The blue bloods have reloaded. New contenders are rising. More talented freshmen are ready to shine.
The college basketball season is upon us and this one, as always seems to be the case, is loaded with intrigue.
To get you ready, we’ve got a rundown of the top teams and players, best games and a whole lot more:
Maryland. Melo Trimble and the loaded Terps are eyeing Maryland’s first NCAA title since 2002.
Kentucky. Another year, another loaded freshman class.
North Carolina. The Tar Heels were the preseason No. 1 in the AP poll for a record ninth time. They might have a hard time staying there with senior guard Marcus Paige out three to four weeks with a broken hand, but watch out once he’s healthy.
Kansas. Mix of experienced players, talented freshmen has the Jayhawks thinking big.
Duke. The defending national champions have reloaded and are ready for another deep run.
Virginia. Never count out a team that plays D like the Cavaliers.
Ben Simmons, F, LSU. Top recruit coming out of high school could be the top player in college basketball by season’s end.
Paige, G, North Carolina. At his best in the clutch, will be looking to make up for lost time.
Kris Dunn, PG, Providence. Decision to hold off on the NBA makes the Friars a whole lot better.
Kyle Wiltjer, F, Gonzaga. Back to the basket, out on the wing, driving to the basket — he can do it all.
Ron Baker, Wichita State. Don’t be surprised if he and Free VanVleet get the Shockers back to the Final Four.
Skal Labissiere, F, Kentucky. Could be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA draft, will be a matchup nightmare until then.
BEST NON-CONFERENCE GAMES
No. 3 Maryland at No. 1 North Carolina, Dec. 1. If Paige is back in time, this matchup of former ACC rivals could be epic. Should be good anyway.
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 5 Duke, Nov. 17. A meeting that could be the preview for the 2016 national championship game.
No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 Michigan State, Nov. 17. Going to be some double feature at the United Center in Chicago.
No. 11 Villanova at No. 6 Virginia, Dec. 19. The battle between Villanova’s shooters against Virginia’s defenders should be fun to watch.
No. 12 Arizona at No. 9 Gonzaga, Dec. 5. Could be the best game out West all season.
Louisville at No. 2 Kentucky, Dec. 26. Almost not worth mentioning — a given to be a top game every year.
UNDER THE RADAR PLAYERS
Kyle Collinsworth, G, BYU. One of the nation’s top all-around players probably doesn’t get the credit he deserves from playing out West.
E.C. Matthews, G, Rhode Island. One of the nation’s best shooting guards averaged nearly 17 points per game last season.
DeAndre Bembry, G/F, St. Joseph’s. Could end up being an NBA first rounder after strong sophomore caught scouts’ attention.
AJ English, G, Iona. Was the only player in the nation to average 20 points, five assists and five rebounds last season.
Craig Bradshaw, G, Belmont. Made a name for himself against Virginia in the NCAA Tournament. Expect to hear from him some more.
Shaka Smart, Texas. Havoc in the Hill Country. Should be fun.
Bobby Hurley, Arizona State. Former Duke point guard has added some buzz to the Sun Devils after successful run at Buffalo.
Rick Barnes, Tennessee. Took about 10 seconds for the Vols to snap him up after firing from Texas.
Ben Howland, Mississippi State. He’ll have his work cut out for him with the Bulldogs, but already has successful turnarounds at Pittsburgh and UCLA on his resume.
Chris Mullin, St. John’s. Best player in school history tries to get the program back on track.
Avery Johnson, Alabama. Former NBA point guard and coach stirring up plenty of excitement in Tuscaloosa.
8-1_Odds for Kentucky to win the national championship, according to Vegasinsider.com. Duke is second at 17-2.
2_Times North Carolina has been ranked No. 1 in the preseason and won the national title, in 1982 and 2009.
11_Straight Big 12 titles by Kansas.
22.2_Points per game by Northwestern State’s Zeek Woodley, Division I’s top returning scorer.
30_Seconds of the new shot clock, a rule change expected to spur scoring and speed up the game.
1,018_Career victories by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, most all-time.