With teams 25-16 already revealed, in this section of the poll, I’ll reveal numbers 15-6, because I’m a jerk and don’t want to release the Top 5 just quite yet.
- Wisconsin Badgers- Wisconsin will have one of the most overturned rosters after being the runner up last year. Gone are Sam Dekker and Frank the Tank. But still around is Nigel Hayes and of course, Bo Ryan. He has proven over his tenure that he can get the best out of his players. Kaminsky was an unknown before dropping 43 points on North Dakota. Never count out a Bo Ryan coached team.
- Wichita State Shockers- It seems like forever ago that Wichita State went undefeated in the regular season in 2013-2014. However, the two main cogs of Fred Van Fleet and Ron Baker still remain from that team. They are arguably the best guard combo in the country and the most experienced. Evan Wessel has been a key glue guy for the last two years and now he will need to take a big step forward in his last year. Also helping will be Kansas transfer Conner Frankamp. If and when Wichita State makes the tournament, count on them to rely on Van Fleet and Baker to make a deep postseason run.
- Michigan State Spartans- Tom Izzo MAY be the best coach in college basketball. While he doesn’t get many top recruits, he convinces his guys to stay all four years, and then when everyone counts his clubs out, they shine in the tourney. Although this year he has no Branden Dawson (who seemed to be at MSU longer the J.J Redick was at Duke) this is still a talented team. Denzel Valentine and Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn (who may just have the best name and nickname in all of college athletics) will be the key contributors on this team. Though they may not be nationally known now, come tourney time they’ll be all the talk.
- California Golden Bears- Maybe the most hyped team outside the top 10, the Cal Golden Bears basketball program should go from 0-100 real quick. Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb were the big catches this offseason. Brown has the look of a top 3 pick already. There are still a few questions regarding the players that are returning. Former 5 star recruit Jabari Bird has not stayed healthy in his two years in Berkeley. Tyrone Wallace and Jordan Mathews put up big numbers last year, but was it because they were on a bad team with nothing to lose? Cal has all the talent to make a run, but can they play together as a unit and find enough off the bench to do it?
- Kansas Jayhawks- The Kansas Jayhawks come into this season with a lot of talent but also, a lot of questions. Frank Mason Jr. was arguably the most improved player in the country last year and he’ll be relied on heavily with Perry Ellis, and two disappointments so far in Wayne Selden and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk. Another question is whether their top recruit Cheick Diallo will be ruled eligible. If he is, this could be a very dangerous Kansas team.
- Oklahoma Sooners- Buddy Hield himself would make Oklahoma a top 25 team. His decision to return to a stacked Oklahoma roster puts them in the top 10. Hield is proably the favorite to win the Wooden Award at this point. Ryan Spangler, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard will aid the reigning Big 12 player of the year. However, with Hield, Spangler and Cousins all being seniors, this could be the last run for Oklahoma
- Arizona Wildcats- It’s rare to see a team outside of Kentucky and Duke lose so many key players and still be a national championship contender. This team could probably run 10 deep if Sean Miller wanted to. With a few top-flight freshman and underrated stretch four in Boston College transfer Ryan Anderson, Arizona will have a tremendously deep roster. Depending on how quickly it takes Cal to jell, the Pac-12 race could potentially be over before it even starts.
- Gonzaga Bulldogs- Gonzaga will be an interesting team to watch this season. They lost one three headed monster in Gary Bell, Byron Wesley and Kevin Pangos, but retained their other one in Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis. Sabonis was arguably the second best player on the team last year, and he’ll come off the bench once again, unless Wiltjer plays the three, which he can. The addition of transfer Nigel Williams-Goss is huge, as he’ll take over the point duties. Gonzaga will still be the best Mid-Major and college basketball fans will challenge their strength of schedule, but make no mistake, these guys can ball with the big dogs.
- Villanova Wildcats- Villanova is essentially a lock for the Big East title (no offense Xavier or Georgetown). Honestly, when looking at the roster, nothing jumps out at you besides a couple of seniors in Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu and 5-star freshman Jalen Brunson. But Jay Wright does an excellent job with finding players that fit his scheme and maximizing their potential. The addition of Jalen Brunson may be enough to get Villanova over the hump.
- Kentucky Wildcats- The only team with more roster turnover than Arizona is Kentucky. Seriously, this team lost 7 players to the NBA draft. 7! Including number 1 pick Karl-Anthony Towns. But Calipari, in classic Calipari fashion, got his recruits to give him a top 10 ranking. Now this team will be nowhere as good as they were last year. Going 38-1 last year was unbelievable, but this year’s team will not be as dominant. However, the core guys of Marcus Lee, Tyler Ulis and Alex Poythress will be aided by stud freshmen Skal Labissiere, Isaiah Briscoe and Charles Matthews. Although Kentucky won’t be as good as they were last year, this team has the potential to make a Final Four run.