Mark Few has built a powerhouse out West and will try to win thirty or more games for the fifth year in a row. The Zags return four of their top seven scorers, and will add the twelfth-ranked recruiting class in the country, highlighted by five-star Jalen Suggs. The safe bet is that the Bulldogs will win thirty or more games this upcoming season, but I expect them to make their second national title appearance.
Saddiq Bay is leaving for the draft, or else Villanova might take over the top spot. Everyone else is back, though, along with Tulane transfer Caleb Daniels. There are certain absolutes in college basketball, and one of them is that chemistry absolutely plays a role in success. This Nova team has one of the great active coaches in college basketball in Jay Wright and a roster that already has talent and chemistry.
Last year was Baylor’s year. Scott Drew had them poised for a run at the national championship, going 26-4 and finishing ranked fifth in the final AP poll of the year. There are still questions as to whether Jared Butler and MaCio Teague will return, but regardless, the Bears’ backcourt will be deadly. On top of that, Drew is one of the most consistent coaches in the NCAA.
Tony Bennett and the Cavaliers proved recently that his slow, defense-oriented style can win a national championship. On a team that finished third-to-last in the country in scoring offense, losing any scorers leaves a big hole to fill in this scheme. The Cavaliers had to replace two of their top three scorers, but do bring in the 16th-ranked recruiting class. They also have Sam Hauser eligible and will be a starter and likely contend for ACC Player of the Year.
Luka Garza still might return for his senior season. If he does make his return, the Hawkeyes will return four starters from a 20-win team a year ago. Jordan Bohannon will also be back to contribute. Iowa just needs him to play at the same level he was pre-injury to pair with Garza and rising sophomores CJ Fredrick and Joe Toussaint. Joe Wieskamp will be a difference-maker with his scoring and versatility.
There is currently a pending investigation by the NCAA into the men’s basketball program at Kansas that might make this ranking irrelevant, but as far as talent goes, Kansas is once again close to the top of the rankings in college basketball. Bryce Thompson headlines a pedestrian recruiting class by Kansas standards, but there is plenty of talent already on the roster that even with the losses of Dotson, Azubuike, and Moss, they will be positioned at the top of the Big-12 again.
Duke loses their top three scorers from a year ago, but brings in the third-ranked recruiting class highlighted by four five-star recruits. There’s no reason most, if not all of these freshmen should start, but regardless, there is enough returning talent to compliment that young talent nicely.
The Badgers return everyone from a team that went 21-10 and won a share of the Big Ten except guard Brevin Prtizl. Greg Gard is still trying to prove himself as a head coach with his own players. His interim season and first full year both ended with Sweet Sixteen appearances, followed by a rebuild. This roster gives Gard the chance to separate his legacy from Bo Ryan’s and find success of his own.
9. Michigan State
The Volunteers lose Jordan Bowden and Lamonte Turner, but also bring in the fourth-ranked recruiting class in the country according to 247Sports. These freshmen, including five-stars Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson, will add to a talented returning core. If Yves Pons decides to come back to Knoxville, the Volunteers will be the favorites to win the SEC.
The wildcats will have nine new players on the roster next season. Six are freshmen that make up the number one recruiting class in the country, and the other three are transfers. This is not different from any other year at Kentucky. Elite, young talent expected to lead early. It’s a formula John Calipari has perfected.
13. North Carolina
The Tar Heels finished last season with their worst record under Head Coach Roy Williams. It was his first losing record as a head coach. They’re losing their first and third leading scorers, including freshman sensation Cole Anthony, but Williams did sign the second-ranked recruiting class in the country. Three five-stars and three four-stars make up the class. Every position is represented in the class and gives plenty of immediate and long-term help to bolster a roster that was uncharacteristically limited last season.
14. Texas Tech
A year after making the national championship game, the Red Raiders took a step back, going 18-13, but still finishing third in the Big 12. Heading into 2020-2021, Chris Beard has weaponized his offense and has talent across the board. There are some question marks after losing their top two scorers Jahmi’us Ramsey and Davide Moretti. Talented true freshmen Nimari Burnett and Micah Peavy will likely have to play a big role early, and transfer Marcus Santos-Silva will need to produce in the post.
16. West Virginia
17. Florida State
The Seminoles are losing three of their top four scorers from a year ago, but still have plenty of talent to win games. Scottie Barnes and Sardaar Calhoun will be immediate contributors for Leonard Hamilton, and return enough proven and young talent to keep pace in the ACC.
The Shaka Smart era at Texas has been underwhelming at best, but he has the opportunity to take the Longhorns where he took VCU in 2011, maybe not this year, but in the near future. They bring back everybody from a 19-12 team and add five-star forward Greg Brown to the mix. The Big-12 might be the best conference in college basketball come next season, and the Longhorns have the chance to get back to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008.
The Bruins would be higher on this list if Daishen Nix hadn’t signed with the G-League. Mick Cronin looked frustrated and stressed halfway through the season after starting 8-9. UCLA finished the season winning eleven of their final fourteen games. If Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang is granted a waiver, the Bruins could contend for the Pac-12.
21. Arizona State
The Scarlet Knights only lose one key contributor in Akwasi Yeboah and are adding quality depth and size with a recruiting class entirely made up of forwards. Rutgers was ranked in the top-25 for the first time since 1979 last season, peaking at 24th. The talent is there, but to stay in the rankings this season, they will have to win games on the road. The Scarlet Knights combined to go 2-10 in road and neutral site games last year, and they finished the season 20-11.
23. Ohio State
Eric Musselman is proving yet again that he can immediately increase the talent on a roster. With Arkansas, though, he is doing it through a combination of transfers and high school recruits. He signed three graduate transfers in Jalen Tate, Vance Jackson, and Justin Smith, to go along with four four-star freshmen. The Razorbacks also return 10 point scorer Desi Sills, and are waiting for NBA prospect Isaiah Joe to make his final decision.
The Spiders finished 24-7 last season, second in the A-10 (14-4) after a couple of down years for Chris Mooney’s squad. They return their top seven leading scorers and lengthy shooter Connor Crabtree after sitting out last season. Had it not been for the dominance of the Dayton Flyers, Richmond could have won the A-10. The Flyers lost three starters, including National Player of the Year Obi Toppin. With everyone returning and other contenders falling off, look for Richmond to win the A-10 and potentially advance in the NCAA Tournament.
Stanford, Indiana, Louisville, Michigan, UCONN