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Men’s basketball: Top 60 NCAA teams 2020-21 - 4.0 [The Final Countdown]

NCAA Basketball Tournament - East Regional - Washington DC - Practice Sessions Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

A final preseason ranking exercise...

I hope this finds everyone staying safe and healthy.

With basketball practice officially starting, here is my final take on the top-60 teams ranking. This update should have all of the final roster movements accounted for, and just about all of the most significant waivers accounted for. The exact schedule for just about every team in the nation remains in the air, but with the playing rosters just about set, I can confidently say that this truly is the proper rank-ordering of the best teams in men’s college basketball heading into the season.

The remaining addendums are the immediate-eligibility waiver requests for the following players (either from the NCAA or from their respective leagues):

Olivier Sarr (Kentucky), Mac McClung (Texas Tech), LJ Figueroa and Aaron Estrada (Oregon), Both Gach (Minnesota), Chaundee Brown (Michigan), Shareef O’Neal and Josh LeBlanc (LSU), DeAndre Williams (Memphis), Bryce Williams (Ok St.), Bryce Goodine (Providence), Jairus Hamilton (Maryland), Jimmy Sotos (Ohio State).

Without further ado...

Here are the current depth-charts and rankings of the top-60 NCAA men’s basketball teams for the 2020-21 season
(brief questions and comments per team):

(Disclaimer: I may have completely forgotten, omitted, or mis-depth-charted various players due to signings, injuries, transfers, or NBA decisions I have not accounted for. Please DO let me know about factual or obvious omissions and errors.)

I view this as a fun collective exercise: please offer your thoughts and critiques and don’t be surprised if I change my rankings and depth charts based on your excellent input!

#1 Gonzaga

1 - Jalen Suggs, Andrew Nembhard, Aaron Cook
2 - Joel Ayayi, Dominick Harris
3 - Corey Kispert, Marytnas Arlauskas
4 - Anton Watson, Julian Strawther
5 - Drew Timme, Oumar Ballo, Pavel Zahkarov

Gonzaga has six clear future pros to me in Ayayi, Kispert, Suggs, Timme, Watson, and Oumar Ballo, who will, like Mady Sissoko for Michigan State, serve as the huge, long, and ultra-talented athletic, rim-protecting big off the bench.

The Bulldogs’ size, athleticism, and veteran savvy will combine with their good-enough shooting, and play-making to form the best team in the country. Guard play should be solid, though all three of Suggs, Ayayi, and Harris will have to prove they can knock down shots to really raise the ceiling for this team. Having Watson healthy after his injury last year will be significant alongside Strawther — those two, along with the excellent Kispert, should take up the bulk of the wing-forward minutes.

Gonzaga has another chance at an undefeated regular season with Suggs in the fold: a legitimate one-and-done NBA player. The concern is that Ayayi has been inconsistent at times, Suggs and Harris are freshmen, and Cook is a grad transfer — so they lack a rock-solid veteran lead-guard, but I do not see this playing a decisive role in deciding their season’s fate (unless it does). Note: comically, Nembhard has been granted an immediate eligibility waiver, which strengthens Gonzaga’s play-making in the half court and guard depth in general.

#2 Baylor

1 - Davion Mitchell, LJ Cryer
2 - Jared Butler, Adam Flagler
3 - MaCio Teague, Jordan Turner
4 - Mark Vital, Matthew Mayer, Dain Dainja, Jonathan Tchamwa-Tchatchoua
5 - Tristan Clark, Flo Thamba, Zach Loveday

While many are ranking Baylor No. 1, I am just not quite sure I can see it: Clark hasn’t been healthy in two years and Freddie Gillespie (who graduated) was so important for them defensively, which is Clark’s biggest weakness even when healthy. Sorting out the center position and reserve forward minutes is vital (look at that roster imbalance!).

One of Cryer or Flagler must step up in the back-court as well. Flagler made a ton of threes at Presbyterian before transferring and Cryer is a top-100 guard, so both are capable, but there is no depth behind them; on the wing, Turner will be solid in his reserve role. Despite my questions about their offense outside of their three guards, those three guards really are terrific. Co-favorites in the Big 12.

#3 Michigan State

1 - Rocket Watts, Foster Loyer
2 - Joshua Langford, AJ Hoggard
3 - Aaron Henry, Gabe Brown
4 - Joey Hauser, Malik Hall, Thomas Kithier
5 - Marcus Bingham Jr., Julius Marble, Mady Sissoko

Rocket Watts, Josh Langford, Aaron Henry, and Joey Hauser will form the best four-man group in the nation, and Gabe Brown and Malik Hall will form possibly the best bench-duo in the nation. But questions remain at the center position, at the reserve guard positions, and about how smoothly the offense and defense will operate without the respective captains of those units for the past two seasons in Cassius Winston and Xavier Tillman. Will Loyer and Hoggard be solid enough as a backups at the point guard and on the wing? Who will start at center and how will the reserve bigs sort out their minutes? Despite these lingering questions, the floor for this team is shockingly high.

While I believe that Sissoko may end the season playing the bulk of the minutes at the center, look for Bingham jr and Marble to get the early cracks at the starting role, which will also help ease Sissoko into games and help him avoid whistle-happy NCAA officiating at the beginning of each half. Izzo is increasingly confident in Watts and Loyer as the duo at the point guard, and we should expect those two to be joined by Henry, Hauser, Hoggard, and Hall as offensive passing-hubs.

MSU may have as many as five players average double-figure points per game: Watts, Henry, Hauser, Langford, and Brown all seem like near-locks to do so; with Hall a candidate to join that group. This year’s Michigan State team will also be the best defensive perimeter group since the 2014-2015 or 2008-2009 teams — Watts, Langford, Henry, Hoggard, and Brown will all prove terrific defenders this season. And, if Hauser, Hall, and the four other bigs can lock down the paint and defend in space, then this team has the makings of a two-way juggernaut. Co-favorites in the B1G.

#4 Virginia

1 - Kihei Clark, Reece Beekman
2 - Casey Morsell, Jabri Abdur-Rahim, Carson McCorkle
3 - Thomas Woldetensae, Trey Murphy III, Kody Stattman
4 - Sam Hauser, Justin McKoy
5 - Jay Huff, Francisco Caffaro, Kadin Shedrick

Way more offensive talent than last year simply by adding Sam Hauser, who is joined by the superb freshman group of Beekman, Abdur-Rahim, and McCorkle. Woldetensae and Huff really came on down the stretch last year and should create a superb foursome with Clark and Hauser. The trick is the off-guards and the three-point shooting as a whole. Bennett needs two of Morsell, Beekman, Abdur-Rahim, and McCorkle to add shooting and defend. Bet on Bennett to find his duo. Note: getting Trey Murphy a very late immediate eligibility waiver will be a crucial addition because he was a high-efficiency, high-volume shooter at Rice; a huge veteran offensive addition as a hybrid-forward. Co-favorite in the ACC.

#5 Duke

1 - Jeremy Roach, Jordan Goldwire
2 - Wendell Moore Jr., DJ Steward
3 - Jalen Johnson, Joey Baker
4 - Matthew Hurt, Henry Coleman, Jaemyn Brakefield
5 - Mark Williams, Patrick Tapé

Still a bit of an odd roster composition, but the ceiling of this team is easily “best team in the nation.” Goldwire, Moore, Hurt, and Baker are a solid group of returners. And Roach, Steward, Johnson, Coleman, and Williams should be instant impact players — with Williams and Johnson on defense and offense, respectively, holding the season in their hands.

Hurt and Brakefield are more finesse guys, and Tapé has yet to do it at this level, so it is Coleman, a less-heralded member of the class, who I am looking at as the potential X-factor off the bench (unless he supplants Hurt or Williams in the starting group). Coleman is really good, with long arms, athleticism, and toughness—he probably has the most moxie on the team, an important factor. Jalen Johnson is an incredible talent, and a closing-group of Roach, Steward, Moore, Johnson, and Hurt or Coleman may be good enough to win a title. Co-favorite in the ACC.

#6 Kentucky

1 - Devin Askew, Davion Mintz
2 - Terrence Clarke, Dontaie Allen
3 - BJ Boston, Cam’Ron Fletcher
4 - Keion Brooks Jr., Isaiah Jackson, Jacob Toppin
5 - Olivier Sarr, Lance Ware

Sarr and Toppin, cleared by the NCAA, and now the SEC, will play and add a ton of talent and depth to the front court. Askew, Clarke, and Boston are superb (particularly Clarke and Boston, who are lottery picks), and Mintz is a really useful fourth guard to bring in off the bench, but the three-point shooting is absolutely the swing question for this team.

Three point shooting and experience are also questions. Brooks probably starts as the “veteran,” but with Sarr and Toppin, Calipari will have options. Co-favorite in the SEC.

#7 Villanova

1 - Collin Gillespie, Chris Arcidiacono
2 - Caleb Daniels, Brian Antoine
3 - Justin Moore, Brandon Slater, Cole Swider
4 - Jermaine Samuels, Eric Dixon
5 - Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree

JRE is back and this team will be superb, likely strolling to a Big East title. So why have I dropped them?

Backup guard minutes are unproven at this point — can Daniels (Tulane transfer), or Arcidacono “the younger” provide quality minutes off the bench if Antoine starts? I am also a bit unsure about their NBA-level of talent. Teams usually need one to three legitimate NBA guys in addition to everything else, to really be amazing, but who is an NBA player on this team? JRE, clearly, but who else? Antoine? Samuels? If a couple of these guys reveal themselves to have NBA-talent, then they could bounce back up the rankings, but I just could not pick Villanova over any of the teams that leaped them in this final preseason ranking. Big-East favorite.

#8 Wisconsin

1 - D’Mitrik Trice, Trevor Anderson
2 - Brad Davison, Jordan Davis
3 - Aleem Ford, Tyler Wahl, Jonathan Davis
4 - Nate Reuvers, Ben Carlson
5 - Micah Potter, Joe Hedstrom, Steven Crowl

Song remains the same. Starting five are terrific. Finding two or three solid bench guys is the swing question. Look for Carlson, Wahl, and Anderson, as the early contenders for those bench roles with the Davis twins waiting in the wings (Lorne Bowman is taking a leave of absence, which hurts their guard depth). Wisconsin should have its eight-man rotation sorted fairly quickly, but the Badgers cannot afford any major slumps from Trice, Davison, or Ford. If Wisconsin wants to win the league again, and make a run to the Final Four, the Badgers must get consistent back-court production—lack of NBA-level talent likely prevents them from winning an NCAA title. Co-favorites in the B1G.

#9 Tennessee

1 - Victor Bailey jr, Santiago Vescovi
2 - Jaden Springer, Keon Johnson
3 - Josiah-Jordan James, Corey Walker jr, Davonte Gaines
4 - Yves Pons, EJ Anosike, Olivier Robinson-Nkamhoua
5 - John Fulkerson, Uros Plavsic, Drew Pember

Must-watch TV. Tennessee has awesome talent on the wings: Springer and Johnson are both likely one-and-done guys, James is a likely two-and-done guy, who was solid last year and has great size and ball-handling, and Bailey will be an awesome fifth man in the back-court. Pons and Fulkerson are a terrific duo in the post and at forward — Pons an all-universe defensive player and Fulkerson the smooth-scoring dynamic five.

Sorting out the wing-rotation and finding out which of the reserve bigs get to play are two major questions. Most important, however, is Vescovi, who is a ton of fun and plays with flair. He was a walking turnover at the point last year, so cutting those back or playing James at the point, will allow the wings to really shine. Can they defend well enough outside of Pons? Springer and Johnson are likely keys on the wing. Co-favorites in the SEC.

#10 Kansas

1 - Marcus Garrett, Dajuan Harris, Latrell Jossell
2 - Bryce Thompson, Tyon Grant-Foster
3 - Ochai Agbaji, Jalen Wilson
4 - Christian Braun, Mitch Lightfoot, Tristan Enaruna
5 - David McCormack, Gethro Muscadin

Amazing talent on the wings: tons of them and they are all good. Garrett and Harris will form a terrifying point-of-attack defensive one-two punch at the point guard spot, and Thompson, Agbaji, and Grant-Foster will be slashing and scoring at will. But questions remain in the post and from beyond the arc: Thompson will be a great shooter, but Agbaji, Garrett, Wilson, Braun, Enaruna, Lightfoot, and Grant-Foster have yet to prove themselves consistent threats from beyond the three-point line. McCormack, Lightfoot, and Muscadin are talented, but will they provide consistent performances? And, even if they do, they will never reach Udoka Azubuike’s heights as a rim protector.

Incredible ceiling and tons of possible playing groups, but without consistent resolutions to their two swing-questions, they will never reach their potential. Co-favorites in the Big 12.

[Update: Silvio De Sousa has left the Kansas program, which really hurts their front-court depth—in light of this I have dropped them down a spot and Tennessee has leaped them.]

#11 Illinois

1 - Ayo Dosunmu, Andre Curbelo
2 - Trent Frazier, Austin Hutcherson
3 - Adam Miller, Jacob Grandison
4 - DaMonte Williams, Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, Coleman Hawkins
5 - Kofi Cockburn, Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Jermaine Hamlin

Illinois must see Dosunmu and Cockburn take a major step forward to reach their potential— both were very good last year, but must be great this year if Illinois is going to win the conference and get to a Final Four. Frazier, Miller, Curbelo, and Williams form a terrific complementary group of guards, and need to shoot it consistently from three-point range. Expect Brad Underwood to play small most games because Bezhanishvili proved that he cannot play the four last year. If Hutcherson and Grandison, who both sat last year, can provide the scoring, shooting, and defense they are both capable of then this team is truly terrifying. Can they hit shots and can their starters match-up against longer and bigger perimeter groups? Co-favorites in the B1G.

#12 Texas Tech

1 - Mac McClung, Jamarius Burton, Clarence Nadolny
2 - Kyler Edwards, Avery Benson, Chibuzo Agbo
3 - Nimari Burnett, Micah Peavy, Kevin McCullar
4 - Terrence Shannon, Joel Ntambwe
5 - Marcus Santos-Silva, Tyreek Smith, Vladislav Golden

Mac McClung, from Georgetown, now eligible, can really raise the scoring ceiling of this team. They now have a scholarship-crunch—possibly with Golden losing his spot. Burnett will still play some on the ball, but Texas Tech now has a superb set of guards and wings capable of pushing Kansas and Baylor for the conference. Santos-Silva is a short, stocky, beast, and Ntambwe is a solid stretch-forward who should really add punch to the front-court.

This TTU team still has everything they need, and the Big XII can now compete with the B1G for the title of best conference. McClung, Burton, Burnett, Edwards, Peavy, Nadolny, McCullar, and Shannon will all do a ton of dribble-driving, but finding consistent three-point shooting is THE major question and potentially hard-caps the ceiling of this team (Ntambwe, Edwards, Agbo, McClung, and Burnett are key here). Co-favorites in the Big 12.

#13 Iowa

1 - Joe Toussaint, Ahron Ulis
2 - Jordan Bohannon, CJ Fredrick, Tony Perkins
3 - Connor McCaffery, Patrick McCaffery
4 - Joe Wieskamp, Kris Murray, Keegan Murray
5 - Luka Garza, Jack Nunge, Josh Ogundele

Iowa will be awesome with Garza back. Toussaint should start because he is Iowa’s best defensive guard. Expect Bohannon off-ball, with Fredrick as the primary reserve guard, and often playing in a three-guard line-up with Toussaint and Bohannon. If Wieskamp has gotten stronger and a more aggressive mindset, then he should be an all-league player.

Reserve front-court minutes are an open question now that Ryan Kriener is gone, but if Nunge can stay healthy, and join Ulis and Patrick McCaffrey as effective contributors, then Iowa will have its bench settled. Resolving their constant defensive fluctuations remains essential — if Iowa is a top-60 defensive team, then pencil them into the Sweet-16. Co-favorites in the B1G.

#14 North Carolina

1 - Caleb Love, RJ Davis, KJ Smith
2 - Anthony Harris, Kerwin Walton
3 - Leaky Black, Puff Johnson, Andrew Platek
4 - Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot
5 - Day’Ron Sharpe, Walker Kessler, Sterling Manley

Tons of talent, but not quite overwhelming enough for Roy Williams to make waves with them. Their jumbo front-court will cause teams major headaches on the offensive glass, which will be a huge part of their offense. The biggest problem for UNC is the same problem they had last year: shooting and scoring from their smalls. Love and Walton should help with their scoring, but they will need Johnson and, possibly, Kessler to provide some floor-spacing to the three-point arc. Second-tier in the ACC.

#15 UCLA

1 - Tyger Campbell, Jaylen Clark
2 - David Singleton, Jake Kyman
3 - Jaime Jaquez, Johnny Juzang
4 - Chris Smith, Jules Bernard
5 - Jalen Hill, Cody Riley, Kenneth Nwuba

Getting Chris Smith back — one of the top talents in the nation in my view— re-raises the ceiling of this team. In addition to Smith, UCLA returns a lot of talent, and, more importantly, they learned how to win last year. Getting Juzang to be immediately eligible is a coup and another bit of NCAA comedy, but a lot of that hinges on Jaylen Clark, who should be good (possible one-and-done), and will need to help in a lot of ways. This is my biggest gamble, given that UCLA finished last season ranked 78th in Kenpom, and categorically refused to defend the three-point line last year, but this team is far better than that ranking, should win the league, and get to the second-weekend in the NCAA tournament. UCLA’s depth and size in the front-court will prove invaluable in the crucial contests against ASU and Oregon—expect Cronin’s defensive identity to be fully imparted to this team this season. Co-favorites in the Pac-12.

#16 Texas

1 - Matt Coleman
2 - Courtney Ramey, Jase Febres, Donovan Williams
3 - Andrew Jones, Gerald Liddell, Brock Cunningham
4 - Greg Brown, Royce Hamm, Will Baker
5 - Jericho Sims, Kai Jones, Kamaka Hepa

Greg Brown adds a surefire NBA talent to an already-solid team who, like UCLA in the Pac-12, had finally figured out how to win toward the end of last season, which has Texas poised for a real dog-fight for a top-three finish in the Big 12. Coleman, Ramey, Jones, and Febres look set for massive years on the perimeter. And the front-court is absurdly deep with large, talented, and physical players. If the guards hit shots, Texas should challenge for the Big 12 title, at this point, however, they are in the second-tier in the conference.

#17 LSU

1 - Javonte Smart, Eric Gaines, Jalen Cook
2 - Cam Thomas, Aundre Hyatt
3 - Charles Manning jr, Josh LeBlanc, Mwani Wilkinson
4 - Darius Days, Shareef O’Neal
5 - Trendon Watford, Bryan Penn-Johnson, Josh Gray

Will they get the coaching and have the discipline to really test elite teams? LSU returns three starters in Smart, Days, and Watford. And when LeBlanc becomes eligible they have a perfect sixth man, and Thomas will be an explosive scoring guard and one-and-done player. Getting Penn-Johnson immediately eligible is big, and sorting out whether or not O’Neal will be eligible should resolve the front-court reserve minutes. This team has all the talent required to win the SEC, or at least make the conference into a true three-team race. Co-favorites in the SEC.

#18 Michigan

1 - Zeb Jackson, Mike Smith
2 - Eli Brooks, Adrien Nunez
3 - Isaiah Livers, Chaundee Brown
4 - Franz Wagner, Brandon Johns jr, Terrance Williams
5 - Hunter Dickinson, Austin Davis

Howard’s returning talent is potent: Livers and Wagner would start for most teams in the B1G and the country, and Brooks is rock-solid. Assume that Brown will get his waiver and will shore up the reserve minutes in the back-court with Mike Smith. Dickinson, Davis, Johns, and Williams form a super group of bigs and should suffice to keep UM’s opponents constantly worried about the defensive glass and weak-side shot-blocking. Just below the B1G favorites due to point guard questions, but if that gets sorted out, then UM makes the B1G an insane five-team race because Livers and Wagner will be more than capable of carrying them on offense. Second-tier in the B1G with a top-five finish as the expectation.

#19 Arizona State

1 - Remy Martin, Holland Woods
2 - Josh Christopher, Jaelen House
3 - Alonzo Verge, Caleb Christopher
4 - Marcus Bagley, Kimani Lawrence, Pavlo Dziuba
5 - Jalen Graham, Taeshon Cherry, Chris Osten

Martin, Verge, and Christopher will form one of the best trios in the nation, and Bagley, Woods, Graham, Cherry, and Lawrence should give Hurley a balanced and competent eight-man rotation. Pavlo Dziuba could also play a role if he can fill out a bit in his transition from Barcelona’s second team. This team should go with a four-guard/wing lineup in my opinion, as the Pac-12 is going to be a pretty small conference, and the scoring potential with this kind of lineup is just too high. But they will struggle against bigger squads in the NCAA tournament with no players over 6-foot-9-inches—despite all of their ‘bigs’ being quality players. This is by far the best the Pac-12 has been in decades; almost back out of mid-major status! Co-favorites in the Pac-12.

#20 Florida State

1 - Scottie Barnes, Rayquan Evans
2 - MJ Walker, Nathanael Jack
3 - Sardaar Calhoun, Anthony Polite, Wyatt Wilkes
4 - Raiquan Gray, Malik Osborne
5 - Tanor Ngom, Balsa Koprivica, Quincy Ballard

FSU is getting slept on because they lost a fair amount. But this program just produces great players and teams thanks to Hamilton’s excellent coaching. Gray, Osborne, Calhoun, Polite, Jack, Walker, and Barnes will turn in awesome performances, they need more out of Evans, and they really need Ngom (a late add, and a talented and skilled seven-foot-two-inch center) and Koprivica to stand and be accounted. Barnes will be an amazing point-forward, and a top-10 pick in the NBA draft, and if this team can sort out its scoring they could contend for the league title. Second-tier in the ACC, for now.

#21 Oregon

1 - Amauri Hardy, Jalen Terry
2 - Will Richardson, Addison Patterson
3 - Chris Duarte, Eric Williams Jr.
4 - Eugene Omoruyi, Lok Wur
5 - N’Faly Dante, Chandler Lawson

Oregon should be good, but only has one player taller than 6-foot-8-inches in Dante. This will mean that Oregon can only play smaller, and gets tiny if Dante gets injured (he has some history here) or gets in foul trouble (he got called for seven-and-a-half fouls per forty minutes... uh oh). Hardy, Terry, Richardson, Patterson, Duarte, and Williams Jr. should be a solid crew on the perimeter, but Omoruyi will have to carry a lot of water in the front-court. Can Hardy and Terry solidify the point guard position? Things get rosier if Figueroa gets immediate eligibility. Pac-12 co-favorite.

#22 Houston

1 - Marcus Sasser, Jamal Shead
2 - Caleb Mills, Cameron Tyson
3 - DeJon Jarreau, Tramon Mark
4 - Quentin Grimes, Justin Gorham, Cedrick Alley, J’Wan Roberts
5 - Brison Gresham, Kiyron Powell

Jarreau returning solidifies Houston’s superb four-guard group, but losing Fabian White to an ACL tear (in late April) really hurts their front-court depth (unless he can get cleared to play down the stretch of the season). Four-guard lineups all day — I can no longer trust them until they demonstrate front-court stability. AAC co-favorite with Memphis.

#23 Creighton

1 - Marcus Zegarowski, Shereef Mitchell
2 - Mitch Ballock, Jett Canfield, Rati Andronikashvili
3 - Denzel Mahoney,Antwann Jones
4 - Damien Jefferson, Christian Bishop
5 - Ryan Kalkbrenner, Jacob Epperson, Modestas Kancleris

They lost two talented guards in Davion Mintz and Ty-Shon Alexander, but they bring back four starters and have the makings of a very good nine-man rotation. Zegarowski’s knee needs to be fully healed for this team to challenge for the league. But this team has the goods to push Villanova in the Big East, making it a two-horse race. Major potential to win a string of games in the NCAA tournament, especially if their defense is elite. Co-favorites in the Big East.

#24 Stanford

1 - Daejon Davis, Michael O’Connell
2 - Isaac White, Noah Taitz
3 - Ziaire Williams, Bryce Wills, Brandon Angel
4 - Spencer Jones, Jaiden Delaire, Max Murrell
5 - Oscar da Silva, Lukas Kisunas, Keenan Fitzmorris

Ziaire Williams, a top-five pick in the draft, along with a few other really good recruits in O’Connell, Murrell, and Taiz gives this lineup even more juice than they lost when Tyrell Terry stayed in the draft. Jerod Haase can really coach. But they need their non-Williams players to really step up on offense. Seven of their 11 regular season losses were either in overtime or were two-possession games; what they needed was some easier offense or a guy who could simply get his own bucket. I want to see how they fare without Terry and if their returners can become more efficient. Second-tier Pac-12 team, with major potential.

#25 Rutgers

1 - Jacob Young
2 - Geo Baker, Montez Mathis
3 - Paul Mulcahy, Mawot Mag, Oksar Palquist
4 - Ron Harper, Mamadou Doucoure, Dean Reibert
5 - Myles Johnson, Cliff Omoruyi

Young, Baker, Harper, and Johnson have proven themselves and have turned this program around. Steve Pikiel can really coach, and this team will be burning with desire to prove that last year was not a fluke. Getting hit by Caleb McConnell’s redshirt due to a back injury hurts Rutgers’ depth, but Mulcahy is a similar and actually more talented player, so this merely ensures that he will get even more minutes. The anti-Iowa of the B1G, this team just needs its offense to tick into the top-50 range to be a threat in the conference and in the NCAA tournament. I am betting on them. Second tier of the B1G.

#26 Arkansas

1 - KK Robinson, Davonte Davis
2 - Desi Sills, JD Notae
3 - Justin Smith, Moses Moody, Jalen Tate
4 - Vance Jackson, Ethan Henderson, Abayiomi Iyiola
5 - Connor Vanover, Jaylin Williams

Arkansas lost Isaiah Joe and Mason Jones, but they return a ton and bring in a sensational recruiting class: tons of high-level four-star guys and three really good transfers in Smith, Jackson, and Tate. This ranking may end up being a year too-early, but I believe in them already. Dark-horse in the SEC if they can replace scoring and improve defensively.

#27 Indiana

1 - Khristian Lander, Rob Phinisee
2 - Al Durham, Armaan Franklin, Anthony Leal
3 - Jerome Hunter, Jordan Geronimo, Trey Galloway
4 - Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson
5 - Joey Brunk

TJD and Brunk are a great front-court pair, but questions remain. Can Archie Miller get offense from his guards and wings? Lander, Durham, and Hunter (now healthy) and keep tabs on Leal and Galloway too. The key is Lander, the freshman who reclassified to join the ‘20 class could play his way into the draft if he can unlock this offense, score in the pick-and-roll, and prove that his three-point shooting is for real. Who are they going to over-take in the conference standings? Second tier in the B1G.

#28 Ohio State

1 - CJ Walker, Jimmy Sotos, Meechie Johnson
2 - Duane Washington jr, Gene Brown, Musa Jallow
3 - Seth Towns, Justice Sueing, Justin Ahrens
4 - EJ Liddell, Zed Key
5 - Kyle Young, Ibrahima Diallow

This may seem too high for OSU, but I feel pretty confident all the same. Walker, Washington, Liddell, Young, Jallow, and Ahrens are a solid enough starting-five plus one on their own. But if Sotos, Towns, Sueing, Brown, Key, Johnson, and Diallow can take minutes from that core group, then this team has legit prospects for the NCAA tournament. In a truly stacked B1G, however, they are firmly outside of the top-five teams. Second-tier B1G team.

#29 Memphis

1 - Boogie Ellis, Alex Lomax
2 - Landers Nolley, Damion Baugh, Jayden Hardaway
3 - Lester Quinones, Ryan Boyce
4 - DJ Jeffries, Lance Thomas, Ahmad Rand
5 - Moussa Cissé, Malcolm Dandridge, Isaiah Stokes

Adding Cissé really raises the floor as he gives them a bonafide rim-protector, lob-threat, and worker. This team should be poised for a great year, not only because of Cissé, but also because Landers Nolley got a magical immediate eligibility waiver and will be the team’s leading scorer. If DeAndre Williams gets his waiver then this team looks closer to a top-25 team. AAC co-favorite.

#30 West Virginia

1 - Jordan McCabe, Taz Sherman
2 - Miles McBride, Sean McNeil, Kedrian Johnson
3 - Emmitt Matthews, Jalen Bridges, Taj Thweatt
4 - Oscar Tshiebwe, Gabe Osabuohien
5 - Derek Culver, Isaiah Cottrell

Everyone loves West Virginia except me. They are the “UNC of the Big 12, but with less talent.” A Kenpom darling who finished 9-9 in conference without any clear path to addressing their most pressing issues: they still have major questions on offense on the perimeter, in particular their three-point shooting. And I do not trust them precisely because their offense remains the same as last year: McBride scoring buckets at low efficiency, the rest of the team bricking shots all game long, and their offense relying on crashing the glass with Culver, Tshiebwe, and Osabuohien. Can they challenge for a title or a tournament run with the “rock-fight” offense? I doubt it. Second-tier in the Big XII.

#31 Florida

1 - Tre Mann, Ques Glover, Tyree Appleby
2 - Noah Locke, Niels Lane
3 - Scottie Lewis, Samson Ruzhentsev
4 - Keyontae Johnson, Anthony Duruji, Osayi Osifo
5 - Omar Payne, Jason Jitoboh

Tons of talent, but they have played an awful style of ball (one of the slowest in the nation) for the last few years, and Mike White shackles his talented players without getting a decent rate of return. Mann, Locke, Glover, and Lewis are a solid group of guards and Johnson has become a very good undersized, yet powerful forward, but finding consistency from their bigs will be a major challenge. Second-tier SEC team very likely to drop in the rankings.

#32 San Diego State

1 - Terrell Gomez, Lamont Butler jr
2 - Trey Pulliam, Adam Seiko, Keith Dinwiddie
3 - Jordan Schakel, Che Evans, Keshad Johnson
4 - Matt Mitchell, Aguek Arop
5 - Nathan Mensah, Joel Mensah, Joshua Tomaic

Malachi Flynn is gone, but this team still has a lot going for it. Including tons of returning minutes. Mitchell is the guy to keep an eye on and he should get plenty of NBA hype as the season progresses.

#33 Auburn

1 - Sharife Cooper, Tyrell Jones
2 - Allen Flanigan, Jamal Johnson, Justin Powell
3 - Devan Cambridge, Javon Franklin
4 - JT Thor, Chris Moore, Jaylin Williams
5 - Babatunde Akingbola, Dylan Cardwell

Adding Cardwell, who should be a solid player as a freshman, helps shore up the front-court a bit, which returns basically zero meaningful minutes. But “Cooper and the Wings” will have to hit their notes every night to re-create the magic of the last few seasons. Second-tier SEC team with more than enough quality to finish in the top-three, and enough questions to slip out of the top-six.

#34 Louisville

1 - David Johnson, Charles Mineland jr
2 - Carlik Jones, Josh Nickelberry, D’Andre Davis
3 - Samuell Williamson, JJ Traynor
4 - Jae’lyn Withers, Quinn Slazinski
5 - Malik Williams, Aidan Igiehon

Lots of talent, but can their unkowns become solid ACC-contributors? Withers could be the key to the season. If he can take off at the forward along with improvements from Williamson, Johnson (a likely two-and-done guy), and Williams this team could cause problems for the top ACC teams. For now, I have them in the second-tier in the ACC.

#35 Oklahoma State

1 - Cade Cunningham, Rondel Walker, Avery Anderson
2 - Isaac Likekele, Ferron Flavors jr, Chris Harris jr
3 - Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe, Donovan Williams
4 - Keylan Boone, Montreal Pena jr
5 - Kalib Boone, Bernard Kouma

The creep upwards has begun for Oklahoma State simply because they have the likely No. 1 pick in the draft in Cunningham. The front-court is a bit understaffed, but the back-court and relatively small team should be interesting next to Cunningham. It will be a tough slog in a tough conference, absolutely a team to watch though. What really helps them is the Big XII getting smaller this year (namely, Kansas). Likely bubble team.

#36 Colorado

1 - McKinley Wright, Keeshawn Barthelemy
2 - Maddok Daniels, Eli Parquet, Dominique Clifford
3 - D’Shawn Schwartz, Daylen Kountz, Luke O’Brien
4 - Jeriah Horne, Jabari Walker, Alex Strating
5 - Evan Battey, Dallas Walton

Colorado returns a lot, but will they be better than last year? I doubt it. Expect them to finish top-five in the Pac-12, which may get six or seven teams to the tournament (unless Arizona and USC fade early and then keep fading).

#37 NC State

1 - Cam Hayes, Teddy Allen jr, Shakeel Moore
2 - Braxton Beverly, Dereon Seabron
3 - Devon Daniels
4 - Jericole Hellems, Nick Farrar, Jaylon Gibson
5 - DJ Funderburk, Manny Bates, Ebenezer Dowuona

Hayes and Funderburk will be a terrific duo, and they return plenty of minutes and bodies all over the court. NCAA tourney team for sure.

#38 BYU

1 - Brandon Averette, Trevin Knell, Hunter Erickson
2 - Alex Barcello, Gideon George, Spencer Johnson, Jesse Wade
3 - Connor Harding, Caleb Lohner
4 - Kolby Lee, Gavin Baxter
5 - Matt Haarms, Richard Harward, Wyatt Lowell

BYU is loaded: Haarms, Lee, Harding, Barcello, Averette, Baxter, Harward, and Lohner are a very solid eight-man group, but figuring out if Knell, George (a tantalizing JUCO wing with a huge wing-span), or Johnson can contribute will be essential. If none of those guys can play, then Averette and Barcello are the only real back-court players on the team, which will force BYU to play very big. They lost five of their top eight players from last year and will have a lot of role and personnel adjustments to make. A strong candidate to move up the rankings, and should provide a great matchup against Gonzaga. Second place in the WCC.

#39 Alabama

1 - Jahvon Quinerly, Josh Primo
2 - John Petty, Keon Ellis
3 - Jaden Shackelford, Darius Miles, Juwan Gary
4 - Herb Jones, Jordan Bruner, Keon Ambrose-Hylton
5 - Alex Reese, James Rojas

Alabama, like Arkansas, really excites me. Quinerly (who should be better after a red-shirt year), Petty, Primo (a talented Canadian guard), Shackleford, and Jones are solid. Having those four returning starters is huge (Petty, Shackelford, Jones, and Reese), but that is ALL that Alabama returns. The entire bench is brand new, so the front-court depth will be a question (especially after losing Alex Tchikou who would likely have been a significant front-court player off the bench), and the reserve wing and guard minutes will be too. The swing for Alabama is Primo — if he is one-and-done quality, then this team may make moves in the SEC.

#40 Richmond

1 - Jacob Gilyard, Isaiah Wilson
2 - Blake Francis, Connor Crabtree
3 - Andre Gustavson, Djimon Bailey
4 - Nathan Cayo, Tyler Burton, Andre Weir
5 - Grant Golden, Matt Grace, Souleymane Koureissi

Richmond finished the year No. 46 in Kenpom, returns its entire starting-five but for Nick Sherod (their best three-point shooter, who just tore his ACL sadly), two of whom shoot very well from beyond the arc, and all of whom will be seniors. Co-Favorites in the A-10 with Saint Louis.

#41 Saint Louis

1 - Yuri Collins, Demarius Jacobs
2 - Jordan Goodwin, Fred Thatch
3 - Gibson Jimerson, Terrence Hargrove, Markhi Strickland
4 - Javonte Perkins, Marten Linssen, Andre Lorentsson
5 - Hasahn French, Jimmy Bell

Collins, Goodwin, Perkins, and French all return (and eight of their nine rotation players overall). And Jimerson, who may set NCAA records from three-point range next season, will finally be healthy. He was the missing ingredient last year on offense. Saint Louis could easily upset a team or two in the NCAA tourney.

#42 Penn State

1 - Jamari Wheeler, Sam Sessoms
2 - Myreon Jones, Izaiah Brockington, Dallion Johnson
3 - Myles Dread, DJ Gordon, Caleb Dorsey
4 - Seth Lundy, Abdou Tetchueng Tsimbila
5 - John Harrar, Trent Buttrick

I am still really high on this PSU team, but it is impossible to know which way Chambers’ resignation on the eve of the season will go—will it catalyze the team or lead it to lose its way? As the details of why Chambers resigned come out, we may get a better sense of whether or not this will help or hinder the team this year. Their perimeter group could still develop into one of the best in the B1G. Everyone can shoot it except for Wheeler, and adding grad-transfer Sessoms is useful for a veteran bench presence (although, per usual, that transfer is being overblown). Wheeler, Jones, Dread, Lundy, Brockington, Harrar, and Sessoms can all really play — they need to find an eighth man for their core rotation; with Buttrick and Tsimbila the likeliest candidates.

#43 Miami

1 - Chris Lykes, Isaiah Wong
2 - Kameron McGusty, Harlond Beverly
3 - Earl Timberlake, Matt Cross
4 - Sam Waardenberg, Anthony Walker III
5 - Nysier Brooks, Deng Gak, Rodney Miller jr

Miami could surprise me after two years of disappointment. The reasons: Earl Timberlake (a likely one-and-done stud wing player) and Nysier Brooks (the Cincinnati transfer with a huge frame and Charles Oakley game). Keep an eye on this crew in the non-con — Timberlake and Brooks may just be transformative. There’s plenty of quit in them, but they may just have too much talent not to find their way into the NCAA tournament, possible move-up candidate if Timberlake really is a lottery-level player.

#44 Butler

1 - Aaron Thompson, Myles Tate
2 - Christian David, Chuck Harris
3 - Jordan Tucker, Khalif Battle
4 - Bryce Nze, Carlos Johnson, JaKobe Coles
5 - Bryce Golden, John-Michael Mulloy, Miles Wilmoth

Butler returns a lot, but those guys were only average last year. Expect them to finish top-three in the Big East, which takes a step back as a conference this coming season.

#45 UConn

1 - RJ Cole, Jalen Gaffney
2 - James Bouknight, Brendan Adams
3 - Andre Jackson, Tyrese Martin
4 - Akok Akok, Tyler Polley, Adama Sanogo, Richard Springs
5 - Isaiah Whaley, Josh Carlton, Javonte Brown-Ferguson

Be skeptical of UCONN: they are back in the Big East, with a tougher set of teams, a larger pool of good coaches, and lost some important players. I think it stands to reason that Dan Hurley will struggle somewhat. He has plenty of size in the front-court, but Bouknight and the freshman Jackson are the only perimeter players that will scare anyone. They need to find shooting from someone, and they have to beat the other Big East teams who have been hardened by the crucible of this tough conference for the last few years. A team that finished No. 52 in Kenpom’s rankings, in a weaker conference, that lost two of its top-three players does not strike me as a team that will overtake a lot of still-solid Big East teams. Second-tier in the Big East, but with a higher ceiling than their fellow second-tier teams.

#46 Maryland

1 - Eric Ayala, Serrel Smith jr, Marcus Dockery
2 - Darryl Morsell, Aquan Smart
3 - Aaron Wiggins, Hakim Hart
4 - Galen Smith, Donta Scott, James Graham
5 - Jarius Hamilton, Chol Marial, Arnaud Revaz

Return some good wings, bring in a few decent players, but will really need Marial to be a stud and to be able to play at least 20 minutes a night. If he can, his length and talent alone may allow Maryland to compete in the B1G and win a game or two in the tourney. James Graham has enrolled early and will be immediately eligible. If he can adjust quickly to college basketball, his play could elevate Maryland’s ceiling significantly.

#47 Seton Hall

1 - Bryce Aiken, Jahri Long
2 - Dimingus Stevens, Shavar Reynolds, Takal Molson
3 - Myles Cale, Anthony Nelson
4 - Jared Rhoden, Tyrese Samuel
5 - Sandro Mamukelashvili, Ikey Obiagu, Jeff Ngandu

No Myles Powell chucking, no Romaro Gill stuffing. Expect rock fights and slugfests unless Aiken and Stevens (who could be Freshman of the Year in the conference) can go-off every night. They do return a lot of important complementary guys and glue-players, which should help the new arrivals. Second-tier in the Big East.

#48 USC

1 - Ethan Anderson, Tahj Eaddy
2 - Noah Baumann
3 - Max Agbonkpolo, Isaiah White
4 - Isaiah Mobley, Chevez Goodwin
5 - Evan Mobley, Boubacar Coulibaly

A solid team, mega-talent in Evan Mobley, but will the guards be good enough now that Weaver has transferred? I doubt it, but a team to keep an eye on.

#49 South Carolina

1 - Jermaine Couisnard, TJ Moss, Trae Hannibal
2 - AJ Lawson, Justin Minaya
3 - Keyshawn Bryant, Trey Anderson
4 - Alanzo Frink, Jalyn McCreary
5 - Wildens Leveque, Patrick Iriel, Ja’Von Benson

Couisnard is good, heck the entire starting-five return and get a year older. Getting Lawson back is huge as he is an NBA-level player. Frank Martin can still coach, and they have some intriguing depth, but appear to be outside of the top group of teams because their offensive anemia does not appear to have been resolved.

#50 Purdue

1 - Eric Hunter, Ethan Morton, Isaiah Thompson
2 - Sasha Stefanovic, Brandon Newman
3 - Mason Gillis, Jaden Ivey
4 - Aaron Wheeler
5 - Trevion Williams, Zach Edey

Eastern’s and Haarms’ minutes get replaced by minutes for other guys who will have their own problems, but the team will fit better: Williams and Wheeler are the features, with tons of supporting players on the wings and behind the arc. Big questions are 1.) was Wheeler’s incredibly bad sophomore season a fluke (i.e. will he look more like he did as a freshman) and, 2.) how much can Edey (Isaac Haas replica) contribute as a freshman? I have moved them down for now until I get some confidence in their scoring prowess and the answers to these two questions. This is a team that I could easily envision shocking teams in the B1G and rising quickly up my rankings—I cannot see them falling far: a very high-floor unit.

#51 Oklahoma

1 - Devion Harmon, Trey Phipps
2 - Alondes Williams
3 - Austin Reaves, Jalen Hill
4 - Brady Manek, Victor Iwuakor, Anyang Garang
5 - Kur Kuath, Rick Issanza

Losing Jamal Bienemy hurts, but they do return talent. I cannot see them cracking the top of the Big 12, but they should have a shot at a tourney bid.

#52 Syracuse

1 - Joe Girard
2 - Buddy Boeheim, Kadary Richmond
3 - Quincy Guerrier, Marek Dolezaj
4 - Robert Braswell, Woody Newton
5 - Bourama Sidibe, Jesse Edwards, John Bol Ajak

Will Jim Boeheim find a way to elevate the considerable talent on this team? He has generally failed to do so with talented teams in the last 10 years. This team sure does have talent though. I could see Boeheim retiring after his son graduates, but a failure this season might have him thinking about leaving before then.

#53 Marquette

1 - DJ Carton, Koby McEwen
2 - Greg Elliott, Symir Torrence, Dexter Akanno
3 - Jamal Cain
4 - Dawson Garcia, Justin Lewis
5 - Theo John, Osasere Ighodaro

Carton has been granted immediate eligibility, which is great for him and Marquette. He will start along with Elliott (finally healthy), Cain, the excellent freshman Garcia, and Theo John. This is a competitive mid-level team in the Big East.

#54 Georgia Tech

1 - Jose Alvarado, Bubba Parham
2 - Mike Devoe, Tristan Maxwell
3 - Jordan Usher, Khalid Moore
4 - Moses Wright, David Didenko
5 - Saba Gigiberia, Jordan Meka

They’re all back, there are a lot of seniors, and unless they all get a lot better they’re going to keep losing. Still, this team raises the floor of the ACC a bit.

#55 Xavier

1 - Paul Scruggs, Dwon Odom
2 - KyKy Tandy, Colby Jones
3 - CJ Wilcher, Myles Hanson
4 - Jason Carter, Daniel Ramsey
5 - Zach Freemantle, Dieonte Miles

Losing Naji Marshall basically seals Xavier’s fate as a bubble team. Had he returned, they could move up, but the same basic story from last season holds: not enough talent or depth to really make much noise. A competitive mid-level team in the Big East, but nothing more.

#56 Loyola Chicago

1 - Keith Clemons, Marquise Kennedy, Baylor Hebb
2 - Lucas Williamson, Paxson Wojcik, Braden Norris
3 - Tate Hall, Cooper Kaifes
4 - Aher Uguak
5 - Cameron Krutwig, Tom Welch, Franklin Agunanne

Loyola Chicago and Northern Iowa could both win the MVC, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the loser get an at-large bid. Both are potential cinderella type teams. But Loyola Chicago gets the edge from me because their entire starting-five are seniors and Kennedy, Wojcik, Kaifes, and Welch are as solid a mid-major bench unit as you will find.

#57 Northern Iowa

1 - Antwan Kimmons, Bowen Born, Tytan Anderson
2 - AJ Green, Nathan Heise
3 - Trae Berhow
4 - Tywhon Pickford, Cole Henry
5 - Austin Phyfe, Noah Carter, James Betz

A lot of returning talent, but lost some key players. Keep an eye on them.

#58 Arizona

1 - Kerr Kriisa, Terrell Brown jr
2 - James Akinjo, Dalen Terry
3 - Jemarl Baker, Bennedict Mathurin, Tautvilas Tubelis
4 - Ira Lee, Tibet Gröener, Ažuolas Tubelis
5 - Jordan Brown, Christian Koloko, Daniel Batcho

Sean Miller will be sweating through suits yet again next year as his under-talented squad tries to elevate his underwhelming coaching in a way that no other squad has been able to. He has brought in a small fleet of European kids to fill out his roster, all of whom I will be eager to watch. A tournament appearance and/or an above-.500 performance in-conference may be a career-best coaching performance for Miller.

#59 Virginia Tech

1 - Wabissa Bede, Jalen Cone
2 - Tyrece Radford, Joe Bamisile, Nahiem Alleyne
3 - Cartier Diarra, Darius Maddox, Hunter Cattoor
4 - Cordell Pemsell, Justyn Mutts
5 - John Ojiako, Keve Aluma, David N’Guessan

Va Tech really flamed out last year despite having a healthy amount of talent and a TON of shooting acumen. They just could not defend to save their lives, or their record. But head coach Mike Young has brought in Diarra (KSU transfer), Pemsell (Iowa transfer) and gets Aluma off of redshirt. They could overtake Syracuse, Miami, and NC State if all goes well.

#60 St Mary’s

1 - Tommy Kuhse
2 - Logan Johnson, Quinn Clinton
3 - Alex Ducas, Jabe Mullins
4 - Dan Fotu, Kyle Bowen, Judah Brown
5 - Matthias Tass, Matthew van Komen, Mitchell Saxen

St Mary’s should be good again, per usual. But unless they schedule and beat some quality teams in the non-con and unless they take down Gonzaga and BYU at least once they face a tough road getting into the tournament. Still tons of shooting to go along with their Wisconsin-level of pace—losing Kristers Zoriks to the pros (Europe) hurts their back-court leaving them rail-thin. Getting an immediate eligibility waiver for Van Komen would be HUGE, literally—the 7-foot-4-inch center could stabilize the front-court.

Bonus: #61 Providence

1 - Jared Bynum, Alyn Breed
2 - David Duke
3 - AJ Reeves, Jyare Davis
4 - Greg Gantt, Kris Monroe, Jimmy Nichols jr
5 - Nate Watson, Noah Horchler

This is a nod to Providence’s season last year, they kind-of-sort-of proved me wrong. But they lost their best player, and will struggle this season. Bryce Goodine (Syracuse transfer) will sit one unless he gets a magical waiver for immediate eligibility. If he does, then the Friars have a better shot to jump into the real rankings.

Conference standings predictions:

B1G: MSU/Wisconsin/Illinois/Iowa, Michigan, Rutgers, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland, Purdue, Minnesota, the rest in some order [9-11 teams in tourney]

Big XII: Baylor/Kansas/Texas Tech, Texas, WVU, OSU, OU, the rest in some order [6-7 teams in tourney]

ACC: UVA/Duke, UNC, FSU, Louisville, NC State, Miami, Syracuse, Va Tech, the rest in some order [8-9 teams in tourney]

SEC: UK/UT, LSU, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina [6-8 teams in tourney]

Pac-12: UCLA/ASU/Oregon, Stanford, Colorado, USC, Arizona [5-6 teams in tourney]

Big East: Villanova, Creighton, Butler, Seton Hall, UConn, Marquette, Xavier, Providence, the rest in some order [4-7 teams in tourney]

Others notables: Gonzaga, Houston, Memphis, SDSU, Richmond, BYU, Saint Louis, Loyola Chicago, UNI, St. Mary’s

Go Green!!!