This article was originally posted on July 30, 2021 and updated on Aug. 29, 2021
This 2021-2022 college basketball season, will, in all likelihood, be one for the ages. Literally. It is doubtful that college basketball will ever be older than it is this season because of the one-time NCAA waiver allowing athletes an extra year of eligibility to replace the lost postseason opportunity from the 2019-20 season.
Many of the teams in this top-60 ranking are old in terms of average roster age, and the top-30, specifically, is no different. Having a bumper crop of seniors and super-seniors will mean that a lot of teams are heavily indexed in one of the four required components of winning-big in college basketball: veteran experience, top-notch coaching, NBA-level talent and, of course, luck.
The Michigan State Spartans are not the oldest, nor the most talented, but MSU does have both in good measure. The Spartans also have one of the top-five coaches in college basketball (assuming last year was an aberration on Tom Izzo’s sterling record), and they are more than due for some luck.
Without further ado...
Here are the current depth charts and rankings of the top-60 NCAA men’s basketball teams for the 2021-2022 season:
(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 both with regard to individual players and to teams.)
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!
Following each team, I provide my thoughts, questions and comments on that particular school.
Part Two: No. 1-30
1 - Andrew Nembhard, Dominik Harris
2 - Nolan Hickman, Rasir Bolton
3 - Hunter Sallis, Julian Strawther, Marytnas Arlauskas
4 - Chet Holmgren, Anton Watson
5 - Drew Timme, Kaden Perry
We will see how this prediction turns out, but for now Gonzaga’s mix of returning talent and explosive newcomers should give the Bulldogs the best team in the country. Nembhard and Timme are returning stars, while Bolton (Iowa State transfer), Watson, Harris and Strawther give head coach Mark Few another four veteran/talented players that he could rely on to create a group of six that could easily be a top-15 team on their own.
But the freshman class of Hickman, Sallis, Perry and, especially, Holmgren puts the Zags at the top spot. Hickman is a serious competitor, with a veteran demeanor, paint-attacking offensive game, and a defensive capacity that will ease the departure of Jalen Suggs. Sallis is a new kind of player for Few — a larger, longer, skilled wing with a finesse game that oozes pro potential while still possessing NBA athleticism and aggression. Perry is a top-50 or so center with athleticism and a confident scoring game. But it is Holmgren who puts this team over the top.
Against Baylor, Gonzaga got exposed defensively. This version of the Bulldogs will lack the explosive offensive potency in some ways — relying on freshmen for offensive consistency is a gamble, while relying on the transfer Bolton to be the potent sixth-man is a safer bet —but Holmgren should absolutely dominate defensively at the collegiate level. Do not let Holmgren’s ho-hum U-19 Team USA showdown with Victor Wembanyanma dissuade you, Holmgren will be an outstanding college player and a one-and-done guy as well. The key is having the guaranteed offense in the post in Timme, and the steady senior guidance of Nembhard at the point.
1 - Tyger Campbell, David Singleton
2 - Johnny Juzang, Will McClendon, Jaylen Clark
3 - Jules Bernard, Peyton Watson, Jake Kyman
4 - Jaime Jaquez, Cody Riley
5 - Myles Johnson, Mac Etienne, Kenneth Nwuba
I would LOVE to put UCLA at the top-spot, and I think the odds of a rematch with Gonzaga in the late stages of the NCAA Tournament is likely, but Holmgren adds a dimension that UCLA simply cannot match. What UCLA does have, however, is nearly the exact same team that barnstormed and willed its way to the Final Four last season. Campbell, Juzang, Jaquez, Riley, Etienne, Singleton, Clark, Kyma and Nwuba all return. That nine-man unit would still be a top-10 team for me, but the additions of Johnson, the Rutgers transfer and a bonafide rim-protector, the talented albeit raw Watson (a five-star freshman) and the big-time scoring guard in McClendon (top-50 freshman) really give this team an insane wealth of talent to go along with their incredible veteran returners.
It will be interesting to see how head coach Mick Cronin manages a rotation that is overflowing — would he really bench both Bernard and Riley to make way for Watson and Johnson? I doubt it — but Johnson is a better rim protector and rebounder than Riley, so I expect him to start. Look for Watson, Singleton, McClendon, Riley, and Etienne to form arguably the best bench in the nation. Pac-12 favorite.
1 - Remy Martin, Joseph Yesufu, Bobby Pettiford
2 - Ochai Agbaji, Dajuan Harris, Kyle Cuffe Jr.
3 - Christian Braun, Jalen Coleman-Lands
4 - Jalen Wilson, Mitch Lightfoot, KJ Adams
5 - David McCormack, Cam Martin, Zach Clemence
Kansas should be incredible this season as they bring back Agbaji, Braun, Wilson and McCormack as starters, along with veteran reserves Lightfoot and Harris. The question is the quality of play from the point guard. Remy Martin has long been a terrific talent and fun, engaging personality, but he has never really marshaled teams or offenses, and so Bill Self will likely need a stronger leadership voice from Martin or his other returners. Coleman-Lands, Yesufu, Harris, Cuffe Jr., Adams, Cam Martin and Pettiford will all compete for reserve minutes, with Coleman-Lands, Yesufu, and Harris as the likeliest candidates for major bench roles.
The biggest questions are in the front-court. Lightfoot has had moments, but never really taken off, and as a senior will need to provide some stability off the bench. Cam Martin, the stretch-big transfer from Missouri Southern, may be thrown into the deep-end as a smaller, stretchier five, or Clemence, the talented freshman, may have to step in to play the primary center reserve minutes. If Self cannot sort out the depth minutes in the front-court this team will struggle to compete with the bigger, longer, and stronger contenders. Big 12 co-favorite.
1 - Collin Gillespie, Chris Arcidiacono, Angelo Brizzi
2 - Justin Moore, Brian Antoine, Jordan Longino
3 - Caleb Daniels, Brandon Slater
4 - Jermaine Samuels, Trey Patterson
5 - Eric Dixon, Nnanna Njoku, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree
Villanova is back, losing Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Cole Swider is not ideal, but Jay Wright brings back fifth-year seniors Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels and Caleb Daniels, while key starter, Justin Moore, fills out a four-man returning group that should dominate the Big East. Brandon Slater and Brian Antoine are poised for stardom off of the bench, Trey Patterson, a five-star freshman, should join them in the top-nine of the rotation. The question for Wright is the center position. Eric Dixon is undersized and played a small role last year, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree’s injury history may see him not actually suit up this season, and Nnanna Njoku, a freshman, may become a key rotation piece as a freshman big. If Wright can sort out the center, this team may end up in the Final Four because the one-to-four spots are so rock-solid. Big East favorite.
1 - Jeremy Roach, Jaylen Blakes
2 - Wendell Moore Jr., Trevor Keels
3 - AJ Griffin, Joey Baker
4 - Paolo Banchero, Bates Jones
5 - Mark Williams, Theo John
The final ride for Mike Krzyzewski. Mark Williams, who was done a disservice by Coach Klast year (Williams was inexplicably not in the rotation for the first half of the season), should thrive in the center partnership with senior-transfer Theo John, who was a consistent performer at Marquette. Jeremy Roach should be improved as a second year point guard, Wendell Moore and Joey Baker are back for their junior and senior seasons, respectively, and, of course, Duke brings in two top-10 freshmen in Paolo Banchero (who will likely be a top-10 NBA lottery pick in the 2022 NBA draft) and AJ Griffin, another potential lottery pick freshman.
Banchero should be a preseason All-American and is my preseason ACC Player of the Year: he is set up to dominate for Duke, and has an absolutely complete-two way game (he is a far better player than Jalen Johnson was last year for Duke, and Banchero will not quit on the team part-way through the season either). Griffin and Moore should form a dominant wing-duo, with Griffin as one of the best athletes in the country to pair with his strong frame and burgeoning shooting ability. Trevor Keels, another five-star freshman, should be the sixth-man, and will bring a veteran poise and savvy despite his youth. ACC favorite.
1 - DeVante Jones, Frankie Collins, Zeb Jackson
2 - Eli Brooks, Kobe Bufkin, Adrien Nunez
3 - Caleb Houstan, Isaiah Barnes, Jace Howard
4 - Brandon Johns Jr., Terrance Williams
5 - Hunter Dickinson, Moussa Diabaté, Will Tschetter
I would not be surprised to see Frankie Collins or Kobe Bufkin supplant DeVante Jones (Coastal Carolina transfer) in the starting lineup, nor would I be surprised to see Moussa Diabaté, a likely one-and-done, become the starting power-forward at some point this season. All three of those freshman, along with Caleb Houstan, another likely one-and-done, are terrific. Hunter Dickinson should remain an imposing interior force, and the steady hands of Jones, Eli Brooks, and Brandon Johns should form a terrific blend of young talent, veteran savvy, size, and skill. This team should win at least a share of the Big Ten, but the lack of clear perimeter stoppers and the reliance on underclassmen for point-production has to be a bit of a potential concern. Big Ten co-favorite.
1 - Sahvir Wheeler, Davion Mintz
2 - TyTy Washington, Kellan Grady
3 - Keion Brooks Jr., C.J. Fredrick, Dontaie Allen
4 - Daimion Collins, Bryce Hopkins
5 - Oscar Tshiebwe, Jacob Toppin, Lance Ware
I expect John Calipari to really bounce back this year. In Wheeler, Mintz (back for a second and final season), Grady and Fredrick, he has found an excellent, veteran group of guards, who provide shooting, experience, and ball-handling. Brooks and Tshiebwe will anchor the front-court, and Washington and Collins will provide the young talent that can help Kentucky break open better-coached teams. Collins in particular seems destined for a single year in college, while Washington and Hopkins appear set to probably stick around for a couple of seasons. It will be fascinating to see how this group shakes out — I can make arguments for any of the five guards to start, but I cannot envision Calipari starting with a three-guard line-up, nor does this team work if Tshiebwe, Toppin and Ware cannot really lock down the center position. SEC co-favorite.
1 - Eric Hunter, Isaiah Thompson
2 - Jaden Ivey, Brandon Newman
3 - Sasha Stefanovic, Ethan Morton, Brian Waddell
4 - Mason Gillis, Caleb Furst, Trey Kaufman
5 - Trevion Williams, Zach Edey
Purdue returns everyone who matters, particularly Williams, Ivey, Hunter and Stefanovic. The twin peaks of Williams and Edey (who will remain unguardable in spurts) will benefit from the brawny complimentary forwards in Gillis and the two freshmen Furst and Kaufman. Stefanovic, Newman and Thompson will really have to rain-down three-point shots because Ivey still isn’t there as a shooter despite clearly being the best NBA prospect on the team (he is an incredible athlete, defender, driver and finisher — similar to Victor Oladipo). The paint will be clogged continuously, so finding creative ways to move his forwards and shooters off-ball will be essential for Matt Painter. Big Ten co-favorite.
1 - JD Davison, Nimari Burnett
2 - Jaden Shackelford, Keon Ellis, Darius Miles
3 - Jahvon Quinerly, Noah Gurley, Jusaun Holt
4 - Juwan Gary, James Rojas, Keon Ambrose-Hylton
5 - Charles Bediako, Alex Tchikou
If Kentucky is maybe the top team (preseason) in the SEC, then Alabama is right there with the Wildcats. Though Alabama lost a lot with the somewhat unexpected early departure of Josh Primo (NBA) and the graduation of Herb Jones, the Crimson Tide brings in some talented newcomers to replace them. Nimari Burnett is a better player than his bad freshman campaign at Texas Tech, Noah Gurley is a talented wing scorer, Charles Bediako is a raw but physically gifted freshman big and the star of the class is JD Davison.
Davison is a powerhouse athlete, has an incredibly high motor, tremendous feel, and a paint-attacking, aggressive game. He will have a great chance to be the SEC Player of the Year as a freshman, and will end up a lottery pick if my projections of his performance come true. Davison and Jaden Shackelford, one of the best players in the SEC last season, will form an incredible three-guard lineup with Jahvon Quinerly, who was excellent down the stretch of the season. Burnett, Gurley Juwan Gary, Keon Ellis and Alex Tchikou will provide solid complimentary minutes and roles, but this team is all about its three-headed monster in the back-court. SEC co-favorite.
1 - Emoni Bates, Alex Lomax, Tyler Harris
2 - Lester Quinones, Jonathan Lawson
3 - Landers Nolley, Earl Timberlake, Josh Minott
4 - DeAndre Williams, Chandler Lawson
5 - Jalen Duren, Malcolm Dandridge, Sam Ayomide Onu
Penny Hardaway’s defensive stalwarts from last season (Memphis owned the top defensive efficiency in the nation per Kenpom) loses some defensive flare, but he adds a lot of young offensive talent. Quinones, Timberlake and Nolley are as good of a three-wing group as you will find in the nation and Lomax and Harris are solid returning guards. The big and very late additions are Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren. Duren is the far more complete player between the two five-star freshmen, and you can expect him to play a huge role in solidifying both ends of the court. Bates has made public his intention to play point guard for Memphis, and that Hardaway recruited him as such. If Bates dramatically improves his shot-selection, passing, and point-of-attack defense, then this will be a perfect fit. Regardless this is a ton of offensive talent, length on defense, and a deep team, albeit a very young one. Favorites in the American.
1 - Marcus Carr, Devin Askew
2 - Courtney Ramey, Jase Febres, Avery Benson
3 - Andrew Jones, Jaylon Tyson, Brock Cunningham
4 - Christian Bishop, Timmy Allen
5 - Tre Mitchell, Dylan Disu
This Texas team should be an incredible viewing experience all year. Chris Beard will attempt to instantly reshape the roster, identity of the program, team-building philosophy, win the conference he knows so well and get to a Final Four all in a single year. In Carr, Bishop, Mitchell, Disu, Allen and Askew, Beard has immediately demonstrated that his valuing of the transfer market (that builds on the belief that veterans win in college basketball), which he relied on heavily at Texas Tech, will remain his calling card.
The defensive intensity and toughness that defined his Texas Tech teams is a bit tougher to map onto this roster, however, as not a single one of the transfers are known for their defense, and all three of the key returners (Ramey, Jones and Febres) are solid, but not great, defenders. Keeping those returners engaged and bought-in when Carr and Mitchell will likely dominate proceedings will be a challenge, but if Beard can get these disparate parts to sing the same song, then the harmony should be spine-tingling. The offensive fire-power and veteran depth are there, but getting everyone to gel, particularly Carr, who has never had this much talent around him to work with, and buy-in defensively will be a real test. Big 12 co-favorite.
1 - James Akinjo, LJ Cryer, Dale Bonner
2 - Langston Love, Adam Flagler
3 - Kendall Brown, Jordan Turner
4 - Matthew Mayer, Jeremy Sochan, Dain Dainja
5 - Jonathan Tchamwa-Tchatchoua, Flo Thamba, Zach Loveday
The Bears lose their three starting guards, but Baylor should be back in a great spot this season. Akinjo (Arizona transfer) and the three freshmen —Brown, Love and Sochan — should be about as potent a new-comer group as Texas’. Love can really score the ball, Brown is an NBA athlete with toughness and assertiveness and Sochan is a terrific thinker of the game, who should execute assignments from day one. Bringing back Tchamwa-Tchatchoua, Thamba, Dainja, Turner, Flagler and Cryer provides incredible seasoned depth, and Mayer is primed for stardom as a sweet-shooting, mullet-wearing stretchy forward. The key, as with Texas, is the transfer senior point guard. Akinjo has always had talent, but also always failed to really catalyze a winning team. Scott Drew has to feel hopeful that the culture of the program will prove strong enough to get full buy-in from the mercurial lead-guard. Big 12 co-favorite.
1 - Marcus Sasser, Jamal Shead
2 - Kyler Edwards, Taze Moore
3 - Tramon Mark, Ramon Walker Jr., Robbie Armbrester
4 - Reggie Chaney, J’Wan Roberts, Ja’Vier Francis
5 - Fabian White Jr., Josh Carlton, Kiyron Powell
Kelvin Sampson returns a lot from a team that got to a Final Four. Sasser, Chaney and White return as starters, Mark was a huge difference-maker as a freshman reserve and will have a huge role as a starting wing, Kyler Edwards (Texas Tech transfer) is as good as it gets from a senior off-guard in college basketball (and will have a chance to work his way into the NBA) and Taze Moore could be a fascinating sixth-man as a transfer fifth-year senior. Sorting out the other reserves beyond Shead (who will reprise his reserve guard role) and Moore will prove essential. Carlton was injured for much of last season with Connecticut, but should be a perfect third big as a fifth-year senior. Getting something from two out of Powell, Rogers, Francis, Walker and Armbrester (all freshmen except Roberts), will be vital. That being said, Sampson has won with seven-man rotations before. American Athletic Conference second-favorite.
1 - Will Richardson, Jacob Young
2 - De’Vion Harmon, Rivaldo Soares
3 - Eric Williams Jr., Lok Wur
4 - Quincy Guerrier, Nathan Bittle, Isaac Johnson
5 - Franck Kepnang, N’Faly Dante
If a team beats out UCLA for the Pac-12 crown, it will be Oregon. In fact, with the size that Oregon can put on the court, the Ducks may have the defensive personnel to really frustrate UCLA’s paint and mid-range oriented offense. Bittle is a seven-footer with tremendous skill and shooting ability, and Dante (now healthy) and Kepnang (who really had an excellent freshman season last year), should dominate at the center position. Richardson, Harmon (Oklahoma transfer), Williams Jr., Young (Rutgers transfer), and Guerrier (Syracuse transfer) should provide more than enough scoring punch from the perimeter, but the three-point shooting balance of this team is a bit of a concern as Richardson and Williams are the best high-volume perimeter shooters by a considerable margin.
1 - Kennedy Chandler, Santiago Vescovi
2 - Justin Powell, Victor Bailey Jr., Quentin Eyobo
3 - Josiah-Jordan James, Jahmai Mashack
4 - Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, Olivier Nkamhoua
5 - John Fulkerson, Jonas Aidoo, Uros Plavsic
I want to have Tennessee higher, but until I see how the five-star freshmen in Kennedy Chandler and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield mesh with the returners, and until we see what role Justin Powell (the excellent transfer from Auburn) gets from Rick Barnes (who is infamous for mismanaging offensive roles on talented teams), I have to keep Tennessee firmly behind Kentucky and Alabama, for now.
Jonas Aidoo is a real wild card as the biggest functional front-court guy, and a real late-rising freshman who was on his way to five-star status by the end of the season. I would not be surprised, at all, to see Tennessee win the SEC because I like the make-up of this squad more than Kentucky’s, and the Volunteers bring back more and have more talent in the front-court than Alabama. The question is the coaching and whether Chandler’s late-game play-making will transfer as seamlessly as his high school dominance would suggest.
16. North Carolina
1 - Caleb Love, RJ Davis, D’Marco Dunn
2 - Kerwin Walton, Anthony Harris
3 - Leaky Black, Dontrez Styles, Puff Johnson
4 - Dawson Garcia, Brady Manek
5 - Armando Bacot, Justin McKoy
This team will be every bit as fascinating as Duke. Hubert Davis replaces a legend with a far better team than North Carolina had last season, giving him a strong chance for a program bounce-back season. Bacot should be on the short-list for ACC Player of the Year, but adding Garcia, Manek and McKoy gives UNC three more experienced front-court players, all of whom fit far better around Bacot. Garcia and Manek both offer terrific jump-shooting, and Kerwin Walton and Dontrez Styles should provide enough shooting to counter-balance Love and Black’s lack of gravity. Love is the pivot of this team. He had one of the least efficient and most discouraging freshman seasons that I can remember for such a lauded five-star talent. Bet on his bounce-back, and on the other returning perimeter guys taking a step forward.
17. Florida State
1 - Caleb Mills, Jalen Warley
2 - Anthony Polite, RayQuan Evans
3 - Matthew Cleveland, Cam’Ron Fletcher, Wyatt Wilkes
4 - Malik Osborne, John Butler
5 - Tanor Ngom, Naheem McLeod, Quincy Ballard
As with most recent seasons, if neither Duke nor North Carolina win the ACC, Florida State should be the odds-on favorite. This season, in a departure from most under Leonard Hamilton, Florida State will have legitimate point guards with experience and talent. Mills (a Houston transfer) is a very good player, and the best and most natural point guard that Hamilton has had in years, and Warley is a high four-star freshman, who may end up starting or closing games. Warley is joined by Cleveland, a five-star freshman, who almost certainly will start — Cleveland is another terrific athlete, and confident scorer.
Polite, Evans and Wilkes provide the veteran leadership, play-making, and grit. Fletcher (the Kentucky transfer) will provide additional grit, glue, and athleticism assuming he has improved his mentality and approach. As per usual, Florida State will play a large variety of HUGE big-men. Ngom, Ballard, McLeod, Osborne and the top-70 freshman Butler will all present imposing rim protection, finishing, and a bit more skill than some of the bigs that FSU has employed in the past. Expect to see some interesting zone defenses that allow FSU to completely dominate the paint.
18. Michigan State
1 - AJ Hoggard, Tyson Walker
2 - Max Christie, Jaden Akins, Keon Coleman
3 - Gabe Brown, Pierre Brooks II, Jason Whitens
4 - Malik Hall, Joey Hauser, Michael Peterson
5 - Marcus Bingham Jr., Mady Sissoko, Julius Marble
Most will be surprised by Michigan State’s positioning here, and within the Big Ten pecking order; most will also be surprised by AJ Hoggard’s current starting position. Firstly, Hoggard has seemingly had a terrific summer, getting into tremendous shape, and appears to have the inside track to start the season at the point. With that said, if Tyson Walker’s shooting and comfort round into form, then he may very well take the starting job, but do not discount Hoggard’s quality. Hoggard was poor last year, but is a far better player than he showed, and will have a consistent role regardless of whether he starts or does not. In fact, it is the improvement of the Spartan lead-guard play (bolstered by Jaden Akins’ abilities there, and by Max Christie’s ability to run offense in a pinch) that gives the Spartans the first push above their fellow second-tier competitors in the conference.
Christie and Gabe Brown will form one of the best and longest wing duos in the nation (and the chief reason why I have the Spartans ahead of Illinois, for example). Malik Hall and Joey Hauser seem primed for significant increases in their solid, but not outstanding, production. Hall, in particular, has the chance to have a breakout season if his mentality and aggression levels are turned up high all season long.
The biggest factor for my predicting the Spartans’ resurgence, despite the loss of all-universe wing Aaron Henry, is Marcus Bingham Jr. Bingham was one of the top-five defenders in the nation last year on a per-minute basis and, to be sure, he has had a great summer (following his excellent close to the last season), which will lead to his playing 20 or more minutes per game. Mady Sissoko and Julius Marble should form a rock-solid reserve-big duo as well. Akins will surprise people around the country with his defensive acumen, athleticism and natural scoring ability, and, once he gets up to speed, Pierre Brooks II should, at least, shoot the leather off the ball.
Izzo does not have consecutive underwhelming seasons, and I expect Christie’s one-and-done-level talent to catalyze a second-weekend run in the NCAA Tournament, at least.
1 - Andre Curbelo, Alfonso Plummer
2 - Trent Frazier, Austin Hutcherson, Luke Goode
3 - Jacob Grandison, Brandon Podziemski, Ramses Melendez
4 - Da’Monte Williams, Coleman Hawkins, Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk
5 - Kofi Cockburn, Omar Payne, Brandon Lieb
With Cockburn back, Curbelo running the show and reliable veterans Frazier and Williams providing veteran production and timely plays, this Illinois team should be very strong again.
I do not think it unreasonable to argue that Illinois should be ahead of Michigan State: Plummer (Utah transfer), if he does not start, will be on the short-list for Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year, as he can really shoot the ball. Hawkins and Payne should form a very solid reserve-big duo, and Grandison should be better than he was last year at the head of a column of young wings. But losing Ayo Dosunmu will really impact the late-game production and orchestration of the team.
Last year the Illini struggled to spread the floor adequately, and unless Curbelo and Grandison really improve their three-point production, then Illinois may only have two real three-point threats in Frazier and Plummer. The defense should be solid with Cockburn patrolling the paint, but the perimeter defense and shot-challenging will suffer from the loss of Dosunmu’s length and willingness.
20. Oklahoma State
1 - Avery Anderson, Bryce Williams, Ferron Flavors Jr.
2 - Rondel Walker, Bryce Thompson, Chris Harris
3 - Isaac Likekele, Keylan Boone, Woody Newton, Donovan Williams
4 - Kalib Boone, Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe, Tyreek Smith
5 - Moussa Cissé, Bernard Kouma
This Oklahoma State team should be a lot of fun. While the Cowboys lose No. 1 overall NBA Draft pick Cade Cunningham, they retain the vast majority of their talented team that got to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Beyond the four starters Oklahoma State returns, and the four bench contributors whose roles will likely remain largely the same, head coach Mike Boynton adds in four talented transfers in Moussa Cissé (Memphis), Bryce Thompson (Kansas), Tyreek Smith (Texas Tech) and Woody Newton (Syracuse). Cissé and Thompson, particularly, should play major roles and fill out a 10-man rotation that should place Oklahoma State in the top-25 nationally all season.
1 - Fatts Russell, Marcus Dockery
2 - Eric Ayala, Ian Martinez
3 - Hakim Hart, Ike Cornish
4 - Donta Scott, James Graham III
5 - Qudus Wahab, Julian Reese, Pavlo Dziuba, Arnaud Revaz
Maryland may out-play this ranking, but I’m just skeptical of the Terrapins’ depth, which is entirely reliant on new faces or guys in need of dramatic improvements. The starting five should be really fun though: Wahab (Georgetown transfer) and Scott will be a dynamic front-court duo, and Ayala will, yet again, pace the back-court, which includes the enigmatic Hart and the Rhode Island transfer, Russell, whose anticipated impact may not quite mirror reality (he is not an efficient scorer at all). If Cornish and Reese, two exciting freshmen, can put their stamp on proceedings, and if Graham III can live up to his high school promise, then this team gets really fun. At this point the Terps appear a bit limited.
22. Ohio State
1 - Jamari Wheeler, Meechie Johnson
2 - Cedric Russell, Malaki Branham, Gene Brown
3 - Seth Towns, Justice Sueing, Justin Ahrens
4 - EJ Liddell, Zed Key, Kalen Etzler
5 - Kyle Young, Joey Brunk
Losing Duane Washington hurts a lot, but Jamari Wheeler (Penn State transfer), Meechie Johnson, Cedric Russell (Louisiana transfer), and Malaki Branham (top-35 freshman) should more than make up for that loss as a unit. In fact, Russell’s natural scoring ability will pair with Wheeler’s defense to more-or-less replicate Washington and CJ Walker’s back-court production from last season. The big news is that EJ Liddell is back, and that the rest of the front-court should be even better than last season.
Kyle Young, if he can stay healthy, is a superb undersized center, and Joey Brunk was a real bright spot last year for Indiana. Zed Key, Seth Towns, Justice Sueing, Justin Ahrens and Gene Brown should fill out the rest of the wing and forward rotation nicely, and with healthier seasons, may outshine last year’s iterations of themselves.
1 - Wendell Green, K.D. Johnson
2 - Allen Flanigan, Zep Jasper
3 - Devan Cambridge, Chris Moore
4 - Jabari Smith, Jaylin Williams
5 - Walker Kessler, Dylan Cardwell, Babatunde Akingbola
Auburn should be interesting yet again. Where last year the Tigers lost a talented player mid-season to transfer, had another only play the last 12 or so games of the season, and had other injuries and frustrations, this season should present a more complete team from the outset with a more steady depth-chart thanks to the veteran transfer guards Wendell Green, K.D. Johnson, and Zep Jasper.
Walker Kessler was badly misused at UNC, but you can bet that Bruce Pearl will rely on him and on five-star future-NBA-player Jabari Smith to use every ounce of their talent as the focal points of the offense. If the returners Flanigan, Cambridge and Williams, and the reserve bigs Cardwell and Akingbola, take a step forward, this could be a fun team in the tournament.
24. Virginia Tech
1 - Storm Murphy, Sean Pedulla
2 - Hunter Cattoor
3 - Nahiem Alleyne, Darrius Maddox
4 - Justyn Mutts, David N’Guessan, Jalen Haynes
5 - Keve Aluma, John Ojiako, Lynn Kidd
The Hokies should be good again, but I doubt they take anyone by surprise this season. Aluma, Mutts, Alleyne and Cattoor should be dynamic, as they were last season, but Murphy and Pedulla have to really find their level quickly for this team to stay competitive in an intense and renewed ACC. The odds are high that it works because even if he struggles in other areas, Murphy can really shoot it from deep and will give head coach Mike Young five starters who are good-to-excellent three-point shooters.
25. Texas Tech
1 - Clarence Nadolny, Mylik Wilson
2 - Kevin McCullar, Sardaar Calhoun, Chibuzo Agbo
3 - Terrence Shannon, Davion Warren, Adonis Arms
4 - Kevin Obanor, Bryson Williams, Kealen Allen
5 - Marcus Santos-Silva, Daniel Batcho
While the Red Raiders welcome a new coach (Mark Adams, a long-time veteran coach, who helped shape Chris Beard’s teams over the past five years) and bring back four key contributors — Nadolny, McCullar, Shannon and Santos-Silva — they will need the new faces to immediately step-up and contribute right away. Williams (UTEP transfer), Wilson (Louisiana transfer), and Calhoun (who was impressive last year at Florida State) will all provide veteran leadership off the bench, even as newcomers to the program.
The crown-jewel transfer is Obanor, the Oral Roberts stretch big who paired so well with Max Abmas in last season’s tournament. His three-point shooting will really help open the floor for Santos-Silva and Shannon. This team will continue to scrap its way to wins, and it likely will not have the requisite size to compete with the big boys, but do not be surprised when Texas Tech wins big games in conference and in the tournament — this is a veteran team that takes mucking-about very seriously.
1 - Khristian Lander, Rob Phinisee, Parker Stewart
2 - Xavier Johnson, Tamar Bates, Anthony Leal
3 - Miller Kopp, Trey Galloway, Jordan Geronimo
4 - Trayce Jackson-Davis, Race Thompson
5 - Michael Durr, Logan Duncomb
I still believe in Khristian Lander, Miller Kopp and Rob Phinisee — three guys in desperate need of bounce-back seasons. More importantly, I believe that Mike Woodson is a good basketball coach, and, if you give him a star like Trayce Jackson-Davis, a big rim-protector in Michael Durr, and a couple of aggressive scoring guards like Xavier Johnson, Tamar Bates (a five-star freshman), and Lander, then he can fashion a winning brand of basketball.
Lander was badly misused by Archie Miller last season, and Woodson should put him in a lot more pick-and-roll actions, which should also maximize Kopp’s shooting. TJD should be an all-league player, and the new faces should rejuvenate the returners who ended last season with a whimper.
1 - Chris Lykes, KK Robinson
2 - JD Notae, Chance Moore
3 - Davonte Davis, Trey Wade, Kamani Johnson
4 - Au’Diese Toney, Stanley Umude, Jaxson Robinson
5 - Jaylin Williams, Connor Vanover
This Arkansas group should be fun; I do not see a way for the Razorbacks to reach the heights they did last season, but that is OK. Lykes (Miami transfer) remains a fun jitterbug at the point, and Notae and Davis are superb. Together, those three will form one of the better three-guard lineups in the nation. I am nervous about relying on Toney and Umude as your very-small-ball forwards, but the spacing should be great, and Williams is one of my favorite young bigs in the nation.
1 - Brandon Averette, Te’Jon Lucas, Nate Hansen
2 - Alex Barcello, Spencer Johnson, Seneca Knight, Trey Stewart
3 - Gideon George, Trevin Knell, Hunter Erickson
4 - Caleb Lohner, Gavin Baxter, Fousseyni Traoré
5 - Richard Harward, Atiki Ally Atiki
BYU got to the NCAA Tournament last season and should have had a better tournament, but the Cougars were matched up against the red-hot UCLA team they just could not stop. This season, BYU will give Gonzaga a real run for its money in the West Coast Conference, and should have the goods to break-through to a Sweet 16, if the Cougars get a decent match-up.
They return both super-seniors in their back-court in the diminutive snipers Averette and Barcello, bring back all three of their best wings in George, Johnson and Knell, the talented and mature Lohner at the forward, and Harward to hold down the paint at the center. This veteran team (returning seven of its top-nine players) should be right around the top-25 all season long.
1 - RJ Cole, Jalen Gaffney
2 - Tyrese Martin, Rahsool Diggins
3 - Andre Jackson, Jordan Hawkins
4 - Akok Akok, Tyler Polley, Richard Springs
5 - Adama Sanogo, Isaiah Whaley, Samson Johnson
Although the Huskies lost James Bouknight, Connecticut returns most of its team, and gets its entire veteran front-court back, and back healthy. The UConn front-court may be one of the best in the entire nation by the end of the year, and if Jackson and Martin can step up their shooting levels then this team may work its way into elite territory and may have the veteran moxie to challenge Villanova for the Big East title. Diggins may become the Huskies’ most important player — that kid can really score and can shoot the deep ball.
1 - Jacob Gilyard, Isaiah Wilson, Jason Nelson
2 - Nick Sherod, Connor Crabtree, Marcus Randolph
3 - Nathan Cayo, Andre Gustavson, Jake Wojcik, Malcolm Dread
4 - Tyler Burton, Djimon Bailey, Aidan Noyes
5 - Grant Golden, Matt Grace, Souleymane Koureissi
After a brutally frustrating last season, Richmond will be back and better than ever. Yes, the Spiders lost Blake Francis to the professional ranks, but Gilyard, Sherod (now healthy), Cayo and Golden all return, and they are all seniors. While some are looking at St. Bonaventure or Saint Louis as the favorites in the A-10, my pick is Richmond. It will be an intense conference season and at least one or two of those teams will make it to the Sweet-16. Atlantic 10 favorite.
Conference standings predictions:
Big Ten: Michigan, Purdue, Michigan State, Illinois, Maryland, Ohio State, Indiana, Rutgers, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, the rest in some order (eight to 10 teams in the tourney)
Big 12: Kansas, Texas, Baylor, OSU, Texas Tech, WVU, Iowa State, the rest in some order (six or seven teams in the tourney)
Big East: Villanova, UConn, Xavier, Butler, St. John’s, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Marquette, the rest in some order (five to seven teams in tourney)
Others notables: Gonzaga, Memphis, Houston, BYU, Richmond, St. Bonaventure, Colorado State, Saint Louis, Loyola Chicago, San Diego State, Belmont, Saint Mary’s, Nevada