A third iteration of my pre-season rankings...
I hope this finds everyone staying safe and healthy.
I am updating my top-60 teams ranking again, based on the many roster movements that have taken place since version 1.0 was published back in mid-April and version 2.0 was published back in mid-June. This update also benefits from the information we now have based on the early-entry withdrawal deadline having passed on Monday, August 3. I will update this ranking again later in the fall (hopefully in advance of an actual college basketball season).
There ended up being a funky grouping with some of these teams — as some SEC, Big Ten, Big 12, and ACC teams getting grouped together in places. As strange as it may seem, given the teams this is just roughly how I see this season playing out. There really are four B1G teams with Final Four potential, there really are two SEC teams with similar potential, two ACC teams (possibly a couple of others), and three Big 12 teams all pretty close together. I still don’t see any of the Pac-12 teams particularly near the top-10, but they got a lot of good news from the NBA early-entry withdrawals, so Arizona State and UCLA both had big jumps.
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 comments per team):
(Disclaimer: I have no ability to predict the future regarding roster developments and may have completely forgotten, omitted, or mis-depth-charted various players due to signings, transfers, or NBA decisions I have not accounted for. Please DO let me know about factual or obvious omissions and errors.)
[NOTE: I erroneously ommitted BYU from an earlier version of these rankings. They have been included now, and are the No. 49 team in the rankings]
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 - Joel Ayayi, Dominick Harris, Aaron Cook
2 - Jalen Suggs, Julian Strawther
3 - Corey Kispert, Marytnas Arlauskas
4 - Drew Timme, Anton Watson
5 - Oumar Ballo, Pavel Zahkarov, Abe Eagle
Questions and Comments: I’ve done some shuffling here. Gonzaga now has confirmed the returns of two of their early entrants (Ayayi and Kispert), while Filip Petrusev decided to start his pro career in Serbia. Gonzaga has six pretty clear future pros to me in Ayayi, Kispert, Suggs, Timme, Watson, and Oumar Ballo, who will step into the starting lineup, or serve as the first big off the bench; he is a huge, long, and ultra-talented athletic, rim-protecting big.
The Bulldogs’ size, athleticism, some shooting (more on that in a bit), and play-making. Point guard consistency is still a bit of a question, but Ayayi is long, a good defender, and a great place to start. Having Watson healthy after his injury last year will be significant along with Strawther - and Watson may end up starting over Ballou (shifting Timme to the center). Those two should take up the bulk of the reserve minutes for this team and Mark Few will be well poised to take another stroll through the regular season.
The biggest question for them is perimeter shooting. Ayayi and Kispert are their only good three-point shooters who return (with Kispert being an excellent shooter at over 42 percent). Can they find a third shooter? My guess is yes, with Suggs and Strawther the likeliest candidates. Gonzaga has another chance at an undefeated regular season with Suggs in the fold; he adds bonafide one-and-done NBA credentials to a typically skilled and well-schooled veteran Few team. Pressure will mount as the tournament progresses, and it will be fascinating to see how they handle it.
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
Questions and Comments: I have talked myself into moving Baylor up to No. 2, even though I still do not rate Scott Drew as a coach if I am being honest. Getting Butler back is huge and the reason they are here rather than around No. 10. He was their best player last year, and will be again this year. This offense should be very good again; terrific, even, if Clark can stay healthy and re-locate his game (a similar situation to Josh Langford). While many are ranking Baylor No. 1, I am just not sure I see it: Clark hasn’t been healthy in two years and Freddie Gillespie (who graduated) was just so important for them defensively, which has been Clark’s biggest area of weakness even when healthy. This should be a very good defensive club, as Butler and Vital are top-tier defenders, but figuring out who else will play at that level will be important.
Sorting out the center position is vital as well as who plays out of the huge set of reserve bigs (look at that roster imbalance!). Now that Devonte Bandoo is gone at least 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 essentially no depth behind them; if both struggle can Baylor find the same success by playing big with Vital on the wing? I am not sure about how that will work on offense. Co-favorites in the Big XII.
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
Questions and Comments: JRE is back and this team will be superb. Back-up guard minutes are unproven at this point — can Daniels (quality Tulane transfer; sat out last year), or Arcidacono “the younger” provide quality minutes off the bench if Antoine starts? Antoine should be in line for a huge year (and may end up starting) — a former five-star All-American who was injured, or recovering, for most of the last year. This team, like Wisconsin, returns essentially its entire playing rotation. They have shooting, Jay Wright, and are solid defensively.
While I really like this team, and while they should comfortably win the league, I am a bit unsure about their NBA-level of talent. Teams usually need one to three bonafide 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? I am not sure I see any other guys who have even an outside shot at it — maybe Swider? If Nova shows more NBA-talent, then they could hang onto this spot, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other teams pass them by based on talent level. Big-East favorite.
1 - Kihei Clark, Reece Beekman
2 - Casey Morsell, Jabri Abdur-Rahim, Carson McCorkle
3 - Thomas Woldetensae, Kody Stattman
4 - Sam Hauser, Justin McKoy
5 - Jay Huff, Francisco Caffaro, Kadin Shedrick
Questions and Comments: Way more offensive talent than last year simply by adding Hauser. Can the defense remain elite (assume “yes”)? Beekman, Abdur-Rahim, McCorkle, and Hauser are terrific newcomers. Woldetensae really came on down the stretch, as did Huff, who may end up first-team all-ACC and should have a long and productive NBA career. The trick is the reserve guards. Bennett needs Morsell (who had a disastrous freshman year offensively, but is a really good player) to have a major bounce-back year, and to get some solid production out of Beekman, Abdur-Rahim (the most likely guy to unseat Morsell in the starting group), and McCorkle to add shooting and maintain the defensive performance of the rest of the team. Co-favorite in the ACC.
#5 Michigan State
1 - Rocket Watts, AJ Hoggard, Foster Loyer
2 - Joshua Langford, Gabe Brown
3 - Aaron Henry
4 - Joey Hauser, Malik Hall, Thomas Kithier
5 - Mady Sissoko, Julius Marble, Marcus Bingham jr
Questions and Comments: Josh Langford is (hopefully) back, Aaron Henry is back, and Xavier Tillman is off to the NBA. Questions abound in the front-court and on the bench: Will Hoggard be solid enough as a back-up at the point guard and on the wing? Will Brown find consistency off the bench? Will Langford be healthy enough to find his top form and produce 20 great minutes a night? Will Hall prove able to play on the wing in addition to taking the bulk of the minutes behind Joey Hauser at forward? Who will start at center and how will the reserve bigs sort out their minutes? Will anyone transfer?
Despite these lingering questions, the floor for this team is shockingly high. Watts, Henry, and Hauser form as terrific trio in the starting group as you can find in the country, and if Langford is healthy and re-locates his rhythm pretty quickly, then it becomes a dynamic group of four. I truly believe that he will — basketball is in Josh’s veins, and he has so much knowledge and confidence in himself that he will be undaunted by a couple of seasons off.
Outside of those top four guys, Brown and Hall, will form one of the best bench tandems in the nation, and Hoggard will step in right away both on-ball and off-ball as a heady competitor, natural scorer, and great passer. If Tom Izzo can sort out the center position, then this team has as high a floor of any team in the country. There will only be space for three guys in the rotation, and that may shrink to two as the season progresses.
I find it hard to imagine that Sissoko will not feature in the top-three — he really is a special talent and an incredibly hard worker and high-motor guy. Beyond Sissoko, I believe that Marble is in line for a major jump, and will evoke Xavier Tillman and Andre Hutson increasingly as the year progresses — he is smart, tough, strong, a good hustle guy, has a bit of offensive game to show off. The last spot in the rotation will come down to Bingham and Kithier - and I can tell stories where each guy succeeds and can also envision Kithier moving to the forward position full-time. Ultimately, the center position will have four ultra-competent guys to work with, and the team will have two amazing break-in-case-of-emergency guys in Foster Loyer and whichever big gets cut out of the rotation.
How smoothly the offense flows is another initial area of intrigue, but while Watts simply is not the level of conductor that Cassius Winston has been for the last three seasons, this team will be less predictable and less easy to game-plan than MSU has been the last couple of years. I have commented about this before this off-season, but MSU may have as many as five players average around 10-14 points per game: Watts, Henry, Hauser, Langford, and Brown all seem like near-locks to do so with Hall a strong candidate to join that group.
More importantly, even if Watts is not a Cassius-Winston-level passer, this Michigan State team will have at least three additional high-level creators and distributors, for their positions, in Henry, Hauser, and Hoggard. Henry and Hauser both averaged three assists per game or just below that mark in their last season played. Given this fact, given Rocket’s natural passing acumen, and given Hoggard’s ability to create opportunities for others by getting into the lane, I fully expect, for the first time in Izzo’s tenure, for Michigan State to have four players average three assists or more per game for the season. Balance, experience, depth, height, length, shooting, togetherness, leadership, and defensive genius: this team has it all. Co-favorites in the B1G.
1 - Jeremy Roach, Jordan Goldwire
2 - Wendell Moore jr, DJ Steward
3 - Jalen Johnson, Joey Baker
4 - Matthew Hurt, Jaemyn Brakefield
5 - Mark Williams, Patrick Tapé, Henry Coleman
Questions and Comments: Nothing has changed since my last assessment — weird roster composition, not enough minutes to go around, expect transfers or redshirts, tons of talent. The ceiling of this team is easily “best team in the nation,” but whether or not they get there is an open question at this point. Coach K hasn’t impressed on a coaching front in a few years, and expecting him to relocate his touch seems like a fools errand. But Goldwire, Moore (who found himself as a small-ball four down the stretch last year — but will HAVE to play on the wing this season), Hurt (who just wasn’t good enough on either end and is in serious need of a physical transformation), and Baker are a solid group of returners. Roach, Steward, Johnson, and Williams should be instant impact players — with Williams and Johnson on defense and offense, respectively, holding the season in their hands.
Sorting out their toughness in the front-court (behind Williams) will be important. Hurt and Brakefield are more finesse guys, and Tape and Coleman have to do it at this level. Ultimately there is a HUGE crunch for minutes (even more dire than the one MSU faces), and I think we can expect at least one transfer before the season ends. All of this being said, Jalen Johnson is an incredible talent, and he may just be able to mold the rest of the team around himself and really make them click — if they move up it will likely be due to Johnson. Co-favorite in the ACC.
1 - D’Mitrik Trice, Lorne Bowman
2 - Brad Davison, Trevor Anderson, Jordan Davis
3 - Aleem Ford, Tyler Wahl, Jonathan Davis
4 - Nate Reuvers, Ben Carlson
5 - Micah Potter, Joe Hedstrom, Steven Crowl
Questions and Comments: 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 Bowman and the Davis twins waiting in the wings. Wisconsin should have its eight-man rotation sorted fairly quickly, but they cannot afford any major slumps from Trice, Davison, or Ford. All three have had extended dips in form in past seasons, but if Wisconsin wants to win the league again, and make a run to the Final Four, the Badgers need consistent back-court production. Co-favorites in the B1G.
1 - Devin Askew, Davion Mintz
2 - Terrence Clarke, Dontaie Allen
3 - BJ Boston, Cam’Ron Fletcher
4 - Isaiah Jackson, Keion Brooks jr
5 - Olivier Sarr, Lance Ware
Questions and Comments: I have dropped Kentucky because Sarr’s status remains in doubt, and because their shooting remains in doubt as well. Askew, Clarke, and Boston are superb (particularly Clarke and Boston, who are potential lottery picks), and Mintz is a really useful fourth guard to bring in off the bench, but how well these three freshmen shoot from three will determine whether this team has best-team-in-the-nation as its ceiling.
Their front-court depth and experience took a major hit losing Nick Richards and EJ Montgomery (neither of whom will be drafted above the middle of the second round, with Montgomery likely going undrafted). Jackson will be a defensive beast from day one and Brooks Jr., Fletcher, Allen, and Ware will form another solid bench group — Brooks has a chance to start, but if Sarr can play I would guess that John Calipari rolls with Jackson at the forward for his defensive acumen. They need Allen to take a huge leap to shore up their wing depth. Co-favorite in the SEC.
1 - Trent Frazier, Andre Curbelo
2 - Adam Miller, Austin Hutcherson
3 - DaMonte Williams, Jacob Grandison
4 - Ayo Dosunmu, Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, Coleman Hawkins
5 - Kofi Cockburn, Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Jermaine Hamlin
Questions and Comments: With Dosunmu and Cockburn both back the B1G becomes clearly the best conference in the country with four teams vying for the championship and all four being Final Four quality teams. This is the best the league has ever been, as crazy as it is to type that.
Frazier, Miller (potential one-and-done and terrific scoring guard), Curbelo (who is going to be superb as the reserve point guard or possible starter), and Williams form a terrific complementary group of guards, but can any of them really shoot the ball? Expect Brad Underwood to start small and stay small most games. Bezhanishvili really struggled last season playing as a four, and his shooting never quite took off enough for him to stretch the floor.
Playing small will allow Cockburn and Bezhanishvili to take turns owning the paint while the guards and wings cause all kinds of problems. 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. The big question will be how effectively their smalls can defend bigger fours and wings, whether or not their rebounding can survive playing small, and if they can find sufficient shooting to space the floor. Serious threat to make a run to the Final Four. Co-favorites in the B1G.
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, Silvio De Sousa, Gethro Muscadin
Questions and Comments: Amazing talent on the wings: tons of them and they are all good. But questions remain in the post and at the point — Garrett and McCormack are talented, but will they provide consistent performances? The assumption has to be yes, but these are open questions until proven otherwise. This team has a really high ceiling and tons of possible playing groups that can hurt teams, but without a true lead-guard making things run smoothly (Devon Dotson was everything for this team last year with his ability to penetrate defenses at will), they may struggle to find consistent offense. Co-favorites in the Big XII.
1 - Santiago Vescovi
2 - Jaden Springer, Victor Bailey jr
3 - Josiah-Jordan James, Keon Johnson, Davonte Gaines
4 - Yves Pons, Corey Walker jr, EJ Anosike, Olivier Robinson-Nkamhoua
5 - John Fulkerson, Uros Plavsic, Drew Pember
Questions and Comments: This team will be 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 and has great size and ball-handling on the wing, and Bailey, the Oregon transfer, will be an awesome fifth guy in the rotation. 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 the questions. Most importantly, Vescovi, who is a ton of fun and plays with a South American flair (kind of Ginobli-esque in his attitude on the court) was a turnover machine at the point last year, so cutting those back or playing James at the point, will allow the wings to really shine. Strong candidate to move up into my top-five. Co-favorites in the SEC.
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
Questions and Comments: Iowa will be awesome with Garza back. Some are projecting Toussaint to the bench, but I doubt we see that, especially now that Fredrick will be working his way back to full fitness from a metatarsal surgery and given that Toussaint is Fran McCaffrey 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. Wieskamp had a bit of a down year last year, but his talent remains; the biggest thing holding him back is his physique. If he adds some weight and muscle he could be the most important player on the team. Reserve big minutes are a bit of an open question now that Ryan Kriener is gone, but if Ulis, Patrick McCaffrey, and Nunge can prove themselves healthy, and as effective contributors, Iowa will be a second-weekend team. They return infinity scoring and remain a team with major questions on defense that will provide the litmus test for success in conference and in the tournament. Still, they are co-favorites in the B1G.
#13 Texas Tech
1 - Nimari Burnett, Clarence Nadolny
2 - Kyler Edwards, Avery Benson
3 - Micah Peavy, Kevin McCullar
4 - Terrence Shannon, Chibuzo Agbo, Tyreek Smith
5 - Marcus Santos-Silva, Joel Ntambwe, Esahia Nyiwe
Questions and Comments: Davide Moretti went pro, which ostensibly kills TTU at the point guard; for now I am guessing that Burnett is given the ball, which also allows Peavy and Edwards to start. Mac McClung, from Georgetown, and Jamarius Burton, from Wichita State, would help next year, but likely will not get immediate eligibility. Santos-Silva, the VCU transfer is short, stocky, a beast, and a grad-transfer who brings veteran experience. Ntambwe the UNLV transfer is a capable stretch-big, who took and made a lot of three-point shots as a freshman (38 percent on over 100 attempts). While they missed out on Jonathan Kuminga (who went to the G-League), this TTU team still has everything they need apart from proven point-guard play. The truth is, however, that Moretti struggled last year as an offensive focal point, and I think that Burnett is actually better suited to a de facto lead-guard role. Burnett, Edwards, Peavy, Nadolny, McCullar, and Shannon will all do a ton of dribble-driving, but finding consistent three-point shooting is a major question and potentially hard-caps the ceiling of this team (Ntambwe is key here). Can their best offensive line-ups also be their best defensive line-ups? Co-favorites in the Big XII.
#14 North Carolina
1 - Caleb Love, RJ Davis
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
Questions and Comments: Tons of talent, but not quite overwhelming enough for Roy 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 (expect UNC, Baylor, and WVU to be the top offensive rebounding teams in the nation). The biggest problem for UNC is the same problem they had last year: shooting and scoring from their smalls. The addition of Walton really helps with their outside shooting, but they need Love, Johnson, and, possibly, Kessler to provide some floor-spacing to the three-point arc. Without that I could see this team really struggling to score efficiently. Second-tier in the ACC.
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
Questions and Comments: With the losses of Daishen Nix for UCLA and Romello White for ASU, Oregon is back in the driver’s seat in the Pac-12. They lost Francis Okoro and C.J. Walker to transfer (signed with Saint Louis and UCF, respectively), but still have Omoruyi (Rutgers transfer), Dante, and Lawson. This team is two-deep at every position, and should have enough shooting and moxie. Can Hardy and Terry solidify the point guard position? That is the biggest question. Pac-12 co-favorite.
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
Questions and Comments: Howard’s returning talent is really potent: Livers and Wagner would start for most teams in the B1G and the country, and Brooks is very solid. I assume that Brown will get an immediate waiver and will help shore up the reserve minutes in the back-court with Mike Smith who should be able to score effectively in the B1G as the sixth man. 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 play questions, but if that gets shored up (via Jackson, Smith, or Brooks), then UM makes the B1G an insane five-team race because Livers and Wagner will be more than capable of carrying them on offense. For now, second-tier in the B1G with a top-five finish as the expectation in conference play.
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
Questions and Comments: Greg Brown is in the fold (and may play some as a jumbo-wing). This team sorted itself out down the stretch to save Shaka Smart’s job, and look poised for a real dog-fight for a top-four finish in the Big XII. If Baker can force his way into the front-court conversation it gets more shooting on the court; if not he may transfer. Coleman, Ramey, Jones, and Febres look poised for massive years on the perimeter. Bottom line, this team should be very good, and potentially challenge for the Big XII title, at this point though they are in the second-tier in the conference.
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
Questions and Comments: Will they get coached? Will they have the discipline to really test elite teams? I doubt it given the constant headaches — legal and NCAA - associated with so many individuals in this program. Despite their huge talent last year they still only finished No. 37 in Kenpom, but they return three starters in Smart, Days, and Watford. When LeBlanc becomes eligible they have a perfect sixth man, and Thomas will surely start as an explosive scoring guard and likely one-and-done player. There is always excitement going on in this program — not all of it good. I really just do not trust this team, but their talent is undeniable. Figuring out the back-end of the rotation will be important, but if one of the bigs and one of the reserve guards can step forward this team could make the SEC a true three-team race, for now I am betting that it will happen. Co-favorites in the SEC. [Note: this is how I see the roster pending Bryan Penn-Johnson’s immediate eligibility waiver from Washington.]
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
Questions and Comments: UCLA got gutted by the G-League in losing Nix. That loss kills their ceiling to some extent, but they got a HUGE boost in getting Chris Smith back; he is one of the most exciting talents in the nation. 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 the question remains as to whether he can improve on his underwhelming season for Kentucky as a freshman. Can the guards elevate their play? Will there be enough depth behind Campbell at the point? A lot of that hinges on Jaylen Clark, who should be good (possible one-and-done), and can maybe play the point, along with Bernard, in spots. I have a strong hunch they will over-take and pass Oregon in the league, but for now I will leave them here. Co-favorites in the Pac-12.
#20 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
Questions and Comments: Martin and Verge are back in the fold, which is huge, but losing Romello White is BRUTAL. With the front-court depth in doubt a bit, Hurley added Pavlo Dziuba; a really useful pick-up in the front-court who played well for Barcelona’s second team this past year. Whether this team goes big, with Lawrence and Graham both starting, and Bagley on the bench, or whether it goes small, they should be superb, with the major stories being one-and-done stud scoring guard Josh Christopher, Martin (one of my favorite guards in the nation), and Verge (a scoring beast). This team should go with a four-guard/wing line-up in my opinion, as the Pac-12 is going to be a pretty small conference, and the scoring potential with this kind of line-up is just too high. Lawrence, Graham, Cherry, and Dziuba should be just about enough in the front-court, but they will struggle against bigger squads in the NCAA tournament. All-in-all, ASU too could overtake Oregon — it will be a really fun three-team race in the conference for the first time in a long time, and 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.
#21 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 - Balsa Koprivica, Quincy Ballard
Questions and Comments: FSU is getting slept on because they lost a fair amount. But this program just produces great players and teams. Gray, Osborne, Calhoun, Polite, Jack, Walker, and Barnes will turn in awesome performances, they need more out of Evans, and they really need Koprivica to stand and be accounted. If Barnes truly plays like the versatile point-forward he is heralded as, and looks like a lottery pick, then this team could contend for the league title, but I do not see them getting past the Sweet-16 at this point. Second-tier in the ACC.
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
Questions and Comments: Jarreau returning is huge giving Houston a 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 find some front-court stability. AAC favorite.
1 - Marcus Zegarowski, Shereef Mitchell
2 - Mitch Ballock, Antwann Jones, Jett Canfield, Rati Andronikashvili
3 - Damien Jefferson, Denzel Mahoney
4 - Christian Bishop, Modestas Kancleris
5 - Ryan Kalkbrenner, Jacob Epperson
Questions and Comments: 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. Co-favorites in the Big East.
1 - Daejon Davis, Michael O’Connell
2 - Isaac White, Noah Taitz
3 - Zaire Williams, Bryce Wills, Brandon Angel
4 - Spencer Jones, Jaiden Delaire, Max Murrell
5 - Oscar da Silva, Lukas Kisunas, Keenan Fitzmorris
Questions and Comments: Tyrel Terry staying in the draft caps this team’s ceiling, but Stanford still returns a ton (seven of their top-eight players) and adds likely top-five pick in Zaire Williams, along with a few other really good recruits in O’Connell, Murrell, and Taiz. Haase has the Cardinal rolling and he can really coach. Stanford finished No. 43 in Kenpom’s rankings, with the No. 143 offense and the No. 7 defense. In fact, seven of their eleven 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.
While they lose Terry, who kind of filled that bucket-getting role as a surprising one-and-done freshman, Williams is going to drop jaws in this regard: he can create for himself, score at will, he is an outstanding three-point shooter, and his gravity will open things up for others. This freshman class joins very solid group in Jones, da Silva, Willis, and the rest, and top-four in the Pac 12 should remain the expectation. If Zaire Williams is everything he is hyped up to be this team could win the league and really jump up the rankings, for now I want to see how they fare without Terry and to see if their returners can become more efficient on offense.
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
Questions and Comments: Still bemused by Mike White as a coach, and so was Andrew Nembhard, who decided to transfer to Gonzaga. Tons of talent, but they play an awful style of ball (one of the slowest in the nation), and 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.
1 - Jacob Young
2 - Geo Baker, Montez Mathis
3 - Caleb McConnell, Paul Mulcahy, Mawot Mag, Oksar Palquist
4 - Ron Harper, Mamadou Doucoure, Dean Reibert
5 - Myles Johnson, Cliff Omoruyi
Questions and Comments: Poor Rutgers, their first tourney trip in a while taken from them. Still, they return everyone of note except Akwasi Yeboah, and they add in a great freshman big in 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. Second tier of the B1G unless they improve their shooting and demonstrate the ability to win on the road in conference play — the possibility of reduced home-court advantages could play into their hands on this front.
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
Questions and Comments: Justin Smith transferring is a brutal blow as he provided athleticism, toughness, and scoring-outburst potential. TJD and Brunk are a great front-court pair, but questions remain for the rest of the team. Can Archie Miller get offense from his guards and wings? He has largely failed to do so in his tenure to this point, but Lander, Durham, and Hunter (now healthy) may provide enough — look for Leal and Galloway to become fan favorites who could help on the perimeter too. The key is Lander, the freshman who reclassified to join the ‘20 class could play his way into a one-and-done season if he can unlock this offense, if he can score in the pick-and-roll, and prove that his three-point shooting is for real. While they should be much improved, who are they going to over-take in the conference standings? Second tier in the B1G.
#28 Ohio State
1 - CJ Walker, Abel Porter
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
Questions and Comments: This may seem too high for OSU, but I feel pretty confident all the same. Walker, Washington, Liddell, Young, Jallow (now healthy), and Ahrens are a solid enough starting-five plus one on their own. But if Towns, Sueing, Brown, Key, 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 but should be fighting to remain in the top-half of the best conference in the nation. Second-tier B1G team.
#29 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
Questions and Comments: Everyone loves West Virginia except me. They are the “UNC of the Big 12, but with less talent.” WVU has lots of imposing bigs, one clear scoring threat on the perimeter, major questions around their perimeter shooting. They were Kenpom darlings 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, which was a joke, but their front-court will be a load once more. I do not particularly trust them precisely because their offense remains the same: McBride scoring clutch buckets (he is fun!), the rest of the team bricking shots all game long, and their scoring solely reliant on crashing the glass with Culver, Tshiebwe, and Osabuohien. Second-tier in the Big XII with no clear path to elevating their stock.
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
Questions and Comments: Isaiah Joe ended up heading to the draft after all; I think he has an NBA future, and will have a shot to get drafted. This hurts the ceiling for Arkansas, but they will still be good. Adding Indiana grad-transfer Justin Smith shores up their small-forward position. Their recruiting class is sensational — no one-and-done guys, but tons of high-level four-star guys and two really good transfers in Jackson and Tate. Possible dark-horse in the SEC if they can replace Mason Jones’ scoring and improve defensively.
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
Questions and Comments: Adding Cardwell, who should be a very solid center as a freshman, helps shore up the front-court a bit, which returns basically zero meaningful minutes. But this team will be made by Cooper and the wings. 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. I have dropped them back a bit because they just return so few minutes: they lost their top six scorers, minutes-played guys, rebounders, etc.
#32 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
Questions and Comments: I am still really high on this PSU team (though Pat Chambers has cast himself in a poor light after Rasir Bolton’s transfer). They will make the tourney next year, and their perimeter group could 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). Jones, Brockington, Dread, and Lundy will be super, and Harrar and Buttrick will be solid enough at the five, but this team will only be able to play small given Valdir Manuel’s bizarre departure. Still, if Sessoms, Gordon, and Tsimbila can provide solid minutes, this team could trend upwards sooner rather than later simply because their top seven guys - Wheeler, Jones, Dread, Lundy, Brockington, Harrar, and Sessoms - can all really play.
#33 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
Questions and Comments: 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.
1 - David Johnson, Carlik Jones
2 - Josh Nickelberry, D’Andre Davis
3 - Samuell Williamson, JJ Traynor
4 - Jae’lyn Withers, Quinn Slazinski
5 - Malik Williams, Aidan Igiehon
Questions and Comments: This team has a ton of talent, but can it coalesce, and can all of the guys in new roles (and transfer Carlik Jones) produce at the level required of a top-four finish in the ACC? That remains to be seen. 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 moved them down a bit because they lost so much and are so young. Second-tier in the ACC.
1 - Jacob Gilyard, Isaiah Wilson
2 - Blake Francis, Connor Crabtree
3 - Nick Sherod, Andre Gustavson, Jake Wojcik
4 - Nathan Cayo, Tyler Burton
5 - Grant Golden, Matt Grace, Souleymane Koureissi
Questions and Comments: Richmond finished the year No. 46 in Kenpom, returns its entire starting-five, three of whom shoot very well from beyond the arc, and all of whom will be seniors. They have to be favorites in the A-10, with Saint Louis following closely behind.
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
Questions and Comments: Colorado returns a lot, 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
5 - DJ Funderburk, Manny Bates, Ebenezer Dowuona
Questions and Comments: Losing Josh Hall caps the ceiling of NC State, but they will still be solid. Hayes is terrific, and they return plenty of minutes and bodies all over the court. NCAA tourney team for sure.
#38 Saint Louis
1 - Yuri Collins, Demarius Jacobs
2 - Jordan Goodwin, Fred Thatch
3 - Gibson Jimerson, Terrence Hargrove, Markhi Strickland
4 - Javonte Perkins, Andre Lorentsson
5 - Hasahn French, Jimmy Bell, Madani Diarra
Questions and Comments: 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 (was averaging two-of-five from three-point range every game for the first 10 games of the season before his injury). Richmond will be in a real dogfight for the A-10, and Saint Louis could easily upset a team or two in the NCAA tourney — serious dark-horse for me.
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
Questions and Comments: Butler returns a lot. Expect them to finish top-three in the Big East, which takes a step back as a conference this coming season.
1 - Ethan Anderson, Tahj Eaddy
2 - Noah Baumann
3 - Max Agbonkpolo, Isaiah White
4 - Isaiah Mobley, Chevez Goodwin
5 - Evan Mobley, Boubacar Coulibaly
Questions and Comments: Solid team, mega-talent in Evan Mobley, will the guards be good enough now that Weaver has transferred? I doubt it, but a team to keep an eye on.
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 - Javian Davis-Fleming, Alex Reese, Galin Smith
Questions and Comments: Alabama could be interesting and is a candidate to move up if they show progress individually. Quinerly needs to hit this time around after flopping at Villanova. But Petty, Primo (a talented Canadian guard), Jones, and the rest of the front-court are solid. The swing for Alabama is Primo — if he is one-and-done quality, then this team may make moves in the SEC, but he has to be REALLY good.
#42 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
Questions and Comments: 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 really make fireworks every night. Second-tier in the Big East.
1 - Alex Lomax, Damion Baugh
2 - Tyler Harris, Boogie Ellis, Jayden Hardaway
3 - Lester Quinones, DJ Jeffries, Ryan Boyce
4 - Lance Thomas, Ahmad Rand
5 - Moussa Cissé, Malcolm Dandridge, Isaiah Stokes
Questions and Comments: Adding Cissé really raises the floor on this team as he gives them a bonafide rim-protector, lob-threat, and worker. But we still have yet to see if Penny Hardaway can really coach, so this season should tell us a lot on that front. This team should be poised for a great year, but with only one possible one-and-done guy in the fold in Cissé, Memphis will need to see major internal developments. Major upside for this team if Landers Nolley somehow gets a waiver to play immediately after transferring from Virginia Tech.
#44 Oklahoma State
1 - Cade Cunningham, Rondel Walker, Avery Anderson
2 - Isaac Likekele, Ferron Flavors jr
3 - Donovan Williams
4 - Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe, Montreal Pena jr
5 - Yor Anei, Keylan Boone, Kalib Boone, Hidde Roessink
Questions and Comments: This team may creep higher simply because they have the likely No. 1 pick in the draft in Cunningham. The front-court seems understaffed, but the back-court should be interesting next to Cunningham. It will be a tough slog in a tough conference, absolutely a team to watch though; another dark-horse.
1 - Eric Ayala, Serrel Smith jr, Marcus Dockery
2 - Darryl Morsell, Aquan Smart
3 - Aaron Wiggins, Hakim Hart
4 - Donta Scott, Galen Smith
5 - Chol Marial, Jarius Hamilton, Arnaud Revaz
Questions and Comments: 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 25 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.
#46 South Carolina
1 - Jermaine Couisnard, Trae Hannibal, TJ Moss
2 - AJ Lawson, Justin Minaya
3 - Keyshawn Bryant, Trey Anderson
4 - Alanzo Frink, Jalyn McCreary
5 - Wildens Leveque, Patrick Iriel, Ja’Von Benson
Questions and Comments: 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. Should make the tournament could cause problems in conference, but appear to be outside of the top group of teams.
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
Questions and Comments: 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.
1 - RJ Cole, Jalen Gaffney
2 - James Bouknight, Brendan Adams
3 - Andre Jackson, Tyrese Martin
4 - Akok Akok, Tyler Polley, Richard Springs
5 - Isaiah Whaley, Josh Carlton, Javonte Brown-Ferguson, Adama Sanogo
Questions and Comments: Lot’s of folks are putting UConn way higher than I am at this point. Allow me to explain my skepticism: back in the Big East, with a tougher set of teams, a larger pool of good coaches, and having 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 really scare anyone. They need to find shooting from someone, and I just don’t know who that will be. Finally, they have to actually, you know... 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. While they do have a TON of talent in the front-court, they can only play two bigs at a time, so their roster imbalance will really come back to bite them.
1 - Brandon Averette, Trevin Knell, Hunter Erickson
2 - Alex Barcello, Gideon George, Spencer Johnson
3 - Connor Harding, Caleb Lohner
4 - Kolby Lee, Gavin Baxter
5 - Matt Haarms, Richard Harward, Wyatt Lowell
BYU is loaded, and may move up these rankings if they can sort out their front-court rotation and back-court depth. 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 effectively, then Averette and Barcello are the only real back-court players on the team, which will force BYU to play very big. This would not be disastrous, rather it would limit the number of ways that BYU can play. Lowell is recovering from labrum surgery and may not fully recover until next season (a shoulder injury is not something to take lightly). I have them lower than they probably deserve right now, but there is a reason: they lost five of their top eight players from last year (all seniors) and will have a lot of role and personnel adjustments to make. Still, a strong candidate to move up the rankings.
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
Questions and Comments: Losing Nojel Eastern and Matt Haarms may seem like big deals, and they are. But those losses will likely help Purdue in the end simply because those two guys had issues: Haarms was a big who didn’t rebound well, and Eastern was a wing/guard who could not score or shoot to save his life. Those minutes get replaced by minutes for other guys who will have their own problems, but will fit better and reorient the team properly: 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.
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
Questions and Comments: Losing Jamal Bienemy hurts, but they do return some talent. I cannot see them cracking the top of the Big 12, but they should have a shot at a tourney bid.
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
Questions and Comments: 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 ten years.
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
Questions and Comments: Carton has been granted immediate eligibility, which is the peak of comedy, but great for him (love him as a player, and I hope he succeeds here). 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
Questions and Comments: 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.
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
Questions and Comments: 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
Questions and Comments: 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
Questions and Comments: A lot of returning talent, but they lost some key players. Keep an eye on them in the non-conference.
1 - Brandon Williams, Kerr Kriisa
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
Questions and Comments: 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 whom I will be eagee to watch (side bar: I cannot wait to listen to Bill Walton pronounce their names and ruminate on what it means to be a unique butterfly). 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 - PJ Horne
5 - John Ojiako, Keve Aluma, David N’Guessan
Questions and Comments: 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) and gets Aluma off of his redshirt. This team could overtake Syracuse, Miami, and NC State if all goes well.
#60 St Mary’s
1 - Tommy Kuhse, Logan Johnson
2 - Kristers Zoriks, Quinn Clinton
3 - Alex Ducas, Jabe Mullins
4 - Dan Fotu, Kyle Bowen, Judah Brown
5 - Matthias Tass, Matthew van Komen, Mitchell Saxen
Questions and Comments: 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 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.
Bonus: #61 Providence
1 - Jared Bynum, Alyn Breed
2 - David Duke
3 - AJ Reeves, Jyare Davis
4 - Greg Gantt, Kris Monroe
5 - Nate Watson
Questions and Comments: 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.
1 - Jalen Harris, Tyler Beard, Dante Harris
2 - Jahvon Blair, Jaden Robinson
3 - Jamari Sibley, Kobe Clark
4 - Jamorko Pickett
5 - Qudus Wahab, Timothy Ighoefe, Malcolm Wilson
Questions and Comments: Mac McClung is transferring, yet another mini-disaster in Patrick Ewing’s tenure of non-stop-disasters. I will point out that this Georgetown team, after the mid-season attrition and MSU-level of injuries, won a game playing six players (and a walk-on for three minutes) — with three players playing all 40 minutes. There is some toughness and grit to this group, but I don’t see consistency from them in my crystal ball.
Conference standings predictions:
B1G: MSU/Wisconsin/Illinois/Iowa, Michigan, Rutgers, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Maryland, Purdue, 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, Florida, Arkansas, Auburn, Alabama, South Carolina [6-8 teams in tourney]
Pac-12: Oregon/UCLA/ASU, Stanford, Colorado, USC, Arizona [5-6 teams in tourney]
Big East: Villanova, Creighton, Butler, Seton Hall, UConn, Marquette, Xavier, Georgetown, Providence [4-7 teams in tourney]
Others notables: Gonzaga, Houston, SDSU, Richmond, Memphis, Saint Louis, Loyola Chicago, UNI, St. Mary’s