NCAA Basketball

College Basketball: 15 Early Favorites To Win 2015 NCAA Tournament

College Basketball: 15 Early Favorites To Win 2015 NCAA Tournament

Kentucky Basketball
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The 2014-15 college basketball season is just a few months away, but it's never too early to pick favorites for the 2015 NCAA tournament. With so many teams returning top players as well as recruiting well in the offseason, there are a number of teams who could make a deep run. Here is a list of the top 15 teams with the best shot at winning it all in 2015.

15. Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa Hawkeyes Basketball
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15. Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa Hawkeyes Basketball
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The Iowa Hawkeyes would be higher on this list, but someone has to step up and replace Roy Devyn Marble and his scoring production. If someone can turn into a go-to scorer for Iowa, then the Hawkeyes could quickly become a top-10 team in the country and stay that way for the entire season.

14. Louisville Cardinals

Rick Pitino
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14. Louisville Cardinals

Rick Pitino
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The Cardinals will always be a national championship threat, but the loss of Russ Smith could do more damage to this team than most people realize. Montrezl Harrell is a top-five player in college basketball, but it won’t matter unless Chris Jones has a monster season.

13. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Gonzaga Basketball
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13. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Gonzaga Basketball
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With two of the most underrated transfers in the country, Gonzaga is one of the most unpredictable teams in the country. If the Bulldogs can gel early in the season, Gonzaga could be a team that goes undefeated in the 2014-15 season.

12. North Carolina Tar Heels

Roy Williams
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

12. North Carolina Tar Heels

Roy Williams
Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Paige could be one of the best scorers in all of college basketball, and Roy Williams’ teams are always good. North Carolina reminds me of UConn a few years ago with Kemba Walker; Paige could take them on a deep tournament run.

11. Wichita State Shockers

Fred VanVleet
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11. Wichita State Shockers

Fred VanVleet
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Wichita State would have gone to the Final Four if they hadn’t been in the most difficult region during the 2014 NCAA tournament, the Midwest. National championship runners-up Kentucky Wildcats barely scraped by the Shockers last season, and, although Cleanthony Early is gone, Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet will return. Keep an eye out for Tekele Cotton moving forward as well.

10. Kansas Jayhawks

Bill Self
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No. 10 Kansas Jayhawks

Bill Self
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

You saw what happened to the Jayhawks without Joel Embiid in the 2014 NCAA tournament. Now, they’re without Embiid, Naadir Tharpe and No. 1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins. Perry Ellis, Wayne Seldon and incoming freshmen Kelly Oubre and Cliff Alexander will have the Jayhawks competing all season long, but I don’t see a situation in which they make it past the Elite Eight.

9. Oklahoma Sooners

Ryan Spangler
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9. Oklahoma Sooners

Ryan Spangler
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Cameron Clark will be a difficult player to replace, but Ryan Spangler, Buddy Hield, Isaiah Cousins and Jordan Woodard are going to take this team far. Oklahoma will remember the disappointment of their loss to the North Dakota State Bison and use it to fuel them moving forward.

8. Florida Gators

Billy Donovan
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8. Florida Gators

Billy Donovan
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The Gators lose pretty much everybody from last season except Michael Frazier and the SEC Sixth Man Of The Year, Dorian Finney-Smith. It’s not a pretty style of play from Billy Donovan’s team, but it’s effective. The team brings back multiple five-star recruits from the previous season, as well as three elite freshmen with the potential to be college basketball stars, but top-recruit Devon Walker will miss the season with a knee injury.

7. Villanova Wildcats

Jay Wright
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7. Villanova Wildcats

Jay Wright
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Although the Wildcats disappointed in the 2014 NCAA tournament, Villanova could be the easy favorite to win the Big East next season. James Bell will be hard to replace, but Jay Wright’s team will find a way to contend.

6. Virginia Cavaliers

Tony Bennett
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6. Virginia Cavaliers

Tony Bennett
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Tony Bennett gets the most from every player on his team. The team’s leader Joe Harris may be gone, but they return the leading scorer, Malcolm Brogdon, and the leading passer, London Perrantes. The Cavaliers had the No. 1 defense in the country in terms of points allowed per game last season. If they can find a go-to scorer, they could be the dark horse to win it all.

5. Arizona Wildcats

zona Basketball
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5. Arizona Wildcats

zona Basketball
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Before the Arizona fans jump on me for “east coast bias,” there is only one remaining team whose state borders the Atlantic Ocean. The absence of Aaron Gordon and Nick Johnson takes away almost 40 percent of the team’s scoring from last season, over 30 percent of the rebounds and 30 percent of the assists. That’s a huge hole to fill on the Wildcats' offense, but their defense is still good enough to give them a shot.

4. Texas Longhorns

Rick Barnes
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4. Texas Longhorns

Rick Barnes
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The Texas Longhorns literally lose no one from last season – not one player. If that’s not enough to make this team scary going into the 2014-15 season, they bring in a top-three recruit in center Myles Turner. Let me repeat that; the consensus No. 2-ranked recruit of the 2014 class will come off the bench to start the season. Texas is for real.

3. Duke Blue Devils

Quinn Cook
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3. Duke Blue Devils

Quinn Cook
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Duke is bringing in some of the best freshmen in the country, but as history shows, it’s hard to win the national championship based on freshman talent alone. The Blue Devils return Quinn Cook and Rasheed Sulaimon, but the absence of Rodney Hood and Jabari Parker will be huge. A veteran has to step up on this team early in the season.

2. Wisconsin Badgers

Bo Ryan
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2. Wisconsin Badgers

Bo Ryan
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Hands-down the best defensive team in the country going into the season, the Badgers return every starter except Ben Brust from their Final Four run in 2014. Sam Dekker and Frank Kaminsky are going to put on a show for fans in the 2014-15 season, but I’m not sure they can bet the best team in the country unless someone steps up offensively. I'm looking at you, Traevon Jackson.

1. Kentucky Wildcats

John Calipari
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1. Kentucky Wildcats

John Calipari
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How can you have the Wildcats ranked anywhere else? It doesn’t matter who Wisconsin is returning or who Duke has recruited; four, possibly five first-round 2014 NBA Draft picks are returning to the team with national championship experience. Don’t forget about the potential lottery-pick freshmen in another of John Calipari’s elite recruiting classes. Lexington, Kentucky, is going to be rocking next season.