: vs. San Diego State, Nov. 16

    This will be a good early test for Utah's offense, as San Diego State's defense is always one of the best in the country.

20. Vanderbilt

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    Danny Johnston/Associated Press

    What's to Like: Junior big man Damian Jones has the potential to be a lottery pick. Sophomores Wade Baldwin and Riley LaChance form one of the most underrated backcourts in the country, and both can space the floor for Jones with three-point shooting. The Commodores also have another threat from deep, Luke Kornet, who just so happens to be 7'1" and a 40 percent shooter from deep last year.

    Kevin Stallings has one of the most talented rosters in the SEC. The Commodores were just too young last season and had the look of a team that was a year away.

    Biggest Question Mark: The defense.

    Scoring the ball should not be an issue, but the defense needs to improve.

    The Commodores ranked 114th in adjusted defensive efficiency last season, according to KenPom.com. Only six at-large teams made the NCAA tournament that didn't rank in the top 100 in adjusted defensive efficiency last year, and only one of those teams (Notre Dame) made it past the first weekend.

    First Litmus Test: Maui Invitational semis, Nov. 24

    Vanderbilt opens in Maui with rebuilding St. John's and will likely face Indiana in the semis. That has the potential to be a very high-scoring and entertaining game. 

19. Texas A&M

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    Danny Johnston/Associated Press

    What's to Like: Billy Kennedy returns his three best players (Danuel House, Jalen Jones and Alex Caruso), all of whom are seniors, and majorly upgraded A&M's depth and talent by signing one of the best freshmen classes in the country.

    The star of the class is Tyler Davis, a 6'10" big man with a nice back-to-the-basket game. Both he and 6'8" wing D.J. Hogg played together in high school and have mature games for their ages.

    Biggest Question Mark: Will the freshmen be ready to contribute?

    The Aggies have talent, but they'll be reliant on several freshmen to fill roles. Even with Davis and Hogg appearing ready, you never know how freshmen will make the transition to the college game.

    First Litmus Test: vs. Texas at Battle 4 Atlantis, Nov. 25

    It bears watching how Davis is able to perform against UT's big frontcourt.

18. Purdue

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    What's to Like: This is one of the most talented rosters Matt Painter has ever had, and it starts with a huge frontcourt. Freshman Caleb Swanigan (6'9") joins A.J. Hammons (7'0") and Isaac Haas (7'2") to give the Boilermakers a ton of size and beef in the paint.

    Swanigan is a load inside who knows how to throw his weight around. He's the best rebounder in the Class of 2015 and also does an excellent job carving out space to get easy buckets from the blocks.

    Biggest Question Mark: Three-point shooting.

    The Boilermakers shot only 32.7 percent from deep last year, but the addition of freshman guard Ryan Cline should help. Cline is considered one of the top shooters in the 2015 class. Sophomore guard Kendall Stephens should also help space the floor for the big fellas. He made 73 threes and shot 38.4 percent from distance as a freshman.

    First Litmus Test: vs. Old Dominion at the Hall of Fame Tipoff, Nov. 21

    The Monarchs won 27 games last year and made it to the postseason NIT semis.

17. Baylor

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    Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    What's to Like: Is there a better combination at the 3, 4 and 5 spots in college basketball than Taurean Prince, Rico Gathers and Johnathan Motley?

    Maryland and North Carolina would need to be in the conversation, but a case could definitely be made for the Bears.

    Prince and Gathers have proved themselves already, and Motley has the talent to be a breakout player this year. Look for Prince to be even better than he was a year ago, when he led the Bears in scoring (13.9 PPG) off the bench. He looked great this summer at the Nike Skills Academy and then averaged 10.8 points per game for the United States in the Pan Am Games. He led all college players in scoring on that team, which included All-American candidates Ron Baker, Denzel Valentine, Malcolm Brogdon and Melo Trimble.

    Biggest Question Mark: Point guard.

    Lester Medford will try to slide over from shooting guard to replace Kenny Chery. Chery was one of the most underrated guards in the country and will not be an easy man to replace.

    First Litmus Test: vs. Stephen F. Austin, Nov. 13

    This is a scary game to open a season. The Lumberjacks have made two straight NCAA tournaments and won 61 games over the past two years.

16. Butler

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    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    What's to Like: Watching Butler last season wasn't much different from watching the program during the Brad Stevens era. The Bulldogs got back to playing defense at an elite level and were an extremely tough out in the NCAA tournament, taking Notre Dame to overtime in the round of 32. 

    The addition of former NC State point guard Tyler Lewis should help the Bulldogs on the offensive end. Lewis was a McDonald's All-American coming out of high school and will fit in nicely alongside Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham. 

    Biggest Question Mark: Will the defense suffer with the graduation of Alex Barlow and Kameron Woods? 

    Lewis is an upgrade on the offensive end, but he's not as strong a defender as Barlow, and Woods was Butler's best interior defender. But with Roosevelt Jones still around, you know the Bulldogs are going to compete.

    First Litmus Test: Puerto Rico Tipoff, Nov. 19-22

    The Bulldogs open with Missouri State, which should be a gimme, but will be tested in the next two rounds, when they'll get either Temple or Minnesota in the semis and could see Utah or Miami in the championship game.

15. California

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    What's to Like: California has the most talented roster in the Pac-12. The Bears already had a talented roster, albeit an underachieving one, and they added two of the top freshmen in the country in Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb.

    Brown and Rabb project as first-round picks once they leave schoolBrown is likely one-and-doneand senior point guard Ty Wallace could play his way into the first round this year. Wing Jabari Bird is also an NBA prospect, and sharpshooter Jordan Mathews, who made 44.3 percent of his threes last season, will play professionally somewhere.

    Biggest Question Mark: Can all the talent turn into a good team?

    Again, the Bears were not exactly short on talent last year but won only 18 games and went 7-11 in the Pac-12. Brown could make a big difference, as he has the reputation of a guy with a great motor, and if this group plays with energy, it's hard to see them failing.

    First Litmus Test: vs. San Diego State at the Las Vegas Invitational, Nov. 26

    The Bears could end up playing San Diego State and West Virginia on consecutive nights. If they have any toughness issues, they'll show up against those teams.

14. Arizona

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    What's to Like: Sean Miller recruits at such a high level that losing four starters, as Arizona did, isn't as debilitating as it would be to most programs. Miller was smart in that he didn't just reload with freshmen but also added some experience to the roster in former Boston College forward Ryan Anderson and grad transfer Mark Tollefsen from San Francisco.

    Anderson will likely be the go-to guy for the Wildcats, and Tollefsen could be a fun weapon to move around. At 6'9", he can knock down the three (37.8 percent last year) and is athletic enough to play both forward spots. 

    Biggest Question Mark: Point guard. 

    Parker Jackson-Cartwright was solid as a backup in his freshman season but only played 9.6 minutes per game. Kadeem Allen, who could also see time at point guard, redshirted last year after transferring from the JUCO ranks. The expectations are still high at Arizona, because it's Arizona, but the most proven players on the roster outside of Kaleb Tarczewski (Anderson and Tollefsen) have not played on a winning team before.

    First Litmus Test: vs. Boise State, Nov. 19

    The Broncos are coming off an NCAA appearance and have one of the best duos out west in James Webb III and Anthony Drmic.

13. Michigan State

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    What's to Like: Perimeter scoring.

    The Spartans rode the backs of Travis Trice and Denzel Valentine to the Final Four last season. Trice is gone, but Tom Izzo replaces him with another talented scorer in West Virginia transfer Eron Harris. Harris averaged 17.2 points per game two years ago for the Mountaineers. Valentine is one of the best wings in the country and will likely take over primary ball-handling responsibilities now that Trice is gone.

    Biggest Question Mark: Who will score the ball inside?

    Branden Dawson could be just as hard to replace as Trice. Matt Costello (7.0 PPG last season) and Gavin Schilling (5.1 PPG) return, but neither projects as a go-to guy in the post. Keep an eye on freshman Deyonta Davis. He has the potential to turn into a Adreian Payne type who can score both inside and out.

    First Litmus Test: vs. Kansas, Nov. 17 at the Champions Classic

    This is the toughest game away from home the Spartans will face in the nonconference schedule. Their other marquee nonconference games are both at home—against Louisville on Dec. 2 and Florida on Dec. 12.

12. Indiana

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    What's to Like: The Hoosiers return all five starters from one of the best offenses in the country and also add freshman big man Thomas Bryant.

    They also have one of the best Big Threes with Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon and Troy Williams.

    Biggest Question Mark: The defense.

    The Hoosiers are going to score the ball. They have too many shooters to fail on that end, and if shots aren't falling, Ferrell can carry an offense. There's hope the defense can at least be adequate with the addition of Bryant. The lack of a big man they could count on last season was an issue.

    First Litmus Test: vs. Creighton, Nov. 19

    The Bluejays were one of the worst teams in the Big East last year but should be a lot better with the additions of transfers Cole Huff (from Nevada) and Mo Watson Jr. (from Boston University).

11. Gonzaga

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    What's to Like: The best frontcourt in the country.

    Kyle Wiltjer made a wise decision when he transferred to Gonzaga. He was a perfect fit in Mark Few's offense last year and put up some ridiculous shooting numbers—making 46.6 percent of his threes and 57.6 percent of his twos. At the center position, both Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis could start for pretty much any roster in the country. Few has said he intends to play all three bigs together at times by moving Wiltjer to the 3.

    Biggest Question Mark: The backcourt.

    The backcourt is probably better than perceived. Josh Perkins was playing well last year as the backup point guard, but it's easy to forget about him because he broke his jaw five games into the season and never played again. Kyle Dranginis is solid, and while Eric McClellan didn't do much after becoming eligible midway through last season, he put up big numbers (14.3 points and 3.2 assists per game) in half a season with Vanderbilt two years ago.

    First Litmus Test: vs. Pittsburgh in Okinawa, Japan, Nov. 13

    The Panthers are coming off a down year, but Jamie Dixon's bunch is always a tough team to play.

10. Duke

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    What's to Like: Mike Krzyzewski is killing it in recruiting and has another talented group coming in, led by likely one-and-done small forward Brandon Ingram.

    The Blue Devils will be much more reliant on the three-point shot than they were a year ago, as they have no one like Jahlil Okafor coming in and are short on true low-post scorers. The Devils are not short on shooters, however. Incoming freshman Luke Kennard will right away be one of the best dead-eye shooters in the country, while Ingram, Grayson Allen, Matt Jones and Derryck Thornton are all capable of getting hot from deep.

    Biggest Question Mark: Point guard play.

    The Duke staff once again came through in recruiting by convincing Thornton to reclassify and join the Blue Devils as the replacement for Tyus Jones. It's a big leap of faith, however, to just assume that Thornton will slide in and give the Blue Devils what Jones provided.

    Jones played beyond his years. It's not a given that Thornton's transition will be as smooth, and the talent around him is not at the same level that Jones had. The luxury Duke does have is that Allen is a good secondary ball-handler and could slide over from shooting guard to the point when needed.

    First Litmus Test: vs. Kentucky, Nov. 17

    Both rosters are young and talented. This will be a good early test for Thornton going up against Kentucky guards Tyler Ulis and Jamal Murray.

9. Iowa State

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    Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

    What's to Like: Fred Hoiberg left Steve Prohm a group that is built to compete for a Big 12 championship and go on a run in March.

    The Cyclones have one of the best starting fives in the country with two All-American candidates (Georges Niang and Monte Morris), one of the most talented centers in the country (Jameel McKay), a knockdown three-point shooter (Naz Long) and a scoring wing (Abdel Nader).

    Biggest Question Mark: The bench.

    The Cyclones aren't very deep, especially to start the year. Marquette transfer forward Deonte Burton will help once he's eligible in the spring, but until then, Iowa State only has two guys with experience off the benc. Both guys, three-point specialists Hallice Cooke and Matt Thomas, are similar players.

    First Litmus Test: vs. Colorado in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Nov. 13

    The Buffs had their first losing season under Tad Boyle last year after three straight NCAA tournament appearances. They're led by underrated big man Josh Scott.

8. Wichita State

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    What's to Like: Gregg Marshall, Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker sticking around.

    The Shockers have the best backcourt in the country and added Cleveland State transfer Anton Grady to provide some inside scoring. They'll also add another shooter after the fall semester when former Kansas guard Conner Frankamp becomes eligible.

    Biggest Question Mark: Replacing Tekele Cotton.

    The Shockers should be fine on the offensive end without Cotton, but their defense could suffer. He was the guy who guarded the other team's best player. Frankamp isn't the best defender and will need to improve on that end to get minutes. If he can, playing Baker, VanVleet and Frankamp together is a pretty salty lineup on the offensive end.

    First Litmus Test: at Tulsa, Nov. 17

    The Hurricane went 14-4 in the American Conference last season and would have been an NCAA tourney team if not for stinking it up in the nonconference. 

7. Villanova

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    What's to Like: Jay Wright returns a good core led by Josh Hart, Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu.

    Wright could have simply taken a year off in recruiting and still had a top-10-ish veteran roster. But instead, he went out and signed the player I think is the best point guard in the Class of 2015, Jalen Brunson.

    Brunson, the son of former NBA guard Rick Brunson, will look nothing like a freshman. He plays with poise and has flashed some serious potential the last two summers playing for USA Basketball. A year ago, he outplayed teammate Tyus Jones, and this past summer he was the MVP for the United States in the Under-19 World Championship, averaging 14.0 points and 5.6 assists.

    Biggest Question Mark: Inside depth.

    The Wildcats are short on big men. They have enough size on the wing to go small a lot, but they don't have any proven options once Daniel Ochefu goes to the bench.

    First Litmus Test: vs. Nebraska, Nov. 17

    The nonconference schedule gets tough in December, with a game against Oklahoma in Hawaii and a trip to Virginia a week before Christmas.

6. Oklahoma

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    Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

    What's to Like: The Sooners return four starters from a team that finished one game in back of a Big 12 title and made a Sweet 16 run last season.

    This veteran group, led by preseason Bleacher Report first-team All-American Buddy Hield, has been playing together for several years and transformed itself last year from a team that was mediocre on defense to one of the best in the country—going from 91st in adjusted defensive efficiency in 2013-14 to eighth last year, according to KenPom.com.

    Biggest Question Mark: The bench.

    Last year's sixth man, Frank Booker, transferred to Florida Atlantic. That leaves only one bench player, Dinjiyl Walker, who played in more than 15 games last season.

    First Litmus Test: at Memphis, Nov. 17

    Josh Pastner always has talent and improved his roster this offseason by landing the Lawson brothers and Alabama transfer guard Ricky Tarrant Jr.

5. Virginia

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    What's to Like: Tony Bennett with an experienced roster.

    The Virginia coach is fast becoming one of the most respected coaches in the college game after back-to-back ACC titles. The Cavaliers have won 60 games in the last two years and gone 32-4 in the ACC over that time. The core of the group that has gotten it done, led by Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill, is back.

    Virginia doesn't have the kind of depth of talent of other top-five teams, though Bennett's talent is always better than perceived. The great equalizer for the Cavaliers is their pack-line defense.

    Biggest Question Mark: Scoring.

    Virginia's offense took a slight dip last year when Justin Anderson injured his hand. Anderson left for the NBA, but Brogdon and Gill are plenty capable of carrying an offense. Big man Mike Tobey is also a nice scorer who is capable of playing a bigger role in UVa's offense than he's played in the past.

    First Litmus Test: at George Washington, Nov. 16

    The Colonials won 22 games last year, including against Wichita State and Dayton, and return four of their five leading scorers.

4. Maryland

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    What's to Like: The starting five.

    On paper, Maryland's starting five is arguably the best in the country. The Terps needed a shooter and secondary ball-handler, and Mark Turgeon landed former Duke guard Rasheed Sulaimon to fill both needs.

    The Terps needed low-post scoring, and Turgeon signed one of the best low-post scorers in the 2015 class, Diamond Stone. They also had former Georgia Tech power forward Robert Carter sitting out last season.

    Those three join Melo Trimble and Jake Layman, two of Maryland's best players last season on a team that won 28 games and finished second in the Big Ten.

    Biggest Question Mark: Layman moving to the wing.

    Layman thrived last season as a stretch 4. He'll still see some time in that spot this year, but he'll start at small forward. He has the skills to play there, but it'll be an adjustment on both ends.

    This is nitpicking, as it's hard to find a hole on this roster. The biggest questions might just be whether the newcomers can blend in and whether the talent is as good as it appears on paper.

    First Litmus Test: vs. Georgetown, Nov. 17

    The Hoyas are a fringe-Top 25 team and endured less roster turnover than the Terps. That could mean they're further along at this early part of the season. They certainly have the talent to knock off Maryland. 

3. North Carolina

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    What's to Like: In terms of returning talent, only the top teams in the Big 12 (Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma) compare to North Carolina, and UNC probably has the edge.

    Roy Williams returns every guy in his rotation except for J.P. Tokoto. The Heels were playing at a high level in March and had Wisconsin on the ropes in the Sweet 16, leading by seven almost midway through the second half. This group has had stretches of looking elite the last two seasons, and this feels like the year it'll all come together.

    Biggest Question Mark: Can someone be an outside threat besides Marcus Paige?

    This is the same question that has been posed regarding UNC each of the last two seasons. No one outside of Paige made more than 28 threes last year.

    There's hope that sophomore wing Justin Jackson can be that guy. He has a nice stroke and got hot late last year, making 17 threes over the final 12 games and shooting 44.7 percent from distance over that time.

    First Litmus Test: at Northern Iowa, Nov. 21

    This is a game that was scheduled for Iowa native Paige but becomes a scary road contest now that Paige will likely be unavailable after he fractured the third metacarpal in his right (non-shooting) hand last week.

2. Kansas

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    What's to Like: Much like Kentucky gained confidence from a summer trip in which it faced legit competition heading into last season, Kansas had a similar experience this summer, winning the World University Games.

    The Jayhawks not only gained confidence from that trip but also figured out how to get the best out of Wayne Selden, who had a disappointing sophomore campaign. Selden thrived this summer after sliding from shooting guard to small forward. He slashed more than he ever has and averaged a team-best 19.3 points per game. If that Selden shows up this season, the Jayhawks have a pretty lethal Big Three in Selden, Frank Mason III and Perry Ellis.

    Biggest Question Mark: Will Cheick Diallo be eligible?

    Kansas is still waiting on the NCAA to make a decision on Diallo. Luckily for Bill Self, he has one of the deepest rosters he's ever had either way.

    If the Jayhawks don't get a favorable ruling, Self could turn to either Landen Lucas, who started last year after Cliff Alexander was lost for the season, or senior Hunter Mickelson, who thrived this summer in the World University Games. Mickelson averaged 8.4 points and 4.9 rebounds this summer, and he fits well with KU's guards as a pick-and-pop big man. He's also a solid rim protector.

    Keep an eye out for freshman Carlton Bragg Jr. as well. Bragg has a more polished offensive game than Diallo and has had a really good preseason.

    First Litmus Test: vs. Michigan State at the Champions Classic, Nov. 17

    Last year at this event, Kentucky showed that Kansas was a step below the top-tier teams in the country. This game against the Spartans will show whether the Jayhawks are as good as they looked this summer.

1. Kentucky

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    Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

    What's to Like: Another year, another loaded recruiting class coming in for John Calipari.

    The formula has worked pretty well (except in 2012-13) for Calipari and the Wildcats. It always helps when Calipari has a few veterans to go with his stud freshmen. The 'Cats have that in sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis and forwards Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress.

    Biggest Question Mark: Are the freshmen as good as advertised?

    Usually the answer is yes when it comes to Kentucky. The two most-hyped guys this year are big man Skal Labissiere and guard Jamal Murray. Labissiere is considered one of the top two pro prospects in college, and Murray is one of the best pure scorers in the country. He averaged 16 points per game this summer for Canada in the Pan Am Games. 

    First Litmus Test: vs. Duke at the Champions Classic, Nov. 17

    These two programs are pretty similar these days, building around one-and-done freshmen. As it always is, this will be a great event for NBA scouts and help show which freshmen are ready for the college level.

    C.J. Moore covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @CJMooreBR.