By: Luke Feliciano ~Staff Writer~
The regular season of college basketball begins this weekend, with many of the top teams in the country returning to action. We took a look at some of these squads that play outside of the Big East.
After having a down year, the Duke Blue Devils are primed to return to prominence once again. They return Player of the Year candidate junior Grayson Allen along with sophomore Luke Kennard and senior Amile Jefferson, making Duke a favorite to win the national title.
Duke has also reloaded with the addition of highly touted recruits for the class of 2016. Look for freshmen Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum to make contributions.
The Kentucky Wildcats saw nearly all of their players declare for the NBA draft last year, making freshmen a big part of the roster. Though this is not a new method for John Calipari’s teams, they will need freshmen De’Aron Fox, Bam Adebayo and Malik Monk, in addition to returners sophomore Isaiah Briscoe and senior Derek Willis, to step up.
The Oregon Ducks are a new contender to the top of the rankings and have achieved success through the outstanding play of their sophomore Tyler Dorsey and junior Dillon Brooks duo, both of whom return to Eugene this year.
The Kansas Jayhawks are making preparations to come out on top of an increasingly powerful Big 12 field. Their leader over the past few seasons, Perry Ellis, has graduated, but the Jayhawks still bring back senior Frank Mason III and junior Devonte Graham.
Kansas also secured the top rated small forward for the freshman class this year in Josh Jackson.
North Carolina will have to rebound from a heartbreaking loss last year in the National Championship.
The Tar Heels lost some valuable players when Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson graduated, so they will have to revamp their roster around juniors Joel Berry II and Justin Jackson.
The Virginia Cavaliers will have to handle the loss of last year’s ACC Player of the Year Malcom Brogdon.
Senior point guard London Perrantes returns, and the addition of top transfer junior Austin Nichols from Memphis will help make the Cavaliers a solid contender in the ACC.
The Wisconsin Badgers return almost all of their key starters from a year ago. Sophomore big man Ethan Happ has the inner makings of a top forward in the NCAA. Pair that with the experience of senior guard Bronson Koenig and senior forward Nigel Hayes and the Badgers are a scary good contender to come out on top of the Big 10, arguably the toughest conference in basketball.
Michigan State lost a lot of its firepower after saying goodbye to starters Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello, but look to retool its lineup around senior Eron Harris and top freshmen recruits Miles Bridges and Joshua Langford.
With the escort scandal still looming, the Louisville Cardinals will try to focus on the game of basketball with incoming freshmen V.J. King and Tony Hicks. Junior Quentin Snider and sophomore Donovan Mitchell look to be the Cardinals’ top returning players.