The NCAA Men’s Div. I College Basketball season begins on Friday, starting what will be an amazing season. Many great players returned to school this year, to accompany a great class of freshmen, which should provide a lot of entertainment for fans across the country.
Here are my top 10 teams for the 2014-15 season:
No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats
After a disappointing 2013-14 regular season, the Wildcats hit their stride in the NCAA Tournament as they advanced all the way to the finals. With all their key players returning besides James Young and Julius Randle and four top-25 recruits now on campus, anything besides a championship will cause disappoint in Lexington.
No. 2 Duke Blue Devils
The Blue Devils had the No. 1 recruiting class last year, which makes them one of the favorites this season. Center Jahlil Okafor is projected to be the first pick in the 2015 NBA draft and should be the best player in the country this season. The teams’ mix of veterans and rookies gives them a great chance to be playing in Indianapolis in the Final Four.
No. 3 Wisconsin Badgers
The Badgers are returning their entire team except for guard Ben Brust. Forwards Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker will be two of the best players in the country. After making his first Final Four last season, head coach Bo Ryan will make it two in a row in 2015.
No. 4 Arizona Wildcats
The Wildcats replaced their star forward Aaron Gordon with top 10 recruit Stanley Robinson. They were poised to make a deep run in March before forward Brandon Ashley tore a ligament in his foot. With Ashely back, the Wildcats will win the Pac 12 and make it to the Final Four.
No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks
The Jayhawks have won 10 consecutive Big 12 titles, and until they lose, it will be impossible to go against them and Head Coach Bill Self. The losses of guard Andrew Wiggins and center Joel Embiid will hurt, but guard Wayne Selden’s return and forward Cliff Alexander’s arrival on campus will make for a smooth transition in Lawrence.
No. 6 North Carolina Tar Heels
Despite the possibility of the NCAA imposing sanctions on the program for the alleged academic scandal, the Tar Heels will have a big season. Guard Marcus Paige is the preseason ACC player of the year. They will finish in second place in the conference behind Duke.
No. 7 Wichita State Shockers
After being undefeated, the Shockers lost in the Sweet 16 to Kentucky last year. If they can beat the Memphis Tigers on Nov. 18 and St. Louis Billikens on Dec. 6, there’s a great chance they’ll be undefeated for the second year in a row heading into the NCAA Tournament.
No. 8 Louisville Cardinals
Moving to the ACC, the Cardinals will be one of the best teams in the conference. Guard Russ Smith’s departure will hurt their perimeter scoring, but forward Montrezl Harrell will become an All-American and lead the Cardinals to a third-place ACC finish.
No. 9 Gonzaga Bulldogs
The ‘Zags will have one of the most explosive offenses in the country this season. Guard Kevin Pangos will continue to be one of the best shooters in the country and former Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer will be a versatile stretch four on offense. Look for the Bulldogs to be in the top-10 all season long.
No. 10 Texas Longhorns
At this point last season, there were questions about Head Coach Rick Barnes’ future in Austin, but now the Longhorns are back to being one of the top programs in the Big 12. The addition of forward Myles Turner gives the Longhorns a legitimate chance to make a deep run in March.
Player of the Year: Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Freshman of the Year: Jahlil Okafor, Duke
Coach of the Year: Bo Ryan, Wisconsin
Defensive Player of the Year: Willie Cauley-Stein, Kentucky
National Champion: Kentucky