Ultra Early Top 25 Rankings for the 2014-15 College Basketball Season

Photo: Jeff Gross / Getty Images

Three cheers for college basketball withdrawal! The 2013-14 season wrapped up Monday night with Connecticut defeating Kentucky in the national championship game, and now it’s already time to start looking at what 2014-15 has in store.

Here is an ultra early look at how next season’s Top 25 rankings are shaping up. It’s tough to pin this exactly right now because players could still leave early and teams could sign recruits or transfers. I estimated who would go pro and who would remain in school and went from there:

 

1. Wisconsin

Key losses: Ben Brust

Key returners: Frank Kaminsky, Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser, Nigel Hayes, Traevon Jackson, Bronson Koenig, Duje Dukan

Key additions: Ethan Happ

Photo: Jeff Gross / Getty Images
Photo: Jeff Gross / Getty Images

Wisconsin hit a very rough patch in January this past season. Sandwiching that 1-5 stretch were a 16-0 start and a 13-3 finish. That’s pretty darn good.

The Badgers lose second-leading scorer Ben Brust, a key piece in their backcourt and a phenomenal 3-point shooter. But that’s their only loss.

Potential NBA prospects junior Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker said they are returning to school. So are starting guards Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser.

The Badgers’ three main reserves — freshmen Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koening and junior Duje Dukan — will all be back as well. Expect them to improve when placed in more significant roles. Hayes was one of the best freshmen in the Big Ten all season, and Dukan and Koenig showed flashes of what could come during the NCAA Tournament.

 

2. Arizona

Key losses: Aaron Gordon, Nick Johnson

Key returners: Brandon Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, T.J. McConnell, Gabe York

Key additions: Stanley Johnson, Craig Victor, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Dusan Ristic, Zach Peters, Kadeem Allen

Arizona will lose freshman star Aaron Gordon to the NBA, and there’s a good chance sophomore Nick Johnson, the Wildcats’ leading scorer, will be gone as well.

But the Wildcats return everyone else who was significant. Plus, sophomore Brandon Ashley will be healed from an injury that kept him out of the final two months of the season.

Junior T.J. McConnell could be one of the nation’s leaders in assists, and Ashley, sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski and freshman Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will form a phenomenal frontcourt.

Head coach Sean Miller also adds another loaded recruiting class, led by small forward Stanley Johnson.

 

3. Duke

Key losses: Rodney Hood, Jabari Parker, Andre Dawkins, Tyler Thornton

Key returners: Quinn Cook, Rasheed Sulaimon, Amile Jefferson, Marshall Plumlee

Key additions: Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Grayson Allen, Justise Winslow

Duke will be at or near the top of the Top 25 whether or not Jabari Parker is still on the roster in the fall. Even with Rodney Hood gone to the NBA and Parker expected to follow the same path, the Blue Devils return three key players and add arguably the best recruiting class in the nation.

Quinn Cook was one of the ACC’s leaders in assists with 4.4 dimes per game, and Rasheed Sulaimon, after spending a large chunk of the season in Coach K’s doghouse, still showed his potential to be an elite scorer during ACC play.

Duke’s third key returning player is Amile Jefferson, a a 6’9″ forward who averaged 6.5 points and 6.9 rebounds in just 22.7 minutes per game. He also shot an efficient 64.4% from the field.

 

4. Kansas

Key losses: Andrew Wiggins, Tarik Black, Joel Embiid

Key returners: Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden Jr., Naadir Tharpe, Frank Mason, Jamari Traylor, Conner Frankamp, Andrew White III, Brannen Greene

Key additions: Cliff Alexander, Kelly Oubre, Hunter Mickelson

Photo: Jamie Squire / Getty Images
Photo: Jamie Squire / Getty Images

Kansas loses Andrew Wiggins and probably Joel Embiid to the NBA. Plus Tarik Black exhausted his eligibility. But the Jayhawks could be even better next season.

Starting guards Naadir Tharpe and Wayne Selden Jr. will return to form a lethal backcourt. Kansas will also have tons of depth at the guard position with Frank Mason, Conner Frankamp, Brannen Greene and Andrew White III also back.

Sophomores Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor will also be back to anchor the frontcourt, and they will get help from Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, a pair of incoming freshmen. Arkansas transfer Hunter Mickelson, who averaged 5.4 points and 3.5 rebounds for the Hogs, will also be eligible.

 

5. North Carolina

Key losses: James Michael McAdoo, Leslie McDonald

Key returners: Marcus Paige, J.P. Tokoto, Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, Nate Britt, Joel James

Key additions: Joel Berry II, Justin Jackson, Theo Pinson

With Marcus Paige returning, North Carolina can do great things next season. The Tar Heels did lose forward James Michael McAdoo to the NBA, but their frontcourt will be fine. Brice Johnson, J.P. Tokoto, Kennedy Meeks and Joel James will all be back to form one of the ACC’s best frontcourts. Plus North Carolina adds a pair of high school All-American forwards in Justin Jackson and Theo Pinson. Both should be ready to contribute as freshmen.

To help out Paige, the Tar Heels add a third high school All-American in point guard Joel Berry II. Berry is an excellent penetrator and very solid on-ball defender.

 

6. Kentucky

Key losses: Julius Randle, James Young, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Willie Cauley-Stein

Key returners: Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, Dominique Hawkins

Key additions: Karl Towns Jr., Tyler Ulis, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker

It’s still pretty unclear what Kentucky’s roster will look like next season. It’s safe to say Julius Randle and James Young will declare for the NBA Draft. Aaron and Andrew Harrison will also probably depart. Sophomore Willie Cauley-Stein could bolt as well. And with the way Kentucky’s one-and-done (ahem, succeed-and-proceed) system goes, it wouldn’t be terribly surprising to see freshman Dakari Johnson or sophomore Alex Poythress make the jump, too.

Chances are at least a couple of those guys will be back, and head coach John Calipari is adding one of the nation’s best recruiting classes, again. Two of the premier big men in the Class of 2014, Trey Lyles and Karl-Anthony Towns are headed for Lexington. Talented guards Devin Booker and Tyler Ulis could also join the starting lineup as freshmen.

 

7. Michigan

Key losses: Jordan Morgan, Nik Stauskas

Key returners: Glenn Robinson III, Caris LeVert, Derrick Walton Jr., Zak Irvin, Jon Horford, Spike Albrecht, Mitch McGary

Key additions: Kameron Chatman, Ricky Doyle, D.J. Wilson

So far none of Michigan’s underclassmen have declared for the draft. Sophomores Nik Stauskas and Mitch McGary are the two Wolverines have their eyes on, and and their decisions will have a huge impact on Michigan’s projections for next season.

With both, the Wolverines are a top-five club. Even with just Stauskas, they could be top-five. With just McGary, they’re still looking at top-10. But with neither, Michigan is looking at the No. 15 ballpark.

Regardless, starters Glenn Robinson III, Caris LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. will all return. Key reserves Zak Irvin, Jon Horford and Spike Albrecht will also be back. If McGary does not return, Horford’s play next season will be key, as the Wolverines would not have any other true big men.

 

8. Florida

Key losses: Scottie Wilbekin, Patric Young, Casey Prather, Will Yeguete

Key returners: Michael Frazier, Dorian Finney-Smith, Kasey Hill, Chris Walker, Eli Carter, Devon Walker

Key additions: Devin Robinson, Brandone Francis, Chris Chiozza, Damontre Harris, Alex Murphy

Photo: Al Messerschmidt / Getty Images
Photo: Al Messerschmidt / Getty Images

Florida loses four starters, but it is still in very good shape for the 2014-15 season. Sharpshooter Michael Frazier II returns as does sixth man Dorian Finney-Smith. Backup point guard Kasey Hill should be fine playing in a starting role after averaging 5.5 points and 3.1 assists off the bench as a freshman.

Freshman Chris Walker, a heralded recruit who appeared only in the season’s last two months because of eligibility issues, will be a key player. So will former Rutgers transfer Eli Carter, who redshirted with Florida last season because of an injury.

The Gators also add three top-100 recruits to their roster and a pair of impact transfers in Damontre Harris and Alex Murphy.

 

9. Virginia

Key losses: Joe Harris, Akil Mitchell

Key returners: Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Justin Anderson, Mike Tobey, London Perrantes, Evan Nolte, Darion Atkins

Key additions: B.J. Stith, Isaiah Wilkins, Jack Salt

Virginia loses starters Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell but returns everyone else that matters. Sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon returns after a breakout season, as does freshman point guard London Perrantes. Perrantes had no trouble transferring his game to the collegiate level, averaging 3.8 assists and just 1.1 turnovers.

Sophomores Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey return as the main pieces in the frontcourt.

After taking the Cavaliers to the Sweet 16 this past year, Tony Bennett has built Virginia into an ACC powerhouse that is here to stay.

 

10. Villanova

Key losses: James Bell, Tony Chennault

Key returners: Darrun Hilliard II, JayVaughn Pinkston, Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, Daniel Ochefu, Dylan Ennis, Kris Jenkins

Key additions: Phil Booth, Mikal Bridges

Villanova’s success this past season is easy to forget because the Wildcats’ best wins came in November and then they had early exits in the Big East Tournament and NCAA Tournament.

But Villanova was still highly ranked in KenPom and the polls all season, and they only lose one key player. The loss is a big one, as it is that of leading scorer and rebounder James Bell. But with four starters and their top three reserves returning, the Wildcats will be favored to repeat as Big East champions.

 

11. SMU

Key losses: Shawn Williams, Nick Russell

Key returners: Nic Moore, Markus Kennedy, Keith Frazier, Yanick Moreira, Ben Moore, Cannen Cunningham, Ryan Manuel, Sterling Brown

Key additions: Emmanuel Mudiay, Jordan Tolbert (possibly)

Photo: Jeff Zelevansky / Getty Images
Photo: Jeff Zelevansky / Getty Images

SMU was the biggest snub from the 2014 NCAA Tournament, and it will be very surprising if the Mustangs miss the tournament again in 2015. The Mustangs lose combo-guard Nick Russell, who led the team in minutes, and fellow starter Shawn Williams. But they return all eight other pieces of their 10-man rotation from last season.

Nic Moore was already among the AAC’s best point guards as a redshirt sophomore. Next season, he will have extra help in the backcourt with the addition of highs school star Emmanuel Mudiay, who is widely regarded as one of the top-two point guards in the Class of 2014.

The Mustangs already have a strong frontcourt with Yanick Moreira, Markus Kennedy and Ben Moore returning. But their front line could get even better with the possible addition of Texas Tech transfer Jordan Tolbert. Tolbert averaged 10.7 points and 5.8 rebounds for the Red Raiders last season and could gain immediately eligibility with the Mustangs.

 

12. Wichita State

Key losses: Cleanthony Early, Chadrack Lufile, Kadeem Coleby, Nick Wiggins

Key returners: Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton, Darius Carter, Evan Wessel

Key additions: Zach Brown, Rashard Kelly, Bush Wamukota

Wichita State loses a lot from its frontcourt, but its entire backcourt is back to try to replicate the magic of the 2013-14 season. The Shockers must replace leading scorer Cleanthony Early and two parts of their three-headed monster of forwards, but they will still be a Top-25 club with Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton all returning. Forward Darius Carter, the most productive of that three-headed group up front, is also back.

An X-factor for Wichita State will be sophomore Evan Wessel. Wessel averaged 5.5 points as a freshman and shot 11-of-24 (45.8%) from 3-point range. He was very ineffective as a sophomore, averaging just 1.2 points on 12% 3-point shooting. The Shockers will already be relying on some freshmen and transfers to bolster their depth, but if Wessel regains his confidence he can be another dangerous piece.

 

13. Iowa State

Key losses: DeAndre Kane, Melvin Ejim

Key returners: Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue, Monte Morris, Naz Long, Matt Thomas

Key additions: Abdel Nader, Clay Custer

Iowa State suffers a pair of huge losses with DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim graduating, but they are all the Cyclones lose. Sophomore Georges Niang and junior Dustin Hogue will be two of the best players in the Big 12 next season. Niang is already an incredible, do-it-all player. Hogue had a great first season with the Cyclones and could make a jump similar to the one Ejim made between his junior and senior seasons.

Freshman Monte Morris will do a fine job as the team’s main point guard. Morris shared the duties with Kane and dished out nearly 4.8 assists for every turnover he committed. Sophomore Naz Long, a deadeye shooter, also returns to the backcourt.

As always, head coach Fred Hoiberg adds a quality transfer. Former Northern Illinois  forward Abdel Nader, who averaged 13.1 points and 5.6 rebounds as a sophomore for the Huskies, will be eligible.

 

14. Texas

Key losses: None

Key returners: Jonathan Holmes, Isaiah Taylor, Javan Felix, Cameron Ridley, Demarcus Holland, Connor Lammert, Martez Walker, Prince Ibeh, Kendal Yancy, Damarcus Croaker

Key additions: Jordan Barnett

Texas was one of the big surprises in 2013-14 college hoops. Head coach Rick Barnes began the season on the hot seat, and he wound up turning the Longhorns into a top-25 club and leading them to a NCAA-Tournament victory. And now they return everyone on the roster.

It’s hard to imagine things will be any worse for the Longhorns in 2014-15.

 

15. Connecticut

Key losses: Shabazz Napier, Niels Giffey, Lasan Kromah, Tyler Olander

Key returners: Ryan Boatright, DeAndre Daniels, Amida Brimah, Omar Calhoun, Phillip Nolan, Terrence Samuel

Key additions: Daniel Hamilton, Rodney Purvis, Sam Cassell Jr.

Photo: Elsa / Getty Images
Photo: Elsa / Getty Images

Thank you, Connecticut, for another incredible national title run. But, as you can tell, we’re already looking forward to next season.

The Huskies lose star guard Shabazz Napier and key big men Niels Giffey and Lasan Kromah. They won’t be favored to repeat as national champs without Napier, but they’ll easily be in the mix for an AAC title and a good NCAA-Tournament seed.

NBA-level talent DeAndre Daniels should return for his senior year, as will combo-guard Ryan Boatright. The Huskies also add extremely talented guard Rodney Purvis, a NC State transfer. Purvis averaged 8.3 points and shot 38.5% from the field for the Wolfpack as a freshman.

A starting frontcourt of Amida Brimah and Phillip Nolan will not be overwhelming, but it will be good enough behind the team’s three main players.

 

16. Louisville

Key losses: Russ Smith, Luke Hancock, Stephan Van Treese

Key returners: Montrezl Harrell, Chris Jones, Wayne Blackshear, Terry Rozier, Mangok Mathiang

Key additions: Shaqquan Aaron, Quentin Snider, Anas Osama Mahmoud, Chinanu Onuaku, Jaylen Johnson, Matz Stockman

Louisville will be a top-25 team no matter what when the 2014-15 season begins. But whether the Cardinals are borderline top-25 or easily top-25 depends on whether Montrezl Harrell declares for the NBA Draft. Harrell has the talent to go pro right now, but he has not yet made an announcement.

The Cardinals are already losing leading scorer and distributor Russ Smith and third-leading scorer and distributor Luke Hancock. Losing Harrell’s 14.0 points and 8.4 rebounds per game would be a big hit.

That being said, Louisville returns three very solid guards in Chris Jones, Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear. Backup big man Mangok Mathiang was an intimidating defensive presence, but he could be another huge piece if he makes some offensive improvements.

 

17. Colorado

Key losses: None

Key returners: Spencer Dinwiddie, Josh Scott, Xavier Johnson, Askia Booker, Wesley Gordon, Xavier Talton, Jaron Hopkins, Dustin Hopkins, Tre’Shaun Fletcher

Key additions: Dominique Collier, Tory Miller

Colorado had high hopes to start the season but ultimately made no noise after star player Spencer Dinwiddie went down with a season-ending injury. But Dinwiddie will be back and healthy to start the 2014-15 season, and the Buffaloes also return everyone else from their rotation.

In addition to Dinwiddie, the Buffaloes have three stars in Askia Booker, Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson. Plus, one of the silver linings to Dinwiddie’s injury is some reserves received extra playing time and experience.

 

18. Nebraska

Key losses: Ray Gallegos

Key returners: Terran Petteway, Walter Pitchford, Shavon Shields, Leslee Smith, Tai Webster, David Rivers, Benny Parker

Key additions: Jacob Hammond

It was only a matter of time before Tim Miles had Nebraska at this level. The Cornhuskers made the NCAA Tournament in 2010, their first since 1998, and they return all but one key player.

The lone loss is that of Ray Gallegos. And though Gallegos was a solid contributor with 7.3 points per game, he is replaceable.

Terran Petteway will once again be one of the Big Ten’s best offensive players, and Shavon Shields and Walter Pitchford are superb second and third options.

 

19. VCU

Key losses: Juvonte Reddic, Rob Brandenberg

Key returners: Treveon Graham, Melvin Johnson, Briante Weber, JeQuan Lewis, Jordan Burgess, Mo Allie-Cox

Key additions: Terry Larrier, Mike Gilmore, Justin Tillman, Jonathan Williams

Photo: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images
Photo: Gregory Shamus / Getty Images

VCU loses forward Juvonte Reddic and shooting guard Rob Brandenberg but should actually be improved next season. The Rams return leading scorer Treveon Graham and talented wing Melvin Johnson, who missed the Atlantic 10 title game and NCAA Tournament with an injury.

Point guard and defensive menace Briante Weber and a handful of role players will also be back.

To help out the Rams’ depth, head coach Shaka Smart also adds three top-100 recruits.

 

20. Oklahoma

Key losses: Cameron Clark, Tyler Neal

Key returners: Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, Jordan Woodward, Ryan Spangler, Je’lon Hornbeak, Frank Booker, D.J. Bennett

Key additions: Dante Buford, Khadeem Lattin, Jamuni McNeace

Oklahoma was an offensive power last season, and the Sooners return four of their top five scorers. Cameron Clark, their second-leading scorer, is the only one not returning.

The Sooners will still have their three-headed backcourt monster of Buddy Hield, Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins. The trio combined to average 37.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 8.6 assists and 3.6 steals per game. Together, they also shot 38.8% from 3-point range.

Forward Ryan Spangler also returns after nearly averaging a double-double.

 

21. Michigan State

Key losses: Adreian Payne, Keith Appling, Gary Harris

Key returners: Branden Dawson, Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice, Kenny Kaminski, Matt Costello, Alvin Ellis, Alex Gauna

Key additions: Lourawls Nairn, Javon Bess

AP Photo
AP Photo

Michigan State graduates Adrien Payne and Keith Appling and is expected to lose leading scorer Gary Harris early to the NBA. The Spartans will have some holes to fill, but they have enough returning to remain a top-25 squad.

Branden Dawson is an undersized forward at 6’6″, but his athleticism, strength and explosiveness will make him one of the Big Ten’s best players. This past season, Dawson averaged 11.2 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting 61.3% from the field.

The Spartans also have two talented guards returning in Denzel Valentine and Travis Trice. Valentine averaged 8.0 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists last season while Trice posted 7.3 points and 2.3 dimes per outing. Both are sharp 3-point shooters.

 

22. San Diego State

Key losses: Xavier Thames, Josh Davis

Key returners: Winston Shepard, Dwayne Polee II, JJ O’Brien, Matt Shrigley, Aqeel Quinn, Skylar Spencer, Dakarai Allen

Key additions: Angelo Chol, Malik Pope, Trey Kell, Zylan Cheatham, Kevin Zabo

It will be interesting to see how San Diego State adjust to life without Xavier Thames. Thames was the Aztecs’ go-to scorer, main distributor and lockdown defender. The Aztecs lose him and rebounding monster Josh Davis but could still be a top-25 team next season.

Versatile forwards Winston Shepard and Dwayne Polee II will be the team’s two main pieces. The Aztecs will have unbelievable frontcourt depth with JJ O’Brien, Skylar Spencer and Matt Shirgley back on the roster. Also, Arizona transfer Angelo Chol, a 6’9″ forward, will be eligible.

 

23. Kansas State

Key losses: Will Spradling, Shane Southwell, Omari Lawrence

Key returners: Marcus Foster, Thomas Gipson, Wesley Iwundu, Nino Williams, Nigel Johnson, D.J. Johnson, Jevon Thomas

Key additions: Stephen Hurt, Justin Edwards

Kansas State did not turn many heads this past season but still won 20 games and easily made the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats lose starters Will Spradling and Shane Southwell but should be even better next season.

First off, they return their top two players, Marcus Foster and Thomas Gipson. Foster, a freshman stud who did not gain much publicity, averaged 15.5 points. Gipson, a junior forward, averaged 11.7 points on 56.2% shooting and 6.5 rebounds.

The Wildcats also return starting forward Wesley Iwundu and their top-four bench players. The additions of transfers Stephen Hurt and Justin Edwards will provide some additional depth. Hurt averaged 11.5 points and 7.8 rebounds as a freshman at Lipscomb. Edwards averaged 16.7 points and 3.4 assists two seasons ago at Maine.

 

24. Harvard

Key losses: Brandyn Curry, Kyle Casey, Laurent Rivard

Key returners: Wesley Saunders, Siyani Chambers, Steve Moudou-Missi, Jonah Travis, Evan Cummins, Agunwa Okolie, Kenyatta Smith

Key additions: Chris Egi, Andre Chatfield

(Photo from Getty Images)
Photo: Getty Images

Harvard just keeps building. The Crimson have won four straight Ivy League titles, appeared in three straight NCAA Tournaments, and won one game in each of the last two NCAA Tournaments. Now, they could become a top-25 program.

The Crimson return their three best players and most of their bench. The losses of Laurent Rivard as a shooter, Kyle Casey in the frontcourt, and Brandyn Curry as a backup point guard hurt, but the Crimson are prepared.

Wesley Saunders, Siyani Chambers and Steve Moundou-Missi are great players who will continue to great things during their Harvard careers.

Jonah Travis, Evan Cummins and Agunwa Okolie have the potential to thrive in increased roles next season. The Crimson also welcome forward Kenyatta Smith back to the mix. Smith missed all but two minutes of the 2013-14 season with a foot injury, but he averaged 5.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 blocks two seasons ago.

 

25. Iowa

Key losses: Roy Devyn Marble, Melsahn Basabe, Zach McCabe

Key returners: Aaron White, Mike Gesell, Jarrod Uthoff, Josh Oglesby, Gabriel Olaseni, Adam Woodbury, Peter Jok, Anthony Clemmons

Key additions: Dominique Uhl, Trey Dickerson

Iowa went from one of the great stories in 2013-14 to one of the most disappointing ones. It appeared Fran McCaffery had truly revived Iowa program, leading the Hawkeyes to a top-10 ranking. But the Hawkeyes were awful down the stretch and nearly missed the NCAA Tournament. After squeaking into the First Four, they lost to Tennessee.

Iowa loses leading scorer Roy Devyn Marble and two other key pieces, but the Hawkeyes could once again be a factor in the Big Ten if they defend better. However, that’s a big “if” considering their defensive efficiency ranked No. 120 in the nation on KenPom

 

Next five considered: Oregon, Gonzaga, Ohio State, Utah, Syracuse

 

Top 25 breakdown by conference:

Big 12—5

Big Ten—5

ACC— 4

Pac-12—2

SEC—2

AAC—2

Big East—1

MVC—1

A10—1

MWC—1

Ivy—1

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