College basketball’s way-too-early men’s preseason top 25


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SportsPulse: By ending Gonzaga’s historic undefeated season, Baylor made historical past itself. Mackenzie Salmon particulars how the Bears received their first nationwide title.

USA TODAY

Editor’s notice: A earlier model of this story included Memphis within the rankings. Memphis had a number of gamers enter the switch protocol, bumping it out of the ballot. Virginia Tech was moved into the ballot at No. 25.

INDIANAPOLIS — The 2020-21 males’s school basketball season is formally within the books following one of many sport’s most difficult years as a consequence of COVID-19 postponements and restrictions. 

But now that Baylor has cut down the nets and an epic 2021 NCAA Event is over, we are able to take a look at the season forward. 

Occasions of the offseason – gamers coming into the NBA draft, transfers and late selections amongst incoming freshmen – are certain to shake issues up. However for now, this is a take a look at the groups greatest positioned to be among the many nation’s elite come November, when the 2021-22 season ideas off: 

1. UCLA (22-10). Coach Mick Cronin might lose a few of his younger roster to the NBA if one (particularly Johnny Juzang) tries to capitalize on the epic Last 4 displaying vs. Gonzaga. However regardless, Cronin knows how to get a team to peak on the proper time regardless of setbacks (shedding second-leading scorer Chris Smith eight video games on this previous season). Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jáquez Jr. (if he stays) are each poised for even larger seasons as rising juniors.

DOUBTERS LOOK FOOLISH: Baylor’s Scott Drew is forever a national champion

STILL GREAT: Gonzaga’s case for being one of the best non-champions in men’s Division I history

2. Duke (13-11). The Blue Devils missed this yr’s NCAA Event, the first time since 1995, however are poised to return with a dynamic group, bringing again Christian Laettner-impersonator Matthew Damage (18.Three ppg), and coach Mike Krzyzewski is welcoming a star-studded recruiting class that options five-stars Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin. 

3. Gonzaga (31-1). The Bulldogs will lose two of their large three – Jalen Suggs and Corey Kispert – to the NBA draft, together with key function participant Joel Ayayi. It is unclear if NCAA Event star large man Drew Timme returns. That leaves one absolutely returning starter in Andrew Nembhard (9.2 ppg, 4.Four apg) again for coach Mark Few. Reserves Anton Watson and Aaron Prepare dinner can play bigger roles, whereas five-star freshman Hunter Sallis can step in instantly. Chet Holmgre, the nation’s No. 1 recruit, is leaning towards the Zags. 

4. Michigan (23-5). The Wolverines probably lose Isaiah Livers and Franz Wagner to the NBA, however there is a robust probability they convey again second-team All-American Hunter Dickinson and key gamers within the nucleus. Coach Juwan Howard has hauled in a No. 1 recruiting class (per 247 Sports) that’s headlined by five-stars Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate.

5. Ohio State (21-10). Sadly the 2020-21 Buckeyes will likely be greatest remembered for a first-round NCAA Tournament upset to No. 15 seed Oral Roberts. However OSU figures to return main scorer Duane Washington Jr. (16.Four ppg) for his senior season, whereas rising junior E.J. Liddell (16.2 pgg, 6.7 rpg) entered his title within the draft however might nonetheless return. Both method, coach Chris Holtmann ought to have ample expertise returning to contend for a Large Ten title and have a redemptive season.  

6. Baylor (28-2).The national champion Bears will lose their backcourt of Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell and MaCio Teague, however which means Adam Flagler (9.zero ppg) might be poised for a breakout junior marketing campaign, and coach Scott Drew will flip a new-look roster right into a contender. Kendall Brown is a five-star freshman who may help with that. 

7. Purdue (18-10). Main scorer Trevion Williams (15.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg) is anticipated to return for his senior season, whereas rising sophomore Jaden Ivey (11. ppg) is able to blossom additional following a promising freshman marketing campaign. Coach Matt Painter could have a way more seasoned group than the one which was upset by North Texas within the NCAA Event.   

8. Alabama (26-7). The Crimson Tide are anticipated to have plenty of expertise returning, beginning with main scorers Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly. Nate Oats, USA TODAY Sports activities’ nationwide coach of the yr in 2020-21, turned Alabama right into a contender and Candy 16 group in two seasons. Yr Three guarantees to observe that trajectory, particularly with top-10 freshman JD Davison within the fold. 

9. Kentucky (9-16). The Wildcats’ abysmal 2020-21 season might pave the way in which for a greater 2021-22. UK standouts Isaiah Jackson, Terrence Clarke and Brandon Boston all introduced their intentions to enter the NBA draft, however coach John Calipari has already begun reloading with eligible transfers Kellan Grady (17.1 ppg at Davidson) and Oscar Tshiebwe (8.5 ppg, 7.Eight rpg at West Virginia). He is additionally acquired commitments from five-stars Daimion Collins, Bryce Hopkins and Nolan Hickman.

10. Kansas (21-9). Coach Bill Self’s lifetime contract means continuity within the pilot’s chair. What KU’s roster appears to be like like in 2021-22 will likely be much less predictable. There’s an opportunity the Jayhawks lose Ochai Agbaji to the NBA, together with departing senior Marcus Garrett, however David McCormack (13.Four ppg, 6.1 rpg) and Jalen Wilson (11.Eight ppg, 7.9 rpg) are set to return. Self will be busy on the recruiting path, the place he is but to land a five-star. 

11. Maryland (17-14). Coach Mark Turgeon should not need to play his group off the bubble in 2021-22 as he’ll have a veteran-laden group contending for a Large Ten title. Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins (14.5 ppg) ought to shine as seniors ought to they each move on making an attempt NBA waters, whereas eligible transfers Fatts Russell (18.Eight ppg in 2019-20 at Rhode Island) and Qudus Wahab (12.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg at Georgetown) will make this squad absolutely loaded. 

12. Villanova (18-7). The Wildcats lose one co-Large East participant of the yr, departing senior Collin Gillespie, however they might be positioned to return the opposite co-Large East POY, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (15.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg) as long as the junior would not bounce to the NBA. Coach Jay Wright is bringing in a top-five recruiting class to mesh with a core headed by guard Justin Moore.

13. Michigan State (15-13). Northeastern switch Tyson Walker, among the finest mid-major guards within the nation, selected the Spartans over Kansas and Maryland. He averaged 18.Eight factors and 4.Eight assists and was the CAA defensive participant of the yr. He’ll mesh with a returning roster of Joey Hauser and doubtlessly main scorer Aaron Henry if he holds off on the NBA. 5-star freshman Max Christie will add rapid scoring. 

14. Florida State (18-7). The Seminoles will lose projected lottery choose Scottie Barnes and will additionally lose main scorer MJ Walker to the NBA draft. However coach Leonard Hamilton misplaced two gamers to the NBA final yr and nonetheless acquired FSU to the Candy 16. He’ll have returning items to mesh with an elite recruiting class that presently ranks second and is headlined by five-star Matthew Cleveland.

15. Texas (19-8). The Longhorns have a new sheriff in town, though he’s extra like a common. Chris Beard, a Bob Knight disciple, was in a position to flip the Crimson Raiders right into a contender — reaching the nationwide championship sport in 2019. At a win-hungry, larger program that underachieved underneath Shaka Good, anticipate Last Fours underneath Beard. He’ll inherit a Good-recruited group, however there’s ample expertise to fall into Beard’s defense-first philosophy to be within the combine right here in Yr 1.  

16. Syracuse (18-10). Buddy Boeheim (17.Eight ppg) went on a three-point capturing tear on the finish of 2020-21 to information the Orange off the NCAA Event bubble and into the Candy 16. The sharp-shooting guard will likely be again, along with his supporting forged of Quincy Guerrier, Alan Griffin and Joseph Girard III. 5-star Benny Williams will likely be further ammunition. 

17. Virginia (18-7). The reigning ACC champion Cavaliers will as soon as once more be within the nationwide equation regardless of shedding their high two scorers. Veteran level guard Kehi Clark, a freshman on UVA’s 2019 nationwide title group, is again for yet another season. Rising junior Trey Murphy III is poised for a breakout season and coach Tony Bennett’s system ought to endure for an additional promising marketing campaign for the Cavs. 

18. North Carolina (18-11). The Hubert Davis period will probably get off to a powerful begin as a result of the previous assistant will inherit a group of gamers he helped recruit. There’s ample returning expertise with Armando Bacot and Caleb Love, however a lot of Davis’ job in Yr 1 will likely be to encourage and redefine tradition separate from Roy Williams’ legacy. 

19West Virginia. If Miles McBride (15.Eight ppg, 4.9 apg) and Derek Culver (14.Three ppg, 9.Four rpg) return and maintain off on the NBA, coach Bob Huggins could have the 1-2 punch again from one in all his greatest defensive groups. The important thing will likely be getting the Mountaineers to raise again to an elite-defense standing.

20. Wichita State (16-6). Shockers coach Isaac Brown could have a full offseason to get this program into contending kind after he guided WSU to a regular-season American Athletic Convention title and NCAA Event berth after longtime coach Gregg Marshall left this system amid abuse allegations previous to 2020-21. Main scorer Tyson Etienne (16.Three ppg) would be the focus for this group.

21. LSU. The Tigers lose Cameron Thomas to the NBA, however determine to carry everybody else again. Trendon Watford (16.Three ppg, 7.Four rpg) would be the key returnee assuming he waits on pursuing the NBA, along with his 30 factors within the SEC Event remaining vs. Alabama a pattern measurement of his breakout capability. 

22. Houston. The Cougars could lose main scorer Quentin Grimes to the NBA from its Last 4 squad. However Marcus Sasser (13.7 ppg) is poised for an enormous junior season and coach Kelvin Sampson at all times finds a technique to make Houston contend within the AAC. 

23. Tennessee (18-9). Coach Rick Barnes is prone to lose so much within the NBA draft, however there will likely be sufficient key returnees from a roster that completed fourth within the SEC and had an NCAA Event No. 5 seed. 5-star freshman Kennedy Chandler will make a direct affect. 

24. Florida (15-10). Colin Castleton, a 6-11 large man averaging 12.1 factors a sport and capturing 60% from the ground, will likely be again for coach Mike White. If Keyontae Johnson is ready to play, it’s going to be an enormous increase. Johnson collapsed on the courtroom and was in essential situation final December, which saved him out for the remainder of 2020-21, however which means he will not pursue the draft and should keep in Gainesville underneath shut medical consideration. Brandon McKissic, the Summit League’s defensive participant of the yr, is a big-name switch.   

25. Virginia Tech (15-7). Coach Mike Younger figures to have his high 4 main scorers again, beginning with Keve Aluma (15.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg), from a veteran-laden group that may make a run for an ACC title. 

Shut calls: Saint Bonaventure, Southern California, UConn, Arkansas, Illinois.

Observe school basketball reporter Scott Gleeson on Twitter @ScottMGleeson

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