After a two-year lull, coach Jay Wright got Villanova back among the elite, and expectations will be similarly high next season. Four starters ( Ryan Arcidiacono, Darrun Hilliard II, JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu) return alongside promising rising sophomore Josh Hart (who posted a 126.8 offensive rating this season). Two top-100 prospects (forward Mikal Bridges, guard Phil Booth) should be able to contribute right away. Villanova's season didn't end the way Wright wanted, but some of the sting comes off when the No. 7 seed that "upset" you streaks all the way to the Final Four. Wright's program is back in a big way.
Could next season be VCU's best? Coach Shaka Smart will lose two four-year contributors this spring, but he has his best recruiting class (and it's not even close) on the way, including three top-100 players. Oh, and Briante Weber (maybe the most disruptive defender in the country) is back, along with Treveon Graham and Melvin Johnson. The Rams are going to be super-deep; Smart's ball-pressuring, turnover-inducing style may get its best exhibition yet.
When Przemek Karnowski arrived at Gonzaga, he was little-known outside international circles, and his early struggles didn't earn him much fanfare. The 2014-15 season may be his coming-out party. He was excellent down the stretch for Gonzaga this past season. Next season's Bulldogs will keep Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Kyle Dranginis on the perimeter, with the 7-1 Karnowski as the featured post player, and they'll add former Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer. It's easy to see coach Mark Few playing a four-out, one-in configuration, with Wiltjer occasionally rotating into high-low and post sets with Karnowski. The results could be devastating.
Fred Hoiberg hasn't merely had successful seasons in his brilliant four-year run as coach at Iowa State. He's also built the Cyclones into a program that can sustain annual losses and still expect to be really good. So it is in 2014-15, when the Cyclones will lose DeAndre Kane and Melvin Ejim -- both seniors, and two of the best players in the country -- but will still have Georges Niang and Dustin Hogue in even bigger roles, Monte Morris and Naz Long emerging from the wings, 3-point threat freshman Clay Custer, and frontcourt transfers Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay.