After one of the most outstanding NCAA Tournaments in the past several years, we enter the 2016-17 season with the same blue bloods yet again at the top of the preseason rankings. In the offseason Kentucky did what it does best, recruited. Duke, Kansas, and Michigan State also added some superstar freshman. Purdue, Virginia, and Florida look to compete with the addition of graduate transfers. Oregon, Wisconsin and Villanova are aiming to use returning talent to repeat success from last season.

Below are predictions for how the final standings in each major conference, a description of why first place will make it there, and a prediction for the conference’s player of the year.


1. NC State

In a conference with Duke, Virginia, Syracuse and North Carolina it seems crazy to have North Carolina State as the conference champion. Duke had the #1 recruiting class and returns star point guard Grayson Allen, and is coming off a season in which they won 25 games. North Carolina State only won 16 games a year ago, but they bring in the #4 recruiting class in the country, including Dennis Smith, a 5-star point guard who may be the best incoming freshman in the conference. In addition, NC State returns Abdul Malik Abu, a power forward who is the leading returner in points and rebounds for the team. After withdrawing from the draft, he looks to take over as NC State’s next big superstar in the front court. The primary reason that Duke won’t be winning the ACC next season is Grayson Allen. Yes, the All ACC point guard will be the downfall of the Blue Devils. While Allen destroys flawed defenses, when matched up against NBA level talent, especially at his own position, Allen struggles to make shots and play defense. Against teams like Syracuse, Miami, Utah and Kentucky, Allen struggled to create his own shot and also failed to stimulate his team’s offense.

2. Duke

3. North Carolina

4. Virginia

5. Louisville

6. Syracuse

7. Clemson

8. Miami

9. Florida State

10. Virginia Tech

11. Notre Dame

12. Pittsburgh

13. Georgia Tech

14. Wake Forest

15. Boston College

ACC POY: Joel Berry, UNC

Joel Berry wasn’t the biggest star on North Carolina’s Final Four team, but he was a major contributor. Now a junior, Berry is the leading veteran on a UNC team that is looking to return to the National Title Game. This season Berry will beat out the freshman stars of the ACC to become the conference’s Player of the Year.

Big Ten

1. Wisconsin

The Badgers return all 5 starters from last season including All American Nigel Hayes. Hayes is joined by senior Bronson Koenig and sophomore Ethan Happ, and all three players were selected to the Preseason All Big Ten Team. Those three each averaged at least 12 points per game last season, and are all potential picks in next year’s NBA draft. Wisconsin will also have two veterans in seniors Vitto Brown and Zak Showalter, who started every game together except one last season. Perhaps Wisconsin’s biggest asset will be their chemistry. In one of the toughest conferences in college basketball the Badgers are going to have to compete with the likes of freshmen such as Miles Bridges, Josh Langford, Anthony Cowan, and Xavier Simpson. While Indiana, Michigan State and Maryland will lead the conference with their young players, Wisconsin excels in experience, chemistry and veteran talent. Ultimately it is their experience playing together that will put the Badgers on top.

2. Michigan State

3. Purdue

4. Indiana

5. Maryland

6. Michigan

7. Penn State

8. Ohio State

9. Northwestern

10. Iowa

11. Minnesota

12. Illinois

13. Nebraska

14. Giving Rutgers a participation trophy would be a stretch

Big Ten POY:  Melo Trimble, Maryland

While Miles Bridges and Nigel Hayes are busy sharing the ball with their teammates, Melo Trimble will be dominating his competition. Playing with a vengeance after a disappointing season, Trimble returns to Maryland as an NBA prospect that has more to lose -and gain, than any other player in the conference. Trimble’s ability to drive to the basket and distribute the ball is reminiscent of Michigan’s Trey Burke, except Trimble struggled from an inconsistent jump shot last season. Trimble will return this season as the #1 guy in College Park and he’s going to take advantage.

Big East

1. Villanova

College basketball, unlike football, gives all conferences a chance to get to the top. While the Big East is a shell of it’s former self, it is still one of the premier conferences in college basketball, and arguably boasts better teams top to bottom than the SEC or PAC-12. At the top of the conference is the Villanova Wildcats, the defending National Champions led by head coach Jay Wright. Led by senior star Josh Hart, a favorite for the Naismith Award, and Kris Jenkins, the buzzer beating hero of the National Title Game, Villanova looks poised to not just repeat atop the Big East, but to compete for another trip to the Final Four.

2. Xavier

3. Creighton

4. Butler

5. Georgetown

6. Seton Hall

7. Marquette

8. Providence

9. St. John’s

10. DePaul

Big East POY: Josh Hart, Villanova

Hart averaged 15.5 points and 6.8 rebounds last season and was named to the All NCAA Tournament Team. As a senior Hart should be competing for the Naismith while dominating the Big East.


1. Kentucky

SEC football gets to make the claim that they have the best program in college football with Alabama, and SEC basketball can make the same claim with Kentucky. Coach Calipari once again dominated the recruiting trail landing five of the best incoming freshmen in the country. Of the 26 five star freshman players this season, 6 are headed to SEC teams, and 5 of those are going to UK (Auburn gained the only other). Since being hired at Kentucky in 2009, Coach Calipari has signed a consensus top 2 recruiting class every year, and this year is no different, as ESPN ranks this class #1. Kentucky should walk away with the SEC, which is a conference that aside from Kentucky rarely has any teams that can make it further than the first or second round.

2. Alabama

3. Texas A&M

4. Florida

5. Vanderbilt

6. Auburn

7. Mississippi State

8. Georgia

9. Arkansas

10. Ole Miss

11. LSU

12. Tennessee

13. South Carolina

14. Missouri

SEC POY: Malik Monk, Kentucky

Malik Monk is going to be a top ten pick in the NBA Draft, and he’s going to dominate in the SEC. Drawing comparisons to Russell Westbrook, Monk is a combination of elite athleticism and efficient shooting. Often the downfall of Kentucky players when competing for Player of the Year awards is Calipari’s system that shares the wealth, allowing all of the Kentucky talent chances to score, but Monk’s ability to score from anywhere on the floor, as well as his NBA level defensive ability puts him far ahead of the competition.


1. Oregon 

The PAC-12 hasn’t produced a National Champion since Arizona in 1997, the longest championship drought of the 6 major basketball conferences. This year Oregon looks to end that streak. Oregon, fresh off a trip to the Elite Eight and a PAC-12 title, returns 4 starters. This includes Dillon Brooks, who averaged over 15 points per game last season as a sophomore. Compared to a much less experienced Arizona team, Oregon is the clear favorite to win the conference.

2. Arizona

3. Cal


5. Washington

6. Utah

7. Colorado

8. USC

9. Stanford

10. Oregon State

11. Arizona State

12. Washington State

PAC-12 POY: Ivan Rabb, Cal 

Cal caught a big break when Ivan Rabb chose to forgo the NBA Draft and return for his sophomore season. Had he entered the draft last season Rabb likely would’ve been a lottery pick, but he told reporters that he did not feel physically or mentally prepared to join the league. Now Rabb returns as the best big man in the conference, and perhaps the country. Last season he averaged 13 points, 8 rebounds and just over 1 block per game. This season he looks to add to that as he will be the centerpiece of Cal’s offense and defense, and should touch the ball more than anyone on the team.

Big 12

1. Kansas

Since 1997 when the Big 12 officially began competition the Kansas Jayhawks have 16 regular season titles. The next closest team is Texas, with 3. When it comes to parity, the Big 12 might just be the worst conference ever. From 2005-2016 Kansas has either won the conference outright, or clinched a share of the title. This year Kansas should continue their streak, as they bring in Josh Jackson, perhaps the best player in the country. The 6’8″ small forward projects to be a top 5 pick in next year’s draft, and was ranked as the consensus #1 recruit. While Kansas added him, their top competition in the conference, Iowa State, lost star players Georges Niang and Abdel Nadar. ISU’s Monte Morris should poise a threat to Kansas, but with Kansas’ overpowering talent, they should expect to win their 12th straight Big 12 Title.

2. Iowa State

3. Texas

4. Oklahoma

5. Baylor

6. Texas Tech

7. West Virginia

8. Oklahoma State

9. TCU

10. Kansas State

Big 12 POY: Josh Jackson, Kansas

Josh Jackson is the best player that college basketball has seen since Andrew Wiggins played at Kansas. The 5 star out of Detroit will walk away with all of the top honors in the Big 12, and is likely to be an All American and Naismith Award finalist. Jackson has the athleticism of an NBA forward, the ball handling ability of an elite point guard, court vision and passing ability best compared to John Stockton, and the ability to score and defend against anyone, and anywhere on the floor.

Final Four: Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan State, Purdue

Kansas and Michigan State have two of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country, and they may struggle early, but come tournament time Tom Izzo will be ready to play (unless matched up with powerhouse Middle Tennessee State). While Bill Self isn’t known for tournament success, Frank Mason and Josh Jackson will be playing out of their minds by March, and a high seed due to a weak Big 12 should set them up for a long run. Kentucky is simply the most gifted team in the country, but inexperience will hold them back. Despite that, total domination of the SEC will get Kentucky the #1 overall seed and they will cruise to the Final Four. The fourth team here comes as a bit of a surpise. Purdue hasn’t ended the season as a top 4 team since 1980, and they aren’t poised to be dominant this year. While Purdue isn’t one of the four best teams in the country it is built for tournament runs. In a tough Big Ten Purdue is going to face physical teams, and they’re built to beat you with their bruising athleticism and size. Led by the 7’0″ Isaac Haas, Purdue is a tough matchup for any team, and a few upsets in the later rounds could send Purdue.

National Champion: Kansas 

Naismith Award Winner: Josh Jackson, Kansas