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Aaron Torres College Basketball "Way Too Early Top 25" VERSION 7.0 - Post NBA Draft deadline edition


Credit: Kansas athletics

We are now roughly six weeks into the college basketball off-season, and to say quite a bit has changed since UConn cut down the nets in Houston would be an understatement.


Thanks to the portal and stay-or-go decisions, the sport has been flipped on its head.


But thankfully, we largely have clarification on what the sport will look like in 2023-2024 thanks to Wednesday night's NBA Draft deadline.


So with it, it's time to update our "Way Too Early Top 25" for the 2023-2024 season.


At this point, it isn't really "Too Early" but instead, pretty much an accurate reflection of what the sport will look like in 2023-2024. Yes, there will be some changes with late portal additions - and we'll adjust when that happens - but for the most part, the big roster movement is done.


Here is our 2023-2024 Top 25:


1. Duke Blue Devils Key Returnees: Kyle Filipowski, Tyrese Proctor, Mark Mitchell, Jeremy Roach

Key Losses: Dariq Whitehead, Dereck Lively II, Ryan Young, Jacob Grandison Key Newcomers: Sean Stewart, Jared McCain, Caleb Foster, TJ Power


There was a real push, and real thought to move Kansas up to No. 1 with the return of Kevin McCullar last week, but ultimately the Blue Devils - as they've been since mid-April - are in our No. 1 spot heading into 2023-2024.


With veteran point guard Jeremy Roach back for another season, it means the Blue Devils now return their top four scorers (and four starters) off a team that won 10 of its final 11 games last season, including the ACC Tournament championship. That includes leading scorer and rebounder Kyle Filipowski, as well as fellow sophomores-to-be Tyrese Proctor (9.4 ppg) and Mark Mitchell (9.1 ppg)


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.


In theory, Duke could still add more (former Kansas forward Ernest Udeh Jr. recently visited before committing to TCU). But even if they don't, they've solidified their spot atop our poll.


2. Kansas Jayhawks

Key Returnees: DaJuan Harris, KJ Adams, Kevin McCullar

Key Departures: Jalen Wilson, Gradey Dick, Bobby Pettiford (transfer), MJ Rice (transfer), Joseph Yesufu (transfer), Ernest Udeh Jr. (transfer) Key Additions: Hunter Dickinson (transfer), Nick Timberlake (transfer), Arterio Morris (transfer), Elmarko Jackson, Chris Johnson, Jamari McDowell


It's funny because last update was when I finally conceded that Kevin McCullar probably wasn't coming back for Kansas - then boom, he announced he was coming back, solidifying a Jayhawks team good enough to win a second national title in three years.




With McCullar's return, it now means that three starters are back off the Jayhawks' Big 12 regular season champion. That's before factoring in that they added the best transfer in the portal this off-season and a former All-American in Hunter Dickinson, and two nice additional pieces in Towson guard Nick Timberlake and former Texas guard Arterio Morris.


Again, this team has all the pieces, and could be cutting down the nets for the second time in three years next April in Phoenix.


3. 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)


Well, it came right down to the deadline, but reigning National Player of the Year Zach Edey is officially back - and with it, the Boilermakers are once again the best team in the Big Ten and a title contender.


Yes, I've been critical of Matt Painter in the past, and yes, I understand anyone rolling their eyes at having the Boilermakers this high.


But, with all five starters back off last year's Big Ten regular season champs and tournament champs - including the National Player of the Year - it's hard to have them much lower.


4. UConn Huskies


Key Returnees: Tristen Newton, Alex Karaban, Donovan Clingan, Hasan Diarra

Key Departures: Andre Jackson, Jordan Hawkins, Adama Sanogo, Nahiem Alleyne, Joey Calcaterra,

Key Additions: Stephon Castle, Solomon Ball, Jaylin Stewart, Jayden Ross, Youssouf Singare


Admittedly, it's hard know what do exactly with these Huskies.


On the one hand, they lost the three biggest pieces off a veteran, championship roster. The latest came this week, when junior Andre Jackson - the emotional backbone of this year's title team - officially announced he'd stay in the draft. With real buzz that he's played his way into the first round, it's hard to blame him.


At the same time, guard Tristen Newton - who averaged 10 points, 4.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists and dropped 19 in the title game - announced that he'd come back and use his extra Covid year. His return along with fellow starter Alex Karaban (9.3 points per game, 40.2 percent three-point shooting) and center Donovan Clingan means the Huskies have three key pieces back off a team that just won a national title in dominating fashion.


And that's without even mentioning that they bring in the nation's No. 3 recruiting class, one that includes McDonald's All-American and projected 2024 lottery pick Stephon Castle.


This team isn't what it could've been with Jackson's return.


But there is still an awful lot to like.


5. Arkansas Razorbacks


Key Returnees: Trevon Brazile, Devo Davis Jalen Graham, Mahki Mitchell, Joseph Pinion

Key Losses: Nick Smith Jr., Anthony Black, Ricky Council, Jordan Walsh, Kimani Johnson, Mekhel Mitchell (transfer), Barry Dunning (transfer), Derrian Ford (transfer)

Key Additions: Keyon Menefield (transfer), Khalif Battle (transfer), El Ellis (transfer), Tramon Mark (transfer), Jeremiah Davenport (transfer), Baye Fall, Layden Blocker


Admittedly, it was a somewhat disappointing deadline for the Hogs, who believed, heading into the day, they were in line to get five-star Ron Holland - only for him to head to the pro ranks.


Despite it, the Hogs did get back veteran guard Devo Davis late on Wednesday night. And it shouldn't take away from the fact that the Hogs had as good of a spring as anyone - and should have their best team of the Eric Musselman this season.


It starts with the returnees, headlined by Trevon Brazile, who was playing like an All-American and first rounder prior to injury. It also includes maybe the most loaded transfer group in the sport, where explosive scoring will come via Louisville's El Ellis, Temple's Khalif Battle and Washington's Keyon Menefield, along with the two-way prowess of former Houston Cougar Tramon Mark.


6. 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


There was no bigger winner at the NBA Draft deadline than the Jays, who got back both All-Big East center Ryan Kalkbrenner, and versatile, do-it-all guard Trey Alexander. Alexander averaged 13 points on 41 percent three-point shooting last season.


And with it, the Jays once again have a club good enough to advance to another Elite Eight (like this season) - or maybe further.


Kalkbrenner will return as maybe the best two-way big man in college basketball, who averaged 16 points on one end of the court, while also blocking 2.5 shots per game, and Alexander is a bucket-getter who can play on and off the ball.


Oh, and they'll run alongside veteran wing Baylor Scheierman (who averaged 13 points himself last season, as well as a pair of transfers in Steve Ashworth and Isaac Tradut. Ashworth was the star of Utah State's NCAA Tournament team a year ago.


The Jays won't have a super-deep team, but their starting five is as talented as anyone's. This is a darkhorse title contender.


7. 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


While there were a few players testing the waters in East Lansing, there was no real deadline drama at Michigan State, where Tom Izzo has largely known the makeup of his roster since the early stages of the off-season.


Joey Hauser has announced he won't use his extra year, but - in major news - star guard Tyson Walker announced he'll return and 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.


8. Marquette Golden Eagles


Key returnees: Tyler Kolek, Stevie Mitchell, Kam Jones, Oso Ighodaro, David Joplin, Sean Jones, Ben Gold

Key Departures: Olivier-Maxence Prosper

Key Additions: Tre Norman, Al Amadou, Zaide Lowery


In some ways, Marquette was one of the "losers" of the NBA Draft deadline, as heading into the holiday weekend, we learned that versatile forward Olivier-Max Prosper would stay in the NBA Draft. It had been trending that way for weeks, but it's still a tough loss for a team that was set to return everyone off of last year's Big East regular season and tournament champs.


At the same time, the Golden Eagles have a natural replacement in sixth man David Joplin, who should take on a bigger role, after averaging nine points per game as a sophomore. And beyond that, well, the Golden Eagles still return four starters - including Big East Player of the Year Tyler Kolek - from a team that won the freakin' Big East regular season and tournament championships.


Therefore, don't weep too badly for Shaka Smart.


The Golden Eagles will be fine, and will probably have it's best team since the D-Wade era returning in 2023-2024.


9. 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


Florida Atlantic had a dream season, advancing to the school's first Final Four, yet may have had an even better off season. In the portal/NIL/get to the NBA as fast as possible era, Florida Atlantic literally returned every player that had becoming.


They didn't lose stars Alijah Martin or Johnell Davis to the NBA Draft or better NIL opportunities at bigger schools. And even the last players on the bench didn't transfer out looking for more playing time.


And with it, the Owls now return completely intact. It won't be easy to improve on a 35-win season and Final Four, but it's possible in Boca next year.


10. 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: Matthew Cleveland (transfer), Michael Nwoko


Speaking of "big expectations for teams that made surprise runs to the Final Four" I present you, the 2023-2024 Miami Hurricanes.


The Hurricanes were big winners in the lead up to the NBA Draft deadline with both star guard Nijel Pack (13.6 ppg, 40 percent three-point shooting per game last year) and forward Norchad Omier (13 points, 10 rebounds per game last year) both announcing their returns. Just as good,

the Hurricanes also added Florida State leading scorer Matthew Cleveland on the wing.


In theory, the Hurricanes could add another major piece, as they're in the final four for star Rutgers transfer Cam Spencer, but even without him this is a really good team.


11. Tennessee Volunteers

Key Returnees: Santiago Vescovi, Josiah Jordan-James, Zakai Zeigler, Jahmai Mashack, Tobe Awaka, Jonas Aidoo Key Departures: 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 was no bigger mover in recent weeks than the Tennessee Volunteers, who added three impact transfers since our last update and added a returning veteran right before the deadline.


The biggest key will be Dalton Knecht, a wing who averaged 20.2 points at Northern Colorado, and immediately adds 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 veterans Santiago Vescovi and Josiah Jordan-James 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.


Remember, for all the "Rick Barnes cant win in March" talk, this team made a Sweet 16 without Zeigler. There's a lot to like about this group heading into 2023-2024.


12. 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: Caleb Love (transfer), Jaden Bradley (transfer), Keshad Johnson (transfer), KJ Lewis, Motiejus Krivas, Paulius Murauskas


My good friend Jon Rothstein likes to say "We sleep in May" but that's not the case for Tommy Lloyd, who spent the last month completely reshaping its roster.


The biggest - or certainly most interesting - move came on Tuesday, when the Wildcats added Caleb Love to their roster. Love certainly has had an up-and-down college career, but there are few players that - at their best - have experienced the highs that he has. That included a 28-point performance against Duke in last year's Final Four (ironically, Arizona will play at Duke the first week of the season next year).


Love is just the latest piece that Tommy Lloyd and crew added in May though, as they also added

former McDonald's All-American Jaden Bradley in the backcourt and San Diego State forward Keshad Johnson in the frontcourt. Oh, and for good measure, the Wildcats also brought in three international high school players to add depth to next year's roster as well.


With Kylan Boswell taking over at point guard for Kerr Kriisa, these Wildcats should be a bigger, more athletic version of the group that has earned a Top-2 seed in back-to-back NCAA Tournaments.


Still, it will be fascinating to see how all the pieces fit together.



13. 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


There was a tiny bit of drama at the deadline for Kelvin Sampson's crew, as top returnee Jamal Shead went into the final days before announcing he'd back for another year of college hoops.


But Shead is back and he'll be the leader of another load Cougars squad. It's one that 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.


Add in returnees Terrance Arceneaux, Ramon Walker and others, this is a Cougar squad good enough to win the Big 12, their first year in the conference.


14. Kentucky Wildcats


Key Returnees: Antonio Reeves, Adou Theiro, Ugonna Onyenso

Key Departures: Oscar Tshiebwe, Cason Wallace, Chris Livingston, CJ Fredrick (transfer), Daimion Collins (transfer), Sahvir Wheeler (transfer)

Key Newcomers: DJ Wagner, Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw, Rob Dillingham, Reed Sheppard


The news no Kentucky fan wanted to hear on Wednesday became official, as program stalwart Oscar Tshiebwe announced that he will stay in the NBA Draft and not return to school.


With his decision, it now means that the Wildcats are very young and very inexperienced entering 2023-2024. Three total players return, only one - guard Antonio Reeves - played any significant playing time. Antonio Reeves is weighing portal options, but is expected to be back.


Despite it, while I'm a bit down on UK (and have been all spring) there are a few reasons why I'm not totally giving up on this group.


One, despite their lack of veteran presence next season, the Wildcats did sign the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, headlined by potentially three future lottery picks (DJ Wagner, Justin Edwards and Aaron Bradshaw). As we all know, John Calipari's best teams have historically been a blend of vets and elite freshman talent, and we'll see that again in 2023-2024.


Two, there is still time to make moves in the portal, with ESPN's Jeff Borzello reported the Wildcats could be a factor for former Creighton forward Arthur Kaluma.


Again, there's time to improve this roster. But Cal needs to move quick.


15. Texas A&M Aggies


Key Returnees: Wade Taylor IV, Tyrece Radford, Henry Coleman, Julius Marble, Andre Gordon, Manny Obasecki, Andersson Garcia

Key Additions: Jace Carter (transfer), Eli Lawrence (transfer), Bryce Lindsey

Key Departures: Dexter Dennis


Texas A&M might have had the most boring off-season imaginable, losing no surprise players to the NBA Draft or transfer portal, while adding a pair of respected - but hardly flashly - mid-major players out of the portal themselves.


Then again, when you finish second in the SEC, a quiet off-season with no major departures (outside of Dexter Dennis, who was out of eligibility) is actually a great thing.


Now the Aggies will run it back with a group that included breakout star Wade Taylor IV, and his running mate Tyrece Radford, who recently announced he'd be back for a final season. 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.


16. Villanova Wildcats


Key Returnees: Justin Moore, Mark Armstrong, Eric Dixon, Jordan Longino, Chris Arcidiacono, Trey Patterson

Key Departures: Cam Whitmore, Caleb Daniels, Brandon Slater

Key Additions: Tyler Burton (transfer), TJ Bamba (transfer), Hakim Hart (transfer), Lance Ware (transfer)


For the first time all off-season, welcome to the Top 25, Villanova!


The Wildcats enter here after one of the most aggressive portal runs of anyone in college basketball. In recent weeks, Villanova added Washington State leading scorer TJ Bamba, Maryland forward Hakim Hart and Kentucky back-up Lance Ware, before the crescendo right before the deadline on Wednesday, when Richmond forward Tyler Burton committed. Burton is coming off an All-A-10 season, in which he averaged 19 points and seven rebounds. He is a legit NBA prospect and should have no trouble adjusting to the Big East.


Add in several key returnees, including a healthy Justin Moore (the team's second leading scorer during the 2022 Final Four) and this is a stacked team, as talented as any in the Big East. We should find out just how good second-year Villanova coach Kyle Neptune is this season. He has a team good enough to win the league.


17. 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 Additions: Ryan Nembhard (transfer), Graham Ike (transfer), Steele Venters (transfer), Dusty Stromer, Alex Toohey


Few teams have reshaped their roster in the last few weeks quite like the Zags have.


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.


18. 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), Elliot Cadeau, Simeon Wilcher, Zayden High


Ok, I'm doing it. I'm officially drinking the Tar Heel, baby blue Kool-Aid. Coming off what could be argued is the most disappointing season in college basketball history - from No. 1 in the country to missing the NCAA Tournament - I'm back on the UNC express, baby!!!


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.


And finally, UNC added another marquee piece this week, as five-star 2024 commit Elliot Cadeau officially announced a reclassification, and will arrive on campus in a few weeks. He adds another piece to a Tar Heel squad that should be good enough to compete atop the ACC.


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, Bronny James, Arrinten Page


While we can't say that the Trojans have made the most important addition since of the off-season, you could argue they've made the most notable: That's right, USC added Bronny James to its 2023-2024 roster.


While the younger James isn't a once-in-a-lifetime talent like his dad (who is these days?) he is a very nice piece, who should fit nicely alongside veteran guard Boogie Ellis and the No. 1 player in high school basketball, Isaiah Collier. Remember, James has played alongside elite talent all throughout his high school career, so fitting in alongside Ellis and Collier in the backcourt should be no problem.


In the frontcourt, 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. And they should be the favorites in their final season in the Pac-12.


20. Indiana Hoosiers


Key Returnees: Xavier Johnson, Trey Galloway, Malik Reneau, Anthony Leal, Kaleb Banks, CJ Gunn

Key Departures: Trayce-Jackson Davis, Jalen Hood-Schifino, Race Thompson, Tamar Bates, Jordan Geronimo,

Key Newcomers: Kel'El Ware (transfer), Payton Sparks (transfer), Anthony Walker (transfer), Mackenzie Mgbako, JaKai Newton, Gabe Kupps


Credit to Mike Woodson, who, after losing his two most important players - Trayce Jackson-Davis and Jalen Hood-Schifino - reshaped his roster like a seasoned pro this off-season.


The most important piece might be a returnee, and that is guard Xavier Johnson. Remember, it was Johnson who started last year as Indiana's point guard and who was the team's second-leading scorer, prior to a season-ending foot injury in December. He was granted an extra year of eligibility and now returns for a final season.


It's what's around him that's been so wild, as you can argue that no one has had a better off-season than Woodson and the Hoosiers. They added former McDonald's All-American Kel'El Ware out of the portal from Oregon, a school that just about everyone in college basketball wanted. And more recently, they also added five-star Mackenzie Mgbako, a one-time Duke commit, who they had to go head-to-head with Kansas to beat. It isn't an exaggeration to say that Mgbako is one of the Hoosiers biggest recruiting wins in years.


Add them in with the return of hot-shooting Trey Galloway and other portal additions Anthony Walker and Payton Sparks, and the Hoosiers, have a big, athletic team capable of lining up with anyone in the sport.


It's worth noting Indiana has one scholarship left and could still add some scoring depth to their backcourt.



21. West Virginia Mountaineers


Key Returnees: Joe Touissant, Tre Mitchell,

Key Departures: Erik Stevenson, Kedrian Johnson, Emmitt Matthews Jr., Jimmy Bell Jr.

Key Additions: Kerr Kriisa (transfer), Jesse Edwards (transfer), RaeQuan Battle (transfer), Jose Perez (transfer)


While Bob Huggins certainly had a forgettable early May (and will be punished with an early season suspension), he's got a roster on the court good enough to compete at the top of the Big 12 next year.


Really, you could argue no program has had a more impressive portal run this off-season than the Mountaineers.


They started early adding guard Kerr Kriisa from Arizona. While Kriisa seemed to largely wear out his welcome in Tucson, he is a player who has been part of two elite college basketball teams and averaged over five assists per game at the point guard spot this year. West Virginia also added Syracuse forward Jesse Edwards this spring, an elite forward who averaged over 14 points, 10 rebounds and nearly three blocks per game at Syracuse. And guards RaeQuan Battle (Montana State) and Jose Perez (Manhattan) should add scoring pop in the backcourt as well.


Add them in with a pair of returnees (Joe Touissant and Tre Mitchell) and the Mountaineers could be the surprise of the Big 12 next year.


And like so many others, they might not be done, as the Mountaineers appear to be a finalist for Tennessee transfer Olivier Nkamhoua.


22. Alabama Crimson Tide


Key Returnees: Jahvon Quinerly, Mark Sears, Nick Pringle, Rylan Griffen,

Key Departures: Brandon Miller, Noah Clowney, Charles Bediako, Dom Welch, Nimari Burnett (transfer), Jaden Bradley (transfer)

Key Additions: Aaron Estrada (transfer), Latrell Wrightsell (transfer), Sam Walters, Mouhamed Dioubate, Kris Parker


After winning a second dual-SEC title in a three-year period, it's been a long, hard off-season for Nate Oats.


Alabama expected to lose forwards Brandon Miller and Noah Clowney to the draft so that wasn't really a surprise. But Oats also lost all three of his assistant coaches to heading coaching jobs and had top transfer commit Jaykwon Walton arrested with a gun (and subsequently had his scholarship offer revoked).


Then, a few days before the deadline, starting center Charles Bediako - who no one had projected leaving - announced he'd be staying in the draft after a Monday night workout. With it, it leaves big gaping holes on the wing (where Walton was expected to replace Miller) and at center, where Nick Pringle will now have to step up for Bediako.


The good news is, both Jahvon Quinerly and Mark Sears return, meaning the guard play will still be elite, with those veterans joining transfers Aaron Estrada (Hofstra) and Latrell Wrightsell (Cal State-Fullerton) in the backcourt. Rylan Griffen could be do for a breakout as well.


But again, late in the portal cycle, the Crimson Tide have big holes to fill. And not a lot of time to fill them.


23. 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 a few weeks back should cement this group as a preseason Top 25 team.


24. 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


Like so many on this list, the Aztecs got great, late news with the return of NCAA Tournament hero Lamont Butler on Monday. That was followed by the news that Jaedon Ledee would join them as well.


They will both be back and joined by guards Darrion Tramell and Micah Parrish. The Aztecs also added Pac-12 Sixth Man of the Year Reese Dixon-Waters, a talented wing from USC who should help replace veteran Keshad Johnson, who left for Arizona.


This team won't be as big, deep or talented as last year's squad. But they should probably still be considered the favorites in the Mountain West.


25. 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.


Next five:


26. Illinois

27. Maryland

28. St. John's

29. Baylor

30. Auburn



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