Our Top 25 the day after the regular season ended was blown to smithereens when seemingly everyone good in college basketball declared for the NBA draft. Over the last seven weeks, a lot players decided to return to school, but many programs were decimated, and dreams of a Final 4 trip evaporated. Here’s our new Top 25 heading into the summer.
1. Arizona (32-5, Sweet 16): With the return of Allonzo Trier, plus elite high school talent DeAndre Ayton, the Wildcats open at #1. Coach Sean Miller must love this, right? The guy can’t get beyond the Elite 8, and now the real pressure is on Arizona. Role players Dusan Ristic, Parker Jackson-Cartwright and Rawle Alkins give the Wildcats the best starting five in the country.
2. Michigan State (20-15, 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament): Were #17 in our last rankings, but they get boosted to #2 because Miles Bridges (16.7 ppg) is staying and he might win the National Player of the Year. Brawny Nick Ward will be their 2nd best player, and there’s good depth when you toss in freshman Jaren Jackson.
3. Wichita State (31-5, 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament): Theoretically should have been #1 since they were #3 last time and the two teams above them lost everyone. This is a Top 10 team all season and Gregg Marshall will have a better roster than when they went unbeaten in the 2013-2014 regular season.
4. Kentucky (32-6, Elite 8): Hamidou Diallo decided to return to Kentucky. He didn’t even play last year, but then went to the NBA Combine and blew up. It’s unclear why he returned to school, but that probably means he was waiting on a 1st round guarantee. Kentucky also has 6-foot-8 Kevin Knox, a top 10 recruit, and three other Top 20 recruits. That’s just what they do in Lexington.
5. USC (26-10, 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament): Nobody had a better two months than the Trojans and coach Andy Enfield. Everyone is back. The two guys who gave all indications they were leaving – Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, are staying. USC made the Elite 8 in 2001 – led by Brian Scalabrine – and that was their best postseason in 50 years. This roster is Final 4 or bust.
6. Kansas (31-5, Elite 8): Lost three starters, including their two best players in Mason and Jackson. But Bill Self reloads. Questions: Will Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk get as many open looks? How will Devonte Graham handle the pressure of running the team with Frank Mason III gone? Impact transfer Malik Newman – once a Top 10 recruit – could be their best player by February.
7. Louisville (25-9, 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament): If Donovan Mitchell had stayed, the Cardinals could have made a case to be the #1 ranked team. Rick Pitino has a loaded roster that’ll be led by guard Quentin Snider, wing Deng Adel, and promising 7-footer Anas Mahmoud and 6-foot-10 forward Ray Spalding on the interior.
8. Duke (28-9, 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament): Grayson Allen is back along with … nobody? What went down in Durham was downright strange. No matter: Top 10 recruit Trevon Duval picked Duke, and they got an elite center in Wendell Carter. Don’t cry for Coach K.
9. Villanova (32-4, 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament): Two Top 100 recruits, a local kid who could be the next Ryan Arcidiacono, plus Jalen Brunson, wings Donte DiVincenzo and Mikal Bridges? Jay Wright will have another Final Four contender.
10. Florida Gators (27-9, Elite 8): Lost four starters from a team that overachieved, but coach Mike White has another SEC contender on his hands thanks to the return of guards KeVaughn Allen and Sweet 16 hero Chris Chiozza, their top defender (John Egbunu) and a slew of talented freshman. And don’t forget Virginia Tech transfer Jalen Hudson.
11. Xavier (24-14, Elite 8): Chris Mack is still there. And Trevon Bluiett returned to school. The Musketeers are always underrated in March and deliver.
12. Miami Hurricanes (21-12, 1st round of the NCAA Tournament): If you’re looking for a player to blow up next year in the ACC, keep an eye on Bruce Brown, who will be a big-time star for the Hurricanes. Jim Larranaga will have his best team in Coral Gables since Shane Larkin ran the show.
13. Notre Dame (26-10, 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament): Yes, I like point guard Matt Farrell and center Bonzi Colson enough to think they can get this team to the Elite 8 or Sweet 16. Also, Mike Brey: Good coach.
14. North Carolina (33-7, Won National Title): The Tar Heels lost five seniors, Justin Jackson and Tony Bradley. Roy Williams is lucky Theo Pinson decided to return to school or this would look like a crazy rebuild. Kenny Williams and Joel Berry II will be back, as will Luke Maye, so there’s a chance they could cobble together enough to compete in the ACC.
15. Minnesota (24-10, 1st round of the NCAA Tournament): Richard Pitino’s Gophers had a great run in February to get to the tournament, and I expect that to carry over into next season. All five starters are back.
16. Gonzaga (37-2, Lost National Championship): Mark Few lost the title game, then lost his two best players from what could have been a team that got back to the Final Four. The trio of Johnathan Williams, Silas Melson and Josh Perkins is good for the WCC, but I don’t know if this is a Sweet 16 team.
17. Northwestern (26-12, 2nd round NCAA Tournament): Their top five scorers are back, including their best player, Bryant McIntosh, who became a household name during the NCAA Tournament.
18. UCLA (31-5 Sweet 16): Aaron Holiday, Thomas Welsh and a good recruiting class is a solid team. But the flair of Lonzo Ball is gone, and USC is really, really loaded.
19. Texas (10-21, Missed NCAA Tournament): This is the year Shaka Smart does damage at Texas. He landed the #2 recruit in the Class of 2017, 7-footer Mohamed Bamba. Point guard Andrew Jones (11.4 ppg as a freshman) is back.
20. Cincinnati (30-6, 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament): The usual Mick Cronin team – scrappy, tough, and going to be a load for a higher seed in March. Their top three scorers – Jacob Evans (13.5 ppg), Kyle Washington (12.9 ppg) and Gary Clark (10.8 ppg) – are all back.
21. Texas A&M (16-15, Did Not Make NCAA Tournament): Mostly here because big man Robert Williams returned. Between Williams, a good coach in Billy Kennedy, and the tandem of Tyler Davis (14.1 ppg) and Admon Gilder (13.7 ppg), they’ll be dancing again next March.
22. St. Mary’s (29-5, 2nd Round of the NCAA Tournament): Top three scorers return, including Jock Landale, who will be the best returning player in the WCC. A mid-major to definitely keep an eye on.
23. West Virginia (28-9, Sweet 16): Jevon Carter is back for his eighth year of eligibility. Bob Huggins is back to get his rag-tag group to overachieve.
24. SMU (30-5, 1st Round of the NCAA Tournament): Shake Milton is back, and he’ll be one of the 10 best point guards in the nation. Arkansas transfer Jimmy Whitt is expected to have an immediate impact.
25. Oregon (33-6, Final Four): Gutted by NBA defections. Bell, Dorsey and Brooks leaving means the Ducks will be rebuilding. It’s Payton Pritchard‘s team. They’re in the Top 25 out of respect to Dana Altman.