I know it’s early, but at some point we’re going to have to look forward as we move past this season’s abrupt ending.
Is it too soon for that? Maybe. Do we have enough info to put together a preseason top 25 for 2020-21? Maybe not.
But here it is anyway, and I’ll be updating it as we get more info.
1. Baylor – Scott Drew will lose two key pieces in Freddie Gillespie and Devonte Bandoo, but everyone else could be back from a team that was No. 1 for much of the season and finished 26-4. The Bears could trot out four starters — Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell and Mark Vital — as well as Tristan Clark.
2. Villanova – There’s not a senior of note on the roster, and there’s certainly a chance Jay Wright could lose Saddiq Bey early to the NBA. If Bey comes back, the Wildcats will be loaded. If not, they’ll still be plenty good with Collin Gillespie, Justin Moore, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Jermaine Samuels and Cole Swider. They will also have a healthy Bryan Antoine.
3. Creighton – This ranking depends on whether Ty-Shon Alexander returns. But if he doesn’t, Greg McDermott brings back everyone else of note like Marcus Zegarowski, Mitch Ballock, Denzel Mahoney, Damien Jefferson, Christian Bishop and a — hopefully — healthy Jacob Epperson. Creighton will also add Memphis transfer Antwann Jones and Top 100 freshman big man Ryan Kalkbrenner.
4. Gonzaga – The Zags will lose seniors Killian Tillie, Admon Gilder and Ryan Woolridge, and there’s a chance Filip Petrusev could try and go pro early. But Mark Few should have Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi and Drew Timme back, plus a healthy Anton Watson. Gonzaga will also add a strong freshman class led by five-star recruit Jalen Suggs.
5. Michigan State – The big loss is obviously Cassius Winston, but there’s also a chance the Spartans could lose Xavier Tillman early to the NBA Draft. That’s critical. Rocket Watts will likely be the go-to guy, and players like Aaron Henry, Malik Hall and Marcus Bingham Jr. will all be back. Tom Izzo also gets Marquette transfer Joey Hauser.
6. Virginia – Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key are gone, but Tony Bennett will bring Kihei Clark, Tomas Woldetensae, Jay Huff and Casey Morsell back — and Marquette transfer Sam Hauser is eligible. The Cavaliers also bring in a big-time recruiting class that includes skilled forward Jabri Abdur-Rahim and point guard Reece Beekman.
7. Texas Tech – Chris Beard will lose grad transfers Chris Clarke and T.J. Holyfield for sure, and there’s a chance both Davide Moretti and Jahmi’us Ramsey both decide to go pro. The Red Raiders return Terrence Shannon Jr., Kyler Edwards, Kevin McCullar, get UNLV transfer Joel Ntambwe eligible and bring in a pair of studs in McDonald’s All-American Nimari Burnett and Micah Peavy.
8. Kentucky – Nate Sestina is gone, and look for Nick Richards, Tyrese Maxey and Ashton Hagans to leave early (Immanuel Quickley is probably 50-50). John Calipari has another talented freshman class coming in, including wings BJ Boston and Terrence Clarke and point guard Devin Askew. The Wildcats bring back E.J. Montgomery, Johnny Juzang and Keion Brooks.
9. Kansas – The Jayhawks lose Udoka Azubuike and Isaiah Moss, and Devon Dotson is likely headed to the NBA. But Bill Self will have a core that includes Marcus Garrett, Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, Christian Braun, Tristan Enaruna, and Mitch Lightfoot, as well as incoming wings Bryce Thompson and Tyon Grant-Foster. Obviously, this ranking will also depend on the NCAA’s decision on KU, which should come sometime this offseason.
10. Duke – The Blue Devils lose Javin DeLaurier and Jack White to graduation, and will likely have Vernon Carey Jr., Tre Jones and Cassius Stanley leave for the NBA. However, Coach K will get Wendell Moore and Matthew Hurt back, and he brings in six top-50 players — including point guard Jeremy Roach and wings Jalen Johnson and DJ Steward.
11. Iowa – Luka Garza was arguably the National Player of the Year, and my guess is he’ll return for his senior campaign. Joe Wieskamp, CJ Fredrick, Joe Toussaint and Connor McCaffery are all back. We’ll see what happens with Jordan Bohannon.
12. Wisconsin – If the Badgers bring everyone back, they should definitely be a Top 25 team. Nate Reuvers could test the waters, but if he returns with fellow seniors D’Mitrik Trice, Brad Davison, Aleem Ford and Micah Potter, Greg Gard will have a heck of a group. The Badgers also secured a pair of Top 100 freshmen in big man Ben Carlson and point guard Lorne Bowman, and are high on athletic 4-man Johnny Davis.
13. Florida State – Leonard Hamilton will lose Trent Forrest — and possibly Pat Williams and/or Devin Vassell. But I just won’t count out the ‘Noles because of their depth, and the fact that they’ll also add one of the most versatile freshmen in the country in No. 4 prospect Scottie Barnes.
14. San Diego State – This one obviously depends if Malachi Flynn comes back. If he does, the Aztecs should have a chance to win the Mountain West again with Flynn, Matt Mitchell, Jordan Schakel, Trey Pulliam and Nathan Mensah all back for Brian Dutcher.
15. Louisville – The Cards will lose plenty: Jordan Nwora, Steven Enoch, Dwayne Sutton, Ryan McMahon and Fresh Kimble. That means Chris Mack will have to build around Malik Williams, Samuell Williamson and David Johnson. The key might be whether JUCO star Jay Scrubb winds up coming to Louisville or turning pro.
16. North Carolina – The misery is over for Tar Heels fans. Cole Anthony will almost certainly leave after one season, but Roy Williams should have Garrison Brooks, Armando Bacot and Leaky Black back. Coach Williams also brings in four McDonald’s All-Americans in Caleb Love, R.J. Davis, Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler.
17. Rutgers – Steve Pikiell and the Scarlet Knights will bring back eight of their top nine players from a 20-win team. Their only departure (for now) is grad transfer Akwasi Yeboah (9.8 ppg).
18. Colorado – As long as Tad Boyle has McKinley Wright IV and Tyler Bey, he’ll have two of the top players in the country. In addition to those playmakers, the Buffs should also have D’Shawn Schwartz and Evan Battey on the court.
19. West Virginia – Bob Huggins brings back his dynamic duo of Oscar Tshiebwe and Derek Culver. West Virginia will also have Miles McBride and Emmitt Matthews in the fold again, and don’t forget that the Mountaineers are adding Top 100 big man Isaiah Cottrell.
20. LSU – Will Wade will be without Skylar Mays, and he could lose Trendon Watford and/or Javonte Smart to the NBA Draft. My guess is at least one of those guys will return, as will Darius Days and Charles Manning Jr. LSU will add a top-25 player in talented scorer Cam Thomas, another top-75 player in Mwani Wilkinson, and also Georgetown transfer Josh LeBlanc.
21. Houston – We all know Kelvin Sampson can coach, and the Cougars should be the favorites in the AAC next season since none of his top six scorers are seniors. Caleb Mills led the team in scoring this season as a freshman, and fellow frosh Marcus Sasser should also take a jump.
22. Arkansas – Mason Jones is a first-team all-league guy who should be back, and we’ll see what happens with elite shooter Isaiah Joe — and whether or not he goes pro. Eric Musselman brings in four Top 100 players and also adds transfers Connor Vanover (Cal) and JD Notae (Jacksonville).
23. Arizona State – Bobby Hurley has Remy Martin, Alonzo Verge Jr., Romello White and Kimani Lawrence back, and all will be seniors. He’s also got Taeshon Cherry and brings in Marvin Bagley’s younger brother, Marcus — a top-50 recruit. The Sun Devils are also considered the favorite to land top-50 player Cliff Omoruyi.
24. Richmond – Jacob Gilyard is both an all-conference player and elite defender, so as long as Blake Francis and Grant Golden come back the Spiders should be the favorite to win the A-10. Chris Mooney doesn’t have a senior on a team that went 24-7 and finished 14-4 in the A-10.
T25. Purdue – I just don’t see Matt Painter being on the outside two years in a row. I know Purdue is offensively challenged, but they bring back everyone except for a pair of grad transfers. The Boilermakers will be older — and also add a couple of talented freshman guards.
T25. Austin Peay – I’ve got to give one true mid-major some love, and why not the school with the best chant in America: “Let’s Go Peay!” Matt Figger brings back the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year in Terry Taylor and a big-time freshman guard in Jordyn Adams. In fact, Figger should return all five starters.