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Top 10 teams ready for a turnaround in 2015-16

A full season of Luke Fischer plus the addition of five-star forward Henry Ellenson has Marquette ready to make a climb in the Big East. Frank Franklin II/AP

Next season, college basketball will feature programs that should continue to deliver the results that they’ve executed in recent years. Kentucky? Still top-five good. No surprise there. Kansas should win the Big 12 again. Arizona is strong. Maryland, too.

But college basketball will also welcome a few new players to relevancy, squads that struggled in 2014-15. Some just needed additional time as their best players matured, while others required elite recruiting classes or transfers to change things.

The bottom line is that these teams are ready to turn things around in 2015-16.

Alert your friends.

    1. Marquette: Henry Ellenson, the team’s first McDonald’s All-American in 30 years, and Luke Fischer were a potent combo during Marquette’s offseason trip to Italy. In one matchup, the two combined to score 50 points. Yeah, it’s just an exhibition, but Ellenson’s versatility combined with Fischer’s size and grit should frustrate the Big East. Duane Wilson (11.9 points peer game) returns and freshman point guard Traci Carter is ready to contribute. Steve Wojciechowski will put his 13-19 (4-14 Big East) debut season behind him with this talented crew.

  • California: Tired of the Cal buzz? That’s fine but it won’t stop because it can’t stop. Cuonzo Martin added five-star recruits Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb to a squad that returns key players from a team that finished 18-15 overall last season and 7-11 in the Pac-12. Guards Tyrone Wallace (17.1 PPG) and Jordan Mathews (13.6 PPG) will reap the greatest benefits of the Brown-Rabb combo. Martin will spread the floor in ways this season that he could not last year. Jabari Bird, a former McDonald’s All-American, might be the fifth scoring option for this squad. Think about that. Cal is ready.

  • Oregon State: Wayne Tinkle overachieved in his first season in Corvallis, but this season’s squad could slide into the Pac-12 title conversation if the old and new come together as planned. Four starters are back for a squad that will be led by Gary Payton II, the defensive player of the year in the league. Add elite recruits Tres Tinkle, Wayne’s son, and Stephen Thompson Jr. to that mix and the Beavers could return to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1990. Oregon State could go from an 8-10 Pac-12 squad to a team that challenges the best in the league.

  • Florida State: Last season, Florida State’s lukewarm offense (163rd in adjusted offensive efficiency per KenPom.com) contributed to its 17-16 finish overall and 8-10 record in the ACC. But Xavier Rathan-Mayes will get more help next season. Dwayne Bacon, a McDonald’s All-American, is one of the most decorated recruits in school history. Leonard Hamilton will have adequate size inside with Boris Bojanovsky and Michael Ojo, too. The Seminoles could return to the NCAA tournament and the top tier of the ACC.

  • Michigan: Caris LeVert is back and that's a plus for John Beilein. Last season's issues weren’t complicated: the Wolverines weren't healthy down the stretch. Both LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. were hindered by injuries in key stretches last season. Spike Albrecht is on the mend after multiple offseason hip surgeries. The Wolverines, however, should enter the upcoming year with a team that’s healed from its ailments and last year’s challenges (16-16, 8-10 Big Ten). A healthy Michigan squad will be dangerous for any opponent in the Big Ten and beyond.

  • Penn State: After finishing 18-16 and 4-14 overall last season, Patrick Chambers is now 16-56 in the Big Ten and 56-75 overall after four seasons. And the Nittany Lions lost D.J. Newbill, who averaged 20.7 PPG. But Chambers has a talented recruiting class that will allow the program to spread the load more than it has in recent years. Josh Reaves and Mike Watkins are both four-star recruits who will join Shep Garner and Brandon Taylor. The Nittany Lions finished top-50 in adjusted defensive efficiency and lost seven Big Ten games by six points or less. Don’t be surprised if Penn State improves in 2015-16.

  • Mississippi State: Rick Ray was fired after a 13-19 season that included a 6-12 SEC record last season. Ben Howland arrived and landed Malik Newman, the No. 10 recruit in the 2015 class. Newman will join a team that features veterans such as Craig Sword and Gavin Ware. He’s an athletic scorer who will keep Mississippi State alive in games that might be lopsided losses without him. Yeah, it’s just one guy. But Ben Simmons is one guy and Kris Dunn is one guy, and the expectations at LSU and Providence, respectively, have been elevated because of them. Newman automatically boosts Mississippi State's chances of significant growth.

  • Texas: Myles Turner is in the NBA now, but Rick Barnes never found a way to implement his full skill set into his schemes. Shaka Smart won’t have that problem with his team’s guards. He’s going to press and attempt to produce points off that press. He has a star guard in Isaiah Taylor and talented backcourt help in Javan Felix, Kendal Yancy and Demarcus Holland and top-100 recruits Tevin Mack, Kerwin Roach Jr. and Eric Davis. It’s not clear how Smart will use Cameron Ridley and the other big men, but he has a bunch of athletic, quick and long-armed guards who will help him execute his style.

  • Connecticut: UConn finished last season with a first-round loss in the NIT, an abrupt change for a program that had cut down the nets in the previous season. Ollie has more talent and balance in 2015-16. Transfers Shonn Miller and Sterling Gibbs both averaged more than 16.0 PPG last season. Four-star recruit Jalen Adams possesses the maturity to help as a freshman. And Rodney Purvis, the former McDonald’s All-American, could reach his potential. Amida Brimah and Daniel Hamilton are back, too, so the Huskies should again compete for the American crown and get back to the Big Dance.

  • New Mexico: Craig Neal was criticized for his program’s struggles after the Lobos lost all eight games in February and ended the season with nine losses in their final 10 contests. The loss of his son Cullen Neal, who averaged 24.5 points in his first two games before suffering an ankle injury in the third game of season, was obviously a factor. Neal, however, returns to guide New Mexico and restore the confidence of its passionate fan base. Tim Williams, an all-Southern Conference first-teamer in 2013-14, and Elijah Brown, who averaged 6.8 PPG as a freshman at Butler two years ago, are both eligible after sitting out last season due to transfer rules. The loss of Hugh Greenwood hurts, but a healthy Neal should make New Mexico fans forget about the 7-11 finish in the MWC.