College basketball conference previews and players to watch

Feature photo courtesy of Ironviper.

The 2015-2016 college basketball season is right around the corner, and with it comes conference title races, the showcasing of the best returning talent from last season and the emergence of new household stars. But you don’t even have to watch the games if you don’t want to, because we know how the conference standings are going to look now by the time March comes around. Predictions for the Big Ten, ACC, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC, Big East, AAC, Mountain West, A-10, West Coast and Missouri Valley can be found below, along with preseason first team players for each conference and ten more players to keep your eye on.

Big Ten

Melo Trimble shoots over Nigel Hayes in the Feb. 24 game between the Terps and Badgers in College Park, Md. Both players are expected to be standouts for their respective teams in the 2015-16 season. Photo courtesy of


1. Maryland

2. Michigan State

3. Purdue

4. Indiana

5. Wisconsin

6. Michigan

7. Iowa

8. Ohio State

9. Illinois

10. Northwestern

11. Minnesota

12. Nebraska

13. Penn State

14. Rutgers

First Team

Melo Trimble, Maryland

Caris LeVert, Michigan

Yogi Ferrell, Indiana

A.J. Hammons, Purdue

Denzel Valentine, Michigan State

Ten to Watch: Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin; Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa; James Blackmon Jr., Indiana; Jake Layman, Maryland; Derrick Walton, Michigan; Robert Carter, Maryland; Alex Olah, Northwestern; Eron Harris, Michigan State; Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin; Malcolm Hill, Illinois


Marcus Paige drives to the basket to score the game-winner against NC State on Jan. 14. He will be the leader for the Tar Heels this season as North Carolina heads in to the new season with big expectations.


1. North Carolina

2. Virginia

3. Duke

4. Miami (FL)

5. North Carolina State

6. Louisville

7. Notre Dame

8. Florida State

9. Syracuse

10. Pittsburgh

11. Virginia Tech

12. Wake Forest

13. Georgia Tech

14. Clemson

15. Boston College

First Team

Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia

Marcus Paige, North Carolina

Brandon Ingram, Duke

Xavier Rathan-Mayes, Florida State

Demetrius Jackson, Notre Dame

Ten to Watch: Zach Auguste, Notre Dame; Damion Lee, Louisville; Kennedy Meeks, North Carolina; Codi Miller-McIntyre, Wake Forest; Brice Johnson, North Carolina; Jaron Blossomgame, Clemson; Cat Barber, North Carolina State; Sheldon McClellan, Miami; Trey Lewis, Louisville; Grayson Allen, Duke

Big 12

Buddy Hield’s tips the ball into the basket as time expires in Oklahoma’s game against Kansas last season on March 7. Hield’s 17.5 points per game average led the Big 12 last season, and he is expected to have similar numbers this season, too.


1. Kansas

2. Iowa State

3. Oklahoma

4. Texas

5. Baylor

6. West Virginia

7. Oklahoma State

8. TCU

9. Texas Tech

10. Kansas State

First Team

Rico Gathers, Baylor

Georges Niang, Iowa State

Perry Ellis, Kansas

Monte Morris, Iowa State

Buddy Hield, Oklahoma

Ten to Watch: Phil Forte, Oklahoma State; Frank Mason III, Kansas; Taurean Prince, Baylor; Devin Williams, West Virginia; Ryan Spangler, Oklahoma; Isaiah Taylor, Texas; Isaiah Cousins, Oklahoma; Jameel McKay, Iowa State; Wayne Selden, Kansas; Cameron Ridley, Texas


Gary Payton II is probably one of the best players in the country you haven’t seen play. Last season he averaged 13.4 ppg, 7.5 rpg and 3.2 apg, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t improve on those numbers during his senior campaign. Photo credit to Frizbaloid.


1. Arizona

2. Utah

3. California

4. Oregon


6. Oregon State

7. USC

8. Arizona State

9. Stanford

10. Colorado

11. Washington

12. Washington State

First Team

Gary Payton II, Oregon State

Tyrone Wallace, California

Jakob Poeltl, Utah

Josh Hawkinson, Washington State

Ryan Anderson, Arizona

Ten to Watch: Kaleb Tarczewski, Arizona; Andrew Andrews, Washington; Elgin Cook, Oregon; Josh Scott, Colorado; Bryce Alford, UCLA; Tony Parker, UCLA; Jaylen Brown, California; Brandon Taylor, Utah; Savon Goodman, Arizona State; Nikola Jovanovic, USC


Vanderbilt’s Damian Jones will be one of the SEC’s best players in the 2015-16 season. Last season, Jones put it down with authority against Tennessee, and you can expect to see more plays like this from the projected lottery pick.


1. Kentucky

2. Texas A&M

3. Vanderbilt

4. LSU

5. Georgia

6. Mississippi State

7. Florida

8. South Carolina

9. Arkansas

10. Ole Miss

11. Auburn

12. Alabama

13. Tennessee

14. Missouri

First Team

Stefan Moody, Ole Miss

Ben Simmons, LSU

Damion Jones, Vanderbilt

Tyler Ulis, Kentucky

Skal Labissiere, Kentucky

Ten to Watch: Dorian Finney-Smith, Florida; Malik Newman, Mississippi State; Danuel House, Texas A&M; Kenny Gaines, Georgia; Cinmeon Bowers, Auburn; Alex Poythress, Kentucky; Riley LaChance, Vanderbilt; Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina; Jalen Jones, Texas A&M; Tim Quarterman, LSU

Big East

Providence’s Kris Dunn is arguably the best point guard in the country, perhaps even the best overall player. His highlights from last season are evidence enough that 2015-16 will be a big year for him.


1. Villanova

2. Georgetown

3. Butler

4. Xavier

5. Marquette

6. Seton Hall

7. Providence

8. St. John’s

9. Creighton

10. DePaul

First Team

Kris Dunn, Providence

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown

Kellen Dunham, Butler

Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova

Jalen Reynolds, Xavier

Ten to Watch: Roosevelt Jones, Butler; Josh Hart, Villanova; Henry Ellenson, Marquette; Isaiah Whitehead, Seton Hall; Billy Garrett Jr., DePaul; Trevon Bluiett, Xavier; Andrew Chrabascz, Butler; Isaac Copeland, Georgetown; Durand Johnson, St. John’s; Duane Wilson, Marquette


Troy Caupain of Cincinnati scores as time expires to lift the Bearcats to a 66-65 victory over Purdue in the first round of last year’s tournament. Caupain returns to run the point for Cincinnati, as well as several other important contributors to last season’s team.


1. SMU

2. Cincinnati

3. Connecticut

4. Tulsa

5. Temple

6. Memphis

7. Houston

8. East Carolina

9. USF

10. UCF

11. Tulane

First Team

Nic Moore, SMU

Markus Kennedy, SMU

Sterling Gibbs, Connecticut

James Woodard, Tulsa

Octavius Ellis, Cincinnati

Ten to Watch: Daniel Hamilton, Connecticut; Troy Caupain, Cincinnati; Devonta Pollard, Houston; Shaq Goodwin, Memphis; Chris Perry, USF; Quenton DeCosey, Temple; Louis Dabney, Tulane; Shaquille Harrison, Tulsa; B.J. Taylor, UCF; B.J. Tyson, East Carolina

Mountain West

AJ West is a big man you need to know about. Those not in tune with the happenings of the Mountain West Conference might not have ever seen or heard of him, but that needs to change. The 6-foot-9-inch senior from Brooklyn exploded last season, averaging a double-double (12.1 ppg, 11.0 rpg), leading the nation in offense rebounds and averaging 2.6 blocks per game. Now back for one last go-around, West should improve those already insane numbers.


1. San Diego State

2. Boise State

3. Utah State

4. Fresno State


6. New Mexico

7. Wyoming

8. Nevada

9. Colorado State

10. Air Force

11. San Jose State

First Team

Marvelle Harris, Fresno State

Anthony Drmic, Boise State

AJ West, Nevada

Winston Sheppard, San Diego State

Jalen Moore, Utah State

Ten to Watch: David Collette, Utah State; Josh Adams, Wyoming; James Webb III, Boise State; Cullen Neal, New Mexico; Stephen Zimmerman Jr., UNLV; Chris Smith, Utah State; Cezar Guerrero, Fresno State; Joe De Ciman, Colorado State; Paul Watson, Fresno State; Malik Pope, San Diego State


E.C. Matthews feeds Hassan Martin in transition for the slam against Dayton on March 14. Matthews and Martin are both back for the 2015-16 season, and they’re expected to put Rhode Island basketball back into the tournament.


1. Rhode Island

2. Davidson

3. VCU

4. Dayton

5. George Washington

6. Richmond

7. St. Bonaventure

8. Duquesne

9. La Salle

10. St. Joseph’s

11. George Mason

12. St. Louis

13. Massachusetts

14. Fordham

First Team

Shevon Thompson, George Mason

Jordan Price, La Salle

E.C. Matthews, Rhode Island

DeAndre Bembry, St. Joseph’s

Jack Gibbs, Davidson

Ten to Watch: Hassan Martin, Rhode Island; Marcus Posley, St. Bonavture; Kendall Pollard, Dayton; Micah Mason, Duquesne; Christian Sengfelder, Fordham; Patricio Garino, George Washington; Terry Allen, Richmond; Dion Wright, St. Bonaventure; Melvin Johnson, VCU; Brian Sullivan, Davidson

West Coast

Everyone already knows about Kyle Wiltjer and Kyle Collinsworth, two of the best scorers in the country, but not everyone knows about Stacy Davis. Pepperdine will be one of the country’s most improved teams from a year ago, and Davis will lead the way. In his first three years in college, Davis has averaged 11.2, 15.1 and 15.7 points per game as a freshman, sophomore and junior respectively, as well as 7.3, 7.6 and 7.8 rebounds per game. He has been extremely consistent, and the Waves expect big performances from him again in 2015-16.


1. Gonzaga

2. BYU

3. Pepperdine

4. St. Mary’s

5. Portland

6. Santa Clara

7. Pacific

8. Loyola Marymount

9. San Francisco

10. San Diego

First Team

Kyle Collinsworth, BYU

Kyle Wiltjer, Gonzaga

Stacy Davis, Pepperdine

Jared Brownridge, Santa Clara

Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga

Ten to Watch: Domantas Sabonis, Gonzaga; Chase Fischer, BYU; T.J. Wallace, Pacific; Jett Raines, Pepperdine; Alec Wintering, Portland; Tim Derksen, San Francisco; Nick Emery, BYU; Marin Mornar, Loyola Marymount; Emmett Naar, St. Mary’s; Jeremy Major, Pepperdine

Missouri Valley

The Missouri Valley Conference happens to agree with me on their conference’s preseason all-conference team, and this video highlights each of the five players who have earned the honor. Everyone knows Wichita State’s Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, but some might not know Illinois State’s Devaughn Akoon-Purcell and Evansville’s D.J. Balentine and Egidijus Mockevicius. The Missouri Valley has some legitimate talent that any college basketball fan should want to watch.


1. Wichita State

2. Evansville

3. Illinois State

4. Northern Iowa

5. Indiana State

6. Loyola-Chicago

7. Southern Illinois

8. Missouri State

9. Drake

10. Bradley

First Team

D.J. Balentine, Evansville

Fred VanVleet, Wichita State

Ron Baker, Wichita State

DeVaughn Akoon-Purcell, Illinois State

Egidijus Mockevicius, Evansville

Ten to Watch: Devonte Brown, Indiana State; Wes Washpun, Northern Iowa; Anthony Beane, Southern Illinois; Reed Timmer, Drake; Brenton Scott, Indiana State; Milton Doyle, Loyola-Chicago; Camyn Boone, Missouri State; Paul Jesperson, Northern Iowa; Khristian Smith, Indiana State; Montel James, Loyola-Chicago

Justin Meyer
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Justin Meyer

Editor-In-Chief at The Left Bench
Justin co-founded The Left Bench in 2013, and ever since nothing was the same. He is a native of Columbus, Ohio, who has transplanted to the University of Maryland for college. He watches more college basketball than any one person should and is admittedly a 20-year-old curmudgeon.
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About Justin Meyer 209 Articles
Justin co-founded The Left Bench in 2013, and ever since nothing was the same. He is a native of Columbus, Ohio, who has transplanted to the University of Maryland for college. He watches more college basketball than any one person should and is admittedly a 20-year-old curmudgeon.