College Basketball "Way Too Early Top 25" for 2023-2024 - VERSION 4.0
We are less than a month into college basketball's off-season - and between the portal and NBA Draft stay or go decisions, things have already been shaken up atop the sport.
Because of it, we'll once again - update our "Way Too Early Top 25" for 2023-2024 - this time to Version 4.0.
Here is our original Top 25, followed by Version 2.0, before we hit 3.0 last week.
Now, with a flurry of NBA Draft activity and portal notes, we are hitting Version 4.0.
Before we do though, a couple quick ground rules and reminders, starting with: Putting together a "Way Too Early Top 25" has never been harder, because of:
* Stay or go NBA Draft decisions
* A crazy portal that's only going to get crazier
* And the extra year of Covid eligibility, giving a ton of really good seniors an extra year. Some will choose to use it, but some won't as well.
Therefore, these projections are all over the place, and because of it, these are my parameters for trying to figure out who will stay and go.
Unless a player is:
* A surefire NBA first rounder
* Has publicly declared that he won't be back
We're going to work under the assumption that every player will return, until something official gets done.
All of that is a VERY long-winded intro: Now, to our Top 25 for 2023-2024.
1. Duke Blue Devils Key Returnees: Kyle Filipowski, Tyrese Proctor, Mark Mitchell, Jeremy Roach (currently testing NBA Draft waters)
Key Losses: Dariq Whitehead, Dereck Lively II, Ryan Young, Jacob Grandison Key Newcomers: Sean Stewart, Jared McCain, Caleb Foster, TJ Power
Duke took over the top spot in the "Way Too Early Top 25" in Version 2.0 - and nothing has changed since.
The key news was the decision of leading scorer and rebounder Kyle Filipowski to return for another season, alongside fellow freshmen Tyrese Proctor and Mark Mitchell. All three could've conceivably been drafted this season, but instead will return for another year.
They will make an all-of-a-sudden pseudo-veteran core, alongside another strong recruiting class. It took a dip a few weeks ago when five-star Mackenzie Mgbako - likely because of Filipowski's return - decided to re-open his recruitment, but this freshman group should still add plenty of depth to the 2023-2024 squad.
As long as Jeremy Roach - currently testing the draft waters - decides to come back for one more year, this should be your preseason No. 1 in 2023-2024.
2. UConn Huskies
Key Returnees: Andre Jackson, Tristen Newton, Alex Karaban, Donovan Clingan, Hasan Diarra
Key Departures: Jordan Hawkins, Adama Sanogo, Nahiem Alleyne, Joey Calcaterra,
Key Additions: Stephon Castle, Solomon Ball, Jaylin Stewart, Jayden Ross, Youssouf Singare
The questions around UConn's off-season are starting to get figured out. Jordan Hawkins will go pro, and a week ago, Dan Hurley confirmed that Adama Sanogo's time as a college basketball player is done. He'll begin his pro career after earning NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors earlier this month.
Beyond that, Andre Jackson and Tristen Newton are both testing the draft waters. A picture of a recent workout showed both of them with the team, a good sign that they could return.
If Newton and Jackson both return, it would give the Huskies three starters back off this year's title team, with key reserve Donovan Clingan taking on a bigger role.
The Huskies also have a five-man recruiting class set to enroll, headlined by five-star Stephon Castle.
Add it up, and 2023-2024 has a chance to be another special season in Storrs, with a squad good enough to bring home title No. 6.
3. Marquette Golden Eagles
Key returnees: Tyler Kolek, Stevie Mitchell, Kam Jones, Olivier-Maxence Prosper, Oso Ighodaro, David Joplin, Sean Jones, Ben Gold
Key Departures: N/A
Key Additions: Tre Norman, Al Amadou, Zaide Lowery
Some might scoff at the idea at having Marquette at No. 3 in this preseason poll - but remember, it was the Golden Eagles, not UConn, who won the Big East regular season and conference tournament titles, beating the Huskies twice along the way.
And they literally can bring back every single player from that run for this year's team. That includes Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek and Kam Jones in the backcourt, as well as versatile frontcourt pieces O-Max Prosper and Oso Ighodaro.
And unlike most schools on this list, their only NBA Draft decision remaining is Prosper, who is currently testing the draft waters. As someone not projected to be drafted, he seems likely to return alongside everyone else.
If they do, it's a group that'll be good enough to make its first Final Four since the D-Wade days, and maybe, just maybe, secure the school's second national title.
4. Purdue Boilermakers
Key Returnees: Zach Edey, Fletcher Loyer, Braden Smith, Trey Kauffman-Wrenn, Mason Gillis, Brandon Newman, Caleb Furst, Ethan Morton
Key Departures: David Jenkins
Key Additions: Myles Colvin, Lance Jones (transfer)
As a noted Purdue critic, it pains me to do this, but I can't really justify putting the Boilermakers any lower than this. David Jenkins is the only player out of eligibility, and with no real NBA future, it seems like National Player of the Year Zac Edey will be back too. He is testing right now, but I still expect him to be back.
That essentially means that Purdue could run it back in 2023-2024 like they never left. They also added high-scoring Missouri Valley guard Lance Jones, to hopefully add some scoring pop on the perimeter.
Now, will they be a team good enough in March to win it all? I don't know.
But this was the Big Ten regular season and tournament champion that could basically return its team intact.
It feels hard to put them much lower.
5. Arkansas Razorbacks
Key Returnees: Jordan Walsh, Trevon Brazile, Jalen Graham, Mahki Mitchell, Joseph Pinion, Derrian Ford
Key Losses: Nick Smith Jr., Anthony Black, Ricky Council, Devo Davis, Kimani Johnson, Mekhel Mitchell (transfer), Barry Dunning (transfer)
Key Additions: Keyon Menefield (transfer), Khalif Battle (transfer), El Ellis (transfer), Tramon Mark (transfer), Jeremiah Davenport (transfer), Baye Fall, Layden Blocker
Eric Musselman might just be the portal God, and he has put together - assuming he's done - maybe the best portal class in his time at Arkansas.
Most recently, the Hogs added Louisville leading scorer El Ellis (who averaged 17.7 points per game this season). He will join former Washington guard Keyon Menefield (an All-Pac-12 freshman team member), Khalif Battle (Temple's leading scorer) and Tramon Mark (a two-way monster from Houston) to form maybe the deepest and most athletic backcourt in college basketball. Jeremiah Davenport (Cincinnati) adds shooting depth behind them.
Add in two five-star recruits (big man Baye Fall and guard Layden Blocker), and the return of a pair of front court pieces (Trevon Brazile and Jalen Graham) and this very well might be Arkansas' best squad since Musselman got to Fayetteville.
It could get even better if Jordan Walsh officially decides to return to school for another year. The Hogs are also expected to be in the mix for five-star Ron Holland, who recently decommitted from Texas.
6. Michigan State Spartans
Key Returnees: Tyson Walker, Jaden Akins, AJ Hoggard, Maddy Sissoko, Jaxon Kohler, Tre Holloman, Malik Hall
Key Departures: Joey Hauser, Pierre Brooks (transfer)
Key Additions: Xavier Booker, Jeremy Fears, Coen Carr, Gehrig Normand
Michigan State is the one Big Ten team that seems to continue to actually achieve in March and entering 2023-2024 they should have their best team on paper in years.
Joey Hauser has announced he won't use his extra year, but - in major news - star guard Tyson Walker announced he'll use his extra year of eligibility in 2023-2024. He'll be joined by AJ Hoggard and Jaden Akins to form one of the best backcourts in the country. The Spartans also will add one of the top freshmen in the country in forward Xavier Booker, a five-star, Top 10 prospect.
Barring something shocking between now and the season starting, this should be Tom Izzo's best team since the 2019-2020 squad that featured Cassius Winston and spent a good chunk of the season at No. 1 in the country.
7. Kentucky Wildcats
Key Returnees: Antonio Reeves, Chris Livingston, Adou Theiro, Ugonna Onyenso
Key Departures: Oscar Tshiebwe, Cason Wallace, CJ Fredrick (transfer), Daimion Collins (transfer), Sahvir Wheeler (transfer)
Key Newcomers: DJ Wagner, Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw, Rob Dillingham, Reed Sheppard
Right now, I'm working under the assumption that former National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe will stay in the draft, and that he *won't" be replaced by Hunter Dickinson. That's obviously a *very* loaded statement, but right now it feels like Tshiebwe is definitely staying in the draft. And while Kentucky is certainly in the mix for Dickinson, there's a long way to go before he's on the roster.
But even if Tshiebwe or Dickinson *isn't* manning the middle, I still like this team for one reason: It features the No. 1 ranked recruiting class in college basketball, featuring four of the Top 10 players in the country.
In the past we've seen that John Calipari's best teams are ones featuring high-upside NBA talent, and his best teams were led by NBA caliber point guards. That's exactly what Calipari will have next year with DJ Wagner running the point, and unlike this year, there will be no veteran (in this case, Sahvir Wheeler) standing in the way of his minutes and production. Justin Edwards is an elite two-way player on the wing, and Aaron Bradshaw a high-upside big. Rob Dillingham was officially declared eligible this week, after questions surfaced this spring if he'd be cleared by the NCAA or not.
By the way, Dillingham, Edwards and Wagner played in the Iverson Classic All-Star game, with Wagner and Edwards picking up co-MVP honors and Iverson himself comparing Dillingham to, well, Allen Iverson.
Not a bad weekend for the future Wildcats, I must say.
8. Houston Cougars
Key Returnees: Jamal Shead, Emanuel Sharp, Ramon Walker, Terrance Arceneaux, J’Wan Roberts, Ja'Vier Francis
Key Departures: Marcus Sasser, Jarace Walker, Tramon Mark (transfer)
Key Additions: LJ Cryer (transfer), Damian Dunn (transfer), Joseph Tugler, Jacob McFarland
Of every team in our first "Way Too Early Top 25" it seemed like we got the most pushback on Houston - with many wondering why they weren't higher. Well, after a busy spring in the portal, we now have the Cougars as a Top 10 team.
Most notably, Houston added guard LJ Cryer from Baylor, a sharpshooter who averaged 15 points per game on over 41 percent three-point shooting as well. They also added Damian Dunn who averaged 14 points a game at Temple this year, giving the Cougars an all-of-a-sudden explosive backcourt.
Terrence Arceneaux is already back and Jamal Shead should be back after testing the NBA Draft waters as well. If so, that's a group that will be good enough to win the Big 12 in their first year in the league next season.
9. Kansas Jayhawks
Key Returnees: DaJuan Harris, KJ Adams, Kevin McCullar, Joseph Yesufu, Ernest Udeh Jr.,
Key Departures: Jalen Wilson, Gradey Dick, Bobby Pettiford, MJ Rice (transfer) Key Additions: Nick Timberlake (transfer), Arterio Morris (transfer), Elmarko Jackson, Chris Johnson, Jamari McDowell
It's been an interesting spring so far in Lawrence, where Bill Self was lost for the postseason due to health issues, and then we've seen a lot of Kansas's back-ups hit the portal looking for more playing time. That's in addition to the expected departures of Jalen Wilson and Gradey Dick.
Slowly but surely though, Self is starting to fill out his roster with nice pieces that will put him in position for another Big 12 title.
First, there was the addition of transfer Nick Timberlake, a 6'4 highly-coveted guard who chose the Jayhawks over UConn and North Carolina. He averaged nearly 18 points per game a season ago at Towson. They also added Arterio Morris a former McDonald's All-American, who transferred in from Texas.
Still, there are two big pieces that could (and likely will) push Kansas further up these rankings.
One, they remain in the hunt for Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson, an immediate plug-and-play All-American at a position of need. They are also getting a visit from Mackenzie Mgbako, a Top 5 prospect in the class of 2023, who was originally committed to Duke.
Add one, and it shoots the Jayhawks up the rankings. Add both? And they should be your consensus No. 1 team in the country.
10. Alabama Crimson Tide
Key Returnees: Jahvon Quinerly, Mark Sears, Nick Pringle, Rylan Griffen, Charles Bediako,
Key Departures: Brandon Miller, Noah Clowney, Dom Welch, Nimari Burnett (transfer), Jaden Bradley (transfer)
Key Additions: Aaron Estrada (transfer), Latrell Wrightsell (transfer), Sam Walters, Mouhamed Dioubate, Kris Parker
The Tide's basketball program had another bad PR moment last week when projected transfer Jaykwon Walton was arrested on campus for marijuana possession, with three guns also found in the car he was driving in, That's bad news for a program that dealt with the Brandon Miller fallout last season.
Nate Oats immediately said that Walton will no longer be part of the team, but even without him, the Tide have a good enough squad to win a third SEC title in four years.
Jahvon Quinerly, Mark Sears and Charles Bediako are all testing the draft waters, but all are expected back, alongside Nick Pringle and Ryan Griffen, who played big minutes off the bench on last year's No. 1 seed.
Oats also rounded out the backcourt with a pair of high-profile mid-major transfers, Aaron Estrada and Latrell Wrightsell. Estrada is a two-time CAA Player of the Year, who averaged over 20 points per game for Hofstra last year, and should add immediate scoring pop. Wrightsell is a big guard who should immediately be able to contribute as well.
We'll wait until draft decisions are official before getting too excited about this team, but it's hard not to like the 2023-2024 Crimson Tide.
11. Tennessee Volunteers
Key Returnees: Santiago Vescovi, Zakai Zeigler, Jahmai Mashack, Tobe Awaka, Jonas Aidoo Key Departures: Josiah Jordan-James, Uros Plavsic, Olivier Nkamhoua (transfer), Tyreke Key, Julian Phillips Key Additions: Dalton Knecht (transfer), Chris Ledlum (transfer), Jordan Gainey (transfer), JP Estrella, Cameron Carr, Cade Phillips
There is no bigger mover than the Tennessee Volunteers, who added three impact transfers since our last update.
The biggest key will be Dalton Knecht, a wing who averaged 20.2 points at Northern Colorado, and adds immediately offensive pop to a team that desperately needs it. Chris Ledlum is a 6'6 bowling ball who has shades of Grant Williams to his game and Jordan Gainey is a hot-shooting guard whose father is on the staff.
Add that in with the return of veteran Santiago Vescovi for a fifth season and program stalwart Zakai Zeigler (currently recovering from knee surgery), and the Vols have another squad that will be in the mix for an SEC title.
12. Creighton Bluejays
Key Returnees: Ryan Kalkbrenner, Baylor Scheierman, Trey Alexander, Fredric King, Francisco Farabello
Key Departures: Ryan Nembhard (transfer), Arthur Kaluma
Key Additions: Isaac Traudt (transfer), Steve Ashworth (transfer), Josiah Dotzler
It's been a quietly busy off-season for the Jays.
On the downside, Ryan Nembhard elected to transfer and ended up at Gonzaga. And since our last update Arthur Kaluma declared for the draft. He's technically keeping his options open, but if you read his statement carefully, it seems to indicate that he will not be returning for another year of college basketball.
Yet it's not all bad news.
One, Creighton learned a few weeks ago that Baylor Scheierman, a player who transferred in a year ago, will use his extra year of eligibility. It comes a season after he averaged 12.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists, all while shooting 36 percent from three. Expect those numbers to jump in a second year at the Power 5 level. The Jays also added a pair of transfers in Steve Ashworth and Isaac Tradut, with Ashworth - the star of Utah State's NCAA Tournament squad - a key piece needed to replace Nembhard.
Still, most of this ranking does hinge on the return of center Ryan Kalkbrenner and guard Trey Alexander. Kalkbrenner is 7'1 All-Conference big man and Alexander a versatile guard, who each have decided to test the draft waters.
Both, in theory could be drafted, if they stay in. So the Jays will be a group to monitor here these next few weeks.
13. Florida Atlantic Owls
Key Returnees: Alijah Martin, Vladislav Goldin, Johnell Davis, Nicholas Boyd, Bryan Greenlee, Giancarlo Rosado
Key Departures: Michael Forrest
Key Additions: N/A
The dream run for the Owls ended in painful fashion in the Final Four, but here's the wild part: A team that just won 34 games and finished the regular season ranked in the Top 25, could largely run it back in 2023-2024.
Veteran guard Michael Forrest will be gone, but otherwise, the rest of the core should return, headlined by guards Johnell Davis, Alijah Martin and big man Vlad Goldin.
Admittedly, in the transfer portal/NIL world you know that there will be overtures from larger schools for these guys, something that Dusty May talked about openly at Final Four media availability. And Martin and Davis have both announced they'll test the NBA Draft waters, although right now neither seems like a high-end NBA prospect.
If everyone returns as expected, this ranking might actually end up being too low.
14. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Key Returnees: Nolan Hickman, Malachi Smith, Anton Watson, Ben Gregg Key Departures: Drew Timme, Rasir Bolton, Julian Strawther, Hunter Sallis (transfer), Efton Reid (transfer) Key Returnees: Ryan Nembhard (transfer), Graham Ike (transfer), Steele Venters (transfer), Dusty Stromer, Alex Toohey
It's hard to argue that anyone other than Tennessee has made moves quite like the Zags since our last update, after adding two key pieces to their roster.
The biggest and most important piece came a week ago when Ryan Nembhard (mentioned above), announced his decision to transfer to Spokane. He immediately gives the Zags the lead guard that they needed a season ago, and also gives them a big head-to-head recruiting win over former assistant coach Tommy Lloyd, now at Arizona.
That same day, they also added Graham Ike, the former Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year down low. He missed all of last season with injury, but averaged 19 points and nine rebounds, helping Wyoming to the 2022 NCAA Tournament.
Add those two to a core that includes veterans Nolan Hickman, Ben Gregg and Malachi Smith (currently the NBA Draft waters) and the Zags are again back in the mix in the Top 15 in college basketball.
15. North Carolina Tar Heels
Key Returnees: Armando Bacot, RJ Davis
Key Departures: Pete Nance, Leaky Black, Caleb Love (transfer), Tyler Nickel (transfer), Justin McKoy (transfer), Dontrez Styles (transfer), Puff Johnson (transfer), Will Shaver (transfer)
Key Additions: Harrison Ingram (transfer), Cormac Ryan (transfer), Jaelyn Withers (transfer), Paxson Wojcik (transfer), Simeon Wilcher, Zayden High
Ok, I know I'll probably get clowned for this, but I'm going to zig where everyone else is zagging and buy high on the Tar Heels in 2023-2024.
Yes, I know last year was an unmitigated disaster, but publicly it feels pretty clear that North Carolina is trying to paint the picture that it was a Caleb Love problem, more than anything else. And that's the way it certainly appears as Love is gone, but both RJ Davis and Armando Bacot are coming back.
Most importantly, Hubert Davis has done just about all anyone could've asked in the portal. North Carolina added Harrison Ingram, an instant plug-and-play wing, with guards Cormac Ryan and Paxson Wojcik providing shooting. Four-star guard Simeon Wilcher should contribute, with buzz that five-star 2024 commit Elliot Cadeau may reclassify this summer.
Yes, it's fair to criticize Hubert Davis for what happened on the court this season. But he's filled out his roster nicely this off-season. And he might not be done.
16. Texas A&M Aggies
Key Returnees: Wade Taylor IV, Tyrece Radford, Henry Coleman, Julius Marble, Andre Gordon, Manny Obasecki, Andersson Garcia
Key Additions: Bryce Lindsey
Key Departures: Dexter Dennis
It took a while to get going in 2022-2023, but once January hit Texas A&M was one of the most consistent teams in all of college hoops.
Key wing Dexter Dennis departs, but other than that, the entire roster should return intact. Wade Taylor IV was one of the SEC's breakout stars this season and should be back for another go-around in Aggieland, and his backcourt mate Tyrece Radford has hinted that he'll be returning as well. Same with Julius Marble in the frontcourt, where he'll be reunited with the versatile Henry Coleman and Andersson Garcia.
Decisions remain, but the 2023-2024 Aggies have a chance to go even higher after an impressive second place finish in the SEC this year.
17. San Diego State Aztecs
Key Returnees: Lamont Butler, Darrion Trammell, Micah Parrish, Jaedon Ledee, Demarshay Johnson Jr.
Key Departures: Matt Bradley, Nathan Mensah, Ageuk Arop, Adam Seiko, Keshod Johnson (transfer)
Key Additions: Reese Dixon-Waters (transfer) Miles Heide, BJ Davis
While the dream run for San Diego State ended one game short of a title, the good news is, enough of the team comes back where they should again be in the upper-echelon of college basketball next season.
Tourney hero Lamont Butler and big man Jaedon LeDee will both test the NBA Draft waters but are expected back, and will be joined by guards Darrion Tramell and Micah Parrish. And in recent days the Aztecs also added Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year Reese Dixon-Waters, a talented wing from USC who should help replace veteran Keshod Johnson, who recently hit the portal.
Brian Dutcher's squad isn't going anywhere, any time soon.
18. Xavier Musketeers
Key Returnees: Zach Freemantle, Jerome Hunter, Desmond Claude
Key Departures: Souley Boum, Adam Kunkel, Colby Jones, Jake Nunge, Cesar Edwards
Key Additions: Dayvion McKnight (transfer), Quincy Olivari (transfer), Logan Duncomb (transfer), Abou Ousmane (transfer), Trey Green, Dailyn Swain, Reid Ducharme, Kachi Nzeh
Say what you want about Sean Miller, but he will never go into a season undermanned. And despite losing four starters off this year's Sweet 16 team, the Musketeers have a squad that's again good enough to compete at the top of the Big East.
First, the good news, as big men Zach Freemantle and Jerome Hunter are back, alongside freshman guard Desmond Claude, who played a key role as a reserve in 2023. They'll be supplemented by a Top 15 recruiting class nationally, that includes a trio of Top 100 recruits.
Really though, it's the portal where Miller has revamped this roster. He's added dynamic guards Dayvion McKnight (Western Kentucky's leading scorer) and Rice's Quincy Olivari, and filled up his front court with Indiana transfer Logan Dumcomb and North Texas' Abou Ousmane.
Freemantle's decision to officially return last week should cement this group as a preseason Top 25 team.
19. USC Trojans
Key Returnees: Boogie Ellis, Vincent Iwuchukwu, Joshua Morgan, Kobe Johnson, Harrison Hornery
Key Departures: Drew Peterson, Reese Dixon-Waters (transfer), Tre White (transfer), Malik Thomas (transfer)
Key Additions: Isaiah Collier, Arrinten Page,
The Trojans were the "first team out" of our "Way Too Early Top 25" a few days ago, but find their way in, with the news this week that guard Boogie Ellis will return for another season.
Ellis led the Trojans with 17.7 points per game last season, and will join the No. 1 high school player in America Isaiah Collier to form one of the most explosive backcourts in the country. Center Vincent Iwuchukwu - a former McDonald's All-American - should also be back to full strength, after a scary heart condition limited him last season.
Add it up and the Trojans might be one of the more underrated teams in all of college hoops next season.
Oh, and there might be one more piece of help on the way - as they are believed to be the favorite to land Bronny James' services for his (likely) only season in college.
20. Miami Hurricanes
Key Returnees: Nijel Pack, Wooga Poplar, Norchad Omier, Bensley Joseph, Anthony Walker
Key Departures: Jordan Miller, Isaiah Wong, Harlond Beverly (transfer)
Key Additions: Michael Nwoko
The Hurricanes got disappointing, albeit not that surprising news, when Isaiah Wong announced he'd go pro. The ACC Player of the Year had another season of eligibility, but instead will begin his pro career.
Again, the move is disappointing yet not that surprising, and the Hurricanes still bring back plenty from last year's Final Four team. Guard Nijel Pack will return for a second year, as will rugged forward Norchad Omier, and do-it-all Woogla Poplar. Omier is testing the waters but expected to return.
Assuming Omier returns, this is a squad that should again compete at the top of the ACC.
21. Maryland Terrapins
Key Returnees: Jahmir Young, Julian Reese, Donta Scott, Ian Martinez
Key Departures: Don Carey, Hakim Hart (transfer)
Key Additions: DeShawn Harris-Smith, Jamie Kaiser, Jahnathan Lamothe, Braden Pierce
It was a largely successful Year 1 for Kevin Willard in 2023 and there's no reason to think it'll slow down next winter.
The Terps got a mega-offseason win with star guard Jahmir Young returning, and Julian Reese will be back too off a breakout season. A strong group of freshmen, mostly all from the DMV area (a must in recruiting for the Terps) should balance out the roster.
The big question now: Can they lure Maryland native Hunter Dickinson to College Park via the portal?
Do that and this might be a Top 10 team nationally.
22. Saint Mary's Gaels
Key Returnees: Aidan Mahaney, Alex Dukas, Mitchell Saxson, Augustus Marciulionis, Kyle Bowen
Key Departures: Logan Johnson
Key Additions: N/A
Coming off a 27-win season, there is no real reason to think the Gaels will slow down.
Leading scorer Aidan Mahaney returns, and assuming a couple of seniors with real overseas options (most notably Alex Dukas) return, the Gaels should again be a factor in the Top 25 all season.
23. Baylor Bears
Key Returnees: Jalen Bridges, Langston Love, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, Caleb Lohner
Key Departures: Adam Flagler, Keyonte George, Flo Thamba, LJ Cryer (transfer), Dale Bonner (transfer)
Key Additions: Ja'Kobe Walter, Miro Little, Jayden Nunn (transfer)
The Bears were hit with some crushing news during Final Four weekend, as 15-point per game scorer LJ Cryer entered the transfer portal, leaving a gaping hole in the backcourt for the Bears. Then, earlier this week, leading scorer Adam Flagler officially announced that he won't use his extra year of eligibility and
The good news is, not all is lost for Baylor. With Flagler's departure, Baylor added a much needed veteran guard in former VCU Ram Jayden Nunn, and he will play alongside two of the best guards in high school basketball this season: McDonald's All-American JaKobe Walter and highly-touted international Miro Little.
Wing Jalen Bridges will be back, as will rugged big man Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua. Expect the Bears to add another piece or two for depth throughout the spring as well.
24. Auburn Tigers
Key Returnees: Johni Broome, KD Johnson, Jaylin Williams, Allen Flanigan, Tre Donaldson
Key Departures: Zep Jasper, Wendell Green, Yohan Traore (transfer), Chance Westry (transfer)
Key Additions: Denver Jones (transfer), Aden Holloway
For the first time this off-season, Auburn joins the "Way Too Early Top 25" party in the final spot.
The Tigers do lose undersized guards Wendell Green Jr. and Zep Jasper, but should be set in the backcourt. Tre Donaldson saw increased minutes as the season went on (including 11 points in an NCAA Tournament win over Iowa) and freshman Aden Holloway is a Top 30 prospect. Oh, and Denver Jones is one of the best bucket getters to come out of the portal, after averaging close to 20 points per contest at Florida International.
Johni Broome returns in the frontcourt alongside Jaylin Williams, and right now we have Allen Flanigan slated to come back for his final season - although for now that remains up in the year.
In the end, this was a tournament team a year ago, and the pieces seem like they'll fit better in 2023-2024 than they did a season ago.
We quietly like this group.
25. Arizona Wildcats
Key Returnees: Oumar Ballo, Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell, Henri Veesar, Filip Borovicanin
Key Departures: Azuolas Tubelis, Kerr Kriisa (transfer), Adama Bal (transfer), Courtney Ramey, Cedric Henderson
Key Additions: KJ Lewis
I'm putting the Wildcats here because I trust Tommy Lloyd. The last two seasons the Wildcats have exceeded preseason expectations, so there's no reason to think they can't do it again.
But right now, there just isn't that much to this roster.
A few weeks back Azuolas Tubelis decided to go pro, which is on the heels of Kerr Kriisa announcing a transfer to West Virginia. Courtney Ramey is out and as of right now there have been no major additions.
The good news is that former five-star Kylan Boswell should be ready to take a step up and as of right now, veterans Pelle Larsson and Oumar Ballo should play bigger roles. Plus, as mentioned above, Lloyd has overachieved in each of his two seasons as a head coach.
But as of right now, this roster needs to add some pieces. And quickly.