1. Oklahoma State: The Cowboys lost a pair of seniors from the team that reached the 2014 NCAA finals, but they still have a 2013-14 Big 12 Player of the Year (Wyndham Clark), a 2013 U.S. Walker Cupper (Jordan Niebrugge) and a 2014 U.S. Amateur quarterfinalist (Zachary Olsen). No other team has that many proven performers at the top.
2. Texas: A young, talented roster doesn’t always lead to success, but it seems inevitable that the Longhorns are going to win in bunches this season, even with one of the nation’s toughest schedules.
3. Illinois: Perennially underrated, Mike Small’s team won’t have that luxury this season. Brian Campbell is the best player you’ve never heard of, while the supporting cast is an appealing mix of experience (three upperclassmen) and promise (Nick Hardy). This group is very good.
4. Alabama: The two-time defending champions look markedly different this year, but bet against the Tide at your own risk. Robby Shelton is a game-changing talent at the top, and now we can finally watch GB&I Walker Cupper Gavin Moynihan, who played sparingly a year ago. Though there might be some growing pains in the fall, there’s little doubt ’Bama will hit its stride when it matters most.
5. South Carolina: Coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history, the Gamecocks return all five starters from last year’s team, a rarity in today’s college landscape. They may lack a bona fide star, but all five players are ranked inside the top 250. Kickingaway a chance to reach match play last spring will keep these boys plenty motivated.
6. Georgia: Two of their best players from 2013-14 are gone, but junior Lee McCoy seems more than capable of filling that void. With a victory already this young season, it’s clear the ’Dawgs will be highly competitive from September to June.
7. Vanderbilt: Senior Hunter Stewart will be a top-10 player by year’s end (already won the Carmel Cup), while Carson Jacobs has established himself as a rock-solid No. 2. The Commodores’ title hopes likely depend on the health of sophomore Matthias Schwab, who missed the last five spring tournaments and may sit out the entire fall because of a back injury.
8. Georgia Tech: After losing three starters to graduation, the Yellow Jackets will likely go as far as Player of the Year favorite Ollie Schniederjans can take them. Senior Anders Albertson must return to his All-American form, while freshmen Jacob Joiner and Chris Petefish will be asked to contribute right away.
9. UCLA: Jonathan Garrick has only one victory in two seasons with the Bruins, but that figures to change in what is shaping up to be a breakout year. Look for junior Lorens Chan to also take the next step, pacing a lineup that lost only one player and features three seniors.
10. Texas A&M: Returning three top-150 players, the Aggies also welcome highly touted freshman Cameron Champ, who should make an immediate impact. A&M hasn’t cracked the top-5 since its 2009 title, but this is a team that should be in the mix for a match-play spot come spring.
ALSO KEEP AN EYE ON: Florida State, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington