If Preseason Top 25s are an exercise in futility, polls the day after the national championship game are an exercise in imagination. We don’t know exactly what rosters are going to look like next season, what with early entry announcements, transfers (both in and out), late signees and the inevitable summer run-ins with trouble still pending. So, below, we’ll try to project, using the partial information that we have, just who are the 25 teams most likely to win a national title next season. After the NBA Draft deadline has passed, we’ll do a more educated Top 25, but until then…
- Kentucky – Many will be leery to pick the Wildcats #1 based on the missteps of 2012-13, but the talent here is hard to deny. Joining returnees like Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein, John Calipari adds another stellar recruiting class with (so far) four top-10 recruits (Julius Randle, the Harrison twins and James Young) and another pair in the next 10 (Dakari Johnson and Marcus Lee). The program will again have a huge spotlight on it as they try to get six or more future first-round draft picks to play nice together, but despite his failures this season, Calipari has done enough to earn the trust that he’ll fold these guys into a cohesive unit. They may not be the best team at the start of the year, but they’re the favorites to cut down the nets in Cowboys Stadium next April.
- Florida – After a down year in the SEC, we’re projecting a return to dominance at the top. The Gators lose Kenny Boynton, Mike Rosario and Erik Murphy, but with ESPN’s #9 recruit, point guard Kasey Hill, and #14 recruit, power forward Chris Walker, coming in, along with a pair of newly eligible frontcourt players in Dorian Finney-Smith and Damontre Harris, Billy Donovan’s squad could be even better.
- Arizona – Sean Miller’s got a ridiculous front line chock full of McDonald’s All-Americans, with Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett all expected back and Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson arriving. Throw in Duquesne transfer T.J. McConnell as a true point and Nick Johnson back for his junior campaign and this Wildcats team should dominate the Pac-12.
- Duke – Coach K loses a lot, with Seth Curry, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly all gone, but Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon will be joined by Andre Dawkins returning from a year off and elite recruit Jabari Parker arriving for his freshman year. If the Blue Devils can find some toughness up front from guys like Amile Jefferson, Alex Murphy and Josh Hairston, they’ll again be in the thick of things.
- Michigan State – Let’s make the assumption that a 6’10” guy with jump-out-of-the-gym ability and a nice three-point stroke like Adreian Payne is heading to the NBA. Nevertheless, with Keith Appling, Gary Harris, Branden Dawson and Denzel Valentine returning and Tom Izzo back on the sideline, pencil the Spartans in as a the Big Ten favorite. Read the rest of this entry »