Updated College Basketball Preseason Top 25 After NBA Draft Withdrawal Deadline

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystMay 31, 2016

Updated College Basketball Preseason Top 25 After NBA Draft Withdrawal Deadline

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    It's going to take Mike Krzyzewski at least two hands to count the number of impact players on his incredible roster.
    It's going to take Mike Krzyzewski at least two hands to count the number of impact players on his incredible roster.Keith Srakocic/Associated Press

    A lot has changed since posting our super-early top 25 for the 2016-17 men's college basketball season, but one thing hasn't: Duke is still the obvious No. 1 team in the country.

    If anything, the Blue Devils' stranglehold on the top spot only grew stronger with all of the draft declarations, transfers and recruit signings that have taken place in the past two months.

    But with draft season mercifully over, all but one key recruit (Jarrett Allen) set on where they will spend their freshman seasons and the transfer deluge slowing to a trickle, we finally have a clear picture of what the top teams will be bringing to the table in November.

    Duke, Kansas, Arizona and California each improved by adding a key player since early April, but for most teams, winning in these rankings was simply a matter of not losing guys to the NBA draft.

    Teams like Michigan State, Louisville, Xavier and Indiana slipped a little bit because of draft decisions that we weren't expecting, while Seton Hall, Syracuse and USC dropped completely off the radar because of their departed players.

    Honorable mentions (beginning with closest to No. 25): SMU, Oklahoma, Monmouth, West Virginia, NC State, Florida State, Texas A&M, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, Maryland, Wichita State.

25. Creighton Bluejays

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    Mo Watson Jr.
    Mo Watson Jr.Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: Not Ranked

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Mo Watson Jr. (14.1 PPG, 6.5 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.0 SPG)
    Marcus Foster (Incoming Transfer)
    Isaiah Zierden (10.2 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.4 SPG)
    Cole Huff (11.3 PPG, 5.1 RPG)
    Zach Hanson (6.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG)

    Key Bench Players: Justin Patton, Toby Hegner, Khyri Thomas, Ronnie Harrell Jr.

    As evidenced by the long list of honorable mentions, it was a struggle to settle on team No. 25. But let's give a shoutout to Creighton and its trio of terrific transfers.

    After the 2013-14 seasonaka the end of the Doug McDermott erathe Bluejays went into total rebuild mode. Four of their five leading scorers were seniors, and though their ability to recruit has improved considerably since joining the Big East Conference, that's a tough pill for any program to swallow.

    Instead of restocking with high schoolers, head coach Greg McDermott became a frequent visitor to the transfer market.

    As a result, Creighton only struggled for one year, bouncing back with a 20-15 record this past season thanks to a pair of transfers. Mo Watson Jr. (Boston University) and Cole Huff (Nevada) led the team in scoring in their first year on the roster, and there's reasonable hope that Marcus Foster (Kansas State) will follow suit with a big debut.

    All of a sudden, the Bluejays have the look of a team that can vie for a top-three finish in the Big East. They even have a surprising amount of quality depth on their bench, especially if redshirt 4-star freshman Justin Patton is able to make a bit of a splash this year.

24. Dayton Flyers

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    Charles Cooke
    Charles CookeDerik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 21

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Scoochie Smith (11.7 PPG, 4.3 APG, 3.5 RPG, 1.3 SPG)
    Kyle Davis (8.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.1 APG, 1.2 SPG)
    Charles Cooke (15.6 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.3 SPG, 1.2 BPG)
    Kendall Pollard (10.3 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.4 APG)
    Josh Cunningham (Incoming Transfer)

    Key Bench Players: Darrell Davis, Sam Miller, Ryan Mikesell, Xeyrius Williams, John Crosby, Trey Landers

    A number of potential top 25 teams have lost players since the end of the season, but none as tragically as Dayton.

    On May 12, presumed starting center Steve McElvene passed away suddenly at the age of 20. At the funeral, head coach Archie Miller reflected on a player development meeting he had with McElvene just one week prior, saying, "I remember thinking to myself, this is going to lead to a monster jump in his quest to realize his dreams."

    Without McElvene or Dyshawn Pierre (graduated), the Flyers may struggle on the glass and in the paint this season. But they do have options, the best of which is likely Bradley transfer Josh Cunningham. He averaged 7.9 points and 7.5 rebounds per game as a freshman with the Braves, and even though he's only 6'7", that's tall enough to be a center on this roster. Sam Miller and Xeyrius Williams are also big enough to help in the interior game.

    Provided they can patch together something in the frontcourt, the four seniors in the projected starting lineup should be able to carry this team to at least 25 wins for a fourth consecutive season. Charles Cooke is the leader of the bunch, but Kendall Pollard and Scoochie Smith should also receive consideration for preseason All-A-10 honors.

23. Connecticut Huskies

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    Amida Brimah (35) and Kevin Ollie
    Amida Brimah (35) and Kevin OllieKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 17

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Jalen Adams (7.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.4 APG, 1.1 SPG)
    Rodney Purvis (12.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.1 APG)
    Terry Larrier (Incoming Transfer)
    Juwan Durham (Incoming Freshman)
    Amida Brimah (6.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.7 BPG)

    Key Bench Players: Alterique Gilbert, Vance Jackson, Mamadou Diarra, Kentan Facey, Steven Enoch

    Less than 24 hours after every sports outlet posted its way-too-early top 25 rankings, Connecticut's prospects for the season took a major hit with Daniel Hamilton announcing he would remain in the draft and hire an agent.

    "It was a great ride," Hamilton said. "I'm glad we won the AAC tournament and played in the NCAA tournament. But after talking it over with my family, I just feel this is the best thing for me, to provide for my family, to help my family out."

    (Look for Hamilton to become the cautionary tale against hiring an agent before going through the process, as his name doesn't even appear in most mock drafts.)

    Fortunately for the Huskies, Amida Brimah and Rodney Purvis decided to return to school, giving them a veteran presence in the paint and on the perimeter to pair with talented young guys.

    Head coach Kevin Ollie didn't make any 5-star splashes this year, but he quietly put together one of the strongest recruiting classes in the country. Juwan Durham might be the only 4-star player who starts, but that would mean Connecticut has three more of them coming off the bench.

    And don't forget about VCU transfer Terry Larrier. Rated by 247Sports as the 33rd-best recruit in the class of 2014, he was the best prospect Shaka Smart signed with the Rams. When Smart took the job at Texas, Connecticut benefited from picking up Larrier. He could be the most impactful sat-a-year transfer in the entire country.

22. Clemson Tigers

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    Jaron Blossomgame
    Jaron BlossomgameDawson Powers-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: Not Ranked

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Marcquise Reed (Incoming Transfer)
    Avry Holmes (10.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.2 SPG)
    Jaron Blossomgame (18.7 PPG, 6.7 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.3 BPG)
    Donte Grantham (10.2 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.3 APG, 1.0 SPG)
    Sidy Djitte (5.3 PPG, 5.2 RPG)

    Key Bench Players: Shelton Mitchell, Elijah Thomas (second semester), Gabe DeVoe, Ty Hudson, Legend Robertin

    If we count Florida State, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech as teams that just barely missed the cut, the ACC has eight teams in our top 35, with Miami, Notre Dame, Pittsburgh and Syracuse not that far behind. In years past, trying to decide on the best conference in the country has led to a spirited debate, but there's no doubt that the ACC is the cream of this year's crop.

    But thanks to a few key additions and one crucial retention, Clemson is built to legitimately compete in that gauntlet.

    Jaron Blossomgame's decision to stay for one more year is unquestionably what pushed the Tigers over the top. He isn't a household name yet, but he should be. Take a look at this comparison of stats on a per-100-possession basis:

    Blossomgame's junior year: 34.4 points, 12.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.4 blocks, 1.4 steals

    Jahlil Okafor's freshman year: 34.9 points, 17.1 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 2.9 blocks, 1.5 steals

    Okafor was a better rebounder, but Okafor didn't shoot 44.1 percent from three-point range like Blossomgame did. The honor of preseason favorite for ACC Player of the Year will inevitably go to someone from Duke, but Blossomgame belongs in that conversation.

    And thanks to a trio of transfers, he has a significantly better supporting cast to work with this year. Marcquise Reed (Robert Morris), Shelton Mitchell (Vanderbilt) and Elijah Thomas (Texas A&M) should each make a major impact as presumed members of the primary eight-man rotation.

21. Butler Bulldogs

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    Kelan Martin
    Kelan MartinAnthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 19

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Tyler Lewis (5.9 PPG, 2.8 APG, 1.5 RPG)
    Kethan Savage (Incoming Transfer)
    Kelan Martin (15.7 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.1 APG)
    Andrew Chrabascz (10.7 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG)
    Tyler Wideman (7.8 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 1.0 SPG)

    Key Bench Players: Avery Woodson, Joey Brunk, Kamar Baldwin, Nate Fowler 

    If you're still of the mindset that transfers aren't an epidemic in college basketball, just look at the impact they have had on our rankings thus far. Creighton and Clemson are each buoyed by three players they didn't sign out of high school, while Charles Cooke (Dayton via James Madison) and Terry Larrier (Connecticut via VCU) might be the leading scorers for their second schools.

    And now we have Butler, which added Tyler Lewis from NC State after the 2013-14 season, picked up Kethan Savage from George Washington last summer and adds Avery Woodson from Memphis as a graduate transfer this offseason. Unless Kamar Baldwin makes a big splash as a freshman, Butler's entire backcourt will be made up of players who started their collegiate careers elsewhere.

    (That doesn't matter one bit in how we rank these teams, but it was an observation worth making.)

    In addition to the transfer guards, the Bulldogs have three outstanding forwards. Both Kelan Martin and Tyler Wideman blossomed in a huge way as sophomores, and Andrew Chrabascz is the stretch 4 who provides this team with an X-factor to give opponents fits.

    Butler's other major X-factor could be Joey Brunk. The 4-star center had offers from such programs as Indiana, Michigan State and Xavier before choosing the Bulldogs. Lack of height was their downfall last seasonthey were destroyed in the paint in the NCAA tournament loss to Virginia—but if Brunk can give the Bulldogs 15-20 quality minutes per game, it would give Chris Holtmann one heck of a well-rounded roster to coach.

20. Saint Mary's Gaels

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    Emmett Naar
    Emmett NaarUSA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: Not Ranked

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Emmett Naar (14.1 PPG, 6.3 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.3 SPG)
    Joe Rahon (10.7 PPG, 5.4 APG, 4.5 RPG, 1.3 SPG)
    Calvin Hermanson (10.9 PPG, 2.9 RPG)
    Dane Pineau (11.3 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.5 BPG, 1.4 APG)
    Evan Fitzner (8.7 PPG, 4.4 RPG)

    Key Bench Players: Jock Landale, Kyle Clark, Stefan Gonzalez

    Without losing a single player from last year's roster, conventional wisdom is that Saint Mary's will inevitably get better. And for a team that already went 29-6 last season, that's scary news for the rest of the country.

    The Gaels were almost unstoppable on offense in 2015-16. They shot 56.8 percent from inside the arc and 40.6 percent beyond it for the best field-goal percentage in the nation. With Emmett Naar and Joe Rahon handling the rock, they rarely committed turnovers, either. As a result, they averaged nearly 74 points per game while playing at the fourth-slowest tempo in the country.

    For sake of comparison, slow-paced but offensively efficient Virginia only averaged 71.0 points per game.

    There is the question, though, of the level of competition Saint Mary's faced. Aside from a couple of wins against a Gonzaga team that wouldn't have even made the NCAA tournament with an at-large bid, the Gaels didn't beat anyone of value last seasonthus missing the tournament before getting shut down by Valparaiso in the NIT.

    But the Gaels never schedule aggressively and should put that to good use in racking up close to 30 wins once again.

19. Louisville Cardinals

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    Donovan Mitchell (45) and Deng Adel (22)
    Donovan Mitchell (45) and Deng Adel (22)Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 9

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Quentin Snider (9.4 PPG, 3.5 APG, 2.3 RPG)
    Donovan Mitchell (7.4 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.7 APG)
    V.J. King (Incoming Freshman)
    Raymond Spalding (5.6 PPG, 4.3 RPG)
    Mangok Mathiang (7.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.2 BPG)

    Key Bench Players: Tony Hicks, Jaylen Johnson, Deng Adel, Anas Mahmoud, Matz Stockman 

    Despite losing leading scorers Damion Lee and Trey Lewis, Louisville looked like a top-10 team at the outset of the 2016 offseason. With a 2014 recruiting class that ranked fifth in the nation, a 2015 class that ranked sixth and a 5-star freshman joining the program this year, the Cardinals are loaded with young talent to surround fifth-year senior and Penn transfer Tony Hicks.

    But when Chinanu Onuaku decided to remain in the NBA draft pool, their outlook for the upcoming season took a turn for the worse.

    Head coach Rick Pitino still has more big men than he could possibly need. Even excluding Deng Adel as a 6'7" stretch 4, Louisville has five returning players 6'9" or taller, each of whom scored at least 62 points last season. It's an embarrassment of riches, really, but Onuaku had the potential to average a double-double en route to ACC Player of the Year. Guys like Raymond Spalding, Mangok Mathiang and Jaylen Johnson will be serviceable, but they aren't nearly the dominant presence that Onuaku was.

    Still, this is a team that should do damage en route to a top-five finish in the ACC. Donovan Mitchell is a walking ball of breakout potential, and Spalding and Anas Mahmoud aren't far behind him. If V.J. King comes in and immediately puts up around 10 points per game, the Cardinals will be tough to beat.

18. California Golden Bears

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    Ivan Rabb (1) and Jabari Bird (23)
    Ivan Rabb (1) and Jabari Bird (23)Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: Not Ranked

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Grant Mullins (Incoming Transfer)
    Jordan Mathews (13.5 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.2 APG)
    Jabari Bird (10.4 PPG, 3.3 RPG)
    Ivan Rabb (12.5 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG)
    Kameron Rooks (3.6 PPG, 4.8 RPG)

    Key Bench Players: Sam Singer, Kingsley Okoroh, Charlie Moore, Dontae Coleman 

    Where Louisville lost a quality big man we were expecting to return, California held on to a quality big man we were expecting to leave. And when Grant Mullins opted to graduate-transfer to California shortly after Ivan Rabb announced he would be coming back, the Golden Bears once again became a serious contender for the Pac-12 crown.

    Despite a strong 2015-16 season, California was not on anyone's radar for way-too-early top 25 rankings. With Tyrone Wallace graduating and Jaylen Brown and Rabb presumably declaring for the draft, the Golden Bears were shaping up to be little more than a couple of veteran shooting guards and a couple of unproven big men.

    "Difficult to envision a scenario in which the Bears don't take a sizable step back," wrote Jon Wilner for the Mercury News in early April in projecting Cal for a ninth-place finish in the Pac-12 in 2016-17.

    Now that head coach Cuonzo Martin has a veteran point guard and arguably the best returning big man in the country, though, this is suddenly a team that can compete with the other three Pac-12 teams in our top 10. The ACC is the deepest and most talented league, but I would love to see prop bet odds on the Pac-12 winning the 2017 national championship.

17. Rhode Island Rams

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    Hassan Martin
    Hassan MartinMark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: Not Ranked

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Jarvis Garrett (12.5 PPG, 4.7 APG, 3.7 RPG, 1.1 SPG)
    Jared Terrell (13.6 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.2 SPG)
    E.C. Matthews (DNP: Torn ACL)
    Kuran Iverson (9.8 PPG, 7.1 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.2 BPG)
    Hassan Martin (12.0 PPG, 5.6 RPG, 2.5 BPG)

    Key Bench Players: Stanford Robinson, Christion Thompson, Nicola Akele 

    The torn ACL that E.C. Matthews suffered in the first game of the season effectively killed any hope Rhode Island had of making the 2016 NCAA tournament. But the Rams had to take a step back to take two steps forward, because they are now a legitimate Sweet 16 candidate and the favorites to win the Atlantic 10 in 2016-17.

    That's because the injury to Matthews forced Jarvis Garrett and Jared Terrell to make sophomore-year leaps. They were painfully inefficient and inconsistent as freshmen, but they blossomed into reliable scorers, each improving his two-point, three-point and free-throw percentages while also improving as scorers, rebounders and passers.

    The backcourt was Rhode Island's big question mark heading into last season, but now it's the strong suit.

    Moreover, Matthews' injury opened the door for Kuran Iverson to develop into a double-double threat alongside Hassan Martin.

    If Matthews is able to come back at even 85 percent of the player he was in 2014-15 (16.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 2.0 APG), he'll be doing so on a roster much more suited for a postseason run than it was a year ago.

    And don't rule out the possibility of Stanford Robinson having a monster year as Rhode Island's sixth man. He struggled to carve out a niche in his two seasons with Indiana, but he was a 4-star recruit in the class of 2013. The change of scenery and the season spent on the bench might have been exactly what he needed to reboot his college career.

16. Baylor Bears

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    Johnathan Motley
    Johnathan MotleyKevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 16

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Manu Lecomte (Incoming Transfer)
    Al Freeman (11.3 PPG, 3.4 RPG, 1.7 APG)
    Ish Wainright (5.9 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.6 APG, 1.0 SPG)
    Johnathan Motley (11.1 PPG, 5.1 RPG, 1.1 BPG)
    Jo Acuil (JUCO Transfer)

    Key Bench Players: T.J. Maston, King McClure, Jake Lindsey, Mark Vital, Nuni Omot, Tyson Jolly

    Aside from Kansas, it's shaping up to be a down year for most of the Big 12. Eleven of the 15 players to score at least 400 points last season either graduated or left for the NBA draft, and the only incoming 5-star recruit in the entire conference belongs to the Jayhawks. If you feel absolutely certain about who the second-best team is in this conference, you're only fooling yourself.

    But after the past few seasons of dominance, it's impossible to envision a world where Kansas is the only Big 12 team in the top 25. Most people seem to be throwing a bone to West Virginia and head coach Bob Huggins' ability to turn anyone into a key member of his rotation, but we're partial to what Baylor is bringing to the table in 2016-17.

    Despite losing Taurean Prince, Rico Gathers and Lester Medford from their starting lineup, the Bears have a ton of viable optionsespecially if Jo Acuil is able to make his long-awaited D-I debut. He averaged 20.1 points, 11.2 rebounds and 4.7 blocks per game as a sophomore at Neosho County Community College, but he never appeared in a game this past season due to heart issues.

    If the big man is healthy enough for action this season, he and Johnathan Motley could be one of the five best frontcourt duos in the country. But even if that JUCO transfer doesn't pan out, the Bears also have Nuni Omot joining the roster this season, as well as T.J. Maston as a returning option.

    This team is deep at every position except for point guard, but Miami transfer Manu Lecomte was a point guard in high school before being forced to play off the ball alongside the likes of Rion Brown, Garrius Adams, Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellanand he still averaged 2.0 assists per game in those two seasons. He should be a great facilitator for this deep offensive attack.

15. Xavier Musketeers

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    Edmond Sumner
    Edmond SumnerSteven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 10

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Edmond Sumner (11.0 PPG, 3.6 APG, 3.4 RPG, 1.3 SPG)
    Myles Davis (10.8 PPG, 4.1 APG, 3.6 RPG)
    J.P. Macura (9.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.1 SPG)
    Trevon Bluiett (15.1 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 2.2 APG)
    RaShid Gaston (Incoming Transfer)

    Key Bench Players: Kaiser Gates, Quentin Goodwin, Sean O'Mara, Tyrique Jones

    Xavier might have been a top-five team if Jalen Reynolds had decided to return for his senior year. Insteadwith James Farr graduating and Makinde London transferringthe Musketeers will now require a big year from Norfolk State transfer RaShid Gaston.

    Gaston put up big numbers for the Spartans in 2014-15, averaging 15.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game. However, the level of competition he faced for most of the season is nothing compared to what he'll draw with Xavier. In fact, in three games against major-conference teams in 2014-15 (Vanderbilt, Baylor and Georgia), Gaston averaged just 6.7 points and 6.3 rebounds.

    Moreover, he was the only player on Norfolk State's roster taller than 6'7" to play at least five minutes per game in 2014-15. He might make a splash with the Musketeers, but it's not hard to argue that his numbers were inflated by playing on a small team in a small conference. At any rate, we're afraid to state with certainty that he is going to be the answer at center for Xavier.

    And therein lies the potential problem in ranking this team.

    The three-headed monster of Trevon Bluiett, Edmond Sumner and Myles Davis will carry the Musketeers to a good number of wins, and we're excited to see what J.P. Macura can do with a presumed starting job this season. But rebounding was such a crucial component of Xavier's success last seasonan average rebounding margin of plus-7.3 per game—that we're unwilling to buy stock in this being a top-10 team until we know whether they have a legitimate presence at center.

14. Indiana Hoosiers

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    Thomas Bryant
    Thomas BryantBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 11

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Robert Johnson (8.1 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 3.1 APG)
    James Blackmon Jr. (15.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.2 SPG)
    Collin Hartman (5.0 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 1.7 APG)
    OG Anunoby (4.9 PPG, 2.6 RPG)
    Thomas Bryant (11.9 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 1.0 APG)

    Key Bench Players: Josh Newkirk, Juwan Morgan, De'Ron Davis, Curtis Jones 

    Indiana got a mixed bag of offseason news with Thomas Bryant and James Blackmon Jr. returning for another season, while Troy Williams decided to keep his name in the NBA draft.

    If you ask Hoosiers fans, though, that might have been the best possible series of events. Bryant and Blackmon were must-haves, but replacing Williams' possession-to-possession inconsistency with OG Anunoby's seemingly limitless potential is a drool-inducing trade-off for this starting five.

    Does that trio have enough of a supporting cast, though?

    The big question for Indiana this summer will be its point guard play without Yogi Ferrell, but the drop from Ferrell to Robert Johnson might not be that steep. A highly rated 2014 recruit who has been overshadowed by Blackmon, Johnson shot 44.7 percent from three-point range while doling out 5.0 assists per 40 minutes as a secondary ball-handler. His transition to primary point guard should be seamless, but head coach Tom Crean also has Pittsburgh transfer Josh Newkirk as an option.

    Juwan Morgan could also have a big season for Indiana. The 4-star power forward was effective in limited minutes, but a recurring shoulder injury kept him from making an impact that matches his talent. He had surgery this offseason andwith Williams and Max Bielfeldt out of the pictureshould emerge as the most important weapon off the Hoosiers bench in 2016-17.

    But it's Bryant and Anunoby who could make Indiana the most exciting team in the country. As we'll see in the next half-dozen slides, there's a lot of competition for Big Ten supremacy this season. However, that frontcourt duo could be what leads the Hoosiers to a second straight Big Ten title.

13. Purdue Boilermakers

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    Caleb Swanigan
    Caleb SwaniganSandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 20

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    P.J. Thompson (5.7 PPG, 2.7 APG, 2.1 RPG)
    Dakota Mathias (5.5 PPG, 2.3 APG, 2.2 RPG)
    Vince Edwards (11.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.9 APG)
    Caleb Swanigan (10.2 PPG, 8.3 RPG, 1.8 APG)
    Isaac Haas (9.8 PPG, 3.7 RPG)

    Key Bench Players: Carsen Edwards, Ryan Cline, Spike Albrecht 

    Few teams have had a better offseason to date than Purdue.

    Yes, the Boilermakers are expected to take a small step back after losing A.J. Hammons, Rapheal Davis and Johnny Hill, but we already knew those seniors were gone. The unknowns were whether Caleb Swanigan or Vince Edwards would be back, but they both decided to postpone the start of their professional careers for at least one more year.

    For good measure, Purdue also picked up Michigan graduate transfer Spike Albrechtwhich could be a massive addition for a team that never quite found the answer at point guard last season. Coupled with the addition of 4-star freshman point guard Carsen Edwards, the Boilermakers suddenly have an abundance of backcourt options.

    Defense and frontcourt prowess will remain their bread and butter, though.

    Between Vince Edwards, Swanigan and Isaac Haas, head coach Matt Painter once again has a phenomenal front line. He has considerably less depth to play with than he did last season, though, so don't be surprised if Purdue predominantly deploys a three-guard lineup in an effort to keep those frontcourt studs fresh for the entire year. But more Ryan Cline and a decent chunk of minutes for Carsen Edwards can't possibly be a bad thing.

12. Gonzaga Bulldogs

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    Josh Perkins
    Josh PerkinsDavid Banks-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 13

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Josh Perkins (10.1 PPG, 4.1 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.2 SPG)
    Nigel Williams-Goss (Incoming Transfer)
    Silas Melson (6.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG)
    Johnathan Williams III (Incoming Transfer)
    Przemek Karnowski (8.8 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.2 APG)

    Key Bench Players: Zach Collins, Killian Tillie, Jacob Larsen, Zach Norvell, Ryan Edwards, Bryan Alberts, Jeremy Jones 

    Transfers have been pivotal for Gonzaga in recent seasons. Last year, Kyle Wiltjer (Kentucky) and Eric McClellan (Vanderbilt) were indispensable members of the starting rotation. This year, Nigel Williams-Goss (Washington) and Johnathan Williams III (Missouri) will be taking their places. It seems to be the best way to get talented players to go to Spokane, Washington.

    But did you know that head coach Mark Few has signed the 11th-best recruiting class in the country for this season? From 2010-15, Few signed just two 4-star recruits (Gary Bell and Josh Perkins), but he has four of them this year alone.

    And the crazy thing is we aren't even projecting any of them to start as freshmen. With three of the four (Zach Collins, Killian Tillie and Jacob Larsen) each standing 6'10", the Zags could go huge by sliding 6'9" Williams to the 3 and inserting one of those freshmen into the mix alongside Przemek Karnowski.

    However they decide to balance their roster construction, though, it's ridiculous how much more talent they have than any other team in the West Coast Conference. Heck, aside from a select few blue-blood programs, Gonzaga might have the deepest and most talented bench in the country.

    Depending on how the first six weeks of the season go, the Bulldogs could be back in the mix for a No. 1 seed this March.

11. Michigan State Spartans

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    Eron Harris
    Eron HarrisTim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 5

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Cassius Winston (Incoming Freshman)
    Eron Harris (9.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.1 APG)
    Miles Bridges (Incoming Freshman)
    Ben Carter (Incoming Transfer)
    Gavin Schilling (3.8 PPG, 3.1 RPG)

    Key Bench Players: Nick Ward, Joshua Langford, Matt McQuaid, Kenny Goins, Lourawls Nairn Jr. 

    Most Big Ten teams have done well this offseason. Indiana kept Thomas Bryant and James Blackmon. Purdue retained Caleb Swanigan and Vince Edwards. Maryland got Melo Trimble back. Wisconsin held on to Nigel Hayes.

    Michigan State wasn't nearly as fortunate.

    We had high hopes for the Spartans early in the offseason because of what is unarguably the best recruiting haul of head coach Tom Izzo's decades-long career. The addition of Cassius Winston, Miles Bridges, Nick Ward and Joshua Langford was enough for Michigan State to possibly keep the status quo as a top-five team while losing Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello.

    But then the Spartans whiffed on adding Josh Jackson to their already-ridiculous batch of recruits. And Deyonta Davis declared for the draft. Suddenly, the decisions by Marvin Clark Jr. and Javon Bess to transfer in late March left the Spartans with little more than that strong recruiting class. Of last year's eight leading scorers, only Eron Harris (326 points) and Matt McQuaid (123) are back for another season.

    Adding two-time transfer Ben Carter (8.6 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.4 BPG) as a graduate transfer certainly helps fill the experience and frontcourt voids, but we felt obligated to lower our expectations for the Spartans a bit. In being forced to rely this heavily on so many freshmen, Izzo is entering personally uncharted waters.

10. Wisconsin Badgers

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    Zak Showalter (3), Bronson Koenig (24), Nigel Hayes (10), Vitto Brown (30)
    Zak Showalter (3), Bronson Koenig (24), Nigel Hayes (10), Vitto Brown (30)Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 12

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Bronson Koenig (13.1 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 2.4 APG)
    Zak Showalter (7.5 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 2.2 APG, 1.0 SPG)
    Vitto Brown (9.7 PPG, 5.0 RPG)
    Nigel Hayes (15.7 PPG, 5.8 RPG, 3.0 APG, 1.1 SPG)
    Ethan Happ (12.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 1.8 SPG, 1.3 APG)

    Key Bench Players: Brevin Pritzl, Andy Van Vliet, Jordan Hill, Alex Illikainen, Khalil Iverson, Charlie Thomas 

    Nigel Hayes was one of the last players to make his decision about the NBA draft, but Wisconsin is looking like the favorites to win the Big Ten with its leading scorer back for another season.

    It's much more than just Hayes, though. The Badgers get back all nine players who scored at least 70 points last season, and they also add redshirt freshmen Brevin Pritzl and Andy Van Vliet to the mix.

    Granted, not every redshirt freshman can have the type of debut season that Ethan Happ just had for Wisconsin, but there might not be a program in the country that has done better with such players. Jared Berggren, Ryan Evans and Brian Butch each developed into stars for the Badgers after sitting out a yearthough, they did most of their damage later in their careers.

    But Pritzl and Van Vliet don't need to be go-to guys this season. If they are able to make any sort of positive impact in 2016-17, it's gravy for a team that already has a rock-solid starting five and a handful of proven reserves.

    If Hayes has a more efficient season than his relatively disappointing junior year, Wisconsin could be headed to its third Final Four in four years. And if Vitto Brown continues to improve as a seniorshooting 40.0 percent from three-point range after refusing to even attempt a triple in his first two seasons was already an incredible development—that's even better for the Badgers.

9. UCLA Bruins

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    Bryce Alford
    Bryce AlfordScott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 15

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Lonzo Ball (Incoming Freshman)
    Bryce Alford (16.1 PPG, 5.2 APG, 3.8 RPG)
    Isaac Hamilton (16.8 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 3.3 APG, 1.0 SPG)
    T.J. Leaf (Incoming Freshman)
    Thomas Welsh (11.2 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 1.0 BPG)

    Key Bench Players: Aaron Holiday, Prince Ali, Ike Anigbogu, Jonah Bolden, G.G. Goloman 

    Nothing about UCLA's situation has changed in the past two months, but in-season ranking principles also apply to their offseason counterparts: Sometimes teams win by simply not losing. With Michigan State, Indiana, Xavier and Louisville all dropping a handful of spots because of players leaving the program, the Bruins jumped ahead of those programs.

    But they also leapfrogged Gonzaga and Wisconsin, and that's simply because the more we look at the Bruins, the more we like them.

    Lonzo Ball might be the best freshman in the entire country, and he joins a starting backcourt duo that combined for 32.9 points per game last season. With the possible exception of Kentucky's De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Isaiah Briscoe or Duke's trio of Frank Jackson, Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard, UCLA arguably has the best starting backcourt in the country.

    Throw in Aaron Holiday's 10.3 points per game off the benchprobably the only player on a team other than Duke who will come off the bench after averaging double figures last seasonand the Bruins almost certainly have the best backcourt attack in the country. For goodness' sake, Prince Ali was a top-50 recruit last season, and he'll be lucky to play 10 minutes per game this year.

    And UCLA's frontcourt isn't too shabby, either. At least until Jarrett Allen makes his decision, T.J. Leaf is the highest-rated power forward going to a school other than Duke or Kentucky, and Thomas Welsh was one of the better breakout sophomores in the country. Not to mention, a team could do a whole lot worse than having Jonah Bolden as a frontcourt reserve.

    Kind of crazy that UCLA might only be the third-best team in the Pac-12, but these things happen when trying to rebound from a 15-17 season.

8. Virginia Cavaliers

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    London Perrantes (32) and Tony Bennett
    London Perrantes (32) and Tony BennettGeoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 8

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    London Perrantes (11.0 PPG, 4.4 APG, 3.0 RPG, 1.1 SPG)
    Kyle Guy (Incoming Freshman)
    Devon Hall (4.4 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 2.0 APG)
    Isaiah Wilkins (4.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 1.5 APG)
    Austin Nichols (Incoming Transfer)

    Key Bench Players: Marial Shayok, Darius Thompson, Jack Salt, Ty Jerome, Jay Huff, DeAndre Hunter

    Meeting expectations, Virginia's offseason has been devoid of noise. Tony Bennett signed his quartet of 4-star guys (Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, Jay Huff and DeAndre Hunter) back in November, and nothing has changed since. There were no early departures for the NBA, and there hasn't been a single transfer into or out of the program since adding Austin Nichols last July.

    As such, the Cavaliers are right where we left them: Operating under the assumption that Bennett's scheme will continue to thrive and that the bevy of talented newcomers will do just enough to help fill the gaps left by the graduations of Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey.

    One big unknown remaining for the Cavaliers is what they intend to do at small forwardas has been the case for several consecutive seasons. Justin Anderson emerged as a three-point assassin in the role in 2014-15, but they never really settled on a guy this past season, bouncing between Devon Hall, Marial Shayok and Darius Thompson from one week to the next.

    If one member of that trioor perhaps Hunter as a freshmancan evolve into a "set it and forget it" type of staple in the starting lineup, Virginia should have the pieces to battle Tobacco Road for ACC rule once again. Look for London Perrantes to have a monster senior season while elevating the game of those around him.

7. Arizona Wildcats

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    Allonzo Trier
    Allonzo TrierCasey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 14

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Kadeem Allen (8.4 PPG, 3.6 APG, 4.1 RPG, 1.0 SPG)
    Allonzo Trier (14.8 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.1 APG)
    Terrance Ferguson (Incoming Freshman)
    Ray Smith (DNP: Torn ACL)
    Lauri Markkanen (Incoming Freshman)

    Key Bench Players: Dusan Ristic, Rawle Alkins, Kobi Simmons, Keanu Pinder, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Chance Comanche 

    When we first went through this exercise in April, Arizona was already going to have more talented players than it could possibly need.

    If they started Kobi Simmons, Rawle Alkins, Allonzo Trier, Ray Smith and Lauri Markkanen, it would be a starting five made entirely of 5-star players with a bench consisting of a former JUCO Player of the Year (Kadeem Allen), a pair of 4-star recruits (Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Chance Comanche) and a 3-star big man who has played pretty well over the past two years (Dusan Ristic).

    But head coach Sean Miller wasn't satisfied. He needed to add another 5-star recruit (Terrance Ferguson) and another JUCO transfer (Keanu Pinder) in the past seven weeks, just to make absolute certain he had an abundance of riches on par with Duke.

    And, apparently, he's taking a bit of a Golden State Warriors approach to building his roster by overloading on elite wings. Of the six 5-star players on this year's roster, five are listed as either shooting guards or small forwards who stand between 6'5" and 6'8".

    Combo guards and stretch 4s have been all the rage in recent years, but Arizona may have the closest thing to true positionless basketball that we have seen at the D-I level. Add in the fact that they have more than enough options to play (forgive me for saying it) platoons, and the 2016-17 Wildcats could be a compelling case study for where the game is heading over the course of the next decade.

6. Kentucky Wildcats

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    Isaiah Briscoe (13) is on a short list of returning impact players for the Wildcats.
    Isaiah Briscoe (13) is on a short list of returning impact players for the Wildcats.Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 3

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    De'Aaron Fox (Incoming Freshman)
    Malik Monk (Incoming Freshman)
    Isaiah Briscoe (9.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.0 SPG)
    Derek Willis (7.7 PPG, 4.0 RPG)
    Edrice "Bam" Adebayo (Incoming Freshman)

    Key Bench Players: Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Isaac Humphries, Dominique Hawkins

    This will undoubtedly be the biggest point of contention in the comments section, but given the other options available, it's difficult to rank Kentucky in the top five with so little returning talent.

    With Tyler Ulis, Jamal Murray and Skal Labissiere declaring for the NBA draft, Marcus Lee and Charles Matthews transferring and Alex Poythress graduating, Kentucky is merely left with seven returning players who have scored a combined total of 789 points in their collegiate careersotherwise read as 136 fewer points than Buddy Hield scored by himself as a senior.

    Head coach John Calipari is no stranger to reloading, but the Wildcats' best teams have had more returning oomph than this. The only times they didn't, they missed the tournament in 2013 and sputtered their way to a No. 8 seed in 2014.

    Please don't misinterpret that as some sort of assumption that Kentucky is going to fall apart this season. No. 6 in the nation is more than respectable and well-earned with what is arguably the second-greatest recruiting haul of Calipari's career. By season's end, De'Aaron Fox and Malik Monk will have the Wildcats ready to compete for a title.

    As far as the preseason top five is concerned, though, we simply prefer teams with more veteran leadership.

5. North Carolina Tar Heels

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    Justin Jackson (middle) and Kennedy Meeks (right)
    Justin Jackson (middle) and Kennedy Meeks (right)Alex Brandon/Associated Press

    Previous Rank: 7

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Joel Berry II (12.8 PPG, 3.8 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.5 SPG)
    Justin Jackson (12.2 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.8 APG)
    Theo Pinson (4.5 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 2.9 APG)
    Isaiah Hicks (8.9 PPG, 4.6 RPG)
    Kennedy Meeks (9.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 BPG)

    Key Bench Players: Tony Bradley, Nate Britt, Kenny Williams, Luke Maye, Seventh Woods, Brandon Robinson 

    For the second straight offseason, it has been all quiet on the Wainstein front for the Tar Heels. No one left early. No news on when or if there will be any fallout from the paper classes scandal. No reason to rank them any lower than this.

    As noted on Kentucky's slide, we want both talent and experience in our top five. North Carolina is loaded with both. Unless one of their three top-60 freshmen somehow manages to come in and steal a job from an incumbent, the starting five for the Tar Heels will consist of three juniors and two seniors, each of whom was a McDonald's All-American.

    Sure, they lost two studs in Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson, but they aren't exactly hurting for scoring options without them. Joel Berry, Justin Jackson and Isaiah Hicks have shown in spurts that they are skilled and athletic enough to be shooting stars. They'll just need to be more consistent with those outings this season.

    Depth is also crucial to be ranked in our top five, and the Tar Heels have plenty of that, too. Brandon Robinson is probably the 11th-most important player on this year's roster, and he had offers from 15 schools before choosing North Carolina.

4. Oregon Ducks

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    Dillon Brooks (24) and Jordan Bell (1)
    Dillon Brooks (24) and Jordan Bell (1)Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 4

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Tyler Dorsey (13.4 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 2.0 APG)
    Casey Benson (6.0 PPG, 3.1 APG, 2.3 RPG)
    Dillon Brooks (16.7 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.1 APG, 1.1 SPG)
    Chris Boucher (12.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.9 BPG)
    Jordan Bell (6.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.7 BPG, 1.2 APG, 1.1 SPG)

    Key Bench Players: Dylan Ennis(?), Kavell Bigby-Williams, Kendall Small, Payton Pritchard, M.J. Cage, Keith Smith 

    Aside from Jarrett Allen's decision, one of the biggest dominoes left to fall this offseason is a ruling on whether Dylan Ennis will receive a sixth year of eligibility after appearing in just two games this past season.

    If granted, Oregon will get a combo guard who averaged 9.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists for Villanova two years ago. Whether that bumps Casey Benson from the starting lineup or puts Ennis as the sixth man, he would make a huge impact on this roster.

    But even without Ennis, the Ducks could still run 10 deep without much of a drop in production.

    Chris Boucher received another year of eligibility, and both Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks decided to put off the NBA for one more year, meaning they'll get back three starters who weren't a guarantee to return. Jordan Bell is arguably the fourth-most important player on the roster, and he averaged 13.2 points, 10.3 rebounds, 3.3 blocks, 2.4 assists and 2.1 steals per 40 minutes last season. That's just silly.

    Moreover, Oregon landed one of the better recruiting classes in the country with four 4-star players. One of those players is Kavell Bigby-Williams, who averaged 16.8 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.9 blocks per game last season with Gillette College. As if head coach Dana Altman didn't already have enough shot-blocking prowess on the roster, he went out and found another immediate-impact JUCO transfer like Boucher was this past season.

    The Ducks will have stiffer Pac-12 competition from Arizona, UCLA and California this season, but the Ducks also might be even better than they were when they earned that No. 1 seed in the 2016 NCAA tournament.

3. Villanova Wildcats

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    Kris Jenkins (2) and Josh Hart (3)
    Kris Jenkins (2) and Josh Hart (3)Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 6

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Jalen Brunson (9.6 PPG, 2.5 APG, 1.8 RPG)
    Phil Booth (7.0 PPG, 2.1 APG, 2.1 RPG)
    Kris Jenkins (13.6 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 2.2 APG)
    Josh Hart (15.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.2 SPG)
    Darryl Reynolds (3.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG)

    Key Bench Players: Mikal Bridges, Omari Spellman, Eric Paschall, Tim Delaney

    Defending national champions aren't supposed to return this much talent, but Villanova struck oil with Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins opting to return for a senior year.

    Never mind the impressive stats they recorded last season, that duo brings back a winning mentality to the Wildcats. They each appeared in all 110 games Villanova has played in the past three seasons, going a combined 97-13. It would take one heck of a season, but there's a chance they could break Shane Battier's record of 133 wins in a college career.

    In other words, Villanova was no one-hit wonder, and despite losing Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu, it still has more than enough talent to dominate the Big East for a fourth straight year.

    Long since forgotten in the madness of the finish, Phil Booth was actually the most valuable player in the national championship game. He scored a career-high 20 points on just seven field-goal attempts in what could segue into a breakout seasonnot much unlike what Grayson Allen experienced last year. And though Jalen Brunson didn't put up monster numbers while sharing the backcourt with Arcidiacono, Booth and Jenkins, he's arguably the most talented player on the roster and the one with the brightest future in the pros.

    The only minor uncertainty here is at center. We're projecting Darryl Reynolds as the starter because head coach Jay Wright loves his upperclassmen, but there's a more than reasonable chance that 5-star big man Omari Spellman gets the job from day one.

    If for some reason you're not sold on Villanova's chances of repeating as national champions, try this nugget on for size: Eric Paschall averaged 15.9 points and 5.5 rebounds two years ago as a freshman at Fordham, and he'll be the third player off the bench, at best. Villanova isn't quite as deep as the other teams in our top five, but it has the second-most talented eight-man rotation in the country.

2. Kansas Jayhawks

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    Frank Mason (0), Landen Lucas (33) and Devonte' Graham (4)
    Frank Mason (0), Landen Lucas (33) and Devonte' Graham (4)Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 2

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Frank Mason III (12.9 PPG, 4.6 APG, 4.3 RPG, 1.3 SPG)
    Devonte' Graham (11.3 PPG, 3.7 APG, 3.3 RPG, 1.4 SPG)
    Josh Jackson (Incoming Freshman)
    Carlton Bragg Jr. (3.8 PPG, 2.5 RPG)
    Landen Lucas (5.8 PPG, 6.8 RPG)

    Key Bench Players: Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Lagerald Vick, Udoka Azubuike, Mitch Lightfoot, Dwight Coleby

    After 12 consecutive Big 12 titles, we were already ranking Kansas No. 2 in early April. The projected Jayhawks roster didn't quite stack up against the likes of Kentucky, North Carolina and Villanova, but there were more than enough pieces for head coach Bill Self to work his magic.

    But then they landed Josh Jacksononly the highest-rated recruit in this year's class and a player many believe has even more potential than Andrew Wiggins had at this stage in his career. Pairing him with the veteran backcourt duo of Frank Mason and Devonte' Graham is rather unfair to everyone on Kansas' schedule, and we haven't even addressed its potentially dominant frontcourt duo.

    Don't fret over their mediocre per-game numbers from last season. Carlton Bragg was a 5-star recruit last summer who barely got to play behind seniors Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor, and Landen Lucas didn't become a full-time staple in the Jayhawks lineup until mid-January. There's plenty of room and expectation for growth from both of them, but there are also great options on the bench if either falters.

    The X-factor for Kansasas it seems to have been for even more years than Ellis spent in Lawrenceis Svi Mykhailiuk. Mock drafters still have high hopes for Mykhailiuk as an NBA prospect. DraftExpress has him going 25th overall in 2017 after originally projecting him as a late lottery pick in last year's draft.

    At some point, he has to live up to that potential, right? There were a few games last season where he displayed itmost notably a 17-point game against Texas Tech in late February and a 23-point game against Austin Peay in the NCAA tournamentbut he couldn't seem to put it together for so much as two consecutive games. If he finally gets into a rhythm this season with more consistent minutes as the primary sixth man, Kansas might have enough firepower to knock off the giant that should open the season as the unanimous No. 1 team in the country.

1. Duke Blue Devils

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    Grayson Allen
    Grayson AllenMark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

    Previous Rank: 1

    Projected Starting Five (2015-16 Stats)

    Frank Jackson (Incoming Freshman)
    Grayson Allen (21.6 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.3 SPG)
    Jayson Tatum (Incoming Freshman)
    Harry Giles (Incoming Freshman)
    Marques Bolden (Incoming Freshman)

    Key Bench Players: Amile Jefferson, Luke Kennard, Matt Jones, Chase Jeter, Javin DeLaurier 

    One could make a case for at least half a dozen different teams at No. 2, but there's no argument for any team other than Duke at No. 1. The Blue Devils were already our unanimous No. 1 team in April, and that's back when we assumed Grayson Allen would go pro and long before we knew that head coach Mike Krzyzewski would land Marques Bolden.

    Sure, Derryck Thornton was still a part of the equation at that point, but we assumed Duke would dominate with a starting lineup of Frank Jackson, Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum, Amile Jefferson and Harry Giles.

    In bumping Jefferson and Kennard to the bench and replacing them with one of the highest-scoring players in the country (Allen) and possibly the best freshman center in the country (Bolden), Duke went from "clear-cut preseason No. 1 team" to "maybe we should start legitimately entertaining the idea of a 40-0 season here."

    There's no way it should happen. The ACC is too strong, and we already know Duke has heavyweight nonconference battles against Michigan State (ACC/B1G Challenge) and Kansas (Champions Classic). But everyone scoffed at the idea of Kentucky going undefeated two years ago until the wins started piling up and it seemed more inevitable than impossible.

    Even if the Blue Devils don't flirt with perfection, we're at least guaranteed a fun season of hot takes with the nation's most notorious tripper and loathed player suiting up for the favorites to win the national championship.

    Kerry Miller covers college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter @kerrancejames.

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