Sports

College basketball rankings: Preseason men’s top-25, previewed by our experts

A lot has modified in men’s faculty basketball since early April when the Baylor Bears ended Gonzaga’s bid for an undefeated season within the nationwide championship recreation. The NIL legal guidelines now enable athletes to revenue off their likeness and work with brokers whereas in class. Each participant within the nation was granted one other 12 months of eligibility due to the pandemic. The complete All-American First Crew from final season has moved on to the NBA.

Whereas there are some acquainted applications on the prime of the rankings to begin the brand new season, there are additionally so many recent storylines. Can Duke make another deep match run in Coach Okay’s last season? How will Gonzaga and Baylor take care of dropping their prime stars to the professionals? Who will emerge because the Participant of the 12 months out of a deep pool of potential candidates?

Right here’s a take a look at the preseason top-25 for the 2021-2022 season, previewed by the SB Nation group websites.

25. Virginia Cavaliers

Projected rotation: G Kihei Clark, G Reece Beekman, G Armaan Franklin, F Jarden Gardner, C Kadin Shedrick

Heading into Tony Bennett’s twelfth season in Charlottesville, the Virginia Cavaliers are as inexperienced as they’ve been shortly. With solely two returners from final 12 months’s rotation, the group will as soon as once more should depend on a pair of transfers and (hopefully) rising younger gamers. ECU switch Jayden Gardner will present wanted inside scoring, and former Indiana Hoosier Armaan Franklin will add perimeter playmaking and stellar perimeter protection. Regardless of his up and down play, senior level guard Kihei Clark ought to assist combine these new items, whereas sophomores Reece Beekman and Kadin Shedrick are primed for breakout second years.

The roster is in contrast to some other Bennett group, and can take time to mesh particularly within the Wahoo system. However, Bennett’s observe file of constructing ACC contenders out of strange assortments of expertise and the excessive potential of a variety of these underclassmen imply this group can’t be counted out of the ACC image nor a run in March. — Zach Carey, Streaking the Lawn

Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament - Semifinals Creighton v UConn

Photograph by Porter Binks/Getty Photographs

24. UConn Huskies

Projected rotation: G RJ Cole, G Tyrese Martin, G Andre Jackson, F Isaiah Whaley, C Adama Sanogo

The Huskies convey again a stable quantity of expertise and depth from final season, however might want to change former star and present Charlotte Hornet James Bouknight’s manufacturing, particularly on the offensive finish. Cole ought to have the ability to deal with a few of the scoring load after coming into his personal final season down the stretch — he was additionally of the nation’s most prolific scorers through the first two seasons of his profession at Howard, the place he averaged over 21 factors per recreation from 2017-19. Apart from Cole, scoring might be the most important query mark with this group, and UConn will want contributions from Martin, Sanogo and graduate pupil Tyler Polley, the group’s finest 3-point possibility, to deal with the remainder of the offensive load.

Defensively, the Huskies determine to be the most effective within the nation, embracing head coach Dan Hurley’s depth with a hard-nosed and bodily protection. Whaley will function the anchor of the protection, and may as soon as once more be the most effective defenders within the nation together with his athleticism and shot blocking prowess. He’ll be joined within the frontcourt by a wholesome Akok Akok, who performed sparingly final season after struggling an achilles damage two seasons in the past however must be absolutely wholesome and one other imposing paint presence. Martin and Jackson ought to present loads of strain within the backcourt, and the emergence of Jackson on each ends, plus a particularly gifted freshman class, may take this group from a Big East contender to 1 that might make one more deep NCAA match run. — Dan Madigan, The UConn Blog

23. St. Bonaventure Bonnies

Projected rotation: G Jaren Holmes, G Dom Welch, G Jalen Adaway, G Kyle Lofton, C Osun Osunniyi

Mark Schmidt returns all 5 starters and 89% of its scoring from the A-10 common season, and match champions in 2020-21. The Bonnies success is predicated on its protection. They completed the season ranked within the prime 100 of six defensive KenPom classes, giving up over 70 factors solely 3 times final season. Participant-wise, their small-large combo is likely one of the finest within the nation, as massive man Osun Osunniyi and guard Kyle Lofton are each on preseason award watch lists for his or her positions. That is the primary time the Bonnies have been ranked since January of 1970 the place they made the Closing 4. — Nick Lorensen, Mid-Major Madness

22. Auburn Tigers

Projected rotation: G Zep Jasper, G Wendell Inexperienced Jr., G Devan Cambridge, F Jabari Smith, C Walker Kessler

For Auburn followers and followers of different SEC groups, that is going to be a group that appears nothing like those that Bruce Pearl has trotted out over the previous few seasons. Returnees are few, and one of many major items of final season (Allen Flanigan) goes to be sidelined with an damage at the very least till SEC play. Nonetheless, there’s a cause that the Tigers’ odds to make the Closing 4 have been lately listed at 12/1 — Auburn most likely has probably the most gifted roster it’s had underneath Pearl. Almost everybody this 12 months is a brand new recruit or a switch, and of the beginning 5 from the exhibition Friday evening, solely Devan Cambridge was even on the squad final 12 months. Nonetheless, there’s expertise in UNC switch and former five-star recruit Walker Kessler, and he’ll pair up with a top-five recruit in Jabari Smith, who’s been marketed as a generational expertise on the Plains, able to scoring from wherever on the ground.

Within the backcourt, Auburn has a couple of extra choices, with the mixture of Jasper and Inexperienced coming in from different faculties to man the guard spots, and Cambridge will convey a load of expertise to assist tie issues collectively. Don’t sleep on Georgia switch KD Johnson, both, or Jaylin Williams, Dylan Cardwell, and Chris Moore, all of whom performed intensive minutes and began in several roles final season. Auburn is deep, gifted, and Bruce Pearl has been saying the entire issues that lead you to imagine that he’s bought a group able to successful one other SEC title and extra. — Jack Condon, College and Magnolia

Penn State v Maryland

Photograph by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Photographs

21. Maryland Terrapins

Projected rotation: G Fatts Russell, G Eric Ayala, G Hakim Hart, F Donta Scott, C Qudus Wahab

Coming into the season, simply three gamers on Maryland’s 16-person roster haven’t performed in an NCAA recreation earlier than and 7 are juniors in faculty or older. This Maryland group is full of depth and expertise. The Terps are returning senior guard Eric Ayala who began in all however one recreation final season. Ayala was named to the 2022 Jerry West Capturing Guard of the 12 months Award watch record earlier this fall and is predicted to be a pacesetter for this group. Maryland can also be returning the junior duo of ahead Donta Scott and guard Hakim Hart. Each began in a majority of video games through the 2020-21 season, and Scott picked up a spot on the 2022 Karl Malone Energy Ahead of the 12 months Award watch record.

Regardless of dropping guard Aaron Wiggins to the 2021 NBA Draft and guard Darryl Morsell who transferred to Marquette after 4 seasons in College Park, head coach Mark Turgeon reloaded with the switch portal within the offseason. The Terps added graduate guard Fatts Russell from Rhode Island and junior middle Qudus Wahab from Georgetown. Each Russell and Wahab are anticipated to make an instantaneous impression on this group. Between gamers who’ve been with the Terps for a number of seasons and additions from veteran gamers from the switch portal, Maryland has no scarcity of gamers with NCAA expertise which can show beneficial in a gifted Massive Ten convention. – Lauren Rosh, Testudo Times

20. Florida State Seminoles

Projected rotation: G Rayquan Evans, G Caleb Mills, G Anthony Well mannered, F Malik Osborne, C Tanor Ngom

As soon as once more Leonard Hamilton’s group loses a number of guys to the professionals—together with one other prime 5 decide—and as soon as once more he by some means finds a solution to subject a group with depth, size, expertise and NBA expertise. Blue chip recruits Matthew Cleveland and Jalen Warley will each play early and sometimes, however the perfect newcomer simply is perhaps Houston switch Caleb Mills. In the meantime, higher classmen Malik Osborne, Anthony Well mannered, and Rayquan Evans convey capturing, protection, and an understanding of what it takes to win in March. The ground on this 12 months’s model is perhaps a little bit decrease than the final couple seasons due to uncertainty within the entrance court docket, however the ceiling is one other second weekend run within the Massive Dance…and even one step additional? — Matthew Minnick, Tomahawk Nation

Elizabeth City State v North Carolina

Photograph by Grant Halverson/Getty Photographs

19. North Carolina Tar Heels

Projected rotation: G Caleb Love, G RJ Davis, G Kerwin Walton, F Dawson Garcia, F

The North Carolina Tar Heels are going into their first season with longtime assistant coach, Hubert Davis. With Davis as the top coach, UNC can be switching to a extra trendy offensive scheme, and with that there can be quite a lot of adjustments in relation to what to anticipate from this group. Now that there can be much more spacing on the ground, it ought to give room for key gamers to do extra injury within the paint. The catch? They must knock down pictures from the perimeter significantly better than they’ve the final couple of seasons, or else the entire plan goes down in flames.

Davis introduced in three big-time transfers to assist usher within the new period: Brady Manek, Dawson Garcia, and Justin McCoy. Not solely do these gamers have the flexibility that Davis is on the lookout for in his new system, however they have been all superb gamers for his or her former groups. Dawson Garcia was named to the Massive East All-Freshmen group after a really spectacular 2020-21 marketing campaign with Marquette. Brady Manek is an enormous from Oklahoma that may shoot the lights out from the perimeter, in addition to get the job performed within the paint. Lastly, Justin McCoy is a high-energy participant that transferred from the Virginia Cavaliers, and he’s anticipated to offer an enormous set off of the bench.

Transfers apart, the Heels return Kerwin Walton, Armando Bacot, and Caleb Love, who’re all anticipated to be big-time gamers for this group. RJ Davis can also be a participant price noting, as he appeared spectacular within the exhibition recreation towards Elizabeth Metropolis State College. If veteran Tar Heels gel with the newcomers effectively sufficient, and they’re all in a position to excel on this new system, it’s actually onerous to say what the ceiling for this group can be. I anticipate the Heels to shock lots of people, and they’re a authentic menace within the ACC. — Brandon Anderson, Tar Heel Blog

18. Tennessee Volunteers

Projected rotation: G Kennedy Chandler, G Justin Powell, G Santiago Vescovi, F Josiah James, F John Fulkerson

Gone are Keon Johnson, Jaden Springer and Yves Pons, in are new 5-star prospects Kennedy Chandler and Brandon Huntley-Hatfield. Chandler is will run the present in Knoxville this season, becoming a member of a pleasant veteran core of John Fulkerson, Josiah-Jordan James and others. Barnes is hoping to mix elite expertise together with his established items, one thing that he wasn’t in a position to do within the COVID season final 12 months.

Tennessee’s major challenge final season was the shortage of a play-maker at level guard, together with the lack to shoot. Chandler ought to repair the primary challenge, whereas Auburn switch Justin Powell ought to repair the opposite. Skilled depth like Santiago Vescovi, Victory Bailey Jr. and Olivier Nkamhoua actually spherical out this roster. These Volunteers have a ton of items to work with and may as soon as once more be a menace to win the SEC. — Terry Lambert, Rocky Top Talk

Ohio State v Maryland

Photograph by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Photographs

17. Ohio State Buckeyes

Projected rotation: G Jamari Wheeler, G Meechie Johnson, F Justice Sueing, F E.J. Liddell, F Kyle Younger

Ohio State returns to the ground trying to wipe the painful reminiscence of final season’s NCAA Event loss to Oral Roberts from individuals’s reminiscences. The Buckeyes misplaced main scorer Duane Washington Jr. and defensive specialist Musa Jallow, however they’ve additionally introduced in a gifted recruiting class headlined by Ohio’s Mr. Basketball Malaki Branham and in addition to transfers Jamari Wheeler (Penn State), Joey Brunk (Indiana) and Cedric Russell (Louisiana).

E.J. Liddell is a preseason All-American and tremendous senior Kyle Younger is likely one of the prime utility guys within the nation. Wheeler is the two-time Massive Ten Defensive Participant of the 12 months and can seemingly take over the purpose guard duties. Justice Sueing and Meechie Johnson will look to develop their scoring roles to account for the lack of Washington and Justin Ahrens is likely one of the prime three-point shooters within the nation when he’s proper.

With this roster, The Buckeyes must be at the very least a top-five group within the convention and a top-five seed within the NCAA match. Hopefully, for Chris Holtmann’s standing with the followers, they will lastly advance previous the primary weekend of the Massive Dance. — Justin Golba, Land-Grant Holy Land

16. Arkansas Razorbacks

Projected rotation: G Davonte Davis, G JD Notae, F Au’Diese Toney, F Stanley Umude, C Jaylin Williams

Arkansas broke a 25 12 months Candy 16 drought final season and Eric Musselman has the Razorbacks positioned to do it once more. Changing Moses Moody, Justin Smith, and Jalen Tate gained’t be simple, however everyone knows how Musselman is a Switch Portal wizard. Arkansas brings in expertise and expertise with Miami switch Chris Lykes, South Dakota switch Stanley Umude, Wichita St. switch Trey Wade, and Pitt switch Au’Diese Toney. The Hogs additionally return Devo Davis, massive man Jaylin Williams, and SEC sixth Man of the 12 months J.D. Notae.

Final 12 months’s group lacked facilitators and shooters, however that shouldn’t be a problem this 12 months. Lykes, Toney, Umude, Okay.Okay. Robinson, Williams, Notae, Texas A&M switch Jaxson Robinson, and seven’3” Connor Vanover are all succesful from downtown.

The problem for this group can be discovering chemistry on the ground. Final 12 months’s squad by no means had that challenge, however it is a new group. 7 gamers must be taught a brand new system, embrace new roles, and gel with teammates. Musselman has at all times had quite a lot of roster turnover from 12 months to 12 months so this isn’t a brand new problem. — Jacob Davis, Arkansas Fight

15. Houston Cougars

Projected rotation: G Marcus Sasser, G Kyler Edwards, G Tramon Mark, F Fabian White Jr., F Reggie Chaney

Head coach Kelvin Sampson has turned Houston right into a persistently good program. The Cougars are coming off one in all their most profitable seasons in class historical past with a Closing 4 look, which had not occurred since 1984. Protection has been a powerful level and it’s more likely to proceed. Houston misplaced some key gamers however the roster nonetheless comes with quite a lot of expertise from returners and a few new stable additions. All-AAC guard Marcus Sasser, the second-leading scorer final season, can be again together with Tramon Mark, who performed in all 32 video games his freshman 12 months. Though Fabian White Jr. solely performed in 13 video games final season, he may even be a beneficial returner since he began in 31 video games the earlier 12 months with a productive 9.3 factors and 5.5 rebounds per recreation. The additions of senior Kyler Edwards from Texas Tech and graduate pupil Taze Moore from Cal State Bakersfield makes the roster stronger. Houston might be anticipated to be a contender for one more AAC title. — Isabel Gonzalez, Mid-Major Madness

Maryland v Alabama

Photograph by Sarah Stier/Getty Photographs

14. Alabama Crimson Tide

Projected rotation: G JD Davison, G Jaden Shackelford, F Keon Ellis, F Noah Gurley, C Charles Bediako

Final 12 months was an thrilling time for Alabama basketball, because the Tide got here collectively to win their first SEC crown in almost 20 years. Coach Nate Oats has raised the profile of this system briefly order. His taking part in fashion is quick and enjoyable for gamers and fits the trendy NBA, which has been a boon for recruiting. His success in that space is important this season as he tries to exchange the SEC Participant of the 12 months in Herbert Jones plus key contributors John Petty, Joshua Primo, Jordan Bruner and Alex Reese.

The expertise is there, even when it might take a couple of video games to return collectively. After flirting with the NBA Draft and the switch portal, main scorer Jaden Shackelford returns and can be counted on closely. Senior Keon Ellis is a authentic breakout candidate. He brings a few of the blue collar mentality we noticed out of Jones final season, and is environment friendly at each ends of the court docket. Furman switch Noah Gurley and blue chipper Charles Bediako can be counted on inside. On the level, Oats will rotate the #12 general recruit on the 247 composite, JD Davison, with returnee Jahvon Quinerly. Quinerly acted because the Tide’s sixth man final season and can seemingly fill the same function. Juwan Gary can be one other key contributor off of a bench that may probably go ten deep with blue chippers. This isn’t your father’s Alabama basketball program.

CBS has Alabama’s schedule rated the hardest within the nation, so there gained’t be a lot time for this squad to return collectively. The non-conference slate options three of final season’s last 4 in Houston, Gonzaga, and Baylor, plus Memphis and a probable early season match matchup with Kansas. Coach Oats really puzzled aloud if he was placing a bit an excessive amount of on them. If nothing else, they are going to be battle examined by the time convention play rolls round. — Josh Chatham, Roll Bama Roll

13. Oregon Ducks

Projected rotation: G Will Richardson, G De’Vion Harmon, F Eric Williams, F Quincy Guerrier, C Franck Kepnang

The No. 13 Oregon Geese return simply two common starters from a group that went 21-7 and reached the Candy 16 final season: senior guard Will Richardson and redshirt senior ahead Eric Williams Jr.hope to guide this group again to the dance, hopefully with the assistance of former 5-star middle N’Faly Dante who began early however missed the vast majority of the season because of damage and nonetheless gained’t be obtainable till December.

Oregon’s greatest challenge can be changing the skills of LJ Figueroa, Chris Duarte and Eugene Omoruyi, the three of which accounted for 62 % of the Geese’ factors scored final season. Switch Quincy Guerrier will seemingly have the ability to contribute early, contemplating he averaged 13.7 factors and eight.4 rebounds per recreation for Syracuse final season, as will De’Vion Harmon previously of Oklahoma. Additionally, hold a lookout for 2 true freshmen facilities: Nate Bittle and Isaac Johnson, who can be requested to grow to be shot-blocking massive males who can repeatedly hit the three and snatch rebounds. — Adam Chimeo, Addicted to Quack

12. Memphis Tigers

Projected rotation: G Emoni Bates, G Landers Nolley II, G Lester Quinones, F De’Andre Williams, C Jalen Duren

Penny Hardaway has confirmed he can land prime recruits and coach up an elite protection as head coach at Memphis. As he enters his fourth season on the helm, now it’s time he proves he can win. The Tigers have gained 20 or extra video games in each season underneath Hardaway. They gained the NIT final season. Hardaway remains to be looking for his first NCAA match, and this 12 months he has the group to not solely make the Massive Dance, however go on a long term as soon as he’s there.

Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren would be the headline names as two blue chip recruits. Senior ahead De’Andre Williams, who’s already 25 years previous, may make an even bigger impression on the court docket because the hub of the Tigers’ offense. Memphis has a flexible wing in Landers Nolley and a shooter in Lester Quinones additionally anticipated to play massive minutes. You possibly can anticipate the protection to be superb once more (Memphis completed No. 1 in defensive effectivity final season), but it surely’s on Hardaway to determine a solution to make the offense cook dinner with so many gifted items on the ground. — Ricky O’Donnell

Loyola-Chicago v Illinois

Photograph by Justin Casterline/Getty Photographs

11. Illinois Fighting Illini

Projected rotation: G Andre Curbelo, G Trent Frazier, Da’Monte Williams, Jacob Grandson, Kofi Cockburn

Properly, clearly final 12 months didn’t finish the best way any Illini fan would have hoped for, so this 12 months, in a really bizarre approach, can solely get higher. Whereas Illinois most likely gained’t enter the NCAA Event as a No. 1 seed once more, a positive non-conference slate and the dimensions and capturing to compete within the Massive Ten ought to hold Brad Underwood’s group ranked all 12 months lengthy. If Kofi Cockburn performs just like the Nationwide Participant of the 12 months candidate he’s being made out to be, and Andre Curbelo can maintain the ball, this Illinois group gained’t slip up within the Spherical of 32 to Loyola and has the possibility to make a deep run into March. — Stephen Cohn, The Champaign Room

10. Kentucky Wildcats

Projected rotation: G Sahvir Wheeler, G TyTy Washington, F Kellan Grady, F Keion Brooks, C Oscar Tshiebwe

After that includes principally freshmen-heavy groups underneath John Calipari, this season will see UK subject one of many oldest teams in the program’s illustrious history.

Sure, you learn that proper. Calipari gained’t have the ability to declare “we’re the youngest group in America” anymore, as he made it some extent to hit the switch portal more durable than the highschool recruiting path for this 12 months after final season’s immense struggles. The beginning lineup will seemingly function 3+ juniors and at the very least one senior if that tells you ways skilled this group can be.

However whereas this roster has loads of veterans, most of them have by no means performed with one different, so UK will nonetheless have loads of rising pains as this group develops chemistry.

As for the highest gamers to look at for, anticipate junior Oscar Tshiebwe to be the most effective defenders and rebounders in America, whereas TyTy Washington has the potential to grow to be the most recent famous person guard Calipari will get into the NBA Draft lottery after one season, as he can rating from all three ranges and performs the sport with a uncommon degree of management and poise for a university freshman.

Although the roster development is totally different, I anticipate this 12 months’s UK group to comply with the same script of previous Calipari groups: Early rising pains that trigger 2-4 non-conference losses, rounding into type in the midst of SEC play, and a run to the second weekend with a really actual likelihood of breaking by means of to the Closing 4, although that’s the ceiling I foresee for this group. — Jason Marcum, A Sea of Blue

9. Duke Blue Devils

Projected rotation: G Jeremy Roach, G Wendell Moore Jr., G AJ Griffin, F Paolo Banchero, C Mark Williams

Mike Krzyzewski’s swan music is lastly right here, and the legendary Duke coach is hoping to make the world overlook his Blue Devils would have missed the NCAA match final 12 months had they not been pressured to cancel the season. It’s becoming that Coach Okay has the potential No. 1 general NBA draft decide on his roster for his final go-around in 6’10 freshman ahead Paolo Banchero. He’ll be flanked by one other potential top-five decide in freshman wing A.J. Griffin. Across the two famous person freshmen is an skilled group that ought to lead Duke to a significantly better season than final 12 months.

Jeremy Roach is an excellent fast lead guard who wants to enhance as a shooter. Wendell Moore is an enormous combo guard lastly trying to ship on his promise as a junior. Mark Williams is a pressure inside and must be in for a breakout sophomore season. Duke also needs to have a stable bench that includes each faculty veterans (Marquette switch Theo Johns) and rising freshman (scoring wing Trevor Keels). Prefer it or not, Coach Okay has a potential contender in his final season. — Ricky O’Donnell

Baylor v Gonzaga

Photograph by Jamie Squire/Getty Photographs

8. Baylor Bears

Projected rotation: G James Akinjo, G Adam Flagler, F Matthew Mayer, F Kendall Brown and C Flo Thamba

Baylor has a wider vary of outcomes this season—fairly apparent once you win the nationwide title—however must be a prime 10 group by the tip of the season. They return 4 main contributors from final 12 months’s squad, and have All-PAC 12 level guard, James Akinjo, prepared to guide the offense. Baylor thinks it’s a bit underrated, however the Bears perceive with Davion Mitchell, Jared Butler, MaCio Teague and Mark Very important gone, it’s comprehensible.

Scott Drew advised me at Massive 12 Media Days that the lineup may change, and Matthew Mayer and Flo Thamba stated they don’t have a beginning lineup but. My guess for the lineup within the NCAA Event: James Akinjo, Adam Flagler, Matthew Mayer, Kendall Brown and Flo Thamba. LJ Cryer and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua will play extra minutes than two of the starters, and Jeremy Sochan will play main minutes. Langston Love must be within the rotation too. — Kendall Kaut, Our Daily Bears

7. Purdue Boilermakers

Projected rotation: G Sasha Stefanovic, G Jaden Ivey, G Eric Hunter Jr., F Trevion Williams, C Zach Edey

Purdue has probably the most skilled rosters within the nation. It misplaced one participant, reserve ahead Aaron Wheeler, to the switch portal, as he’s off to St. John’s. Everybody else from final 12 months’s shock season returns, so there’s a continuity there that’s unmatched by just about any group within the nation. He can be changed by two excellent incoming freshmen in Trey Kaufman-Renn and Caleb Furst, the highest two gamers within the state of Indiana final 12 months. Each might be bigger particular person contributors than Wheeler was.

The offense will focus on Jaden Ivey and Trevion Williams. Williams is likely one of the finest passing massive males you’ll see and calls for a double group on the rim. When he wants a breather Canadian sophomore Zach Edey is available in. Edey is a bodily pressure at 7’4” that can’t be guarded one-on-one. He spent the summer season taking part in for the Canadian U-19 group that took bronze on the World Cup and was an alternate on the senior Nationwide Crew that got here near qualifying for the Olympics. Within the semifinals of the U-19 he performed towards the USA with each Ivey and Furst. Each Edey and Ivey have been named to the all-tournament group. The summer season for these three (and Kaufman-Renn was invited to the tryout for the U.S. earlier than injuring his hand) solely made them higher.

The most important query for Purdue is its capturing. Can it discover a constant and dependable three-point shooter to go with its wealth of expertise within the submit and the person items of Ivey. Sasha Stefanovic is a fifth 12 months senior that has been round some time and has confirmed he can get scorching previously. Redshirt sophomore Brandon Newman can also be a wonderful shooter. This group is gifted, skilled, and really deep. Eric Hunter Jr. is a 3rd senior nonetheless round from Purdue’s 2019 Elite Eight run who’s a stable perimeter defender and may rating when wanted. Isaiah Thompson is an undersized junior guard who can get scorching from three. Mason Gillis was glorious as a redshirt freshman starter final 12 months on the energy ahead spot, however will start the season suspended for an off the court docket incident. Followers are additionally excessive on sophomore level guard Ethan Morton, who was restricted because of a bout of mono final 12 months. They’ve all performed collectively for some time now. So long as the capturing clicks Purdue is likely one of the finest groups within the nation. — Travis Miller, Hammer and Rails

6. Michigan Wolverines

Projected rotation: PG DeVante’ Jones, SG Eli Brooks, SF Caleb Houstan, PF Brandon Johns, C Hunter Dickinson

The brand new-look Wolverines’ beginning lineup includes a switch level guard for the second straight season (DeVante’ Jones), a senior who has by no means been a constant starter (Brandon Johns) and a five-star true freshman (Caleb Houstan). Senior guard Eli Brooks (9.5 factors per recreation) and sophomore middle Hunter Dickinson (14.1 factors per recreation) lead the beginning lineup in returning manufacturing and management, whereas key reserves sophomore ahead Terrance Williams, true freshman Moussa Diabate and sophomore guard Zeb Jackson will look to contribute early and sometimes off the bench. Juwan Howard gained the Massive Ten common season title final season in his second 12 months as head coach of the Wolverines, and are among the many favorites to win it once more together with Purdue and Illinois. The Wolverines are examined early with a Dec. 1 highway recreation at North Carolina, a Dec. 4 house recreation towards San Diego State, and pre-Christmas Massive Ten video games at Nebraska and residential towards Minnesota, so we must always have a stable grasp of what this group is fabricated from earlier than the New 12 months. — Von Lozon, Maize n Brew

West Virginia v Texas

Photograph by Chris Covatta/Getty Photographs

5. Texas Longhorns

Projected rotation: G Marcus Carr, G Andrew Jones, G Courtney Ramey, F Timmy Allen, F Tre Mitchell

One thing uncommon is occurring on the Forty Acres — it’s soccer season, however there’s a palpable buzz across the basketball program, led by first-year head coach Chris Beard. The energetic former Texas Tech head coach hasn’t simply put within the work to attach with college students, alumni, and former gamers, he’s landed probably the most gifted rosters in program historical past although solely 4 gamers returned from Shaka Sensible’s 2020-21 group that gained the college’s first Massive 12 Event title earlier than flaming out within the first spherical of the NCAA Event with an upset loss to Abilene Christian.

For a program that hasn’t gained an NCAA Event recreation since 2014, the 12 months earlier than the Rick Barnes period ended, a way of apprehension lingers, the pangs of yearly disappointment stacked one on prime of the opposite. A significant query mark surrounds whether or not Beard can mildew a roster of gamers who have been main scorers and playmakers right into a cohesive unit. However there’s additionally that super hope, too, as a result of few coaches are higher suited to take gifted transfers like Marcus Carr, Timmy Allen, Dylan Disu, and Tre Mitchell and switch them into an precise group — Beard has been doing it his complete profession.

If these transfers mesh with returnees like Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey, Texas has the expertise to contend for the Massive 12 title and the depth to make a Closing 4 run. — Wescott Eberts, Burnt Orange Nation

4. Villanova Wildcats

Projected rotation: G Collin Gillespie, G Justin Moore, G Caleb Daniels, F Jermaine Samuels, F Brandon Slater

Villanova enters the 2021-22 season anchored by five-year seniors Jermaine Samuels and BIG EAST Preseason Participant of the 12 months, Collin Gillespie. Jay Wright’s squad has a powerful backcourt with Gillespie on the level and stable expertise across the perimeter. The lack of Jeremiah Robinson-Earl as an early-entry to the NBA Draft leaves a gap for the Wildcats with their inside recreation that may partially be full of the rise of sophomore Eric Dixon. Junior guard Justin Moore is a star within the ready.

The BIG EAST coaches tabbed the Wildcats because the group to beat within the convention. Followers can be excited by a powerful schedule that features journeys to the West Coast to face UCLA and to Waco, TX to play Baylor. ‘Nova may even face Syracuse as part of the non-conference schedule in addition to take part within the Corridor of Fame Tip Off the place they may play Tennessee (after which North Carolina or Purdue). A Massive 5 schedule and the BIG EAST Gauntlet will spherical out the Villanova season because the ‘Cats have their eyes on the college’s third Nationwide Championship in six tournaments. – Mike Jacobs, VU Hoops

Eastern Washington v Kansas

Photograph by Maddie Meyer/Getty Photographs

3. Kansas Jayhawks

Projected rotation: G Remy Martin, G Dajuan Harris Jr, G Ochai Agbaji, F Jalen Wilson, C David McCormack

Kansas returns a particularly deep, gifted, and skilled roster. Invoice Self usually solely goes eight or perhaps 9 deep in any given 12 months, however has already talked about going ten deep this season. Self was very lively within the switch portal this previous offseason, including Remy Martin from Arizona State in addition to transfers G Jalen Coleman-Lands (Iowa State), G Joseph Yesufu (Drake), and F Cam Martin (Missouri Southern). G Christian Braun and F Mitch Lightfoot ought to nonetheless be first off the bench, however Kansas additionally added 4 4-star recruits in G Bobby Pettiford, G Kyle Cuff Jr, F Zach Clemence, and F KJ Adams to the roster.

The Jayhawks positioned three – Agbaji, Martin, McCormack – on the preseason All-Massive 12 group, and have been a runaway favourite to win the Massive 12 once more within the preseason coaches ballot. Moreover, Remy Martin was additionally chosen because the Massive 12’s Preseason Participant of the 12 months. Kansas opens the season ranked #3 by the AP and KenPom, and can be a Closing 4 decide for a lot of from the get-go. With Texas and Baylor within the preseason top-10 as effectively, the Massive 12 is completely loaded this 12 months.

As standard, the Jayhawks will play a difficult non-conference schedule as effectively, highlighted by Michigan State, Kentucky, St. John’s, and Colorado, however KU should not have any hassle extending its file Head coach Kelvin Sampson has turned Houston right into a persistently good program. The Cougars are coming off one in all their most profitable seasons in class historical past with a Closing 4 look, which had not occurred since 1984. Protection has been a powerful level and it’s more likely to proceed. Houston misplaced some key gamers however the roster nonetheless counts with quite a lot of expertise from returners and a few new stable additions. All-AAC guard Marcus Sasser, the second-leading scorer final season, can be again together with Tramon Mark, who performed in all 32 video games his freshman 12 months. Though Fabian White Jr. solely performed in 13 video games final season, he may even be a beneficial returner since he began in 31 video games the earlier 12 months with a productive 9.3 factors and 5.5 rebounds per recreation. The additions of senior Kyler Edwards from Texas Tech and graduate pupil Taze Moore from Cal State Bakersfield makes the roster stronger. Houston might be anticipated to be a contender for one more AAC title.

NCAA Event look streak to 32. Search for Invoice Self to get one more 1 or 2 seed in March, and with this roster’s mix of expertise and expertise, don’t be too stunned should you see Self and the Jayhawks reducing down the nets in New Orleans subsequent April. — Mike Plank, Rock Chalk Talk

2. UCLA Bruins

Projected rotation: G Tyger Campbell, G Johnny Juzang, F Peyton Watson, F Jaime Jaquez, C Cody Riley

It must be unimaginable for this system with probably the most nationwide championships in faculty basketball historical past to be thought of a Cinderella, however that’s precisely what occurred to UCLA final 12 months after a irritating common season barely put them within the NCAA match as a No. 11 seed. As soon as there, UCLA dodged a number of bullets to make a charmed run to the Closing 4 earlier than their luck lastly ran out on Jalen Suggs’ halfcourt buzzer-beater.

Nearly all of final 12 months’s group is again. Johnny Juzang returns as the first possibility after a breakout run in March and must be one of many prime perimeter scorers in America. Jaime Jaquez is one other massive ahead who can house the ground, whereas Tyger Campbell is a throwback flooring normal who will get UCLA organized within the halfcourt. Cody Riley and Rutgers switch Myles Johnson give the Bruins two beginning caliber facilities on the within. There’s additionally potential lottery decide Peyton Watson, an extended and athletic true freshman wing who must be an ace defender whereas scoring on cuts and transition alternatives. The Bruins aren’t sneaking up on anybody this 12 months. — Ricky O’Donnell

Baylor v Gonzaga

Photograph by Jamie Squire/Getty Photographs

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Projected rotation: G Andrew Nembhard, G Rasir Bolton, G Hunter Sallis, F Drew Timme, C Chet Holmgren

Final 12 months, the Zags have been the preseason AP No. 1 group and broadly thought of the perfect group in faculty basketball. Everyone knows how that turned out within the nationwide championship. So right here we’re, for spherical two. As soon as once more, the Zags are the preseason AP No. 1 group and broadly thought of the most effective groups in faculty basketball. So what’s totally different? Is that this group higher than final 12 months’s? The Zags misplaced quite a bit. Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert, and Joel Ayayi all departed for the NBA. Nonetheless, the items that stay are greater than sufficient to generate the requisite degree of hype for one more Closing 4 run. Drew Timme was final 12 months’s KenPom POY and is likely one of the (if not the) finest forwards in faculty hoops. Andrew Nembhard has full management of the offense. Chet Holmgren is a unicorn prospect with a skillset faculty basketball hasn’t seen packaged into one particular person participant. The Zags additionally grabbed one other five-star recruit in Hunter Sallis and a low-five/high-four in Nolan Hickman to spherical out the perfect recruiting class in class historical past. Then, you add in extremely ranked gamers we hardly ever noticed final season akin to Julian Strawther, a four-star bucket getter, and, if he returns from damage, Dominick Harris, a high-level scorer and defender.

The Zags are so loaded, the one assured starters we all know of are Holmgren, Nembhard, and Timme; so take that projected lineup with a grain of salt. This group is far youthful than final 12 months’s: 10 of the 17 gamers on the roster are freshmen or sophomores, so there can be some rising pains. Don’t anticipate the Zags to run the desk all the best way till the tip like they did final season. Nonetheless, in comparison with final 12 months, they’re much deeper at nearly each place they usually have nearly as good of an opportunity as anybody to chop down the nets within the nationwide championship recreation for the primary time in class historical past. — Peter Woodburn, The Slipper Still Fits

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