There’s no questioning that the Power Five conferences have full control of the college athletic landscape. Their power is on full display when it comes time for the NCAA Tournament. These Power Five schools have much more a chance of making the Tournament if they have an average season over a mid-major who has a fantastic season. Here’s who should be on top of the Power Five conferences for the 2016-2017 college basketball season.
Duke Blue Devils: 25-11, lost to Oregon in the Sweet 16
The Blue Devils enter the season as the title favorites. Duke is welcoming back Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones along with two of the top three high school recruits in the country in Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum. Coach K has a loaded roster to work with in hopes for his sixth national championship.
Syracuse Orange: 23-14, lost to North Carolina in the Final Four
Jim Boeheim led his team to the Final Four in the face of NCAA punishment last season. It would be foolish to bet against Boeheim in his final years at Syracuse. Look for Tyler Lydon to improve on the offensive side while the defense continues to be the strength of the team.
Kansas Jayhawks: 33-5, lost to Villanova in the Elite Eight
No need to get fancy with this pick. The Jayhawks have won 12 consecutive Big 12 regular season titles, and there’s no reason to think they won’t win #13. Frank Mason and Devonte Graham are back along with top recruit Joshua Jackson. Bill Self is primed for another excellent season for Kansas basketball.
Baylor Bears: 22-12, lost to Yale in the first round
The Bears were left with a bad taste in their mouth after last year’s first round bounce. Jonathan Motley will be a key player, as well as the Al Freeman and his continuing development. The Bears will be a tough team all season long.
Michigan State Spartans: 26-6, lost to Middle Tennessee in the first round
Tom Izzo brings in a freshman class that features four top 40 players in this class, highlighted by forward Miles Bridges. The Spartans lost four key players, but their freshman class is extremely talented and expected to carry the load.
Wisconsin Badgers: 22-13, lost to Notre Dame in the Sweet 16
All five starters for the Badgers are returning along with most of the bench. They will be led by senior Bronson Koenig and Big Ten freshman of the year Ethan Hap. Look for a big leap from the Badgers under second-year coach Greg Gard.
Arizona Wildcats: 25-9, lost to Wichita State in the first round
Freshman five-star recruit Kobi Simmons will take the reigns of the offense, which will be led by sophomore Alonzo Trier. Trier is the highest returning scorer for the Cats with his 14.8 PPG last season. Arizona is once again talented and will looking to regain the Pac-12 crown. The Wildcats should also feel good about the 2017-2018 season, as they have already received a commit from the #1 recruit in the country, center DeAndre Ayton.
Oregon Ducks: 31-7, lost to Oklahoma in the Elite Eight
Coming off a season where they were a #1 seed in the Tournament, Ducks bring back three of their top four scorers in Dillon Brooks (16.7 PPG), Tyler Dorsey (13.4 PPG), and Chris Boucher (12.1 PPG). The Ducks will look to continue building one of the best programs in the Pac-12, as Oregon basketball tickets are starting to become the hottest tickets in college basketball.
Kentucky Wildcats: 27-9, lost to Indiana in the second round
You already know how the script goes. Kentucky loses most of its talent from the previous year to the NBA but comes back restocked and nearly better than ever. Coach John Calipari landed five five-star recruits, with Bam Adebayo, Malik Monk, and De’Aaron Fox leading the way. Kentucky will always be the SEC favorite and national title contender as long as Coach Cal is running the show.
LSU Tigers – 19-14, lost to Texas A&M in SEC Championship semi finals
No Ben Simmons, no problem. Call it a hunch, but we think LSU will make a splash this season. The rest of the SEC isn’t feeling like an insurmountable climb besides the overlords at Kentucky and the Tigers have some real talent this season with freshman Skyler Mays and junior Jalyn Patterson.
Florida Gators: 21-15, lost in the NIT quarterfinals to George Washington
The program is entering it’s second year under head coach Mike White and is coming off its first NIT appearance since 2009. Transfer Canyon Barry comes in after scoring 19.7 PPG at the College of Charleston. The Gators will need their point guard duo of Chris Chiozza and Kasey Hill to pick up their game quickly, as the rest of the roster is pretty deep.
UConn Huskies: 25-11, lost to Kansas in the second round
Sure they may not be the powerhouse they have typically been over the past couple years, but you can’t keep a good school down. Look for Alterique Gilbert and Christian Vital to lead this team back to prominence, especially in the weak AAC.
Xavier Musketeers: 28-6, lost to Wisconsin in the second round
The Musketeers enter the season as the #7 team in the nation in the preseason polls, the second highest for a Big East team, only behind the defending champions #4 Villanova Wildcats. Head coach Chris Mack has built this program to earn national respect, as it has been one of the most consistent teams in the nation for a while now. All-Big East freshman selection Edmound Sumner will look to elevate his game to the next level, while Big East Sixth Man of the Year J.P. Macura is also primed for a breakout season.