Virginia Cavs headline Ridiculously Early Preseason Top 25 (and one)

INDIANAPOLIS -- This will all change.

You need to understand that before moving forward.

Some players I think are returning to school will leave. And vice versa. And then some recruits I believe are going to one college will go to another. So understand that, please.

Regardless, it's time to rank basketball teams for next season!

So I sat down with my colleagues Matt Norlander and Sam Vecenie here at the site of the Final Four, and we tore through every relevant roster in the country. Then we consulted with coaches, agents, recruiting analysts and all sorts of folks and tried our best to project how teams will likely look next season. What you see below is the result of that.

When the information changes, so will these rankings.

But, for now, here's the 2015-16 Ridiculously Early Preseason Top 25 (and one) ...

1. Virginia Cavaliers

  • Notable players definitely gone: Darion Atkins
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Malcolm Brogdon, Anthony Gill, Justin Anderson, Mike Tobey, London Perrantes, Marial Shayok, Evan Nolte, Devon Hall
  • Others expected to join the roster: Jarred Reuter

Why the Cavaliers are ranked here: Virginia is expected to return eight of the top nine scorers from a team that finished 30-4 and won the ACC regular-season title. Justin Anderson could turn pro, and, if he does, this ranking might change. But, at this point, Virginia is a reasonable pick for the nation's top spot.

2. North Carolina Tar Heels  

  • Notable players definitely gone: J.P. Tokoto
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Marcus Paige, Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Justin Jackson, Joel Berry, Joel James, Natre Britt, Theo Pinson
  • Others expected to join the roster: Luke Maye

Why the Tar Heels are ranked here: Brice Johnson's return means UNC should bring back everybody (except J.P. Tokoto) from a team that finished 11th in KenPom's final ratings. The Tar Heels also played in the ACC Tournament title game and made the Sweet 16.

3. Kentucky Wildcats

  • Notable players definitely gone: Karl-Anthony Towns, Aaron Harrison, Andrew Harrison, Trey Lyles, Devin Booker, Dakari Johnson, Willie Cauley-Stein
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Tyler Ulis, Marcus Lee, Alex Poythress, Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins
  • Others expected to join the roster: Skal Labissiere, Isaiah Briscoe, Charles Matthews, Malik Newman

Why the Wildcats are ranked here: There are lots of moving parts with UK, per usual. But, one way or another, it would be foolish to assume John Calipari will have anything other than one of the nation's best rosters even if he loses seven players. For these purposes, Class of 2015 star Malik Newman is projected as a future Wildcat regardless of the fact that A) he's still uncommitted, and B) Mississippi State is a possibility. And even if Newman enrolls elsewhere, the point remains simple. UK will have Tyler Ulis, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee, Skal Labissiere, Isaiah Briscoe and, almost certainly, some yet-to-be-determiend elite parts, at least. And some combination of Devin Booker, Dakari Johnson and Trey Lyles might return. So Kentucky will be really good again regardless of how the final roster looks.

4. Maryland Terrapins

  • Notable players definitely gone: Dez Wells, Evan Smotrycz, Richaud Pack, Jon Graham
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Melo Trimble, Jake Layman, Dion Wiley, Jared Nickens, Damonte Dodd, Michal Cekovsky
  • Others expected to join the roster: Diamond Stone, Robert Carter, Jaylen Brantley

Why the Terrapins are ranked here: Maryland has, in the past month, received news that Melo Trimble will return for his sophomore season, and that Diamond Stone will enroll in College Park. So Mark Turgeon is on a roll. He'll have a Final Four-caliber roster.

5. Kansas Jayhawks

  • Notable players definitely gone: Kelly Oubre, Cliff Alexander
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Perry Ellis, Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Jamari Traylor, Brannen Greene, Devonte' Graham, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Landen Lucas
  • Others expected to join the roster: Carlton Bragg

Why the Jayhawks are ranked here: KU's roster will lack starpower. But so many quality pieces from a Big 12 championship team are returning that it would be silly to have Kansas outside of the top five. In other words, yes, the Jayhawks should win a 12th straight league title next season -- unless one of the next two teams listed wins the Big 12 instead.

6. Iowa State Cyclones

  • Notable players definitely gone: Bryce Dejean-Jones, Dustin Hogue, Daniel Edozie
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Georges Niang, Abdel Nader, Monte Morris, Naz Long, Jameel McKay, Matt Thomas
  • Others expected to join the roster: Deonte Burton, Hallice Cooke

Why the Cyclones are ranked here: Fred Hoiberg has turned Iowa State into a consistent winner, and there's no reason to think that'll change next season given that the Cyclones' top three scorers are returning. And that means they'll have a shot at the Big 12 title, assuming their homecourt advantage remains one of the nation's best.

7. Oklahoma Sooners

  • Notable players definitely gone: TaShawn Thomas, Frank Booker
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins, Jordan Woodard, Ryan Spangler, Khadeem Lattin, Dinjiyl Walker
  • Others expected to join the roster: Akolda Manyang, Christian James, Rashard Odomes
Why the Sooners are ranked here: This ranking is based on Buddy Hield returning -- although I'm told he's 50-50 on whether to do another year of college or enter the NBA Draft. If Hield declares for early entry, this ranking wll be adjusted.
8. Gonzaga Bulldogs
  • Notable players definitely gone: Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell, Angel Nunez, Byron Wesley
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski, Domantas Sabonis, Silas Melson, Kyle Dranginis, Eric McClellan, Josh Perkins
  • Others expected to join the roster: None

Why the Zags are ranked here: Gonzaga should return six of the top nine players from a team that won 35 games and made the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. Kyle Wiltjer will have a strong case to be a preseason First Team All-American.

9. Michigan State Spartans

  • Notable players definitely gone: Travis Trice, Branden Dawson
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Denzel Valentine, Marvin Clark, Matt Costello, Gavin Schilling, Alvin Ellis, Bryn Forbes, Lourawls Nairn
  • Others expected to join the roster: Caleb Swanigan, Eron Harris, Deyonta Davis, Matthew McQuaid, Kyle Ahrens

Why the Spartans are ranked here: The loss of Travis Trice and Branden Dawson will hurt. But the addition of Eron Harris, a West Virginia transfer, should be a big boost.

10. Wichita State Shockers

  • Notable players definitely gone: Darius Carter, Tekele Cotton
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, Evan Wessel, Shaquille Morris, Rashard Kelly
  • Others expected to join the roster: Conner Frankamp, Markus McDuffie, Landry Shamet, Eric Hamilton, Tyrone Taylor

Why the Shockers are ranked here: Ron Baker could declare for the NBA Draft, which would drop Wichita State some. But, either way, the Shockers will have Gregg Marshall coaching the team and Fred VanVleet running the team, and that's a nice combination.

11. Villanova Wildcats

  • Notable players definitely gone: Darrun Hilliard, JayVaughn Pinkston, Dylan Ennis
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Ryan Arcidiacono, Daniel Ochefu, Josh Hart, Phil Booth, Kris Jenkins
  • Others expected to join the roster: Jaylen Brunson, Donte Divincenzo, Tim Delaney

Why the Wildcats are ranked here: The Wildcats return enough to win the Big East. A Jaylen Brunson-Ryan Arcidiacono backcourt should be tons of fun.

12. Indiana Hoosiers

  • Notable players definitely gone: Max Hoetzel, Stanford Robinson
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Yogi Ferrell, James Blackmon, Troy Williams, Robert Johnson, Hanner Mosquera-Perea, Nick Zeisloft, Emmitt Holt
  • Others expected to join the roster: Thomas Bryant, Juwan Morgan, Ogugua Anunoby

Why the Hoosiers are ranked here: What was Indiana missing this season? A competent big man. What is Thomas Bryant? A competent big man. So the Hoosiers should have no issues making the NCAA Tournament again -- provided Yogi Ferrell doesn't turn pro.

13. SMU Mustangs

  • Notable players definitely gone: Yanick Moreira, Cannen Cunningham, Ryan Manuel
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Nic Moore, Markus Kennedy, Ben Moore, Sterling Brown, Ben Emelogu
  • Others expected to join the roster: Semi Ojeleye, Shake Milton, Cedrick Barefield

Why the Mustangs are ranked here: The reigning American Athletic Conference Player of the Year (Nic Moore) is back. That means SMU should make the NCAA Tournament in consecutive years for the first time since 1984 and 1985.

14. Arizona Wildcats

  • Notable players definitely gone: T.J. McConnell, Brandon Ashley
  • Others expected to leave: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson
  • Notable players expected to return: Kaleb Tarczewski, Gabe York, Elliott Pitts, Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Dusan Ristic
  • Others expected to join the roster: Alonzo Trier, Ray Smith, Justin Simon, Chance Comanche, Ryan Anderson

Why the Wildcats are ranked here: Yes, I know, Stanley Johnson is considering returning to Arizona, and, if so, the Wildcats will be higher than 14. But the smart money still has Arizona's freshman star declaring for the NBA Draft. So that's the projection ... for now.

15. Duke Blue Devils

  • Notable players definitely gone: Quinn Cook, Jahlil Okafor
  • Others expected to leave: Justise Winslow, Tyus Jones
  • Notable players expected to return: Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones, Marshall Plumlee
  • Others expected to join the roster: Chase Jeter, Luke Kennard, Sean Obi

Why the Blue Devils are ranked here: Tyus Jones isn't necessarily a lottery pick like Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow, point being that he might return to Duke. If the freshman point guard does, obviously, the Blue Devils will move up a few spots.

16. NC State Wolfpack

  • Notable players definitely gone: Ralston Turner
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Cat Barber, Trevor Lacey, Kyle Washington, Abdul-Malik Abu, BeeJay Anya, Cody Martin, Caleb Martin, Lennard Freeman
  • Others expected to join the roster: Terry Henderson

Why the Wolfpack are ranked here: Remember that talented N.C. State team that eliminated Villanova from the NCAA Tournament? Most of the best pieces from that roster should be back -- incuding Cat Barber.

17. Wisconsin Badgers

  • Notable players definitely gone: Frank Kaminsky, Traevon Jackson, Josh Gasser, Duje Dukan
  • Others expected to leave: Sam Dekker
  • Notable players expected to return: Nigel Hayes, Bronson Koenig
  • Others expected to join the roster: Brevin Pritzel, Alex Illikainen, Charlie Thomas, Khalil Iverson

Why the Badgers are ranked here: Will Wisconsin have a top-20 roster? No ... especially if Sam Dekker leaves school like he's expected to do. But Bo Ryan will still be the coach. So the Badgers belong in the top 20.

18. Michigan Wolverines

  • Notable players definitely gone: Max Biefeldt
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Caris LeVert, Zak Irvin, Derrick Walton, Kameron Chatman, Aubrey Dawkins, Ricky Doyle, Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman, Mark Donnal, Spike Albrecht
  • Others expected to join the roster: Moritz Wagner

Why the Wolverines are ranked here: Caris LeVert's injury this season cost Michigan a chance to make another NCAA Tournament. But it probably forced him back to school for an extra year, and next season's Wolverines will benefit.

19. Utah Utes

  • Notable players definitely gone: Delon Wright, Dalin Bachynski
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Jakob Poeltl, Brandon Taylor, Jordan Loveridge, Dakarai Tucker, Chris Reyes, Kyle Kuzma, Brekkott Chapman
  • Others expected to join the roster: None

Why the Utes are ranked here: The Utes' return to national relevance won't just be a one-year thing under Larry Krystkowiak. He's building something special, and Utah should be really good again as long as Jacob Poeltl doesn't enter the NBA Draft.

20. Baylor Bears

  • Notable players definitely gone: Royce O'Neale, Kenny Chery
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Rico Gathers, Taurean Prince, Johnathan Motley, Lester Medford, Ish Wainright
  • Others expected to join the roster: King McClure, Joseph Acuil, Wendall Mitchell, Jake Lindsey

Why the Bears are ranked here: The Bears will miss Kenny Chery plenty. But a nice core -- led by Rico Gathers -- should keep Scott Drew's program nationally relevant.

21. Miami (Fla.) Hurricanes

  • Notable players definitely gone: Joe Thomas, Manu Lecomte, Deandre Burnett
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Sheldon McClellan, Angel Rodriguez, Tonye Jekiri, Davon Reed, Ivan Cruz Uceda, Omar Sherman, Ja'Quan Newton, James Palmer
  • Others expected to join the roster: Kamari Murphy, Anthony Lawrence Jr.

Why the Hurricanes are ranked here: Most relevant players from a team that played for the NIT title is back, and the Hurricanes will add Oklahoma State transfer Kamari Murphy. So Miami probably won't be on the wrong side of the bubble again next season.

22. Texas A&M Aggies

  • Notable players definitely gone: Kourtney Roberson, Jordan Green
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Jalen Jones, Alex Caruso, Danuel House, Alex Robinson, Antwan Space, Davonte Fitzgerald, Peyton Allen, Tonny Trocha-Moreios
  • Others expected to join the roster: Tyler Davis, D.J. Hogg, Elijah Thomas, Admon Gilder

Why the Aggies are ranked here: The Aggies have secured a top-five recruiting class. That, combined with some quality returning pieces, should have A&M in the NCAA Tournament.

23. VCU Rams

  • Notable players definitely gone: Treveon Graham, Briante Weber
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: JeQuan Lewis, Melvin Johnson, Mo Alie-Cox, Jordan Burgess, Terry Larrier, Doug Brooks, Justin Tillman, Jonathan Williams
  • Others expected to join the roster: Tevin Mack, Kenny Williams

Why the Rams are ranked here: VCU lost Shaka Smart but still has a talented roster. Some coach -- probably Will Wade -- is about to inherit a good situation.

24. LSU Tigers

  • Notable players definitely gone: Jordan Mickey, Jarell Martin
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Tim Quarterman, Josh Gray, Keith Hornsby, Jalyn Patterson
  • Others expected to join the roster: Ben Simmons, Antonio Blakeney

Why the Tigers are ranked here: Ben Simmons might be the best freshman in the country next season, and Antonio Blakeney is super-talented, too. So the losses of Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin are possible to overcome in Baton Rouge.

25. Florida State Seminoles

  • Notable players definitely gone: Kiel Turpin
  • Others expected to leave: None
  • Notable players expected to return: Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Montay Brandon, Devon Bookert, Phil Cofer, Jarquez Smith, Boris Bojanovsky, Robbie Berwick
  • Others expected to join the roster: Dwayne Bacon, Malik Beasley, Terrance Mann, Christ Koumadje

Why the Seminoles are ranked here: Leonard Hamilton received good news when Xavier Rathan-Mayes announced he would return to Florida State for at least another season. Consequently, the Seminoles will be almost as talented as anybody in the ACC.

26. Chicago State Cougars

  • Notable players definitely gone: Jermaine Sanders
  • Others expected to leave: 
  • Notable players expected to return: Octavius Ellis, Shaquille Thomas, Gary Clark, Troy Caupain, Farad Cobb, Quadri Moore, Coreontae DeBerry, Deshaun Morman, Kevin Johnson
  • Others expected to join the roster: Jacob Evans, Justin Jenifer

Why the Bearcats are ranked here: Mick Cronin should be back on the sideline next season, and he has a lot of tough and experienced players returning with him. The Bearcats will likely be the biggest threat to SMU in the American Athletic Conference.

Virginia should be No. 1 next season … if Justin Anderson returns. (USATSI)
Virginia should be No. 1 next season … if Justin Anderson returns. (USATSI)
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Gary Parrish is an award-winning college basketball columnist and television analyst for CBS Sports who also hosts the highest-rated afternoon drive radio show in Memphis, where he lives with his wife... Full Bio

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