College Basketball Top 25 for 2018-2019: Villanova Gutted, Syracuse and Nevada Are Big Winners
By Jason McIntyre
We did a Top 25 for 2018-2019 the day after Villanova defeated Michigan for the title. Now that everyone has announced whether they’re going to the NBA or returning to school, we’ve tweaked the Top 25. Villanova was hit hard; Nevada and Syracuse were big winners.
1. Duke (29-8, Lost in Elite 8) – Entire starting lineup is gone, but they’ve got three of the top five recruits in the country, led by 2019 projected #1 NBA pick RJ Barrett, and human highlight reel Zion Williamson.
2. Kansas (31-8, Lost in Final 4) – Four impact transfers keep the Jayhawks here despite losing their three best players from last year’s overachieving team.
3. Gonzaga (32-5, Lost in Sweet 16) – Transfer Brandon Clarke joins a strong returning cast, including future potential pros Zach Norvell, Killian Tillie, and Rui Hachimura.
4. Nevada (29-8, Lost in the Sweet 16) – This will be the best Wolfpack team in school history. Jordan Caroline and the Martin Twins are coming back, plus three impact transfers arrive and they got a 5-star recruit in forward Jordan Brown.
5. Loyola-Chicago (32-6, Lost in the Final 4) – They won’t take anyone by surprise, but coach Porter Moser should get back to the Final 4, especially with All-American candidate Clayon Custer leading the way.
6. Tennessee (26-9, Lost in the 2nd Round) – Tons of value on Rick Barnes to take this team to the Final 4 next year. Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield are among the best 1-2 punches in the country.
7. Syracuse (23-14, Lost in the Sweet 16) – Tyus Battle came close to leaving for the NBA, but his return means Jim Boeheim can get back to the Final 4. Is Marek Dolezaj the best glue guy in the country?
8. Kentucky (26-11, Lost in the Sweet 16) – Another stacked recruiting class, plus a couple under-the-radar players returning (Nick Richards, Quade Green, PJ Washington), and they should fight for SEC supremacy, again. If they get Stanford Travis Reid (19.5 ppg, 8.7 rpg) to help up front, they’ll be a fringe title contender.
9. Kansas State (25-12, Lost in the Elite Eight) – All five starters are back for the defensive-minded team that shocked Kentucky in the Sweet 16.
10. Villanova (36-4, Won National Title) – Nobody was hurt more by losses than the Wildcats, who lost their four best players. Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman hurt the most, because they could have been 1st Team All-American candidates. But Jay Wright still has four contributors back, plus 5-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly.
11. North Carolina (26-11, Lost in the 2nd Round) – Luke Maye is back (16.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg), but Roy Williams have have to rely heavily on a strong freshman class to have any dreams of reaching the Final Four.
12. Texas A&M (22-13, Lost in the Sweet 16) – The Aggies didn’t have a senior on the roster last year, but suffered heavy losses to the NBA draft, losing Robert Williams, Tyler Davis (what was he thinking!), and DJ Hogg. Had they all returned, they had a shot at a deep March run. Now, they’ll have to rely on Admon Gilder (12.3 ppg, 2nd most 3-pointers made on the team) and TJ Starks (9.9 ppg, 108 three-pointers made).
13. Auburn (26-8, Lost in the 2nd round) – Top tier team in the SEC, but they still lack stars and the offensive firepower to get out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament.
14. Virginia (31-3, Lost in the 1st Round) – Two of their top five players graduated, and there’s no potential star in the pipeline. Expect more of the same – great defense, 20+ wins, and then a postseason flop.
15. Michigan State (30-5, Lost in the 2nd Round) – It’s Tom Izzo, folks. Losing Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges was expected; it just means more Nick Ward and Cassius Winston, which isn’t a bad thing.
16. West Virginia (26-11, Lost in the Sweet 16) – Lost their terrific starting backcourt, but at least shot-blocker Sagabe Konate returns. The recruiting class is very good, and keep an eye on Esa Ahmad.
17 UCLA (21-12, Lost in an NCAA Tournament Play-In Game) – Shareef O’Neal is the top reason to be excited for the Bruins, but Jaylen Hands will probably be their best player. The Bruins or Oregon should win the Pac-12.
18. Virginia Tech (21-12, Lost in the 1st Round) – Justin Robinson could be an ACC POY contender and Buzz Williams probably has his best ACC team yet.
19. Texas (19-15, Lost in the 1st round of NCAA Tournament) – Is this the year Shaka Smart gets the Longhorns deep into March? Three double-digit scorers return.
20. LSU (18-15, Missed NCAA Tournament) – The best recruiting class outside of Duke, the Tigers better be dancing. Emmitt Williams and Nazreon Reid are going to be high-impact SEC players.
21. Florida State (23-12, Lost in the Elite 8) – Surprising postseason run as Seminoles fans excited, especially since his best two players – Terance Mann and Phil Cofer – return.
22. Michigan (33-8, Lost in the National Title game) – Doubt John Beilein at your own peril. They lost three of their top seven players, but Jordan Poole and Charles Matthews should lead the Wolverines back to the NCAA Tournament.
23. Wisconsin (15-18, Missed the NCAA Tournament) – Somehow, Ethan Happ still has eligibility. But more importantly, Brad Davison is ready to be a star.
24. Mississippi State (25-12, NIT) – So many teams lost players to the NBA draft, that the Bulldogs – who return their top six scorers from last year – are able to slide up into the Top 25. The Weatherspoon brothers, Quinndary (14.4 ppg) and Nick (10.8 ppg) will lead Ben Howard’s squad to the NCAA Tournament.
25. Vanderbilt (12-20, Didn’t Make the NCAA Tournament) – The Commodores will have their best team since 2012 thanks to a monster recruiting class. Bryce Drew may start three freshman.