Newcomers have Cal, Texas A&M confident of breakthrough
What a team does one season often has no bearing on how it fares the following year.
Notre Dame showed that by advancing to a regional final in 2015 after posting a losing record the year before. As the college basketball season gets ready to start Friday, here are six teams that have reason to believe they could make a similar surge by advancing to the NCAA Tournament after failing to earn a bid last season:
2014-15 record: 18-15
The 14th-ranked Golden Bears are the highest-ranked team in the preseason AP Top 25 that failed to make the NCAA Tournament last season. This marks the first time they've appeared in the Top 25 since Nov. 28, 2012. California added highly touted freshmen Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb to a roster that already included returning starters Tyrone Wallace, Jordan Mathews and Jabari Bird. Brown was the nation's No. 4 prospect in his class and Rabb was rated No. 7 according to the 247Sports Composite, which takes all the major recruiting services into account.
''We're just trying to soak up as much as possible and follow the older guys' lead,'' Brown said.
2014-15 record: 20-15 (reached first round of NIT)
Two graduate transfers could help make sure the 2014 national champions get back to the tournament after a one-year absence. Sterling Gibbs ranked fourth in the Big East in scoring (16.3) and fifth in assists (3.8) for Seton Hall last season. Shonn Miller ranked second in the Ivy League in scoring (16.8) and rebounding (8.5) at Cornell. No. 20 Connecticut returns one of the nation's top shot blockers in Amidah Brimah as well as Daniel Hamilton and Rodney Purvis.
2014-15 record: 25-13 (NIT runner-up)
Miami boasts one of the nation's more experienced major-conference teams, as the Hurricanes return four starters, including fifth-year senior guards Sheldon McClellan and Angel Rodriguez. The Hurricanes beat eventual national champion Duke on the road last season and took Stanford to overtime in the NIT final. Tonye Jekiri, a 7-foot senior, gives Miami one of the Atlantic Coast Conference's top rebounders.
2014-15 record: 16-16
Injuries wreaked havoc with Michigan last season as the Wolverines ended a string of four straight NCAA appearances. Foot injuries caused Caris LeVert to miss Michigan's final 14 games and Derrick Walton to sit out the Wolverines' last 12 games. The 25th-ranked Wolverines are hoping Spike Albrecht makes a successful return from offseason hip surgery and that Zak Irvin makes a quick recovery from back surgery.
2014-15 record: 21-12 (reached NIT second round)
The Aggies return three players who averaged at least 9 points per game last season in Danuel House, Jalen Jones and Alex Caruso. House scored 14.8 points per game to rank ninth in the SEC. That trio should get plenty of help from a talented freshman class that was ranked in the top 10 by most recruiting services. Freshmen D.J. Hogg, Elijah Thomas and Tyler Davis all were rated as top 50 recruits by the 247Sports Composite.
2014-15 record: 21-14 (reached NIT quarterfinals)
Vanderbilt closed the 2014-15 season on a 10-4 run while relying almost exclusively on freshmen and sophomores who are back this year. The list of returners is headlined by junior Damian Jones, who averaged 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season to lead the Commodores in both categories. Jones is one of three 7-footers on Vanderbilt's roster. The 18th-ranked Commodores return four players who shot at least 40 percent from 3-point range last season.
AP Sports Writers Janie McCauley and Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.
- Angel Rodriguez
- California Golden Bears
- Caris LeVert
- Damian Jones
- Jabari Bird
- Jordan Mathews
- Miami (FL) Hurricanes
- Michigan Wolverines
- Sheldon McClellan
- Spike Albrecht
- Tonye Jekiri
- Tyrone Wallace
- Utah Valley Wolverines
- Vanderbilt Commodores
- Zak Irvin