Michigan, Texas on rise in Way-Too-Early Top 25 college basketball rankings for 2021-22

Despite losing their top two scorers, Michigan and Texas both showed improvement in the final rankings of the season in the Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings of the 2021-22 college basketball season. Michigan moved up to No. 4 in the final rankings, up from No. 6 in the preseason rankings, while Texas moved up to No. 8, up from No. 14 in the preseason rankings. Both the Wolverines and the Longhorns will lose their best players to the NBA, as Darryl Turner and Jacolby Jackson are both projected high draft picks in the 2021 draft.

It’s never too early to start speculating about who will be the best teams in college basketball next year, and that’s exactly what Athlon Sports did on Monday with its first Way-Too-Early Top 25 for the 2021-22 season. The Wolverines and Longhorns both appear in the rankings for the first time since the final Way-Too-Early Top 25 back in April 2017, and they’re both coming off seasons when they made it to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament.

The unpredictability and excitement of college basketball over the past six months didn’t stop at the sound of the buzzer in Baylor’s victory over Gonzaga in the national championship game on December 5. April. It was the craziest post-season we’ve ever seen, with names entering the transfer gate at an unprecedented rate. More seniors than expected have taken advantage of the NCAA rule that gives them an extra year of eligibility, and dozens of players are entering the NBA draft even though the deadline is months away.

Needless to say, there have been some major changes to Too Early’s Top 25, and it’s unlikely that those changes will stop until the master list is set in mid-summer.

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In our first edition of title night rankings, four unranked teams earned a spot in this edition. The biggest increase was in Texas. The Longhorns have completely revamped their roster through the transfer portal and have brought in four top-25 transfers according to ESPN. Auburn, Loyola Chicago and Mississippi State moved up in the Next in Line category, with two SEC programs making great strides and Loyola Chicago picking up four seniors for an additional year.

Arizona and West Virginia declined to participate. For the Wildcats, Sean Miller was fired, Tommy Lloyd was hired and point guard James Akinjo transferred. However, they are heavily involved in the battle for five-star point guard Tayti Washington, so they may not be lost for long. West Virginia has a lot of personnel problems right now. Miles McBride and Derek Culver came into the draft, and Emmitt Matthews had already gone through the gate.

Previous : 1

Mark Few’s roster still has some moving parts, but one key question was answered earlier this month when Chet Holmgren, a high-profile prospect, was selected by the Zags. Holmgren, who is considered one of the favorites in next year’s NBA draft, is a unique prospect who will add a whole new dimension to the Bulldogs next season. If Drew Timm returns to the team, he and Holmgren might be the best frontcourt duo in the country, with Timm a favorite to win the Wooden Award and Holmgren a possible first choice. Andrew Nembhard will return to the perimeter and talented five-star guard Hunter Sallis will join the team. There is a question on the flanks, where it is believed that Corey Kispert and Joel Ayaii will head to the NBA. Dominic Harris and Julian Strauther are both ESPN 100 prospects in the 2020 class, but Few is still looking for new defenders on the transfer portal. I don’t think the team is set yet.

Estimated starting grid:

Andrew Nembhard (9.1 PPG)
Hunter Sallis (#14 in ESPN 100)
Dominic Harris (3.1 PPG)
Drew Timm (19.0 PPG)
Chet Holmgren (#1 in ESPN 100)

Previous : 7

Villanova wasn’t as active in the gate, but the Wildcats had as good a month as any team in the country thanks to the decisions of seniors Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels to return for another season under Jay Wright. Gillespie’s decision wasn’t that surprising given how the season ended for him, but Samuels’ return also means the Wildcats have four key regulars from a team that was in the top 10 for most of the season before Gillespie’s injury. We have a lot of perimeter players: Brandon Slater, Brian Antoine and Chris Arcidiacono all played significant minutes late in the season, the only question is what happens next. Damir Cosby-Roundtree was injured last season and it is unclear if he will return in 2021-22. Eric Dixon had a few good chances in a non-league game and might get his first chance at the center position – but center Nnanna Njoku with ESPN 100 rating will be another option for the Wildcats.

Estimated starting grid:

Collin Gillespie (14.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG)
Justin Moore (12.9 PPG)
Caleb Daniels (9.6 PPG)
Jermaine Samuels (12.0 PPG)
Eric Dixon (3.0 PPG)

Previous : 2

These rankings still depend heavily on what Johnny Joosang decides to do in the NBA draft. He said he took a chance, but left open the possibility of returning to Westwood for another season. After the big NCAA tournament, he rose to 50th in ESPN’s NBA draft rankings. When Yuzang and Chris Smith return, Mick Cronin brings all the key elements of a Final Four team. He also added five-star wing Peyton Watson, who could be a starter if Youzang stays in the draft, and Rutgers alum Myles Johnson, one of the Big Ten’s best defenders last season. I don’t think these rankings place too much value on a three-game winning streak; UCLA was 17-5 overall and a Pac-12 title contender before losing four games to NCAA tournament teams at the end of the season. They have been a very good team 90% of the season, and I think that will continue next season.

Estimated starting grid:

Tyger Campbell (10.2 PPG)
Johnny Juzang (15.5 PPG)
Jaime Jaquez (12.1 PPG)
Chris Smith (12.6 PPG)
Cody Riley (9.8 PPG)

Previous : 4

Ohio State’s end of the season – losing four games at the end of the regular season, then a surprising first-round loss against 15th-seeded Oral Roberts in the NCAA Tournament – overshadowed a great season for Chris Holtmann and the Buckeyes. Four players from that team are expected to return to Columbus. E.J. Liddell and Dwayne Washington Jr. are testing the NBA draft waters, but should return for another season. Liddell could be a preseason All-American next season. Kyle Young’s decision to return for another season is a big boost to the frontcourt, and Holtmann will have more depth up front this season with the transfer of Joey Branca from Indiana. With C.J. Walker gone, Ohio State needed help at the point guard position, and it came in the form of Penn State transfer Jamari Wheeler. Wheeler is not a great scorer, but he distributes the ball well, can shoot from the rim and is one of the best defenders in the league.

Estimated starting grid:

Jamari Wheeler (6.8 PPG at Penn State)
Dwayne Washington Jr. (16.4 PPG)
Justice Swing (10.7 PPG)
E.J. Liddell (16.2 PPG)
Kyle Young (8.6 PPG)

Previous : 3

The fact that Purdue has dropped two spots since the first edition of the rankings has nothing to do with personnel changes in West Lafayette; Villanova moved up a few spots after two seniors decided to return, and the Boilermakers swapped places with Ohio State after Kyle Young announced he would play one more season in Columbus. Matt Painter still has a Final Four contender behind him this summer – assuming Trevion Williams makes it to the NBA Draft and returns to Purdue for another season. Williams is one of the best bigs in the country and will be named Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year. Almost all of the key players will return next season, and Painter added ESPN 100 rookies Trey Kaufman and Caleb Furst. The player to keep an eye on is Jaden Ivey. The freshman guard averaged more than 18 points per game in his final six games to end the season and could be poised for a great 2021-22 season.

Estimated starting grid:

Eric Hunter (8.5 PPG)
Brandon Newman (8.0 PPG)
Jaden Ivey (11.1 PPG)
Sasha Stefanovich (9.3 PPG)
Trevion Williams (15.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG)

Previous : 11

My expectations for Baylor rose significantly when the Bears signed Arizona transfer James Akinjo, one of the best playmakers on the transfer market. Akinjo was named to the All-Pac-12 first team last season with 15.6 points, 5.4 assists and 40.8 percent three-pointers. His addition allows Adam Flagler to play in the minors and focus on scoring, while new rookies Kendall Brown and Langston Love will not be in the starting lineup right away. Although the program expects Akinjo to be admitted immediately, he needs a waiver for 2021-22. The new NCAA single-transfer authorization only applies to first-time transfers. Akinjo transferred once before, from Georgetown to Arizona, and was immediately eligible to play then. Another personal note: Matthew Mayer is expected to return to Waco in this ranking, but he is currently in the top 60 of ESPN’s NBA Draft rankings, giving him a chance to be drafted.

Estimated starting grid:

James Akinjo (15.6 PPG at Arizona)
Adam Flagler (9.0 PPG)
Kendall Brown (#15 in ESPN 100)
Matthew Meyer (8.2 PPG)
Jonathan Tchamva Tchachua (6.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG)

Previous : 8

Alabama lost three starters from last season – John Petty, Herb Jones and Jordan Bruner, along with key bench player and part-time starter Alex Reese – but Nate Oates’ squad shouldn’t miss anything. Early in the season, the Crimson Tide transfer added Nimari Burnett (Texas Tech) and Noah Gourley (Furman), along with Charles Bediako, a high school candidate. They have also already contracted explosive five-star guard J.D. Davison, one of the best guards to play in college basketball next season. Jaden Shackelford and Jahwon Quinerly, the team’s two top scorers, are also expected to return. Joshua Primo entered the NBA Draft with the possibility of returning to Tuscaloosa; he has made it clear he wants to be selected in the first round, but he is currently ranked 38th on ESPN. When Primo returns, he will give Oates an X-factor on the perimeter. He was the youngest player in college basketball this season and played in several key conference and postseason games.

Estimated starting grid:

Jahvon Quinerly (12.9 PPG, 3.2 APG)
J.D. Davison (#13 in ESPN 100)
Jaden Shackelford (14.0 PPG)
Joshua Primo (8.1 PPG)
Charles Bediako (#33 in ESPN 100)

Previous : 5

The Jayhawks have lost five players since the end of the season and senior guard Marcus Garrett has announced that he will not return to Lawrence for another season. But Bill Self will still have a top-10 team and a Final Four threat if Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson leave the NBA draft and return to the Jayhawks. With the win, four players return from a team that won nine of its last 10 games of the season before being defeated by USC in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. How is Self gonna replace Garrett? The elite and versatile guard has filled several roles with the Jayhawks in recent years, but finding someone to lead the team will be high on Self’s priority list. They’ve been trying out different playmakers in recent weeks, as well as transfer Joseph Yesufu from Drake. Esufu started just seven games last season, but finished with a 23.2-point average and a 46.9 percent three-point percentage in his final nine games.

Estimated starting grid:

Joseph Yesufu (12.8 PPG at Drake)
Christian Brown (9.8 PPG)
Ochai Agbaji (14.2 PPG)
Jalen Wilson (12.1 PPG)
David McCormack (13.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG)

Previous : 12

In the first edition of the rankings, we said Arkansas’ starting five could change more dramatically than those of any other player in the country. And it happened as planned. Eric Musselman sought two transfers, Miami’s Chris Lykes and South Dakota’s Stanley Umude, in addition to Pittsburgh’s Audie Toney, who transferred to the Razorbacks before the end of the NCAA Tournament. Lykes is a playmaker at the point guard position who can take his own chances, and Umude has played in the top three times and brings versatility to the frontcourt. I expect all three transfers to start immediately, meaning J.D. Note, who excelled as a sixth man last season, could return to that role in 2021-22. Arkansas’ perimeter group will be strong, but there will also be plenty of positive commentary about sophomore Jaylin Williams. He started three games for the Razorbacks in the NCAA Tournament, with 10 rebounds and four assists against Texas Tech and eight points against Baylor.

Estimated starting grid:

Chris Lykes (15.5 PPG at Miami)
Davonte Davis (8.5 PPG)
Au’dis Toney (14.4 PPG at Pittsburgh)
Stanley Umude (21.6 PPG at South Dakota)
Jaylin Williams (3.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG)

Previous : 6

I had Maryland sixth for the season, and then Darryl Morsell didn’t return, so his entry into the NBA draft and the transfer portal didn’t change much. Mark Turgeon started his transfers early in the season, bringing in Rhode Island defenseman Fattes Russell and Georgetown big man Kudus Wahab before the season was even over. Russell will fit well in the back line and will give the Terrapins a premier playmaker in the point of attack, and Wahab was already developing into one of the best big men in the Big East before he left the Hoyas. If Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins decide to go to the NBA, Turgeon will have a more balanced starting five than anyone else in the country. Their roster suffered after the transfer of Jairus Hamilton, but Ian Martinez, a Utah transfer, was a highly acclaimed point guard in high school and Julian Reese was one of the 50 best recruits in the country in the 2021 class.

Estimated starting grid:

Fatts Russell (14.7 PPG at Rhode Island)
Eric Ayala (15.1 PPG)
Aaron Wiggins (14.5 PPG)
Donta Scott (11.0 PPG)
Kudus Wahab (12.7 PPG, 8.2 RPG at Georgetown)

Previous : 17

I may have underestimated Michigan a bit in the first edition of the rankings, but the Wolverines’ backcourt raised real questions at the time. Now senior Eli Brooks has announced his return for another season in Ann Arbor, giving them experience and one of the best defenders in the Big Ten. And it seems Juwan Howard realized he needed help at the point guard position, as the Wolverines pursued transfers Jalen Pickett, who eventually transferred to Penn State, DeVante Jones and Sahvir Wheeler. They seem to be making the most fuss over Jones’ transfer to Coastal Carolina before Saturday’s decision date. They have a lot of players ahead of them, assuming Hunter Dickinson returns for his second season. Caleb Hostan and Moussa Diabate could start right away, but I think Brandon Jones will also fight for a spot on the roster. The return of Brooks and the likely addition of a transfer point guard will also improve depth, as Michigan’s inexperienced guards won’t be thrown into the fire too quickly.

Estimated starting grid:

Frankie Collins (#36 in ESPN 100)
Eli Brooks (9.5 PPG)
Caleb Hostan (#7 in ESPN 100)
Brandon Jones (4.9 PPG)
Hunter Dickinson (14.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG)

Previous : 13

Those rankings could change in the coming weeks, as Duke is one of two favorites to take on undesignated top-five candidate Patrick Baldwin Jr. If the Blue Devils can convince Baldwin to come to Durham instead of playing for his father, Pat, in Milwaukee, they will become one of the top five players in the country in one fell swoop. Paolo Banchero has already made the team as the most experienced player in the class, and top-30 freshmen Trevor Keels and A.J. Griffin will add additional points. We expect Jeremy Roach to take the next step at point guard, and Mark Williams has the ability to play in the first round – and he showed it towards the end of the season when he finally got more time. Theo John’s transfer from Marquette won’t make headlines, but he will bring the toughness, experience and defensive qualities the team needs. If Baldwin comes, Mike Krzyzewski could have an ideal eight-man rotation – a group with ball skills, shooting ability, size, experience and versatility.

Estimated starting grid:

Jeremy Roach (8.7 PPG)
Wendell Moore (9.7 PPG)
AJ Griffin (#26 on ESPN 100)
Paolo Banchero (#3 on ESPN 100)
Mark Williams (7.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG)

Previous : 10

Virginia Tech could finish in the top-10 this season, but when potential ACC Player of the Year candidate Keve Aluma decides to skip the NBA Draft and return to Blacksburg, how can you not love the Hokies? They went 13-4 early in the season with wins over Virginia and Villanova, then missed 17 days in February because of COVID-19, played two games, missed the rest of the regular season because of COVID, then came back to play in the ACC and the NCAA tournament. For the first two and a half months of the season, this team was a top 4 or top 5 team with most of its key players ready to return. There will be some changes to the back line depth chart: Wabissa Bede and replacements Jalen Cone and Joseph Bamisile will be absent, and Storm Murphy, who transferred from Wofford, will take the point guard position. But Murphy provides extra shots, and the Hokies also made an effort to bring in 6-foot-6 South Florida transfer Michael Durr, who should help the interior and be a backup plan if Aluma leaves.

Estimated starting grid:

Storm Murphy (17.8 PPG, 4.3 APG)
Tyrese Radford (12.2 PPG)
Naheem Alleyne (11.1 PPG)
Justin Matts (9.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG)
Kev Aluma (15.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG)

Previous : Not classified

Texas has made significant changes to the team. Donovan Williams, Kamaka Hepa, Gerald Liddell and Royce Hamm have transferred, Matt Coleman and Jericho Sims are seniors, and Kai Jones and Greg Brown could go in the NBA draft. Only Andrew Jones, Courtney Raimi and Jace Febres are expected to return. But Chris Beard used the transfer portal in his search for reinforcements, picking four transfers from the top 25: Utah’s Timmy Allen, Creighton’s Christian Bishop, Vanderbilt’s Dylan Disu and Kentucky’s Devin Askew. On top of that, Byrd got top-30 aspirant Jaylon Tyson, who has committed to Texas Tech. There is a lot of talent on this team, but it will be interesting to see how quickly everything comes together in Austin. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the Longhorns lured another player or two from the gate; they’re always looking for guards.

Estimated starting grid:

Devin Askew (6.5 PPG at Kentucky)
Courtney Ramey (12.2 PPG)
Andrew Jones (14.6 PPG)
Timmy Allen (17.2 PPG at Utah)
Christian Bishop (11.0 PPG at Creighton)

Previous : 24

Kelvin Sampson is one of those coaches who is believed to be in control of the situation and can win over 20 games regardless of the team’s composition. But it’s a lot easier to believe in the Cougars now than it was four weeks ago, after Fabian White Jr. returned for another year and a trio of transfers arrived. White brings his experience as an inside player and will team up with Reggie Chaney and Josh Carlton – one of the best rebounders in the country – to form a formidable post team. Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark are back in the midfield, while Houston has brought in Texas Tech transfer Kyler Edwards, who scored in double figures in his two seasons with the Red Raiders, and California State Bakersfield transfer Taze Moore, who was on the first team of the BIG West selection last season. The Cougars say goodbye to many veterans – Quentin Grimes, DeJohn Jarreau, Justin Gorham and Brison Gresham – which can cause some growing pains at first.

Estimated starting grid:

Marcus Sasser (13.5 PPG)
Tramon Mark (8.0 PPG)
Kyler Edwards (10.1 PPG at Texas Tech)
Fabian White Jr. (6.3 PPG)
Reggie Cheney (4.6 PPG)

Previous : Next in line

The Volunteers were close the first time around, but they were able to bring in Auburn transfer Justin Powell, former Marquette and ESPN 100 player Jonas Eida and five-star forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield. In addition, senior John Fulkerson has decided to return to Knoxville for another season. But perhaps the biggest reason for optimism is elite recruit Kennedy Chandler. The best player at his position in the 2021 class, Chandler will hold the keys to the show from day one. Rick Barnes will be able to surround him with shooters like Powell, Santiago Vescovi and Victor Bailey Jr. Fulkerson will be the primary outfielder, but depth will be improved with Aidoo and Huntley-Hatfield expected to make a quick impact. Huntley-Hatfield in particular is expected to be reclassified in 2022 and could be a selection problem. Tennessee was relatively disappointing last season, especially after a 10-1 start, but I love the way his team comes together.

Estimated starting grid:

Kennedy Chandler (#8 in ESPN 100)
Justin Powell (11.7 PPG at Auburn)
Victor Bailey Jr. (10.9 PPG)
Josiah-Jordan James (8.0 PPG)
John Fulkerson (9.5 PPG)

Previous : 9

Leonard Hamilton may lose a few more players than expected this season. Scotty Barnes, Ryken Gray, Balsa Koprivica and Sardar Calhoun have signed up for the NBA Draft, but only Barnes and Gray are expected to be selected. However, Mr Koprivica’s statement gave the impression that he intended to keep his name on the project. The Seminoles are looking for a replacement and are considering five-star player Afton Reed. They have also been in contact with the transfer of Memphis Moussa Cisse. If they have a powerful fifth. Finding players will help them get back into the top 10. Houston transfer Caleb Mills was one of the most talented players in the AAC and can expect a big season in the offense, and three top-60 recruits will bolster the perimeter group. Anthony Polite returns as a double-digit scorer. Hamilton and Florida State tend to succeed every season, and the 2021-22 season will likely be the same. But another late round (or the surprising return of Gray) could create high expectations in the preseason.

Estimated starting grid:

Caleb Mills (9.8 PPG at Houston)
Jalen Worley (#59 in ESPN 100)
Matt Cleveland (#28 in ESPN 100)
Anthony Polit (10.1 PPG)
Malik Osborne (5.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG)

Previous : 18

The Tar Heels are something of an enigma this early in the season. As far as personnel goes, they won’t be much different from last season. Caleb Love, R.J. Davis and Kerwin Walton all had their moments as rookies and showed a taste of what could possibly be next season. Love will be the key. He was inconsistent, but in high school he was considered a top player and he needs to take the next step. Armando Bacot is the last of the four guys in last season’s rotation, and he might have more room to work in the final period of the season. They also added Brady Manek from Oklahoma, a fourth-rounder who can challenge defenses and shoot from the perimeter. The Leaky Black starter will also be back. The main question is clear. What will the Tar Heels look like under Hubert Davis? Will Davis continue to use the two big lines used under Roy Williams? Will they be among the best in the country in three-point shooting percentage? We won’t have answers to these questions until the season starts.

Estimated starting grid:

Caleb Love (10.5 PPG, 3.6 APG)
R.J. Davis (8.4 PPG)
Kerwin Walton (8.2 PPG)
Brady Manek (10.8 PPG at Oklahoma)
Armando Bacot (12.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG)

Previous : 19

Kentucky is used to big changes every spring, and only three or four players will not be back on the roster next season. But the feeling is different than before when recovering and restarting. John Calipari came into the game early and pulled Oscar Tshibwe of West Virginia and Kellan Grady of Davidson to play right away. But there have also been changes in the coaching staff: Tony Barbee left to become head coach at Central Michigan, and Joel Justus became Bobby Hurley’s top assistant at Arizona State. Illinois assistants Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman have been the subject of some hype as possible replacements; what does that mean for Kentucky with Illinois transfer Adam Miller? Devin Askew’s departure means Calipari needs another point guard, and he’s recruiting just about every high-level point guard available. UK is also in the running for Iowa transfer C.J. Fredrick, the best shooter in the gate. There are still players in limbo: Davion Mintz and Isaiah Jackson. Kentucky’s roster is still very fluid.

Estimated starting grid:

Nolan Hickman (#22 in ESPN 100)
Kellan Grady (17.1 PPG at Davidson)
Dontay Allen (5.4 PPG)
Keion Brooks Jr. (10.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG)
Oscar Tshibwe (8.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG at West Virginia).

Previous : 15

Mark Schmidt returns five juniors to the squad, which should allow the Bonnies to open the season as a legitimate top-25 team. Last season, St. John’s Bonaventure won the Atlantic 10 regular season title and the conference tournament, the latter dominated by the return of all key players. Defensive end Kyle Lofton, a first-team all-conference selection, leads the team after establishing himself as one of the top playmakers at the mid-major level, while Osun Osunniyi was named the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. Jaren Holmes is another conference back for Olean. One of the problems with Schmidt’s team last season was a lack of depth – according to KenPom, they ranked 347th in the country in the number of minutes spent on the bench. The Bonnies have tried to solve that problem this season with two high-profile transfers: Abdul Karim Coulibaly (5.2 PPG at Pittsburgh) and Quadri Adams (2.2 PPG at Wake Forest). I expect this team to be the big favorite in a very strong Atlantic 10.

Estimated starting grid:

Kyle Lofton (14.4 PPG, 5.5 APG)
Jaren Holmes (13.8 PPG)
Dominic Welch (11.4 PPG)
Jalen Adaway (12.2 PPG)
Osun Osunniyi (10.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG)

Previous : 20

It’s always hard to predict what a team led by Dana Altman will look like, and this spring is no different. Eugene Omorui, Chris Duarte, L.J. Figueroa and Amauri Hardy are seniors, while Chandler Lawson, Aaron Estrada and Jalen Terry have moved to the transfer gate. So there’s plenty of room for Altman to reload for next season. The Ducks have already traded with Oklahoma and acquired De’Vion Harmon, who will be another point guard in the backcourt alongside Will Richardson. Eric Williams Jr. is another double-digit scorer on the wing, while the Ducks should have a lot more size on the team with a promising Nate Bittle and a healthy N’Fali Dante. Bittle and Dante’s abilities are so different that they can be on the field at the same time and cause major problems for their opponents. Oregon has been honing and refining their lineup all summer, and I think the Ducks have a few more tricks up their sleeves.

Estimated starting grid:

Will Richardson (11.3 PPG)
De’Vion Harmon (12.9 PPG at Oklahoma)
Eric Williams Jr. (10.0 PPG)
Nate Bittle (#9 in ESPN 100)
N’Fali Dante (8.2 PPG)

Previous : Next in line

It was odd that Virginia didn’t appear in the top 25 earlier this month, but the fact that the Cavaliers transferred Arman Franklin (Indiana) and Jayden Gardner (East Carolina) helped them this time around. But that doesn’t mean there are still a lot of questions for the team. Perhaps most importantly, what happens to Trey Murphy. The former Rice transfer is a likely NBA pick and could well leave Charlottesville to change careers. If that happens, Tony Bennett could be outclassed this season. Kihei Clark returned as point guard and Reece Beekman started 20 games as a rookie. Franklin and Gardner are the favorites to lead the team in scoring, even though they are freshmen; Franklin can really make shots, and Gardner was one of the top scorers in the country the past two seasons. Who will replace Jay Huff on the inside? Francisco Caffaro (6-foot-7) and Kadin Shedrick (6-foot-8) will need to win.

Estimated starting grid:

Kihei Clark (9.5 PPG, 4.5 APG)
Reece Beekman (4.7 PPG)
Armaan Franklin (11.4 PPG at Indiana)
Jayden Gardner (18.3 PPG at East Carolina)
Francisco Caffaro (1.2 PPG)

Previous : 22

I can’t wait to see what kind of XI Tom Izzo fields next season in East Lansing. Tyson Walker is the favorite for the point guard role after Rockets transfers Watts and Foster Loyer, and five-star guard Max Christie is a talented scorer who will be on the court immediately. Nobody knows what’s in store for us. Gabe Brown has been with the program for three years and used the ball effectively last season, while Malik Hall brings versatility but played an inconsistent role in the second half of the season. Joey Hauser started the season first, but then dropped out in conference play, while Julius Marble started the final nine games of the season, but only played more than 10 minutes in five of them. Marcus Bingham could have been a starter because of his defensive abilities, but he has only been selected five times. Don’t forget Madi Sissoko, a former ESPN 100 big man who played 25 games as a freshman. Izzo won’t be short on options and depth next season, but can anyone be the go-to guy?

Estimated starting grid:

Tyson Walker (18.8 PPG at Northeastern)
Max Christie (#16 in ESPN 100)
Gabe Brown (7.2 PPG)
Malik Hall (5.0 PPG)
Joey Hauser (9.7 PPG)

Previous : 21

If you like consistency, Colorado is the place for you. The Rams did not have a single senior on the team last season, and no one transferred this spring either. And if the cinderella’s Oregon State and Georgetown weren’t in the tournament, Niko Bear’s team would be in the NCAA tournament. But this time it shouldn’t be about the last few places. Attacker David Roddy, who had 12 double-doubles last season, is the team’s captain, while guard Isaiah Stevens, who was named to the second all-conference team, is the main player on the back line. He is one of the best playmakers in the Mountain West. Adam Thistlewood and Kendle Moore bring veteran experience, while New Zealander James Moores has size and has shown up in his first year at university. Colorado State’s improved play will depend on the Rams’ defensive effort. They had the best offense in the league, but struggled on the other end of the field in the big games.

Estimated starting grid:

Kendle Moore (10.5 PPG)
Isaiah Stevens (15.3 PPG, 5.4 APG)
Adam Thistlewood (9.1 PPG)
David Roddy (15.9 PPG, 9.4 RPG)
James Morse (5.9 PPG)

Previous : 23

Belmont, another team with a lot of continuity from last season, looked like a desirable contender for the NCAA Tournament for the first three months of the season – before the Bruins lost back-to-back games at the end of the regular season and then were defeated by Morehead State in the Ohio Valley Title Game. It was a tough end to a great season for Casey Alexander and the Bruins team. At one point, they had won 21 consecutive games and were 18-0 in the conference. At the other end, everyone is back except reserve defender Mitch Listau, who decided to transfer. The team has two players selected to the All-Ohio Valley First Team: Defensive Player of the Year Grayson Murphy and 6-foot-11 center Nick Muszynski, who missed both of his season losses due to injury. Like Colorado State, Belmont needs to improve its defensive game. The Bruins allowed Morehead State to score 1.30 points per possession in the title game and also scored at least one point per possession in three other defeats. If the offense is struggling, can they beat good teams?

Estimated starting grid:

Grayson Murphy (10.9 PPG)
Luke Smith (12.7 PPG)
Ben Sheppard (10.5 PPG)
Caleb Hollander (9.3 PPG)
Nick Muszynski (15.0 PPG)

Next in line:

Syracuse Orange (previously: #14)
Auburn Tigers (previously: unranked)
Loyola Chicago Ramblers (previously: unranked)
UConn Huskies (previously: next)
Mississippi State Bulldogs (previously: unranked)

Withdrawn: Arizona Wildcats (#16), West Virginia Mountaineers (#25).

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