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Aaron Torres College Hoops 'Way Too Early Top 25' for 2024-2025

It's Monday night, another champion has been crowned - and you know what time it is. Time to look ahead to next year!

That's right, like we do every year - here is our "Way Too Early Top 25."

With a twist: It has never been harder to do these, and this will change a lot over the next couple weeks. In addition to the normal transfer portal stuff, we also have major coaching changes (not sure if you heard, John Calipari is going to Arkansas) and there are still a few high school stars available. Also, this is the final year of the Covid bonus year, so a lot of players who've played four years of college hoops will have a decision to make.

Despite it, the show must go on - and remember, a lot will change in the next few weeks. Kentucky, Arkansas and St. John's aren't in this Top 25 - but we expect to change that in a hurry over these next few weeks.

1. Duke Blue Devils

Key Returnees: Tyrese Proctor, Mark Mitchell, Jeremy Roach, Sean Stewart, TJ Power, Jaylen Blakes

Key Losses: Kyle Filipowski, Jared McCain, Ryan Young

Key Newcomers: Cooper Flagg, Isaiah Evans, Kon Knueppel, Patrick Ngongba II, Darren Harris

Of every team in these rankings, Duke is one of the harder to project. Tyrese Proctor and Mark Mitchell in theory could go pro, but might not and Jeremy Roach has another year of eligibility if he chooses to use it.

So there could be a nice veteran core, but of course, the headliner is Cooper Flagg. The No. 1 high school player in America is surrounded by a deep and talent freshman group, and as of now, we are assuming the veterans to return.

Look for Flagg to take over most of Kyle Filipowski's production this year (if not more), and if those veterans return this should be your preseason No. 1 team.

2. Alabama Crimson Tide

Key Returnees: Mark Sears, Grant Nelson, Rylan Griffen, Jarin Stevenson, Latrell Wrightsell Jr., Sam Walters, Nick Pringle, Davin Cosby Jr., Mohamed Wague

Key Departures: Aaron Estrada

Key Additions: Houston Mallette (transfer), Derrion Reid, Aiden Sherrell, Naas Cunningham

While the end of Alabama's season was disappointing, with a Final Four loss to UConn, here is the truth: The future is plenty bright for the Crimson Tide.

In theory, Alabama could return everyone from this year's Final Four run except Aaron Estrada. Mark Sears, Grant Nelson and Jarin Stevenson all have NBA Draft decisions to make, but with none projected as first rounders, all three could return. The Tide also bring in two McDonald's All-Americans in Derrion Reid and Aiden Sherrell.

Like so many others, it's hard to know exactly what this roster looks like. But on paper, this is the SEC favorite, and maybe a national title favorite as well.

3. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Key Returnees: Ryan Nembhard, Graham Ike, Ben Gregg, Nolan Hickman, Braden Huff, Dusty Stromer, Steele Venters

Key Departures: Anton Watson

Key Additions: N/A

I'll readily admit that I was hard on Mark Few all season, but the year ended with one of his best coaching jobs - getting to the Zags into the Sweet 16.

And in 2024-2025, they should make their back into the conversation of nationally elite.

With no real front line NBA prospects on the roster, the Zags could - and probably should - return six of their key seven players, including point guard Ryan Nembhard and Graham Ike.

With only Anton Watson out the door, the Zags team that finished the season red hot, should start the season as one of the nation's best next year.

4. Kansas Jayhawks

Key Returnees: DaJuan Harris Jr., Hunter Dickinson, Elmarko Jackson, KJ Adams Jr.

Key Departures: Kevin McCullar Jr., Johnny Furphy, Nick Timberlake, Parker Braun

Key Newcomers: Zeke Mayo (transfer), Riley Kugel (transfer), Flory Bidunga, Labaron Philon, Rakease Passmore

When Bill Self told reporters "I've been planning for next year for a month" following an NCAA Tournament loss, he wasn't lying. The Jayhawks have been one of the most active teams in the portal early, adding a pair of high-end guards in Summit League Player of the Year Zeke Mayo and Florida Sixth Man Riley Kugel.

Add them in with a core that includes DaJuan Harris and KJ Adams, and the Jayhawks should be good to go a season from now.

The big questions for the Jayhawks: Does Hunter Dickinson use his extra Covid year in 2024-2025? And does Johnny Furphy test the NBA Draft process or return for another season.

Keep both and they might be your preseason No. 1.

5. Houston Cougars

Key Returnees: LJ Cryer, Emmanuel Sharp, J'Wan Roberts, Ja'Vier Francis, Terrence Arceneaux, Mylik Wilson, Joseph Tugler

Key Departures: Jamal Shead, Damian Dunn (transfer)

Key Additions: Chase McCarty, Mercy Miller

At this point, we're just betting on Kelvin Sampson - because why the heck wouldn't we?

But even if you're a doubter, the reigning Big 12 champs return plenty of talent in 2024-2025.

It's obviously hard to imagine All-American Jamal Shead returning, but beyond that, most of the key pieces of this year's team should be back. Emmanuel Sharp was a breakout start this season and LJ Cryer came on late as the team's much-needed scoring pop. J'Wan Roberts, Ja'Vier Francis and Joseph Tugler provide toughness down low.

Someone will need to step up at point guard. But again, we trust Kelvin Sampson.

6. UConn Huskies

Key Returnees: Alex Karaban, Hassan Diarra, Jaylin Stewart, Solo Ball

Key Departures: Tristen Newton, Cam Spencer, Stephon Castle, Donovan Clingan

Key Newcomers: Ahmad Nowell, Isaiah Abraham

Speaking of inherent trust, how can you not expect another big year from the now two-time defending champion.

On the one hand, UConn will almost certainly lose four starters off this year's title team (Tristen Newton, Cam Spencer, Stephon Castle, Donovan Clingan) but then again, didn't they lose three last year as well?

Right now you have to assume that veteran Alex Karaban will return and that Big East Sixth Man of the Year Hassan Diarra will use his Covid year of eligibility, and Jaylin Stewart is a breakout star in the making.

The Huskies definitely need to add a few pieces in the portal or late in the high school class, but as a source told me this week "any player UConn will want this off-season - they'll have a shot at."

There's zero doubt about that.

7. Iowa State Cyclones

Key Returnees: Keshon Gilbert, Tamin Lipsey, Curtis Jones, Milan Momcilovic

Key Departures: Tre King, Robert Jones, Hason Ward, Omaha Bilew (transfer)

Key Additions: Nate Heise (transfer), Dishon Jackson (transfer)

The Cyclones were one of the great stories of the college basketball season - and could be an even better one with several key pieces back.

The backcourt returns mostly intact, with Keshon Gilbert and Tamin Lipsey returning, and it should be a big sophomore year for  Milan Momcilovic. Iowa State will need some pieces in the frontcourt, but have already gotten to work, and the addition of Charlotte center Dishon Johnson should certainly help things.

Like this season, expect the Cyclones to compete with Houston and Kansas, atop the Big 12.

8. Arizona Wildcats

Key Returnees: Jaden Bradley, KJ Lewis, Kylan Boswell, Motiejus Krivas

Key Departures: Caleb Love, Keshad Johnson, Oumar Ballo, Pelle Larsson

Key Newcomers: Carter Bryant, Jamari Phillips, Joson Sanon, Emmanuel Stephen

It's hard to argue against Arizona being one of the most talented teams in college hoops next season, but the question is can they break into that upper tier and truly compete for a national title.

The talent will certainly be there.

As of now, Kylan Boswell will be back at point guard, but the real story may be youngsters Jaden Bradley (a late season breakout player) and emerging star KJ Lewis taking on bigger roles. It's the same in the front court where Motiejus Krivas is definitely the guy, after a big freshman season this year.

Speaking of freshmen, the Wildcats add McDonald's All-American Carter Bryant, reclassified five-star Joson Sanon and high four-star Jamari Phillips, to what is, again, one of the most talented rosters in the sport.

9. Purdue Boilermakers 

Key Returnees: Braden Smith, Fletcher Loyer, Will Berg, Mason Gillis, Trey Kaufmann-Wrenn, Myles Colvin

Key Departures: Zach Edey, Lance Jones 

Key Additions: Kanon Catchings, Gicarri Harris, Daniel Jacobsen

The Boilermakers came up short of a title on Monday night, but should again be the class of the Big Ten in 2024-2025.

The backcourt of Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer return, and emerging star Myles Colvin should take over the role of Lance Jones. Trey Kaufmann-Wrenn returns, and Mason Gillis has a Covid year if he wants it.

The big question - how does Purdue replace Zach Edey?

While the production will be impossible to replace, 7'2 Will Berg is ready to step in, and 7'3 freshman Daniel Jacobsen arrives on campus as well. Matt Painter definitely has a type, doesn't he?!

10. North Carolina Tar Heels

Key Returnees: Harrison Ingram, Eliot Cadeau, Seth Trimble, Jalen Washington, Jae'Lyn Withers

Key Losses: Armando Bacot, RJ Davis, Cormac Ryan, Paxson Wojcik

Key Newcomers: Ian Jackson, Drake Powell, James Brown

Veteran stalwart Armando Bacot is officially out of eligibility and right now, we're projecting RJ Davis (who has a Covid year) to leave as well. But it doesn't take away from the fact that the Tar Heels still have one of the most talented rosters in the sport.

Harrison Ingram was a breakout star this season at Carolina, and could be an All-American in 2024-2025, and Eliot Cadeau's reclassification allows him to have a year of college under his belt. In addition to some other key returnees, the Tar Heels also add a pair of McDonald's All-Americans as well, with Ian Jackson and Drake Powell showing up to campus ready to become stars.

The Tar Heels are a nice blend of veteran talent, with high-upside freshmen, and should be one of the more fun teams in the sport to watch.

11. Tennessee Volunteers

Key Returnees: Zakai Ziegler, Jonas Aidoo, Tobe Awaka, Justin Gainey, Jamai Mashack, JP Estrella, Freddie Dillone

Key Departures: Dalton Knecht, Josiah Jordan-James, Santiago Vescovi

Key Additions: Bishop Boswell

Clearly the story and question surrounding this team will be, who replaces the offense of Dalton Knecht?! That will be the big thing to monitor this spring.

At the same time, what can't be denied: The Vols return a ton of veteran talent.

Zakai Ziegler is back leading the charge at point guard, with sharp shooting Justin Gainey beside him, with Jonas Aidoo and Tobe Awaka manning the front court. Jahmai Mashack is a defensive stopper, and JP Estrella and Freddie Dillone showed flashes as freshmen this year.

Again, this team is a piece or two away. But not as far off as you think either.

12. BYU Cougars

Key Returnees: Jaxson Robinson, Foussa Traore, Trevin Knell, Spencer Johnson, Richie Saunders, Noah Waterman, Aly Khalifa

Key Departures: N/A

Key Additions: Brooks Bahr

This is the first real curveball on this list, but we're high on the BYU Cougars going into next year.

In their first year in the Big 12 BYU not only made the NCAA Tournament, but ended up with a six seed (it would've been a No. 5 if the school allowed the team to play on Sundays) and in theory, could return essentially every player of note off this year's team.

Now with all that said, BYU also may have more caveats than anyone else on this list. First, star Jaxson Robinson has already declared for the draft. This ranking is contigent on him coming back. The Cougars also have several seniors that could, or could not, use a Covid year of eligibility. Finally, they have to make sure their coach returns - as Mark Pope could, in theory, be a candidate at Kentucky.

Assuming it all comes together, this squad has Final Four potential.

13. Auburn Tigers

Key Returnees: Johni Broome, Chad Baker-Mazara, Aden Holloway, Denver Jones, Dylan Cardwell, Chaney Johnson

Key Departures: Jaylin Williams, Tre Donaldson (transfer), KD Johnson (transfer)

Key Additions: Tahad Pettiford, Jahki Howard

Credit Bruce Pearl who has built something sustainable year over year at Auburn. And it will be no different in 2024-2025.

The key for this team is the return of Johni Broome, who has an extra year of Covid eligibility. Assuming he's back, he'll join a nice core featuring wing Chad Baker-Mazara and Denver Jones, and like Broome, Dylan Cardwell could use his Covid year of eligibility.

Point guard Aden Holloway made strides late, with star freshman Tahad Pettiford coming in to shore up the backcourt.

14. Marquette Golden Eagles

Key Returnees: Kam Jones, David Joplin, Stevie Mitchell, Chase Ross, Ben Gold, Sean Jones, Tre Norman

Key Departures: Tyler Kolek, Oso Ighodaro,

Key Newcomers: Damarius Owens, Royce Parham

This might be a bit high on the Golden Eagles, but even with the departures of Tyler Kolek and Oso Ighodaro, there is still plenty of talent on this roster.

Most resides in the backcourt where Kam Jones will be one of teh best guards in the Big East, Ben Gold is a solid stretch big man, and they will be surrounded by plenty of speed and shooting.

This team might not have the ceiling of the previous two Marquette teams, but their floor is higher than most people probably think.

15. Baylor Bears

Key Returnees: Jalen Bridges, Langston Love, Jayden Nunn, Josh Ojianwuna

Key Departures: Ja'Kobe Walter, RayJ Dennis, Yves Missi

Key Additions: VJ Edgecombe, Noah Boyed, Rob Wright, Jason Asemoa

Freshman guards have been x-factors the last two years in Waco, and in 2024-2025 it will be no different. Two years after Keyonte George was a one-year star, and a year after Ja'Kobe Walter did the same - America meet VJ Edgecombe.

As the kids say: The dude is just different.

Team him up with a veteran core that includes Jalen Bridges, Langston Love and Jayden Nunn and Scott Drew will have another special team in Waco.

Assuming of course that Scott Drew stays in Waco and doesn't take the Kentucky job.

16. UCLA Bruins

Key Returnees: Sebastian Mack, Dylan Andrews, Lazar Stefanovic, Berke Buyuktuncel, Aday Mara, Brandon Williams, Devin Williams

Key Departures: Adem Bona, Will McClendon,

Key Additions: Skyy Clark (transfer), Kobe Johnson (transfer)

While it feels certain that UCLA will lose Adem Bona to the pros, we're going to bet that Mick Cronin won't have two bad seasons in a row.

Outside of Bona, most key contributors should be back, and the Bruins have been able to make early moves in the portal, adding guard Skyy Clark and USC wing Kobe Johnson. Johnson is one of the best two-way wings in college hoops.

17. San Diego State

Key Returnees: Lamont Butler, Reese Waters, Micah Parrish, Darrion Tramell, Elijah Saunders

Key Departures: Jaedon LeDee, Jay Pal

Key Additions: N/A

Forgive me if this is getting repetitive, but this one relies a lot on the return of Butler, Parrish and Tramell, who, if I'm reading right can all exercise another year of eligibility. Of all three, Butler seems like the most likely to leave.

The front court will need to add some pieces, but wing Elijah Saunders is an emerging star to keep an eye on.

18. Miami Hurricanes

Key Returnees: Norchad Omier, Matthew Cleveland, Nijel Pack, Woogla Poplar 

Key Departures: Bensley Joseph, Kyshon George

Key Additions: Jalil Bethea, Austin Swartz, Lynn Kidd (transfer), Brandon Johnson (transfer)

Another place where I'm going to bet on the pedigree of the coach is Miami, where Jim Larranaga isn't really going to have two bad years in a row, is he?

This one hinges on both Norchad Omier and Nijel Pack using their extra Covid year, and if they do these two will be two of the best players in the ACC.

They'll be joined by another elite talent, Jalil Bethea, an elite one-and-done, Top 10 type talent.

19. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Key Returnees: Jeremiah Williams

Key Departures: Cliff Omoyuri, Gavin Griffiths, Noah Fernandes, Austin Williams

Key Additions: Ace Bailey, Dylan Harper, Tyson Acuff (transfer), Zach Martini (transfer)

The age old debate in college hoops continues to be - can you trust young talent to win you games, and the best test case next year might be an unusual place: Rutgers.

That's because in what is, quite literally, something we've never seen before, Piscataway is home to two of the best freshmen in the country. Ace Bailey is a legitimate threat to unseat Cooper Flagg as the No. 1 pick in the draft next year and Dylan Harper is a projected Top 10 pick as well.

To Steve Pikell's credit, he's working hard to get talent around them, already adding two key transfers this off-season, including Tyson Acuff, who averaged 21 points this season at Eastern Michigan

Still, it's all about the freshmen - and the Scarlet Knights will have two of the best.

20. Wisconsin Badgers

21. Saint Mary's Gaels

22. Seton Hall Pirates

23. Xavier Musketeers

24. New Mexico Lobos

25. Florida Gators


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