Today marks the beginning of college basketball and this year’s season is sure to be one to watch. Last year’s national champions Villanova lost a couple of very important players in Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu, but all the other reigning champs stayed on the team and will be looking to continue their winnings for the 2016-2017 season. Meanwhile, Duke and Kennedy have stocked up on some excellent new players, and teams like Kansas, North Carolina (last year’s ACC winner), and Oregon are no slouches either.
But what about for this season? What teams should you look out for? What team will shoot straight fire on the basketball court? Just look below to find out our picks for the top 10 college basketball teams for the 2016-2017 season.
10. Michigan State
Michigan State got hurt this summer, with both Ben Carter and Gavin Schilling out with knee injuries and their return to basketball is still yet to be determined. Carter’s injury is reportedly a little bit more significant than Schilling’s, and head coach Tom Izzo will be looking to his younger undergraduate players to pick up the slack. Despite these two disparaging injuries, the Michigan State Spartans have acquired a phenomenal recruiting class in the form of Miles Bridges, promising freshman Nick Ward, Cassius Winston, Josh Langford (a player who has also suffered an injury that once effected his team). With Denzel Valentine not around anymore, Point guard Tum Tum Nairn will probably take over as team leader. Eron Harris (9.3 ppg) has also returned to the fold, and will add the much-needed experience points to a team full of freshmen and sophomores. But if the young team picks up the slack and if the college basketball veterans contribute their advanced skills and knowledge then this team will be a force to be reckoned with for the 2016-2017 season.
Tony Bennett is a superb head coach molding his players into a cohesive team of complete fury. Expect them to break down the doors of their competition. Last season, the Cavaliers were only mere minutes and inches away from entering their very first final four before they collapsed to Syracuse, only officially making it to the Elite Eight. And this team will have to work extra hard, not only to make up for a crushing defeat last season that halted their championship aspirations, but because they lost two key players in Malcolm Brogdon and Anthony Gill. But the Virginia team isn’t exactly lacking in experience as point guard London Perrantes (11.0 ppg, 4.4 apg) remains in this team and has returned for his senior season. Meanwhile, Memphis transfer Austin Nichols has been thrown into the Cavaliers’ melting pot. And don’t forget the freshmen, as Da’Andre Hunter, guard Kyle Guy, and forward Mamadi Diakite add some new blood to the squad. Also, look out for veterans Darius Thompson (4.3 ppg), Marial Shayok (4.3 ppg), and Isaiah Wilkins (4.6 ppg). Grab the popcorn because this team is one to watch!
Head coach Rick Pitino is back with a team of excellent athletes loaded with skills. The Cardinals will be looking up for the 2015-16 season that ended before many would have liked because of their self-imposed postseason ban. But this just means that the Cardinals are all the more hungry to prove their worth on the basketball court. This team is looking pretty impressive and is home to two national breakout candidates in Quentin Snider (9.4 ppg, 3.5 apg) and Donovan Mitchell (7.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg). With Chinanu Onuaku now in NBA, they’ll have to rebound back, as this player leaving means that the there will be a big hole in this Louisville team’s defense. And if they can bounce back, you can expect this team in the final four, baby!
Badger seniors Bronson Koenig (13.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg, 2.4 apg) and Nigel Hayes (15.7 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.0 apg) aren’t only known for their actions inside the court, but outside the court as well, as they have been vocal about certain social issues (they are leaders on and off the court). Hayes got the preseason pick, which names him the pick to win the Big Ten Player of the Year, while Koenig is returning from last season in better shape and hungry to win. Greg Gard, who had his interim tag taken away at the end of the last year’s season, is coming back as well. Last year Wisconsin got to the Sweet 16 after a sluggish introduction in their Big Ten performance. Veterans Vitto Brown (9.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Zak Showalter (7.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg) are also back in action and will look to bring the Badgers into the spotlight. And with all of the added star power, the Badgers may be the way to their third final four in four seasons.
6. North Carolina
The Tar Heels were stopped in their tracks in last year’s national title game against Villanova. They may have choked when it came to forcing overtime with the Pennsylvania team, but this year, they look to make huge comeback with the aspiration of actually winning that national title this time around. Junior point guard Joel Berry II (12.8 ppg, 3.8 apg), junior wing Justin Jackson (12.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and senior power forward Isaiah Hicks (8.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg) are all capable of taking this team a stellar season. But the loss of Theo Pinson to a foot injury really sucks for the Tar Heels, but they still have the depth to pull it off and take home the gold. This team will be absent of their former leader Marcus Paige, but they still can be led to victory with a phenomenal line-up.
The Ducks want to win, but they’ve been plagued with a couple of foot injuries from this year and last year. Dylan Ennis missed a bunch of time last season for hurting his foot, while forward Dillon Brooks (16.7 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 3.1 apg) has just been sidelined with a foot issue. Brooks is a favorite for Pac-12 Player of the Year, so this will hurt the Oregon team. So that means other players will be hungry to fill the hole Brooks left behind, including players like Chris Boucher (12.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.9 bpg) who surprised many last season, while juniors Jordan Bell (6.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Kavell Bigby-Williams and freshman M.J. Cage will make their presence known in the front court. Hopefully there best player Brooks will return, but either way, the Ducks will be looking to shine.
The Wildcats have fresh blood on their squad; a team with talented freshmen that multiple scouting services have ranked as best in the country. The team’s leader guard Isaiah Briscoe (9.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 3.1 apg) is returning for another promising performance , while forward Derek Willis (7.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg) graces the court with his perimeter shots. This Kentucky team will have to make up for the loss of its top two scorers in Jamal Murray and Tyler Ulis, especially Ulis, who is one of the top leaders in college basketball. But they have fresh blood and some awesome returning athletes. The Wildcats are a team to look out for.
Villanova were the winners of last year’s national championship and now they find themselves in the top three of this list. Leaders Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu may be gone, but three seniors have stepped in to claim their spot and continue the warpath to victory: Josh Hart (15.5 ppg, 6.8 rpg; preseason Big East Player of the Year), Jenkins (13.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg) and forward Darryl Reynolds (3.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg). This team has fresh blood and some returning athletes, but what hurt this Pennsylvania team was the decision made by the NCAA, which did not clear five-star big man Omari Spellman and put him on the sidelines for now. This hurts Villanova, but don’t count out Pennsylvania (just look at Tuesday’s elections). This team wants to succeed, obviously as does every team, but if they win the national championship again then they will be the first team to repeat their success as national champion since Florida in 2007.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski pulled in a recruiting class that is ranked just behind Kentucky. But this team has been hurt with a few impactful injuries, including Harry Giles, who will be undergoing another knee procedure, while Jayson Tatum sprained his foot and Marques Bolden is on the sidelines with a lower leg injury. Tatum may be ready for the start of the season, but it is not known when Giles or Bolden will make their return to the basketball court. But the Blue Devils are still looking to lead a hot streak to victory with newcomers and returnees. Guard Grayson Allen (21.6 ppg, 4.6 ppg, 3.5 apg) is a certified pick for national player of the year, and he will be backed up on the court by Frank Jackson, Luke Kennard (11.8 ppg, 3.6 rpg) and Matt Jones (10.4 ppg, 2.5 rpg), all great perimeter shooters. The Blue Devils were a Sweet 16 team last year, but this year, Duke is looking to achieve a whole lot more.
The Jayhawks are at the very top of the list, which shouldn’t be a big surprise since head coach Bill Self has guided this Kansas team to 12 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles, with their 13th win in mind for the season. This team is looking to win its second national title in eight years. The Jayhawks will be led by guards Frank Mason III (12.9 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 4.6 apg) and Devonte’ Graham (11.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.7 apg), and will be followed by an elite couple of freshmen in the form of by competitive wing Josh Jackson and center Udoka Azuibuike. Returning players Carlton Bragg (3.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg) LaGerald Vick (2.1 ppg), Svi Mykhailiuk (5.4 ppg) and Landen Lucas (5.8 ppg, 6.8 rpg) will all add to a team that has been picked as the top in the league. They may have fallen to Villanova last year, but this year, this Kansas team is looking to shine like a million light bulbs on the basketball court. Expect big things from the Jayhawks!