One Shining Moment is still fresh on my mind, but I can’t help but look forward to what could be an incredible season next year in college hoops. Clearly, a lot could change between now and the summer and again before the fall. Players may turn pro, and high school recruits will make decisions and change their minds impacting these rankings, but let’s have a little fun anyway.
1. Kentucky- Move over Fab 5, the Wildcats will introduce perhaps 5 freshman starters next year. What is already regarded as the nation’s best recruiting class would shoot to the moon if #1 recruit, SF Andrew Wiggins chooses Kentucky. Even without him, this group will be complimented by last season’s holdovers, similar to the 2012 title team.
2. Duke- The Blue Devils lose 3 stud seniors (Curry, Plumlee, Kelly) but that opens playing time for last year’s freshman class of Murphy, Jefferson, and Plumlee, plus #2 recruit Jabari Parker and Mississippi State transfer Rodney Hood, and 4-star recruits wing shooter Semi Ojeleye and all-around guard Matt Jones. If they get production down low, and Quinn Cook makes more progress at point guard they could be the team to beat.
3. Ohio State- The Buckeyes will lose DeShaun Thomas, but with LaQuinton Ross breaking out, he may not be missed as much as you’d think. The backcourt returns, Sam Thompson looks to improve, and two top-100 recruits should have this team the best in the Big Ten, albeit a little bit on the small side.
4. Florida- The Gators lose 3 seniors, but two top-15 recruits in point guard Kasey Hill and skilled big man Chris Walker come in. They are not the only new players with a chance to impact the program in 2013-14. South Carolina transfer Damontre Harris is a shot-blocking specialist and Virginia Tech transfer Dorian Finney-Smith is a nice stretch-4 kind of player. Those guys should compliment an already stacked cubbord for a Gators team that has been to 3 straight Elite 8’s.
5. Memphis- 4 of the Rival’s top 55 players join as part of the nation’s #2 recruiting class. They do lose some talent, but Confernce USA POY PG Joe Jackson returns to lead this team in the new American Athletics Conference.
6. Louisville- Peyton Siva graduates, and Gorgui Dieng and Russ Smith are likely leaving school early, but a strong recruiting class led by PG Terry Rozier and the group of players that were a part of a National Champion should have the Cards in the mix again to get back to the Final Four.
7. Michigan State- The Spartans are the first team we come across with “what if” attached to them. If Gary Harris and Adreian Payne return, they’ll be title contenders when you factor in Appling, Valentine, and Dawson.
8. Colorado- The Buffs look like early Pac-12 favorites with their five leading scorers returning in addition to a couple of 4-star prospects entering the program.
9. VCU- Shaka Smart passed on other jobs, and will bring back 5 of their top 7 players, and will add two very athletic backcourt players in their latest class.
10. Arizona- The Wildcats should be really good, but it’s hard for me to place them higher when they lost their two best players, Solomon Hill and Mark Lyons. Incoming freshman PF Aaron Gordon has drawn comparisons to Blake Griffin, so that will make us pay attention.
11. Indiana- Another big wait and see. I think Victor Oladipo is gone, but I tend to think Cody Zeller will return and if he does, then the Hoosiers have enough in house with a top 5 recruiting class to be at the top of the competitive Big Ten.
12. Gonzaga- The Bulldogs may have trouble climbing the polls as high as they did because of their tournament result, but if Kelly Olynyk returns, they’ll put themselves in a similar position.
13. North Carolina- Roy Williams made himself pretty clear saying he expects players to leave 30-win Carolina teams, not 20-win ones. If the Tar Heels coach convinces McAdoo, Hairston, and Bullock to all stay, then this ranking will go up with an elite class coming in.
14. Wichita State- Greg Marshall lost his top 5 scorers last year and ended up in the Final Four. He does lose Armstead and Hall, but brings back most of the group he rode to Atlanta this year. Stock is going up, up, up.
15. Kansas- Where do you put a team that loses it’s starting 5, but wins the Big XII every year? In the hunt, of course. If Andrew Wiggins joins an already elite top 5 class, then the Jayhawks will also climb.
16. Michigan- Maybe the hardest club to place, or omit right now. I’d expect the Wolverines to lose PG Trey Burke, but Glen Robinson III, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Mitch McGary could all stay or go. If they all stayed, Michigan will be a Final Four favorite, if they all leave, they’ll likely just be a tournament team. Obviously, anything in between, would be in between.
Keep an eye on…
Cal, Marquette, NC State, Syracuse, UConn, Alabama, Virginia, Baylor, Villanova, Boise State, Oregon, and FSU (if Wiggins goes there)