We now have seen the departures for the NBA and the recruiting classes for the new season. College Basketball will be underway in a few months, after Virginia topped Texas Tech in the National Championship game. You might be surprised, but Memphis was able to sign two 5-star athletes and four 4-star players to their roster this season. Kentucky, Arizona, Duke, and Villanova round out the top five recruiting classes heading into the new season. Michigan State, Maryland, and Virginia had somewhat disappointing classes, but are bringing back a strong core.
The Spartans were close to another National Championship appearance, and as often they bring back most of their roster, including Cassius Winston. With Tom Izzo’s roster in place, they will likely headline the Big Ten, and make another deep tournament run. Of the main power house teams, they have the least turnover and it should show.
Weirdly we will see Kentucky players return for their second year at the school, as it wasn’t a one and done type John Calipari year we have grown accustomed to. They also brought in a usual strong recruiting class. By their expectations it was a down year, but Kentucky should be right in the thick of things as an elite powerhouse.
Duke fell short in the tournament, and will lose a few players. However, Tre Jones is returning, and they had another strong recruiting class. Zion Williamson’s departure to the NBA might actually help the surrounding players that are returning this season. Hard to move Duke out of the top five in any sort of rankings at this point.
With Jordan Nwora returning, the Cardinals creep up the rankings. Chris Mack is a strong head coach, and brought in a top 12 recruiting class. They will get Lamarr Kimble as a transfer, and this team looks deep heading into the year. Because they were a 14-loss team in last year, people underrate them heading into this season.
Maryland never flashes huge potential in recruiting, but continue to produce strong talent. Bruno Fernando is going to be a big name to fill, but they have a few options to fill-in. The Terrapins are going to be in the hunt for the Big 10, and I would expect them to make another semi-deep run in the tournament.
We should buy into what Memphis is doing, and Penny Hardaway just brought in one hell of a recruiting class. James Wiseman and Precius Achiuwa are likely one-and-done players, but could give Memphis a massive advantage from last season. Look out for the Tigers to make a major move this season, after going 22-14 last year.
This should certainly be a bounce back year for the Jayhawks. They will bring back Devon Dotson and Udoka Azuibuike, but also get Silvio De Sousa eligible. While it wasn’t a notable recruiting class, they have some above average recruits coming in to a pretty solidified roster of studs. This team just lost ten games last season, and should be better this year.
North Carolina is going to need to re-tool, and it seems it has been a while since they had a strong recruiting class. However, Cole Anthony coming into town is going to solve that. It will be a younger group this season, and they might not gel right away, but the Tar Heels are always a team in the mix.
We will need to see how Villanova adjusts to losing Phil Booth and Eric Paschall. The difference between Villanova and a few other teams losing top players, is that they have the fifth best recruiting class in the nation. With two five-star players incoming, this team shouldn’t miss a beat.
With Seton Hall bringing back eight guys from last year’s team, they sit fairly high in the rankings. Myles Powell is returning, which is a big plus for the Pirates. The conference is tough, but Seton Hall will be within the first few teams fighting for the top spot. They are a dark horse to go deep in the tournament barring injuries.
Most of the news out of Arizona has been Sean Miller dealing with FBI nonsense and dodging media questions. Despite all of that, the Wildcats were able to bring in a top five recruiting class, just a year after they had players drop out due to the scandal. Nico Mannion, Josh Green, and Zeke Nnanji are all highly touted players that will make an impact.
It is tough to get too high Texas Tech after seeing Jarrett Culver and a few other names depart for graduation or the NBA draft. However, they had a top 15 recruiting class, and will bring in a few names from other schools. It will be hard to duplicate the 31-7 record, but Texas Tech is in a good spot to succeed again.
Bruce Pearl had Auburn firing on all cylinders, and they made a deep run in the tournament. The Tigers lost a lot of players, but will have a top 20 recruiting class incoming. The SEC is wide open again after Kentucky, and the Tigers will have first dibs at being the team to follow them.
It was a quiet 25-8 year for VCU last year, and they are losing just two players. If they can stay healthy, VCU will have a really strong team to take down the A-10 and into the tournament. VCU will also bring in Tre Clarke and Jarren McAlister to add to a deep and experienced roster.
Yes, Carsen Edwards leaving is going to be a tough hole to full. However this program continues to replenish year in and year out. There is still a lot to like around him, like Nojel Eastern and Trevion Williams. If they can get someone to even be half as good as Edwards, they will be in a good spot.
Unfortunately Tennessee is going to lose some of their best offensive weapons from last season. However, they had a top 25 recruiting class, which included Josiah-Jordan James. He is a five-star recruit that will jump into a front court role. Don’t knock down Tennessee too much after a few key departures.
Tyler Cook is going to the draft, but this Iowa team has a lot to like. Luke Garza is the stud that should lead this team. The injury situation with Jordan Bohannon is going to either propel them or hold them back a bit. I still think they are good enough without to finish as an above average team in the Big 10.
Gonzaga is going to see a lot of big names go, but that is fine. They have been in this situation before, and they continue to roll out 25+ win seasons and conference championships. They also currently have the 12th best recruiting class, with six four-star signings. The coaching staff is one of the best in the country, so we shouldn’t see too big of a drop off.
The Buckeyes cracking the list has a lot to do with their returning players, and the 13th best recruiting class at the moment. The Wesson bros will return, and the signing of DJ Carton gives them a prolific point guard to watch out for this season. The Big 10 is loaded again, and Ohio State should have a better run.
Davidson was a fun team to watch down the stretch, and this same team is going to be back for more. With all their names basically returning, they will have the chance to go on a tournament run. Jon Axel Gudmundsson was a stud, and is returning for this year. Look for your favorite teams to want to avoid them late.
Similar to some of the other non power conference teams, Utah State is going to bring back a lot of their roster. Sam Merrill will return, averaging 21 points per game last season. Playing in the Mountain West, they should be able to dominate and get a moderate seeding come the end of the season.
Marquette is coming off of a 24-10 season where they finished second in the Big East. Both Sam and Joey Hauser transferred, which knocks them down in the rankings. However, this is still a really strong team, especially on defense. The Golden Eagles should contend in a tough Big East, and be a sneaky tournament team to watch out for.
Weird to see a team that just won the title this low, isn’t it? Well, Virginia is going to lose three key players, and bring back more depth and role players. With no Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter, and a few other names, their 23rd ranked recruiting class isn’t as appealing as some other schools. It could be a slower year for Virginia.
I might be too low on Florida, but they are coming. This feels a lot like the build up of the Al Horford and Corey Brewer teams. They signed two five star recruits, and have the seventh best recruiting class. There is a lot of young talent here and they will have to figure it out first before we see them move up the rankings.
Given Jarron Comberland is coming back, that is already a promising start to the new year. John Brannen is a new coach, but this team is in a stable position to be successful under him. They finished second in the conference winning 28 games, and will likely see Houston take a step backwards. They are in a good spot to have another 25+ win season.