Congratulations to the Duke Blue Devils!
Seriously I mean that.
Because my opinions on the game aside, it means the 2014-15 Hurricanes own a 16 point win over the National Champs on their home floor.
Summarized by 'Canes star Sheldon McClellan below:
At least I can say we beat the national champions at there house! Congrats Duke, see ya next season ✊— Sheldon McClellan (@ShelMcClellan) April 7, 2015
But enough about last season, let's look ahead.
Last year I took a stab at the same, and guess what?
Before I pat myself on the back too much, I also included Miami, Florida, and Michigan in the same list.
Nonetheless it is always fun to prognosticate.
So who are my WAY TOO EARLY Top 10 Teams for 2015-16?
#1 North Carolina - The Heels return nearly everyone from a team that was good enough to make the Sweet 16 and give National runner-up Wisconsin a run for their money. The most important starter is PG Marcus Paige, who finally looked healthy by season's end. Brice Johnson has developed into a nice combo forward, and Kennedy Meeks is a load down low. Justin Jackson has already announced he is coming back for his sophomore campaign. His ability to drain open jumpers could be the key to the season for UNC. J.P Tokoto, Theo Pinson, and incoming 4 star stud F Luke Maye round out an incredibly deep squad. Why else do I like the Heels? With arch rival Duke holding the crown, they will have a lot of motivation and pride to play their best next season. Do not underestimate that factor.
#2 Kentucky - Willie Cauley-Stein is heading to the NBA. It would be a shock if Karl-Anthony Towns, Devin Booker, & The Harrison Twins did not follow suit. Dakari Johnson would be smart to stay, as would Marcus Lee and Tyler Ulis. Coming off an ACL injury, Alex Poythress also should be back. But even if half of that group joins their lottery bound teammates in the NBA, UK still has another #1 overall class coming in featuring crazy talented wing Isiah Briscoe, Chicago prospect Charles Matthews, and 6'10 man child Skal Labissiere. As long as Coach Cal is at the reigns, this team will always have more talent than just about any team in the country.
#3 Virginia - They lose Darion Atkins... that's it. Justin Anderson could depart early, but chances are he returns. Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, London Perrantes, and Mike Tobey all most certainly will return for one of the most balanced teams in the country. Oh yeah, Tony Bennett is back at head coach, and that means more stifling half court, pack line defense. Martial Shayok showed signs as a freshman, and could provide more firepower with some improvement this coming season as well.
#4 Kansas - First of all no matter how much the conference improves around them they are sure fire picks for the Big XII Championship year in and year out. And despite the announced departure of Kelly Oubre and the fact Cliff Alexander will probably join him, they should still have a core of Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, and Perry Ellis to build around. Carlton Bragg is a 6'9 220 pound 4 star recruit who joins the mix as well. Look for improvements from Jamari Taylor and Brannen Greene next season as well.
#5 Wichita State - Greg Marshall spurned the advances of Alabama and came back to the Shockers, despite the chance that maybe one day someone might pay off his house for him if he was successful in Tuscaloosa. With Marshall back at the helm, and Fred Van Fleet and Ron Baker likely back as well (both reportedly checked into their NBA stocks) Wichita State should be in good hands for another strong season. Kansas transfer Conner Frankamp and touted freshman Landry Shamel join sophomore to be Shaq Morris to form a strong line-up.
#6 Maryland - In their final seasons of ACC play, the Terrapins always seemed to be a PG away from being very dangerous. Well last year they finally found one in sensational freshman Melo Tremble, who will be back. This year they add 5 star C Diamond Stone (with a name like that he better be good) to the mix. Add those two studs to versatile Jake Layman, and an athletic Jared Nickens on the wing, and Maryland should be the class of the B1G next season.
#7 Gonzaga - Is there any team in the country that just looks more like a 2 seed than the Bulldogs each and every season? Not that it is a bad thing. They lose steady PG Kevin Pangos and hard nosed wings Gary Bell and Byron Wesley. But All World Stretch 4 Kyle Wiltjer, soft handed 7 footer Przemek Karnowski, and sure to improve F Domantas Sabonis are all back, comprising arguably the best front court in the country. Eric McClellan will need to score more and they will need to find a PG (4 star freshman Josh Perkins who spent the majority of the season hurt appears to be the heir), but Mark Few knows how to get the best out of his team.
#8 Duke - Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow are headed to the NBA. No doubt about it. And Senior Quinn Cook will be missed as well. If Tyus Jones goes with them this ranking may be too high. If he stays, it may be too low. Start to finish, Jones was the best player on the champs this past season. So what else do the Devils have coming back, you ask? Matt Jones and Grayson Allen both looked liked solid contributors during the Tourney run, and both should be better next year. Amile Jefferson is the glue guy and will be the team leader as a senior. And as always more talent is on the way, this season in the forms of G Luke Kennard, and F Chase Jeter, both of whom are ready to play prospects.
#9 NC State - Trevor Lacey is my early favorite as ACC POY next year. His back court mate, Anthony "Cat" Barber, was unstoppable at times this season as well. They will miss sharpshooter Ralston Turner, but Mark Gottfried's squad would be smart to go inside more next season. I absolutely love Abdul-Malik Abu's game, as he can punish you inside and step out and hit 15 footers. 300 pound BeeJay Anya and his 7'6 wing span also merits more touches in the post. Talented guards Codey and Caleb Martin could be the poor man's version of the Harrison's with slight improvement. This team is loaded for bear next year.
#10 Miami - Here it is... "The HOMER pick." I know, I know. Still, when you have a team that beat eventual National Champs Duke by 16 in Cameron, and was one terrible call away from winning the NIT despite being down two of its' best players, AND returns all of its' main contributors, AND adds former Oklahoma State PF Kamari Murphy to the weakest position on the roster, and you have something special. The key will be to get Angel Rodriguez to be a pass first PG, as clearly McClellan and Davon Reed need consistent touches each and every game. Tonye Jekiri improved light years this past season. He too should get more touches. Murphy should make his life a little easier down low. The final piece to the puzzle will be to get steady performances out of Deandre Burnett, JaQuan Newton, Omar Sherman, and James Palmer. All saw significant minutes as freshman, all had moments, but each was also inconsistent. All the pieces are in place, it is just a matter of finding chemistry with this bunch. Coach L should find a way.
Just missed the cut (in no particular order):
Villanova - Ryan Arcidiacono and Josh Hart are back, but they will sorely miss JayVaughn Pinkston. Incoming freshman Jaylen Brunson will help as well.
Michigan State - Travis Trice and Branden Dawson depart....ouch! But Tom Izzo always gets his teams to peak in March. Denzel Valentine needs to step up. LouRawls "Tum Tum" Nairns has cool name and is a nice pass first PG. There are nice recruits on the way as well, led by 6'9 All-American Deyonta Davis.
Iowa State - Georges Niang is an underrated star nationally. Jameel McKay is also a nice player. They will have plenty to play for after a nice season and a #3 seed was wiped out in a first round defeat at the hands of UAB.
Arizona - They likely lose an awful lot (TJ McConnell, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, G Stanley Johnson, F Brandon Ashley) but they still should have Kaleb Tarczewski not to mention another monster class on the way.
Butler - It seems the Bulldogs are a tough, clutch team every season. Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones are a great one, two combo.
Wisconsin - It won't be the same with out Frank "the Tank" but Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig look like their next big time players. Bo Ryan knows how to find a diamond in the rough along the way as well.
SMU - Lest we forget how good Larry Brown's team was at times this season. Nic Moore on the outside, and Marcus Kennedy on the inside, should lead to another nice season.
Oklahoma - Buddy Hield can flat out score and Ryan Spangler is an underrated performer at the 4 spot. Isaih Cousins and Jordan Woodard can also play.
UAB - Lost in the excitement of their upset win over Iowa State was the fact they are a very young, talented team. Robert Brown, the Va Tech transfer, is their clutch scorer. William Lee is a very talented F and a name to remember.
Notre Dame - Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton will be missed. Demetrius Jackson seems poised to take over as the team's star, and Zach Auguste is the real deal. I like Bonzi Colson to take a big leap as well next year.