Despite being quite a way from their most recent success, North Carolina are crowned as the preseason number one team, with Kentucky, Maryland, Kansas and defending national champions Duke completing the top 5. Wisconsin, last year’s national title game losers, are in at number 17.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels (35 first place votes): Losing just J.P. Tokoto among its meaningful players, the Tar Heels are trying to build on last year’s Sweet Sixteen and win their first national championship since 2009.
2. Kentucky Wildcats (10): Despite losing seven players to the NBA draft, the Wildcats are gearing up for another Final Four run with three new Five-Star freshmen.
3. Maryland Terrapins (4): The Terps didn’t lose meaningful players except one, and are hoping to put their mark on the Big Ten, winning their first conference title.
4. Kansas Jayhawks (5): They’ve won the Big 12 eleven consecutive times, but have been to the Final Four just once since winning the national title in 2008.
5. Duke Blue Devils: Defending national champions with four new freshman, hoping to replace the stellar three that left.
6. Virginia Cavaliers (1): They’ve won the ACC title two years in a row, but it’s time to do something in the tournament as well, not making it to the Elite Eight since 1995.
7. Iowa State Cyclones: The loss of Fred Hoiberg to the NBA hasn’t changed the outlook for a rising force in the Big 12 and college basketball in general, slightly disappointing in last year’s tournament.
8. Oklahoma Sooners: The Sooners, with a veteran squad and a lot of talent, seems as ready as they’ve ever been to end their Final Four drought, going back to 2002.
9. Gonzaga Bulldogs: Dominating the WCC is one thing. But can they make it to the Final Four for the first time ever? Seems like their best squad ever according to preseason hype could finally get the job done.
10. Wichita State Shockers: Have won the MVC three times in the last four years, and will be going for their fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
11. Villanova Wildcats: Have been dominating the new Big East. It’s also time to make the Sweet Sixteen, or maybe even further, for the first time since 2009.
12. Arizona Wildcats: For all the success Sean Miller has had, including three conference titles, he still hasn’t gotten Arizona out of the Elite Eight.
13. Michigan State Spartans: As always, it’ll be the seniors (three of them from the state) who set the tone for the always overachieving Spartans.
14. California Golden Bears: Ivan Rabb and Jaylen Brown have everyone excited on a team that hasn’t been to the Sweet Sixteen since 1997, hoping to win the conference for only the second time since 1960.
15. Indiana Hoosiers: Yogi Ferrell is in his senior year, got some nice freshmen and might be finally coming back after struggling to rebound from their excellent 2013 season.
16. Utah Utes: Counting on Delon Wright to carry them into a second consecutive NCAA Tournament, and who knows, maybe even another Sweet Sixteen.
17. Wisconsin Badgers: Might be a bit over ranked considering who they lost, but Bo Ryan did a good job retooling, counting on Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig to keep them near the top of the Big Ten again.
18. Vanderbilt Commodores: Hoping to make the tournament for the first time since 2012, counting on their excellent class of 2014 players following one year of developing.
19. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Lost a lot of talent this offseason, but Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson should keep them more than competitive in the ACC.
20. UConn Huskies: Planning on doing more than just the NIT this season.
21. LSU Tigers: Behind Kentucky, just might be the best team in the SEC right now.
22. Baylor Bears: Scott Drew is starting his 13th season in Waco, looking for his sixth tournament appearance in nine years.
23. Purdue Boilermakers: Unlike their football team, there’s hope and optimism with these guys.
24. Butler Bulldogs: After the two consecutive national title games (losses) in 2010 and 2011, Butler need to get a bit further than just the first round in order to appease the growing demands.
25. Michigan Wolverines: Didn’t lose anyone critical and got some nice new players in, which might mean being a dark horse candidate in the usually loaded Big Ten.