Now that we officially know who is coming back to school and who is turning pro we have a better perspective on how the top teams in college basketball will look next year. We polled over 20 writers on their top 25 for next year and here are the results. The parentheses represent the team’s ranking in our last poll.
1.Duke Blue Devils (1)
Duke received every first place first except for one (@chrisgarcia4444 on twitter). The Blue Devils have a fantastic crop of players returning from last years team including Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard. Those two studs will be joined by the best recruiting class in the nation. Marques Bolden just signed on as the top center in the 2016 class. Frank Jackson, Harry Giles, and Jason Tatum will also be top players who will likely only spend one season in Durham. This Duke team will be loaded with talent and depth. Good luck to the field of ACC teams trying to take down the Blue Devils next year.
2. Kentucky Wildcats (2)
Tell me if you’ve heard this before “John Calipari has a top 5 recruiting class coming in”. Calipari has seemingly reloaded after what many considered a down year for the Wildcats. The Wildcats will add De’Aaron Fox to run the point alongside five star Malik Monk. After struggling with the front court of struggling freshman and underachieving upperclassman, the Wildcats will bring in a plethora of big men.
3. Kansas Jayhawks (3)
Kansas will be tough to beat in the Big-12 again as they return Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham in the backcourt. Add top ranked freshman Josh Jackson on the wing and you have a very scary team. Kansas will struggle to replace Perry Ellis’s production and reliability but Jackson’s presence should help.
4. North Carolina Tar Heels (9)
Brice Johnson and Marcus Paige have graduated but the Tar Heels will return the rest of their core from their Final Four run. The Tar Heels success will be based on the development of their existing players. Joel Berry, Kennedy Meeks, and Justin Jackson are all very talented players who can be All-ACC players with some development. The combination of talent and experience will be tough to rival next season.
5. Villanova Wildcats (4)
The reigning national champs will be on the quest to repeat. The Wildcats will need to replace two key seniors in Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu. Jaylen Brunson will need to fill into the main guard role and distribute and score like Ryan Arcidiacono did during his senior season. Five-star freshman Omari Spellman will need to step in for Ochefu down low and provide some rebounding and rim protection. Josh Hart’s decision to return to school was huge for Jay Wright’s program as the swiss army knife of last year’s team will be able to provide whatever the team needs. The Big-East will be down from last year but Villanova will still be the cream of the crop.
6. Arizona Wildcats (8)
Arizona should be renamed “Shooting Guards University”. Alonzo Trier has decided to come back to school and Sean Miller has five star guards Rawle Alkins, Kobi Simmons, and Terrance Ferguson coming in for next season. With all four players being considered shooting guards the Wildcats will be a very interesting team to watch next year. The talent at the 2 guard alone should be enough to make them Pac-12 contenders.
7. Oregon Ducks (5)
Dillon Brooks is back for another year in Eugene. Most of the core is back with Brooks and they will be looking to repeat as Pac-12 champs and get past the Elite Eight. Their four 4-star recruits will look to add depth to an already talented team. The competition in the Pac-12 will be fantastic this year as UCLA and Arizona both look to bounce back from down years.
8. Virginia Cavaliers (10)
London Perrantes will be joined by McDonald’s All-American Kyle Guy in the backcourt. Guy and Perrantes will provide the scoring and Tony Bennett knows to coach a fantastic defense. Transfer Autin Nichols will be able to replace Anthony Gill’s production. The ACC will be loaded this year with 4 teams in the top 10.
9. Xavier Musketeers (12)
Trevon Bluiett and Ed Sumner will both be back for the Musketeers next season. Xavier will be hungry after watching their Big East rival Villanova win the tournament. Replacing Jalen Reynolds and James Farr down low will be their biggest hole to fill. Transfer RaShid Gaston will need to come in and be an immediate impact player.
10. Louisville Cardinals (11)
This will be the year of Anas for Rick Pitino’s program. Anas Mahmoud will need to play a huge role for the Cardinals after Chinanu Onuaku decided to go pro. Mahmoud has the length and athleticism to be a force at the rim and a very good scorer. Donovan Mitchel also will be a breakout player next season. His athleticism and motor can make a pain for any opposing point guards.
11. Wisconsin Badgers (13)
Do you think the Big-Ten will be competitive next year? Well the next three teams are all Big-Ten teams. The Badgers are the highest ranked although the difference was very slim. The Badgers will have the best crop of returning players with Bronson Koenig, Nigel Hayes, and Ethan Happ. Happ flew under the radar last year but his development has made him real force and a tough matchup for anyone. Their experience and home court advantage will make them favorites to win the Big-Ten.
12. Michigan State Spartans (6)
Michigan State will have a much different look than in past years. Tom Izzo’s team will not be a senior laden team as usual. Freshman phenom Miles Bridges will look to fill Denzel Valentine’s shoes as the small forward. Eron Harris and Gavin Schilling must step up and lead the talented freshmen. Look for the Spartans to start slow but find their stride later in the season.
13. Indiana Hoosiers (7)
Yogi Ferrell has graduated and Troy Williams decided to go pro. The Hoosiers still have big man Thomas Bryant returning to Assembly Hall in hopes of getting back to back Big-Ten titles. Troy William’s departure means that the Era of OG begins. OG Anunoby showed his athleticism and defensive prowess in his first season in Bloomington. If his development remains on the same trajectory the Hoosier will have an All-Big Ten candidate. The backcourt will be an absolute mess for Tom Crean to sort out. Robert Johnson and James Blackmon Jr. are both coming off injuries. Josh Newkirk transferred in and sat out a year. He is also coming off knee surgery. The Hoosiers will also add freshmen Curtis Jones, Devonte Green (Danny Green’s brother), and Grant Gelon who will all yearn for playing time.
14. West Virginia Mountaineers (15)
Bob Huggins will have to replace talented forward Devin Williams next season. Fortunately for the Mountaineers, Huggins style of play makes for seamless transition in finding new key players. The Mountaineers will “probably” press a lot. If they can find some true scorers they will be a very dangerous team next year.
15. UCLA Bruins (17)
UCLA is a tough team to read next season because they were very disappointing last season and with most of their core returning it will be tough for some of their talented freshmen to get the time and possessions they need. TJ Leaf and Lonzo Ball are both 5-star freshmen who can dominate the game at both ends of the floor. If Bryce Alford and Ball can work together in the backcourt then the Pac-12 will be on alert. If Alford and Ball struggle to find a rhythm together then Steve Alford’s seat may become a little warm.
16. Maryland Terrapins (23)
Maryland will return star point guard Melo Trimble. Trimble may be the only starter returning but the Terps will have some talent looking for more opportunities in Damonte Dodd and Jared Nickens. Justin Jackson will be a key freshmen on the wing to allow Trimble to both score and distribute.
17. Syracuse Orange (14)
Unfortunately for college basketball fans, Malachi Richardson will not be reclaiming his spot in the 2-3 zone next season. Tyler Lydon will be the one key player returning from last year’s Final Four team. Tyus Battle and Matthew Moyer will both need to step into big roles as freshman for the Orange to return to the Final Four.
18. Purdue Boilermakers (20)
AJ Hammons is gone but Isaac Haas has shown he is more than capable of dominating down low. Freshman Carsen Edwards will be the key to the Boilermakers. If he can organize the team and distribute the ball Purdue can do some serious damage with Swanigan and Haas down low. If Edwards struggles running the point Purdue will be back to square one with mediocre guard play.
19. Texas Longhorns (22)
Shaka Smart just landed the biggest recruit of his coaching career (literally and figuratively) in Jarrett Allen. Allen will need to come in and hold his own for Texas to be successful in the brutal Big-12 grind. The combination of a talented big man and Smart’s organized chaos style of play will be very interesting to see in Austin next year.
20. Texas A&M (19)
Texas A&M will have a much different look next season without Anthony Collins or Alex Caruso. Kobie Eubanks will be the leader of the team and he will be joined by three 4-star freshmen. Even with the Aggies replacing most of their core, Texas A&M is the second best team in the SEC next season.
21. Miami (16)
Miami will have some stiff competition in the ACC next season. Miami had a number of key players graduate but the talent on their bench should step up to make Miami a competitor in the ACC. Bruce Brown is an extremely underrated guard who will be able to be a lockdown defender as a freshman.
22. Gonzaga (21)
Josh Perkins and Przemek Kanowski will be back for Mark Few’s team next season. Kanowski will look to bounce back from his injury laden season. Karnowski and Perkins will both need to step up to replace the production of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis.
23. California Bears (UR)
Ivan Rabb turned down a lottery pick and a big draft bonus in hopes of attaining more college success and boosting his stock into the top 5. Rabb will be a man on the mission and his presence along validates this ranking.
24. Cincinnati (UR)
Mick Cronin is a very underrated coach who always puts a strong product on the court. Leading scorer Troy Caupain is returning and his development will help Cincinnati take down UConn for supremacy in the AAC.
25. Dayton Flyers (UR)
RIP Steve McElvene. Without McElvene and graduated Dashawn Pierre the Flyers will have some big holes in the front court. Luckily Scoochie Smith and Charles Cooke will be back. Smith’s development could be a big factor in the Flyer’s success next season.
Others Receiving Votes: Oklahoma, Iowa State, Rhode Island, St. Mary’s, UConn, Seton Hall, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Butler, Creighton, Arizona State, Providence, Temple, NC State, USC