Which teams can best navigate the road to the Final Four in 2015-16? (David J. Phillip/AP Photo)

As the curtain rises on the college basketball season, there doesn’t appear to be a dominant team towering over the national field. Heck, Kentucky Coach John Calipari spent the preseason telling anyone who would listen his team wasn’t going to be good from the get-go.

In the absence of a blue-blooded behemoth, the door is open for some less illustrious programs to make a March charge and claim a national championship — including some schools who have never taken home a title.

Here’s a look at 20 intriguing contenders, 10 flaunting glorious pedigrees of past championships in the 64 (plus)-team tournament era, and 10 more who have yet to cut down the nets after the final game.


Coach: Sean Miller (seventh season)
2014-15 record: 34-4 (16-2 Pac-12)
2014-15 postseason: Regional finalist
Name to know: C Kaleb Tarczewski

Outlook: Are the Wildcats back to the point that it’s simply accepted they’ll be fine regardless of their personnel losses? This year will be the test case. Arizona saw four starters depart, but they still have Tarczewski in the middle. Much will be asked from a pair of forwards who transferred to Tucson: Ryan Anderson (Boston College) and Mark Tollefsen (San Francisco).


Coach: Mike Krzyzewski (36th season)
2014-15 record: 35-4 (14-3 ACC)
2014-15 postseason: National champion (fifth time in program history)
Name to know: G Brandon Ingram

Outlook: The Blue Devils rode an eight-man crew to a national title, and Coach K quickly set to work on solidifying a monster recruiting class in the weeks that followed. Duke has some familiar names (Amile Jefferson and national title game hero Grayson Allen come to mind), but Ingram and point guard Derryck Thornton are among the talented newcomers who will play considerable minutes this winter.


Coach: Tom Crean (eighth season)
2014-15 record: 20-14 (9-9 Big Ten)
2014-15 postseason: Round of 64
Name to know: G Yogi Ferrell

Outlook: Can. They. Play. Defense? That’s the Hoosiers in a nutshell. Whether they can play well on the road and if they have enough in the frontcourt (even with the addition of freshman Thomas Bryant) are secondary but significant issues. Ferrell, James Blackmon Jr. and Troy Williams will fill it up, but Indiana needs some stops to avoid yet another round of Crean hot seat talk.


Coach: Bill Self (13th season)
2014-15 record: 27-9 (13-5 Big 12)
2014-15 postseason: Round of 32
Name to know: F Perry Ellis

Outlook: The Jayhawks have won at least a share of the Big 12 regular season title in 11 consecutive seasons, and Self returns four of his starters (including Ellis and point guard Frank Mason). Kansas has flamed out in the first weekend in back-to-back years, but the talent for a Final Four push is certainly in place.


Coach: John Calipari (seventh season)
2014-15 record: 38-1 (18-0 SEC)
2014-15 postseason: National semifinalist
Name to know: C Skal Labissiere

Outlook: The Wildcats lost four players to the top 20 picks in June’s NBA draft, and then did what they always do under Calipari — reloaded. Labissiere is the gem of a freshman class that also includes wing Jamal Murray, and senior Alex Poythress is back from a knee injury that cost him all but eight games. Kentucky will be in the title hunt.


Coach: Mark Turgeon (fifth season)
2014-15 record: 28-7 (14-4 ACC)
2014-15 postseason: Round of 32
Name to know: G Melo Trimble

Outlook: The retooled Terrapins enjoyed a breakout season last year thanks in large part to Trimble’s stellar freshman campaign. Maryland hasn’t made it past the first weekend of the tournament since 2003, but its impressive depth and balance has optimism higher in College Park than at any point since the Terps won the 2002 national title.

[The three players that could determine Maryland’s fate]


Coach: John Beilein (ninth season)
2014-15 record: 16-16 (8-10 Big Ten)
2014-15 postseason: None
Name to know: G Caris LeVert

Outlook: The Wolverines faced a diabolical double dose of disaster last year — a talent drain created by early NBA defections combined with injuries to two of the best remaining players. LeVert and Derrick Walton Jr. both missed extensive time. Now, both are back, and Michigan should return to relevancy and, if it is fortunate, a deep NCAA run.


Coach: Tom Izzo (21st season)
2014-15 record: 27-12 (12-6 Big Ten)
2014-15 postseason: National semifinalist
Name to know: F Denzel Valentine

Outlook: The Spartans didn’t win many style points last year. They also made the Final Four. The road might be a little bumpy again this season, but Valentine and West Virginia transfer Eron Harris aren’t a bad pair to start with. Michigan State will be heard from in March; it always is.


Coach: Roy Williams (13th season)
2014-15 record: 26-12 (11-7 ACC)
2014-15 postseason: Regional semifinalist
Name to know: G Marcus Paige

Outlook: Like Maryland, there’s little question about the Tar Heels’ experience and depth. It’s hard to believe North Carolina hasn’t reached a Final Four since 2009, and this Paige-led bunch with interior options like Brice Johnson and Kennedy Meeks has a serious chance to hang a big banner in the Dean Dome at season’s end. The question will be how well Paige heals from a broken hand sustained just before the start of the season.


Coach: Jay Wright (15th season)
2014-15 record: 33-3 (16-2 Big East)
2014-15 postseason: Round of 32
Name to know: G Ryan Arcidiacono

Outlook: The Wildcats lose arguably one of the Big East’s top two players from a year ago (Darrun Hilliard), and it’s hard to forget about their flat showing against N.C. State in the tournament to close out their season. But Arcidiacono and freshman Jalen Brunson will make up a formidable backcourt for the Big East favorites. They’ll be a tough out once March rolls around.

10 possible champions who haven’t claimed an NCAA tournament title in the last 30 years, if ever:


Coach: Cuonzo Martin (second season)
2014-15 record: 18-15 (7-11 Pac-12)
2014-15 postseason: None
Name to know: F Jaylen Brown

Outlook: A year ago, Martin was starting over after a three-season run at Tennessee that was often bumpy but also capped with a Sweet 16 appearance. Now, he’s landed Brown and fellow highly-touted freshman Ivan Rabb to make the Golden Bears one of the season’s biggest wild cards. Cal has a national title (1959), but hasn’t made it to the second weekend since 1997.

[5 small programs that could shock the world]


Coach: Mark Few (17th season)
2014-15 record: 35-3 (17-1 West Coast)
2014-15 postseason: Regional finalist
Name to know: F Kyle Wiltjer

Outlook: The list of teams with front lines as capable as Gonzaga’s is not long, with Wiltjer, Domantas Sabonis and Przemek Karnowski an imposing bunch. If Few’s next generation of guards (redshirt freshman Josh Perkins and sophomore Silas Melson among them) is ready now, the Bulldogs might finally punch through and earn a Final Four bid.


Coach: Steve Prohm (first season)
2014-15 record: 25-9 (12-6 Big 12)
2014-15 postseason: Round of 64
Name to know: F Georges Niang

Outlook: There’s so much to like about the Cyclones, from the ultra-versatile Niang to point guard Monte Morris to wing Nazareth Mitrou-Long (you might remember him as Naz Long, but he’s using his full name this year). But are there scars from last year’s opening-round loss to UAB? And can ex-Murray State coach Prohm effectively replace program icon Fred Hoiberg?


Coach: Johnny Jones (fourth season)
2014-15 record: 22-11 (11-7 SEC)
2014-15 postseason: Round of 64
Name to know: C Ben Simmons

Outlook: Simmons is a 6-foot-10 freshman who can play all over the floor, and he joins a program that is rarely lacking for pure talent. Whether the Tigers actually take advantage of it is another matter. Nonetheless, Simmons’ presence alone means plenty of people will pay attention as an LSU program with one NCAA tournament victory since its 2006 Final Four trip tries to capitalize on its potential.

[Three SEC teams that could threaten Kentucky]


Coach: Lon Kruger (fifth season)
2014-15 record: 14-11 (12-6 Big 12)
2014-15 postseason: Regional semifinalist
Name to know: G Buddy Hield

Outlook: Hield is the defending Big 12 player of the year, and he’s surrounded largely by the sort of reliable players that Kruger usually has populating his rosters. After earning a No. 3 seed in last year’s tournament (and beating Dayton in a virtual road game in Columbus to reach the second weekend), the Sooners could take another step forward this season.


Coach: Matt Painter (11th season)
2014-15 record: 21-13 (12-6 Big Ten)
2014-15 postseason: Round of 64
Name to know: F Caleb Swanigan

Outlook: With Swanigan finally receiving NCAA clearance last week, the Boilermakers solved one of their biggest questions before the season even began. The McDonald’s All-American will combine with 7-footer A.J. Hammons to give Purdue one of the nation’s top front lines, and four starters are back from a 21-win team a year ago. The Boilers are worth keeping an eye on; they’ll get better as Swanigan settles in.


Coach: Kevin Stallings (17th season)
2014-15 record: 21-14 (9-9 SEC)
2014-15 postseason: NIT quarterfinalist
Name to know: C Damian Jones

Outlook: Another wild card. The Commodores won eight of their last 10 conference games, only one of which was against a team that finished above .500 in the SEC. Still, this was a team that clearly got better last year, it brings back four starters and (best of all) it does not lack for shooters. A spot in the top 20 might be a bit high, but this is a definitely an “any given night” sort of team.


Coach: Tony Bennett (seventh season)
2014-15 record: 30-4 (16-2 ACC)
2014-15 postseason: Round of 32
Name to know: G Malcolm Brogdon

Outlook: The Cavaliers will play great defense, and with Brogdon, forward Anthony Gill and point guard London Perrantes all back, experience isn’t a question mark. They probably don’t have a do-everything sort like Justin Anderson. More importantly, they would probably like a spot in the field of 68 far removed from nemesis Michigan State. Virginia will be in the hunt for an ACC title and more.


Coach: Gregg Marshall (ninth season)
2014-15 record: 30-5 (17-1 Missouri Valley)
2014-15 postseason: Regional semifinalist
Name to know: G Ron Baker

Outlook: It seems like Baker and Fred VanVleet are about eighth-year seniors by now. Not that Marshall and the Shockers mind. Wichita State has a Final Four, an undefeated regular season and a rock-solid Sweet 16 team to its credit over the last three seasons, and it should at least flirt with a fourth consecutive 30-win season.


Coach: Bo Ryan (15th season)
2014-15 record: 36-4 (16-2 Big Ten)
2014-15 postseason: National runner-up
Name to know: F Nigel Hayes

Outlook: Frank Kaminsky’s gone, and so are Sam Dekker, Josh Gasser and Traevon Jackson. But is now really the time to start underestimating Ryan as he is (maybe) on the cusp of retirement? Probably not. He still has Hayes and point guard Bronson Koenig, and while the Badgers’ championship window is probably closed, they’ve still finished in the top four of the Big Ten for 14 years in a row. They’ll play smart and tough, and that will make them dangerous in March.