The college basketball season is right around the corner. There has been a lot of anticipation for the season in particular with some star-studded recruiting classes and a lot of good players returning. The question before every season is: Who are the best teams in the country? These articles will help clear that up heading into the season. Here is College Basketball Preseason Top 25: 15-11.
15. Syracuse Orange
Every year they are on the bubble, Syracuse makes a run in the NCAA Tournament. Last season was no different, as the Orange made it to the Sweet 16 as an 11 seed. With a talented backcourt returning, Syracuse is a team to watch out for this season.
Tyus Battle averaged nearly 20 points per game last season and had the opportunity to go to the NBA, but decided to return to school. Frank Howard will be Battle’s partner in crime once again after averaging 14.4 points per game last season. Howard also is good at the top of the 2-3 zone for Syracuse. Jalen Carey will give them a solid point guard to pair with the two. They will be considerably thin at the guard spot as Howard Washington and Buddy Boeheim are the only other guards on the roster.
Oshae Brissett and Paschal Chukwu are back to provide an inside presence. Brissett is a good scorer (14.9 points per game) and rebounder, while Chukwu protects the rim. Elijah Hughes is a versatile transfer from East Carolina, who may slide into the starting lineup, if Syracuse decides to play three forwards instead of three guards. Marek Dolezaj, Robert Braswell and Bourama Sidibe will provide the depth at the forward spot.
This team will go as far as Howard and Battle can take them, which might just be as far as they got in last year’s tournament.
14. West Virginia Mountaineers
The loss of both Jevon Carter and Daxter Miles is huge and the Mountaineers will use a lot of players to try and replace the two. They still have a lot of good players and with Bob Huggins at the helm, should be expected to be in the top half of the Big XII standings.
James Bolden will play a huge role on the team after averaging 8.7 points off the bench for the Mountaineers a season ago. He also hit some big shots for the Mountaineers and will be asked to lead the team. Jordan McCabe, Jermaine Haley, Brandon Knapper, Trey Doomes and Chase Harler will all fight for minutes beside Bolden. Harler figures to be a starter after playing over 10 minutes a game last season. They’ll need a lot of bodies to make their full court press more efficient.
The Mountaineers will be led by the frontcourt, where they have a lot of depth returning. Sagaba Konate is a physical presence that blocks shots and rebounds. He’ll be asked to score more this season. Esa Ahmad had a solid second half of last season after not being eligible for the first half. Wesley Harris and Lamont West are both capable of starting and got experience last season. Derek Culver, Logan Routt, Andrew Gordon and Emmitt Matthews all have potential and will scoop up any minutes the top four can’t fill.
This ranking is largely dependent on Sagaba Konate and James Bolden taking a necessary step forward in their development. If they do, West Virginia can make it to the second weekend in March Madness.
13. Oregon Ducks
Yes, Oregon does lose three major contributors from last year’s team, but they have the potential to be better. Dana Altman always does well with the hand he has been dealt and has some really talented recruits to pair with good returning players.
Payton Pritchard took over as the leader of the team last season and didn’t disappoint. He averaged 14.5 points and 4.8 assists per game and is one of the best players in the Pac-12. Ehab Amin is a transfer from Texas A&M Corpus Christi that will provide both defense and another scoring threat. Victor Bailey got experience last season and now will be asked to do more. Will Richardson is an incoming freshman that can do a little bit of everything for the Ducks.
Paul White returns to the frontcourt after posting 9.4 points per game last season. He will be joined by one of the best recruits in the country, Bol Bol, the sone of Manute Bol. Bol stands 7-foot-2, but has some guard-like skills. Kenny Wooten and Bol will team up to make it hard to score from the inside. Louis King is a highly touted recruit who could play on the wing and a little bit inside. Miles Norris, Abu Kigab and Francis Okoro will fight for any remaining minutes.
The Pritchard and Bol combination could be lethal, while the other players on the roster have some serious potential as well. Oregon should compete for another Pac-12 title.
12. Villanova Wildcats
The Wildcats have won two of the last three national championships and still have a solid team. Villanova lost four key players from last year’s team. They may fall short of winning a third in four years, but are the heavy favorites in the Big East and have plenty of experience.
Phil Booth has been on both championship teams and averaged 10 points per game last season. He will be the unquestioned leader of this team, as a starting guard. Collin Gillespie got limited playing time last season, but showed enough flashes that Villanova should be confident in him taking over the starting point guard role. Jahvon Quinerly was a prized recruit that can also play the point and will get a lot of minutes due to the four players who left school for the NBA. Joe Cremo is a transfer from Albany who will get minutes and stretch the floor for the Wildcats.
Eric Paschall is a senior that is entering his third season with the Wildcats. He averaged double figures in points, but will need to pick it up more this season. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, Dylan Painter and Tim Delaney all return and will play increased minutes. Crosby-Roundtree is just a sophomore, but has the potential to be a really good player for Villanova starting this season. Saddiq Bey, Brandon Slater and Cole Swider will all fight for the remaining minutes as freshmen.
Another Big East title and more could be coming up for Villanova if they can adequately fill in the voids left by their stars leaving for the pros.
11. Auburn Tigers
Auburn might have the most talented team in school history this season under Bruce Pearl. The Tigers did lose Mustapha Heron to transfer, but Auburn should be competing with Tennessee and Kentucky for an SEC title.
Bryce Brown could be the SEC Player of the Year after averaging 15.9 points per game last season. He is the go-to scorer on the team, but is prone to streaky shooting. Jared Harper will run the point after averaging 13.2 points and 5.4 assists per game. Those two will be one of the best backcourts in the entire country. Samir Doughty, a VCU transfer, and J’Von McCormick will provide depth, a transfer from Lee College, provide depth. Not a lot will be required of them with Harper and Brown eating up most of the minutes.
Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy had to sit last season due to the FBI investigation, but are now back to give Auburn a great frontcourt. Wiley can score and rebound, while Purifoy can stretch the floor and is physical. Horace Spencer and Chuma Okeke protect the rim and rebound. Anfernee McLemore returns as well after blocking shots and hitting deep shots last year. Malik Dunbar is a solid defender and role player. Any college coach would be happy with the quality and depth of this frontcourt.
Winning the SEC might be a tall task with Tennessee and Kentucky in the conference, but even if they can’t, Auburn should have one of their best NCAA Tournament runs in history.
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