College Basketball Preview 2015-16: It's all about UNC
We're just a couple of weeks away from the start of the 2015-16 college basketball season, and that means we're closing in on another wild ride following a national championship from Duke and Coach Mike Krzyzewski.
Despite last year's title, it's not the Blue Devils atop the list on the AP Preseason Top 25 Poll. It's their archrival: the North Carolina Tar Heels. For the fourth time in Roy Williams' tenure as head coach of the Tar Heels, North Carolina begins as the No. 1 ranked team.
While North Caroina leads the pack, Krzyzewski and his crew came in at No. 5 on the preseason poll -- trailing No. 4 Kansas, No. 3 Maryland and No. 2 Kentucky. Duke is once again relying on some "diaper dandies" to lead the attack. Brandon Ingram, Luke Kennard and Chase Jeter headline the Blue Devils' freshmen class with Grayson Allen stepping into a leadership role on a team with only four upperclassmen.
Campus Insiders Preseason Top 25
The Tar Heels also checked in at No. 1 on our preseason Top 25 rankings, with senior guard Marcus Paige being a big reason why.
One major difference, though, is the appearance of Maryland as the No. 2 ranked team. Similar to UNC going as Paige -- who will return in 3-4 weeks after suffering a broken wrist -- goes, the Terrapins might live and die with guard Melo Trimble in his sophomore season.
Maryland's spot at No. 2 knocks the Kentucky Wildcats to No. 3. Kentucky has some standout freshman of its own, including Jamal Murray and Isaiah Briscoe. Though Alex Poythress, once a top prospect, is down to his last shot to prove his worth in his senior season.
The fourth team from last season's Final Four, the Michigan State Spartans, came in at No. 19 on the Campus Insiders preseason rankings. Tom Izzo's squad will rely on Denzel Valentine and Lourawls Nairn Jr to excel in the backcourt in order to make another deep run in the NCAA Tournament.
FULL LOOK: Campus Insiders Preseason Top 25 Rankings Top Returning Players
As mentioned before, Paige will be the go-to player for UNC this season when he returns, so it's no wonder that the best player on the No. 1 team made the list of top players returning for another season. He averaged 14.1 points and 4.5 assists last season.
Paige is joined on the first team by one of the breakout stars from last season's NCAA Tournament: guard Ron Baker. Baker averaged 14.7 points and 4.5 rebounds for Wichita State as a junior. At 6-foot-4 and 220 lbs, he has good size but relies on hustle and awareness to beat his opponents. It also helps that he shot 38.3 percent from three last season.
The second team is headlined by Baker's teammate, guard Fred Van Fleet. Van Fleet will form a backcourt duo with Baker that could propel the Shockers toward another magical run through the tournament after falling in the Sweet 16 to Notre Dame last year.
FULL LOOK: Top Returning College Basketball Players, 2015-16 Conference Previews
ACC Basketball Preview
Big 12 Basketball Preview
Big Ten Basketball Preview
Mountain West Basketball Preview
Pac-12 Basketball Preview
Patriot League Basketball Preview
SEC Basketball Preview
WCC Basketball Preview