I did these way-too-early picks a year ago and got 10 of the sweet 16 teams and 6 of the elite 8 teams in there. I had listed other excellent teams that didn’t do as well in the NCAA tournament, with my major miss being Wisconsin. I won’t make that mistake again as I attempt to see into the future of who to watch in 2014-15.
1. Wisconsin- Everybody is back except for sharpshooter Ben Brust. Love the youth on the bench. They’ll be better next year, and perhaps the best team in the country if a couple teams below get raided by the NBA.
2. Kentucky- Counting Randle, Young, and Cauley-Stein as good as gone, I still think this team has the potential with the other 5 soon-to-be sophomores and a top-3 recruiting to be the best in America next year. If the Harrison twins elect to leave, this team will still be top ten.
3. Duke- If Parker surprises and returns, I’d elevate the Devils to the top spot. They’ll be bigger next year with the best recruiting class in the nation.
4. North Carolina- They were already scary offensively and a top recruiting class and a more seasoned group should make for a hellish tobacco road in 2014.
5. SMU- 6 of their top 7 players return and Emmanuel Mudiay looked like the best player in the McDonald’s game. Reminder that they beat UConn twice this year.
6. Kansas- No reason to count out Bill Self, even after losing a pair that could go 1-2 in the NBA Draft. They return a ton of talent from a deeper than expected team this year.
7. Arizona- The Wildcats probably would place higher if Nick Johnson returns, but everyone aside from Aaron Gordon will be back including the injured Brandon Ashley.
8. Villanova- These Cats should be the beast of the Big East again with 4 starters back.
9. Connecticut- Napier is gone, but with Boatwright, Daniels, Brimah, and frosh Dan Hamilton this team will once again be a force under Kevin Ollie.
10. Texas- Finally it appears the pieces are falling into place for Rick Barnes. Everybody is back. They are big and bad, and Isaiah Taylor looks like a college star in the backcourt.
11. West Virginia- You could see Bob Huggins team showing signs of future promise this year, and with a good group coming back and the additions of Jonathon Holton and Elijah Macon who were on the team, but denied eligibility by the NCAA, this team will battle atop a loaded Big 12 conference.
12. Michigan- The Wolverines once again will be impacted based on NBA decisions. This year Stauskas, Hardaway, and McGary again will decide. The rest of the roster is strong though, and Beilein has proven his ability as a coach.
13. Gonzaga- The Zags had a bit of a down year, but will be back to a nationally discussed team that approaches 30 wins.
14. Florida- The Gators lose the core-4, but with the two freshmen, Finney-Smith, and Frazier II and another solid recruiting class coming in, they’ll be a tough out.
15. Oklahoma- They were one of the best offensive teams in the country this year, and will get bigger up front through recruiting.
16. Colorado- The Buffaloes looked like a top ten team when Spencer Dinwiddie went down. He’ll be back and so will the majority of his teammates.
Keep an eye on these 9 (this is where I placed UConn a year ago after they had missed the NCAA tournament going 20-14 and on probation):
Wichita State, Louisville, BYU, Arkansas, VCU, Michigan State, Utah, Georgetown, Florida State