College basketball is back. After months of waiting and preparing, the season finally begins on friday with 347 teams fighting to be the national champion.
1. Duke – It is hard to not choose the Blue Devils as the number one team in the nation. Coach K has put together a loaded roster with the addition of of four top 15 recruits and the number one overall recruit in Harry Giles. Along with veterans like Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Matt Jones, Chase Jeter, and Amile Jefferson, this team has the pieces to make a long run in march.
2. Kentucky – Kentucky is yet again led by a talented freshman class, which makes them so deadly. Led by stud point guard De’Aaron Fox, the Wildcats welcome a recruiting class with five players ranked in the top 27. Calipari has proven that he can win with a talented rookie class, and there is no reason to believe that he can’t do it again. The Wildcats look to bounce back after an “off” year and a round of 32 exit in march. De’Aaron Fox is a player of the year candidate and can lead this team to glory in march.
3. Villanova – The Villanova Wildcats come into the season riding high. The 2016 national champions are looking to repeat as national champions for the first time since the 2006-2007 Florida Gators. The Wildcats lost some key pieces such as Ryan Arcidiacono, yet are led by talented veterans like Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins. The Wildcats might take awhile to gel due to all the new pieces, yet with Jay Wright at the helm, this team will be ready to be on top again.
4. Kansas – After what seemed like an eternity, Perry Ellis is finally gone, and it will be difficult for head coach Bill Self to replace him. However, Self has a team loaded with returning talent in the likes of Frank Mason III, Devonte’ Graham, and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. The Jayhawks also bring in one of Self’s best recruits, stud freshman Josh Jackson. Add to that one of the toughest places to play in the nation in Allen Fieldhouse and the Jayhawks are a team nobody wants to face this season, especially when March comes along.
5. Oregon – Oregon is back in the college basketball landscape, and they have a very similar team to last year. A year after the Ducks surprised the nation with a one seed in the tournament and a run to the Elite 8, there team will relatively mimic that of last years. They have 6 key returning players, led by player of the year candidate, Dillon Brooks. The Quack is back and ready to show the nation that they are building a dynasty up in Eugene.
6. North Carolina – North Carolina is arguably the most talented team on this list; however, due to injuries, it will take awhile for this team to get going. Led by junior Justin Jackson, these Tar Heels are loaded with talent up and down the roster. Joel Berry II, Theo Pinson, Nate Britt, Isaiah Hicks, Kennedy Meeks, and Seventh Woods. Carolina will be a force to be reckoned with, and at this point they appear to be the only real threat to dethrone rival Duke atop the rankings. It should be a fun year in the ACC.
7. University of Virginia – Defense, defense, and more defense. Tony Bennett has built a program unlike any other down in Charlottesville. The Cavaliers program has been one of the best over the past couple of years, with 89 wins in the past three seasons, yet haven’t been able to get to that March Madness glory. It will be tough for them to make up for the losses of key players such as Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, and Evan Nolte. However, Bennett brings in his best recruiting class ever; led by Kyle Guy, the Cavaliers will be apart of a loaded ACC and have a serious chance at being a dark horse candidate to knock off powerhouses Duke and North Carolina.
8. Xavier – The Musketeers are back to being one of the top teams in the college basketball stratosphere. A year after a 28-6 regular season and a round of 32 exit, the Musketeers are looking to go even farther this season. The Musketeers are bringing back a plethora of talent; led by Junior guard J.P. Macura, Sean O’Mara, Edmond Sumner, and Trevon Bluiett. However, there are some questions concerning this team because of the weak conference schedule they face in the Big East. This team will play hard-ball and be able to compete with whomever they play.
9. Michigan State – It is Michigan State, they are always a top team. With Tom Izzo at the helm, the Spartans have a chance to contend every year, especially with Izzo getting his highest ranked recruit ever, Miles Bridges. The stud freshman is expected to lead the team this year along with Gavin Schilling and Eron Harris. It will be tough for the Spartans to overcome the losses of Denzel Valentine and Matt Costelo, yet if anyone can turn this team around it’s Izzo. Expect the team to possibly get off to a shaky start due to the daunting non-conference schedule they face, yet when it comes March, watch out for the Spartans.
10. Wisconsin – In the Badgers first full season under Head Coach Greg Gard, the Badgers look to improve on last year’s surprising run to the Sweet 16. Led by seniors Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, along with redshirt sophomore Ethan Happ, the Badgers are a fun team to watch. They can shoot the ball and defend just as well as any team in the nation, making them a threat for all. With no big recruits, the Badgers will rely heavily on their returning players to lead them to victory. If that happens, watch out for the Badgers in March.