RTC 2014-15 Post-NBA Draft Deadline Top 25Posted by Walker Carey on April 29th, 2014
Although we are less than a month removed from Connecticut’s win over Kentucky for the 2014 National Championship, it certainly is not too soon to gander ahead to the 2014-15 season. With Sunday’s deadline for underclassmen to declare for the June NBA Draft now past, we now have a much better idea of who the top teams should be once the ball is tipped again in November. Three weeks ago we released our Way Too Early Top 25; today we’re back with a much better version that accounts for (most of) next season’s returning rosters.
There is some consensus at the top, with three teams garnering 15 of the 18 top three votes from our pollsters. #1 Kentucky owns the top spot after John Calipari’s squad experienced far fewer NBA defections than was previously thought. While stars Julius Randle and James Young both decided to take their games to the next level, underclassmen Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Dakari Johnson, Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress all decided to return to Lexington. Coupling these returnees with another star-studded recruiting class (ranked second by most analysts), it is easy to see why expectations will once again be off the charts for next season’s Wildcats. As expected, #2 Arizona lost talented guard Nick Johnson and forward Aaron Gordon to the NBA Draft, but certainly not all is lost in Tucson. Guards T.J. McConnell and Gabe York along with interior behemoths Brandon Ashley, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Kaleb Tarczewski return to form an incredibly strong nucleus for the Wildcats. #3 Wisconsin looks like it will once again be a Final Four contender, as Bo Ryan’s squad returns seven of its eight rotation players from the 2013-14 campaign. The Badgers figure to be paced by what should be one of the strongest duos in the country in versatile wing Sam Dekker and skilled big man Frank Kaminsky. Wisconsin will also have a great deal of winning experience in the backcourt, as Traevon Jackson and Josh Gasser both return to Madison. The usual Quick n’ Dirty analysis, with some other thoughts on this poll, follows after the jump….
Quick n’ Dirty.
- #21 Michigan took a major hit with early departures. The 2013-14 outright Big Ten champions will look quite a bit different next season. The Wolverines said goodbye to the sophomore trio of Mitch McGary, Nik Stauskas, and Glenn Robinson III after all three declared for the NBA, and they experienced another loss when rising senior Jon Horford decided to transfer to Florida. While all four players are fairly substantial losses, John Beilein still has plenty of talent returning to Ann Arbor. Rising junior Caris LeVert seems primed to become the team’s go-to guy after a breakthrough sophomore campaign where he progressed from a role player off the bench to an integral facet of an Elite Eight squad. Rising sophomores Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin both showed signs of future stardom during their freshmen seasons, and if they can show a similar progression that Stauskas and LeVert experienced in their sophomore seasons, the Wolverines should once again be one of the best offensive units in the country. A key for Michigan will be the play of top incoming freshman Kameron Chatman, whose versatility and scoring ability will be needed from day one.
- Montrezl Harrell’s return should have #7 Louisville back in the thick of things. Arguably the most surprising decision made before the early entry deadline was that of the Cards’ Harrell, who decided to return to Louisville for his junior season. Harrell, who emerged as one of the strongest post players in the country, likely would have been a lottery pick had he declared for the draft. While Russ Smith and Luke Hancock have both exhausted their eligibility, Rick Pitino still has great talent and experience returning at the perimeter. Seniors Chris Jones and Wayne Blackshear, along with sophomore Terry Rozier, have all played important minutes in their collegiate careers, and they should complement Harrell well to form an imposing unit in Louisville’s inaugural season in ACC play.
- Despite key departures, #4 Duke and #5 Kansas will once again be loaded. As expected, Duke forwards Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker departed for the NBA, but there is so much talent on its way to Durham that those losses should be somewhat offset. McDonald’s All-Americans Grayson Allen, Tyus Jones, Jahlil Okafor, and Justise Winslow will all wear Duke uniforms in 2014-15, and coupling that dynamite freshman group with experienced returnees Quinn Cook, Amile Jefferson and Rasheed Sulaimon should have Mike Krzyzewski’s squad back near the top of the ACC and the national rankings once again. Kansas similarly said goodbye to elite freshmen Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid, but Bill Self still returns Perry Ellis, Wayne Selden and Naadir Tharpe, all starters for the Big 12 regular season champs. A year after securing the services of Wiggins and Embiid, Self once again will have another very talented freshman duo entering Lawrence in swingman Kelly Oubre and big man Cliff Alexander.
- Defending National Champion Connecticut checks in at #23. Shabazz Napier was obviously the heart and soul of the Huskies in their run to the national title this season. Replacing his vast contributions was going to be a nearly impossible task for Kevin Ollie, but that task was made even more difficult when junior forward DeAndre Daniels decided to parlay his strong NCAA Tournament performance into an early declaration for the NBA Draft as well. Napier and Daniels are certainly tremendous losses for Connecticut, but rising senior guard Ryan Boatright will return to Storrs for what should be a star-studded senior campaign. The Huskies will also add NC State transfer Rodney Purvis – a former McDonald’s All-American – eligible for the first time.
- Also Receiving Votes. Predictably, there are a slew of team in the “ARV” category. At this point, many teams in the #15-#40 range are interchangeable. While we’d like to think the Top 25 is an accurate portrayal of the best teams in the country heading into next season, it’s impossible to predict just how good some teams may be — and how bad others are — when their rosters haven’t even conducted a single practice yet.
- Conference Call: ACC (5), Big 12 (5), Big Ten (5), SEC (2), AAC (2), Pac-12 (1), Big East (1), Mountain West (1), WCC (1), Atlantic 10 (1), Missouri Valley (1).
See You In October!