The men’s college basketball season came to a ceremonial close in last Monday’s NCAA Championship game between UConn and Kentucky in Arlington, Texas.
The game, won by Connecticut for its fourth national championship in men’s basketball and second in the last three years, featured a No. 7 seed against a No. 8 seed (Kentucky), an unprecedented occurrence in a Final Four championship contest. Neither team was nationally ranked coming into the tournament, although Kentucky was the preseason No. 1 team at the beginning of the 2013-14 campaign.
We may be just a week removed from the college basketball curtain closer for the 2013-14 season, but in reality, it is a sport that never really ends. Recruiting goes on year round to lure the best of the college crop, not just for next season but for the season after that, as well. And as those who religiously follow or write about the sport readily know, it’s never too early to begin thinking about what the national landscape in college basketball will look like in 2014-15.
At least two national publications have already come out with early projections of what they believe will be the top 25 to begin the 2014-15 season. Sports Illustrated college basketball writer Seth Davis says Duke, a team, he reminds us, did not get by its opening game in this year’s NCAA Tournament, will start out next season as preseason No. 1. Davis has Wisconsin as No. 2, and he lists the Kansas Jayhawks at No. 6 and Texas at No. 10 in his early 2014-15 projected top-25.
“Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins (are going) pro, but the Jayhawks will still be favored to win their 11th consecutive Big 12 regular-season crown, thanks largely to the arrival of 6-9 freshman Cliff Alexander,” Davis writes. Kansas also is very much in the running for a seven-footer out of Dallas, Myles Turner, who ESPN.com ranks as the second best overall recruit in the country. Alexander is ranked as third best overall.
Davis is also very high on Texas’ chances next season. The Longhorns have all of their starters coming back, and some think that the Horns have the inside track to sign the seven-footer Turner.
Right behind Texas, Davis has the Baylor Bears projected at No. 11. Davis believes the Bears seven-foot center, Isaiah Austin, will return for his junior season. Austin, along with point guard Kenny Chery and power forward Rico Gathers, will give the Bears a solid starting nucleus, Davis says.
Iowa State checks in at No. 19 in Sports Illustrated’s early top-25 projections for next season. “The Cyclones lose two high-scoring seniors in Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane, but as usual Fred Hoiberg will restock with transfers like 6-8 junior forward Jameel McKay, who came from Marquette,” Davis writes.
USA Today has also published an early top-25 ranking for the 2014-15 men’s college basketball season. The sports staff at USA Today also has Duke as the preseason No. 1, but they have Arizona at No. 2 and Wisconsin at No, 3. Kansas is the highest-ranked team from the Big 12, projected at No. 4. Texas is No. 12 and, in a bit of a surprise, USA Today lists the Oklahoma Sooners at No. 20, citing the fact Lon Kruger’s team brings back four of its starters off a high-scoring offense.
None of this means anything, of course until they start playing the games next fall, but it serves to keep the interest up as we, the fans, turn the page until the new season cranks it up for real again some six months from now