Preseason College Basketball Top 25 Rankings

    Preseason college basketball top 25 rankings for the 2015-16 season. Maryland flexes its muscles with the best starting five in America.

    November 13, 2015

    Some have tabbed North Carolina as the best team heading into the 2015-16 season. Others say that distinction belongs to the Tar Heels’ arch-rival and defending champion, Duke. And then there’s Virginia, which has garnered preseason title talk.

    While all three of those teams have what it takes to make a deep run into the tourney, there’s another ACC team that sits atop my preseason college basketball top 25 rankings: the Maryland Terrapins.

    1. Maryland

    Welcome to the most talented starting five in college basketball. Melo Trimble should be the premier point guard in the game, and he’s got help with Rasheed Sulaimon and Jake Layman on the wings. Throw in two good bigs in Robert Carter Jr., who can go inside or out, and Diamond Stone who can operate on the low block, and look out.

    2. Kansas

    Perry Ellis is the Van Wilder of college hoops – the dude has been around forever. This is about to be his best season yet as the leader of another terrific Kansas team. The maturation of Frank Mason III at the point is the biggest key – he manages a good game and isn’t afraid of the big shot. The Jayhawks have great depth and some talented freshman in Carlton Bragg and Cheick Diallo.

    3. North Carolina

    The Tar Heels return virtually everyone of note highlighted by Marcus Paige – the rarest of luxuries right now in the college basketball world, a top point guard. He’s ready to lead UNC back to its 19th Final Four, but he’ll need the frontline led by Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson to take over at times. Justin Jackson flourished as the season progressed – he’s the X-factor. If he can give Roy Williams a perimeter boost they so sorely need, the Tar Heels could turn into the nation’s best team.

    4. Duke

    The Blue Devil won the ‘chip last year with a mix of superstar freshman alongside a few talented veterans, and they have the same formula this season. Chase Jeter, Luke Kennar, Derryck Thornton, and Brandon Ingram are the new blue chippers, but it’s the experienced guys that are the most intriguing. Can Grayson Allen prove last season’s title run performance was no fluke? Can Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee provide low post scoring, interior defense and some toughness? The pressure is on with all the talent Coach K has brought in – again – but this is a strong enough team to think repeat.

    5. Iowa State

    New head coach Steve Prohm is familiar with talent and playing high tempo basketball – don’t expect any sort of drop-off for the Cyclones in Fred Hoiberg’s absence. Georges Niang is a Player of the Year type of talent to build around, but the real key is the great balance along with elite athleticism. Jameel McKay provides defense and interior scoring, Monte Morris is one of the most underrated guards in the nation, and Deonte Burton will be every bit the impact transfer he’s hyped up to be.

    6. Kentucky

    Okay, who’s next? Once again, the Wildcats have all the talent in the world, but how will is all mesh? Isiah Briscoe, Jamal Murray, and Tyler Ulis provide a loaded backcourt, but they’re all going to be looked at as next level point guards. The critical question: will these three be able to share the perimeter without trying to dominate the ball? Skal Labissiere and Marcus Lee provide a talented frontcourt, and overall the pieces are there to make a run at a title but they’ll have growing pains.

    7. Virginia

    There’s no Justin Anderson, but this is still one of the elite of the elite teams – even if they don’t necessarily excite the masses. The Cavaliers win with a suffocating defense, but there’s offensive firepower when needed, too. Malcolm Brogdon is the go to guy, but can London Perrantes become a consistent scoring option? Who’s poised for a breakout season? The dynamic do-it-all, glue guy Anthony Gill.

    8. Oklahoma

    Buddy Hield can flat-out score the basketball. He’s as tough a matchup any pure scores, while Isiah Cousins is deadly from distance. The 30 second shot plays to the Sooners’ strength with five weapons on the floor at all times capable of scoring.

    9. Indiana

    This may be the season Tom Crean finally gets the haters to fall back thanks to one of the nation’s best backcourts. Yogi Farrell leads the way, and James Blackmon Jr. is a nice complimentary playmaker. Troy Williams is developing into a star at a Victor Oladipo-like pace, and Thomas Bryant finally gives the Hoosiers that rim protector and bully on the low block they’ve so sorely missed.

    10. Michigan State

    Travis Trice and Branden Dawson are gone to graduation, but Denzel Valentine will make up for the loss. He fits the build of a Tom Izzo guy who’s capable of leading the way to Houston. Erron Harris may be the biggest impact transfer this year, and I love their under-appreciated bigs, Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling. The team will feast from the three-point line with specialists, specifically Bryn Forbes. It’s an Izzo team – it’ll be rolling come March.

    11. Notre Dame

    Yes, Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton are gone to graduation, but the Irish will be every bit as good offensively as they were a year ago. If Demetrius Jackson doesn’t turn out to be the best point guard in college basketball, he’ll be really, really close. Combined with Zach Auguste holding down the paint, the Irish have a dangerous pick and roll duo at their disposal. Bonzie Colson is the blue collar, lunchpail guy who provides the edge. Steve Vasturia has in-the-gym range and can score off the bounce, while VJ Beachem, Matt Farrell and Matty Ryan are more offensive weapons that will leave defenses frustrated trying to keep up.

    12. Villanova

    Jay Wright remains relevant yet another year behind his team’s fearless guard play. Ryan Arcidiacono is the consummate floor leader who puts the Wildcats in position to win, but the arrival of Jaylen Brunson playing alongside Arcidiacono will have defenses on their heels all season long. A relentless, attacking offense will be fun to watch yet again in Philly.

    13. Utah

    The Utes are very deep and very talented. Even without Delon Wright. Jacob Poetl may be the best center in the game surrounded by experienced and proven talent. Jordan Loveridge is a consistent performer who averaged double figures every season. With his improved midrange shot, he’s one of the best returning scorers in the Pac-12. Brandon Taylor takes over the reigns as the leader in the backcourt – his sharpshooting will be enough to lead the way to wins by himself at times.

    14. Gonzaga

    There’s a lot of talent here – the ranking should probably be higher. Historically, Mark Few has always won with great guard play – Dan Dickau, Richie Frahm, Adam Morrison, Blake Stepp, and most recently Keving Pangos and Gary Bell. However, this year his immensely talented frontline of Pzemek Karnowski, Domantis Sabonis, and Kyle Wiltjer means the Zags will be built from the inside-out. Can they win with that formula? Josh Perkins and Eric McClellan are talented guards, but can they be good enough to give Few his 15th regular season conference title in his last 16 seasons.

    15. California

    Cuonzo Martin has the Golden Bears walking around Berkeley with their chests puffed out – and for good reason. A top ten recruiting class highlighted by Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown join established pieces like Tyrone Wallace to create a potential Pac-12 monster. The high-level talent is enough to beat anyone.

    16. Arizona

    The Wildcats find themselves in unfamiliar territory – trailing Cal for Pac-12 supremacy. With so many guys gone to the NBA, there will be some lulls, but eventually this should be a killer. Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson is a solid addition, but can Gabe York expand his game in a larger role? The Cats have added some five-star talent worth getting excited about in Allonzo Trier and Ray Smith – Sean Miller will do wonders with this team. Like them in November, love them in March.

    17. Miami

    Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez could be the nation’s most explosive scoring backcourt. They’re fearless guys who’ve never seen a shot they didn’t like, and they’re going to be able to carry the team time and again. It helps to have a big who can produce to alleviate some of that pressure, and they have that in a walking double-double, Tonye Jekiri.

    18. Syracuse

    All the talk is about Jim Boeheim and the nine conference games he’ll be missing, but the focus should be on the potential threat this team poses in the ACC once the clouds clear. Mike Hopkins will flourish in the interim role and be fine – he’s been an extension of Boheim for years. Michael Gbinje is poised to become a star as the go to guy, while Trevor Cooney will find consistency in his stroke. If Dejuan Coleman stays healthy, he has the ability to show why he was once a McDonald’s All-American. The addition of Malachi Richardson gives them another perimeter threat and a piece to defend at the top of that vaunted matchup zone.

    19. Vanderbilt

    The Commodores return their top seven scorers led by a beast on the low block. The pivot man Damion Jones is a lottery pick, and there is not a man in the SEC that can stop him. This team was very, very young last season, and they took their lumps, but they are all grown up now.

    20. Cincinnati

    This is the Khloe of the Kardashian family – before she got hot. Stay with me here. Khloe was always in limelight like the Bearcats are, but she wasn’t Kim and this isn’t going to be everyone’s favorite team. However, she stayed relevant. Cincy might not be the prettiest team around, but it’s always going to find its way into the picture. They bully you, the out-tough you, and they defend. The offense is flagrantly bad at times, but with just about everyone returning, they should be able to find some rhythm and offensive continuity. And then maybe, just maybe, this becomes Khloe.

    21. Purdue

    This could be the year of the big man, and this Purdue team has as special a frontline as any team in the country with two seven-footers down low in AJ Hammons and Isaac Haas. Joining them is Caleb Swanigan to beat up just about anyone up front with high-low basketball early and often. This formidable frontline has a perimeter that can make some noise, too. Rapheal Davis is the returning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, and Johnny Hills seamlessly replaces Jon Octeus at the point position.

    22. Wichita State

    I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid on this team. Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet return making the Shockers legitimate, but with no Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter, they’ll take a step back. A few transfers need to provide a scoring punch with. Connor Frankamp (Kansas), Peyton Allen (Texas A&M), and Anton Grady (Cleveland State), it’s game on.

    23. Michigan

    Caris Lavert is back – he’s enough to carry the team to the top 25 by himself. He can score in a variety of ways and isn’t afraid to put a team on his back. Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin stand to benefit from his return, as they will no longer have to force things and let the game come to them. Ricky Doyle or Mark Donnal have to give them something in the inside, or this team won’t reach its potential. John Beilein wins with great guards and he has them.

    24. LSU

    Ben Simmons. Next.

    25. Baylor

    Rico Gathers is college basketball’s Debow – he looks ready to take your granddaddy’s chain at any given time. Who plays with more fire than this guy? A bully on the backboard and with a high motor, he gets results. Taurean Prince was excellent as a productive sixth man, and now he steps into a starting role with a lot more on his plate. This Bears win with defense and toughness, but the questions in the backcourt will plague them all season long.

    MORE: Preseason AP No. 1 Teams To Win Championship


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