Virginia, UNC, Kentucky lead Way-Too-Early College Basketball Top 25

Virginia, North Carolina and Kentucky lead SI's way too early look at the top 25 for next season in college basketball.
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They're still cleaning up confetti on the floor of Lucas Oil Stadium, and Duke players have yet to get their championship rings adjusted, but it's time already to take a look at next season in college basketball. Keep in mind that these rankings have to make some assumptions, particularly about what players will end up in the NBA draft and which undecided recruits will sign with what schools. With that in mind, let's get into the list. (NOTE: Unless otherwise indicated, players' listed year is what they will be in 2015-16 season.)

2015-16 Top 25

1. Virginia Cavaliers

RECORD: 2015 30-4

The Cavaliers lose just one senior (forward Darion Atkins) while returning an experienced lineup that features 6’6” swingman Justin Anderson, a national player of the year candidate.

2. North Carolina Tar Heels

RECORD: 2015 26-12

Tar Heels dodged a bullet when 6’8” forward Justin Jackson announced he will return for his sophomore season. UNC could rise higher if it signs high school forwards Brandon Ingram or Jaylen Brown.

3. Kentucky Wildcats

RECORD: 2015 38-1

The 'Cats will add another elite recruiting class, but they will probably start another frosh-free lineup headlined by sophomore guards Tyler Ulis and Devin Booker.

4. Kansas Jayhawks

RECORD: 2015 27-9

Unlike recent years, the Jayhawks will return most of their rotation. Look for 6’8” sophomore forward Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk to make a huge improvement.

5. Maryland Terrapins

RECORD: 2015 28-7

The Terps got two recent great pieces of news: Rising sophomore point guard Melo Trimble is coming back, and 6’10” high school stud Diamond Stone is coming in.

6. Iowa State Cyclones

RECORD: 2015 25-9

The Cyclones will return four of their top six scorers, plus Fred Hoibeg adds his usual batch of transfers led by Deonte Burton, a 6’4” junior from Marquette.

7. Duke Blue Devils

RECORD: 2015 35-4

Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow are likely NBA-bound, but if point guard Tyus Jones returns, he’ll join two elite freshmen in 6’10” forward Chase Jeter and 6’5” guard Luke Kennard.

8. Michigan State Spartans

RECORD: 2015 27-12

Senior Denzel Valentine, who could be a preseason All-America, returns to play alongside West Virginia transfer Eron Harris, a 6’3” junior.

9. Indiana Hoosiers

RECORD: 2015 20-14

Freshman Thomas Bryant, a 6’10” power forward from New York, will fill the interior void that will allow the Big Ten’s best perimeter corps (spearheaded by 6-foot senior point guard Yogi Ferrell) to flourish.

10. Oklahoma Sooners

RECORD: 2015 24-11

If 6’4” guard Buddy Hield, the Big 12’s player of the year, returns for his senior season, the Sooners will again challenge for the conference crown.

11. Villanova Wildcats

RECORD: 2015 33-3

Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston are graduating, but 6’1” freshman point guard Jalen Brunson will join a veteran roster loaded with perimeter talent.

12. Gonzaga Bulldogs

RECORD: 2015 35-3

Guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell Jr. are gone, but the 'Zags could have nation’s best frontcourt in Przemek Karnowski, Domantas Sabonis and Kyle Wiltjer.

. Arizona Wildcats

RECORD: 2015 34-4

Much will be expected of 6’4” Seattle native Allonzo Trier and the rest of the freshmen, because the 'Cats could lose their entire starting five.

14. Wichita State Shockers

RECORD: 2015 30-5

The Shockers will miss defensive stalwart Tekele Cotton, but if Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker return for their senior year, there won’t be much dropoff. Much will depend on how quickly 6’8” freshman Markis McDuffie will have an impact.

15. Baylor Bears

RECORD: 2015 24-10

The Bears will miss their graduating point guard Kenny Chery, but uber-rebounder (and All-Glue captain) Rico Gathers returns at forward. Scott Drew also added a talented prospect in 6’3” freshman guard King McClure.

16. Michigan Wolverines

RECORD: 2015 16-16

The Wolverines had no seniors this year, so if 6’7” Caris LeVert bypasses the NBA and returns to pre-injury form during his senior year, they will be an NCAA tournament team again. Look for Duncan Robinson, a 6’8” Division III transfer, to have an impact as a stretch four.

17. Wisconsin Badgers

RECORD: 2015 36-4

Frank Kaminsky is graduating and Sam Dekker is probably NBA-bound, but at Next Man Up U, expect 6’3” junior guard Bronson Koenig and 6’7” junior forward Nigel Hayes to carry on the winning ways.

18. UCLA Bruins

RECORD: 2015 22-14

The Bruins will likely lose freshman forward Kevon Looney to the NBA  and guard Norman Powell graduates, but they still return a solid nucleus in junior guards Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton, plus 6’9” senior forward Tony Parker.

19. Purdue Boilermakers

RECORD: 2015 21-13

If 7-foot center A.J. Hammons returns for his senior year, the Boilermakers can contend for a Big Ten title. Sophomore forward Vince Edwards will have a breakout season if he improves his shooting range.

20. Dayton Flyers

RECORD: 2015 27-9

Leading scorer Jordan Sibert is graduating, but everyone else is returning. Archie Miller also added a terrific four-man recruiting class led by John Crosby, a 6’3” combo guard from Baltimore.

21. Texas A&M Aggies

RECORD: 2015 21-12

The Aggies return their top three scorers, and Billy Kennedy has landed a top-five recruiting class of four freshmen. The best and biggest is Tyler Davis, a 6’10”, 270-pound center from Plano, Texas.

22. Butler Bulldogs

RECORD: 2015 23-11

N.C. State transfer Tyler Lewis, a 5’11” point guard, will direct a potent offense for sharp-shooting guard Kellen Dunham and the unconventional but effective Roosevelt Jones.

23. San Diego State Aztecs

RECORD: 2015 27-9

The Aztecs will have another outstanding defensive frontcourt in 6’8” senior Winston Shepard and 6’10” senior Skylar Spencer, plus an emerging star in 6’8” sophomore forward Malik Pope.

24. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

RECORD: 2015 32-6

The Irish will miss graduating seniors Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, but 6’1” junior point guard Demetrius Jackson is poised for a breakout year.

25. North Carolina State Wolfpack

RECORD: 2015 22-14

Anthony “Cat” Barber, an ACC player of the year candidate, returns along with three other starters from the squad that knocked off top-seeded Villanova in the NCAA tournament.