Last month, our attempt to bring some final sense of order to the upcoming 2015-16 season -- the No-Longer-Way-Too-Early Top 25 -- was received with unanimously fawning praise. Haha, just kidding! Believe it or not, some people were actually kind of mad.
Two comments cut to the heart of why. Commenter A-A'ron McMillan quipped: "This list is nonsense, you forgot (insert name of favorite college hoops team)!" David Moore went one better: "No Southern Texas Seminary College? What a joke! We'll show them." That pretty much sums it up.
We have two theories here. The first theory posits that the timeless "You Forgot Big State!" grievance ultimately comes down to sheer math. Twenty-five names is a fairly arbitrary cutoff, and in late summer, there are a whole gaggle of outfits that could just as easily rank 20th as 30th or 35th. The differences between them are almost nonexistent. If we had another 10 spots to dole out -- if every top 25 was a top 35, say -- we bet the number of aggrieved fans would diminish disproportionately.
The second theory? People just like to complain on the Internet.
We have devised today's top 10 as a scientific measurement of these two theories. Consider it an addendum to last month's top 25 -- comprised almost entirely of teams that might as well be considered top-25-level squads in advance of the 2015-16 season. Begin testing now:
1. Purdue Boilermakers: Sometimes angry tweets have a point. The most glaring omission of the NLWTE Top 25 by far, Purdue lost Hoosiers-victimizing guard Jon Octeus but added elite freshman center Caleb Swanigan to a frontcourt that has two massive human beings (A.J. Hammons, Isaac Haas) terrorizing opponents on the block already. Throw in an improving young perimeter corps, the Big Ten's second-ranked per-possession defense a season ago, and the remarkable in-season improvement Matt Painter coaxed from this group a year ago, and the Boilermakers might actually match Purdue fans' sky-high hopes for 2015-16.
2. Georgetown Hoyas: Losing Joshua Smith, Mikael Hopkins and Jabril Trawick this spring cost Georgetown its best post scorer, its best rebounder and back-line defender, and its undisputed senior leader, all at once. That's a lot to overcome. The Hoyas' prospects for doing so improved dramatically when D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera came back to school. Smith-Rivera's holdover gave John Thompson III at least some ballhandling continuity through which that immensely promising freshman class of a season ago -- Isaac Copeland, L.J. Peak, Paul White and Tre Campbell -- can cohere as a whole.
3. Xavier Musketeers: Coming off a Sweet 16 appearance, most of the things we liked about Xavier's roster in April -- when they appeared in our first 2015-16 top 25 -- remain true now. Losing Dee Davis and Matt Stainbrook is a bummer, of course, but Trevon Bluiett shows signs of future stardom, Myles Davis is a knockdown shooter, Remy Abell played important minutes a season ago, and the rest of the roster is filled with capable guys ready for more minutes.
4. Connecticut Huskies: Judging by our inbox, Connecticut fans seem convinced that not only does their team belong in the top 25, it belongs in the top 15. Let's not get greedy. We're willing to acknowledge how shot through with promise UConn's roster is, how Sterling Gibbs and Jalen Adams offer a different backcourt dynamic, how Daniel Hamilton may be in line for a breakout sophomore year, even how Rodney Purvis -- who took 27 percent of his team's available shots but finished with an ugly 94.9 offensive rating in 2014-15 -- played much better later in the year. But let's also acknowledge that a 20-15 team that lost brilliant Ryan Boatright has to prove itself first.
5. Louisville Cardinals: The 2015-16 Cardinals' roster remains among the least established of Rick Pitino's tenure, but there are interesting players here, from incoming freshmen (Deng Adel, Donovan Mitchell, Raymond Spalding, Ryan McMahon) to transfers (former Drexel star Damion Lee) to returners (Quentin Snider, Mangok Mathiang). It may not be vintage, but Pitino's a master craftsman of misfit toys, and we assume he'll figure something out eventually. (Pitino is also, we're happy to report, still a "Bompy good" blogger.)
6. San Diego State Aztecs: If Malik Pope -- a 6-foot-10 freshman beset by injuries a season ago -- translates his insane skill and length into a lead-scoring role in, say, 30-minutes per game, this top-25-ish range will look far too bearish come January.
7. Michigan Wolverines: The return of Caris LeVert to a deep and very John Beilein-fluent backcourt has some folks granting the Wolverines early top-25 status. Much like UConn, we'd prefer to see tangible improvement when dealing with a 16-16 group -- one that wasn't very good before LeVert's injury in the first place.
8. Florida State Seminoles: Dwayne Bacon, the No. 2-shooting guard in the 2015 class, arrived in Tallahassee this summer at the head of perhaps the school's best recruiting class ever, one that also includes ESPN 100 guards Malik Beasley and Terance Mann. If Leonard Hamilton can fit all three in the lineup next to Xavier Rathan-Mayes, he might have one of the most interesting teams in the sport on his hands.
9. NC State Wolfpack: Losing Trevor Lacey diminished the top-20 glow the Wolfpack enjoyed after their Round of 32 upset of Villanova in March. But the appropriately monikered Cat Barber is still a difficult proposition for defenders, while a front line of Abdul-Malik Abu, BeeJay Anya
and Kyle Washington has enough size to hang with the best in the ACC.
10. Dayton Flyers: Archie Miller's team was undersized and undermanned for most of 2014-15, and it still managed 27 wins and a First Four push into the NCAA tournament bracket proper, where it nobly held the line before falling to Oklahoma. Jordan Sibert is the only notable departure.
Honorable mention: Southern Texas Seminary College. They'll show us.