Seven Big Ten programs were ranked or received votes in last year's AP preseason poll. None was named Minnesota. Richard Pitino's Gophers were considered an afterthought but managed to come out of nowhere and finish 24-10 overall and 11-7 in conference play. Minnesota earned a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Florida State was tabbed eighth in the ACC before the season. The Seminoles were picked behind NC State but were a top-10 team for much of the season and finished second in the conference. The Wolfpack were a No. 3 seed come March.
Butler was picked sixth in the Big East. Instead, Chris Holtmann led the Bulldogs to an improbable 25-win campaign, a second-place finish in the league and a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.
Void of hype. Exceeding expectations. We give you a half-dozen teams that could wind up being next season's Minnesota, Florida State or Butler.
Yes, the past two projected No. 1 picks, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz, were unable to take their teams to the NCAA tournament. However, look for Michael Porter Jr.'s story to end with at least one relevant game in March. Porter is ultra-talented and versatile. He should have enough help in an SEC that will feature quite a bit of mediocrity. Missouri returns enough upperclassmen: fifth-year forward Jordan Barnett, junior guard Terrence Phillips and junior forwards Kevin Puryear and Jordan Geist. New coach Cuonzo Martin has also added a couple of key pieces, with top-50 recruit and former Illinois signee Jeremiah Tilmon, ex-Washington commit and Top 100 recruit Blake Harris and Canisius grad transfer/shooter Kassius Robertson. Also, don't be surprised to see Porter's younger brother, Jontay, reclassify and play with the Tigers this season. Porter will have to carry this group to get to the NCAA tournament -- but he's plenty capable.
The Longhorns were brutal this past season, but that's what happens when you don't have a point guard and you can't shoot the ball. Well, Shaka Smart has found a solution to run the team with incoming floor leader Matt Coleman, who will make life easier for guys such as Andrew Jones, Kerwin Roach and Eric Davis Jr. Texas will add 6-foot-9, 250-pound Dylan Osetkowski, a versatile forward who transferred from Tulane, Top 100 forward Jericho Sims and ESPN's third-ranked prospect in the freshman class, Mohamed Bamba. The long and athletic big man can be a game-changer on the defensive end.
Life after Buddy Hield didn't treat Lon Kruger and the Sooners well, at least not this past season, with a young Oklahoma team that won only 11 games. Jordan Woodard departs, but now all the young guys -- freshmen Kam McGusty and Kristian Doolittle as well as sophomores Rashard Odomes and Christian James -- have more experience. A wild card is athletic and talented big man Jamuni McNeace, a 6-foot-10 junior big man who the Sooners are hoping will make a leap this season. Kruger will also bring in local standout Trae Young, a point guard who was pursued by Kentucky and Kansas before he chose to stay close to home. Young should make an immediate impact with his ability to shoot it from deep and make those around him better.
Sure, the Ducks lost a ton: Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey, Jordan Bell and Chris Boucher all decided to leave school early following the program's Final Four run. Also toss in senior Dylan Ennis' departure, as well as that of reserves Casey Benson and Kavell Bigby-Williams, who have opted to transfer, and it appears to be a major rebuilding job in Eugene. However, Dana Altman will still have talent. Payton Pritchard returns at the point. The Ducks added grad transfer Elijah Brown. Georgetown transfer Paul White will be eligible. Plus, Troy Brown. (No. 14 in ESPN 100) arrives.
Mark Fox will have to replace J.J. Frazier, his point guard and leading scorer. But he should return one of the top big men in the SEC -- and the country -- in senior Yante Maten. The key, though, will be the development of young off-guard Jordan Harris and talented freshman wing Rayshaun Hammonds, who was 38th in the ESPN 100. Another critical component will be whether the duo of William Jackson and Tyree Crump can help ease the loss of Frazier at the point.
Jerod Haase and the Cardinal finished 14-17 last season, but the good news is that Stanford will be the most experienced team in the Pac-12. Haase will have five of his top six scorers back. He adds a four-man class that includes a pair of top-50 recruits in athletic Seattle native Daejon Davis and small forward Kezie Okpala. Haase will build around senior big man Reid Travis, who is one of the best frontline players in the country when healthy. This team has more experience than just Travis, with fellow seniors Dorian Pickens and Michael Humphrey and juniors Robert Cartwright and Marcus Sheffield. Freshman Aussie point guard Isaac White could fight for minutes. Don't sleep on versatile 6-foot-9 forward Oscar Da Silva. Haase will also have the services of redshirt frosh Kodye Pugh, a long, 6-8 wing who should help.