College basketball’s six biggest early entry winners for the 2015-2016 season
The deadline for underclassmen to enter the NBA Draft came and went at midnight on Sunday night, meaning that we now know what rosters will more or less look like for the 2015-16 season.
1. North Carolina: The Tar Heels will enter 2015-16 as NBCSports.com’s preseason No. 1 team in the country, and that’s entirely due to who they are bringing back this year. Star guard Marcus Paige will be back -- and, more importantly, healthy -- for his senior season, while Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks all return up front. Throw in the return of Justin Jackson, Theo Pinson and Joel Berry, and the Tar Heels will have talent, size, athleticism and depth at every position on their roster.
2. Maryland: The biggest news for the Terrapins this spring was Diamond Stone, a top ten recruit in the Class of 2015, deciding to play his college ball in College Park, but that’s not what has them ranked No. 3 in the NBCSports.com preseason top 25. Not only will Mark Turgeon get another season to coach star point guard Melo Trimble, but talented wing Jake Layman -- a potential first round pick -- will be back for another season as well.
3. Providence: There’s an argument to be made that the single-most important early entry decision made this season was that of Providence point guard Kris Dunn. Dunn would have been a likely lottery pick had he declared for the draft. Instead, he returned to school, making Providence a likely NCAA tournament team and himself a potential preseason Player of the Year.
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4. Indiana: Earlier this spring, both Troy Williams and James Blackmon Jr. announced that they would be returning to Bloomington for another season. That, combined with the addition of freshman Thomas Bryant, made the Hoosiers appear to be a potential tournament team. But on Sunday, star point guard Yogi Ferrell announced that he will be returning to school for his senior season. He’s the kind of dynamic point guard that will make Indiana’s uptempo, spread offense effective. He’s also the only true point guard on the Indiana roster. With Ferrell, Williams and Blackmon all back, Indiana is a preseason top 15 team.
5. Oklahoma: The Sooners will again be a contender in the Big 12 in 2015-16 after star guard Buddy Hield announced that he will be returning to Norman for his senior season. Hield was the 2015 Big 12 Player of the Year and a potential first round pick. With him back, the Sooners should be a preseason top 15 team.
6. Wichita State: The biggest win for the Shockers was getting Gregg Marshall back, as the Wichita State head coach turned down overtures from a number of schools. Marshall’s decision to return no doubt played a role in the decision for Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker to return to school. VanVleet was probably always going to be back, but there was a real chance that Baker, a borderline first round pick, could have headed to the NBA. With that trio back in the fold, the Shockers are once again a potential Sweet 16 team.
- Michigan: The Wolverines caught a break when Caris LeVert, a preseason all-american this past season, decided to return to school for his senior year.
- Utah: Jakob Poeltl was a potential lottery pick. The seven-footer decided to return to school, giving Utah a rock to build their defense around.
- Cal: The Bears bring back Tyrone Wallace, meaning that, with the addition of Ivan Rabb, Cal will be a preseason top 25 team.
- Gonzaga: The Zags lose Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, but their front line -- Kyle Wiltjer, Domas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski -- all decided against entering the NBA Draft.
- Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish will have a chance to be relevant again next season with Demetrius Jackson returning to school. He’ll be a preseason all-american.
- Kansas: Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre are off to the NBA, but Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden both opted to return to school.
- Vanderbilt: The Commodores are a borderline top 25 team thanks in large part to the fact that Damian Jones will be back to anchor that roster.