I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and it’s always difficult. But this is by far the toughest set of rankings I’ve ever released because of the turnover surrounding just about everyone’s roster.
1. Kansas | Bill Self’s team should be improved – even after losing Jalen Wilson and Gradey Dick. The Jayhawks added the biggest prize of the portal in Michigan big man transfer Hunter Dickinson, bring back three starters in Dajuan Harris, KJ Adams and Kevin McCullar, and bring in a shooter in Towson transfer Nicolas Timberlake, a former McDonald’s All-American in Texas transfer Arterio Morris, and also a freshman class that includes talented point guard Elmarko Jackson. Self is a Hall of Fame coach who has just about everything he needs to win another national title.
2. Duke | The Blue Devils lost Dariq Whitehead and Dereck Lively, but will have four starters back: Kyle Filipowski (15.1 ppg), Jeremy Roach (13.6 ppg), Tyrese Proctor (9.4 ppg), and Mark Mitchell (9.1 ppg). Second-year head coach Jon Scheyer also welcomes in a loaded freshman class that boasts five players ranked in the top 40 – including multi-dimensional forward TJ Power. This Duke team has talent and experience.
3. Michigan State | Tom Izzo brings back Tyson Walker, AJ Hoggard, Jaden Akins, Malik Hall, Jaxon Kohler and Mady Sissoko, and a talented freshman class led by skilled forward Xavier Booker and point guard Jeremy Fears. That’s talent, experience and a Hall of Fame coach. That’s also a pretty good recipe for success.
4. Houston | Kelvin Sampson and the Cougars lost a lot — Marcus Sasser and Jarace Walker to the NBA Draft, and Tramon Mark to the transfer portal. But Houston should go in with Baylor transfer LJ Cryer, Temple transfer Damian Dunn, as well as holdovers Jamal Shead, Emanuel Sharp, talented wing Terrance Arceneaux and big men J’Wan Roberts and Ja’Vier Francis.
5. FAU | Dusty May and the Owls are expected to return just about everyone except for sixth man Michael Forrest from a team that went to the Final Four. Johnell Davis (13.8 ppg), Alijah Martin (13.4 ppg), Bryan Greenlee (7.3 ppg), Nick Boyd (8.9 ppg) and Vladislav Goldin (10.2 ppg) are all expected to be back in the fold. FAU is a preseason lock for the top 10 as long as all these guys stay true to their word.
6. Purdue | Zach Edey is back, and the two freshman guards in Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer now have a year under their belt. The Boilermakers also bring back Mason Gillis, Trey Kaufman-Renn, Caleb Furst and Ethan Morton. Matt Painter also added a veteran guard in SIU transfer Lance Jones (13.7 ppg).
7. Creighton | Greg McDermott lost Ryan Nembhard to the transfer portal, but quickly replaced him with Utah State transfer Steven Ashworth (16.2 ppg). Baylor Scheierman, Ryan Kalkbrenner and Trey Alexander are all back. Creighton also added Virginia transfer Isaac Traudt.
8. Marquette | Shaka Smart was set to bring back everyone of note from a team that won the Big East regular-season and tournament titles – until Olivier-Maxence Prosper (12.5 ppg) decided to remain in the NBA Draft. Smart still has one of the nation’s best point guards in Tyler Kolek, as well as fellow starters Kam Jones (15.1 ppg in 2022-23), Oso Ighodaro (11.4 ppg) and Stevie Mitchell (7.1 ppg).
9. Saint Mary’s | Give me a team coached by Randy Bennett, a backcourt with Aidan Mahaney and Augustas Marciulionis, and big man Mitchell Saxen. Alex Ducas will return for a final season as well. There’s always someone else waiting to emerge in Moraga, and the Gaels also bring in a top-100 recruit in point guard Jordan Ross.
10. Gonzaga | Drew Timme and Julian Strawther are gone, but Mark Few has hit the portal and come up big with the addition of Creighton transfer PG Ryan Nembhard, Wyoming transfer Graham Ike and former Eastern Washington standout Steele Venters. Nolan Hickman will need to make a jump, and the Zags will also have Anton Watson and Ben Gregg along with talented frosh Dusty Stromer.
11. North Carolina | Armando Bacot and RJ Davis are back, and those are the two guys I’d want to build around if I am Hubert Davis. Seth Trimble and Jalen Washington should both make a jump as sophomores, and the Tar Heels have done work in the portal, adding Cormac Ryan, Harrison Ingram, Paxson Wojcik and Jae’Lyn Withers. They also added point guard Elliott Cadeau a year early, and that’ll give the Tar Heels an elite passer.
12. Arkansas | Eric Musselman and his staff lose Jordan Walsh, but are bringing back Trevon Brazile and Devo Davis. The Razorbacks have also done work in the portal, adding Tramon Mark (10.1 ppg) from Houston, Keyon Menfield (10.0 ppg) from Washington and Khalif Battle (17.9 ppg) from Temple. Plus, they have a couple of talented freshmen in Baye Fall and Layden Blocker.
13. UConn | The Huskies will lose Jordan Hawkins, Adama Sanogo and Andre Jackson. That’s the bad news for the defending national champs. The good news is that Tristen Newton returned. Alex Karaban will be back, and Donovan Clingan will get extended minutes in the middle. The Huskies also bring in an intriguing freshman class led by Stephon Castle.
14. San Diego State | The Aztecs bring back Lamont Butler, Micah Parrish, Darrion Trammell and Jaedon LeDee from a team that went to the National Championship Game. Brian Dutcher will lose some key pieces with Matt Bradley, Keshad Johnson and Nathan Mensah, but he added a couple of transfers in former USC guard Reese Dixon-Waters (9.8 ppg) and ex-Campbell forward Jay Pal (12.3 ppg).
15. Tennessee | UT will bring back Santiago Vescovi, Zakai Zeigler and Josiah-Jordan James, and the Vols have been productive in the portal, adding Dalton Knecht (Northern Colorado), Jordan Gainey (USC Upstate) and Chris Ledlum (Harvard). Rick Barnes will have a veteran backcourt and some much-needed scoring.
16. Colorado | Tad Boyle brings back his top five scorers from a year ago in Tristan Da Silva, KJ Simpson, J’Vonne Hadley, Julian Hammond III and Luke O’Brien. The Buffs also add one of the top frosh in the country in Cody Williams, as well as TCU transfer Eddie Lampkin.
17. Villanova | It seems like just yesterday that Jay Wright was the coach and the Wildcats were reluctant to go into the portal. Well, the times have changed. Kyle Neptune kept Justin Moore and Eric Dixon, and added Tyler Burton (Richmond), TJ Bamba (Washington State), Hakim Hart (Maryland) and Lance Ware (Kentucky).
18. Miami | The ‘Canes will lose Isaiah Wong from a team that went to the Final Four but they have NIL and momentum, and return Nijel Pack, Norchad Omier and Wooga Poplar. They also added Florida State transfer Matthew Cleveland.
19. Texas A&M | The Aggies have one of the best point guards in the country in Wade Taylor, and should also be bringing back Julius Marble, Manny Obaseki and Henry Coleman III from a team that went 15-3 in the SEC last season.
20. USC | Andy Enfield brings in arguably the best freshman in the country in point guard Isaiah Collier, and he’ll team with veteran guard Boogie Ellis and freshman Bronny James on the perimeter. The Trojans will also have Kobe Johnson (9.2 ppg) and Josh Morgan (7.0 ppg) back, as well as talented big man Vincent Iwuchukwu. Enfield should have depth with the addition of a couple more talented frosh in Arrinten Page and Silas Demary Jr.
21. Texas | Rodney Terry will have a backcourt of Tyrese Hunter and Oral Roberts transfer Max Abmas, and with Dylan Disu back and the addition of Virginia transfer Kadin Shedrick, the frontcourt is also strong. The key will be the development of Dillon Mitchell on the wing.
22. Alabama | The Tide lost Brandon Miller, Noah Clowney and Charles Bediako, so they will likely have to play small. The backcourt will be one of the best in the country with Jahvon Quinerly and Mark Sears, as well as Hofstra transfer Aaron Estrada (20.2 ppg) and Cal State Fullerton transfer Latrell Wrightsell (16.3 ppg). Nate Oats will also hope that Rylan Griffen makes a jump.
23. Baylor | LJ Cryer hit the portal, and Adam Flagler is gone — and that’s a huge hit to Scott Drew and the Bears. We’ll see what happens with Jalen Bridges, but right now Drew has Langston Love, talented freshman Ja’Kobe Walter, big men Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua and Josh Ojianwuna and Toledo transfer point guard RayJ Dennis. The Bears also landed VCU transfer Jayden Nunn.
24. St. John’s | Rick Pitino took over in the offseason and has enough talent to get to the NCAA tourney in Year 1. He retained big man Joel Soriano, brought guard Daniss Jenkins with him from Iona, and added some key pieces through the portal: Penn transfer Jordan Dingle, UConn transfer Nahiem Alleyne, Oregon State transfer Glenn Taylor Jr. and RJ Luis from UMass.
25. Kentucky | The ‘Cats bring in the No. 1 class in the country — led by long and athletic big man Aaron Bradshaw, scoring wing Justin Edwards and guards Robert Dillingham, DJ Wagner and Reed Sheppard. But youth hasn’t won lately, especially in the NCAA tourney.