It’s not even a week into the 2015-16 college hoops season and some very compelling matchups are staring us smack-dab in the face.

A “Final Four-flavored” double-header in The United Center in Chicago will tip off at 7:30 (ET) with Kentucky against Duke, with Kansas and Michigan State next up at 10 or so. Yes, that would be a nifty set of semifinals on Final Four Saturday (April 2) in Houston.

Kentucky, Kansas and Duke are the respective No.’s 2, 5 and 11-ranked clubs in the first 2015-16 Power 16, with Michigan State listed among “the next best eight”:

Rank (Last week’s rank)
1. Maryland (NR)
Plenty of key returnees from the second best Big 10 team during the 2014-15 egular season plus three terrific newcomers equal a solid choice to win the conference and get to the Final Four.
2. North Carolina (NR)
There are not the multiple future lottery choices in Chapel Hill that are on other campuses but Roy Williams has a veteran, deep and gifted roster of very good players. Kennedy Meeks will stun a lot of people this season – much improved!
3. Kentucky (NR)
The usual multiple future NBA lottery selections still reside in Lexington, the most notable of those being freshmen Skal Labissiere and Jamal Murray.
4. Virginia (NR)
This has been the best team in the ACC – at least during the regular season – over the past two years and more than enough of the elements that made that possible are still in place in Charlottesville.
5. Kansas (NR)
Depth, skill, size and experience all seem to be ready to form a Final Four brew for Bill Self and the Jayhawks.
6. Wichita St. (NR)
A backcourt of seniors Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker and the presence of the one of the sport’s elite coaches (Gregg Marshall) is a nice place to start.
7. Indiana (NR)
There are four very good perimeter players in place by way of Yogi Ferrell, Troy Williams, Robert Johnson and James Blackmon Jr.
8. Gonzaga (NR)
The Bulldogs have a frontcourt that is both big and skilled, led by 6-9  John R. Wooden Award candidate Kyle Wiltjer. And he’s the “little guy” up front.
9. Iowa St. (NR)
Two of the best half-dozen or so players in the Big 12 (point guard Monte Morris and forward Georges Niang) return and there are six or seven others in the mix who are who are within sprinting distance of all-conference territory.
10. Oklahoma (NR)
Led by 2014-15 Big 12 Player of the Year Buddy Hield, this group of Sooners would seem on track to be the most successful squad since Lon Kruger came to Norman.
11. Duke (NR)
Amile Jefferson and Grayson Allen were as responsible as any of the squad’s players for beating Wisconsin in the national title game – and they both return while being joined by three more McDonald’s All-Americans, notably slender forward Brandon Ingram.
12. Villanova (NR)
Jay Wright’s on-court plate overflows with playmakers and jump shooters.
13. California (NR)
Two McDonald’s All-Americans (Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb) join three exceptional veterans (Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird) to make up what is about as good a starting lineup as will be found in the sport, coast to coast.
14. Arizona (NR)
The starting center and a guard who often got “starter’s minutes” – Kaleb Tarcezewski and Gabe York, respectively – return and will helped along by a notable much of newcomers. The most notably of those, Ryan Anderson (by way of Boston College after shoulder surgery and a redshirt year), could be Pac 12 Player of the Year.
15. LSU (NR)
Well, of course, start with freshman Ben Simmons. He and four intramural standouts would be a chore for a lot of very good teams to beat. But the superbly gifted left hander will be surrounded by the caliber of player that should enable Simmons to play into the second week of the NCAA tourney in what almost assuredly will be his only season of college hoops.
16. Utah (NR)
This is likely the deepest squad in the Pac 12 and center Jakob Poeltl could be even more impressive, at both ends of the floor, than he was as a freshman.

NEXT BEST EIGHT: Boise State, Butler, Connecticut, Louisville, Michigan State, Purdue, SMU and UCLA.

Frank Burlison has been covering hoops for 30+ years for a variety of publications.

Follow Frank on twitter @FrankieBur. Also make sure to follow his website at College coaching staffs interested in Burlison’s scouting service should contact him at [email protected]


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