A post-draft declaration look at next season's top 20 teams

The Dagger
North Carolina's Brice Johnson (11) reacts following a basket against Syracuse during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. North Carolina won 93-83. Kennedy Meeks, left, and Marcus Paige (5) run up court. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

No. 2 Virginia, ACC set for week's marquee Top 25 matchups

North Carolina's Brice Johnson (11) reacts following a basket against Syracuse during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Monday, Jan. 26, 2015. North Carolina won 93-83. Kennedy Meeks, left, and Marcus Paige (5) run up court. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

If a clear-headed look at next season's top teams is difficult the morning after the national title game, now is the time when the 2015-16 landscape gains some clarity.

The NBA's early-entry deadline passed Sunday night, meaning we know which players are entering the draft and which will return to school. Many of the key transfers and class of 2015 recruits have also revealed their destinations by now too.

With that in mind, here's an updated look at next season's top 20 teams. There's a change at No. 1 from the previous version and Cal and Georgetown have both entered the list.

1. North Carolina
Key losses:
F J.P. Tokoto
Key returners: G Marcus Paige, F Justin Jackson, F Kennedy Meeks, F Brice Johnson, G Nate Britt, C Joel James, G Joel Berry II, F Isaiah Hicks, G Theo Pinson, F Desmond Hubert
Notable newcomers: F Luke Maye
Outlook: Despite the surprise departure of ultra-athletic forward J.P. Tokoto, North Carolina has to feel very fortunate about how the draft declaration period turned out. Preseason All-American Marcus Paige, rapidly blossoming forward Justin Jackson and interior standouts Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks each never seriously considered turning pro, ensuring the Tar Heels will have enough returning talent to make a championship push for the first time since 2012. North Carolina will miss Tokoto's deft passes, high-flying transition dunks and solid perimeter defense, but the Tar Heels will be fine if one of their young players embraces an increased role. One option is starting either Nate Britt or Joel Berry II and allowing Paige to move off ball. Inserting wing Theo Pinson into the starting lineup is also a possibility. If the departure of Tokoto is one potential pitfall for North Carolina, the NCAA's investigation into their academic scandal is the other. North Carolina can only contend for a national title if they're eligible to play in next year's postseason, something which cannot be considered a certainty just yet.  


2. Maryland
Key losses:
G/F Dez Wells, F Evan Smotrycz, G Richaud Pack
Key returners: G Melo Trimble, F Jake Layman, G Dion Wliey, G/F Jared Nickens, F Damonte Dodd, F Michal Cekovsky
Notable newcomers: C Diamond Stone, F Robert Carter, G Jaylen Brantley
Outlook: The two things Maryland needed to make the jump from good to elite happened within days of one another in late March. Elite big man recruit Diamond Stone committed to the Terps and star lead guard Melo Trimble revealed he will return to school for his sophomore year, ensuring Maryland will have one of the nation’s best inside-outside duos. The graduation of Dez Wells is certainly a blow for Maryland, but the Terps have other complementary scorers capable of supporting Trimble and Stone. Power forward Robert Carter is a former top 100 recruit who anchored Georgia Tech’s frontcourt before transferring last spring. The presence of him and Stone would allow Jake Layman to transition back to his more natural wing position. And Nickens and Wiley should help absorb Wells' playing time and production unless Maryland adds a transfer. The Terps had to overachieve a bit and win more than their share of close games to give Mark Turgeon a breakthrough season this past year. If Stone is as good as advertised and Trimble and Layman continue to develop, the Terps could take another step forward next season.


3. Kentucky
Key losses:
F Karl-Anthony Towns, G Aaron Harrison, G Andrew Harrison, F Trey Lyles, G Devin Booker, C Dakari Johnson, C Willie Cauley-Stein
Key returners: G Tyler Ulis, F Alex Poythress, F Marcus Lee, G Dominique Hawkins, F Derek Willis
Notable newcomers: F Skal Labissiere, G Isaiah Briscoe, G Charles Matthews
Outlook: Though Kentucky lost seven players to the NBA draft from a team that won its first 38 games this past season, the Wildcats will still reload rather than rebuild. They'll build around three returning standouts and a recruiting class that could swell in size in the coming weeks. Rising sophomore point guard Tyler Ulis and incoming lead guard Isaiah Briscoe will likely share ball handling responsibilities and play alongside one another at times too. Skilled forward Skal Labissiere should be an impact addition, Marcus Lee could finally inherit a greater role in the frontcourt after riding the bench for two years, Alex Poythress will likely be a key frontcourt contributor too if he regains his explosiveness after knee surgery. How high Kentucky rises in the preseason poll could depend on what other prospects John Calipari is able to land this spring to bolster his roster. Elite wing Jaylen Brown, big man Cheick Diallo and forward Thon Maker are each still considering the Wildcats, but none are considered locks for Kentucky. Thus it's very possible Calipari may have to solidify his roster by tapping the transfer market.


4. Iowa State
Key losses:
F Dustin Hogue, G Bryce Dejean-Jones
Key returners: G Monte Morris, F Georges Niang, F Jameel McKay, G Abdel Nader, G Matt Thomas, G Naz Long
Notable newcomers: G Deonte Burton, G Hallice Cooke
Outlook: The one silver lining to Iowa State’s stunning opening-round NCAA tournament loss to 14th-seeded UAB is that it will surely drive the Cyclones this offseason. That gives the reigning Big 12 tournament champs a good chance to be even better next season when they return every rotation player besides shooting guard Bryce Dejean-Jones and forward Dustin Hogue. Offense will undoubtedly be Iowa State’s hallmark again with jet-quick point guard Monte Morris, potential preseason All-American forward Georges Niang and blossoming big man Jameel McKay spearheading a fast-paced, free-flowing attack. Returners Naz Long and Matt Thomas and transfer guards Hallice Cooke (Oregon State) and Deonte Burton (Marquette) will also bolster the perimeter offense. What the Cyclones must improve is their defense, which surrendered the most points per game and the third most points per possession in the Big 12. Scoring in the high 70s and low 80s was typically enough to overcome that this past season, but Iowa State often couldn’t string together enough stops to win games when their transition game got bogged down and their jump shots weren’t falling.


5. Kansas
Key losses:
F Kelly Oubre, F Cliff Alexander
Key returners: G Frank Mason, G Wayne Selden, F Perry Ellis, G Devonte Graham, F Jamari Traylor, F Landen Lucas, G Brannen Greene G Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk
Notable newcomers: F Carlton Bragg
Outlook: Thanks to the presence of point guards Frank Mason and Devonte Graham and wings Wayne Selden, Brannen Greene and Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Kansas was always going to be pretty loaded on the perimeter next season. The return of Perry Ellis ensures the Jayhawks have a low-post scoring threat to pair with all that backcourt talent. Ellis averaged 13.8 points and 6.9 rebounds per game last season, shot 45.7 percent from the floor and hit 39.1 percent of his 3-pointers. A sprained right knee suffered in Kansas' regular season finale against West Virginia limited his effectiveness in the postseason, contributing to the Jayhawks' early Big 12 tournament exit and round of 32 NCAA tournament loss to Wichita State. With Ellis back and top frontcourt recruit Carlton Bragg also joining the mix, Kansas should improve upon that NCAA tournament finish and battle with Iowa State and Oklahoma for a 12th straight Big 12 title. The Jayhawks' outlook would improve further if Bill Self is able to land one of the elite recruits he is pursuing this spring, but they're in good shape even if Jaylen Brown, Cheick Diallo and Thon Maker all decide to head elsewhere. 


6. Virginia
Key losses:
F Darion Atkins, G Justin Anderson
Key returners: G Malcolm Brogdon, F Anthony Gill, C Mike Tobey, G London Perrantes, G Marial Shayok, F Evan Nolte
Notable newcomers: F Jarred Reuter
Outlook: Virginia's hopes of emerging as the consensus preseason No. 1 team likely evaporated when wing Justin Anderson opted to turn pro instead of returning for his senior season. The Cavaliers saw firsthand his importance late this past season when his fractured pinkie derailed a promising season. With Anderson either not on the floor or not at full strength, Virginia's methodical yet highly efficient offense lacked enough outside shooters and became too reliant on Malcolm Brogdon to create off the dribble. They missed more shots and committed more turnovers, creating more transition opportunities for their opponents and reducing the effectiveness of their formidable defense. Virginia returns enough talent to again be an upper echelon ACC team next season, but they need other perimeter scorers to emerge if they're going to win a third straight league title and finally make that elusive deep NCAA tournament run. They'll also need to account for the loss of Darion Atkins, one of the ACC's elite positional defensive players.


7. Duke
Key losses:
G Quinn Cook, F Justise Winslow, C Jahlil Okafor, G Tyus Jones
Key returners: G Matt Jones, G Grayson Allen, F Amile Jefferson, C Marshall Plumlee
Notable newcomers: G Luke Kennard, F Chase Jeter, G Derryck Thornton, F Brandon Ingram
Outlook:
When Tyus Jones announced he will enter the draft earlier this month, it left reigning national champ Duke without a point guard on next season's roster. Six days later, the Blue Devils found a creative solution to that problem. Highly touted point guard Derryck Thornton committed to Duke last week and intends to reclassify from the high school junior class to the senior class. Thornton, who had been a consensus top 15 prospect in the Class of 2016, will join the Blue Devils in the fall and likely will be given every chance to replace Jones as the team's starting point guard. If Thornton can handle the point guard position, it will allow title game hero Grayson Allen to play mostly off ball and focus on scoring instead of distributing. Allen, returning starter Matt Jones and incoming freshman Luke Kennard would share minutes at wing. Elite 6-foot-8 wing Brandon Ingram can play either forward spot and will be joined by returners Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee in the frontcourt along with Rice transfer Sean Obi and highly touted freshman big man Chase Jeter. The Duke team that takes the floor in November will bear little resemblance to the one that cut down the nets in Indianapolis earlier this month, but the Blue Devils won't fall far. Assuming Thornton handles the transition to college, Allen and Jones mature into leaders and the freshmen make an impact, Duke can still contend for an ACC title and make another deep NCAA tournament run.

8. Michigan State
Key losses:
G Travis Trice, F Banden Dawson
Key returners: G/F Denzel Valentine, G LouRawls Nairn, G Javon Bess, F Marvin Clark Jr., C Matt Costello, C Gavin Schilling, G Bryn Forbes
Notable newcomers: G Eron Harris, F Caleb Swanigan, F Deyonta Davis, G Matt McQuaid, G Kyle Ahrens
Outlook: Even though Michigan State graduates stars Travis Trice and Branden Dawson, there’s reason to believe the Spartans could enjoy a better regular season next year than this past season’s surprise Final Four team did. The optimism stems from the debut of coveted West Virginia transfer Eron Harris, the return of last year’s top recruit Javon Bess and the arrival of a strong class. Harris, a slashing combo guard who averaged 17.2 points as a sophomore for the Mountaineers, should emerge as a perimeter scoring threat capable of easing the burden on returning standout Denzel Valentine. They’ll likely be joined in the starting lineup by pass-first point guard LouRawls “Tum Tum” Nairns, with Bess attacking the rim off the bench and incoming freshman Matt McQuaid providing outside shooting. Marvin Clark Jr. could be the heir apparent to Branden Dawson at power forward, while Matt Costello and Gavin Schilling both made strides last year at center. The Spartans will also welcome promising 6-foot-9 McDonald’s All-American Deyonta Davis and 6-foot-8 five-star recruit Caleb Swanigan.


9. Gonzaga
Key losses: G Kevin Pangos, G Gary Bell, G Byron Wesley, F Angel Nunez
Key returners: F Kyle Wiltjer, F Domantas Sabonis, C Przemek Karnowski, G Silas Melson, G Josh Perkins, G Kyle Dranginis, C Ryan Edwards, G Eric McClellan
Notable newcomers: None
Outlook: Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis all flirted with the idea of turning pro before opting to return to school, ensuring that one of this past season's best frontcourts will remain intact. Now the question for Gonzaga is whether last year’s reserve guards will be able to handle increased roles with four-year starters Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell graduating and fellow senior starter Byron Wesley gone too. Josh Perkins showed flashes of ability as a pass-first point guard before suffering a season-ending broken jaw in December. Sophomore Silas Melson, senior Kyle Dranginis and Vanderbilt transfer Eric McClellan will likely share playing time at wing. The Zags are also in search of a transfer who can bolster their perimeter corps. If the backcourt can simply knock down open shots and play solid defense, Gonzaga's frontcourt is formidable enough that the team will have a chance to approach or even exceed last year's 35-win Elite Eight campaign. Sabonis intrigued NBA scouts with his athleticism, Wiltjer is as skilled as any player his size in the nation and Karnowski is a mammoth center with a strong back-to-the-basket game.



10. Oklahoma
Key losses: F TaShawn Thomas, G Frank Booker
Key returners: F Ryan Spangler, G Isaiah Cousins, G Jordan Woodard, G Buddy Hield, F Khadeem Lattin
Notable newcomers: C Akolda Manyang, G Christian James, G Rashard Odomes
Outlook: The Sooners would have contended for an NCAA tournament bid had Buddy Hield turned pro, but they have a chance to accomplish something far more memorable now that the reigning Big 12 player of the year has announced he'll be back for his senior season. They will conservatively begin next season in the top 15 in the polls thanks to the return of four starters from last season's 24-win Sweet 16 team. They also figure to be squarely in the Big 12 title chase along with perennial favorite Kansas and potential preseason top 5 Iowa State. The catalyst for Oklahoma will be Hield, one of the highest-scoring guards in the Big 12 both of the past two seasons. The 6-foot-4 native of the Bahamas averaged 17.4 points and 5.4 rebounds as a junior, impressing NBA scouts enough that he had a chance to be a late first-round pick had he opted to enter the draft. The concern for Oklahoma is its depth and whether a replacement for forward TaShawn Thomas will emerge. Returner Khadeem Lattin and junior college transfer Akolda Manyang will need to step up alongside Ryan Spangler.



11. Villanova
Key losses: G Dylan Ennis, G Darrun Hilliard, F JayVaughn Pinkston
Key returners: G Ryan Arcidiacono, G Phil Booth, C Daniel Ochefu, G Josh Hart, F Kris Jenkins
Notable newcomers: G Jaylen Brunson, G Donte Divincenzo, F Tim Delaney
Outlook: Three starters depart from a 33-win team that crashed out of the NCAA tournament in the round of 32, but Villanova could still be the class of the Big East again next season. Point guard Ryan Arcidiacono and center Daniel Ochefu are both expected back and the Wildcats have some wings and forwards ready to assume greater roles to help replace Darrun Hilliard, Dylan Ennis and JayVaughn Pinkston. Six-foot-5 rising junior Josh Hart, who averaged an efficient 10.1 points per game off the bench last season, should take over for Hilliard as Villanova’s top scoring threat. Joining him in the starting lineup will likely be forward Kris Jenkins and promising rising sophomore guard Phil Booth. The X factor for Villanova will be how big an impact highly touted freshman point guard Jalen Brunson is ready to make. He’ll likely start the season coming off the bench behind Arcidiacono, but his polished offensive game may demand ample playing time if he can pick up Villanova’s defensive concepts quickly enough.



12. Arizona
Key losses:
G T.J. McConnell, G/F Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, G Stanley Johnson, F Brandon Ashley
Key returners: C Kaleb Tarczewski, G Gabe York, C Dusan Ristic, G Elliott Pitts, G Parker Jackson-Cartwright
Notable newcomers: F Ryan Anderson, G Kadeem Allen, G Allonzo Trier, G Justin Simon, F Ray Smith, F Chance Comanche
Outlook: Arizona won’t duplicate this past season’s 34 wins after losing four starters to graduation or the NBA draft, but the Wildcats can still have a highly successful season if their returners mesh with their talented newcomers. They have four freshmen and three transfers who should each challenge for playing time and keep them in contention for another Pac-12 title and deep NCAA tournament run. Projecting Arizona's frontcourt rotation is easier than the backcourt because lone returning starter Kaleb Tarczewski will anchor the Wildcats in the paint. Rising sophomore Dusan Ristic and incoming freshman Chase Comanche will compete for playing time behind Tarczewski at center and skilled transfers Ryan Anderson (Boston College) and Mark Tollefsen (San Francisco) will share time at power forward. It gets more crowded at wing, where highly touted scoring guard Allonzo Trier, rangy forward Ray Smith and high-scoring redshirt Kadeem Allen should immediately push returning sharpshooters Gabe York and Elliott Pitts for playing time. Rising sophomore Parker Jackson-Cartwright should get the first crack at replacing T.J. McConnell at point guard, but freshman Justin Simon's size and defensive prowess should earn him immediate playing time. How high Arizona ascends will depend mostly on how fast the team can develop good chemistry and how quickly the freshmen acclimate to college basketball. The Wildcats may take some early lumps, but if they figure it out by March, watch out.


13. Wichita State
Key losses: G Tekele Cotton, F Darius Carter
Key returners: G Ron Baker, G Fred VanVleet, F Rashard Kelly, F Shaquille Morris, G/F Evan Wessel
Notable newcomers: G Conner Frankamp, F Markus McDuffie, G Landry Shamet, F Eric Hamilton, G Tyrone Taylor
Outlook: Not long after Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall agreed to lucrative contract extension, the Shockers received more good news. Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, stars of Wichita State's 30-win Sweet 16 team, both decided to return for their senior seasons. Retaining one of the nation's premier backcourt duos solidifies the Shockers as a preseason top 15 team with a chance to be even better than they were last year if the supporting cast around VanVleet and Baker proves reliable. The other perimeter players who will be competing for minutes alongside VanVleet and Baker are sweet-shooting Kansas transfer Conner Frankamp, defensive stopper Zach Brown and Rivals top 100 freshman Landry Shamet. None of those guys are as versatile as Tekele Cotton, but all should contribute. Wichita State's backcourt has to be outstanding because the Shockers again have frontcourt questions. Undersized senior Evan Wessel will be pushed by several younger players at power forward. Rising sophomore Shaq Morris is probably the heir apparent to Darius Carter at center after making the Valley’s All-freshman team this past season, but he needs to improve his conditioning and strength to fully tap into his potential.



14. Indiana
Key losses: G Stanford Robinson, F Max Hoetzel
Key returners: G Yogi Ferrell, G James Blackmon, F Troy Williams, C Hanner Mosquera-Perea, G Nick Zeisloft, F Emmitt Holt
Notable newcomers: C Thomas Bryant, F Juwan Morgan, F Ogugua Anunoby
Outlook: The addition of five-star big man Thomas Bryant could go a long way to shoring up the frontcourt issues that plagued Indiana this past season. The 6-foot-10 McDonald's All-American chose the Hoosiers over Syracuse, Kentucky and Missouri, among others, giving Tom Crean the quality interior presence he lacked last season when he had no backup plan after Noah Vonleh turned pro. What Indiana needs most from Bryant is for him to defend opposing big men and contest shots at the rim. The Hoosiers surrendered the most points per possession of any Big Ten team this past season because their perimeter players couldn't stay in front of their men off the dribble and they lacked a true big man to erase mistakes at the rim. The presence of Bryant surely gave perimeter standouts Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon and Troy Williams more reason to return to school. All three looked into their draft stock before ultimately deciding to come back to Bloomington, ensuring Indiana will return its eight leading scorers and giving the Hoosiers hope of making a big jump after barely sneaking into the NCAA tournament this past season. They'll likely be viewed as a preseason top 20 team and a threat to challenge Maryland, Michigan State, Michigan and Wisconsin in the Big Ten title race.



15. Georgetown
Key losses:
G Jabril Trawick, C Joshua Smith, F Mikael Hopkins, F Aaron Bowen
Key returners: F Isaac Copeland, F L.J. Peak, G Tre Campbell, F Paul White, G D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera
Notable newcomers: F Marcus Derrickson, C Jessie Govan, G Kaleb Johnson

Outlook: Expectations for Georgetown seesawed right along with D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera as the all-Big East guard initially announced he was declaring for the draft only to change his mind a few days later. That was probably a wise choice considering he's projected as a second-round pick at best and he has the chance to lead the Hoyas to a memorable season next winter. As a junior, Smith-Rivera tallied team highs of 16.3 points and 3.2 assists per game, leading Georgetown to a 22-win season and a victory over Eastern Washington in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. He'll be the centerpiece of a team that has several rising sophomores who could be ready to take a big jump. Promising forward Isaac Copeland is the most obvious breakout candidate, but fellow forwards Paul White and L.J. Peak and point guard Tre Campbell should all be better with a year under their belt. The Hoyas are also adding another strong recruiting class anchored by four-star center Jessie Govan, who could see immediate playing time as John Thompson III seeks a replacement for Joshua Smith. Ultimately, the range of possible outcomes for Georgetown is wide next season because so much depends on the development of their sophomore class, but the return of Smith-Rivera at least gives the Hoyas a senior leader. If Copeland enjoys a breakout season and Campbell, White and Peak make strides too, a Big East title is not out of the question. 

16. Butler
Key losses: G Alex Barlow, F Kameron Woods, G Jackson Aldridge
Key returners: G Kellen Dunham, F Roosevelt Jones, F Andrew Chrabascz, F Kelan Martin, F Tyler Wideman, F Austin Etherington
Notable newcomers: G Tyler Lewis, C Nate Fowler, G Sean McDermott
Outlook: Few Big East teams return a duo as talented or experienced as rising seniors Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones. Dunham averaged 16.5 points per game this past season and shot 41 percent from behind the arc as Butler won 23 games and nearly reached the Sweet 16. Jones averaged 12.7 points by aggressively attacking the rim in his return after missing the entire previous season due to injury. By the end of the season, forward Andrew Chrabascz had emerged as a capable third scoring threat, and he too is back. So is rising sophomore Kelan Martin, who flashed the potential to be a big-time scorer down the road. Butler will miss point guard Alex Barlow’s toughness and leadership and forward Kameron Woods’ defense and rebounding, but they’re pretty well-equipped to replace both. N.C. State transfer Tyler Lewis figures to inherit Barlow’s starting point guard job, while forward Tyler Wideman or incoming freshman Nate Fowler could take over for Woods. Butler will also benefit from having the same coach for back-to-back seasons for the first time in a while. In short, the Bulldogs have endured a couple years of instability and appear poised to challenge for the Big East title.



17. Michigan
Key losses: F Max Bielfeldt
Key returners:
G Caris LeVert, G Derrick Walton, G Zak Irvin, G Spike Albrecht, G Aubrey Dawkins, F Kameron Chatman, F Mark Donnal, F Ricky Doyle
Notable newcomers: F Moritz Wagner
Outlook: All signs had been pointing toward Caris LeVert forgoing his final year of eligibility and entering the draft until the projected mid-to-late first-round pick suffered a season-ending foot injury in January that complicated his decision. Suddenly, it was no longer such a sure thing LeVert would be selected in the first round even though the 6-foot-7 wing had led Michigan in scoring (14.9), rebounding (4.9) assists (3.7) and steals (1.7) prior to the injury. LeVert announced last week he will return for his senior season, a decision that solidifies the Wolverines as a preseason top 25 team and gives them hope of challenging Maryland, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana for next year's Big Ten title. Michigan will be loaded on the perimeter with veterans Spike Albrecht and Derrick Walton Jr. splitting time at point guard and LeVert, Zak Irvin and a rapidly blossoming Aubrey Dawkins sharing minutes at wing. There's also still the chance Michigan adds elite wing Jaylen Brown to the mix if he selects the Wolverines later this spring. The frontcourt will be a bigger question, but there’s reason to be optimistic. Forward Kameron Chatman and big men Mark Donnal and Ricky Doyle should all be much further along after a year of growing pains this past season. Michigan endured a frustrating, injury-plagued 2014-15 season that didn't seem all that promising even before LeVert's injury. Expect a bounce-back campaign from the Wolverines next season with all but one rotation player back.

18. Wisconsin
Key losses: G Josh Gassser, F Sam Dekker, C Frank Kaminsky, F Duje Dukan, G Traevon Jackson
Key returners:

F Nigel Hayes, G Bronson Koenig, G Zak Showalter, F Ethan Happ, F Vitto Brown, G Jordan Hill
Notable newcomers: G Brevin Pritzl, F Alex Illikainen, F Charlie Thomas, F Khalil Iverson
Outlook: One of the biggest reasons Wisconsin's title game loss has to sting so much is the Badgers aren't likely to get another championship shot anytime soon. They will lose five members of their seven-man rotation either to graduation or the NBA draft including national player of the year Frank Kaminsky, fellow projected first-round pick Sam Dekker and backcourt stalwarts Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson. The two marquee players expected to return are promising point guard Bronson Koenig and versatile forward Nigel Hayes, both of whom have all-Big Ten potential. The key to Wisconsin's season is both those guys making the leap from complementary pieces to stars and a supporting cast emerging around them. Joining Hayes in the frontcourt rotation will probably be returning forward Vitto Brown and 6-foot-9 redshirt freshman Ethan Happ, who looked like a future standout in practice last season. Who will play alongside Koenig at wing is a bigger question, but athletic guard Zak Showalter had some nice moments off the bench late in the season and redshirt freshman Jordan Hill and true freshmen Brevin Pritzl should also see playing time. Is that nucleus enough for Wisconsin to crack the top 20 nationally and finish in the top four in the Big Ten? Maybe, maybe not, but as long as Bo Ryan is still coaching the Badgers, it's probably not wise to bet against them. 

19. Cal
Key losses: F David Kravish, F Christian Behrens, F Dwight Tarwater
Key returners:
G Jabari Bird, G Jordan Mathews, G Tyrone Wallace, G Sam Singer, C Kameron Rooks, C Kingsley Okoroh, F Roger Moute a Bidias
Notable newcomers: F Ivan Rabb, F Stephen Domingo, F Davon Dillard
Outlook: Cal's hopes of ascending in the Pac-12 pecking order received a huge boost last week when point guard Tyrone Wallace revealed he will return for his senior season. Wallace had flirted with declaring for the NBA draft for most of the past month after averaging 17.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.0 assists in his first year playing point guard, but the long, athletic 6-foot-5 rising senior wisely decided to stay in school and work on cutting down his turnovers and improving his outside shot. The return of Wallace should land Cal a spot in the preseason top 25 next fall and give the Bears a chance to challenge Arizona, Utah, Oregon and UCLA for the Pac-12 title. Some of those teams may have more depth than Cal, but the Bears have as talented a nucleus as any of them. Cal's strength should be a backcourt that features Wallace, high-scoring Jordan Mathews and former elite recruit Jabari Bird. While last year's top big man David Kravish is graduating this spring, Cal could be in better shape in the frontcourt than it was last season when it lacked both a rim protector and capable backups. Five-star power forward Ivan Rabb promises to be an immediate starter and impact player and Kingsley Okoroh and Kameron Rooks should share time alongside him. Adding to the excitement for Cal is the possibility the Bears could add one more elite prospect. Wing Jaylen Brown, a consensus top-five recruit in next year's class, is considering the Bears and four other elite programs.

20. SMU
Key losses: F Yanick Moreira, F Cannen Cunningham, G Ryan Manuel
Key returners: G Nic Moore, F Markus Kennedy, F Ben Moore, G Sterling Brown
Notable newcomers: F Semi Ojeleye, G Sedrick Barefield, G Shake Milton
Outlook: Having narrowly missed the NCAA tournament last year and suffered a heartbreaking first-round upset this past March, SMU enters the offseason still hungry for postseason success. Next season could be the year it happens for the Mustangs thanks to an intriguing combination of proven returners and talented newcomers. SMU's best returning player is combo guard Nic Moore, a volume scorer who could move off ball next season to make room for top freshman Sedrick Barefield at point guard. Sterling Brown and Ben Moore are likely to begin the season in the lineup at the forward spots, but look for Moore to give way to Duke transfer Semi Ojeleye once the former top 100 recruit becomes eligible in mid-December. While Ojeleye couldn't crack Duke's rotation behind Justise Winslow and Amile Jefferson, he should be an impact player for SMU. The last remaining starter figures to be Markus Kennedy, assuming he doesn't run into academic issues again. He'll be SMU's top low-post threat. While it could take time for the new and returning talent to mesh, SMU could be at least as good as it was this past season when it won the league and earned a No. 6 seed in the NCAA tournament. It should be a duel between the Mustangs and Cincinnati for the American Athletic Conference crown, with UConn and Memphis also potentially entering the race.



Others worthy of consideration: Cincinnati, Utah, Baylor, Notre Dame, LSU, Louisville, Oregon, San Diego State, Dayton, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, VCU, Xavier, Florida State, NC State

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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