It’s hard to believe but the the 2015-2016 NCAA College Basketball season is barely a few weeks away as Midnight Madness signifies the onset of another grueling season ending at the 2016 Final Four in Houston, Texas.
It seems like just a short while ago Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils cut down the nets, beating the upperclassmen laden Wisconsin Badgers in the 2015 Championship Game, Kentucky coming up just short of a perfect season going a remarkable 38-1, Wisconsin senior Frank Kaminsky taking home the 2015 Wooden Award, and Kentucky freshman Karl Anthony Towns selected as the #1 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft.
The upcoming season should once again be filled with loads of drama and excitement as teams duke it out leading up to Selection Sunday.
So let’s take an early look at which teams should be in contention next season as we take a look at 10 Teams Capable Of Winning An NCAA Title In 2016……….
Last Season: 30-4
Key Losses: Justin Anderson(NBA), Darion Atkins
Key Returnees: Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Mike Tobey, London Perrantes, Marial Shayok
Additions: Jarred Reuter
Coach Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers are fresh off winning the ACC Regular Season crown and making another deep NCAA Tournament run in 2015, but could be even stronger in 2016 as they return virtually the entire roster, minus NBA draftee Justin Anderson. Sophomore Mariol Shayok looks to take on a bigger role in place of Anderson as Brogdon is an early NCAA POY candidate on most other sites. The key to Virginia’s success once again will be their trademark “Pack-Line Defense”, which forces ball-handlers to the middle of the floor, where help defenders can force low percentage shots and create turnovers. They also get some help up front in the form of 4 star PF Reuter, who should play major minutes off the bench as a freshman. Another 30 win season is definitely in reach and with a little luck the Cavs could make a run at the Final Four in Houston.
Last Season: 33-3
Key Losses: Darrun Hilliard(NBA), JayVaughn Pinkston, Dylan Ennis
Key Returnees: Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, Daniel Ochefu, Kris Jenkins, Phil Booth
Additions:Jalen Brunson, Tim Delaney, Donte Divincenczo
Head Coach Jay Wright has done an amazing job at Nova since 2001, making 10 NCAA Tournament appearances, including a Final Four run in 2009. Last season, the Wildcats were led by upperclassmen Hilliard and Pinkston, winning both the Big East regular season and Tourney Titles, earning them a #1 seed in March Madness. But it’s becoming a trend as Nova once again got knocked out early to end their season prematurely. The Cats again will be the class of the Big East, led by talented PG Arcidiacano, rising star Hart, and dominating big man Ochefu. But what people are really excited about is stud freshman PG Jalen Brunson, who could be a one-and-done talent as one of the better floor generals in the country. Is this the year that Nova gets past the 2nd Round?
Last Season: 35-3
Key Losses: Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, Byron Wesley
Key Returnees: Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski, Domas Sabonis, Josh Perkins, Silas Melson, Kyle Draginis
Additions: Jesse Wade
The Bulldogs quietly have been the nation’s most successful team over the past decade not to win an NCAA Title. Head Coach Mark Few has helped guide Gonzaga to 16 straight NCAA Tournament appearances, the last 4 under the leadership of PG Kevin Pangos, who has graduated and is playing pro ball overseas. The team arguably returns one of the nation’s top frontcourts featuring Wiltjer, Sabonis, and Karnowski. Wiltjer, a former Kentucky transfer, has developed an inside game to match his deadly outside shot, making him a Preseason POY candidate, while Sabonis is an NBA prospect as a ferocious rebounder and defender, and few players in the nation are bigger than Karnowski. The real question will be who will get them the ball as sophomore Josh Perkins takes over for Pangos and star freshman floor general Wade will be serving his Mormon mission.
Last Season: 30-5
Key Losses: Darius Carter, Tekele Cotton, Ria’n Holland, Tevin Glass
Key Returnees: Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet, Gregg Marshall, Evan Wessel, Rashard Kelly, Shaquille Morris
Additions: Conner Frankamp, Markus McDuffie, Landry Shamet, Eric Hamilton, Tyrone Taylor, Anton Grady
The Shockers have been the nation’s premier mid-major team over the past few seasons, winning 30 or more games for 3 consecutive years. They return one of the top backcourts in the nation featuring seniors Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, plus Kansas transfer Connor Frankamp who is eligible in December. Also, Cleveland State transfer Grady should help to replace the graduated Carter down low. The Shockers came close a few seasons ago making it to the Final Four, then losing just one game in 2014, but 2016 could be a banner year for one of the country’s most underrated coaches Gregg Marshall.
Last Season: 25-9
Key Losses: Fred Hoiberg(HC), Bryce Dejean-Jones
Key Returnees: Georges Niang, Monte’ Morris, Naz Long, Jameel McKay, Matt Thomas
Additions: Steve Prohm(HC), Hallice Cooke, Deonte Burton
Undoubtedly the biggest loss has to be head coach Fred Hoiberg, who finally gets his chance to coach in the NBA. In his place is successful Murray State head man Steve Prohm, who ran a similar system with the Racers. At the core, Niang and Morris should be Preseason All Americans, with the rest of the starters as solid as any in the nation. Cooke and Burton are star transfers reeled in by the departed Hoiberg who should give the Cyclones tons of depth to challenge the Jayhawks for the Big 12 Title.
Last Season: 27-9
Key Losses: Kelly Oubre(NBA), Cliff Alexander(NBA)
Key Returnees: Perry Ellis, Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene, Svi Mykhailiuk, Landen Lucas
Additions: Carlton Bragg, Cheick Diallo, LeGerald Vick
The Jayhawks unbelievably won their 11th straight Big 12 crown last season and return most of the roster outside of Oubre Jr and Alexander, now in the NBA. As usual, Self has reeled in a stellar recruiting class led by Top 10 ranked prospect Diallo, who although has yet to be cleared by the NCAA, was the MVP at both McDonald’s and Jordan Brand Classic Games. Mason and Selden are one of the top backcourts in the nation, as Ellis should be a Preseason All American. The key player might be Mykhailiuk, who got little playing time as a freshman but has potential to be one of the country’s top wing scorers. Other blueblood NCAA programs like Duke, Kentucky, and North Carolina have all won titles since Kansas’ last chip in 2008. Is 2016 the year we see :Rock-Chalk” cutting the nets down?
Last Season: 35-4
Key Losses: Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Quinn Cook
Key Returnees: Matt Jones, Grayson Allen, Marshall Plumlee, Amile Jefferson
Additions: Brandon Ingram, Derryck Thornton, Luke Kennard, Chase Jeter, Sean Obi
It took awhile, but once Coach K bought into the one-and-done philosophy of recruiting, Duke has been on par with Kentucky when it comes to reeling in the best of the nation’s top tier recruits. Last season it was star frosh like Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, and Tyus Jones helping Duke claim their 5th National Title. Following the same formula, the Blue Devils will rely heavily on next-up freshmen like Brandon Ingram, already drawing comparisons to Kevin Durant, sharpshooting wing Luke Kennard, and stud PG Derryck Thornton. Returning sophomore Allen, fresh off a superstar Championship Game breakout, will try and replace the leadership lost by Cook, as the frontcourt features upperclassmen Marshall Plumlee and Amile Jefferson. Coach K has never won back-to-back NCAA Titles, is this the year?
Last Season: 38-1
Key Losses: Karl Towns, Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker, Dakari Johnson
Key Returnees: Tyler Ulis, Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress
Additions: Skal Labissiere, Jamal Murray, Isaiah Briscoe, Charles Matthews, Isaac Humphries, Mychal Mulder
Unfortunately Kentucky’s solid attempt to finish out a perfect 40-0 season came to a screeching halt at the hands of the upstart Wisconsin Badgers. Gone are all 5 members of the starting 5 and in there place are 5 new elite recruits featuring potential #1 NBA Draft pick Labissierre, who reminds many of Anthony Davis. Other stud freshmen include combo guard Briscoe, Canadian National Team standout Murray, and the Top 100 rated SG Mathews and imposing center Humphries. Juco transfer Mulder is a deadly 3 point shooter adding depth to the returning Ulis, one of the nation’s top floor generals, as well as former Top 100 recruits Marcus Lee and Alex Poythress, trying to make a full rehab from a torn ACL last season. Team chemistry will again be key as arguably no team will boast as much individual talent as the Wildcats next season. Can newly enshrined HOF coach John Calipari win his 2nd National Title in 2016?
Last Season: 28-7
Key Losses: Dez Wells, Richaud Pack
Key Returnees: Melo Trimble, Jake Layman, Jared Nickens, Michal Cevosky
Additions: Robert Carter, Diamond Stone, Rasheed Sulaimon, Jaylen Brantley
Coach Turgeon and the Terps got great news when potential NBA Lottery pick Trimble decided to return for his sophomore season, ensuring they once again will have one of the nation’s top floor generals in ’15-’16. Layman and Nickens are back, as well as stud transfers like former Duke starter Suliamon and Georgia Tech standout Carter. One of the top freshmen in the country, 6’10 big man Diamond Stone will be a handfull down low, making Maryland the early favorite in the Big 10 Conference. Many feel this is the Terrapins’ most talented roster since 2002, the last time Maryland was crowned National Champions.
Last Season: 26-12
Key Losses: J.P. Tokoto, Desmond Hubert
Key Returnees: Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Justin Jackson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Joel Berry, Nate Britt
Additions: Kenny Williams, Luke Maye
The Tarheels are a popular pick considering they return virtually their entire roster from last season’s Sweet 16 squad minus Tokoto and Hubert. They boast one of the nation’s top scoring point guards in Paige, who will get plenty of votes as a 1st Team All American as well as sophomore Justin Jackson, who might have the most NBA potential on the roster. The frontcourt features tons of substance and depth in Meeks, Johnson, Hicks, James, Pinson, and freshman big Maye. Nate Britt and Joel Berry II will play a major role alongside Paige in the backcourt. UNC features the most complete team this early in the preseason and barring any major injuries, the Tarheels are Balltribe’s favorite to win the 2016 NCAA Title.