Yes, it's early. It hasn't even been 24 hours since the 2014-15 men's college basketball season ended. Most of us are still tired from watching Duke cut down the nets at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
But we must look forward.
The 2015-16 men's college basketball season is roughly six months away. Midnight Madness is set to occur for most programs sometime in mid-October. Who should be optimistic about their chances to contend?
Here's our very, very early top 25 for the 2015-16 men's basketball season. Our ranking is based on what we think the teams will look like. Obviously, some players will go pro and some will not. Some will transfer, some won't. Some recruits will live up to the hype, some won't. A lot will change in the coming weeks and our ranking will probably look fairly different a couple months from now because of that.
But right now, here are the top 25 college basketball teams in the country for next season.
1. North Carolina - The Tar Heels reached the Sweet 16 this past season and basically bring everyone back from that squad. Marcus Paige could be a preseason All-American. J.P. Tokoto, Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson should improve. And Justin Jackson appears to be on the verge of breaking out.
2. Virginia - Like their ACC foe, UNC, the Cavaliers will likely return the majority of their team that was a top-three squad for the majority of the 2014-15 season. Big-man Darion Atkins is gone, but Justin Anderson is expected to be back, as is star guard Malcolm Brogdon. If Anderson declares for the NBA, Tony Bennett's team will drop back a couple of spots.
3. Maryland - This should be College Park's best team since the 2002 group that won Gary Williams a national championship. Nobody has had a better start to the offseason than Mark Turgeon, who, over the past two weeks, learned Melo Trimble is coming back and five-star center Diamond Stone is coming in. Georgia Tech transfer Robert Carter becomes eligible, too, and as long as Jake Layman returns, the Terps could have the country's best starting five.
4. Kentucky - As many as seven players from the Wildcats' 38-1 team could be leaving for the NBA. Even if that is the case, John Calipari should possess an incredibly-talented team in 2015-16. Tyler Ulis should be one of the country's best point guards, Alex Poythress will be healthy and Marcus Lee provides a defensive presence inside. If Devin Booker and Dakari Johnson return, Kentucky could move up a spot or two.
5. Iowa State - As long as Fred Hoiberg doesn't bolt to the NBA, the Cyclones' coach will have a great chance to reach the Final Four in 2016. Getting Georges Niang back is big and ISU - Transfer U - brings in Hallice Cooke (Oregon State), Deonte Burton (Marquette) and Darien Williams (junior college). Kansas' reign as the Big 12 king could end next season.
6. Kansas - It might not, though. Bill Self should return mostly everyone from his No. 2 seed NCAA Tournament team that fell to Wichita State, with only Kelly Oubre and, possibly, Cliff Alexander, to turn pro. The Jayhawks also bring in a top-25 recruit in four-star PF Carlton Bragg.
7. Gonzaga - Point guard Kevin Pangos is gone, but All-American candidate Kyle Wiltjer should be back, along with center Przemek Karnowski and forward Domantas Sabonis. The Bulldogs might not be as good as they were this past season, but they'll still be a Sweet 16 or better caliber team.
8. Wichita State - The Shockers held onto Gregg Marshall, who was being pursued heavily by Alabama, which is great news for his fan base but bad news for the rest of their league. With Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker expected to return to school, WSU should once again be a top-10 team and the class of the Missouri Valley Conference.
9. Oklahoma - The Sooners fell victim to Michigan State and its unsurprising March run in the NCAA Tournament, but Lon Kruger's team could be even better in 2015-16. Guard guard Buddy Hield might jump to the NBA - and, if he does, OU will drop - but as long as he returns, the Sooners will be Big 12 contenders.
10. Villanova - The NCAA Tournament was a rough one for the Wildcats, who failed to reach the Sweet 16 as a No. 1 seed. Jay Wright will have some holes to fill in the front court, but he gets back Big East co-Player of the Year Ryan Arcidiacono is back with two other starters. Add in a five-star PG Jalen Brunson and the Wildcats could once again be a player for a top seed.
11. Duke - Much of the Blue Devils' ranking depends on the future of Tyus Jones. Will the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player return to school for another season or leave for the NBA (he's viewed as a top-20 pick). If he returns, Duke jumps into the top seven or eight. If he leaves, Grayson Allen and Matt Jones will have to make big leaps and much will be required of incoming recruits Chase Jeter and Luke Kennard. Getting big-time play out of freshmen hasn't been much of a problem for the Blue Devils, though.
12. Arizona - The Wildcats could lose a lot from this past season's team. Senior leader T.J. McConnell is gone and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Stanley Johnson and Brandon Ashley are probably all headed to the NBA. But Sean Miller - one of the country's best recruiters - brings in another elite recruiting class. The Wildcats could be the Pac-12's top team once again.
13.Michigan State - The Spartans, fresh off a surprising Final Four run, lose two of their top players in Travis Trice and Branden Dawson. However, MSU returns the other seven members of its nine-man rotation, including do-it-all guard Denzel Valentine (14.5 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 4.3 apg). West Virginia transfer Eron Harris will provide a major boost, and the team adds a pair of four-star recruits in guard Matt McQuaid and forward Deyonta Davis. Did we mention head coach Tom Izzo, one of the best in the business, is back as well? Expect Sparty to be in the thick of things in March again.
14.Indiana - The Hoosiers barely made this year's NCAA Tournament, and head coach Tom Crean has come under some fire. There is a lot of talent returning to Bloomington, however, and the addition of five-star center Thomas Bryant can not be understated. The X-Factor? If point guard Yogi Ferrell declares for the NBA Draft. If he doesn't, expect IU to make a big jump in 2015-16. If he does, knock them down a few pegs on this list.
15. SMU - Point guard Nic Moore is a stud, and power forward Markus Kennedy is a force on the interior. Factor in the arrivals of forward Semi Ojeleye, a Duke transfer, and guard Shake Milton, a top-100 recruit, and the Mustangs should be at the top of the American Athletic Conference next season. It seems as long as Larry Brown is in charge, SMU will have a presence on the national scene.
16.N.C. State - The Wolfpack return everyone from this year's Sweet 16 squad, except for guard Ralston Turner (12.8 ppg). Guards Cat Barber and Trevor Lacey will lead the way, but the continued development of big men Beejay Anya, Abdul-Malik Abu and Lennard Freeman is also a key factor for the team's fortunes. The ACC looks loaded again, but head coach Mark Gottfried's team has a shot to make some noise.
17. Notre Dame - The Fighting Irish had a banner season in 2014-15, capturing the ACC Tournament and advancing to the Elite Eight for the first time in nearly 40 years. On the down side, they lose their top two players from this year's team in Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton. But point guard Demetrius Jackson, wing Steve Vasturia and big man Zach Auguste are back, and head coach Mike Brey has a habit of getting the most out of his guys, so expect UND to be in the mix in the ACC again.
18.Utah - The Utes advanced to the Sweet 16 before bowing out to eventual champion Duke. Star guard Delon Wright won't be back, but seven-footer Jakob Poeltl is expected to be. Point guard Brandon Taylor and forward Jordan Loveridge are also returning, and head coach Larry Krystkowiak appears to be building a rock-solid program in Salt Lake City.
19.Louisville - The Cards narrowly missed making an unexpected Final Four appearance, losing to Michigan State in the Elite Eight. Terry Rozier, Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell are all gone, but point guard Quentin Snider made tremendous strides late in the season, and Louisville has added some scoring punch in fifth-year transfer Trey Lewis from Cleveland State. Four-star forward Deng Adel will play a major role from the outset, and Rick Pitino's post-season coaching chops are proven.
20.Wisconsin - Wisconsin will lose National Player of the Year Frank Kaminsky to the NBA, and junior forward Sam Dekker is expected to follow him. In the backcourt, point guard Traevon Jackson and glue guy Josh Gasser are also gone, though guard Bronson Koenig, who blossomed this past season, will return. In the frontcourt, forward Nigel Hayes turned into a major weapon and will be back in the fold. Expect Bo Ryan to get the most out of all of his pieces, so the Badgers will once again be a top-20 program.
21.Texas - New head coach Shaka Smart is probably a year or two away from truly putting his mark on the program, but he's inherited enough to have a solid first season. It all starts with point guard Isaiah Taylor (if he returns), but big men Cameron Ridley, Connor Lammert and Prince Ibeh are also coming back. Guard recruit Kerwin Roach Jr. should be a nice addition.
22.Baylor - The 2015 NCAA Tournament ended abruptly for the Bears, as they were knocked out by 14th-seeded Georgia State in the second round. A core of returning players, led by forward Rico Gathers, will be joined by a strong recruiting class led by four-stars Joseph Acuil and King McClure. Scott Drew maximized his team's potential this year (at least in the regular season) and should be able to do the same in 2015-16.
23.Florida State - The 'Noles received a boost when guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes said he'd be coming back for next season. He'll be joined by a handful of returning contributors, including Devon Bookert and Phil Cofer. The incoming recruiting class is led by five-star guard Dwayne Bacon. Leonard Hamilton's crew should challenge for the top half of the ACC.
24.LSU - The M&M boys -- forwards Jordan Mickey and Jarell Martin -- are gone, but the Tigers are bringing in a pair of blue-chippers in forward Ben Simmons, the nation's No.1 recruit, and five-star guard Antonio Blakeney. Senior guard Keith Hornsby and junior guard Tim Quarterman should provide some veteran presence as well. The Tigers could be fun to watch.
25.Miami - The Hurricanes were the only team to beat Duke at home this season, and they made a run to the NIT championship game before falling to Stanford. Every major contributor is coming back to school, and Oklahoma State transfer Kamari Murphy is set to join the fold. The 'Canes should be an intriguing sleeper in the ACC.