Wisconsin. And nobody else is even close. They're bringing four of their five starters back from their Final Four run last year. They're very well coached by Bo Ryan and of course they have...
Frank Kaminsky! He's a classic case of the simplest way for a post player to get great. In high school he was a 6'3" shooting guard before shooting up to 6'11". People who do that learn how to play the game like perimeter players and become incredibly hard to guard. While he can occasionally be stopped by long, athletic defenders, he's also proven to have the ability to adjust like last year in the Elite Eight against an Arizona team with one of the best defenders in the country, Aaron Gordon.
Michigan State may have lost Adrien Payne and Gary Harris, but they still have Branden Dawson and more importantly, Tom Izzo. The Spartans haven't missed the tournament since 1996. That's 18 recruiting classes, and the only constant through all those years has been Izzo. If as much of the success were on the players as the media says, they would've missed at least once. That's the problem with the preseason AP rankings, they focus too much on incoming freshmen, and not enough on recent history. I wouldn't hesitate to take MSU over Kentucky. See the "Biggest Disappointment" section for all the gory details.
Things are looking up for the Gophers. In his first year of recruiting his own players, Pitino's gotten athletes like Nate Mason, Carlos Morris and Josh Martin who fit in well with his up tempo system. They'll also have DeAndre Mathieu and a healthy Andre Hollins back this season, so I wouldn't be surprised with a tournament birth and an 8-10 seeding.
Arizona added the seventh ranked recruit Stanley Johnson to a unit that was oozing athleticism last year. Johnson's versatility should give them more lineup options, like going small by shifting him to the power forward and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to the center. With those two, plus T.J. McConnell, the Wildcats will be the team to beat this year.
I'm not counting any freshmen because we've barely gotten a chance to see them play this year, and although he would be in the discussion, I'm throwing out Frank Kaminsky because we've already discussed him, so there's really only one option left: Montrezl Harrell. He was the toughest guy to handle on the block last year not named Julius Randle, and is a relentless rebounder and rim protector. He's improved his jump shot, he's up to "makes it when he's open," which is a lot better than he was last year. The most terrifying part of this is the fact that he still has a lot of potential to reach. Now all he needs is an intimidating nickname.
The voters never seem to learn. For the third straight year, Kentucky's in the top three of the AP rankings at the beginning of the season, and for the third straight year, the Wildcats will disappoint. Nobody seems to realize that their ringer studded team of one and dones rarely comes together and immediately does well. Keep in mind, they were a eight seed going into the tourney last year and sweated out four games before losing to UConn. And the year before that, they bowed out in first round... of the NIT. The AP can't seem to figure out Cal's strategy rarely works.