Ranking the Best Teams in College Basketball If Players Had to Stay for 4 Years

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystOctober 4, 2016

Ranking the Best Teams in College Basketball If Players Had to Stay for 4 Years

0 of 20

    Jabari Parker
    Jabari ParkerGerry Broome/Associated Press

    If college basketball players were required to stay in school for four years, Duke would still have Jabari Parker, Kansas would still have Andrew Wiggins and the rankings for the 2016-17 season would look completely different.

    There is a massive butterfly effect in play here that can't possibly be predicted. Many recruits would end up signing with different schools to get more playing time. Some players who transferred maybe wouldn't have, and vice versa. But rather than trying to untangle that web, we're ignoring it entirely and pretending players still would have made the same decisions.

    In other words, we're simply taking this year's rosters and adding back in all the players who left early for the NBA draft and who would still have eligibility in 2016-17 if they hadn't been allowed to declare.

    As a result, some of these rostersparticularly those at Kentucky, Duke and Kansasare downright ridiculous.

    Even outside of those one-and-done juggernauts, though, there are quite a few teams that would rank among the favorites to win the 2017 national championship if they had been able to convince their guys to stick around to earn a four-year degree.

Honorable Mentions

1 of 20

    Cat Barber
    Cat BarberAlex Brandon/Associated Press

    North Carolina State Wolfpack

    With two combo-guard backcourts the new normal for elite teams in recent years, try to imagine what NC State could do if Cat Barber had stayed for another year to play alongside Dennis Smith Jr. Even in a loaded ACC, the Wolfpack would have been a real contender.

    West Virginia Mountaineers

    It might be a rough year for WVU. Losing Jaysean Paige, Jonathan Holton and Devin Williams in the same summer will test the limits of Bob Huggins' ability to win with any group of guys committed to hard-nosed, high-paced hoops. But if Williams had stuck around for his senior year, expectations would have been significantly higher.

    Virginia Cavaliers

    A virtual lock to open the season ranked in the top 10, Virginia wouldn't gain anyone by adding back guys from the past three years. Justin Anderson did leave early after the 2014-15 season, but he would've run out of eligibility this past year. As a result, one of the legitimate candidates to win the 2017 title wouldn't even be a Top 20 team in this fictitious universe.

    Oregon Ducks

    With a fully healthy Dillon Brooks, Oregon would slot in at around No. 16. But with foot surgery putting his status for the start of the season in jeopardy, the Ducks don't have quite enough firepower to stack up against all these teams getting back former stars.

    Xavier Musketeers

    Like Virginia and Oregon, Xavier is going to be one of the better teams during the actual 2016-17 season. Pencil the Musketeers in around No. 15 when the preseason polls begin to come out in the next week or two. But even if we added Jalen Reynolds back into their lineup, it's not quite enough for a spot in our top 20.

19. Connecticut Huskies

2 of 20

    Daniel Hamilton
    Daniel HamiltonCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    Players Gained: Daniel Hamilton

    Starting Five: Jalen Adams, Rodney Purvis, Hamilton, Kentan Facey, Amida Brimah

    Top Reserves: Terry Larrier, Alterique Gilbert, Juwan Durham

    Though he wasn't the most efficient player in the world, Daniel Hamilton was easily Connecticut's most important weapon.

    He became one of just 10 players in the past 23 years to average at least 12.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Others to do so in recent seasons include Ben Simmons, Evan Turner, Royce White and Kyle Collinsworth. That type of nightly triple-double potential is almost impossible to replace, but the Huskies are hopeful VCU transfer Terry Larrier will help plug that gap.

    If Hamilton was still in the picture, though, Connecticut would be the overwhelming favorite to win the AAC and a fringe candidate for the Final Four. The Huskies have a solid incoming freshman class to go with three seniors in their projected starting five. It would have been a nearly lethal combination in a conference where SMU, Memphis, Tulsa and others are losing seemingly everything from last season.

    Even without Hamilton, Connecticut is probably the best team in the AAC, which should tell you how strong that conference figures to be this year.

18. Michigan State Spartans

3 of 20

    Deyonta Davis
    Deyonta DavisCaylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

    Players Gained: Deyonta Davis

    Starting Five: Lourawls Nairn, Eron Harris, Miles Bridges, Davis, Gavin Schilling

    Top Reserves: Joshua Langford, Matt McQuaid, Cassius Winston

    Though blessed with the best overall recruiting class of Tom Izzo's career, Michigan State has some questions to answer before we can properly assess its ceiling for the 2016-17 season.

    Can Lourawls Nairn handle a full-time gig at point guard? And what about Gavin Schilling as the primary center, particularly now that incoming UNLV transfer Ben Carter suffered another knee injury and remains out indefinitely, according to Chris Solari of the Detroit Free Press?

    Getting Deyonta Davis back wouldn't help the Spartans figure out that first unknown, but he would be a huge boost for their dicey frontcourt situation.

    Davis only played 18.6 minutes per game as a freshman, but he averaged 16.1 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per 40 minutes. He was a huge asset on the defensive end, and one would think he would have become a bigger focal point on offense with Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello all graduating.

    Unfortunately, other Big Ten programsOhio State, Maryland and Indianawould be getting back even more than the Spartans, so they should fare better in the conference standings in the real world than they would in this one.

17. Villanova Wildcats

4 of 20

    Jay Wright and Josh Hart
    Jay Wright and Josh HartBill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

    Players Gained: None

    Starting Five: Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, Kris Jenkins, Josh Hart, Darryl Reynolds

    Top Reserves: Mikal Bridges, Eric Paschall, Donte DiVincenzo

    For the first time since Duke won the 2010 title, the defending national champions did not lose a single player as an early entrant to the NBA draft. That's great news for Villanova's hope of repeating, but it crushed the Wildcats in these rankings, as they're one of the two teams in the top 19 that wouldn't be getting anyone back.

    That said, they wouldn't exactly be pushovers, either.

    In a world where Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker are entering their fourth year of college basketball, Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins wouldn't be anywhere near the Wooden Award candidates they actually are this preseason, but they would still be darn fine players capable of leading Villanova to yet another Big East title.

    Unfortunately, even though we're forcing players to stay for four years, they still have to meet eligibility requirements. That means incoming freshman Omari Spellman doesn't get to play, which costs Villanova a few spots.

    Maybe Darryl Reynolds and/or some sort of Golden State Warriors approach with either Josh Hart or Mikal Bridges at the 5 is the answer the Wildcats need, but there's a big enough question mark at that spot in the lineup to justify keeping them this low.

16. North Carolina Tar Heels

5 of 20

    Roy Williams and Marcus Paige (5)
    Roy Williams and Marcus Paige (5)Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Players Gained: None

    Starting Five: Joel Berry II, Justin Jackson, Theo Pinson, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks

    Top Reserves: Tony Bradley, Nate Britt, Seventh Woods

    Like Villanova, North Carolina didn't lose a single player as an early entrant to the 2016 NBA draft. In fact, the only player from the 2016 Final Four who left early was Syracuse's Malachi Richardson. It was a strange year.

    Yet, the Tar Heels are loaded with experience, as all five of their projected starters are either juniors or seniors. With senior guard Nate Britt also one of the first options off the bench, there might not be a roster in the country with a better combination of talent and familiarity.

    But while Roy Williams is hoping Isaiah Hicks is ready to shine as the starting power forward after years of waiting for his turn, this frontcourt can't even hold a candle to most of the teams ranked higher. Every single team in our top 13 would be getting back at least one elite big man, and just wait until you see what LSU's frontcourt would look like on the next slide.

    Credit to Williams, though, for consistently keeping star players around in the face of potential NCAA sanctions. The Tar Heels didn't score incredibly well on this list, but they should be a top-five team to open the 2016-17 season.

15. LSU Tigers

6 of 20

    Ben Simmons
    Ben SimmonsMic Smith/Associated Press

    Players Gained: Ben Simmons, Jordan Mickey, Jarell Martin, Tim Quarterman

    Starting Five: Quarterman, Antonio Blakeney, Simmons, Martin, Mickey

    Top Reserves: Jalyn Patterson, Craig Victor, Brandon Sampson

    LSU has won precisely one NCAA tournament game in the past decade, but lack of team success has done nothing to keep the individual stars from going pro.

    Swap in Keith Hornsby for Antonio Blakeney and this should have been LSU's starting rotation last year. However, Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey both left in 2015 after their sophomore seasons, leaving the Tigers with little choice but to put an elite small forward prospect at center.

    Though 6'10" and an excellent rebounder, Ben Simmons is anything but a conventional big man. Playing him at the 5 while frequently treating him like a point guard kept LSU from ever finding a proper balance, missing the NCAA tournament with one of the best freshmen ever. Had Martin and Mickey stayed, that's likely a different story.

    And it would have made the Tigers a force to be reckoned with in 2016-17. Even without a true point guard, there are too many playmakers on this roster for this team to fail. Say what you will about Johnny Jones' ability to coach, but a hot dog vendor with no coaching experience could probably lead this team to at least 20 wins.

14. Washington Huskies

7 of 20

    Dejounte Murray (5) and Marquese Chriss (0)
    Dejounte Murray (5) and Marquese Chriss (0)Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

    Players Gained: Dejounte Murray, Marquese Chriss, Robert Upshaw

    Starting Five: Murray, Markelle Fultz, Matisse Thybulle, Chriss, Upshaw

    Top Reserves: Malik Dime, David Crisp, Noah Dickerson

    The Washington Huskies might be lucky to finish in the top 10 of the Pac-12 standings this year, but they would be one of the top teams in both the conference and the country if they could bring back all the guys they lost early.

    Robert Upshaw is a judgment call on our part. He was kicked off the team for violation of team rules 19 games into the 2014-15 season, but if leaving early for the NBA draft wasn't an option, he would have had to play somewhere. So let's agree to pretend Washington would have had a longer leash with his issues in hopes of getting him to play for the next two seasons.

    Upshaw was a stud when he was on the court. He was the rare breed of big man who could both block shots and grab rebounds. Marshall's Hassan Whiteside is the only other player in the past seven years to have both a block percentage and total rebound percentage greater than 17. For those 19 games he played as a sophomore, Upshaw made the Huskies a national contender.

    Now picture that interior presence alongside a backcourt duo of Dejounte Murray and Markelle Fultz. Even without considering the bench or even the other two spots in the starting lineup, that's a team that could be elite on both ends of the floor.

13. Ohio State Buckeyes

8 of 20

    D'Angelo Russell
    D'Angelo RussellJonathan Ferrey/Getty Images

    Players Gained: D'Angelo Russell

    Starting Five: Russell, Marc Loving, Jae'Sean Tate, Keita Bates-Diop, Trevor Thompson

    Top Reserves: Ja'Quan Lyle, Kam Williams, Derek Funderburk

    It's only one player, but, oh, what a difference D'Angelo Russell would make.

    Ohio State won't be ranked to open the 2016-17 season, but the Buckeyes aren't all that far removed from the conversation. The sheer number of players they lost as transfers became a big offseason storyline, but all six of last year's leading scorers are returning for a team that won 21 games. They should be a better-than-average Big Ten team with some Sweet 16 potential.

    Infuse that lineup with a stud who averaged 19.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game as a freshman and there would be nothing sleepy about Ohio State's prospects for the year.

    The Buckeyes had no offense last year, ranking 319th in the nation in assist rate while posting mediocre shooting percentages all over the court. But that's largely because they lost Russell and five key seniors after the 2014-15 season. Had they been able to retain his one-man show, the Buckeyes would have easily made the 2016 NCAA tournament and would be a serious candidate to win it in 2017.

12. Texas Longhorns

9 of 20

    Myles Turner
    Myles TurnerEric Gay/Associated Press

    Players Gained: Myles Turner, Isaiah Taylor

    Starting Five: Taylor, Andrew Jones, Kerwin Roach Jr., Jarrett Allen, Turner

    Top Reserves: Eric Davis Jr., Shaquille Cleare, Tevin Mack

    Texas is practically overflowing with raw talent for the upcoming season, but it is desperately lacking for veteran experience. Jarrett Allen and Andrew Jones might be the two most valuable players on the roster as freshmen, which is a fancy way of saying that the range of expectations for the Longhorns is about as wide as the color spectrum.

    While the statistical output they would get from Myles Turner and Isaiah Taylor would be great, the leadership from those upperclassmen might be the true value added.

    Two years ago, Turner was the shot-blocking anchor of a defense that ranked first in the nation in two-point field-goal defense and block percentage. It was one of the country's worst turnover-forcing defenses, yet defense was Texas' strong suit with Turner turning away 4.7 shots per 40 minutes.

    And Taylor would take on a Yogi Ferrell-like role as a senior point guard, leading a young team with elite playmaking and smart passing. Ferrell put up 16.3 points and 4.9 assists per game as a junior. Taylor's numbers were 15.0 and 5.0, respectively, even though he wasn't anywhere near the three-point threat that Ferrell was.

    Now, those two guys are nothing compared to the seven Kansas would be getting back, so don't fool yourself into thinking the Longhorns would be the favorites to win the Big 12 in this scenario. Still, it would make for one heck of a starting five for Shaka Smart to mold into a title contender.

11. Maryland Terrapins

10 of 20

    Diamond Stone
    Diamond StonePatrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Players Gained: Diamond Stone, Robert Carter Jr.

    Starting Five: Melo Trimble, Jared Nickens, Justin Jackson, Carter, Stone

    Top Reserves: Dion Wiley, Damonte Dodd, Anthony Cowan

    The Maryland Terrapins did have one crucial player (Melo Trimble) turn down the allure of a possible NBA contract, but they would be in much better shape if their starting frontcourt had done the same.

    Diamond Stone (12.5 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.6 BPG) and Robert Carter Jr. (12.3 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 1.3 BPG) ranked first and second, respectively, on the teams in both rebounds and blocks per game and trailed only Trimble (14.8) for the team lead in points per game. They were also tops on the team in win shares per 40 minutes, according to Sports-Reference.com.

    Getting that duo back while adding Justin Jackson (freshman) and Dion Wiley (redshirt due to knee injury) would give Maryland one heck of a rotation.

    Damonte Dodd as the primary center is a big question mark for the Terrapins for the upcoming season. Deploying him as the seventh man would have been quite the luxury. Had Stone and Carter opted to return while everything else around the country remained as is, Maryland likely would have been a preseason Top Five team for a second straight year.

10. UNLV Rebels

11 of 20

    Rashad Vaughn
    Rashad VaughnEric Jamison/Associated Press

    Players Gained: Rashad Vaughn, Christian Wood, Patrick McCaw, Stephen Zimmerman Jr., Derrick Jones Jr., Chris Obekpa

    Starting Five: McCaw, Vaughn, Jones, Wood, Zimmerman

    Top Reserves: Obekpa, Christian Jones, Jalen Poyser

    Soak it in, UNLV fans. Unless you count finishing in the top 10 of the 11-team Mountain West Conference standings, it might be a long time before you see your team in the top 10 of anything again.

    Though the Rebels didn't make it to any of the past three NCAA tournaments, only Kentucky and Kansas would be getting back more players lost to the NBA drafta sobering reminder of what this team could have been.

    In fact, this is barely the tip of the iceberg. Here's the list of other players the Rebels have lost in the past three years for reasons other than graduation: Bryce Dejean-Jones (transfer), Khem Birch (declared after junior year; went undrafted), Roscoe Smith (see: Birch), Deville Smith (transfer), Kendall Smith (transfer), Jamal Aytes (transfer), Demetris Morant (transfer), Ben Carter (transfer), Daquan Cook (transfer), Jordan Cornish (transfer) and Goodluck Okonoboh (announced he would transfer after six games as a sophomore and then declared for the draft without being selected).

    But, just for a moment, let's pretend none of that happened. Let's imagine a world where UNLV actually keeps players until they graduate.

    That's a world where the Rebels are doggone good. Both Derrick Jones Jr. and Stephen Zimmerman Jr. averaged better than 10 points per game last year as freshmen. The year before that, Rashad Vaughn was the country's second-highest scoring freshman, while Christian Wood averaged a double-double as a sophomore. And Patrick McCaw broke out in a huge way as a sophomore last year, scoring at least 20 points in 11 games, including each of his final three.

    It's a starting five that would have scored a ton of points in 2016-17. Too bad they're all gone.

9. Gonzaga Bulldogs

12 of 20

    Domantas Sabonis
    Domantas SabonisKyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Players Gained: Domantas Sabonis

    Starting Five: Josh Perkins, Nigel Williams-Goss, Jordan Mathews, Sabonis, Przemek Karnowski

    Top Reserves: Johnathan Williams III, Silas Melson, Zach Collins

    One of the few teams whose ranking on this list might match its ranking in the preseason AP Top 25 poll, Gonzaga should be one of the country's 10 best teams this year. Between three incoming transfers and Mark Few's strongest recruiting class to date, the Zags have a ton of potential.

    But if Domantas Sabonis had returned for a third year, they would have entered the 2016-17 ranked No. 2 behind only Duke.

    When Gonzaga lost Przemek Karnowski to a back injury just five games into the season, Sabonis answered the call and then some. Kyle Wiltjer was widely regarded as the team's most valuable playerprimarily because everyone had him as a preseason All-Americanbut Sabonis was pretty clearly the star.

    He played like a man among boys, recording 23 double-doubles as a sophomoreincluding seven in which he had at least 16 points and 16 rebounds. In three NCAA tournament games, he averaged 19.7 points, 14.3 rebounds and 2.7 blocks, including 19 points and 17 rebounds in a loss to Syracuse (thanks to 17 team turnovers.)

    That's a tough act for Johnathan Williams III to follow, considering he only had nine double-doubles in two seasons with Missouri.

8. Indiana Hoosiers

13 of 20

    Noah Vonleh
    Noah VonlehDuane Burleson/Getty Images

    Players Gained: Noah Vonleh, Troy Williams

    Starting Five: Robert Johnson, James Blackmon Jr., Williams, Vonleh, Thomas Bryant

    Top Reserves: OG Anunoby, Juwan Morgan, Josh Newkirk

    It feels like half a lifetime ago when Noah Vonleh last played for Indiana, but he would have been a senior in the upcoming season, giving Indiana one of the most unstoppable frontcourt tandems in the country.

    Over the latter half of his freshman year, Vonleh became more of a stretch 4, shooting 15-of-27 (55.6 percent) from three-point range over his last 16 games. With that type of game, the Hoosiers never would have needed to bring in Max Bielfeldt for his rebounding and range, as Vonleh was more dominant in both departments.

    Whether the fifth spot in the starting lineup goes to Troy Williams as a senior or OG Anunoby as a sophomore would be up to Tom Crean, but it would have been a win-win situation. Williams' propensity for turnovers made him anything other than a fan favorite during his three seasons, but he was a plus-defender, rebounder and scorer who succeeded with a high-usage rate.

    But bringing back two forwards doesn't change Indiana's point guard dilemma. We think Robert Johnson can get the job donehe averaged 5.0 assists per 40 minutes as a secondary ball-handler last year—but others aren't nearly as confident. If he's able to handle the reins, though, there's no doubt this Indiana team would have one of the country's 10 most efficient offenses for the fifth time in six years.

7. Louisville Cardinals

14 of 20

    Terry Rozier
    Terry RozierElaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Players Gained: Terry Rozier, Chinanu Onuaku

    Starting Five: Rozier, Donovan Mitchell, V.J. King, Onuaku, Mangok Mathiang

    Top Reserves: Quentin Snider, Raymond Spalding, Deng Adel

    Louisville would have one of those rosters that wouldn't get many votes for the top three, but that would almost unanimously get picked to finish in the top 10the kind of treatment Arizona and Virginia can be expected to receive in the polls later this month.

    It's an honor reserved for teams with some promise and a lot of potential.

    Terry Rozier would be a senior on this team, and based on how drastically he blossomed as a sophomore, heaven have mercy on opponents trying to stop that guy with two more years of experience under his belt. Despite veterans Chris Jones, Montrezl Harrell and Wayne Blackshear commanding touches, Rozier averaged 17.1 points and 2.0 steals per game the last time we saw him playing college hoops.

    Chinanu Onuaku also blew up as a sophomore, averaging 16.1 points, 13.8 rebounds and 3.3 blocks per 40 minutes last year. He recorded a double-double in six consecutive games to open ACC play, putting the Cardinals in position for a high seed in the NCAA tournamentprior to the school's decision to ban itself from postseason play.

    And there are a bunch of sophomores on this year's roster gearing up to make a similar leap. Donovan Mitchell, Deng Adel and Raymond Spalding each gave us glimpses into why Scout.com rated them as the 17th-, 23rd- and 31st-best recruits in 2015, respectively. Once one or more of those three guys begins to tap into his full potential, this is an eight-man rotation that could beat anyone.

6. Syracuse Orange

15 of 20

    Tyler Ennis
    Tyler EnnisBill Wippert/Associated Press

    Players Gained: Tyler Ennis, Malachi Richardson, Chris McCullough

    Starting Five: Ennis, Richardson, Andrew White III, Tyler Lydon, McCullough

    Top Reserves: Tyler Roberson, John Gillon, DaJuan Coleman

    Would Syracuse have added Andrew White III and John Gillon as graduate transfers this summer if it still had Tyler Ennis, Malachi Richardson and Chris McCullough? Probably not, but as we noted back in the intro, it's impossible for us to venture down those rabbit holes, forcing us to assume every move still would have transpired.

    And it gives the Orange an incredible seven-man rotation. It's a rotation so good, in fact, Providence transfer Paschal Chukwu and 4-star freshmen Tyus Battle, Matthew Moyer and Taurean Thompson would barely even touch the floor.

    Ennis hasn't done much yet in the NBA, but he was a bonafide star of a freshman point guard three years ago when the Orange carried an undefeated record into mid-February. He averaged 12.9 points, 5.5 assists and 2.1 steals per game and was named the KenPom.com MVP a dozen times.

    McCullough and Richardson weren't nearly as efficient on offense as one-and-done freshmen, but they were elite in their own waysMcCullough on the defensive end and Richardson as one of the country's streakiest scorers.

    Between Ennis, McCullough, Tyler Lydon and Jim Boeheim's patented 2-3 zone, this team's defense would be darn near impenetrable. Though it doesn't quite stack up against our top-five teams, this Syracuse team would absolutely be better than what Duke, Kansas and Kentucky are actually putting on the court this year.

5. UCLA Bruins

16 of 20

    Zach LaVine
    Zach LaVineMark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Players Gained: Zach LaVine, Kevon Looney

    Starting Five: Lonzo Ball, Bryce Alford, LaVine, Looney, Thomas Welsh

    Top Reserves: Isaac Hamilton, Aaron Holiday, T.J. Leaf

    While Syracuse might have the country's best defensive unit, UCLA would be at the other end of the spectrum, setting the nets on fire on a nightly basis.

    The Bruins are already going to have an incredible offense this year. Whether Isaac Hamilton, Aaron Holiday or T.J. Leaf ultimately serves as the sixth man, it's a player who could come off the bench to score a dozen points on any given night.

    In this scenario, though, all three would be on the bench to make room for Zach LaVine and Kevon Looney.

    Aside from the occasional highlight-reel dunk, LaVine didn't make much of an impression as a freshman three years ago. If you'll recall, just about every college analyst under the sun was scratching his or her head at LaVine's decision to go pro after averaging just 9.4 points per game. But he has done relatively well in the NBA, proving he was simply underutilized with the likes of Kyle Anderson, Jordan Adams, Norman Powell and Bryce Alford blocking his path to stardom. He certainly would have been dominating collegiate competition by now.

    But Looney was an immediate star, and he is the stud this team is lacking at power forward. Through his first 12 games, Looney averaged 13.5 points and 10.8 reboundsand that doesn't include the 27 points and 19 rebounds he had in the double-overtime thriller against Stanford.

    In addition to his double-double potential, Looney would be UCLA's one hope for some defense, as he averaged a combined 2.2 blocks and steals per game two years ago. Those occasional stops might be enough for the Bruins to beat elite teams by a 105-101 type of margin.

4. Arizona Wildcats

17 of 20

    Aaron Gordon
    Aaron GordonDenis Poroy/Associated Press

    Players Gained: Aaron Gordon, Stanley Johnson, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

    Starting Five: Kadeem Allen, Johnson, Hollis-Jefferson, Gordon, Lauri Markkanen

    Top Reserves: Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins, Dusan Ristic, Ray Smith, Kobi Simmons

    We've come a long way since North Carolina ranking No. 16 with no changes to this year's roster, haven't we?

    These top four teams are downright ridiculous and necessitate more than just three top reserves to showcase the sheer amount of talent on the roster.

    Heck, even without a true point guard, Arizona's five reserves would arguably be good enough to rank No. 10 on this list. Give us Ray Smith and Dusan Ristic in the frontcourt with the other three guards sharing the ball-handling duties and we've got a team that can and will do some damage this year.

    But that starting lineup is something else and is a testament to what a great and consistent recruiter Sean Miller has become over the past several years.

    We did get to see Rondae Hollis-Jefferson play with both Stanley Johnson and Aaron Gordon, but we never had the pleasure of seeing all three share the floor. That much athleticism on the court at the same time would have been sensational—and that's without factoring in dynamic combo guard Kadeem Allen and potential one-and-done stretch 5 Lauri Markkanen.

    Here's a challenge for you: Pick any five active college basketball players you think could combine to beat this team. It probably can't be done, and Arizona is only No. 4 on the list. That's crazy.

3. Kansas Jayhawks

18 of 20

    Andrew Wiggins
    Andrew WigginsJeff Roberson/Associated Press

    Players Gained: Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid, Kelly Oubre, Wayne Selden Jr., Cliff Alexander, Cheick Diallo, Brannen Greene

    Starting Five: Frank Mason, Oubre, Wiggins, Alexander, Embiid

    Top Reserves: Josh Jackson, Selden, Devonte' Graham, Diallo, Carlton Bragg Jr., Landen Lucas, Greene, Svi Mykhailiuk

    Of all the starting fives to figure out, this was unequivocally the toughest, due to circumstances beyond Kansas' control.

    Because of injuries, Joel Embiid hasn't played a single regular-season game since March 1, 2014. Meanwhile, both Cliff Alexander and Cheick Diallo had freshman seasons impacted by eligibility issues. Would any or all of them be playing in 2016-17?

    Regardless of the answer, Kansas ranks No. 3 on the list. Whether the health and grades are good or bad, this group of players is better than Arizona's, but not nearly as good as what Duke and Kentucky are bringing to the table. So let's agree to assume Embiid is healthy and Alexander's eligibility issues would have been figured out in time for him to play a full sophomore year this past season.

    In that scenario, the No. 1 overall recruit in this year's class (Josh Jackson) wouldn't even be a starter. And depending on how much you fancy Wayne Selden Jr. and Devonte' Graham, Jackson might not even be one of the first two or three guys off the bench.

    Such is life for a small forward trying to find a spot on a roster that also has Andrew Wiggins as a senior.

    Considering he averaged 20.7 points per game in the NBA last season, Wiggins would likely be the favorite for the Wooden Award as a senior and would be the driving force of this deep and talented roster.

2. Duke Blue Devils

19 of 20

    Amile Jefferson (21) and Jahlil Okafor (15)
    Amile Jefferson (21) and Jahlil Okafor (15)Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    Players Gained: Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Justise Winslow, Brandon Ingram

    Starting Five: Tyus Jones, Grayson Allen, Ingram, Parker, Okafor

    Top Reserves: Winslow, Jayson Tatum, Marques Bolden, Frank Jackson, Luke Kennard, Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones, Harry Giles

    If you thought Josh Jackson coming off the bench for Kansas was ridiculous, good luck wrapping your head around Justise Winslow as a reserve for the Blue Devils.

    You could maybe make the case for Brandon Ingram as the starting shooting guard with Winslow as the small forward, but Grayson Allen coming off the bench after averaging 21.6 points per game last season is just as absurd.

    Now for the really crazy part: Duke has the country's No. 1 2016 recruiting class, and not a single one of its incoming stars would fit into the primary six-man rotation on this team. Even with Harry Giles undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his knee this week, Duke should open the 2016-17 season as the undisputed No. 1 team in the countryand Allen is the only player from that roster even remotely in the conversation for a starting job on this one.

    Though we previously crowned Andrew Wiggins as the favorite for the Wooden Award in his senior year, Jabari Parker would be right there with himparticularly now that he gets to play his natural position with Jahlil Okafor around to handle the dirty work in the paint.

1. Kentucky Wildcats

20 of 20

    Karl-Anthony Towns
    Karl-Anthony TownsAndy Lyons/Getty Images

    Players Gained: Karl-Anthony Towns, Julius Randle, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker, Jamal Murray, Tyler Ulis, James Young, Skal Labissiere, Dakari Johnson, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison

    Starting Five: Ulis, Booker, Young, Randle, Towns

    Top Reserves: Murray, Lyles, De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk, Bam Adebayo, Wenyen Gabriel, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Labissiere, Johnson, Aa. Harrison, An. Harrison, Isaiah Briscoe, Derek Willis, Isaac Humphries

    Holy platoons, Batman!

    Arizona's second unit might rank in the top 10, but Kentucky's third unit would be even better. These Wildcats would be impossibly deep after getting back 11 players who left early for the NBA.

    Based on what these studs did as freshmen, try to imagine how dominant they would be as upperclassmen. Julius Randle and James Young would be the senior leaders, with Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis not far behind as juniors.

    Isaac Humphries is probably going to start at center for the Wildcats this year, and he's arguably this team's 19th-best option. But even if we completely nix the depth chart and only focus on each team's starting five, Kentucky still wins with room to spare.

    Did you expect anything else, though? According to Scout.com, John Calipari has averaged four top-25 recruits per year for the past four years.

    It's hard enough to beat Kentucky in any given year, but trying to do so in an exercise in which multiple years are combined is like trying to win a game of poker against someone using a pinochle deck. The Wildcats are holding all the cards and would be the overwhelming favorites year after year if players had to stay for four seasons.

    Stats are courtesy of KenPom.com and Sports-Reference.com. Recruiting information is courtesy of Scout.com

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