Kentucky, Indiana, Notre Dame and Butler all appear in the ESPN way to early NCAA basketball poll

Posted: August 5, 2015 by jmklee in Uncategorized

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I know, I know, it is WAY TO EARLY to start talking college basketball but when you live in Indy like I do it is a topic that never stops.  ESPN released this morning their first guess on who will be the best next year.  Here is a quick run down.

  1. Maryland
  2. North Carolina
  3. Kentucky WildcatsOur previous No. 1 earned that status largely through deference. The Wildcats have come to operate on an altered time-space continuum under coach John Calipari; when they lose talent to the NBA, they usually replace it, and fast. It was reasonable to assume the same would happen this spring. And it did, to a certain extent: UK already had the No. 1 center (Skal Labissiere) and No. 1 point guard (Isaiah Briscoe) in the 2015 class when five-star shooting guard Jamal Murray reclassified from 2016 to start his career at UK early. Murray played extremely well at the Nike Hoops Summit and for Team Canada in the Pan Am Games; he appears to be a star, and one few saw coming months ago.

    Then again, Murray’s arrival was made possible by a string of elite recruits with spring decisions who chose not to go to Kentucky. Five-stars Cheick Diallo, Brandon Ingram, Stephen Zimmerman, Malik Newman and Jaylen Brown — who looked likely to end up in Lexington before eschewing Coach Cal for Cal(ifornia) — all ended up elsewhere. On May 5, in a not-even-thinly veiled recruiting message titled “We may never platoon again, but players will always come first,” Calipari essentially admitted that the shared-minutes ethos of his 38-1 team actually hurt UK on the trail. “It’s amazing people could try to use that against us, but I guess you have to come up with something,” Calipari wrote, just before assuring his readers he would never platoon again.

    “Hurt” is relative: UK’s was still the No. 2-ranked 2015 class. Kentucky won’t have a laughably balanced Monstars roster in 2015-16; fans might want to hold off on the latest edition of their 40-0 tattoos. This team will have more mundane occupations, such as moving senior forward Alex Poythress back to the four to give the Wildcats another body alongside Labissiere and Marcus Lee in a frontcourt that suddenly needs bodies. But what UK does have — in Lee, Poythress, a very good recruiting class and point guard Tyler Ulis playing real starter’s minutes — is going to be awfully good. Mortal, sure. But good.

  4. Virgina
  5. Kansas
  6. Duke
  7. Iowa St.
  8. Oklahoma
  9. Wichita St.
  10. Villanova
  11. Gonzaga
  12. Cal
  13. Utah
  14. Indiana HoosiersMaryland is the Big Ten’s runaway favorite, but the competition will be slightly more fierce than what Wisconsin experienced a season ago. (The vast majority of the Big Ten season was played before March, which is why Michigan State didn’t go 18-0.) Indiana is atop that second tier. The Hoosiers are bringing almost all of their considerable offensive firepower back, from guards Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson, to rim-running four Troy Williams, to the coterie of floor-spacing sharpshooters (Nick ZeisloftCollin Hartman) that often made Indiana one of the nation’s most watchable teams. Adding No. 6-ranked freshman center Thomas Bryant should mean better interior defense and rebounding, which isn’t saying much, given how bad IU was on that end of the floor last season. But, man, can they put the ball in the bucket.
  15. Arizona
  16. Notre Dame Fighting IrishThe 2014-15 season was undoubtedly Notre Dame’s best under Mike Brey. That’s a compliment any way you slice it, because the Irish have almost always been good under Brey, especially recently; in the past nine seasons, the Irish missed the NCAA tournament twice. Which is why, for all of the highs of 2014-15 (an ACC conference tournament title and deep NCAA tournament run chief among them) it is almost impossible to imagine an ND team with Zach Auguste, Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia suffering too much of a comedown, even with heart-and-soul stars Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton off to the NBA.
  17. Baylor
  18. Vandy
  19. Michigan St.
  20. West Virginia
  21. SMU
  22. LSU
  23. Butler BulldogsKameron Woods grabbed 27.5 percent of available defensive rebounds for the Bulldogs last season; he was one of the best glass-protectors in the country for a defense that did its best work in that category. If rising sophomore Tyler Wideman can pick up at least some of that slack, Butler should thrive, because its backcourt — a healthy Roosevelt Jones, elite shooter Kellen Dunham and NC State transfer Tyler Lewis — might be one of the nation’s best.
  24. Wisconsin
  25. Texas A&M
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