Way Too Early College Basketball Top 25 for 2023-2024
It's the first Monday in April, the confetti is falling and another national champion has been crowned - and you know what that means....
It's time to look ahead to next season!
That's right, in the world we live in, we're always looking ahead, and so there's no better time to drop our first edition of next year's "Way Too Early Top 25" this for the 2023-2024 season (man, where is the time going).
But as we get set to drop a Top 25, let me say this: I've been doing these things for about 10 years now.
And this year's is the hardest I've ever done.
That's because this year, we - like coaches across the country - have to juggle the following things:
* 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.
With NIL now allowing players to make real money in college, our guess is that a lot of players will take the fifth-year of eligibility, as will players projected as, at best second round picks in the draft (like Tyrese Proctor and Mark Mitchell who've already announced a return).
All of that is a VERY long-winded intro: Now, to our Top 25 for 2023-2024.
1. UConn Huskies
Key Returnees: Andre Jackson, Adama Sanogo, Alex Karaban, Donovan Clingan, Hasan Diarra
Key Departures: Jordan Hawkins, Tristen Newton, Nahiem Alleyne, Joey Calcaterra,
Key Additions: Stephon Castle, Solomon Ball, Jaylin Stewart, Jayden Ross, Youssouf Singare
UConn is your 2023 national champions, completing a dominant run through March with the school's fifth national title on Monday.
And here's the scary part: They could in theory return a bulk of the team that just won it all.
Right now, it seems certain that star Jordan Hawkins is headed to the NBA and Joey Calcaterra is out of eligibility, but as for everyone else... that's where it gets interesting. The rumors around Houston this week are that NIL could bring Adama Sanogo for another year, and do-it-all forward Andre Jackson has said he plans to be back for another season. That may change though with this title run.
Meanwhile, bruising 7'2 freshman Donovan Clingan has been picking up NBA buzz as the season has worn on, and it'll be interesting to see what he does. Interestingly, if Sanogo does return - and there isn't a clear path to playing time - could that make Clingan's decision to go to the NBA more likely, not less?
Also, we currently have starting guard Tristen Newton and key back-up Nahiem Alleyne listed as "departures" after taking part in senior day a few weeks ago, but each could return.
Oh, and did we mention UConn has a Top 5 class, headlined by five-star point guard prospect Stephon Castle?
There's a lot to be sorted, but if Jackson and either Sanogo or Clingan is back at center, this is a team that will again be good enough to win it all in 2023-2024.
2. 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. 2 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 UConn, they really don't have that many guys who genuinely project as NBA prospects, meaning it's very likely that this group does come back intact.
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.
3. Duke Blue Devils Key Returnees: Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor, Mark Mitchell Key Losses: Dariq Whitehead, Dereck Lively II, Kyle Filipowski, Ryan Young, Jacob Grandison Key Newcomers: Mackenzie Mgbako, Sean Stewart, Jared McCain, Caleb Foster, TJ Power
Duke, in my opinion, could be a trendsetter in a new wave of college basketball. Last year, we saw players with no NBA futures (Hunter Dickinson, Drew Timme, Oscar Tshiebwe) return for another year thanks to NIL.
Now, could we see fringe second round picks, who previously could've gone to the G-League and try to grind out a pro career return as well? I think so, and Duke might be at the forefront of this, as former five-star freshmen Tyrese Proctor and Mark Mitchell have both already announced that rather than they won't even testing the NBA Draft waters and return for another season of college hoops. Even as recently as two or three years ago those guys probably would've declared and settled for being second round picks. Now they're back for another season.
They'll likely be joined by starting guard Jeremy Roach, meaning that the Blue Devils could return three starters from a team which won nine straight heading into the NCAA Tournament. They will also add the No. 2 ranked recruiting class in the country to supplant them.
Oh, and there's two other things to keep an eye on here. As a fringe first rounder, there's a possibility that big man Kyle Filipowksi could be back for another year. Oh, and the Blue Devils are one team hinted as a favorite for Hunter Dickinson.
Either one of those things happen and the Blue Devils might enter next year at No. 1.
4. Creighton Bluejays
Key Returnees: Ryan Kalkbrenner, Ryan Nembhard, Arthur Kaluma, Baylor Scheierman, Trey Alexander, Fredric King, Francisco Farabello
Key Departures: N/A
Key Additions: Isaac Traudt (transfer), Josiah Dotzler
Three of the top four teams from the Big East? It sounds crazy, but right now that's how things are lining up.
Like UConn, Creighton's entire roster has another year of eligibility, should they choose to use it.
Also, like UConn there will be a lot of hard NBA Draft decisions.
Starting wing Baylor Scheierman came to Omaha this year with the intention of using the Big East stage to prove he's an NBA player, and as a 23-year-old may be ready to move on. But as a fringe second rounder, who is from Nebraska, the NIL opportunities might make it worth considering a return. Ryan Kalkbrenner and Arthur Kaluma are two other players that might get drafted - but aren't certain, meaning another year of college might make sense for them.
Ultimately, like UConn, it feels like there will be some movement, and it doesn't feel like *everyone* will be back.
But until we sort those pieces, we'll keep the Jays here.
5. Miami Hurricanes
Key Returnees: Isaiah Wong, Nijel Pack, Wooga Poplar, Norchad Omier, Bensley Joseph, Harland Beverly, Anthony Walker
Key Departures: Jordan Miller
Key Additions: Michael Nwoko
After a season that culminated in a Final Four run this season, the Hurricanes could - forgive me if I sound redundant - return just about everyone next year. And if they did, there's no reason they can't get back to the final weekend of the season.
Elite Eight hero Jordan Miller is the one who we know is gone, but ACC Player of the Year Isaiah Wong could return, as could big man Norchad Omier. We publicly know that Nijel Pack signed a two-year NIL deal with John Ruiz prior to last season, so it seems like the assumption has always been that he'd be a Hurricane for 2023-2024.
Add it up, and this looks like another excellent team on paper.
Remember, the Hurricanes were the ACC regular season co-champs before their Final Four run. There was nothing fluky about what they did in March.
6. 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
As a noted Purdue critic, it pains me to do this, but I can't really justify putting the Boilermakers any lower. 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.
That essentially means that Purdue could run it back in 2023-2024 like they never left.
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.
7. Kentucky Wildcats
Key Returnees: Antonio Reeves, Daimion Collins, Chris Livingston, Adou Theiro, Ugonna Onyenso
Key Departures: Oscar Tshiebwe, Cason Wallace, CJ Fredrick, Sahvir Wheeler (transfer)
Key Newcomers: DJ Wagner, Justin Edwards, Aaron Bradshaw, Rob Dillingham, Reed Sheppard
It feels like 80 percent of this season was spent trying to talk Kentucky fans off the ledge, but never forget, this was a team that swept Tennessee twice, won at Bud Walton, and had a lead at the under four-minute mark against Kansas State before a questionable (aka, bad) shooting foul was called allowing Markquis Nowell free throws, that opened the floodgates for K-State.
Point being, it wasn't as good of a season as it should've been at Kentucky, but it was never as bad either. The question, like so many teams, is what the roster will look like by the start of next season.
Cason Wallace and Jacob Toppin have declared, and early reports are that Oscar Tshiebwe will move on, and that CJ Fredrick may as well. Chris Livingston has a legit NBA Draft decision to make, and Daimion Collins has a legit transfer decision to make as well.
The good news is, the foundation is already there of a Top 10 team, with the No. 1 recruiting class in the country - featuring four Top 10 prospects - coming to Lexington. DJ Wagner and Justin Edwards will both be Top 10 picks at this time next year, and Aaron Bradshaw is the kind of rim protector this team lacked this season.
If the hot-shooting Antonio Reeves returns, and John Calipari makes a few moves in the portal, he will again have a roster good enough to make the school's first Final Four since 2015.
8. 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: 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.
But as long as Bill Self is ready to coach come November, are we really betting against him at this point? Assuming Kevin McCullar uses his extra year of eligibility - he's currently projected as a late second rounder at best - that means the Jayhawks will return three starters off this year's team. Ernest Udeh and Joseph Yesufu came on strong late as well, adding crucial depth pieces.
It's also interesting that Kansas seems to be more active in the portal than years past, contacting and connecting with recruits.
But still, this is all about Self. We're not really betting against this guy of having a team that's good enough to win it all at this point, right?
9. Alabama Crimson Tide
Key Returnees: Jahvon Quinerly, Mark Sears, Jaden Bradley, Nick Pringle, Rylan Griffen, Charles Bediako,
Key Departures: Brandon Miller, Noah Clowney, Dom Welch, Nimari Burnett (transfer)
Key Additions: Jaykwon Walton (transfer) Sam Walters, Mouhamed Dioubate, Kris Parker
So, Tide All-American Brandon Miller has already declared for the draft, but outside of a few back-end bench players and Nimari Burnett (who already announced a transfer to Michigan) most of this year's No. 1 overall seed should be back.
Jahvon Quinerly is currently testing the NBA Draft waters, but with real NIL money in college could return for a sixth - yes, sixth year. Jaden Bradley is the kind of guy who could turn himself into a first rounder with another year of college, and Rylan Griffen - who showed flashes this season - could be a breakout star in 2023-2024. Oh, and steady vets Mark Sears and Charles Bediako are also expected back (although Bediako is currently testing the NBA Draft waters).
Alabama has already hit the portal for wing Jaykwon Walton, and might add another piece or two.
But this is a team that will be yet again good enough to win the SEC... and maybe more.
10. Arkansas Razorbacks
Key Returnees: Devo Davis, Jordan Walsh, Trevon Brazile, Jalen Graham, Mahki Mitchell, Mekhel Mitchell, Barry Dunning, Joseph Pinion, Derrian Ford
Key Losses: Nick Smith Jr., Anthony Black, Ricky Council, Kimani Johnson
Key Additions: Baye Fall, Layden Blocker
Like so many teams on this list, Arkansas has a lot of moving parts to figure out. Nick Smith has already declared and Anthony Black is projected to join him. Ricky Council is projected as a second round guy, and the early buzz is that he plans to stay in. Meanwhile, Devo Davis is testing the waters, but is expected to return, and Jordan Walsh remains up in the air as well.
Got all that?
Still, the Hogs did get a piece of good news with the announcement that Trevon Brazile will return for another year. Remember him? He was playing like an All-SEC player and doing stuff like this pre-injury, and will return for another year.
McDonald's All-American Baye Fall will help create one of the most formidable frontcourts in the sport, and Davis should be back to lead the team at point. Layden Blocker is another five-star freshman that should make major impact, and if Walsh is back, he could make a major leap.
Oh, and because it's Arkansas, you know they'll be active in the portal, and have already been linked to a ton of guys.
Regardless of who stays and who goes, you know the Hogs will have a team ready to compete at the highest level next year.
11. 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 already announced he won't use his extra year, but everyone else could be back. One player expected back is star guard Tyson Walker, who will be buoyed by AJ Hoggard and Jaden Akins, should 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.
Put simply, if everyone who is expected to return does, 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.
12. Florida Atlantic
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 this week.
So yeah, if I was FAU, I'd be working hard to umm, beef up my NIL funds.
But the Owls should again be locked and loaded for 2023-2024.
13. UCLA Bruins Key Returnees: Jaylen Clark, Amari Bailey, Adem Bona, Mac Etienne, Kenneth Nwaba Key Departures: Jamie Jacquez, Tyger Campbell, David Singleton Key Additions: Sebastian Mack, Devin Williams, Brandon Williams
Add UCLA to the laundry list of teams that could be fundamentally shaped in a positive or negative way by the draft decision process and extra year of Covid eligibility, adding about as margin to move up or down of any team in the country.
Incredibly, the only UCLA player who is totally out of eligibility is sixth man David Singleton, although the presumption is that after four years on campus, Pac-12 Player of the Year Jamie Jacquez will go pro. Tyger Campbell could come back for a sixth year of eligibility as well, but has hinted he's done in Westwood.
Yet even under the assumption both those guys are gone, it still leaves for wild roster fluctuation for the Bruins. Star wing Jaylen Clark was trending as a first round pick, but after suffering a season-ending Achilles injury, could he come back and try to get healthy for one more run? Also, Amari Bailey and Adem Bona were five-star players deemed to be one and dones in the preseason, but neither is currently projected to go in Round 1 in most mock drafts. Will that convince them to come back for another season?
A core of Clark (when he eventually gets healthy mid-season), Bailey and Bona, with a transfer or two sprinkled in, is enough to win yet another Pac-12 title.
14. Arizona Wildcats
Key Returnees: Azuolas Tubelis, Oumar Ballo, Pelle Larsson, Kylan Boswell
Key Departures: Kerr Kriisa (transfer), Adama Bal (transfer), Courtney Ramey, Cedric Henderson
Key Additions: KJ Lewis
As I always say on the Aaron Torres Pod: In life, two things can be true. And they are with the Arizona Wildcats.
On the one hand, I've underestimated Tommy Lloyd each of the last two seasons, and been made to look a fool each time. So I'm not making the same mistake again. What is also true is, there's a lot of work to do with this roster.
The good news is that the two-headed monster of Azuolas Tubelis and Oumar Ballo are both expected to be back, although with foreign backgrounds, it isn't inconceivable that both could seek professional opportunities overseas. They'll be joined by Pelle Larsson, and after two up-and-down years with Kerr Kriisa at the point, the keys have officially been handed to former five-star Kylan Boswell, who performed well last year as a 17-year-old freshman coming off major injury.
Still, Lloyd and his staff have major holes to fill on the wings and guard spots to take them back to the elite level. And that's again, assuming everyone projected to come back does.
It'll be an interesting few months in Tucson to say the least.
15. San Diego State
Key Returnees: Lamont Butler, Darrion Trammell, Micah Parrish, Jaedon Ledee, Keshod Johnson, Demarshay Johnson Jr.
Key Departures: Matt Bradley, Nathan Mensah, Ageuk Arop, Adam Seiko
Key Additions: Miles Heide, BJ Davis
While the dream run for San Diego State ended one game short of a title on Monday night, 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 told reporters this week that he plans to test the draft waters, but should be back, and there will be plenty around him in the backcourt with Darrion Tramell and Micah Parrish. Keshod Johnson is a fourth-year senior who is expected to use his extra year and no school has been better finding role players that fit in the portal than the Aztecs the last few years.
Brian Dutcher's squad isn't going anywhere, any time soon.
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. Kansas State Wildcats
Key Returnees: Keyontae Johnson, Nae'Kwon Tomlin, Cam Carter, David N'Guessan
Key Departures: Markquis Nowell, Desi Sills, Ish Massoud (transfer)
Key Additions: DaeDae Ames, RJ Jones, Macaleb Rich
The Wildcats were one of the feel good stories in Year 1 of the Jerome Tang era, and it's hard to see a reason that they will slow down significantly in Year 2.
Yes, K-State must replace tournament breakout star Markquis Nowell and rugged guard Desi Sills, but most everyone could be back. After missing two seasons, Keyontae Johnson could choose to play more in college and get himself in better shape for the pros and Nae'Kwon Tomlin will only get better in Year 2 of Tang's system.
Plus, Tang proved that he's among the best in college hoops at identifying portal pieces that fit, putting last year's roster together on the fly. With a few more bedrocks and a year of success, it'll be curious to see what he can come up with this off-season.
18. Texas Longhorns
Key Returnees: Tyrese Hunter, Arterio Morris, Dylan Disu, Brock Cunningham
Key Departures: Marcus Carr, Sir'Jabari Rice, Timmy Allen, Christian Bishop, Dillon Mitchell
Key Additions: Ron Holland, AJ Johnson
If I had to make an educated guess it's that, over the next few weeks, no team moves up more in these rankings than Texas.
Right now, Tyrese Hunter is testing the NBA waters but should be back, and he'll be buoyed by five-stars Ron Holland and AJ Johnson. Assuming he's healthy Dylan Disu could come back, and Arterio Morris and Brock Cunningham will be nice role players.
Still, with Rodney Terry officially set as head coach, an attractive brand, and no shortage of NIL money, I expect Texas to be one of the big winners in the portal this off-season.
19. 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: 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.
They'll be helped by five-star guard Simeon Wilcher, and there's increasing buzz that five-star 2024 guard Ian Jackson could reclassify and play next season. Plus, Hubert Davis has been very active adding shooting out of the portal, adding Brown's Paxson Wojcik and prioritizing versatile guard Nick Timberlake (Towson) and versatile wing Dalton Knect of Northern Colorado.
20. 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: Joseph Tugler, Jacob McFarland
It was a weird year for Houston where they were ranked No. 1 in the country for a big chunk of the year, got a No. 1 seed and made the Sweet 16... yet never seemed to really click.
With the season now done, Marcus Sasser and Jarace Walker are almost certainly gone, and Tramon Mark decided to enter the portal while also testing the NBA Draft waters.
Still, next year should be a breakout year for last year's tourney star Jamal Shead, and Terrance Arceneaux is an NBA-level talent that could be due for a breakout.
Plus, like so many others, Kelvin Sampson has had a knack for finding the right fits in the portal.
It'll be fascinating to see who he targets.
21. Tennessee Volunteers
Key Returnees: Josiah-Jordan James, Uros Plavsic, Santiago Vescovi, Zakai Zeigler, Jahmai Mashack, Tobe Awaka, Jonas Aidoo Key Departures: Olivier Nkamhoua (transfer), Tyreke Key, Julian Phillips Key Additions: JP Estrella, Cameron Carr, Cade Phillips
Tennessee might be the single most interesting team on this list, from this perspective: They could return just about everyone.
Yet I'm not sure that anyone, most of all Tennessee fans, actually want it to happen.
What we know now is this: Olivier Nkamhoua has both hit the portal and is testing NBA Draft waters and won't be back, and Tyreke Key is out of eligibility.
But everyone else? Besides Julian Phillips (who's almost certain to test the draft waters), Santiago Vescovi, Uros Plavsic and Josiah Jordan-James both have eligibility remaining and none have announced their plans, while Zakai Zeigler will be back from injury at some point and Jahmai Mashack and Jonas Aidoo will be part of a loaded frontcourt.
Again, we've seen this Tennessee team and their limitations (especially offensively) and I do wonder if for everyone's good a few guys move on.
But right now, this is still a Top 25 team, even if they could be very limited offensively again in 2023-2024.
22. Baylor Bears
Key Returnees: Adam Flagler, Jalen Bridges, Langston Love, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, Caleb Lohner
Key Departures: Keyonte George, LJ Cryer (transfer), Flo Thamba
Key Additions: Ja'Kobe Walter, Miro Little
The Bears were hit with some crushing news on Monday, as 15-point per game scorer LJ Cryer entered the transfer portal, leaving a gaping hole in the backcourt for the Bears.
The good news is, not all is lost for Baylor, especially if leading scorer Adam Flagler comes back for a fifth-year. He'll be joined by wing Jalen Bridges and big man Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, who will be back at full strength after a devastating knee injury. And they'll be buoyed by two elite high school guards: McDonald's All-American JaKobe Walter and highly-touted international Miro Little.
Still, the Cryer loss hurts - and Scott Drew will need to find reinforcements in the portal.
23. Maryland Terrapins
Key Returnees: Jahmir Young, Julian Reese, Donta Scott, Ian Martinez
Key Departures: Don Carey, Hakim Hart
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 their biggest recruiting win imaginable 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.
Oh, and this feels like the Terps could be another team very active in the portal this winter.
Especially after adding assistant coach Mike Jones on Monday, one of the most plugged in recruiters in America.
24. 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.
25. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Key Returnees: Nolan Hickman, Malachi Smith, Anton Watson, Ben Gregg, Efton Reid Key Departures: Drew Timme, Rasir Bolton, Julian Strawther Key Returnees: Dusty Stromer, Alex Toohey
So, a couple of thoughts here.
One, like Texas, I expect Gonzaga to move in these rankings once the portal cycle is done.
And they need to hit the portal hard because, to be blunt, there's just not that much here.
Which leads to a bigger fundamental question: Is this the end of an era at Gonzaga? It's clear now, three recruiting cycles removed from Tommy Lloyd's departure that the Zags talent level isn't what it used to be, and unlike the old days, there aren't any foreign born players ready in the wings to break out. In previous years you could count on the Zags to have a guy ready for a breakout year - Rui Hachimura, Joel Ayayi, whoever - but that guy doesn't appear to exist on this roster.
Again, the Zags will be good.
And they'll have the talent to run through the WCC and get back to the tournament.
But are their days as a year-in, year out title contender over?
We'll start to find out this off-season.