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Top Five Teams for 2016-17 Season

Posted by Javier Morales on 4/7/2016 7:28:49 AM

With the NCAA basketball season now complete, it's time for recruiting to begin in earnest as coaches prepare for beyond the upcoming 2016-17 season.

What lies ahead for next season should already be in place with the school year starting in less than five months. With that in mind, it's never too early to start thinking about which teams will be on top of the rankings next season.

Keep an eye out for futures odds for the 2016-17 season at the SportsBetting.ag Sportsbook. Also make sure to take advantage of the help provided for sports gamblers, including an online sports betting calculator that will provide you the correct odds for your picks.

Villanova just won the NCAA title with a memorable victory over North Carolina on a last-second three-pointer. As crazy as it may seem those Wildcats are not rated among the top five teams for the 2016-17 but two other Wildcat teams are ranked that high.

The following are the top five teams heading into next season:

No. 5: Indiana

The Hoosiers won the Big 10 regular season title and reached the Sweet 16. They will lose some key players from that team (including playmaking point guard Yogi Ferrell), but Indiana will also retain several key players. Freshman center Thomas Bryant was a bright spot during the team’s NCAA tournament run — averaging nearly 12 points and six rebounds per game — and should come back better next season. Others like Troy Williams, James Blackmon Jr., and several underclassmen will return as well, providing strong experience for the team.

Indiana will also attract a strong recruiting class, which ranks 17th in the nation. Head coach Tom Crean has brought the Hoosiers to national prominence following a rough start to his tenure with the school, and next season’s team could have the best chance to reach the Final Four since he arrived in 2008. The Hoosiers unbelievably have not reached the Final Four since 2002.

No. 4: Arizona Wildcats

After reaching back-to-back Elite Eights, Arizona took a step back this season, losing to Wichita State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. However, with an impressive recruiting class coming in, Sean Miller’s club should be able to rebound and reestablish themselves as one of the top programs in the country. That class ranks sixth in the nation at this point and includes two players ranked in ESPN’s top 20.

Those additions should allow the Wildcats to overcome the loss of several key players from this past season’s squad. While seniors Gabe York, Ryan Anderson, and Kaleb Tarczewski won’t return to Tucson next season, the team will retain some key underclassmen, most notably Allonzo Trier — who decided to forgo the NBA draft and remain a Wildcat for at least one more campaign.

Trier was third in scoring for Arizona with 14.8 points per game in his freshman season and should see an increased role with four seniors departing. Overall, the Wildcats are gearing up to return to the top of the Pac-12 in 2016-17 and could be right back in the Elite Eight next March. The goal obviously is to play in the Final Four within their own state, at Glendale, Ariz., at the end of the season. That appears to be a realistic goal.

3. Kentucky Wildcats

As is usually the case with John Calipari’s Kentucky Wildcats, the team’s roster will receive an overhaul once again next season. Key players from this past season’s team like freshmen Jamal Murray and Skal Labissiere, sophomore Tyler Ulis, and senior Alex Poythress will all move on from the program, meaning that Calipari has to reload once again.

Luckily for the Wildcats, that method has worked since the coach arrived in 2009. In his seven seasons in Lexington, Calipari has led Kentucky to four Final Fours on the backs of a different casts of superstar freshmen.

Next season will be no different, as the Wildcats have the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation at this point, which includes five players ranked in ESPN’s top 30. With some key underclassmen returning — Isaiah Briscoe among others — there’s little reason to think that Kentucky won’t be right back in position to reach another Final Four this time next year.

2. Duke Blue Devils

Similar to Kentucky, Mike Krzyzewski’s Duke Blue Devils are accustomed to reloading with freshman talent season after each season. Leading scorer Grayson Allen (a sophomore who averaged 21.6 points per game in 2015-16) announced he will return to Duke next season. Freshman sensation Brandon Ingram, who could be the top pick in this summer’s NBA draft, is gone, however.

The loss of Ingram will be difficult to replace. Duke also loses important senior players, such as Marshall Plumlee. Coach K has proven to be a master recruiter in his long tenure in Durham, N.C., however, which is why the Blue Devils could be in position for yet another Final Four run next season. Duke’s recruiting class currently ranks second in the country, only behind Kentucky, thanks to the signing of the top two players in ESPN’s top 100 (their class also boasts four players in the top 50).

Those instant impact freshman will come in and contribute to a team that also will see key players like Matt Jones return to campus. If those recruits pan out, the Blue Devils could be hoisting their third national championship trophy since 2010 next April.

1. Michigan State Spartans

The Spartans are still coming to grips with their most recent March Madness collapse, with Middle Tennessee State dramatically upsetting them in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. However, Tom Izzo’s team should be right back in the mix next season, despite some key losses from this year’s team.

Denzel Valentine will move on to the NBA, exhausting his eligibility. Other leading scorers, seniors Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello, won’t return to campus either, but a strong group of underclassmen will be back in East Lansing, Mich., in 2016-17. Couple that with a great recruiting class and it’s easy to understand why the Spartans will be one of the best teams in college basketball next season.

Michigan State has the third-best recruiting class in the nation at this point and the incoming group of freshmen includes four players in ESPN’s top 50. That class will help replace the loss of Valentine and keep the Spartans rolling in the Big 10. As evidenced by his seven Final Four appearances with the school, Izzo is one of the best basketball minds in the nation and knows how to get the most out of his players. A strong roster could lead the coach to his second championship next season.

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