It is the end of October so that means college basketball is right around the corner. What teams should be looked at as the best of the best? Here are the first five teams in the top 25 rundown:
25. Texas A&M Aggies
The Aggies were unable to make the postseason last year, but have some solid players that will change that this season. They return four scorers who averaged over 10 points a game and have some players that could make it in the NBA. Texas A&M will be aided by the 27th best recruiting class in the country according to 247sports.com.
Billy Kennedy has one of the best frontcourts in the country. Forward Robert Williams flirted with leaving for the 2017 NBA Draft, but elected to come back to school. He will be able to improve on his 11.9 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this year. Tyler Davis is the leading returning scorer at his center position, averaging 14.7 points per game last season. Add in D.J. Hogg, a versatile forward who averaged 12 points per game last season and the Aggies are a force to be reckoned with in their frontcourt.
The backcourt is what will be the issue for this team. Admon Gilder will help provide a coring punch at the two guard, but the Aggies need a point guard. They had to redshirt J.J. Caldwell last season, but he is back now from injury. He has promise, but hasn’t played any games due to last season being his first on campus. If he doesn’t pan out, Texas A&M can turn to Duane Wilson, a graduate transfer from Marquette. He averaged over 11 points per game in his first two seasons as a Golden Eagle, but saw that limited to under five last season. At the very least he will provide some veteran leadership to a team that has just one other senior on the roster.
This team is talented and could even make a run in the NCAA Tournament if they get favorable matchups. They will need to continue to pound the ball inside and physically dominate opponents to win, but they are well equipped to do so.
24. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Gonzaga is coming off of their first appearance in the Final Four last season and still have some solid players from that roster returning. They will need to rely on these players as they don’t have a good recruiting class coming in. The Bulldogs ranked 121 in the recruiting rankings by 247sports. Luckily they still have Mark Few at the helm.
Few has two very good forwards to go to this season. Johnathan Williams is one of the most versatile and athletic players in the country and is poised for a big senior season. He is the only returning player that averaged double digits in scoring last season. Kilian Tillie saw limited playing time last season, but was on the bench a lot because of the good players in front of him. He needs to step up for the Bulldogs this season. With Zach Collins and Przemek Karnowski having moved on, the Bulldogs are extremely thin on the interior.
The guard spots will be solidified by two players who averaged over 20 minutes a game last season. Silas Melson will step into the shooting guard role and will succeed. He shot 39.9% from three point range last season. Josh Perkins will take over point guard duties after playing the two guard mostly the last two years. With Nigel Williams-Goss and Jordan Matthews not on the team any longer, Gonzaga will also be thinner at guard than they are most years.
This team is reliant on a lot of their young players to step up and help out the stars of Willams, Melson and Perkins, but Mark Few will get the job done, just as he always does.
23. Rhode Island Rams
The Rams lost in the round of 32 last year and also lost Kuran Iverson and Hassan Martin after the season concluded. Those two players were key factors in their successful season last year, but the Rams will be just fine this season. They have 12 returning players, including four players who averaged more than 20 minutes a game.
Iverson and Martin were both frontcourt players so Rhode Island will need to find replacements for them. They have a junior college transfer in Ryan Preston will have to be a workhorse on the boards, as he only averaged 5.2 points per game at the JUCO level. The Rams’ biggest hope for good inside play rests in the hands of Cyril Langevine, who earned 13.2 minutes per game as a freshman. He is a good rebounder, but needs to stay out of foul trouble.
Rhode Island will be a guard-led team this season even more so than most years. The team is led by E.C. Matthews, who is one of the best seniors in the country. He averaged 14.2 points per game last year and will be asked to do much of the same this year. Jared Terrell. Stanford Robinson, Jarvis Garrett and Jeff Dowtin all got significant minutes last season and will help propel this team to the NCAA Tournament once again.
Dan Hurley’s squad doesn’t shoot the three very well, so they will need to get to the basket to be successful. With Hurley at the helm and Matthews back, the Rams should be able to win the Atlantic 10 and win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament.
22. Baylor Bears
Baylor lost their best player, Jonathan Motley to the NBA Draft. They would’ve been a highly ranked team with him, but still have some good players returning. Scott Drew will have this team contending in the Big 12, but they will likely fall short to a familiar foe once again.
In the frontcourt the Bears have Jo Lual-Acuil Jr who is seven feet tall and averaged 2.3 blocks per game last season. He had 35 starts and will start every game once again, but needs to score more points and grab more boards. Terry Maston and Nuni Omot are seniors who will have to take on bigger roles this season as well. Maston is an inside threat that can score in bunches, but is inconsistent, while Omot can stretch the floor a bit better and shoot from deep.
The Bears have a star in Manu Lecomte. The point guard from Belgium averaged 12.2 points and 3.8 assists per game. He will score more this season without Motley. He is also a big time playmaker. Jake Lindsey joins him in the backcourt and adds another good ball handler and three point shooter to the mix. King McClure, a good shooter, and Wendell Mitchell will backup Lecomte and Lindsay and fill in nicely.
This may not be a dream season for Baylor, but they will be solid and make their fifth straight NCAA Tournament.
21. Seton Hall Pirates
The Pirates have made the last two NCAA tournaments, but have yet to do much damage in them. This could be the year they break through. They are led by three really good seniors who will create a lot of matchup problems. They will have a top 50 recruiting class joining them this season.
Angel Delgado is one of the best players in the Big East and averaged a staggering 15.2 points and 13.1 rebounds per game. Not too many college athletes can handle him down low. Wing Desi Rodriguez can do a lot of things and averaged 15.7 points per game last season. Ismael Sanogo and Michael Nezi are great role players that mean more to the team than their numbers might indicate.
At guard Khadeen Carrington is a star senior. Las season he was the Pirates’ leading scorer averaging 17.1 points per game. He will be asked to play point guard, which is not his natural position. Myles Powell had a great freshman season averaging 10.7 points per game. The thought is that incoming freshman Jordan Walker will get limited minutes early, but could be the starting point guard by year’s end. At the very least he will provide some much needed depth for the backcourt.
Seton Hall has a veteran roster with multiple stars on it. They will advance past the first round of the NCAA Tournament if they stay healthy and their incoming recruits provide good depth.
For teams 20-16: click here
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