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College Basketball "Way Too Early Top 25" VERSION 8.0 - Mid-July edition

Credit: Kansas Athletics

Incredibly, it's been over three full months since UConn claimed the national championship in Houston.

Yet maybe even more incredibly, it's early July, and there are still *major* changes in college hoops right now, as rosters continue to be in flux.

With it, it feels like a good time to once again update our "Way Too Early Top 25."

The last time we updated this Top 25 was shortly after the NBA Draft deadline in early June, but with big-time roster changes at Kentucky and Alabama (on the positive) and West Virginia on the negative, it feels like a good time to update this bad boy.

So here it is, our early July look at the college hoops landscape heading into next year.

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 at the deadline with the return of Kevin McCullar, 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. Among the other returnees are leading scorer and rebounder Kyle Filipowski, as well as fellow sophomores-to-be Tyrese Proctor (9.4 ppg) and Mark Mitchell (9.1 ppg). Filipowski and Proctor likely would've been drafted had they elected to go pro, but instead will return for another season.

They will make an all-of-a-sudden pseudo-veteran core, alongside another strong recruiting class. It took a dip when five-star Mackenzie Mgbako - likely because of Filipowski's return - decided to re-open his recruitment in April, but this freshman group should still add plenty of depth to the 2023-2024 squad.

This is your No. 1 team going into 2023-2024.

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

As mentioned above, McCullar - a four-year vet and double-figure scorer - announced he'd return right before the deadline, solidifying a Jayhawks team good enough to win a second national title in three years.

With McCullar back, 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 officially came 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. 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

While UConn's run in March was historically dominant, never forget, that it was Marquette which was the Big East regular season and tournament champions, and a squad that beat the Huskies twice in the regular season.

And now, they enter 2023-2024 with four of five starters back off last year's squad. That includes Big East Player of the Year Tyer Kolek as well as sharp-shooting Kam Jones and versatile center Oso Ighodaro. Oh, and sixth man David Joplin is more than capable of replacing the production of departed forward Olivier-Max Prosper who was drafted late in the first round by Dallas.

The Golden Eagles will enter the season with their best team since the D-Wade, Final Four team two decades ago. And with a team good enough to get back to college basketball's final weekend.

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

It was a good draft deadline for the Hogs, who got program stalwart Devo Davis back - and he returns to maybe the most loaded roster of his time at Arkansas. The Hogs crushed - as usual in the portal - added high-scoring guards El Ellis (Louisville) and Khalif Battle (Temple) and lockdown wing Tramon Mark (Houston) in addition to All-Pac 12 freshman team member Keyon Menefield from Washington.

But, more importantly, the Hogs return key pieces in the front court - including Trevon Brazile, who you may remember, did this prior to injury early in the season.

The Hogs again have a squad good enough to make the school's first Final Four since 1995.

6. 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: Cam Spencer (transfer) 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 at the deadline, 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.

Remember, Clingan was an absolute monster in limited minutes, playing behind tournament Most Outstanding Player Adama Sanogo - and will be a legit All-American candidate in 2024.

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.

Oh, and they also added Rutgers leading scorer Cam Spencer in June as well.

This Husky team should again be able to compete at the highest level of the sport again next season.

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. 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, who averaged 13 points on 41 percent shooting a season ago.

Like Duke's tandem of Kyle Filipowski and Tyrese Proctor, both Kalkbrenner and Alexander would've been drafted had they gone pro. Instead, they'll anchor a Jays' team good enough to get to the school's first Final Four ever.

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 averaged 13 points per game on 41 percent three-point shooting.

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 dark horse title contender.

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. 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 late May than the Tennessee Volunteers, who added three impact transfers since our last update and added a returning veteran right before the deadline.

The biggest addition 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.

11. 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

The Hurricanes were yet another big winner 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, Miami 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.

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, COnrad

While just about every team on this list had a good May, you could argue no one had a better one than Arizona.

The biggest - or certainly most interesting - move came 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 the 2022 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 four 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: Tre Mitchell (transfer), DJ Wagner, Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw, Rob Dillingham, Reed Sheppard, Jordan Burks, Joey Hart

As someone who has been critical of John Calipari all off-season, I will admit that I do find the discourse on him and Kentucky interesting over the last couple weeks.

Most people who do these "Way Too Early Top 25's" didn't have Kentucky in their Top 25's prior to the return of Antonio Reeves and addition of West Virginia transfer Tre Mitchell. Now that both of those players have affirmed their commitments to the Wildcats for the 2023-2024 season, those same writers are triumphantly exclaiming "I have UK back in the Top 25."

Honestly, it's no disrespect to any of those people. But with Reeves and Mitchell joining a roster that might have three lottery picks on it - freshmen DJ Wagner, Justin Edwards and Aaron Bradshaw - people really think that's a fringe Top 25 team?

I don't see it, and think - for the first time, maybe in the history of the John Calipari era - UK is actually a bit undervalued coming into the year. Calipari's best teams have always been loaded with elite freshman talent and supplemented by the right veterans, and that's exactly what this team has the chance to be.

Will they get there? That remains to be seen. But this team just might be a little bit underrated coming into 2023-2024.

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), Wildens Leveque (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 group of respected - but hardly flashy - 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 announced he'd be back for a final season before the deadline. Same with Julius Marble in the frontcourt, where he'll be reunited with the versatile Henry Coleman and Andersson Garcia.

Put simply, 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)

The Wildcats joined the Top 25 right around the NBA Draft deadline for one simple reason: They had one of the most aggressive portal runs of anyone in college basketball.

This spring, 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, 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 squad, 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, Anton Watson, Ben Gregg Key Departures: Drew Timme, Rasir Bolton, Malachi Smith, Julian Strawther, Hunter Sallis (transfer), Efton Reid (transfer) Key Additions: Ryan Nembhard (transfer), Graham Ike (transfer), Steele Venters (transfer), Dusty Stromer

Like so many other teams on this list, Gonzaga made major moves to shore up its roster in the spring.

The biggest and most important piece came 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, last year's preseason Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year at Wyoming. The big man missed all of last season with injury, but averaged 19 points and nine rebounds, in 2022, helping the Cowboys to an NCAA Tournament appearance.

Add those two to a core that includes veterans Nolan Hickman and Ben Gregg, 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 in early June, as five-star 2024 commit Elliot Cadeau officially announced he will reclassify and play this season. 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 along with Arizona 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. 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 before the deadline. That was followed by the news that Jaedon Ledee would join him 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.

22. Kansas State Wildcats

Key Returnees: Nae'Qwan Tomlin, David N'Guessan, Cam Carter, Jerrell Colbert, Dorian Finister, Taj Manning

Key Departures: Markquis Nowell, Keyontae Johnson, Desi Sills

Key Additions: Tylor Perry (transfer), Arthur Kaluma (transfer), Darrin Ames, RJ Jones, Macaleb Rich

For the first time this off-season, it's time to welcome Kansas State to our Top 25.

And it's for good reason: Jerome Tang is a beast in the portal. That's because despite losing the Wildcats' two most important players off last season's Elite Eight squad - guard Markquis Nowell and forward Keyontae Johnson - he did about as well as anyone could expect replacing them.

At the lead guard spot will be former Conference USA Player of the Year Tylor Perry, who averaged 17 points on 43 percent three-point shooting, helping North Texas to an NIT title in the spring. And on the wing is Creighton transfer Arthur Kaluma, who averaged just under 12 points per game for the Jays a year ago.

Add them in with a strong returning core from last year, highlighted by center Nae'Qwan Tomlin, and the Wildcats will again be a threat in the Big 12

23. 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.

24. Alabama Crimson Tide

Key Returnees: Mark Sears, Nick Pringle, Rylan Griffen

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

Key Additions: Grant Nelson (transfer), Mohamed Wague (transfer) Aaron Estrada (transfer), Latrell Wrightsell (transfer), Jarin Stevenson, Sam Walters, Mouhamed Dioubate, Kris Parker

It's been a wild, turbulent off-season for Alabama head coach Nate Oats. But after having to replace his entire coaching staff and most of his roster, the Tide again have a squad that should finish towards the top of the SEC.

To its credit, the Tide return three key pieces of last year's dual-SEC champions. Mark Sears is a steady veteran presence in the backcourt while Rylan Griffen is a potential breakout star both in the SEC and nationally. Nick Pringle will bring size and athleticism to this year's frontcourt.

More importantly though is that Oats had plenty of success in the portal, adding North Dakota State's Grant Nelson in the front court and guards Aaron Estrada and Latrell Wrightsell in the backcourt. The latest addition came on Monday morning, when West Virginia transfer Mohamed Wague committed to the Tide as well, adding depth to the front court.

Oh, did I mention that the Tide also convinced 2024 five-star Jarin Stevenson to come to Tuscaloosa this fall, adding another versatile frontcourt piece?

The 2024 Crimson Tide might not have the upside of last year's No. 1 overall seed. But they'll still be a damn tough out in the SEC.

25. St. John's Red Storm

Key Returnees: Joel Soriano

Key Departures: Posh Alexander, David Jones, Andre Curbelo, Montez Mathis

Key Additions: Jordan Dingle (transfer), Glenn Taylor (transfer), RJ Luis (transfer), Nahiem Alleyne (transfer), Zuby Ejiofor (transfer), Sean Conway (transfer), Simeon Wilcher

For the first time this off-season, we officially welcome Rick Pitino and the St. John's Red Storm to our Top 25!

By now it's been well-documented (including by me) what Pitino would mean to New York City basketball is the Red Storm hired him, and to his credit he delivered in a major way this off-season.

Overall, 11 new players joined this roster, headlined by Penn transfer Jordan Dingle, the second leading scorer in all of college basketball this season. Beyond him, Glenn Taylor is a big wing who averaged double-figures in the Pac-12 last year at Oregon State, RJ Luis a high-upside wing and Zuby Ejiofor, a former four-star prospect who began his career at Kansas. Nahiem Alleyne was also a key role player on UConn's title team a year ago.

Add in one of the best big men in the Big East last year (Joel Soriano) and four star guard Simeon Wilcher (previously committed to North Carolina) and Pitino's first squad isn't just good enough to get St. John's back to the NCAA Tournament - expect them to win some games once they get there.

Can you feel that rumbling in the distance? Oh, it's that Big Rick Energy, BABY!!!

Next five:

26. Xavier

27. Illinois

28. Maryland

29. Baylor

30. Auburn


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