Montrezl Harrell's decision to return for his junior year puts Louisville in Rick Bozich's pre-season Top 10.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – There are 337 days until the start of the 2015 NCAA basketball tournament, so I apologize for the delay. But Monday's news that Montrezl Harrell plans to return to the University of Louisville for his junior season convinced me that today was the perfect day to post my Top 10 for next season.
1. Duke – Don't be surprised if coach Mike Krzyzewski drops "Succeed and Proceed," references into his next press conference. I'm sure that Kentucky fans will monitor how much blowback Coach K receives when the Blue Devils open play next season.
With one-and-done (oops!) recruits Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow joining a solid crew of returnees, Krzyzewski can handle some unkind Twitter mentions. If Jabari Parker actually stays for a second season, Coach K will leave Adolph Rupp behind in the four NCAA championships club by winning number five.
2. Wisconsin – Bo Ryan has replaced better players than Ben Brust during his remarkable run in Madison. As Kentucky's guards will tell you, Bronson Koenig is more dangerous than Brust because he can catch, shoot, drive, spin and dunk. He's five-tool guard and he'll be the only new starter in the Badgers' lineup.
If you're not a one-and-done fan, the Badgers will be your club. Ryan will start three seniors and a juniors. What's wrong with that guy?
3. Arizona – Aaron Gordon is expected to take his place in the early-entry parade so Sean Miller has work to do in his frontcourt. But guard Nick Johnson might stay – and Kaleb Tarczewski and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will definitely return.
Miller outmaneuvered Calipari for incoming freshman Stanley Johnson, which tells me that the kid has succeed-and-proceed potential. He's certainly a candidate to win any Slam Dunk contest.
4. North Carolina – James Michael McAdoo thinks he's ready for the NBA. Don't ask why. Not that anybody in Chapel Hill is concerned. They're simply thrilled that Marcus Paige will return at point guard and that Roy Williams will surround Paige with a solid nucleus and three Top 25 recruits. Theo Pinson is the name to remember.
5. Kentucky – John Calipari was allegedly concerned that Kentucky could lose as many as eight guys to the NBA Draft. That won't happen, not with Willie Cauley-Stein announcing on Monday evening that he will return for his junior season.
But most people still expect Julius Randle and James Young to depart. Kentucky can survive those losses. It's the Harrison Twins that I'm watching. With them, and four incoming McDonald's all-Americans, Dakari Johnson, Alex Poythress, Marcus Lee and others, this is a dynamic team.
Subtract the Twins and you can move Kentucky out of the Top 10. It's a guards' world, and without the Harrisons I don't think Kentucky will have enough experience or depth in the backcourt. Or have anybody who has proven he can make a 21-footer in the final five seconds.
6. Louisville – When I started writing this list, the Cardinals were not in my Top 10. Now they are – thanks to a savvy decision by Harrell to work on his jumper, ball-handling and passing for another season. Sources say Coach K and Roy Williams reached for the antacids when they heard the news.
Rick Pitino will need time to replace Russ Smith and Luke Hancock, but Terry Rozier has star quality.
7. Virginia – First Tony Bennett established his system. Now he is collecting players who fit that system. The Cavaliers don't have guys who stuff the NBA mock drafts, but ACC coaches don't enjoy playing against them.
Four ACC teams in the Top Seven? Guess I've already decided which league will be the best one in the nation.
8. Kansas -- Without Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid or Tarik Black? Why?
Because it doesn't matter how many guys Bill Self loses. It's silly to pick a top 10 without the Jayhawks, especially if you have ever watched Kansas recruits Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre play.
9. Florida – Yes I know the list of players that the Gators will lose. Seniors. An entire string of talented seniors, guys who did not lose a single game to an opponent from the Southeastern Conference all winter.
Consider this a vote of confidence for Michael Frazier, Kasey Hill, Dorian Finney-Smith, Chris Walker and especially for Billy Donovan.
10. Texas – It's finally good to be Rick Barnes again. The Longhorns are not losing anybody. Even Charlie Strong is excited. Well, maybe a little.
ALSO CONSIDERED: Villanova; Nebraska; San Diego State; Iowa; Wichita State; SMU; Stanford; VCU; Michigan State and Oklahoma.