Updated: Jun 1, 2022
It's an annual spring tradition: The day the season ends, I always drop my "Way Too Early Top 25" immediately following the national championship game. I then periodically update it throughout the off-season season, as NBA Draft decisions come in and transfers make their portal decisions.
Well, with the deadline to declare for the NBA Draft on Sunday, it felt like a great time to update this bad boy again, with my "Post NBA Draft Deadline Top 25."
That's right, Sunday was the day where players officially had to enter their names if they wanted to be eligible for the draft, with several key players (Caleb Love, Hunter Dickinson, Oscar Tshiebwe, Armando Bacot) electing to return.
And when you add in transfers and a couple high school recruits, again, this felt like the perfect time to give the old Top 25 a tweak.
Here is your updated "Post NBA Draft Deadline Top 25" - with more updates to come throughout the summer.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels
Key Returnees: Caleb Love, Armando Bacot, RJ Davis, Leaky Black, Puff Johnson, Dontrez Styles, Justin McKoy, D'Marco Dunn
Key Departures: Brady Manek, Dawson Garcia (transfer), Kerwin Walton (transfer)
Key Additions: Seth Trimble, Jalen Washington, Tyler Nickel
In late April Caleb Love announced that he will return to college hoops for the 2022-2023 season. He followed in the footsteps of Armando Bacot, Leaky Black and RJ Davis, who all bypassed professional riches for one more run at a national title.
And with it, we have a new No. 1 team in the country as well.
Yes, some will argue that this is an overreaction to the NCAA Tournament - since North Carolina did start out as an eight-seed. But at the end of the day, they were really one of the best teams in college hoops over the final two months of the season. They went 13-3 in their final 16 games overall, which included two wins over Duke (at Cameron and in the Final Four), as well as victories over the defending national champion Baylor and a UCLA team gunning for a second straight Final Four.
Now, four starters and six of the top eight scorers overall are back for a team that was one game short of a title in 2022.
The bottom line: The Tar Heels are the team to beat heading into the 2023 season.
2. Houston Cougars
Key Returnees: Marcus Sasser, Tramon Mark, Jamal Shead, Ramon Walker, Reggie Chaney, J'Wan Roberts
Key Departures: Kyler Edwards, Taze Moore, Fabian White Jr., Josh Carlton
Key Additions: Jarace Walker, Terrance Arceneaux
Guard Marcus Sasser was one of the breakout players of the NBA pre-draft process, and it took until the final few hours for him to make his decision. But he is back, and the Houston Cougars officially one of your favorites to win next year's national title.
This is a Cougars squad that is coming off an Elite Eight appearance without its two best players, now brings back both Sasser and Tramon Mark healthy, to go with a great supporting cast. Sasser is a legitimate National Player of the Year candidate, Mark could be All-AAC first team, and Jamal Shead was a breakout star of last year's NCAA Tournament. Freshman Jarace Walker and Reggie Chaney add toughness down low, and keep an eye on four-star Terrance Arceneaux, who could be a difference-maker as well.
Houston made the Final Four back in 2021, and has all the pieces to get back - and maybe do more - in 2023.
3. Arkansas Razorbacks
Key Returnees: Devo Davis, Kimani Johnson
Key Departures: JD Notae, Jaylin Williams, Stanley Umude, Chris Lykes, Trey Wade, Au'Diese Toney, Conor Vanover (transfer) KK Robinson (transfer), Chance Moore (transfer), Jaxson Robinson (transfer)
Key Additions: Nick Smith Jr., Anthony Black, Jordan Walsh, Derrian Ford, Barry Dunning, Joseph Pinion, Trevon Brazile (transfer), Makhel Mitchell (transfer), Makhi Mitchell (transfer), Jalen Graham (transfer), Ricky Council (transfer)
Jaylin Williams officially declared for the NBA Draft a few days before the deadline, leaving the Hogs with just two returnees from last year's Elite Eight team. But you know what? When you look at the depth of talent and skill that Eric Musselman will bring in this off-season, it doesn't matter. The Hogs remain loaded.
First is the No. 2 ranked recruiting class in college hoops, which includes six players - six - in ESPN's Top 100. Nick Smith Jr. is a likely Top 5 pick in the next NBA Draft and Anthony Black isn't far behind, as a big point guard who can lead this offense. Jordan Walsh is a hyper-explosive, athletic wing.
Then there is the portal, and as always, Eric Musselman has cleaned up there. Trevon Brazile is a big forward with NBA potential, Makhel and Makhi Mitchell bring size, length and desperately needed rim protection to this team, and Jalen Graham was All-Pac 12 second team a season ago. Then there is the late addition of Ricky Council, another player with long-term NBA potential, who played the last two seasons at Wichita State. If you're not familiar with his game, well, here ya go.
Yes, there are a lot of new pieces. And it may take some time for them all to come together.
But the Hogs have the deepest, and maybe most talented team in college hoops entering 2022-2023. They are deserving of this ranking.
4. Creighton Bluejays
Key Returnees: Ryan Kalkbrenner, Arthur Kaluma, Ryan Nembhard, Trey Alexander, Shereef Mitchell, Rati Andronikashvili
Key Departures: Ryan Hawkins, Alex O'Connell, Keyshawn Feazell
Key Additions: Baylor Scheierman (transfer), Francisco Farabello (transfer)
The Jays return four starters off one of the hottest teams in college hoops to end the season, but the one thing they were missing was a stretch four to replace the production of Ryan Hawkins, who averaged 15 per game this season.
Well, they struck in a big way in transfer season - adding South Dakota State star Baylor Scheierman, one of the best players available. Scheierman averaged 16 points and seven boards per game for the Jackrabbits, all while shooting 47 percent from three, and should immediately fill the void left by Hawkins.
And with it, Scheierman now joins a core that includes one of the best bigs in college hoops (Ryan Kalkbrenner), an emerging wing (Arthur Kaluma) and several dynamic young guards. Ryan Nembhard averaged 11 points and 4.5 assists per game, while Trey Alexander emerged late for the Jays when Nembhard went down.
Still, the Jays needed one more piece and got it. They are the overwhelming Big East favorite, and a legit national title contender.
5. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Key Returnees: Drew Timme, Julian Strawther, Rasir Bolton, Anton Watson, Hunter Sallis, Nolan Hickman, Ben Gregg, Kaden Perry, Dominick Harris (redshirt)
Key Departures: Andrew Nembhard, Chet Holmgren
Key Additions: Efton Reid (transfer)
It took until minutes before the NBA Draft deadline, but Gonzaga officially got star Drew Timme back. And the Zags officially have a team good enough to win it all in 2022-2023.
In addition to Timme, Julian Strawther and Rasir Bolton (who each averaged 11 points per game last season) elected to return in the lead-up to the deadline, and they'll be joined by a pair of freshman guards (Nolan Hickman and Hunter Sallis) who could both make leaps next season. Strawther too is a breakout candidate, and don't sleep on the impact that LSU transfer Efton Reid can have on the front court.
Again, the Zags have a roster built to win it all. Yes, I know we say that every year. We'll see if 2022-2023 is when they finally capitalize.
6. UCLA Bruins
Key Returnees: Tyger Campbell, Jaime Jacquez, Jaylen Clark, Will McClendon (redshirt), Mac Etienne, David Singleton
Key Departures: Johnny Juzang, Cody Riley, Jules Bernard, Myles Johnson, Peyton Watson, Jake Kyman (transfer)
Key Additions: Amari Bailey, Adem Bona, Dylan Andrews
The picture on UCLA's 2022-2023 roster is starting to come together. Out are 2021 NCAA Tournament star Johnny Juzang and high-upside freshman Peyton Watson to the pros and forwards Cody Riley and Myles Johnson decided not to use their extra years of eligibility.. Meanwhile second leading scorer and rebounder Jaime Jacquez announced he will return, and so too will guard David Singleton with that Covid-year of eligiblity.
So the roster Tyger Campbell, Jaime Jacquez, Jaylen Clark, Will McClendon (redshirt), Mac Etienne, David Singleton plus three key freshmen is plenty intriguing, and good enough to compete for a deep tournament run. Point guard Tyger Campbell is back and McDonald's All-American Amari Bailey is an attacking guard that should pick up some of the offensive production of Juzang's absence. Down low, Jacquez provides scoring and freshman Adem Bona provides bulk.
Even without Juzang, I like the makeup of this group.
7. Kentucky Wildcats
Key Returnees: Oscar Tshiebwe, Sahvir Wheeler, Lance Ware, Daimion Collins, Jacob Toppin
Key Departures: Kellan Grady, Davion Mintz, TyTy Washington, Shaedon Sharpe (redshirt), Dontaie Allen (transfer), Bryce Hopkins (transfer), Keion Brooks (transfer)
Key Additions: Antonio Reeves (transfer), Chris Livingston, Casen Wallace
In late April, John Calipari got the best news he possibly could've: Oscar Tshiebwe, who literally won every National Player of the Year award in college hoops announced he will return for another season in Lexington. There is no bigger decision, anywhere in college hoops, that will impact the sport next year more than that. On the downside, we now know that Shaedon Sharpe - the No. 1 high school player in America - will never play a minute for Kentucky basketball after declaring for the pros, following a brief redshirt year.
Still, with the return of Tshiebwe, and Jacob Toppin back as well, the Wildcats again have a squad ready to compete at the top of the SEC. In addition to those two, Sahvir Wheeler is back at point guard, and when he was healthy, was one of the best guards in the SEC last year, leading the team in assists. CJ Fredrick is back to add shooting and two McDonald's All-Americans (Chris Livingston and Casen Wallace) arrive on campus, while Toppin could be a breakout star.
The Wildcats will need Wheeler to be more consistent (and healthy) and will need someone to step up in the backcourt or on the wing scoring (Reeves, Wallace, Toppin or someone else). But the Wildcats got back Oscar Tshiebwe, and they'll be a factor because of it.
8. Duke Blue Devils
Key Returnees: Jeremy Roach
Key Departures: Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, Trevor Keels, Mark Williams, Wendell Moore, Theo John
Key Additions: Dereck Lively II, Kyle Filipowski, Dariq Whitehead, Mark Mitchell, Jaden Schutt, Christian Reeves, Ryan Young (transfer), Kade Catchings (transfer)
Man, oh man, oh man, what do we make of Duke.
On the one hand, as you may have heard, for the first time since early 1980, Duke has someone other than Coach K patrolling the sidelines. That of course is Jon Scheyer, who will take over as a first-time, first year head coach. Not easy. They also return just one key player from this year's team, point guard Jeremy Roach.
On the other hand, Scheyer is, ya know, bringing in the No. 1 class in the country, with a group that includes four McDonald's All-Americans, including massive 7'1 center Dereck Lively II, stretch four Kyle Filipowski and wing Dariq Whitehead. They have added through the portal as well, most notably Northwestern big man Ryan Young.
With a first-year, first-time head coach and a roster full of mostly freshmen, it's tough to put Duke any higher. But they will once again have the talent to win it all in 2022-2023.
9. Baylor Bears
Key Returnees: Adam Flagler, LJ Cryer, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, Flo Thamba, Dale Bonner
Key Departures: James Akinjo, Kendall Brown, Jeremy Sochan, Matthew Mayer (transfer)
Key Additions: Keyonte George, Joshua Ojianwuna, Jalen Bridges (transfer), Caleb Lohner (transfer)
James Akinjo, Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sochan have all announced their intentions to go pro, but the Bears still have a team capable of competing for a Final Four.
Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer (who missed most of the season with foot injuries) are both back, and assuming they're healthy, can get buckets in the backcourt. Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (who also dealt with a season-ending injury) and Flo Thamba return in the frontcourt, and McDonald's All-American Keyonte George will arrive in the spring as the lead guard this team desperately needs.
More importantly, the Bears needed help on the wing and got it with West Virginia transfer Jalen Bridges. The former Top 100 recruit is a perfect fit to replace the production of Sochan and Brown. BYU transfer Caleb Lohner will add depth in the frontcourt as well.
Despite a litany of injuries last year, Baylor still managed to end up with a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If healthy, they will have a team good enough to win it all in 2022-2023.
10. Kansas Jayhawks
Key Returnees: DaJuan Harris, Jalen Wilson, Joseph Yesufu, Zach Clemence, Bobby Pettiford, KJ Adams
Key Departures: Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, Christian Braun, Remy Martin, Mitch Lightfoot, Jalen Coleman-Lands
Key Additions: Kevin McCullar (transfer), MJ Rice, Gradey Dick, Ernest Udeh Jr., Zuby Ejiofor
Kansas was your 2022 NCAA champs, and admittedly, they lose a ton of that team. At the same time, are you really betting against Bill Self that the Jayhawks will fall too far?
With Christian Braun's decision to remain in the draft it means three starters (along with All-American Ochai Agbagi and David McCormack) are gone, but the pieces are still there to compete at the top of the Big 12. Two starters (Jalen Wilson and DaJuan Harris return) and they will be joined by talented Texas Tech transfer Kevin McCullar, a two-way star that can be the Jayhawks best player if he remains healthy. Three McDonald's All-Americans arrive in the freshman class.
(Note: Wilson and McCullar are both currently testing the draft waters, but we're projecting them to come back)
One thing worth keeping an eye on: The NCAA should finally deliver punishment this summer to Kansas following the FBI probe of several years ago. There's at least a possibility the reigning champ won't be eligible for the 2023 Big Dance.
11. Tennessee Volunteers
Key Returnees: Santiago Vescovi, Josiah Jordan-James, Zakai Zeigler, Uros Plavsic, Olivier Nkamhoua, Jonas Aidoo
Key Departures: John Fulkerson, Kennedy Chandler, VJ Bailey (transfer), Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (transfer), Justin Powell (transfer)
Key Additions: Julian Phillips, BJ Edwards, Tyreke Key (transfer)
Late last week Santiago Vescovi announced he would return, and with it, most of the core of a Vols team that won the SEC tournament last spring - and was one of the hottest teams in the country in March - is now back.
Gone are John Fulkerson, Kennedy Chandler and center Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (who made a (semi) surprising decision to transfer). But returning is literally everyone else. Zakai Zeigler should take the reins from Chandler and become the full-time starter at point guard with Vescovi and Josiah Jordan-James providing pop on the wing. The Vols also added Indiana State transfer Tyreke Key for depth in the backcourt as well and got huge news when five-star wing Julian Phillips signed on with the Vols late. The frontcourt should again be loaded with Uros Plavsic, Jonas Aidoo, all returning, and Olivier Nkamhoua coming back from injury.
There's no reason the Vols can't pick up right where they left off last season.
12. Indiana Hoosiers
Key Returnees: Trayce Jackson-Davis, Xavier Johnson, Race Thompson, Jordan Geronimo, Trey Galloway, Tamar Bates, Anthony Leal
Key Departures: Rob Phinisee (transfer), Khristian Lander (transfer), Parker Stewart (transfer)
Key Additions: Jalen Hood-Schifino, Malik Reneau, CJ Gunn
Don't laugh, but with Trayce Jackson-Davis announcing his return to Indiana - the Hoosiers, yes, Mike Woodson's Indiana Hoosiers are the favorites in the Big Ten.
Jackson-Davis' return means that five of the top six scorers off last year's NCAA Tournament team are back in Bloomington. That includes an All-Big Ten forward in TJD and Xavier Johnson, a guard who really took off over the final few weeks of the season. Veteran forward Race Thompson will also return, after averaging 11 points and 7.5 rebounds this season. He adds toughness and experience to a frontcourt that also added five-star forward Malik Reneau this week. Speaking of five-stars, Jalen Hood-Schifino arrives as a McDonald's All-American and guard Tamar Bates could be a breakout player as a former five-star sophomore. Jordan Geronimo and Trey Galloway add depth.
Yes, the Hoosiers are the favorites in this conference. Say it with me now: Mike F***ing Woodson, baby!
13. TCU Horned Frogs
Key Returnees: Mike Miles, Damion Baugh, Eddie Lampkin, Emanuel Miller, Micah Peavy
Key Departures: Chuck O'Bannon, Francisco Farabello (transfer)
Key Additions: PJ Haggerty
There aren't a lot of memorable moments in TCU basketball history, but the Horned Frogs pushing No. 1 seed Arizona to the wire - in a game they probably should've won - is one of the enduring moments of the NCAA Tournament.
Well now, the core of that team is back.
Star guard Mike Miles had a weird early April, where he declared with the intentions to stay in, only to say that he was testing the waters, and then decided to return altogether (hmm, maybe an NIL deal appeared out of thin air?!). Regardless, his return means that TCU has arguably the best guard in the Big 12 back, after Miles after 15 points and four assists per game, and earned All-Big 12 second team honors. So too is tournament darling Eddie Lampkin, who had 20 points and 14 boards in that near upset over Arizona.
Overall, five of the top six scorers are expected back for a team that was red-hot down the stretch. The Horned Frogs are legit good enough to win the Big 12.
14. Auburn Tigers
Key Returnees: KD Johnson, Zep Jasper, Wendell Green, Allen Flannigan, Jaylin Williams, Dylan Cardwell
Key Departures: Jabari Smith, Walker Kessler, Devan Cambridge (transfer)
Key Additions: Johni Broome(transfer), Yohan Traore, Chance Westry, Tre Donaldson
Obviously, there are frontcourt pieces to fill after the departures of Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler - and Auburn has done that in a big way.
They added one of the best bigs in the portal, Johni Broome, a monstrous low post presence who averaged 17 points, 10 rebounds and nearly four blocks per game this year. This, in addition to five-star Yohan Traore, a former LSU commit. These two are different than Kessler and Smith, no doubt. But should replace most of their production.
They join the much-maligned backcourt of Wendell Green, Zep Jasper and KD Johnson all return, and Allen Flannigan should be close to 100 percent after injury recovery slowed him this year.
Obviously more consistent guard play will be key. But the Tigers have the pieces to once again be a threat in the SEC.
15. UConn Huskies
Key Returnees: Andre Jackson, Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins, Samson Johnson, Alex Karaban (redshirt)
Key Departures: RJ Cole, Tyrese Martin, Isaiah Whaley, Tyler Polley, Jalen Gaffney (transfer), Rashool Diggins (transfer), Akok Akok (transfer), Corey Floyd Jr. (transfer)
Key Additions: Tristen Newton (transfer), Nahiem Alleyne (transfer), Hasaan Diarra (transfer) Donovan Clinglan
Ok, so this may be my UConn bias showing, but I once again really like this UConn squad.
All-Big East guard RJ Cole is gone, as is do everything wing Tyrese Martin, but a core of All-Big East big man Adama Sanogo and wings Andre Jackson and Jordan Hawkins return. Hawkins has the potential to be a breakout star, after showing flashes as a freshman, and Dan Hurley has said that he believes both he and Jackson have a future in the NBA.
More importantly, UConn is proving the two-way value of the portal. While the fan-base was initially frustrated at losing some back-end bench players and young guys, Hurley immediately sprung into action and replaced them with two experienced college guards. Tristen Newton is a big lead guard who averaged 18 points, five rebounds and five assists at East Carolina, while Nahiem Alleyne is a dead-eye shooter who hit 37 percent from beyond the arc at Virginia Tech last year. Reshirt Alex Karaban and big man Donovan Clingan will provide depth in the front court.
Hurley has vowed that he wants to play smaller, faster and with more pace next year - and now has a roster to do exactly that.
16. Alabama Crimson Tide
Key Returnees: Jahvon Quinerly, Noah Gurley, Charles Bediako, Darius Miles, Nimari Burnett (redshirt)
Key Departures: Jaden Shackelford, Keon Ellis, James Rojas, JD Davison, Alex Tchikou (transfer), Keon Ambrose-Hylton (transfer), Jusuan Holt (transfer), Juwan Gary (transfer)
Key Additions: Brandon Miller, Jaden Bradley, Rylan Griffen, Noah Clowney, Nick Pringle, Mark Sears (transfer), Dominick Welch (transfer)
The Crimson Tide started at No. 24 in the initial "Too Early Top 25" but in our update, they are one of our biggest movers.
One, Jahvon Quinerly - who suffered a season-ending injury in an NCAA Tournament loss to Notre Dame - decided to return, rather than go pro. He won't be 100 percent to start the season, but you simply can't express how big the addition of a fifth-year point guard will be for this team. Additionally, Mark Sears a 20-point a game scorer at Ohio has committed as well, as did former Saint Bonaventure guard Dominick Welch.
So when you add those two with the No. 3 recruiting class in the country - headlined by a pair of McDonald's All-Americans - and the fact that transfer Nimari Burnett (a former McDonald's All-American in his own right) is returning from injury, it only felt right to move this team up. Burnett could be the missing piece for this program, as he'll provide toughness, experience, and talent in the backcourt next year, after missing all of 2021-2022 with an ACL injury.
17. Villanova Wildcats
Key Returnees: Brandon Slater, Caleb Daniels, Justin Moore, Eric Dixon, Jordan Longino, Chris Arcidiacono, Nnanna Njoku, Trey Patterson, Angelo Brizzi (redshirt)
Key Departures: Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels, Bryan Antoine (transfer)
Key Additions: Cam Whitmore, Mark Armstrong, Brendan Hausen
Jay Wright is gone, a few key pieces left with him, and it really is impossible to know what to make of this team.
Even as long-time assistant Kyle Neptune returns, there are still questions to be answered about this roster. Justin Moore is coming off major injury in the NCAA Tournament and probably won't play at all next season, meaning that last year's role players like Eric Dixon, Caleb Daniels and Brandon Slater will be relied on to play bigger roles. Soon-to-be sophomore Jordan Longino stepped up late and the hope is that he can improve, and forward Cam Whitmore could be a Day 1 difference-maker (if such a thing exists at Villanova).
Point being, the pieces are there, but it's just impossible to know what to expect from this program next year. Villanova will be one of the more fascinating stories in college hoops in 2022-2023.
18. Arizona Wildcats
Key Returnees: Kerr Kriisa, Pelle Larsson, Oumar Ballo, Azoulas Tubelis, Adama Bal, Shane Nowell
Key Departures: Benn Mathurin, Christian Koloko, Dalen Terry, Justin Kier
Key Additions: Dylan Anderson, Filip Borovicanin, Henri Veesaar
Prior to Dalen Terry's decision to stay in the NBA Draft I had Arizona in the Top 10, But after his announcement Tuesday that he would go pro, I had to drop the Wildcats a few spots.
Still, I believe that in a thin Pac-12, they can compete right behind UCLA.
Gone are the top three players (Bennedict Mathurin, Christian Koloko, Terry) from last year's No. 1 seed, but three key players still return. Kerr Krissa was one of the best point guards in college hoops last year, and Oumar Ballo was a revelation down low, who should step into a bigger role. Adama Bal is an emerging piece, and incoming freshman Henri Veesaar was considered the best European prospect to come to college in this cycle.
A lot will rest on Azoulas Tubelis return to his 2020-2021 form (when he was one of the best freshmen bigs in America). But there is still a core here which can win a lot of games. The Wildcats may also still add a piece or two in the portal.
19. San Diego State Aztecs
Key Returnees: Matt Bradley, Keshad Johnson, Lamont Butler, Nathan Mensah, Chad Baker-Mazara, Adam Seiko, Jaedon Lee
Key Departures: Trey Pulliam, Joshua Tomaic
Key Additions: Darrion Trammell (transfer), Micah Parrish (transfer)
So, over the last few days, something kind of interesting happened. Know that Creighton team that everyone (including myself) are hyping coming into next year, in large part because they return four starters from a second round NCAA Tournament team?
Well San Diego State gave them fits in Round 1, led by a bunch of points late, and easily could've won that game. With last week's announcement that Nathan Mensah is returning for another season of school, they return four starters as well. Why are the Aztecs not getting more love?
Leading scorer Matt Bradley is back, as are five of the top six scorers on last year's 23-9 as well. Nathan Mensah is back to patrol the paint for one of the nation's best defensive teams, and they've added size and experience in the transfer portal, with Jaedon Lee now eligible and Darrion Trammell and Micah Parrish coming from the mid-major ranks.
This team has a chance to be really good and we should find out early, as they play in a loaded Maui Invitational field that includes Arkansas, Creighton, Arizona and Texas Tech among others.
20. Xavier Musketeers
Key Returnees: Jack Nunge, Colby Jones, Zach Freemantle, Adam Kunkel, Jerome Hunter
Key Departures: Paul Scruggs, Nate Johnson, Dwon Odom (transfer)
Key Additions: Souley Boum (transfer), Kam Craft, Desmond Claude
Xavier really was a wild team last season. At one point they were so good they moved into the Top 25, only to completely melt down late, causing the firing of Travis Steele. Then they got to the NIT, and won it all under interim head coach Jonas Hayes.
Well now, the core of that team returns to play for Sean Miller. That includes one of the few consistents from last season in Jack Nunge, wing Colby Jones and three-point shooter Adam Kunkel.
Miller still probably has a piece or two to add in the portal. But depending on what he does, this could be a Top 15 team to start the season.
21. Texas A&M Aggies
Key Returnees: Henry Coleman, Tyrece Radford, Wade Taylor IV, Andre Gordon, Manny Obaseki, Hayden Hefner, Ethan Henderson
Key Departures: Quenton Jackson, Hasaan Diarra (transfer), Aaron Cash (transfer), Marcus Williams (transfer)
Key Additions: Solomon Washington
Some will say this is a preposterously high ranking for the NIT runner's up, to which I say: Well, show me the teams I should definitively put ahead of them?
Keep in mind that the Aggies weren't just good in the NIT but awesome late in the season, where they won at Alabama and beat Auburn and Arkansas in the SEC Tournament before losing to Tennessee in the title game.
Well, basically every key piece from that team minus Quenton Jackson is back, including guys like Henry Coleman and Tyrese Radford, who turned into stars for this team late.
Frankly, this ranking might actually be too low, and if you're selling Aggie stock I'll buy it all.
The Buzz Williams era has officially arrived in College Station.
22. Florida State Seminoles
Key Returnees: Caleb Mills, Matthew Cleveland, Jalen Warley, Naheem McCloud, Cam Fletcher
Key Departures: RayQuan Evans, Anthony Polite, Malik Osbourne, Wyatt Wilkes, John Butler
Key Additions: Cameron Cohren, De'Ante Green, Chandler Jackson
Incredibly, Florida State has lost seven players to the NBA Draft over the last three years, including three Top 11 picks in the last two drafts (including NBA Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes), so you can forgive Leonard Hamilton for having a bit of a "down year" in 2022.
And oh, that down year included 17 wins, a 10-10 mark in the ACC and wins over Miami (which made the Elite Eight) twice, Duke and Virginia.
Well that transitional team now returns most of its key pieces, including the top two scorers in Caleb Mills and forward Matthew Cleveland. Cleveland may be the Noles next high-upside NBA pick. They also have plenty of depth and size down, although did lose a key piece at the last minute when center John Butler decided to stay in the draft.
In Coach Ham we trust - and if anything, we may be ranking the Noles a bit too low here.
23. Michigan Wolverines
Key Returnees: Hunter Dickinson, Terrence Williams, Kobe Bufkin, Jace Howard Key Departures: Caleb Houstan, Moussa Diabate, DeVante Jones, Eli Brooks, Brandon Johns (transfer), Frankie Collins
Key Additions: Jaelyn Llewelyn (transfer), Jett Howard, Tarris Reed, Dug McDaniel, Gregg Glenn
For all the criticism of NIL by everyone (including me), Michigan is a perfect example of the good that could come from it. A year ago, Hunter Dickinson publicly stated (including on the Aaron Torres Podcast) that the 2021-2022 season would be his last in college hoops.
But with NIL money likely flowing in, he made the decision to return to school for another year. And the Wolverines have a rock, and potential preseason All-American down low, who averaged 18 points and 10 rebounds per game.
The problem is, that while the deadline to declare for the draft was good to the Wolverines - with the return of Dickinson - the deadline to withdraw was brutal, as Michigan lost both Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabite to the pros at the 11th hour. That still leaves a good core of Dickinson, Terrence Williams, Princeton transfer Jaelyn Llewelyn and Howard's sons Jett and Jace, but not much behind it.
The Wolverines are still a good, solid Top 25 team. But they probably would've been the Big Ten favorites and Final Four contenders had a few things broken their way on deadline day.
24. Texas Longhorns
Key Returnees: Marcus Carr, Timmy Allen, Christian Bishop, Dylan Disu, Brock Cunningham
Key Departures: Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey, Devin Askew (transfer), Tre Mitchell (transfer)
Key Additions: Tyrese Hunter (transfer), Sir’Jabari Rice (transfer), Dillon Mitchell, Arterio Morris, Rowan Brumbaugh
On paper, Texas once again has one of the most talented rosters in college basketball. The problem is, they had one of the most talented rosters in college basketball last year too and largely underachieved. And I'm again, worried how all the pieces will fit together.
Still, the talent is undeniable.
The team's top two scorers are back, Timmy Allen and Marcus Carr, a pair, who at one point in their careers were All-League performers in the Pac-12 and Big Ten respectively. They will be joined by arguably the best player in the transfer portal in Tyrese Hunter, who averaged 10 points and six assists per game at Iowa State last season. A pair of McDonald's All-Americans in Dillon Mitchell and Arterio Morris join the fold, and returnees Christian Bishop and Dylan Disu will help with size down low.
If this team plays to its full potential, they're one that can compete for a Final Four berth in their home state of Houston. I just need to see it all come together to believe it.
25. Virginia Cavaliers
Key Returnees: Kihei Clark, Reece Beekman, Armaan Franklin, Jayden Garden, Kadin Shedrick, Francisco Caffaro
Key Departures: Kody Stattman
Key Additions: Isaac Traudt, Isaac McKneely, Leon Bond, Ryan Dunn, Ben Vander Plas (transfer)
Virginia returns its entire starting five and top six scorers from last year's NIT team, meaning there's two distinct ways to look at them. You can either argue that, well, if they made the NIT, how good can they be? Or, you can look at them like Texas A&M and Xavier above, and wonder how much better they can get, with the core from last year intact.
We'll choose to do the latter, especially with a coach who has the track record of Tony Bennett, a guy who has won five ACC regular season titles in the last decade. Plus, while 2022 was clearly a disappointing season, Virginia did beat Duke at Cameron Indoor, eventual ACC Tournament champ Virginia Tech, as well as Providence, which made the Sweet 16.
The bottom line is, with this core, there might be a ceiling to just how far they can go in the tournament. But this team can win a ton of regular season games in 2022-2023.
26. Wyoming Cowboys
27. Texas Tech Red Raiders
28. Illinois Fighting Illini
29. Michigan State Spartans
30. Oklahoma Sooners
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