Zach Edey, Purdue Boilermakers, College Basketball

College basketball is only a few months away. Mat Mlodzinski ranks all 80 power conference teams heading into the 2023-24 season.

80. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

  • Last Season: 11-21
  • Key Departures: Nate Laszewski (13.7 PPG), Cormac Ryan (12.3 PPG), Dane Goodwin (11.3 PPG), JJ Starling (11.2 PPG), Marcus Hammond (9.9 PPG), Trey Wertz (8.4 PPG), Ven-Allen Lubin (6.2 PPG)
  • Key Returners: N/A
  • Key Newcomers: Julian Roper II (4.4 PPG at Northwestern), Kebba Njie (3.4 PPG at Penn State), Carey Booth (4-star)

I’m afraid last year wasn’t the worst to come for Notre Dame. While Micah Shrewsberry is a very big positive step forward, the current state of Notre Dame basketball is concerning. The Irish are practically losing their entire team to graduation or the transfer portal, with the rising sophomore Starling being the biggest loss. Notre Dame also doesn’t return anyone who produced much from last season, so unless someone steps up big, a successful season will be in the hands of a largely underwhelming transfer portal and recruiting classes.

79. Oregon State Beavers

  • Last Season: 11-21
  • Key Departures: Glenn Taylor Jr. (11.6 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Jordan Pope (12.6 PPG), Dexter Akanno (7.9 PPG), Tyler Bilodeau (7.0 PPG), Michael Rataj (6.1 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: N/A

You’ve got to give Wayne Tinkle some credit for not losing a whole lot of talent from one of the worst teams in power six college basketball. However, he has done very little to improve the team with the portal or recruiting. Instead, it’s going to be a Beavers team relying in getting better with each other. I’ve heard of worse plans, but it also doesn’t give me much confidence about Oregon State’s chances of doing much in the Pac-12 next season.

78. DePaul Blue Demons

  • Last Season: 10-23
  • Key Departures: Umoja Gibson (15.8 PPG), Javan Johnson (14.2 PPG), Nick Ongenda (12.5 PPG), Tyon Grant-Foster (9.0 PPG in 2021-22), Eral Penn (8.3 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Da’Sean Nelson (10.0 PPG), Jalen Terry (5.7 PPG), Caleb Murphy (5.3 PPG), Zion Cruz (2.4 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Chico Carter Jr. (9.8 PPG at South Carolina), Jeremiah Oden (9.5 PPG at Wyoming), Jaden Henley (5.3 PPG at Minnesota), Elijah Fisher (3.3 PPG at Texas Tech)

DePaul was one of the worst college basketball teams in the power six last season, and they lose pretty much everyone. Da’Sean Nelson figures to be the leader of the bunch this time around. Carter and the three other transfers should help the Blue Demons keep somewhat competitive in the Big East, but I can’t see this team winning more than a dozen games.

77. UCF Knights

  • Last Season: 18-14
  • Key Departures: Taylor Hendricks (15.1 PPG), CJ Kelly (13.3 PPG), Ithiel Horton (12.3 PPG), Brandon Suggs (6.6 PPG), Michael Durr (5.5 PPG), Jayhlon Young (4.5 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Darius Johnson (10.0 PPG), CJ Walker (5.0 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Jaykwon Walton (13.9 PPG at Wichita State), Shemarri Allen (17.0 PPG at Kansas City), Jaylin Sellers (13.5 PPG at Ball State), Marchelus Avery (8.2 PPG at New Mexico State), Ibrahima Diallo (6.0 PPG at San Jose State)

Moving to a new, and more challenging conference is one thing. Doing so while losing your top three scorers is another thing. Of course, UCF utilized the transfer portal and Jaykwon Walton should help mend the gaps, but year one in the Big 12 for the Knights is looking like a big challenge.

76. Texas Tech Red Raiders

  • Last Season: 16-16
  • Key Departures: Kevin Obanor (14.4 PPG), De’Vion Harman (13.6 PPG), Fardaws Aimaq (11.1 PPG), Jaylon Tyson (10.7 PPG), Daniel Batcho (7.9 PPG), Elijah Fisher (3.3 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Pop Isaacs (11.5 PPG), Kerwin Walton (3.6 PPG), Lamar Washington (3.4 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Devan Cambridge (9.8 PPG at Arizona State), Warren Washington (9.2 PPG at Arizona State), KyeRon Lindsay (6.2 PPG at Georgia), Chance McMillian (10.9 PPG at Grand Canyon), Darrion Williams (7.7 PPG at Nevada)

Texas Tech dealt with the injury to Fardaws Aimaq, which hurt the Red Raiders’ chances in the toughest conference in college hoops last year. Now, they deal with losing Aimaq and three other double-digit scorers. Pop Isaacs is back, but the incoming transfers don’t move the needle, and the Red Raiders lose valuable rebounding in Aimaq and Obanor. Cambridge and Washington should be productive, but I’m not sure if that’s enough to help the Red Raiders in the Big 12.

75. Washington State Cougars

  • Last Season: 17-17
  • Key Departures: TJ Bamba (15.8 PPG), Mouhamed Gueye (14.3 PPG), Justin Powell (10.4 PPG), DJ Rodman (9.6 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Jabe Mullins (8.4 PPG), Andrej Jakimovski (7.7 PPG), Kymany Houinsou (3.9 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Isaac Jones (19.4 PPG at Idaho), Joseph Yesufu (4.1 PPG at Kansas)

The Washington State Cougars will rely on two transfers – Isaac Jones and Joseph Yesufu – to keep them competitive in the Pac-12. Jones has the potential to help this team win a handful of games, but losing Bamba and Gueye is going to be critical. Jones fills scoring and rebounding needs, but the Cougars need more than just that, and lack a true point guard.

74. LSU Tigers

  • Last Season: 14-19
  • Key Departures: KJ Williams (17.7 PPG), Adam Miller (11.5 PPG), Cam Hayes (8.1 PPG), Trae Hannibal (6.8 PPG), Justice Hill (5.6 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Derek Fountain (8.0 PPG), Jalen Reed (3.7 PPG), Tyrell Ward (3.7 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Jalen Cook (19.9 PPG at Tulane), Jordan Wright (10.6 PPG at Vanderbilt), Carlos Stewart (15.2 PPG at Santa Clara), Will Baker (13.6 PPG at Nevada), Corey Chest (4-star), Hunter Dean (8.7 PPG at George Washington), Mike Williams (3/4-star)

LSU struggled a lot in year one under Matt McMahon and now loses KJ Williams, Adam Miller, and a few other key role pieces. Of course, resetting with coveted transfer Jalen Cook could wind up as a major boost, but everything else will be a huge guess. I think LSU has the potential to be pretty solid, but some of the other transfers will need to prove their worth in a very challenging SEC this season.

73. Minnesota Golden Gophers

  • Last Season: 9-22
  • Key Departures: Jamison Battle (12.5 PPG), Ta’Lon Cooper (9.9 PPG), Jaden Henley (5.3 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Dawson Garcia (15.3 PPG), Pharrel Payne (8.2 PPG), Joshua Ola-Joseph (7.4 PPG), Braeden Carrington (5.9 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Elijah Hawkins (12.9 PPG at Howard), Mike Mitchell Jr. (11.4 PPG at Pepperdine), Cameron Christie (4-star)

For how bad Minnesota was last season, they did one thing right in the offseason, which was getting Dawson Garcia to come back. Of course, losing Battle and Cooper will hurt, but it’s not as if they helped lead the Gophers to 20 wins. I see a slight improvement actually, but still far away from actually competing in the Big Ten.

72. BYU Cougars

  • Last Season: 19-15
  • Key Departures: Rudi Williams (12.8 PPG), Gideon Geroge (10.4 PPG), Tanner Toolson (3.5 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Fousseyni Traore (12.9 PPG), Spencer Johnson (11.1 PPG), Jaxson Robinson (8.5 PPG), Dallin Hall (7.3 PPG), Richie Saunders (5.5 PPG), Noah Waterman (4.6 PPG), Atiki Ally Atiki (3.8 PPG),
  • Key Newcomers: Dawson Baker (15.3 PPG at UC Irvine), Ques Glover (14.7 PPG at Samford), Aly Khalifa (11.7 PPG at Charlotte)

Like UCF, BYU moves on to the Big 12 with a less-than-ideal roster. One thing going for the Cougars is a bit better core of returning production. However, BYU didn’t really win the transfer portal. Traore and Johnson better be ready for their new conference.

71. Ole Miss Rebels

  • Last Season: 12-21
  • Key Departures: Daeshun Ruffin (9.5 PPG), Amaree Abram (8.0 PPG), Myles Burns (8.0 PPG), Robert Allen (4.4 PPG), James White (4.0 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Matthew Murrell (14.4 PPG), Jaemyn Brakefield (11.1 PPG), TJ Caldwell (4.7 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Brandon Murray (13.7 PPG at Georgetown), Allen Flanigan (10.1 PPG at Auburn), Moussa Cisse (6.8 PPG at Oklahoma State), Jaylen Murray (12.5 PPG at Saint Peter’s), Rashaud Marshall (4-star), Jamarion Sharp (7.4 PPG at Western Kentucky), Austin Nunez (4.5 PPG at Arizona State)

Ole Miss was nothing short of terrible last season but should see some improvements. The question, is how much? Murray, Flanigan, Cisse, and Sharp are all good role players, but at least one will have to step up and become a go-to scorer alongside Murrell and Brakefield. If the new Rebels can click, I can see Ole Miss giving a run at making the NCAA Tournament. However, a 12-win season is a lot to come back from in one year.

70. Butler Bulldogs

  • Last Season: 14-18
  • Key Departures: Jayden Taylor (12.9 PPG), Manny Bates (11.6 PPG), Simas Lukosius (11.6 PPG), Chuck Harris (10.4 PPG), Eric Hunter Jr. (8.2 PPG), Ali Ali (6.5 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Jalen Thomas (7.0 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Posh Alexander (10.2 PPG at St. John’s), Jahmyl Telfort (16.4 PPG at Northeastern), DJ Davis (15.0 PPG at UC Irvine), Landon Moore (13.1 PPG at St. Francis PA), Andre Screen (11.4 PPG at Bucknell), Pierre Brooks (3.6 PPG at Michigan State), Finley Bizjack (3/4-star)

Butler finished last season with a losing record, and I’m afraid year two of Thad Matta isn’t trending to be too much better. The Bulldogs lose pretty much every key role player, with Jalen Thomas being the only one to stay. Posh Alexander comes over from St. John’s and figures to be in for a big season, but the rest of the Bulldogs newcomers are all mid-major transfers. It’ll be a lot of random pieces trying to gel. It’s good to see Matta work some magic in the transfer portal, but they’re lacking a real star or two.

69. Boston College Eagles

  • Last Season: 16-17
  • Key Departures: Makai Ashton-Langford (12.4 PPG), DeMarr Langford Jr. (7.0 PPG), CJ Penha Jr. (6.3 PPG), TJ Bickerstaff (5.2 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Quinten Post (15.1 PPG), Jaeden Zackery (10.7 PPG), Devin McGlockton (6.1 PPG), Prince Aligbe (6.1 PPG), Mason Madsen (5.8 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Claudell Harris Jr. (17.4 PPG at Charleston Southern)

On the surface level, it seems as if Boston College may have slightly improved in the offseason. Post has what it takes to be a dominant center in the ACC, coming back for a fifth year of college basketball. Harris Jr. is a very underrated transfer pickup. He’s an efficient scorer and should help the Eagles in that department.

68. Georgia Bulldogs

  • Last Season: 16-16
  • Key Departures: Terry Roberts (13.2 PPG), Kario Oquendo (12.7 PPG), Braelen Bridges (8.7 PPG), KyeRon Lindsay (6.2 PPG), Mardrez McBridge (4.7 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Justin Hill (8.6 PPG), Jabri Abdur-Rahim (7.1 PPG), Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe (5.5 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Jalen DeLoach (9.7 PPG at VCU), RJ Melendez (6.0 PPG at Illinois), Noah Thomasson (19.5 PPG at Niagara), Russel Tchewa (11.1 PPG at South Florida), Blue Cain (4-star), Dylan James (4-star), Silas Demary Jr. (4-star), Mari Jordan (3/4-star), RJ Sunahara (18.9 PPG at Nova Southeastern)

Talk about an incoming class! Georgia brings in a handful of underrated transfers on top of four 4-star recruits. The future looks bright, but even this season could be good for the Bulldogs. While the SEC will be ultra-competitive, UGA has a roster makeup that could surprise some people. The one downfall is having no star, but there are a lot of intriguing players on this roster.

67. Vanderbilt Commodores

  • Last Season: 22-15
  • Key Departures: Liam Robbins (15.0 PPG), Jordan Wright (10.6 PPG), Myles Stute (8.4 PPG), Trey Thomas (5.8 PPG), Noah Shelby (3.7 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Tyrin Lawrence (13.1 PPG), Ezra Manjon (10.5 PPG), Colin Smith (4.7 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Evan Taylor (14.2 PPG at Lehigh), Tasos Kamateros (12.5 PPG at South Dakota), Ven-Allen Lubin (6.2 PPG at Notre Dame), Jason Rivera-Torres (4-star)

Vanderbilt was a surprise team in 2022-23, winning 22 games and putting the SEC on notice. The Commodores are expected to drop off a bit because of Liam Robbins moving on. However, Tyrin Lawrence could be a candidate to be a star in the SEC this season. If the duo of mid-major transfers and Lubin can step up, Vanderbilt could be in for another winning record this season.

66. Nebraska Cornhuskers

  • Last Season: 16-16
  • Key Departures: Derrick Walker (13.6 PPG), Sam Griesel (12.0 PPG), Emmanuel Bandoumel (8.4 PPG), Wilhelm Breidenbach (3.6 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Keisei Tominaga (13.1 PPG), Juwan Gary (9.5 PPG), CJ Wilcher (8.0 PPG), Jamarques Lawrence (5.0 PPG), Sam Hoiberg (4.1 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Rienk Mast (13.8 PPG at Bradley), Brice Williams (13.8 PPG at Charlotte), Ahron Ulis (6.1 PPG at Iowa), Josiah Allick (8.4 PPG at New Mexico)

Call it an overreaction of sorts, but I think Nebraska could win 20 games next season. Fred Hoiberg went out and got four quality transfers to add to an already deep team of returning players. Don’t forget that the Cornhuskers went .500 last season, which isn’t terrible in the Big Ten. Of course, improvements in the offseason weren’t drastic, so 20 wins are more of a ceiling, but I do expect Nebraska to be better than your typical B10 bottom-feeder.

65. South Carolina Gamecocks

  • Last Season: 11-21
  • Key Departures: GG Jackson (15.4 PPG), Hayden Brown (11.4 PPG), Chico Carter Jr. (9.8 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Meechie Johnson (12.7 PPG), Jacobi Wright (7.3 PPG), Josh Gray (4.3 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Ta’Lon Cooper (9.9 PPG at Minnesota), Myles Stute (8.4 PPG at Vanderbilt), BJ Mack (16.6 PPG at Wofford), Stephen Clark (16.3 PPG at The Citadel), Collin Murray-Boyles (4-star)

Lamont Paris’ first year at South Carolina wasn’t too great, but he does bring in a very solid transfer class, including former Wofford star BJ Mack. Cooper and Stute should also help out and getting Meechie Johnson back is big for a team that lost multiple starters. The Gamecocks only won 11 games last year, but Paris already seems to be filling out a better roster and a team that should compete more often.

64. Louisville Cardinals

  • Last Season: 4-28
  • Key Departures: El Ellis (17.7 PPG), Jae’Lyn Withers (8.9 PPG), Kamari Lands (5.9 PPG), Sydney Curry (4.9 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Mike James (10.1 PPG), JJ Traynor (6.9 PPG), Brandon Huntley-Hatfield (6.7 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Tre White (9.0 PPG at USC), Skyy Clark (7.0 PPG at Illinois), Trentyn Flowers (4/5-star), Curtis Williams (4-star), Dennis Evans (4-star), Kaleb Glenn (4-star), Ty-Laur Johnson (4-star)

It’s hard to really say Louisville has any true “key” departures or returners because winning four games in a season is just that bad. Instead, this team’s potential will be based solely on year two of Kenny Payne and the plethora of incoming recruits and transfers. It will be a young team, but a much different roster, which is probably a very good thing after last year’s disaster of a season.

63. NC State Wolfpack

  • Last Season: 23-11
  • Key Departures: Terquavion Smith (17.9 PPG), Jarkel Joiner (17.0 PPG), Jack Clark (9.0 PPG), Dusan Mahoric (8.7 PPG)
  • Key Returners: DJ Burns Jr. (12.5 PPG), Casey Morsell (11.8 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Jayden Taylor (12.9 PPG at Butler), DJ Horne (12.5 PPG at Arizona State), Dennis Parker (4-star), Michael O’Connell (5.2 PPG at Stanford), MJ Rice (2.2 PPG at Kansas)

NC State lost over 50 PPG of production from last season and only returns two double-digit scorers. That means the Pack will rely on a fairly solid transfer class. Taylor and Horne are the best of the bunch but don’t be surprised if Rice finds his groove with more playing time open here than at Kansas. I expect NC State to struggle because they lost more than they gained, but a 20-win season still isn’t impossible.

62. Georgetown Hoyas

  • Last Season: 7-25
  • Key Departures: Primo Spears (16.0 PPG), Brandon Murray (13.7 PPG), Qudus Wahab (9.6 PPG), Bryson Mozone (6.6 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Jay Heath (12.3 PPG), Akok Akok (6.5 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Jayden Epps (9.5 PPG at Illinois), Ismael Massoud (5.4 PPG at Kansas State), Supreme Cook (13.1 PPG at Fairfield), Drew Fielder (4-star), Rowan Brumbaugh (former 4-star)

I’m putting a lot of trust in Ed Cooley to make this Georgetown team fairly decent in his first year. Heath and Akok are good players to get back, as the Hoyas welcome in a bunch of new faces. Epps and Massoud figure to be key players on a new-look Hoyas team that only won seven games all last year.

61. Iowa Hawkeyes

  • Last Season: 19-14
  • Key Departures: Kris Murray (20.2 PPG), Filip Rebraca (14.1 PPG), Connor McCaffery (6.5 PPG), Ahron Ulis (6.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Tony Perkins (12.3 PPG), Payton Sandfort (10.3 PPG), Patrick McCaffery (9.8 PPG), Dasonte Bowen (3.1 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Ben Krikke (19.4 PPG at Valpo), Pryce Sandfort (4-star), Even Brauns (7.0 PPG at Belmont)

The Murray brothers are officially gone from Iowa, and it leaves a huge gap to fill in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes also lost Rebraca and a few other pieces and will need to rely on Tony Perkins and Payton Sandfort to step up into leading roles. They should be able to help Iowa contend in the tough Big Ten, but the incoming pieces are very sparse. Ben Krikke could wind up being a star, but other than him, it was light recruiting and transfer portal classes, and that could hurt the Hawkeyes.

60. Cal Golden Bears

  • Last Season: 3-27
  • Key Departures: Lars Thiemann (9.5 PPG), DeJuan Clayton (9.2 PPG), Kuany Kuany (9.0 PPG), Joel Brown (6.9 PPG), Sam Alajiki (6.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Devin Askew (15.5 PPG), Grant Newell (8.0 PPG), Monty Bowser (3.8 PPG), ND Okafor (3.7 PPG),
  • Key Newcomers: Fardaws Aimaq (11.1 PPG at Texas Tech), Jalen Cone (17.6 PPG at Northern Arizona), Jaylon Tyson (10.7 PPG at Texas Tech), Keonte Kennedy (9.2 PPG at Memphis), Mike Meadows (11.3 PPG at Portland)

Cal won THREE games last season, but in the age of the portal, it’s much easier to turn things around much quicker. Insert Fardaws Aimaq, Jalen Cone, and Jaylon Tyson, three incredible gets from the portal that could make Cal a major player in the Pac-12 next season. The Bears also return Devin Askew, and Keonte Kennedy is another noteworthy addition. Dare I say the Bears have a good chance at… the NCAA Tournament next season? Put it this way, if you’re looking for a crazy pick on day one, side with Cal.

59. Stanford Cardinal

  • Last Season: 14-19
  • Key Departures: Harrison Ingram (10.5 PPG), Michael O’Connell (5.2 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Spencer Jones (14.1 PPG), Brandon Angel (9.5 PPG), Michael Jones (9.5 PPG), Maxime Raynaud (8.8 PPG), James Keefe (4.7 PPG), Max Murrell (4.4 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Andrej Stojakovic (4/5-star), Jared Bynum (10.0 PPG at Providence), Kanaan Carlyle (4-star)

Harrison Ingram was the only major loss for a Stanford team that returns leading scorer Spencer Jones and a great chunk of their role players. The team also adds a veteran guard in Jared Bynum, plus two good freshmen, with Stojakovic, the son of former NBA star Peja. Expect a winning season out of Stanford, as long as the returning players can improve.

58. Oklahoma Sooners

  • Last Season: 15-17
  • Key Departures: Grant Sherfield (15.9 PPG), Tanner Groves (10.2 PPG), Jalen Hill (9.7 PPG), Jacob Groves (6.8 PPG), Joe Bamisile (4.0 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Milos Uzan (7.6 PPG), Sam Godwin (4.9 PPG), Otega Oweh (4.8 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Javian McCollum (15.9 PPG at Siena), John Hugley IV (8.0 PPG at Pittsburgh), Jalon Moore (7.6 PPG at Georgia Tech), Rivaldo Soares (7.2 PPG at Oregon), Le’Tre Darthard (13.8 PPG at Utah Valley), Kaden Cooper (4-star), Jacolb Cole (3/4-star)

The Big 12 was a gauntlet last season, so Oklahoma’s 15-17 record was very respectable. They do lose a lot of quality players, but make up for it by bringing in three power six transfers and two more mid-major guys who can score the ball well. Add in a duo of promising freshmen and the Sooners should once again be competitive in such a challenging conference.

57. Utah Utes

  • Last Season: 17-15
  • Key Departures: Lazar Stefanovic (10.3 PPG), Marco Anthony (9.7 PPG), Mike Saunders Jr. (4.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Branden Carlson (16.4 PPG), Gabe Madsen (11.4 PPG), Rollie Worster (8.6 PPG), Ben Carlson (4.5 PPG), Wilguens Exacte Jr. (3.6 PPG), Keba Keita (3.0 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Cole Bajema (8.8 PPG at Washington), Deivon Smith (8.0 PPG at Georgia Tech), Lawson Lovering (4.9 PPG at Colorado)

Utah might have had the most even offseason of any team in America. They lost three solid players and gained three from the transfer portal. In fact, the three key players the Utes lost combined to average 24.1 PPG. The three they picked up? 21.7 PPG. Utah will need to rely on Branden Carlson to become the star he is on the verge of being, and for the rest of the returning players to all step up. A 20-win season isn’t out of the realm of possibilities for the Utes.

56. Seton Hall Pirates

  • Last Season: 17-16
  • Key Departures: Tyrese Samuel (11.0 PPG), KC Ndefo (8.4 PPG), Femi Odukale (7.3 PPG), Tray Jackson (6.5 PPG), Jamir Harris (4.2 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Al-Amir Dawes (12.6 PPG), Kadary Richmond (10.1 PPG), Dre Davis (9.6 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Dylan Addae-Wusu (9.3 PPG at St. John’s), Isaiah Coleman (4-star), Elijah Hutchins-Everett (11.5 PPG at Austin Peay), Marcus Watson (14.2 PPG at NC A&T)

Seton Hall got handled by the transfer portal, losing a few of their better players, while only adding one from a power conference school, in Addae-Wusu. That means they will be relying on Hutchins-Everett from Austin Peay and Watson from NC A&T to step up at a bigger level of competition. Dawes, Richmond, and Davis do all come back, so the Pirates should be very competitive, but a bubble team for most of the season.

55. Michigan Wolverines

  • Last Season: 18-16
  • Key Departures: Hunter Dickinson (18.5 PPG), Jett Howard (14.2 PPG), Kobe Bufkin (14.0 PPG), Joey Baker (5.7 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Dug McDaniel (8.6 PPG), Terrance Williams II (6.1 PPG), Tarris Reed Jr. (3.4 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Olivier Nkamhoua (10.8 PPG at Tennessee), Nimari Burnett (5.6 PPG at Alabama), Tray Jackson (6.5 PPG at Seton Hall), George Washington III (4-star)

Michigan loses so much talent from last season, it will be virtually impossible to replace it. Dickinson, Howard, and Bufkin alone combined for almost 50 PPG of last season’s team. Let’s also not forget that Michigan was a middle-of-the-pack team. That means either the new transfers will set a new tone, or the Wolverines will be in for a long season ahead. I’m not ruling out a successful season in Ann Arbor, but I’m also not counting on anything special.

54. Rutgers Scarlet Knights

  • Last Season: 19-15
  • Key Departures: Cam Spencer (13.2 PPG), Caleb McConnell (9.1 PPG), Paul Mulcahy (8.3 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Cliff Omoruyi (13.2 PPG), Aundre Hyatt (8.8 PPG), Mawot Mag (7.8 PPG), Derek Simpson (7.1 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Noah Fernandes (13.4 PPG at UMass), Gavin Griffiths (4-star)

Can Rutgers be the best team in New Jersey? A lot was made in the team losing three of their best players in Spencer, McConnell, and Mulcahy, but they also return four everyday rotation players. Former UMass star Noah Fernandes is also an underrated pickup and someone that can fill a gap for RU. Expectations will also be a lot lower this season, so the Scarlet Knights will be playing under the radar, where I think they’ll perform best.

53. Cincinnati Bearcats

  • Last Season: 21-12
  • Key Departures: Landers Nolley II (16.8 PPG), David DeJulius (14.8 PPG), Jeremiah Davenport (9.1 PPG), Mika Adams-Woods (9.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Viktor Lakhin (11.6 PPG), John Newman III (6.9 PPG in 2021-22), Ody Oguama (5.5 PPG), Dan Skillings Jr. (5.3 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Simas Lukosius (11.6 PPG at Butler), CJ Frederick (6.1 PPG at Kentucky), Jamille Reynolds (10.1 PPG at Temple), Jizzle James (4-star), Rayvon Griffith (4-star), Aziz Bandaogo (11.5 PPG at Utah Valley)

A transition to a new conference isn’t easy, especially when you lose as many stars as Cincinnati did. However, the return of Lakhin and the promise of Newman to get back to himself keeps the Bearcats an interesting team to watch. They also add Lukosius, who was a go-to guy for Butler, and Frederick, who didn’t work out with Kentucky, but should see a much bigger role with Cincinnati. The Bearcats may not win 21 games playing in the Big 12, but are expected to be competitive.

52. Florida State Seminoles

  • Last Season: 9-23
  • Key Departures: Matthew Cleveland (13.8 PPG), Caleb Mills (13.0 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Darin Green Jr. (13.4 PPG), Cam’Ron Fletcher (10.8 PPG), Cam Corhen (8.3 PPG), Jalen Warley (6.8 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Primo Spears (16.0 PPG at Georgetown), Josh Nickelberry (10.9 PPG at La Salle), Jamir Watkins (9.5 PPG at VCU), Taylor Bowen (4-star)

It can only go up from here, right? Despite losing Cleveland and Mills, the Seminoles certainly improved, bringing in three very good players from the transfer portal. They also returned some of their core, hoping to improve on a 9-win season. FSU should be back to their winning ways in 2023-24.

51. Pittsburgh Panthers

  • Last Season: 24-12
  • Key Departures: Jamarius Burton (15.2 PPG), Nelly Cummings (11.1 PPG), Greg Elliot (10.4 PPG), Nike Sibande (8.4 PPG), John Hugley IV (8.0 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Blake Hinson (15.3 PPG), Federiko Federiko (6.6 PPG), Guillermo Diaz Graham (3.5 PPG), Jorge Diaz Graham (2.9 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Ishmael Leggett (16.4 at URI), Carlton Carrington (4-star), Jarland Lowe (4-star), Papa Kante (4-star), Zack Austin (14.1 at High Point)

Pittsburgh had a surprising season in 2022-23, winning 24 games. The Panthers seem to be headed in an overall good direction for the future, but next season may be a slight step back. The Panthers lose a fair amount of talent, and besides returning Hinson, will have a much younger team. Leggett can be a star in the ACC after lighting up the Atlantic 10, but a trio of 4-stars will have to make big impacts for Pitt to go back to the NCAA Tournament.

50. Florida Gators

  • Last Season: 16-17
  • Key Departures: Colin Castleton (16.0 PPG), Kyle Lofton (8.7 PPG), Kowacie Reeves (8.5 PPG), Alex Fudge (5.8 PPG), Myreon Jones (5.4 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Will Richard (10.4 PPG), Riley Kugel (9.9 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Tyrese Samuel (11.0 PPG at Seton Hall), Zyon Pullin (18.3 PPG at UC Riverside), Walter Clayton Jr. (16.8 PPG at Iona), EJ Jarvis (11.3 PPG at Yale), Micah Handlogten (7.6 PPG at Marshall), Julian Rishwain (5.0 PPG at San Francisco)

Some may say that losing Castleton is a big deal, but I say it’s a chance for Florida to move on to a new centerpiece. I’m unsure who that may be, but there are a few good candidates. Samuel, Pullin, and Clayton all add experience and scoring – in different ways – to help the Gators. Florida finished with a losing record last season, but I can’t see the same happening with a group like this.

49. Penn State Nittany Lions

  • Last Season: 23-14
  • Key Departures: Jalen Pickett (17.7 PPG), Seth Lundy (14.2 PPG), Andrew Funk (12.5 PPG), Camren Wynter (8.9 PPG), Myles Dread (5.5 PPG), Kebba Njie (3.4 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Kanye Clary (3.7 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Ace Baldwin (12.7 PPG at VCU), Qudus Wahab (9.6 PPG at Georgetown), RayQuawndis Mitchell (17.3 PPG at Kansas City), Zach Hicks (9.6 PPG at Temple), Puff Johnson (4.1 PPG at North Carolina), Leo O’Boyle (11.6 PPG at Lafayette), Nick Kern (5.3 PPG at VCU)

Penn State was my sleeper pick at the beginning of last season and ended up living up to *my* hype. However, they return one key player, and that’s Kanye Clary, who averaged a touch under 4 PPG. That shouldn’t take away from an incredible transfer class. Baldwin led VCU to March Madness, Wahab is a shot-blocking machine, Mitchell is a professional scorer, and Johnson is an underrated piece coming from UNC. Year one of Mike Rhoades at Penn State should be a wild one.

48. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

  • Last Season: 15-18
  • Key Departures: Ja’Von Franklin (9.7 PPG), Deivon Smith (8.0 PPG), Jalon Moore (7.6 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Miles Kelly (14.4 PPG), Lance Terry (10.1 PPG), Dallan Coleman (9.5 PPG), Kyle Sturdivant (8.6 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Tyzhaun Claude (15.4 PPG at Western Carolina), Kowacie Reeves (8.5 PPG at Florida), Amaree Abram (8.0 PPG at Ole Miss), Jalen Forrest (11.3 PPG at Presbyterian)

Talk about leveling up! Georgia Tech hovered around .500 last season but is bringing back four of their top five scorers. They also performed well in the transfer portal, picking up two SEC players in Reeves and Abram. Keep an eye on Georgia Tech as a sleeper in the ACC.

47. Arizona State Sun Devils

  • Last Season: 23-13
  • Key Departures: Desmond Cambridge Jr. (13.6 PPG), DJ Horne (12.5 PPG), Marcus Bagley (12.5 PPG), Devan Cambridge (9.8 PPG), Warren Washington (9.2 PPG), Austin Nunez (4.5 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Frankie Collins (9.7 PPG), Jamiya Neal (4.9 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Adam Miller (11.5 PPG at LSU), Kamari Lands (5.9 PPG at Louisville), Bryant Selebangue (12.0 PPG at Tulsa), Zane Meeks (10.9 at San Francisco), Brycen Long (14.8 PPG at Houston Christian), Akil Watson (3/4-star)

Bobby Hurley saved himself from the hot seat last year but now finds himself in a similar position. Miller was a good pickup coming from LSU, but I’m not sure if the rest of the class puts the Sun Devils in a good position after losing five players who all averaged 9+ PPG. That’s a lot of production to lose and a lot of teams in the Pac-12 improved on paper.

46. Missouri Tigers

  • Last Season: 25-10
  • Key Departures: Kobe Brown (15.8 PPG), D’Moi Hodge (14.7 PPG), DeAndre Gholston (10.9 PPG), Isiaih Mosley (9.6 PPG), Sean East II (7.3 PPG), Tre Gomillion (4.8 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Noah Carter (9.6 PPG), Nick Honor (7.9 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Caleb Grill (9.5 PPG at Iowa State), Connor Vanover (12.7 PPG at Oral Roberts), Tamar Bates (6.1 PPG at Indiana), Jordan Butler (4-star), Trent Pierce (4-star), John Tonje (14.6 PPG at Colorado State), Jesus Carralero (10.6 PPG at Campbell)

Dennis Gates is building an empire at Missouri. Sure, losing Kobe Brown is big, and the Tigers will also be without Hodge, Gholston, Mosley, and a few other key pieces. But talk about re-loading. Vanover and Butler give Mizzou two 7-footers. Grill and Bates should also take on key roles in addition to the two key players Missouri does have back. I expect the SEC to be as tough as any conference in America, but Missouri should be a major player in it.

45. Indiana Hoosiers

  • Last Season: 23-12
  • Key Departures: Trayce Jackson-Davis (20.9 PPG), Jalen Hood-Schifino (13.5 PPG), Race Thompson (8.4 PPG), Miller Kopp (8.1 PPG), Tamar Bates (6.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Xavier Johnson (9.9 PPG), Trey Galloway (6.7 PPG), Malik Reneau (6.1 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Mackenzie Mgbako (5-star), Kel’el Ware (6.6 PPG at Oregon), Payton Sparks (13.3 PPG at Ball State), Jakai Newton (4-star), Gabe Cupps (4-star), Anthony Walker (2.8 PPG at Miami-Fla)

I’m concerned about Indiana. It’s not that Mike Woodson doesn’t have a talented group coming in. Mgbako is a top-10 player in the freshman class and Sparks is one of the most underrated transfers. However, the Hoosiers lose a generational talent in TJD and plenty of other key pieces. Let’s also not forget that although Indiana was good – they weren’t great. I’m looking at Xavier Johnson to really take control of this team and turn around the disappointment of the Hoosiers finishing below standards.

44. Oklahoma State Cowboys

  • Last Season: 20-16
  • Key Departures: Avery Anderson III (11.1 PPG), Kalib Boone (10.6 PPG), Caleb Asberry (9.7 PPG), Moussa Cisse (6.8 PPG), Tyreek Smith (5.2 PPG), Woody Newton (4.3 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Bryce Thompson (11.8 PPG), John Michael-Wright (9.8 PPG), Quion Williams (3.2 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Javon Small (15.8 PPG at East Carolina), Jarius Hicklen (12.5 PPG at North Florida), Mike Marsh (10.5 PPG at Jacksonville), Isaiah Miranda (4-star redshirt at NC State), Brandon Garrison (4-star), Eric Dailey Jr. (4-star), Justin McBride (4-star)

Oklahoma State caught on fire to end last season and bring back a decent chunk of returning talent. One player I’m looking to is John Michael-Wright. He was about a 20 PPG scorer at High Point and showed flashes of that last season. With an expanded role and a year of power six ball under his belt, he could be a candidate to raise the bar for the Cowboys.

43. Washington Huskies

  • Last Season: 16-16
  • Key Departures: Keyon Menifield (10.0 PPG), Cole Bajema (8.8 PPG), Noah Williams (8.7 PPG), Jamal Bey (6.9 PPG), PJ Fuller (6.2 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Keion Brooks (17.7 PPG), Franck Kepnang (9.0 PPG), Braxton Meah (8.8 PPG), Koren Johnson (6.8 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Paul Mulcahy (8.3 PPG at Rutgers), Sahvir Wheeler (7.7 PPG at Kentucky), Nate Calmese (17.6 PPG at Lamar), Moses Wood (15.3 PPG at Portland), Wesley Yates (4-star), Anthony Holland (6.8 PPG at Fresno State)

Mike Hopkins is on the hot seat and has his best chance at making a legit run with this Washington team. He returns a star in Keion Brooks and pairs him with two talented guards in Mulcahy and Wheeler. A few other mid-major scoring threats pair up with a trio of key returners to make the Huskies deep and talented.

42. Virginia Tech Hokies

  • Last Season: 19-15
  • Key Departures: Grant Basile (16.4 PPG), Justyn Mutts (13.3 PPG), Darius Maddox (8.5 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Sean Pedulla (15.0 PPG), Hunter Cattoor (10.8 PPG), Rodney Rice (7.4 PPG), Lynn Kidd (5.0 PPG), MJ Collins (4.1 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Robbie Beran (7.6 PPG at Northwestern), Mekhi Long (10.7 PPG at Old Dominion), Tyler Nickel (2.1 PPG at North Carolina)

Virginia Tech had a very disappointing end to last season. At points, it seemed as if the Hokies were playing much worse than the talent they had on the floor, failing to win 20 games. So given this offseason, losing Basile and Mutts will hurt, but it also allows Mike Young’s team to regroup. Pedulla and Cattoor will be the go-to guys, but watch for Nickel to be a breakout player in a bigger role and a new situation.

41. Wake Forest Demon Deacons

  • Last Season: 19-14
  • Key Departures: Tyree Appleby (18.8 PPG), Daivien Williamson (8.7 PPG), Bobi Klintman (5.3 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Damari Monsanto (13.3 PPG), Cameron Hildreth (12.4 PPG), Andrew Carr (10.7 PPG), Matthew Marsh (6.1 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Hunter Sallis (4.4 PPG at Gonzaga), Kevin Miller (18.5 PPG at Central Michigan), Efton Reid III (2.1 PPG at Gonzaga), Parker Frriedrichsen (4-star)

Am I crazy to think Wake Forest will improve after losing Tyree Appleby? Although the Demon Deacons will be without their top scorer from a year ago, they do return three of their top four bucket-getters. Monsanto, Hildreth, and Carr will all be in for more freedom in the offense. The Demon Deacons added Miller from Central Michigan, who should be able to add to the scoring fire. The real key is Sallis. The big guard played with some amazing talent at Gonzaga and that experience could pay off for Wake.

40. Iowa State Cyclones

  • Last Season: 19-14
  • Key Departures: Jaren Holmes (13.3 PPG), Gabe Kalscheur (12.9 PPG), Caleb Grill (9.5 PPG), Osun Osunniyi (8.2 PPG), Aljaz Kunc (7.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Tamin Lipsey (7.3 PPG), Tre King (6.1 PPG), Robert Jones (5.7 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Omaha Biliew (5-star), Jackson Paveletzke (15.1 PPG at Wofford), Curtis Jones (15.0 PPG at Buffalo), Keshon Gilbert (11.4 PPG at UNLV), Milan Momcilovic (4-star)

Iowa State’s hype is all about 5-star Omaha Biliew. A McDonald’s All-American, the small forward has a unique combo of strength and athleticism at 6-8, 210. Iowa State isn’t used to getting freshmen of his caliber, and they did a decent job of adding a few mid-major guys who can all put the ball in the basket. Can Biliew put the Cyclones on the map in 2023-24?

39. Ohio State Buckeyes

  • Last Season: 16-19
  • Key Departures: Brice Sensabaugh (16.3 PPG), Justice Sueing (12.3 PPG), Sean McNeil (9.7 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Zed Key (10.8 PPG), Bruce Thornton (10.6 PPG), Roddy Gayle Jr. (4.6 PPG), Felix Okpara (4.0 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Jamison Battle (12.4 PPG at Minnesota), Devin Royal (4-star), Scotty Middleton (4-star), Taison Chatman (4-star), Dale Bonner (4.7 PPG at Baylor)

Ohio State was largely disappointing last year but was a very young team. A lot of those inexperienced players opted to come back, which gave the Buckeyes a roster that shouldn’t take long to gel. They also added three 4-star recruits, Dale Bonner, and Jamison Battle, who should give them a boost after losing Sensabaugh.

38. UCLA Bruins

  • Last Season: 31-6
  • Key Departures: Jaime Jaquez Jr. (17.8 PPG), Tyger Campbell (13.4 PPG), Jaylen Clark (13.0 PPG), Amari Bailey (11.2 PPG), David Singleton (9.0 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Adem Bona (7.7 PPG), Dylan Andrews (3.3 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Brandon Williams (4-star), Devin Williams (4-star), Sebastian Mack (4-star), Lazar Stefanovic (10.3 PPG at Utah)

UCLA fans need to prepare for a major letdown season. I’m not doubting Mick Cronin’s coaching abilities, but I am doubting this roster. Jaquez and Campbell were nothing short of Bruins legends, and that’s not even counting Clark, Bailey, and Singleton, who are also gone. Adem Bona and Dylan Andrews are talented, but that’s a big ask, especially on a Bruins team that didn’t pick up a single 5-star freshman, or any impact transfers. It may sound harsh, but unless some unheralded players prove me wrong, it isn’t showing on paper.

37. Syracuse Orange

  • Last Season: 17-15
  • Key Departures: Joseph Girard III (16.4 PPG), Jesse Edwards (14.5 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Judah Mintz (16.3 PPG), Benny Williams (7.2 PPG), Chris Bell (6.6 PPG), Maliq Brown (5.7 PPG), Justin Taylor (4.2 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: JJ Starling (11.2 PPG at Notre Dame), Naheem McLeod (3.8 PPG at Florida State)

The most significant change for the Syracuse Orange isn’t about any one player coming or leaving, but about Adrian Autry replacing Jim Boeheim as the head coach. A lot of changes will be on the horizon, but funny enough, the core of the team is still pretty well intact. Losing Girard and Edwards will hurt, but getting Mintz back and pairing him with Starling should make for one of the best backcourts in the ACC. Syracuse also added big man Naheem McLeod from Florida State, which should help with the loss of Edwards.

36. Mississippi State Bulldogs

  • Last Season: 21-13
  • Key Departures: N/A
  • Key Returners: Tolu Smith (15.7 PPG), Shakeel Moore (9.8 PPG), DJ Jeffries (8.8 PPG), Dashawn Davis (8.7 PPG), Cameron Matthews (6.9 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Andrew Taylor (20.2 PPG at Marshall), Jimmy Bell (4.8 PPG at West Virginia), Josh Hubbard (3/4-star)

Is it time to start taking Chris Jans very seriously? He virtually lost no one but a few minor role players from last year’s 21-win team. That means Tolu Smith, Shakeel Moore, and the rest of last year’s starting lineup (in most games) are back. And get this – last year, the Bulldogs were one of the worst power conference teams in terms of scoring. So what’d they do? They went and got Andrew Taylor from Marshall. That’s a power move, and this is a team that is a dark horse for the Final Four.

35. Providence Friars

  • Last Season: 21-12
  • Key Departures: Ed Croswell (13.3 PPG), Noah Locke (11.0 PPG), Jared Bynum (10.0 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Bryce Hopkins (15.8 PPG), Devin Carter (13.0 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Josh Oduro (15.6 PPG at George Mason), Garwey Dual (4-star), Davonte Gaines (7.3 PPG at George Mason), Justyn Fernandez (4.1 PPG at George Mason), Will McNair Jr. (3.3 PPG at Mississippi State)

Providence loses a good chunk of its starting lineup from a 21-win team but returns its best player in Bryce Hopkins. The former UK transfer could have gone to the NBA Draft, but will instead run it back with the Friars. Carter is another good returner, and the team brings in a plethora of George Mason transfers, along with head coach Kim English. Another NCAA Tournament appearance could be in store for PC.

34. St. John’s Red Storm

  • Last Season: 18-15
  • Key Departures: David Jones (13.2 PPG), Posh Alexander (10.2 PPG), Andre Curbelo (9.6 PPG), Montez Mathis (9.6 PPG), Dylan Addae-Wusu (9.3 PPG), AJ Storr (8.8 PPG), Rafael Pinzon (6.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Joel Soriano (15.2 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Jordan Dingle (23.4 PPG at Penn), Chris Ledlum (18.8 PPG at Harvard), Glenn Taylor Jr. (11.6 PPG at Oregon State), Daniss Jenkins (15.6 PPG at Iona), RJ Luis (11.5 PPG at UMass), Quinn Slazinski (11.3 PPG at Iona), Nahiem Alleyne (5.2 PPG at UConn), Sean Conway (12.1 PPG at VMI), Cruz Davis (6.5 PPG at Iona)

Next year’s St. John’s team will be largely unrecognizable. Joel Soriano is the ONLY returning player who was a part of the everyday rotation last season. Rick Pitino utilized the transfer portal as much as any coach in the country, bringing in NINE players from the portal. That includes the nation’s leading scorer in Jordan Dingle, a few Iona Gaels coming over with him, and a national champion from UConn in Nahiem Alleyne. Ledlum was also a late get, who moves the Red Storm over the Friars for now. It’s one big recipe for success, even if it’s a crazy roster turnover.

33. West Virginia Mountaineers

  • Last Season: 19-15
  • Key Departures: Erik Stevenson (15.4 PPG), Kedrian Johnson (11.7 PPG), Tre Mitchell (11.7 PPG), Emmitt Matthews Jr. (10.2 PPG), Joe Toussaint (9.4 PPG), Jimmy Bell Jr. (4.8 PPG), Mohamed Wague (4.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Seth Wilson (4.2 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Jesse Edwards (14.5 PPG at Syracuse), Jose Perez (18.9 PPG at Manhattan), RaeQuan Battle (17.7 PPG at Montana State), Kerr Kriisa (9.9 PPG at Arizona), Omar Silverio (10.9 PPG at Manhattan)

West Virginia just has a whole lot going on, but taking coaching out of the picture, you have a really talented team. The transfer class is out of this world, even if the team lost just about everyone from last year’s team. Of course, getting them to play together might be the biggest roadblock, but the Mountaineers certainly aren’t a team to write off.

32. Oregon Ducks

  • Last Season: 21-15
  • Key Departures: Will Richardson (12.2 PPG), Quincy Guerrier (9.0 PPG), Rivaldo Soares (7.2 PPG), Kel’el Ware (6.6 PPG)
  • Key Returners: N’Faly Dante (13.4 PPG), Jermaine Couisnard (12.8 PPG), Keeshawn Barthelemy (9.3 PPG), Nate Bittle (7.3 PPG), Brennan Rigsby (4.2 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Jackson Shelstad (4/5-star), Kwame Evans Jr. (4/5-star), Mookie Cook (4-star), Kario Oquendo (12.7 PPG at Georgia), Jesse Zarzuela (16.3 PPG at Central Michigan)

I’m a big fan of what Dana Altman has brewing in Eugene. The Ducks have one of the best freshman classes and added a few underrated transfers. But this Oregon team is all about the return of N’Faly Dante, who has the potential to be a top-five big man in college basketball. Playing beside Nate Bittle, if the Ducks can stay healthy and find good guard play, they can return to usual form.

31. TCU Horned Frogs

  • Last Season: 22-13
  • Key Departures: Mike Miles Jr. (17.9 PPG), Damion Baugh (12.6 PPG), Eddie Lampkin Jr. (6.3 PPG), Shahada Wells (5.9 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Emanuel Miller (12.3 PPG), JaKobe Coles (8.6 PPG), Chuck O’Bannon (7.7 PPG), Micah Peavy (7.0 PPG), Xavier Cork (4.4 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Jameer Nelson Jr. (20.6 PPG at Delaware), Avery Anderson III (11.1 PPG at Oklahoma State), Trevian Tennyson (15.7 PPG at Texas A&M-CC), Essam Mostafa (12.4 PPG at Coastal Carolina), Ernest Udeh Jr. (2.6 PPG at Kansas)

TCU will head into a new era without Mike Miles, but Jamie Dixon did a good job securing a backcourt of Jameer Nelson Jr. and Avery Anderson III. The Horned Frogs also return Emanuel Miller and some other key rotation players. Losing a star isn’t easy to back from, but TCU is doing its best job.

30. Clemson Tigers

  • Last Season: 23-11
  • Key Departures: Hunter Tyson (15.3 PPG), Brevin Galloway (11.2 PPG)
  • Key Returners: PJ Hall (15.3 PPG), Chase Hunter (13.8 PPG), Ian Schieffelen (5.5 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Joe Girard III (16.4 PPG at Syracuse), Jack Clark (9.0 PPG at NC State), Jake Heidbreder (15.1 PPG at Air Force), Bas Leyte (7.6 PPG at UNC Greensboro)

Clemson should be headed back to the NCAA Tournament after winning the transfer portal. Girard III stays in the conference and in Orange, giving the Tigers a legit three-point shooter and playmaker. Clark and Heidbreder should make up for the losses of Tyson and Galloway. But returning Hall and Hunter is what should keep the Tigers in contention in the ACC.

29. Baylor Bears

  • Last Season: 23-11
  • Key Departures: Adam Flagler (15.6 PPG), Keyonte George (15.3 PPG), LJ Cryer (15.0 PPG), Flo Thamba (5.0 PPG), Dale Bonner (4.7 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Jalen Bridges (10.3 PPG), Langston Love (6.3 PPG), Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (5.1 PPG), Josh Ojianwuna (4.2 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: RayJ Dennis (19.5 PPG at Toledo), Ja’Kobe Walker (5-star), Jayden Nunn (9.3 PPG at VCU), Miro Little (4-star)

Baylor seemed to have lost a step last season and the Bears might not gain one back this year. While they should still make the NCAA Tournament, the Bears will once again rely on a talented freshman, this time in Ja’Kobe Walton. RayJ Dennis was a fantastic pickup, but the losses of Flagler, George, and Cryer might be too much to make up for in one season.

28. Virginia Cavaliers

  • Last Season: 25-8
  • Key Departures: Armaan Franklin (12.4 PPG), Jayden Gardner (12.0 PPG), Kihei Clark (10.7 PPG), Ben Vander Plas (7.4 PPG), Kadin Shedrick (6.2 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Reece Beekman (9.5 PPG), Isaac McKneely (6.7 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Jordan Minor (17.4 PPG at Merrimack), Andrew Rohde (17.1 PPG at St. Thomas), Dante Harris (11.9 PPG at Georgetown), Jacob Groves (6.8 PPG at Oklahoma), Blake Buchanan (4-star), Elijah Gertrude (4-star)

Tony Bennett will have a largely different team in 2023-24, but it will still be a typical talented Virginia squad. It will be strange with no Clark or Franklin on the floor, but it might be a breath of fresh air considering the last few UVA exits from the NCAA Tournament. The four transfers coming into Virginia will all push to start and it should create some healthy competition on a new-look Cavaliers team.

27. Texas A&M Aggies

  • Last Season: 25-10
  • Key Departures: Dexter Dennis (9.5 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Wade Taylor IV (16.3 PPG), Tyrece Radford (13.3 PPG), Julius Marble (9.1 PPG), Henry Coleman III (9.0 PPG), Manny Obaseki (5.2 PPG), Hayden Hefner (3.4 PPG), Andersson Garcia (3.2 PPG), Soloman Washington (3.2 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Jace Carter (16.6 PPG at UIC), Eli Lawrence (12.2 PPG at Middle Tennessee), Wildens Leveque (5.5 PPG at UMass)

Texas A&M came out of nowhere last season, to win 25 games. Now, the Aggies have one of the strongest returning cores in college basketball, and add more than they lost. Buzz Williams truly has College Station buzzing and although the SEC has numerous top-notch teams, Texas A&M will surely be one of them.

26. Kansas State Wildcats

  • Last Season: 26-10
  • Key Departures: Markquis Nowell (17.6 PPG), Keyontae Johnson (17.4 PPG), Desi Sills (8.7 PPG), Ismael Massoud (5.4 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Nae’Qwan Tomlin (10.4 PPG), Cam Carter (6.5 PPG), David N’Guessan (6.4 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Arthur Kaluma (11.8 PPG at Creighton), Tylor Perry (17.3 PPG at North Texas), Dai Dai Ames (4-star), RJ Jones (4-star), Macaleab Rich (3/4-star)

I’m not sure if you can replicate the Nowell-Johnons duo, but Kansas State sure is trying with 5-11 guard Tylor Perry and athletic big man Arthur Kaluma. How they will fit in with Tomlin, Carter, and N’Guessan is left to be seen, but props to Jerome Tang for finding a familiar way to try and rebuild.

25. Auburn Tigers

  • Last Season: 21-13
  • Key Departures: Wendell Green Jr. (13.7 PPG), Allen Flanigan (10.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Johni Broome (14.2 PPG), Jaylin Williams (11.2 PPG), KD Johnson (8.9 PPG), Dylan Cardwell (3.7 PPG), Chris Moore (3.5 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Aden Holloway (5-star), Denver Jones (20.1 PPG at FIU)

Auburn seems to be falling under the radar and I don’t know why. They lost a pair of double-digit scorers, but return multiple starters from a very respectable team. Add in 5-star Aden Holloway and 20 PPG scorer Denver Jones, and you have arguably a better Tigers team than last year.

24. Texas Longhorns

  • Last Season: 29-9
  • Key Departures: Marcus Carr (15.9 PPG), Sir’Jabari Rice (13.0 PPG), Timmy Allen (10.5 PPG), Christian Bishop (6.6 PPG), Arterio Morris (4.6 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Tyrese Hunter (10.3 PPG), Dylan Disu (8.8 PPG), Brock Cunningham (4.6 PPG), Dillon Mitchell (4.3 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Max Abmas (21.9 PPG at Oral Roberts), Kadin Shedrick (6.2 PPG at Virginia), Chendall Weaver (9.5 PPG at UT Arlington), Ze’Rik Onyema (7.1 PPG at UTEP), Chris Johnson (4-star)

What will Texas look like without Marcus Carr and multiple other reliable Longhorns players? They went out and got Oral Roberts scoring superstar Max Abmas and paired him with some other solid transfers and a few returning rotation players. I worry about Abmas’ ability to be a star in the Big 12, especially after his struggles against power conference teams last season. But when it gets down to it, scorers will find a way and Abmas is one of the best to do it in college basketball.

23. Colorado Buffaloes

  • Last Season: 18-17
  • Key Departures: Nique Clifford (5.9 PPG), Lawson Lovering (4.9 PPG), Jalen Gabbidon (4.6 PPG), Ethan Wright (4.3 PPG)
  • Key Returners: KJ Simpson (15.9 PPG), Tristan da Silva (15.9 PPG), J’Vonne Hadley (8.0 PPG), Julian Hammond III (6.9 PPG), Luke O’Brien (6.2 PPG), Javon Ruffin (6.0 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Cody Williams (5-star), Eddie Lampkin Jr. (6.3 PPG at TCU), Assane Diop (3/4-star)

Colorado is another Pac-12 team that can take a major step forward in 2023-24. The Buffaloes don’t really lose any major pieces, and return their top six scorers. In addition, they add a 5-star freshman in Williams and an experienced big man in Lampkin Jr. The Pac-12 will be must-watch basketball in the final year before it dissolves, and Colorado is a big reason why.

22. Northwestern Wildcats

  • Last Season: 22-12
  • Key Departures: Chase Audiage (14.1 PPG), Robbie Beran (7.5 PPG), Julian Roper II (4.4 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Boo Buie (17.3 PPG), Ty Berry (8.5 PPG), Brooks Barnhizer (7.6 PPG), Matthew Nicholson (6.3 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Ryan Langborg (12.7 PPG at Princeton), Justin Mullins (9.8 PPG at Denver), Blake Preston (6.7 PPG at Liberty)

Boo Buie is back, which is about all you need to know to know that Northwestern will more than likely be back to the NCAA Tournament. His running mate, Chase Audiage, may be gone, but a solid core of returning players should offset that loss. It’s also a very underrated transfer class. Langborg and Preston were both winners at the mid-major level, which is never something to take lightly. Don’t be surprised if Northwestern is a top-25 team more often than not next season.

21. Houston Cougars

  • Last Season: 31-3
  • Key Departures: Marcus Sasser (16.8 PPG), Jarace Walker (11.2 PPG), Tramon Mark (10.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Jamal Shead (10.5 PPG), J’Wan Roberts (10.0 PPG), Emanuel Sharp (5.9 PPG), Ja’Vier Francis (4.3 PPG), Terrance Arceneaux (3.7 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: LJ Cryer (15.0 PPG at Baylor), Damian Dunn (15.3 PPG at Temple), Jacob McFarland (4-star), Joseph Tugler (4-star)

The three-headed spear of Sasser, Walker, and Mark is now gone, which will look very weird when Houston takes the floor for the first time. Now a Big 12 team, the Cougars will rely on Jamal Shead and J’Wan Roberts to lead the transition. Baylor transfer LJ Cryer and Temple transfer Damian Dunn should give the Cougars more than enough to be one of the best teams in the conference in year one.

20. Illinois Fighting Illini

  • Last Season: 20-13
  • Key Departures: Matthew Mayer (12.5 PPG), Jayden Epps (9.5 PPG), Skyy Clark (7.0 PPG), RJ Melendez (6.0 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Terrence Shannon Jr. (17.2 PPG), Coleman Hawkins (9.9 PPG), Dain Dainja (9.5 PPG), Luke Goode (4.0 PPG), Sencire Harris (3.7 PPG), Ty Rodgers (3.3 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Marcus Domask (16.7 PPG at Southern Illinois), Quincy Guerrier (9.0 PPG at Oregon), Jeremiah Williams (9.5 PPG at Temple), Justin Harmon (14.0 PPG at Utah Valley), Amani Hansberry (4-star), Dra Gibbs-Lawhorn (3/4-star)

Returning Terrence Shannon Jr. was arguably one of the biggest offseason happenings across the country. It gives Illinois a superstar, despite losing a few secondary pieces. However, Brad Underwood found a way to still keep a solid core, including a trio of underclassmen in Goode, Harris, and Rodgers, who could all be in for much bigger seasons. Domask and Guerrier highlight an impressive showing in the transfer portal as Illinois is a sleeper to make a Final Four run.

19. Alabama Crimson Tide

  • Last Season: 31-6
  • Key Departures: Brandon Miller (18.8 PPG), Noah Clowney (9.8 PPG), Jahvon Quinerly (8.7 PPG), Charles Bediako (6.4 PPG), Jaden Bradley (6.4 PPG), Nimari Burnett (5.6 PPG), Noah Gurley (4.9 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Mark Sears (12.5 PPG), Rylan Griffen (5.9 PPG), Nick Pringle (3.5 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Aaron Estrada (20.2 PPG at Hofstra), Grant Nelson (17.9 PPG at North Dakota State), Jarin Stevenson (4-star), Mouhamed Dioubate (4-star), Sam Walters (4-star), Latrell Wrightsell Jr. (16.3 PPG at CSU Fullerton), Mohamed Wague (4.1 PPG at West Virginia)

Brandon Miller had an exception, albeit tumultuous season at Alabama, and now the Crimson Tide pivot to a much different looker roster. Nate Oats secured arguably the two best mid-major transfers in Aaron Estrada and Grant Nelson. Mark Sears leads the returning core on a Bama team that will probably drop off a bit, but still should be a very tough out in the SEC.

18. Kentucky Wildcats

  • Last Season: 22-12
  • Key Departures: Oscar Tshiebwe (16.5 PPG), Jacob Toppin (12.4 PPG), Cason Wallace (11.7 PPG), Sahvir Wheeler (7.7 PPG), Chris Livingston (6.3 PPG), CJ Fredrick (6.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Antonio Reeves (14.4 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Tre Mitchell (11.7 PPG at West Virginia), Aaron Bradshaw (5-star), DJ Wagner (5-star), Justin Edwards (5-star), Reed Sheppard (4-star), Rob Dillingham (4-star)

Kentucky is yearly, one of the toughest teams to predict, because of John Calipari’s one-and-done system. However, this year’s Wildcats is historically one of, if not the best freshman class of all time. Of course, with Tshiebwe moving on, the Wildcats will enter a new era of sorts. But with three 5-stars, WVU transfer Tre Mitchell, and Reeves deciding to return to Lexington, Kentucky will be a top-tier team in the SEC with Final Four hopes.

17. Xavier Musketeers

  • Last Season: 27-10
  • Key Departures: Souley Boum (16.4 PPG), Colby Jones (15.0 PPG), Jack Nunge (14.2 PPG), Adam Kunkel (10.9 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Zach Freemantle (15.2 PPG), Jerome Hunter (7.8 PPG), Desmond Claude (4.7 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Dayvion McKnight (16.5 PPG at Western Kentucky), Quincy Olivari (18.7 PPG at Rice), Abou Ousmane (11.1 PPG at North Texas), Logan Duncomb (2.9 PPG at Indiana), Dailyn Swain (4-star), Reid Ducharme (4-star), Trey Green (4-star)

Sean Miller will face a tough test in his second year in Cincinnati. Other than bringing back Freemantle, the core of Xavier’s 27-win team is gone. Miller went berserk in the transfer portal, picking up a trio of talented scorers, and a work in progress in Logan Duncomb. The Freemantle/McKnight/Olivari trio looks very good on paper, but with so many moving pieces, it’s hard to lock in any prediction for the Musketeers.

16. Miami Hurricanes

  • Last Season: 29-8
  • Key Departures: Isaiah Wong (16.2 PPG), Jordan Miller (15.4 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Nijel Pack (13.8 PPG), Norchad Omier (13.3 PPG), Wooga Poplar (8.7 PPG), Bensley Joseph (5.2 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Matthew Cleveland (13.8 PPG at Florida State), Mike Nwoko (3/4 star)

Losing Wong and Miller is nothing to take lightly, so if Miami wants to head back to the Elite 8, it will start with improvement. Joseph saw a minor jump in his game from freshman to sophomore year and is a candidate for a breakout junior season. Having Pack and Omier back should also help the Hurricanes stay competitive, and Cleveland could be a good piece to make Miami a borderline top-25 team throughout the season.

15. Maryland Terrapins

  • Last Season: 22-13
  • Key Departures: Hakim Hart (11.4 PPG), Don Carey (7.4 PPG), Ike Cornish (7.4 PPG), Ian Martinez (5.7 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Jahmir Young (15.8 PPG), Julian Reese (11.4 PPG), Donta Scott (11.3 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: DeShawn Harris-Smith (4-star), Jamie Kaiser (4-star), Jordan Geronimo (4.2 PPG at Indiana), Chance Stephens (6.0 PPG at Loyola Marymount), Jahnathan Lamothe (3/4-star)

Am I crazy to think that Maryland is being slept on this much? The Terrapins finished tied for fifth in year one of Kevin Willard, which was much better than expected. He also has a good retention rate, returning three of the top four scorers from last year’s NCAA Tournament round of 32 team. The newcomers could be better, but Maryland has a talented bunch ready to compete in the Big Ten again, especially with a head coach who rarely misses out on the Big Dance.

14. Wisconsin Badgers

  • Last Season: 20-15
  • Key Departures: Jordan Davis (5.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Chucky Hepburn (12.2 PPG), Steven Crowl (12.1 PPG), Connor Essegian (11.7 PPG), Tyler Wahl (11.3 PPG), Max Klesmit (8.4 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: AJ Storr (8.8 PPG at St. John’s), Gus Yalden (4-star)

I’m a big fan of veteran teams gelling and improving and that’s exactly the case for Wisconsin, who only lose Jordan Davis. That means the top five scorers return to Badgerland, who also add St. John’s transfer AJ Storr. With guys like Trayce Jackson-Davis and Hunter Dickinson out of the Big Ten, there might be a changing of the guard, and Wisconsin seems like a good bet to make a move toward the top.

13. Arkansas Razorbacks

  • Last Season: 22-14
  • Key Departures: Ricky Council IV (16.1 PPG), Anthony Black (12.8 PPG), Nick Smith Jr. (12.5 PPG), Jordan Walsh (7.1 PPG), Makhel Mitchell (3.6 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Trevon Brazile (11.8 PPG), Davonte Davis (10.9 PPG), Makhi Mitchell (7.0 PPG), Jalen Graham (5.2 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Khalif Battle (17.9 PPG at Temple), El Ellis (17.7 PPG at Louisville), Tramon Mark (10.1 PPG at Houston), Keyon Menifield (10.0 PPG at Washington), Jeremiah Davenport (9.1 PPG at Cincinnati), Chandler Lawson (5.0 PPG at Memphis), Baye Fall (4-star), Layden Blocker (4-star)

There might need to be a rule put in place to limit Eric Musselman’s pull in the transfer portal. I mean seriously, the Razorbacks are bringing in a starting lineup of transfers, and already have four returning players who are one short of a legit starting lineup. Of course, Arkansas loses some scoring, but the Muss Bus just knows how to re-load.

12. USC Trojans

  • Last Season: 22-11
  • Key Departures: Drew Peterson (13.9 PPG), Reese Dixon-Waters (9.8 PPG), Tre White (9.0 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Boogie Ellis (17.7 PPG), Kobe Johnson (9.2 PPG), Joshua Morgan (7.0 PPG), Vincent Iwuchukwu (5.4 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Isaiah Collier (5-star), Bronny James (4/5-star), DJ Rodman (9.6 PPG at Washington State), Arrinten Page (4-star), Brandon Gardner (3/4-star)

USC might be the hardest team to rank after star freshman Bronny James suffered a cardiac arrest on the court. Of course, a full and healthy recovery is the most important thing for James, who certainly would elevate the Trojans this season. But still, USC has the top recruit in the nation, in Isaiah Collier, a flat-out star in Boogie Ellis, and the son of Dennis Rodman, DJ, who comes over after a good season at Washington State. In case you thought west coast basketball was finished, think again.

11. Creighton Bluejays

  • Last Season: 24-13
  • Key Departures: Ryan Nembhard (12.1 PPG), Arthur Kaluma (11.8 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Ryan Kalkbrenner (15.9 PPG), Trey Alexander (13.6 PPG), Baylor Scheierman (12.8 PPG), Fredrick King (3.4 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Steven Ashworth (16.2 PPG at Utah State), Johnathan Lawson (3.4 PPG at Memphis)

Right after the season ended, Creighton was heralded as a top-five team. Since then, some surprises have happened. First, Ryan Nembhard decided to transfer. Then, Arthur Kaluma hit the portal. It’s still a talented Creighton team, and the addition of Ashworth will help, but there are some unexpected holes in the roster. Watch for Creighton to compete at the top of the Big East, but the Final Four hopes took a hit.

10. Villanova Wildcats

  • Last Season: 17-17
  • Key Departures: Caleb Daniels (14.2 PPG), Cam Whitmore (12.5 PPG), Brandon Slater (9.7 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Eric Dixon (15.4 PPG), Justin Moore (13.5 PPG), Mark Armstrong (5.3 PPG), Jordan Longino (5.0 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: TJ Bamba (15.8 PPG at Washington State), Hakim Hart (11.4 PPG at Maryland), Tyler Burton (19.0 PPG at Richmond), Lance Ware (2.0 PPG at Kentucky)

If it weren’t for the injuries to Whitmore and Moore to start the season, Villanova may have made a stronger push for the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats were better (not surprisingly) at full strength. Heading into next year, Kyle Neptune was able to keep a solid core intact with Dixon, Moore, Armstrong, and Longino all returning. Villanova had an A+ in the transfer portal, adding all sorts of scoring talent. Expect the Wildcats to be back on track in 2023-24.

9. Arizona Wildcats

  • Last Season: 28-7
  • Key Departures: Azuolas Tubelis (19.8 PPG), Courtney Ramey (10.5 PPG), Kerr Kriisa (9.9 PPG), Cedric Henderson Jr. (8.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Oumar Ballo (14.2 PPG), Pelle Larsson (9.9 PPG), Kylan Boswell (4.6 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Caleb Love (16.7 PPG at North Carolina), Keshad Johnson (7.7 PPG at San Diego State),  Jaden Bradley (6.4 PPG at Alabama), KJ Lewis (4-star)

Can Arizona leave the Pac-12 on top? It appears so, with Oumar Ballo and Pelle Larsson running it back in Tucson. That’s one heck of a tandem, but the real reason the Wildcats can be outstanding this season lies in the hands of Caleb Love. His talent is off the roof and a change of scenery can mean everything. Transfers Keshad Johnson and Jaden Bradley add some tremendous depth for Tommy Lloyd and Arizona.

8. Tennessee Volunteers

  • Last Season: 25-11
  • Key Departures: Olivier Nkamhoua (10.8 PPG), Julian Phillips (8.3 PPG), Tyreke Key (8.2 PPG), Uros Plavsic (4.3 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Santiago Vescovi (12.5 PPG), Zakai Zeigler (10.7 PPG), Josiah Jordan-James (10.0 PPG), Jonas Aidoo (5.1 PPG), Jahmai Mashack (4.7 PPG), Tobe Awaka (3.2 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Dalton Knecht (20.2 PPG at Northern Colorado), Jordan Gainey (15.2 at USC Upstate), Cameron Carr (4-star), Freddie Dilione (4-star), JP Estrella (4-star)

The backcourt of Vescovi and Zeigler is set to be one of the best in the nation, and that’s beside a handful of other key players from last year’s 25-win team. The Vols added a pair of mid-major stars, with Knecht choosing UT over UK. The SEC has a lot of great teams, but Tennessee might be the best.

7. Michigan State Spartans

  • Last Season: 21-13
  • Key Departures: Joey Hauser (14.4 PPG), Pierre Brooks (3.6 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Tyson Walker (14.8 PPG), AJ Hoggard (12.9 PPG), Jaden Akins (9.8 PPG), Malik Hall (8.9 PPG), Mady Sissoko (5.1 PPG), Jaxon Kohler (3.0 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Xavier Booker (5-star), Coen Carr (4-star), Jeremy Fears (4-star), Gehrig Normand (4-star)

Tom Izzo didn’t utilize the transfer portal and he didn’t need to. The Spartans only lose one starter from last year’s team and have the fifth-best freshman class according to 247Sports. Last year, they made it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen, losing to Kansas State. This year, expectations to go even further will be higher, and Michigan State has the makeup to do so. Who knows how many years Izzo has left, and this might be his best chance at a second championship.

6. UConn Huskies

  • Last Season: 31-8
  • Key Departures: Adama Sanogo (17.1 PPG), Jordan Hawkins (16.3 PPG), Andre Jackson (6.8 PPG), Joey Calcaterra (5.8 PPG), Naheim Alleyne (5.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Tristen Newton (9.9 PPG), Alex Karaban (9.5 PPG), Donovan Clingan (7.1 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Stephon Castle (5-star), Cam Spencer (13.2 PPG at Rutgers), Jayden Ross (4-star), Jaylin Stewart (4-star), Solomon Ball (4-star), Youssouf Singare (3/4-star)

The national champion UConn Huskies are re-loading with a tremendous recruiting and transfer class. Replacing Adama Sanogo, Jordan Hawkins, and Andre Jackson won’t be easy, but Dan Hurley is doing his best with a 5-star in Castle, four 4-star recruits, and Cam Spencer, who was a key part of Rutgers’ team last year. On top of that, Donvocan Clingan has added weight and might be even *more* of a force down low than he already was last season. The Huskies will continue to be a top team in college basketball.

5. North Carolina Tar Heels

  • Last Season: 20-13
  • Key Departures: Caleb Love (16.7 PPG), Pete Nance (10.0 PPG), Leaky Black (7.3 PPG), Puff Johnson (4.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: RJ Davis (16.1 PPG), Armando Bacot (15.9 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Harrison Ingram (10.5 PPG at Stanford), Cormac Ryan (12.3 PPG at Notre Dame), Elliot Cadeau (5-star), Paxson Wojcik (14.9 PPG at Brown), Jae’Lyn Withers (8.9 PPG at Louisville), Zayden High (4-star)

North Carolina did an incredible job in the offseason, picking up four high-value transfers. I expect Ingram and Ryan to push to make the starting lineup. Wojcik and Withers should have big roles off the bench. Of course, returning Davis and Bacot means the newcomers will be joining forces with two of the best players in the ACC. I won’t go as far as to say that Caleb Love was the issue, but moving on from him will probably benefit both parties. And if Cadeau can live up to his 5-star status, the Tar Heels can make the Final Four.

4. Marquette Golden Eagles

  • Last Season: 29-7
  • Key Departures: Olivier Maxence-Prosper (12.5 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Kam Jones (15.1 PPG), Tyler Kolek (12.9 PPG), Oso Ighodaro (11.4 PPG), David Joplin (9.2 PPG), Stevie Mitchell (7.1 PPG), Chase Ross (4.6 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Tre Norman (4-star), Zaide Lowery (4-star)

Practically all Marquette loses is Olivier Maxence-Prosper, as the 29-win Golden Eagles return every other key rotation player. That includes Big East Player of the Year, Tyler Kolek A pair of 4-star freshmen also join the roster, as Marquette looks to use its cohesion to make a long run in March Madness. Shaka Smart has something brewing in Milwaukee, and it’s not Miller!

3. Kansas Jayhawks

  • Last Season: 28-8
  • Key Departures: Jalen Wilson (20.1 PPG), Gradey Dick (14.1 PPG), Joseph Yesufu (4.1 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Kevin McCullar Jr. (10.7 PPG), KJ Adams Jr. (10.6 PPG), Dajuan Harris (8.9 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Hunter Dickinson (18.5 PPG at Michigan), Nicolas Timberlake (17.7 PPG at Towson), Elmarko Jackson (4-star), Jamari McDowell (4-star), Arterio Morris (4.6 PPG at Texas), Parker Braun (7.7 PPG at Santa Clara)

Kansas hasn’t had a sub-20-win season since 1988-89 and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that by adding Hunter Dickinson, that isn’t about to change. The Jayhawks will need to replace Jalen Wilson and Gradey Dick, but it’s a program used to replacing top-tier talent. McCullar, Adams, and Harris will all grow into more important roles, and Nicolas Timberlake is another name to watch who could elevate this KU team. Leave it to Bill Self to create another championship-caliber team.

2. Duke Blue Devils

  • Last Season: 27-9
  • Key Departures: Dariq Whitehead (8.3 PPG), Dereck Lively II (5.2 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Kyle Filipowski (15.1 PPG), Jeremy Roach (13.6 PPG), Tyrese Proctor (9.4 PPG), Mark Mitchell (9.1 PPG), Ryan Young (6.4 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Jared McCain (5-star), TJ Power (5-star), Caleb Foster (4/5-star) Sean Stewart (4/5-star)

Duke is one of the only teams not to utilize the transfer portal, and it might not matter. Returning Filipowski and Roach is about just as good, especially when they bring in a recruiting class this good. They usually are title contenders based on hype, but this Blue Devils team actually looks Final Four caliber.

1. Purdue Boilermakers

  • Last Season: 29-6
  • Key Departures: Brandon Newman (6.0 PPG), David Jenkins Jr. (3.9 PPG)
  • Key Returners: Zach Edey (22.3 PPG), Fletcher Loyer (11.0 PPG), Braden Smith (9.7 PPG), Mason Gillis (6.8 PPG), Caleb Furst (5.5 PPG), Trey Kaufman-Renn (4.5 PPG), Ethan Morton (3.8 PPG)
  • Key Newcomers: Lance Jones (13.8 PPG at Southern Illinois), Myles Colvin (4-star)

Make all the jokes you want, but Purdue was dominant last season, return Zach Edey, and hardly lose anything from a 29-6 team. One loss shouldn’t define the Boilermakers, and you saw exactly what Virginia did one year after losing to UMBC. In terms of winning a championship, Purdue’s guards will need to play tougher and knock down shots. But Purdue is a 30-win team and a clear 1-seed.

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