The movie that defines each top 25 college hoops team

The Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings for next season in college basketball have been updated, and now that rosters are beginning to crystallize, it's time to get familiar with each team. Identifying the song that identified each team was too much fun, so now we're looking at movies. 

1. Duke Blue Devils: "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back" (1980)
After what, by Blue Devils standards, was an off year -- a Sweet 16 loss to Oregon, an 11-loss season overall -- and questions about how the roster could become so short of players, Duke is back. And then some. Coach Mike Krzyzewski will return from coaching the U.S. Olympic team to a squad that's nearly just as loaded with stars. Grayson Allen, Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones, Luke Kennard and Chase Jeter return. And then there are the new kids -- five top-100 players, including top-rated Harry Giles. So much for roster problems. And let's face it, a lot of people still think the Blue Devils are the Darth Vaders of college hoops. -- Dana O'Neil

2. Villanova Wildcats: "Gladiator" (2000)
Coach Jay Wright's program will enter 2016-17 as a legit threat to win another national championship. Much like Russell Crowe's character in this 2000 classic, the Wildcats will only survive and reach the final stages of the NCAA tournament with decisive victories over a ridiculous fleet of contenders in a landscape that contains a competitive breadth that the 2015-16 season lacked. Villanova stands in the middle of college basketball's coliseum as rebooted Duke, Kentucky, Arizona, Kansas, UNC, Big East rival Xavier and others all plot to knock out the champion and snatch its crown. And the Wildcats are wounded without Daniel Ochefu and Ryan Arcidiacono. They won't surrender, however, without a fight. Don't bet against them. -- Myron Medcalf

3. Kentucky Wildcats: "The Aviator" (2004)
So, sure, John Calipari presumably doesn't share the devastating obsessive-compulsive disorder that director Martin Scorsese and titular star Leonardo DiCaprio so vividly depicted in the 2004 film. He probably doesn't sit there, unshaven, in a film room, listing his requirements for sanitized cookie delivery. But what makes "The Aviator" so good is that just as many of its best scenes show Howard Hughes thinking big, pushing boundaries and innovating with abandon -- a man driven by some unseen force that even he barely understands. Sound like a coach you know? (Plus, if Hughes were still alive, he would totally take a private jet to a Drake concert. He'd fly it himself.) -- Eamonn Brennan

4. Kansas Jayhawks: "The Music Man" (1962)
Kansas coach Bill Self isn't the conniving swindler that Robert Preston's Harold Hill was, but there are some similarities. Like Hill, Self didn't exactly plant roots at his previous stops: His previous longest stint as a head coach was four years at Oral Roberts. But just as Hill fell in love with River City, Iowa (and a certain librarian in it), Self fell in love with another small Midwestern town. And the citizens of Lawrence have returned the favor, thanks in large part to Self's run of 12 consecutive Big 12 titles. -- Sam Strong

5. Virginia Cavaliers: "A Few Good Men" (1992)
To paraphrase Jack Nicholson's iconic scene as Col. Jessup: The Cavaliers' style of play, "while grotesque and incomprehensible" to fans who want to see an up-tempo game, has helped produce two No. 1 seeds over the past three seasons, as well as two ACC regular-season titles. "You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want" the Wahoos to succeed. "You need" the Hoos to succeed. -- C.L. Brown

6. North Carolina Tar Heels: "Catch 22" (1970)
Here is the plight for the Tar Heels this season: If they are good, the critics will carp that the academic scandal that has been tailing the program for years ought to have long ago rendered the Tar Heels obsolete. A winning North Carolina program only serves to further invoke the ire of the multitudes who can't understand how allegations against the men's basketball team were removed from the NCAA's amended notice of allegations. On the other hand, if the Tar Heels don't win -- well how can that be with talents such as  Justin Jackson, Nate Britt, Theo Pinson, Joel Berry and  Kennedy Meeks on the roster? -- O'Neil

7. Oregon Ducks: "Guess Who" (2005)
This is the 2005 remake of a 1967 classic starring Sidney Poitier. In Bernie Mac's version, Ashton Kutcher ain't exactly what his girlfriend's family expects when he first meets them. By the end of the movie, however, Mac and Kutcher are buddies (because everybody loves Ashton Kutcher in every movie/TV show he's in), and they give one another the respect they both deserve. That's Oregon's situation. Even though the Ducks reached the Elite Eight last season and bulldozed the Pac-12 for three months, they're still mentioned after the blue-chippers in conversations about national title contenders. If, by the end of this season,  Tyler Dorsey and Dillon Brooks have carried Oregon to another Pac-12 title and deep NCAA tournament run, the Ducks might finally earn the respect they did not receive in 2015-16. -- Medcalf

8. Wisconsin Badgers: "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001)
Greg Gard hails from a tiny farm town in Wisconsin; most of his players are from the Midwest. On a literal level, they have very little to do with Royal Tenenbaum's elite Manhattan family. That's not the point. The point is that "The Royal Tenenbaums" is one of the best ensemble movies we've ever seen -- a film, like much of Wes Anderson's canon, in which no member of the cast is weak and almost everyone is super-strong. That's the biggest reason to be optimistic about the Badgers next season: Their entire team (which only hit its stride midway through last season, after a 9-9 start) is back, and both the sum of the parts and the whole look promising. -- Brennan

9. Xavier Musketeers: "Groundhog Day" (1993)
Xavier has to be a Bill Murray movie, right? And considering Murray's son Luke, who happens to be a Musketeers assistant, hasn't seen "Caddyshack," we're going with "Groundhog Day" because the same thing seems to keep happening with coach Chris Mack's program. It's not a bad thing by any means, but the Musketeers are always steady, having gone to the NCAA tournament in six of Mack's seven seasons. Mack has never advanced past the Sweet 16, however. A trip to the Final Four, which seems possible this season, might break the Punxsutawney loop. -- Strong

10. Michigan State Spartans: "Boomerang" (1992)
Eddie Murphy hit rock bottom in his love life in this 1992 romantic comedy before winning over Halle Berry as the consolation prize. The Spartans' historic loss to No. 15 seed Middle Tennessee State in the NCAA tournament's first round was the kind of depressing upset that could have them sitting in a dark room listening to Sade. But they already look primed to bounce back next season and again be considered a national title contender. -- Brown

11. Indiana Hoosiers: "Revenge of the Nerds" (1984)
A year ago, coach Tom Crean started his own "Season on the Brink" -- on the brink of perhaps being let go, that is. Issues off the court and losses on it made the coach a less-than-popular man in Bloomington. The coach merely pushed his glasses back onto the bridge of his nose, quick-stepped his way down the sideline, ignored the noise and went to work. The result? A 27-8 team that finished No. 9 in the nation and took down rival Kentucky in the NCAA tournament's second round. Now with  Thomas Bryant returning and James Blackmon Jr. healthy, Crean is having the last laugh. -- O'Neil

12. Arizona Wildcats: "Field of Dreams" (1989)
"If you build it, they will come." Well, Sean Miller didn't build it. But he has extended the legacy of a program that Lute Olson championed for nearly 30 years in Tucson. Once again, Miller will boast a roster, anchored by Allonzo Trier, that can battle the best in the country. No matter what happens, Miller will continue to face questions about the Final Four, the hurdle he's still trying to clear. He, like Kevin Costner, can't escape that pursuit, that journey, that dream. We shouldn't judge coaches on Final Four trips alone. But it's a major element of our analysis. And it's a lingering question for Miller's career. So if he builds another elite team, will a trip to the Final Four come? We'll see. -- Medcalf

13. Louisville Cardinals: "Citizen Kane" (1941)
The ongoing NCAA investigation into the Louisville program seems ripped from era of yellow journalism: Prostitution! Scandal! University rocked by salacious expose! It's the kind of headline Orson Welles' William Randolph Hearst/Harold McCormick industrialist mash-up Charles Foster Kane would have giddily run, particularly about a business rival. It's also the kind of headline Kane earned for himself. Perhaps the key pivot-point on which the movie turns is itself a sex scandal -- one that derails Kane's gubernatorial run and signals the end of the subject's idealistic rise and the beginning of his extended, cynical downfall. -- Brennan

14. Purdue Boilermakers: "Rocky III" (1982)
Unfortunately for the Boilermakers, very few people will remember the 26-8 run that carried them to a No. 5 seed in the NCAA tournament. More will remember Arkansas-Little Rock's double-overtime upset of Purdue. And so Matt Painter's team can be currently compared to Rocky at the midway point of the third installment of the series. You know, after he gets challenged and beat by Mr. T's Clubber Lang character. Inspired by Mickey's death (spoiler alert), Rocky comes back to beat Lang. Can Purdue use the tourney loss to get better? -- Strong

15. West Virginia Mountaineers: "Gattaca" (1997)
Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman starred in this science-fiction drama. In a critical scene, Hawke's character explains how he had been able to exceed expectations and reach the verge of achieving his dream. His answer? He never saved anything for a safety net. The Mountaineers don't, either. Since Bob Huggins has gone all-out with the pressure defense, they are content to win or lose games playing their style. -- Brown

16. Gonzaga Bulldogs: "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946)
Let's face it: Gonzaga coach Mark Few has figured this whole thing out. While the rest of his coaching brethren pop antacids and worry about their job security in the offseason, Few grabs his fishing pole or takes off for Hawaii. Every year his team is good. Outside critics might argue the Zags aren't good enough, that they haven't found the Holy Grail or the Final Four, but the people who matter -- the ones who sign Few's paycheck -- seem pretty content. This year, as always, Gonzaga will be very good with the addition of Nigel Williams-Goss from Washington and Johnathan Williams III from Missouri, plus the return of Przemek Karnowski. Oh, and the Zags play in "The Kennel," one of the toughest arenas in the country, before retiring to their nice, private college digs in Spokane, Washington. Life is pretty wonderful. -- O'Neil

17. UCLA Bruins: "The Martian" (2015)
Yeah, Steve Alford isn't trapped in space with limited resources and rations. But whenever a fan flies a banner over campus that demands you be fired after a 15-17 season that ended with a first-round loss to USC in the Pac-12 tournament, you're not in a great place. Alford knows as much. That's why he returned his extension this summer. But UCLA will add presumed future lottery pick  Lonzo Ball and others to a talented squad that should erase last year's misery. Yet, Alford remains in limbo, wondering if he'll ever feel safe in Westwood again. And he's running out of time. -- Medcalf

18. Maryland Terrapins: "Edge of Tomorrow" (2014)
Real talk: This was supposed to be "Groundhog Day." Melo Trimble, certain he would be long gone for the NBA by now, wakes up to find himself still in College Park, Maryland, where the only escape is self-improvement (in the form of, like, better perimeter shooting). But my colleague, Sam, stole it. The good news? Tons of movies have blatantly stolen the Groundhog Day formula. Occasionally, one of them isn't even terrible! "Edge of Tomorrow" is basically just "Groundhog Day" plus alien invaders, but Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt give fantastic performances (it's particularly fun to see Cruise play a character who doesn't automatically start as a hyper-competent superhero), the effects are great and the overall experience is far, far better the generic title or muted reception would suggest. -- Brennan

19. Saint Mary's Gaels: "The Castle" (1997)
Seven of the 15 players on Saint Mary's roster are from Australia, so let's make a motion to nickname McKeon Pavilion, the Gaels' home court, "The Castle" in honor of the late-'90s flick that was set in Melbourne. That's basically where the similarities end. As far as we know, the city of Moraga, California, isn't threatening to knock down the structure in order to build an airport (as is the case with the Kerrigans in the film). Oakland International is less than 25 miles from campus and seems to suit Northern California's needs just fine. -- Strong

20. Creighton Bluejays: "Trading Places" (1983)
The comedy shows Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd what their lives would be like under different circumstances. Coach Greg McDermott has done the same by welcoming transfers to build a top-25 team in Omaha, Nebraska. Last season, it was Maurice Watson Jr. (Boston University) and Cole Huff (Nevada). This year, former Kansas State guard Marcus Foster joins the lineup that has Creighton looking to make moves nationally. -- Brown

21. Rhode Island Rams: "Cocoon" (1985)
OK, so the Rams aren't a bunch of old geezers, but they'll be similarly rejuvenated (albeit by athletic trainers and doctors, not aliens) in 2016-17. Rhode Island's season essentially went down the tubes when E.C. Matthews, arguably one of the best players in the country, injured his knee. Then as Hassan Martin, Kuran Iverson and Jarvis Garrett each took turns with their own ailments, there wasn't much for coach Dan Hurley to do but finish at 17-15 and hope for better luck next year. Well, next year is here. -- O'Neil

22. Cincinnati Bearcats: "The Last Samurai" (2003)
Two certainties about any Cincinnati game: Coach Mick Cronin will wear a tailored suit with colors we've never seen, and the Bearcats will punch your team in the mouth. In "The Last Samurai," Tom Cruise joined his Samurai captors as they faced an American-Japanese contingent of soldiers in the final scene. They couldn't match their opponent's offensive firepower (Cincy finished 81st in adjusted offensive efficiency), but their aggression kept them in the fight. That's Cincy. The defensive juggernauts who finished 15th in adjusted defensive efficiency last season always have a chance, even when they can't find the late buckets to finish a tight game. -- Medcalf

23. Florida State Seminoles: "The Fast and the Furious" (2001)
Something something coming together, something something overcoming differences, something something epic finish: As far as we can tell, this is basically the plot of every "Fast and the Furious" movie (of which there are now approximately 3,216). It's a bizarrely successful interpersonal template that might well apply to Florida State in 2016-17, as the Seminoles add a well-known outsider (freshman stud Jonathan Isaac) to a mostly established group of variously experienced talents. -- Brennan

24. Connecticut Huskies: "Garden State" (2004)
Ignore for a moment, that Connecticut is the Constitution State (or the Nutmeg State, if you prefer) and try to envision a world where Zach Braff didn't cast himself in the lead role of the cult classic that he also wrote and directed. It's kind of fun to picture UConn coach Kevin Ollie in that role instead, awkwardly flirting with Natalie Portman in the doctor's office waiting room. The circumstances were different, but after a long NBA career, Ollie, like Braff, returned "home" to his alma mater to carry on Jim Calhoun's legacy. He already has a title under his belt, and he landed the No. 9 incoming recruiting class. Things are looking good for Ollie and the Huskies lately. -- Strong

25. Syracuse Orange: "Splash" (1984)
Believe in mermaids? You will after watching the 1984 comedy starring Tom Hanks and Daryl Hannah. The Orange are out to make believers of us, too -- that last season's Final Four run was not a fluke. Tyler Lydon headlines a roster that could again fly under the radar but has the talent to make a splash when the brackets are announced come March. -- Brown

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