The Top 5 College Basketball Teams for 2016-17

    College Basketball: Top 5 Teams for 2016-17

    Kris Jenkins of the Villanova Wildcats | Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Until the start of next year’s March Madness, the Villanova Wildcats are your NCAA Men’s College Basketball National Champions. The Wildcats finished off an impressive tournament run by outlasting the North Carolina Tar Heels in the title game in dramatic fashion, earning just the second national title in the history of their program.

    While all college basketball enthusiasts should appreciate the Villanova Championship, another offseason without the excitement of the game can be tough to handle, so it’s understandable if you want to start thinking about next season. Since it’s never too early to consider who will be the best schools in the country when the 2016-17 season begins, we have our top five projected teams for next season.

    Reading: Best college basketball teams 2016

    While it may be surprising that neither wildcats nor tar heels feature in our rankings, it’s important to realize that these rankings are based on recruit classes and returning players. With those factors in mind, we believe these teams have the best chance of taking down the networks in Phoenix this coming April.

    5. indiana stockings

    CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 12: during the second round of the 2015 Big Ten Men

    the hoosiers had a great season in 2015-16, winning the big 10 regular season title and reaching the sweet 16. they will lose some key players from that team (namely the spectacular yogi ferrell), but Indiana will also retain several key pieces. Freshman center Thomas Bryant was a bright spot during the team’s streak, averaging nearly 12 points and six rebounds per game, and he should come back even better next season. others like troy williams, james blackmon jr. and several freshmen will also be returning, providing a solid experience for the team.

    To further its case, Indiana will also receive a strong recruiting class, ranked 17th in the nation. Head coach Tom Crea has led the Hoosiers to national prominence after a rocky start to his tenure with the school, and next season’s team might have the best chance of reaching the final four, a spot the historical program has not been since 2002, since it arrived in 2008.

    4. arizona wildcats

    UNIVERSITY PARK, PA - JANUARY 10: Deyonta Davis #23 of the Michigan State Spartans shoots the ball against the defense of Brandon Taylor #10 of the Penn State Nittany Lions during the second half at the Bryce Jordan Center on January 10, 2016 in University Park, Pennsylvania. Michigan State won 92-65. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

    The Arizona Wildcats take the floor | Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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    After reaching back-to-back Elite Eights, Arizona took a step back this season, losing to Wichita State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. However, with an impressive recruiting class coming in, Sean Miller’s club should be able to rebound and reestablish themselves as one of the top programs in the country. That class ranks sixth in the nation at this point and includes two players ranked in ESPN’s top 20.

    Those additions should allow the Wildcats to get over the loss of several key players from last season’s team. while seniors gabe york, ryan anderson and kaleb tarczewski won’t return to tucson next season, the team will retain some key freshmen, most notably allonzo trier, who has decided to forgo the nba draft and remain a wildcat for at least one more campaign.

    trier was third in scoring for arizona with 14.8 points per game in his freshman season and should see a bigger role with the aforementioned seniors leaving campus. Overall, the Wildcats are preparing to return to the top of the Pac-12 in 2016-17 and could be back in the elite eight next March.

    3. kentucky wildcats

    The Top 5 College Basketball Teams for 2016-17

    Kentucky Wildcats celebrate national championship | Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    As is usually the case with John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats, the team’s roster will receive an overhaul once again next season. Key players from this past season’s squad like freshmen Jamal Murray and Skal Labissiere, sophomore Tyler Ulis, and senior Alex Poythress will all move on from the program, meaning that Calipari has to reload once again.

    Fortunately for the Wildcats, that approach has worked since the coach arrived in 2009. In his seven seasons in Lexington, Calipari has led Kentucky to four Final Fours behind a different cast of freshman superstars; in fact, this is the m.o. calm one, and he doesn’t mince words about it.

    next season will be no different, as the wildcats have no. 1 in the draft class in the nation right now, which includes five mind-blowing players ranked in the top 30 on ESPN. With some key returning freshmen — think Isaiah Briscoe among others — there’s little reason to think Kentucky won’t be in position to make another final four this time next year.

    2. duke blue devils

    The Top 5 College Basketball Teams for 2016-17

    Grayson Allen gets hyped | Grant Halverson/Getty Images

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    Similar to Kentucky, Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils are accustomed to reloading with freshman talent season after each season. Leading scorer Grayson Allen (a sophomore who averaged 21.6 points per game in 2015-16) is headed to the NBA next season. So is freshman sensation Brandon Ingram, who could be the top pick in this summer’s NBA draft.

    That’s a lot of firepower to replace, and Duke will lose several key senior players like Marshall Plumlee. However, Coach K has proven to be a master recruiter in his long tenure in Durham, N.C., which is why the Blue Devils could be in position for another Final Four next season. Duke’s recruiting class currently ranks second in the country, behind only Kentucky, thanks to signing the top two players in ESPN’s top 100 (his class also boasts four top 50 players). /p>

    Those instant-impact freshmen will come in and contribute to a team that will also see key players like matt jones return to campus. If those recruits pan out, the Blue Devils could be lifting their third national championship trophy since 2010 next April.

    1. michigan state spartans

    The Top 5 College Basketball Teams for 2016-17

    Deyonta Davis #23 of the Michigan State Spartans shoots the ball | Rich Barnes/Getty Images

    The Spartans are likely still coming to terms with their most recent March Madness campaign, seeing as Middle Tennessee State dramatically upset them in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. However, Tom Izzo’s team should be right back in the mix next season, despite some key losses from this year’s team.

    the brilliant denzel valentine will go to the nba. Other leading scorers, seniors Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello, also won’t return to campus, but a strong group of freshmen will return to East Lansing, Mich., in 2016-17. Combine that with a great recruiting class and it’s easy to see why the Spartans will be one of the best teams in college basketball next season.

    michigan state has the third-best recruiting class in the nation right now and the incoming freshman pool includes four players in espn’s top 50. That class will help replace Valentine’s huge loss and keep the Spartans rolling big 10. As evidenced by his seven appearances in the last four with the school, Izzo is one of the best basketball minds in the nation and knows how to take advantage. to the maximum for their players. a strong roster could lead the coach to his second championship next season.

    stats courtesy of espn and sr/college basketball.

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