The college basketball season is almost here. Exhibitions are taking place left and right, theand have dropped and the FBI's probe into corruption within the sport remains ongoing. It's just a regular preseason with a little extra jazz, basically.
And while teams like Duke, Michigan State, Arizona and Kentucky rightfully draw the largest slab of headlines for their standings atop the , unranked teams certainly deserve some love, too. So we're here to give it to them.
Because, according to stats from the NCAA, four of 33 national champions were unranked to start the season since the NCAA Tournament expanded in 1985 to 64 teams. Which means it's a longshot, to be sure. But it's not totally impossible. So here are six teams who have the goods to add to that number this season.
The Friars have been dancing into March four consecutive seasons, and five appears imminent based off the talented roster Ed Cooley fields once again. I'm buying everything Providence is selling. From Kyron Cartwright, a top-10 point guard in the country, to high-volume scorer Rodney Bullock, I think this team could be one that emerges into the rankings and never leaves. They're going to be in the mix for one of the top four teams in a loaded Big East.
Losing Melo Trimble is a significant blow, but top to bottom, the Terrapins might have a better overall roster this season. If you're looking for a player in line to step up as a super sophomore, look no further than forward Justin Jackson, who was second on the team in scoring behind Trimble last season. He and fellow sophomores Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter give Mark Turgeon a solid core upon which to build into an NCAA Tournament team.
UCF's identity will undeniably be on the defensive side of the ball, where 7-foot-6 sensation Tacko Fall represents a around the rim. The Knights ranked 18th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency according to KenPom last season, and that stingy defensive unit should roll over into 2017 to make UCF a team to be feared in the American.
The lack of a true point guard last season hurt the Horns last season, and early-season struggles sent Texas into a submarine that never emerged. But this season, Shaka Smart has a true floor general in Matt Coleman, as well as freshman phenom Mo Bamba. I don't know exactly what to make of Texas and its relatively unproven core, but this team is stacked with talent and Bamba is going to be a joy to watch — unless he's playing your team.
You won't be out too far on a limb if you project the Horned Frogs to make it to the NCAA Tournament this season. In fact, they should make a return thanks to Vladimir Brodziansky and Jaylen Fisher. A run to the NIT championship only bolstered their standing going into this season, and Jamie Dixon is bound to squeeze the most out of this unit. The program hasn't been dancing in 20 years.
The Tigers have the potential No. 1 NBA Draft pick on their roster in Michael Porter Jr., and his 17-year-old five-star younger brother is a nice complementary piece to what Cuonzo Martin's working with in his first season. Turning the program from 8-24 a season ago to NCAA Tournament contender the next is going to be a challenge, without question. But mix in three double-digit returning scorers with a dynamo freshman class, and Mizzou certainly has a chance to do it.