The 2018-19 College Basketball Season is a few months away, but it is time to to dive into my first rankings of the 2018-19 season! There is no better way to start the preseason than with some Top 25 Rankings! So… let’s get right to it!
All Recruiting Rankings provided by 247 Sports Recruiting.
#1 KANSAS JAYHAWKS
2017-18 Record: 31-8
NCAA Tournament result: Final Four (Lost to Villanova)
Who is Gone: Devonte Graham (17.3 PPG), Svi Mykhailiuk (14.6 PPG), Malik Newman (14.2 PPG)
Who is Back: Udoka Azubuike (13.0 PPG), LaGerald Vick (12.1 PPG), Marcus Garrett (4.1 PPG), Silvio De Sousa (4.0 PPG), Mitch Lightfoot (3.8 PPG), Sam Cunliffe (1.9 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Dedric Lawson (Transfer – Memphis), K.J. Lawson (Transfer – Memphis), Charlie Moore (Transfer – California) Quentin Grimes (#2 PG/SG), Devon Dotson (#3 PG), David McCormack (#4 C), Ochai Agbaji (#32 SF)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Charlie Morre, G Quentin Grimes, G LaGerald Vick, F Dedric Lawson, C Udoka Azubuike
The Kansas Jayhawks enter the season as my #1 Overall team for a few reasons. The first reason is because of the veteran transfers they have coming in. Dedric Lawson, K.J. Lawson, and Charlie Moore are three perfect players for Bill Self’s system and will give the Jayhawks something they have not had in a while: depth! The Lawson twins averaged 31.5 PPG combined at Memphis and Charlie Moore averaged 12.2 PPG in his single season at Cal in the 2016-17 season. Comparing these three transfer’s stats to who has left the Kansas program from last year, there are only 2.4 PPG to be made up and the recruits coming in/development of players they already have should provide quite enough scoring. The Jayhawks also have one of the nation’s best recruiting classes, highlighted by 5-stars Quentin Grimes, Devon Dotson, and David McCormack. All three of these recruits should see big minutes for the Jayhawks and should fill an immediate void left by Devonte Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk on the perimeter. Kansas is undoubtedly the best roster on paper heading into the 2018-19 college basketball season.
#2 KENTUCKY WILDCATS
2017-18 Record: 26-11
NCAA Tournament result: Sweet 16 (Lost to Kansas State)
Who is Gone: Kevin Knox (15.6 PPG), Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (14.4 PPG), Hamidou Diallo (10.0 PPG), Wenyen Gabriel (6.8 PPG), Jarred Vanderbilt (5.9 PPG), Sacha Killeya-Jones (3.3 PPG) – Transferred to NC State
Who is Back: PJ Washington (10.8 PPG), Quade Green (9.3 PPG), Nick Richards (5.1 PPG), Jemarl Baker (Missed with injury)
Who Did They Add: Reid Travis (Transfer – Stanford), Ashton Hagans (#1 PG in 2019 – Will Reclassify to 2018), EJ Montgomery (#2 PF), Keldon Johnson (#3 SF), Immanuel Quickley (#4 PG), Tyler Herro (#6 SG)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Ashton Hagans, G Quade Green, F E.J. Montgomery, F Reid Travis, F PJ Washington
Coach Calipari has done it again as Kentucky brings in yet another top recruiting class to Lexington. Kentucky will also return Nick Richards, Quade Green, Jemarl Baker, and most importantly, P.J. Washington. The return of P.J. Washington is huge news for Kentucky because he truly has a chance to be a star for Kentucky. We all saw glimpses of Washington’s talent and potential last season, but was shadowed by the production of Knox and Gilgeous-Alexander. Washington will be the “veteran” leader for the Wildcats and all offense will flow through him in the paint, so expect a big season from the second-year Wildcat. Kentucky is also to be rumored to be in the running for Stanford transfer, and best transfer on the market, Reid Travis. If Kentucky is to get Reid Travis for next season, Kentucky would likely jump Kansas in my rankings, but as it is right now, Kentucky is slightly behind them because of experience. Oh, and do not sleep on Jemarl Baker. A lot of people, including myself, classified him as the best shooter in the 2017 Recruiting Class, but did not play a single game last season after having knee surgery done. With all of these pieces in place for Coach Calipari, we may see a lot of the type of basketball we saw with the 2016 Kentucky team with the “platoon system.”
The four McDonald’s All-Americans coming into Duke next season from left to right (Tre Jones, R.J. Barrett, Cameron Reddish, Zion Williamson)
#3 DUKE BLUE DEVILS
2017-18 Record: 29-8
NCAA Tournament result: Elite 8 (Lost to Kansas)
Who is Gone: Marvin Bagley III (21.0 PPG), Grayson Allen (15.5 PPG), Gary Trent Jr. (14.5 PPG), Wendell Carter Jr. (13.5 PPG), Trevon Duval (10.3 PPG)
Who is Back: Marques Bolden (3.9 PPG), Javin DeLaurier (3.4 PPG), Alex O’Connell (3.3 PPG), Justin Robinson (1.4 PPG), Antonio Vrankovic (1.0 PPG), Jordan Goldwire (1.0 PPG), Jack White (0.8 PPG)
Who Did They Add: R.J. Barrett (#1 SG), Cameron Reddish (#1 SF), Zion Williamson (#1 PF), Tre Jones (#1 PG), Joey Baker (#7 SF)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Tre Jones, G R.J. Barrett, F Cameron Reddish, F Zion Williamson, C Marques Bolden
Duke undoubtedly has a very talented roster, highlighted by their #1 overall recruiting class nationally, but how far can their freshman carry them? In years past, Duke has not had that much success with their “all” freshman lineups. Could this year be different? Duke is losing its entire starting lineup from last season’s Elite 8 team, but adds the top PG, SG, SF, and PF in the 2018 Recruiting Class to replace last year’s freshman. Duke may have one of the most talented group of freshman we have seen in college basketball in a while, but the main concern I have with Duke this season is how well all of these freshman will work with one-another. If Duke has things clicking early, look out for the Blue Devils!
#4 GONZAGA BULLDOGS
2017-18 Record: 32-5
NCAA Tournament result: Sweet 16 (lost to Florida State)
Who is Gone: Johnathan Williams (13.4 PPG), Silas Melson (9.3 PPG)
Who is Back: Killian Tillie (12.9 PPG), Zach Norvell Jr. (12.7 PPG), Josh Perkins (12.3 PPG), Rui Hachimura (11.6 PPG), Corey Kispert (6.7 PPG), Jacob Larsen (2.9 PPG), Jeremy Jones (1.7 PPG), Jesse Wade (1.3 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Filip Petrusev (#9 C), Freg Foster (#61 SG), Joel Ayayi (French PG), Brandon Clark (Transfer – San Jose State), Geno Crandall (Transfer – North Dakota)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Josh Perkins, G Geno Crandall, G Zach Norvell Jr., F Killian Tillie, F Rui Hachimura
Although they may not look like that great a team on paper, Gonzaga will be a National Championship contender next year as a result of their talented veterans. Their projected lineup for next season should have 2 seniors, 2 juniors, and a sophomore, making them one of the most experienced starting five in the country. Not to mention, Killian Tillie came into his own at the end of the regular season, averaging 18 PPG over the last 7 regular season games. The Bulldogs will have one of the most dynamic frontourts in the country with Tillie and Rui Hachimura, one of the most explosive PFs in the country. Mark Few also added C Filip Petrusev to bolster their front court and French PG Joel Ayayi should also see a solid amount of time behind Josh Perkins. Do not sleep on Gonzaga this year as they look to earn yet another #1 seed in March Madness!
#5 NEVADA WOLFPACK
2017-18 Record: 29-8
NCAA Tournament result: Sweet 16 (lost to Loyola-Chicago)
Who is Gone: Kendall Stephens (13.1 PPG), Hallice Cooke (4.7 PPG), Elijah Foster (1.7 PPG), Darien Williams (2.1 PPG), Charlie Tooley (0.5 PPG)
Who is Back: Caleb Martin (18.9 PPG), Jordan Caroline (17.7 PPG), Cody Martin (14.0 PPG), Lindsey Drew (8.1 PPG), Josh Hall (6.9 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Jordan Brown (#5 PF), K.J. Hymes (#53 PF), Vincent Lee (#68 PF), Trey Porter (Transfer – Old Dominion), Nisre Zouzoua (Transfer – Bryant), Jazz Johnson (Transfer – Portland), Tre’Shawn Thurman (Transfer – Omaha), Corey Henson (Transfer – Wagner)
Projected Starting Lineup: G/F Cody Martin, G/F Caleb Martin, F Jordan Caroline, F Trey Porter, F Jordan Brown
Perhaps the biggest news of this college basketball offseason so-far has been that the Martin twins will be returning to Nevada after testing the NBA Draft process. Cody and Caleb Martin led Nevada to the NCAA Tournament last season and took America by storm when they knocked #2 Cincinnati out of the NCAA Tournament. Now, the Martin twins are back, along with Jordan Caroline and a lot of talented transfers. Trey Porter, one of the most important transfers for Eric Mussleman, will have an immediate impact for Nevada after averaging 13.2 PPG last year at Old Dominion. Believe it or not, Nevada has a legit shot to make it to the Final Four this season. I see a lot of the 2013 Wichita State team in this year’s Nevada team. Nevada will be a very fun basketball team to watch this season out west!
#6 TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS
2017-18 Record: 26-9
NCAA Tournament result: Round of 32 (lost to Loyola-Chicago)
Who is Gone: James Daniel III (5.6 PPG)
Who is Back: Grant Williams (15.2 PPG), Admiral Schofield (13.9 PPG), Lamonte Turner (10.9 PPG), Jordan Bowden (9.1 PPG), Jordan Bone (7.3 PPG), Kyle Alexander (5.6 PPG), Chris Darrington (2.6 PPG), Zach Kent (2.0 PPG), John Fulkerson (1.7 PPG), Derrick Walker (1.9 PPG), Jalen Johnson (1.2 PPG), Yves Pons (0.7 PPG)
Who Did They Add: D.J. Burns (#12 C)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Lamonte Turner, G Jordan Bone, G Jordan Bowden, F Grant Williams, F Admiral Schofield
After a surprising season for Rick Barns and Tennessee last year, the Vols have high expectations for the 2018-19 season. They should, once again, be a-top the SEC with Kentucky and Auburn and contend for not only an SEC title, but a National Title as well. Tennessee will return all 5 of its starters from last season, including All-SEC First Team forward and SEC player of the Year, Grant Williams, All-SEC Second Team forward, Admiral Schofield, and Co-SEC Sixth Man of the Year in Lamonte Turner. Tennessee was one of the best shot making teams in the country last season and shot about 38% from three last season as a team. With more experience and growing talent, expect Tennessee to once again be a force in college hoops this upcoming season.
Villanova grad transfer Joe Cremo headlines Villanova’s offseason acquisitions.
#7 VILLANOVA WILDCATS
2017-18 Record: 36-4
NCAA Tournament result: National Champions (Defeated Michigan)
Who is Gone: Jalen Brunson (18.9 PPG), Mikal Bridges (17.7 PPG), Donte DiVincenzo (13.4 PPG), Omari Spellman (10.9 PPG)
Who is Back: Eric Paschall (10.6 PPG), Phil Booth (10.0 PPG), Colin Gillespie (4.3 PPG), Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (3.1 PPG), Jermaine Samuels (1.1 PPG), Tim Delaney (0.1 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Joe Cremo (Transfer – Albany), Jahvon Quinerly (#6 PG), Cole Swider (#9 PF), Brandon Slater (#11 SF)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Jahvon Quinerly, G Phil Booth, F Jermaine Samuels, F Cole Swider, F Eric Paschall
After winning two championships in a three year span, Villanova will look to rebuild their team in hopes of future National Championships. Even though they are slightly rebuilding, Villanova is still one of the favorites to cut down the nets in the 2019 NCAA Tournament. How is this possible? Well, Jay Wright is a genius and has a solid squad full of potential. Villanova will be led by seniors Eric Paschall and Phil Booth, as well as grad-transfer Joe Cremo from Albany who was one of the most coveted grad-transfers on the market this offseason. Although their recruiting class is small, they also bring a lot of talent to the table for Jay Wright. Jahvon Quinerly highlight’s Villanova’s recruiting class and will look to fill the void that former National Player of the Year, Jalen Brunson, is leaving. Cole Swider and Brandon Slater will have go-to roles for the Wildcats this season. I am a little skeptical about Villanova this year and do not necessarily see them as a dominant Top-10 team they have been in the past, but coming off of a National Championship and having a lot of potential talent, it is hard to keep them outside the Top-10!
#8 VIRGINIA CAVALIERS
2017-18 Record: 31-3
NCAA Tournament result: Round of 64 (Lost to UMBC)
Who is Gone: Devon Hall (11.7 PPG), Isaiah Wilkens (6.0 PPG), Nigel Johnson (4.9 PPG)
Who is Back: Kyle Guy (14.1 PPG), Ty Jerome (10.6 PPG), De’Andre Hunter (9.2 PPG), Mamadi Diakite (5.4 PPG), Jack Salt (3.4 PPG), Jay Huff (3.4 PPG), Marco Anthony (2.0 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Francisco Caffaro (#19 C), Kody Stattmann (#73 SF), Kihei Clark (#59 PG)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Kyle Guy, G Ty Jerome, F De’Andre Hunter, F Mamadi Diakite, C Jack Salt
History was made in both the regular season for Virginia last season, as well as in the postseason. Virginia claimed the #1 overall seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament after going 31-2, but ultimately fell to #16 UMBC, becoming the first ever #1 seed to lose in the first round to a #16 seed. Even though the Cavaliers suffered a brutal loss that started a lot of backlash in the NCAA Tournament, they are returning their top three pieces: Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and De’Andre Hunter to Coach Bennett’s crazy puzzle. Tony Bennett is one of the best basketball coaches in the country and although a lot of people hate the way his Virginia teams play, they better get used to it because this team has the potential to be an even better defensive team than last year. Mamadi Diakite should see an expanded role in Virginia’s game this season, as should the 7’1” sophomore Jay Huff. Virginia will have to fill the production that Devon Hall produced last season, but if teams can not score against Virginia, this should not be a problem. Expect to see Virginia a-top the ACC once again.
#9 NORTH CAROLINA TAR HEELS
2017-18 Record: 26-11
NCAA Tournament result: Round of 32 (Lost to Texas A&M)
Who is Gone: Joel Berry II (17.1 PPG), Theo Pinson (10.3 PPG), Jalek Felton (2.9 PPG) – Transferring
Who is Back: Luke Maye (16.9 PPG), Cameron Johnson (12.4 PPG), Kenny Williams (11.4 PPG), Sterling Manley (5.4 PPG), Garrison Brooks (4.5 PPG), Andrew Platek (2.0 PPG), Brandon Robinson (1.7 PPG), Brandon Huffman (1.6 PPG), Seventh Woods (1.1 PPG), Shea Rush (0.4 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Nassir Little (#2 SF), Coby White (#3 SG), Rechon Black (#17 SF)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Coby White, G Kenny White, G Cameron Johnson, F Nassir Little, F Luke Maye
After a few down years of recruiting for UNC amid the NCAA Investigations, Roy Williams put together a solid recruiting class, headlined by the #2 SF in the nation, Nassir Little. He will look to fill a scoring hole left by Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson, along with returning star, Luke Maye. The Tar Heels will not be a big team on the interior like previous seasons, but instead, rely heavily on their outside shooting from Little, Maye, Cameron Johnson, and Kenny Williams. Second year players Sterling Manley, Garrison Brooks, and Brandon Huffman will all look to make big strides in their second season under Coach Roy Williams and give the Tar Heels fortification at both “big man” positions. You may not know many of the players on North Carolina outside of Luke Maye, but they are going to be a dangerous, fast-paced team that should be able to punish teams for their mistakes like in past seasons. Defensively, it is yet to be determined what North Carolina will look like because it really depends on the likes of Manley, Brooks, and Huffman inside. Veterans have always carried Roy Williams to Final Fours and titles, could Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson, and Kenny Williams do the same?
Michigan State’s Cassius Winston returns after leading the nation in 3-point percentage last season (49.7%)
#10 MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
2017-18 Record: 30-5
NCAA Tournament result: Round of 32 (Lost to Syracuse)
Who is Gone: Miles Bridges (17.1 PPG), Jaren Jackson Jr. (10.9 PPG), Gavin Schilling (2.9 PPG), Tum Tum Naire (1.7 PPG), Ben Carter (0.7 PPG)
Who is Back: Cassius Winston (12.6 PPG), Nick Ward (12.4 PPG), Joshua Langford (11.7 PPG), Matt McQuaid (6.0 PPG), Xavier Tillman (2.8 PPG), Kenny Goins (2.1 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Marcus Bingham Jr. (#15 PF), Foster Loyer (#14 PG), Gabe Brown (#22 SF), Aaron Henry (#34 SF), Thomas Kithier (#30 PF)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Cassius Winston, G Matt McQuaid, G Joshua Langford, F Nick Ward, F Xavier Tillman
Michigan State will not be as deep a team than in year’s past, but Coach Izzo is building a team for the future this year. Much like Villanova, Michigan State will be going through a slight rebuild with a solid group of talent coming in. The five-man recruiting class coming in for Tom Izzo will not make an immediate impact like past recruits Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr. made, but will be solid bench players this season for the Spartans as they develop in their first year. As long as Izzo has Cassius Winston and Nick Ward, the Spartans will be a top team in the Big Ten and should remain a Top 25 team throughout the season. Winston and Ward have a load of potential as NBA prospects, but must live up to the hype this year as they will be the focal points.
#11 AUBURN TIGERS
2017-18 Record: 26-8
NCAA Tournament result: Round of 32 (Lost to Clemson)
Who is Gone: Mustapha Heron (16.4 PPG) – Transferred to St. John’s, Desean Murray (10.1 PPG), Davion Mitchell (3.7 PPG)
Who is Back: Bryce Brown (15.9 PPG), Austin Wiley (DNP), Jared Harper (13.2 PPG), Chuma Okeke (7.5 PPG), Danjel Purifoy (Injury), Anfernee McLemore (7.4 PPG), Malik Dunbar (5.4 PPG), Horace Spencer (4.7 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Samir Doughty (Transfer – VCU)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Jared Harper, G Bryce Brown, F Danjel Purifoy, F Anfernee McLemore, C Austin Wiley
Auburn will enter the 2018-19 college basketball season with a very impressive roster that can go 8-9 guys deep throughout the whole season. Although the departure of Mustapha Heron does hurt them offensively, Coach Bruce Pearl and the Auburn Tigers will get Danjel Purifoy back from injury and Samir Doughty via VCU. I would say that is a pretty solid consolation prize for losing Heron. Oh, and that guy Austin Wiley will be able to play… he’s pretty good right? This year’s Auburn team will rely heavily on the fact that they are healthy and ready to go. Anfernee McLemore suffered a broken ankle in February, Daniel Purifoy is coming back from injury, and Austin Wiley has not played in nearly a year. These are three guys critical to the success of this team this upcoming season, so if they are not up to speed or not meshing well together, Auburn will struggle. If this team is healthy and ready to play, then they will be one of the most dangerous teams in college basketball. Stay tuned…
#12 OREGON DUCKS
2017-18 Record: 23-13
NCAA Tournament result: Missed NCAA Tournament
Who is Gone: Elijah Brown (13.6 PPG), MiKyle McIntosh (11.8 PPG), Troy Brown (11.3 PPG), Roman Sorkin (2.9 PPG)
Who is Back: Payton Pritchard (14.5 PPG), Paul White (9.4 PPG), Victor Bailey Jr. (6.7 PPG), Kenny Wooten (6.4 PPG), Keith Smith (1.9 PPG), M.J. Cage (1.7 PPG), Abu Kigab (1.6 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Bol Bol (#1 C), Louis King (#5 SF), Will Richardson (#8 SG), Francis Okoro (#12 C in Class of 2019) – Reclassifying, Miles Norris (#17 PF), Ehab Amin (Transfer – Texas A&M – C.C.)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Payton Pritchard, G Ehab Amin, F Louis King, F Kenny Wooten, C Bol Bol
Oregon could be a great surprise team this season, or could be the biggest bust team of the season. If Troy Brown had returned, Oregon would be locked in as a Top-10 team in the country, but there are a lot of unknowns circling this team. Payton Pritchard has established himself as a point guard Coach Dana Altman can rely on, but the rest of their projected lineup has its question marks surrounding them. Bol Bol and Louis King are likely one-and-done’s, so it will be interesting if they show off their personal talent, or adjust to the tempo and play style of the team. Paul White and Kenny Wooten will also likely be in the starting lineup come game one, so it should be interesting how they adjust to their new role with the team. If Oregon’s new freshmen live up to the hype, this team will be very special and win the PAC-12, but if not, they may be in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament.
#13 UCLA BRUINS
2017-18 Record: 21-12
NCAA Tournament result: First-Four (Lost to St. Bonaventure)
Who is Gone: Aaron Holiday (20.3 PPG), Thomas Welsh (12.6 PPG), Gyorgy Golomon (7.1 PPG)
Who is Back: Kris Wilkes (13.7 PPG), Jaylen Hands (9.9 PPG), Prince Ali (9.1 PPG), Alex Olesinski (4.5 PPG), Chris Smith (3.9 PPG), Cody Riley (DNP), Jalen Hill (DNP)
Who Did They Add: Moses Brown (#3 C), Shareef O’Neal (#8 PF), Jules Bernard (#10 SG), David Singleton (#16 SG), Tyger Campbell (#13 PG), Kenneth Nwuba (#35 C)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Jaylen Hands, G Prince Ali, F Kris Wilkes, F Shareef O’Neal, C Moses Brown
Steve Alford has always put together good recruiting classes at UCLA, but this year’s recruiting class may be the best one yet. Coach Alford added on Moses Brown and Tyger Campbell late in the recruiting period and both of them will see big minutes along with Shareef O’Neal this season. Do not forget about Cody Riley either. Riley was one of the three UCLA players involved in the China incident last season and as a result, did not play a single second for the Bruins last year. Cody Riley was the #13 PF in last year’s recruiting class, so he has a lot to offer UCLA this season. With an abundance of big men and a plethora of guards, UCLA should be primed to battle with Oregon for the PAC-12 title this upcoming season. Who are we forgetting to mention? Oh, Kris Wilkes… remember that guy? After being named to the PAC-12 All-Freshman team last season, he is primed to be the focal point of the Bruins this year and ready for a huge breakout season. If Wilkes has the season I expect him to have, not only will UCLA be very successful this year, but we may be talking national awards for Kris Wilkes.
#14 KANSAS STATE WILDCATS
2017-18 Record: 25-12
NCAA Tournament result: Elite 8 (Lost to Loyola-Chicago)
Who is Gone: Brian Patrick (1.6 PPG)
Who is Back: Dean Wade (16.2 PPG), Barry Brown (15.3 PPG), Xavier Sneed (11.1 PPG), Kamau Stokes (9.0 PPG), Cartier Diarra (7.1 PPG), Makol Mawien (6.8 PPG), Mike McGuirl (3.3 PPG), Amaad Wainright (2.8 PPG), Levi Stockard III (1.8 PPG), Mawdo Sallah (1.8 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Shaun Williams (#35 PG), Austin Trice (#3 JUCO PF)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Barry Brown, G Kamau Stokes, G Cartier Diarra, F Xavier Sneed, F Dean Wade
Kansas State surprised a lot of college basketball fans last year, including myself. Heading into the NCAA Tournament, they were a #8 seed that you can say was “on-the-bubble” for most of March, but wound up making the Elite 8 after taking down #5 Kentucky. Kansas State probably would’ve made the Final Four in last year’s tournament too if Dean Wade, their leading scoring, had not been injured. Coach Bruce Weber had this team locked in for the last month of the season, and should have them locked in heading into the 2018-19 season. He returns all of his top 10 scorers from last season, including his whole starting five. The Wildcats may not be the most attractive team on paper, but they come experienced in what is likely the toughest conference in the country, and they are coming off an Elite 8 run in the NCAA Tournament. I never thought I would say it, but out of all the teams in the Big-12, Kansas State may be the ones to finally break Kansas’ Conference Championship streak!
Coach Buzz Williams returns one of the best rosters in the ACC this season with very high expectations.
#15 VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES
2017-18 Record: 21-12
NCAA Tournament result: Round of 64 (Lost to Alabama)
Who is Gone: Justin Bibbs (13.3 PPG), Devin Wilson (2.8 PPG)
Who is Back: Ty Outlaw (Injured Knee) Justin Robinson (14.0 PPG), Kerry Blackshear Jr. (12.5 PPG), Nickeil Alexander-Walker (10.7 PPG), Ahmed Hill (10.6 PPG), Chris Clarke (8.2 PPG), P.J. Horne (4.6 PPG), Tyrie Jackson (3.0 PPG), Wabissa Bede (2.5 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Landers Nolley (#15 SF), Jon Kabonga (#38 PG), Jarren McAllister (#58 SG, Khadim Sy (JUCO)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Justin Robinson, G Ahmed Hill, G Nickeil Alexander-Walker, F Ty Outlaw, F Kerry Blackshear Jr.
Perhaps the biggest news of this postseason for Virginia Tech was that Ty Outlaw was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA due to his injury that kept him out all of last year. During the 2016-17 season with the Hokies, Outlaw averaged 6.3 PPG in about 18 minutes per game. This upcoming season, he will see a bigger role with the Hokies and will provide a spark for them whether he starts or comes off the bench for senior, Chris Clarke. Buzz Williams has things lined up for Virginia Tech this year to once again contend for the ACC by returning his star point guard, Justin Robinson. Although the Hokies will lose Justin Bibbs, Justin Robinson will be the Hokies go-to-scorer and look to earn All-ACC Honors once again. Virginia Tech has a chance to be a very deep team come March of 2019 depending on if they are getting meaningful minutes from P.J. Horne and Wabissa Bede. These two sophomores, along with fellow sophomore guard, Nickeil Alexander-Walker will play huge roles in the Hokies second-unit and could make Buzz Williams crew 8-9 players deep. Depth and fatigue decides games late in March, setting up the pieces nicely for a successful season for Buzz Williams and Hokie nation.
#16 MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS
2017-18 Record: 25-12
NCAA Tournament result: Missed NCAA Tournament
Who is Gone: Xavian Stapleton (6.4 PPG), Eli Wright (3.0 PPG)
Who is Back: Quinndary Weatherspoon (14.4 PPG), Aric Holman (10.9 PPG), Nick Weatherspoon (10.8 PPG), Lamar Peter (9.6 PPG), Tyson Carter (8.9 PPG), Abdul Ado (7.8 PPG), Nick Singleton (2.4 PPG), E.J. Datcher (2.2 PPG), KeyShawn Feazell (1.4 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Reggie Perry (#7 PF), Robert Woodard (#14 SF), D.J. Stewart (#23 SG), Jethro Tshisumpa (#2 JUCO C), Prine Oduro (Transfer – Siena)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Lamar Peters, G Nick Weatherspoon, G Quinndary Weatherspoon, F Aric Holman, F Abdul Ado
Mississippi State finds themselves ranked #16 in my Preseason Top 25 Rankings for one reason and one reason only: Explosive, veteran talent. 2 seniors, 1 junior, and 2 sophomores should make up Mississippi State’s starting five next year, all five of which led Mississippi State to 25-wins last year and to the NIT Semifinal in MSG. Ben Howland had the Bulldogs on the verge of making the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time since 2009 and should have no problem bringing them there this season. Although overshadowed by stats, Lamar Peters is the most intriguing player on Ben Howland’s team and has the most upside as a dynamic NBA prospect who almost decided to stay in the draft this year. Originally ranked in the Top-20 at the start of last season, Peters saw his stock slip a bit into the second-round range and as a result, decided to return to Mississippi State for his junior season to prove all the doubters wrong. I believe Peters will be the most improved player in the SEC this upcoming season and lead the Bulldogs to a very successful season with the Weatherspoon brothers by his side. Although not very deep, Mississippi State is a very dynamic team who has proven they can win games and have success in the near future.
#17 MICHIGAN WOLVERINES
2017-18 Record: 33-8
NCAA Tournament result: National Championship (Lost to Villanova)
Who is Gone: Moritz Wagner (14.6 PPG), Muhammad-Ali Abdur Rahkman (12.9 PPG), Duncan Robinson (9.2 PPG), Ibi Watson (2.2 PPG), Jaaron Simmons (1.5 PPG)
Who is Back: Charles Matthews (13.0 PPG), Zavier Simpson (7.3 PPG), Jordan Poole (6.0 PPG), Jon Teske (3.4 PPG), Isaiah Livers (3.4 PPG), Eli Brooks (1.8 PPG), Austin Davis (1.2 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Ignas Brazdeikis (#9 SF), Brandon Johns (#16 PF), David DeJulius (#17 PG), Colin Castleton (#14 C), Adrien Nunez (#65 SG)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Zavier Simpson, G Charles Matthews, G Jordan Poole, F Isaiah Livers, C Jon Teske
After making another magical run at the end of the season, John Beilein and Michigan found themselves in the National Championship game against Villanova. Veteran leaders Mo Wagner and Muhammad Abdur Rahkman had led the Wolverines to back-to-back Big Ten Tournament Championships, but faced a bigger task in trying to dethrone the notorious Villanova Wildcats. The Wolverines were unsuccessful in their mission and have lost the key parts of their 2017-18 championship caliber team. The good news for Coach Beilein an company though is that senior guard Charles Matthews withdrew his name from the 2018 NBA Draft and decided to come back for his senior season to handle some “unfinished business.” If you ask me, Michigan does not have the talent they had a year ago to make it back to the National Championship, but they should be a solid squad nonetheless. Junior Zavier Sampson also returns for the Wolverines, as well as Michigan’s break-out performer in the tournament, sophomore Jordan Poole. Although he did not see more than 12 minutes in any NCAA Tournament game, Poole made his presence felt with some electrifying shots and plays, including his buzzer-beating three to sent Michigan into the Sweet 16 over Houston. Poole is expected to play big minutes alongside Sampson and Matthews this season, but Michigan’s frontcourt is where there are lots of question marks. Isaiah Livers and Jon Teske barely saw any playing time last season as a result of John Beilein’s “small-ball” approach, but will have to deliver big time for the Wolverines this year if they are to be a force coming out of the Big Ten. It is also rumored that Coach Beilein interviewed for the Detroit Pistons’ head coaching vacancy, so that is something to keep our eyes on as we move closer to the 2018-19 college basketball season.
#18 TCU HORNED FROGS
2017-18 Record: 21-12
NCAA Tournament result: Round of 64 (Lost to Syracuse)
Who is Gone: Vladimir Brodziansky (15.0 PPG), Kenrich Williams (13.2 PPG), Ahmed Hamdy-Mohamed (5.9 PPG)
Who is Back: Desmond Bane (12.5 PPG), Jaylen Fisher (12.3 PPG), Kouat Noi (10.2 PPG), Alex Robinson (9.7 PPG), J.D. Miller (7.9 PPG), Shawn Olden (2.1 PPG), R.J. Nembhard (1.5 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Kevin Samuel (#11 C in 2017 Class), Kaden Archie (#19 SF), Kenrich Davis (#23 PG), Yuat Alok (#1 JUCO C), Russell Barlow (#36 C), Angus McWilliam (PF – New Zealand), Lat Mayen (#70 PF in 2017 Class – Australia)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Jaylen Fisher, G Alex Robinson, G Desmond Bane, F Kouat Noi, C Kevin Samuel
Jamie Dixon deserves a lot more credit than he receives. In his second year, with a TCU program that always finished dead last in the Big 12 before he got there, the Horned Frogs went to the NCAA Tournament on back-to-back 20-win seasons. The last time TCU won back-to-back 20-win seasons in basketball, Michael Jordan decided to call it quits and retire, Star Wars Episode 1 was released in theaters, and Jamie Dixon was 34 years old. So yeah, I would say Jamie Dixson is doing a fantastic job at TCU and building their basketball program. Dixon will get Jaylen Fisher back after his knee injury suffered half-way through this past season, and will also have Desmond Bane and Kouat Noi, both double-digit scorers from last season. He will also have a bunch of new faces to work with in his program. Last year’s recruit, Kevin Sampson will finally be able to put on the TCU jersey, along with two international prospects and the nation’s 29th best recruiting class. The Horned Frogs may struggle early on in the season finding their identity, but by the end of the season, TCU will not be a team anybody will want to play. Expect another 20-win and fun season for the fighting Jamie Dixon’s!
#19 FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES
2017-18 Record: 23-12
NCAA Tournament result: Elite 8 (Lost to Michigan)
Who is Gone: Braian Angola (12.5 PPG), C.J. Walker (8.0 PPG) – Transferred to Ohio State, Ike Obiagu (2.3 PPG), Brandon Allen (1.0 PPG)
Who is Back: Phil Cofer (12.8 PPG), Terance Mann (12.6 PPG), Trent Forrest (7.9 PPG), Mfiondu Kabengele (7.2 PPG), M.J. Walker (7.0 PPG), P.J. Savoy (6.7 PPG), Christ Koumadje (6.5 PPG), Wyatt Wilkes (0.7 PPG), Anthony Polite (0.0 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Devin Vassell (#45 SG), RaiQuan Gray (#41 PF in 2017 Class)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Trent Forrest, G M.J. Walker, F Terance Mann, F Phil Cofer, F Mfiondu Kabengele
Is it just me, or does Leonard Hamilton look like an evil villain in a comic book or something? I mean with the crew neck shirt under the suit jacket and never smiling, I swear, all this man needs is a white Persian Cat and he is college basketball’s villain! For real though, Leonard Hamilton has done a fantastic job over the past two seasons with this Florida State basketball program. After being on the hot seat after not bringing the Seminoles to the NCAA Tournament for four straight seasons, Hamilton has gone 49-21 over the past two seasons with Florida State with trips to the second-round and Elite-8. Of his last year’s Elite-8 squad, he returns his two leading scorers in Phil Cofer and Terance Mann, making Florida State a force in the ACC once again! Although Florida State loses scoring in Braian Angola and C.J. Walker, Trent Forrest and Mfiondu Kabengele are set to play featured roles for the Seminoles. Kabengele had a very solid freshman season last year for Leonard Hamilton’s bunch, averaging 7.2 PPG and shooting just under 50% from the field, 38.5% from long-range. They will need Kabengele and Christ Koumadje to be big this year if they want to make it back to the Elite-8 or further! This will not be Coach Hamilton’s most talented team in his tenure at Florida State, but they should be able to get to their third consecutive NCAA Tournament nonetheless!
#20 LSU TIGERS
2017-18 Record: 18-15
NCAA Tournament result: Missed NCAA Tournament
Who is Gone: Duop Reath (12.5 PPG), Aaron Epps (9.5 PPG), Randy Onwuasor (4.6 PPG), Jeremy Combs (3.0 PPG), Mayan Kiir (1.9 PPG), Galen Alexander (1.9 PPG)
Who is Back: Tremont Waters (15.9 PPG), Skylar Mays (11.3 PPG), Brandon Sampson (7.7 PPG), Daryl Edwards (6.8 PPG), Wayde Sims (5.6 PPG), Brandon Rachal (4.4 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Nazreon Reid (#4 PF), Emmitt Williams (#6 PF), Ja’Vonte Smart (#4 CG), Darius Days (#13 PF), Marlon Taylor (#2 JUCO SG), Kavell Bigby-Williams (Transfer – Oregon)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Tremont Waters, G Ja’Vonte Smart, G Skylar Mays, F Nazreon Reid, F Emmitt Williams
Oh boy do I love me some Will Wade! Personally, I believe Will Wade is one of the top coaches in the country, and now, he finally has the recruiting class and talent to show why! After a solid starting season at LSU, Coach Wade delivered the #3 overall recruiting class to Baton Rouge this year, highlighted by McDonald’s All-American Naz Reid. Along with a very powerful recruiting class, LSU also returns one of the best passers and playmakers in the country in Tremont Waters and shooter Skylar Mays, two of LSU’s Top 3 scorers from last season. The Tigers have a legit 9-10 players who can all have an impact on the court this season if they buy into Will Wade’s philosophy. A lot of this depends on Naz Reid’s and Emmitt Williams’ focus on the team rather than their potential “one-and-done” careers, but ultimately, LSU is a very young, but special team this season. Definitely expect LSU to rise from the bottom tier in the SEC to at the very least, Top-6 in the SEC this season.
#21 WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS
2017-18 Record: 26-11
NCAA Tournament result: Sweet 16 (Lost to Villanova)
Who is Gone: Jevon Carter (17.3 PPG), Daxter Miles Jr. (12.9 PPG), Teddy Allen (7.0 PPG), D’Angelo Hunter (1.5 PPG), Maciej Bender (1.2 PPG)
Who is Back: Sagaba Konate (10.8 PPG), Esa Ahmad (10.2 PPG), Lamont West (9.4 PPG), James Bolden (8.7 PPG), Wesley Harris (5.3 PPG), Chase Harler (1.6 PPG), Logan Routt (1.1 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Derek Culver (#8 C), Jordan McCabe (#18 PG), Trey Doomes (#36 SG), Emmitt Matthews Jr. (#40 SF), Andrew Gordan (#1 JUCO PF), Jermaine Haley (#2 JUCO CG), Brandon Knapper (Injured)
Projected Starting Lineup: G James Bolden, G Brandon Knapper, F Lamont West, F Esa Ahmad, F Sagaba Konate
Losing Jevon Carter, who seems like he just finished his 10th season at West Virginia, definitely leaves a dent in Coach Huggins team, but a great line of recruits and JUCO players coming in definitely builds a lot of depth and tools for him to work with and build another defensive juggernaut. Sagaba Konate and Esa Ahmad also return for the Mountaineers, making them one of the strongest frontcourts in the Big-12 for the upcoming season. Konate is primed for a huge junior season after averaging 10.8 PPG, 7.6 RPG, and 3.2 BPG. He has already proven himself as one of the best interior defenders in the country and should expect to see his points total and rebounding numbers increase this season. Although there will be new faces in the starting lineup, Coach Huggins will replace Carter and Miles Jr. with two veteran players in James Bolden and Brandon Knapper who have been in the program and a part of the “Press Virginia” system. Expect to see a lot of Derek Culver and Jordan McCabe early on in the season too, giving the Mountaineers a little more depth to work with. My expectations are not as high as last season for the Mountaineers, but they should be a consistent Top 25 team this season nonetheless.
After taking the whole college basketball world by storm last year, Loyola Chicago is here to stay!
#22 LOYOLA-CHICAGO RAMBLERS
2017-18 Record: 32-6
NCAA Tournament result: Final Four (Lost to Michigan)
Who is Gone: Donte Ingram (11.0 PPG), Aundre Johnson (11.0 PPG), Ben Richardson (6.9 PPG), Cameron Satterwhite (1.7 PPG) – Transfer to NAU, Carson Shanks (0.8 PPG), Nick Dinaridi (0.2 PPG)
Who is Back: Clayton Custer (13.2 PPG), Marques Townes (11.1 PPG), Cameron Krutwig (10.5 PPG), Lucas Williamson (4.7 PPG), Bruno Skokna (4.7 PPG), Adarius Avery (3.0 PPG), Christian Negron (1.0 PPG), Jake Baughman (0.6 PPG), Dylan Boehm (0.0 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Tate Hall (Transfer – Indianapolis) Aher Uguak (Transfer – New Mexico), Franklin Agunanne (#50 C), Coopers Kaifes (#95 SG)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Clayton Custer, G Marques Townes, G/F Tate Hall, F Aher Uguak, F Cameron Krutwig
If you did not fall in love with Porter Moser’s and Sister Jean’s Ramblers last March, then you are not a true college basketball fan. Loyola-Chicago was one of the best stories of the 2017-18 college basketball season and proved that they were more than just hype going into the NCAA Tournament by making it to the program’s first Final Four since 1963. Loyola-Chicago should not have much trouble making it back to the NCAA Tournament this season as Coach Moser returns 3 of his top 5 scorers from last season. One thing the Ramblers may struggle replacing though is the playmaking ability of Donte Ingram. Tate Hall and Aher Uguak, two transfers coming into Loyola-Chicago this season, should see big minutes from the start of the season and compliment the likes of Clayton Custer and Marques Townes. Expect Loyola-Chicago to have another 25+ win season in the Missouri Valley this season and expect to see them in the NCAA Tournament once again.
#23 SYRACUSE ORANGE
2017-18 Record: 23-14
NCAA Tournament result: Sweet 16 (Lost to Duke)
Who is Gone: Matthew Moyer (3.2 PPG)
Who is Back: Tyus Battle (19.2 PPG), Oshae Brissett (14.9 PPG), Frank Howard (14.4 PPG), Geno Thorpe (6.0 PPG), Marek Dolezaj (5.8 PPG), Paschal Chukwu (5.4 PPG), Bourama Sidibe (2.7 PPG), Howard Washington (1.1 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Jalen Carey (#7 CG), Robert Braswell (#25 PF), Buddy Boeheim (#64 SG)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Frank Howard, G Tyus Battle, F Oshae Brissett, F Marek Dolezaj, C Paschal Chukwu
Syracuse has had some up and down years over the past few seasons. It seems like we can always count on Syracuse to be a bubble team come time for March. This season will definitely be different though as Syracuse should be able to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament long before Selection Sunday. Coach Jim Boeheim will have one of the best teams he has had over the past few years, highlighted by junior guard and Second Team All-ACC performer, Tyus Battle. Not only did he average 39 minutes per game last season, but Battle was one of the ACC’s best scorers, averaging 19.2 PPG. All top six scorers from last season for the Orange will return and in a year where there is not a lot of experience across the board in the ACC, Syracuse should be primed for a big comeback year in the ACC!
#24 MARYLAND TERRAPINS
2017-18 Record: 19-13
NCAA Tournament result: Missed NCAA Tournament
Who is Gone: Kevin Huerter (14.8 PPG), Justin Jackson (9.8 PPG), Michal Cekovsky (6.4 PPG), Dion Wiley (5.8 PPG), Jared Nickens (5.1 PPG), Sean Obi (1.4 PPG)
Who is Back: Anthony Cowen (15.8 PPG), Bruno Fernando (10.3 PPG), Darryl Morsell (8.7 PPG), Ivan Bender (3.4 PPG), Joshua Tomaic (2.2 PPG)
Who Did They Add: Jalen Smith (#2 C), Aaron Wiggins (#7 SG), Eric Ayala (#9 CG), Serrel Smith (#30 SG), Trace Ramsey (#59 SF), Schnider Herard (Transfer – Mississippi State)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Anthony Cowen, G Darryl Morsell, G Aaron Wiggins, F/C Bruno Fernando, C Jalen Smith
With Kevin Huerter, Maryland would have been a Top-15 team in the country, but his last-minute decision to stay in the 2018 NBA Draft puts a lot of pressure on the role players and new recruits of Coach Turgeon. The Terps will bring in the nation’s #7 recruiting class this season, highlighted by the #2 center in the class, Jalen Smith. With the return of Bruno Fernando, the Terps frontcourt should handle a bulk of the scoring this season in the Big Ten, while junior guard Anthony Cowen continues to be one of the best scorers in the Big Ten. This season will be a big test for Coach Turgeon to see if he can finally get over the hump and lead Maryland to the program’s first Big Ten title. They will likely not be a very deep team, but will look to incorporate their freshmen very early on in the season. Expect to see Maryland in the Top 25 for the heavy bulk of the season.
#25 CLEMSON TIGERS
2017-18 Record: 25-10
NCAA Tournament result: Sweet 16 (Lost to Kansas)
Who is Gone: Gabe DeVoe (14.2 PPG), Donte Grantham (14.2 PPG), Mark Donnal (3.7 PPG)
Who is Back: Marcquise Reed (15.8 PPG), Shelton Mitchell (12.2 PPG), Elijah Thomas (10.7 PPG), Aamir Simms (4.0 PPG), David Skara (3.3 PPG), Anthony Oliver II (2.1 PPG), Clyde Trapp (1.8 PPG), Malik William (1.5 PPG), Scott Spencer (1.3 PPG)
Who Did They Add: John Newman (#34 SG), Trey Jemison (#27 C), Hunter Tyson (#54 SF)
Projected Starting Lineup: G Shelton Mitchell, G Marcquise Reed, G Anthony Oliver II, F Aamir Simms, F Elijah Thomas
After making the Sweet 16 last season, Clemson will lose two of their top three scorers from a year ago. Clemson may struggle early on in the season finding scoring, but Coach Brad Brownell has started to build Clemson into an ACC power. After being a Top 25 nearly all season last year, the Tigers should be consistently in the Top 25 after guards Shelton Mitchell and Marcquise Reed both returned for the 2018-19 season. Clemson’s success this season will depend greatly on the development of Aamir Simms and David Skara stepping up into bigger roles. If both emerge as solid second options for Brad Brownell, it will take a tremendous amount of pressure off of Mitchell and Reed in the backcourt. The most successful ACC teams are the ones who have veteran scorers in the backcourt and Clemson will definitely have that this season.
Just Outside My Top 25:
- Texas Tech