The college basketball season ended a month ago, but that means next year’s March Madness is less than a year away. For those who simply cannot wait to think ahead, here is a way too early ranking of the top five teams for next year. This list is based around players who have declared for the NBA draft, current returning players, and incoming freshmen/transfers.
- North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels are returning four out of their five starters from last year’s Sweet Sixteen team. They have point guard Marcus Paige returning for his senior year, which will hopefully boost his draft stock for next year. They also are looking for the underclassmen tandem of Kennedy Meeks and Justin Jackson to step into leadership roles next season. The Tar Heels have one of the worst recruiting classes among the top programs, which throws more pressure on the returning players to step up big time.
- Iowa State Cyclones
The Cyclones are returning the majority of their key players from last year including All-American, Georges Niang. They are also returning starters like Monte’ Morris, Naz Long, and Jameel McKay. They are losing Bryce Dejean-Jones, but they are gaining freshman Hallice Cooke and Marquette transfer, Deonte Burton. As long as Coach Hoiberg comes back, he should have the most talented roster of his career. Niang will be key as he looks to finally capitalize in the NCAA tournament for his senior year.
- Maryland Terrapins
The Terrapins are returning freshman sensation, Melo Trimble, along with Jake Layman and Jared Nickens. They did lose one of the best guards in program history, Dez Wells. Maryland might have the best incoming freshman class though. They are adding Diamond Stone who is one of the best centers coming into college, and also Robert Carter and Jaylen Brantley. The Terrapins are coming off one of the best seasons in program history, but look for them to make a deeper run next year come tournament time.
- Kentucky Wildcats
The Wildcats are coming off a historic undefeated regular season and a deep run to the Final Four. They are losing a lot of players to the NBA, but they are returning point guard, Tyler Ulis, and forwards, Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress. They are losing Karl Anthony-Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker, and Dakari Johnson. But, just like every year for Coach Calipari, his team is being reloaded. The Wildcats are getting three top-25 recruits in Isaiah Briscoe, Skal Labissiere, and Charles Matthews. They should be able to repeat as SEC champs, and make another deep run into March.
- Kansas Jayhawks
The Jayhawks are returning the majority of their starting lineup and key players that came off the bench for them last year. They are returning All-American, Perry Ellis, who is unstoppable from the low block, and look for him to finally get his Jayhawks’ team over the hump of the first weekend of the tournament. They also are returning Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Wayne Seldon, and Brannen Greene. They are losing Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander to the draft. They are getting one of the top high school recruits in the nation in Carlton Bragg. Kansas should be able to win another Big-12 title, and finally be able to get to the Sweet Sixteen.