The college basketball off-season is always wild, but is it just me or has this one been especially bananas?
Seriously, since the day the season ended, here are a few things that have happened: Mick Cronin left Cincinnati for UCLA. John Beilein left for the NBA and was replaced by Juwan Howard. We went through an entire FBI trial under the assumption that it would result in (at least) Sean Miller and Will Wade losing their jobs, only instead, both somehow survived. Memphis went from one Top 50 recruit to four, with the additions of Precious Achuiwa, Boogie Ellis and Lester Quinones. Cole Anthony (North Carolina), Matthew Hurt (Duke), Cassius Stanley (Duke), Trendon Watford (LSU), Jaden McDaniels (Washington) and Johnny Juzang (Kentucky) also announced their college decisions. RJ Hampton announced he’d reclassify, then cut his recruiting list from five to four, four to three, went back up to four with Texas Tech, cut Kentucky to get back down to three, then eventually committed to play for the… New Zealand Breakers. Huh? Oh, and Tre Jones, Ashton Hagans, Cassius Winston and Markus Howard were among the big names who announced they’d return to college basketball.
Of course, while that handful of guys announced they’d be back, hundreds – literally hundreds – declared for the draft. And because players were allowed to declare with an agent this year, it left the sport in a fit of chaos, with no one quite sure who was actually just “testing the draft waters” and who was actually planning on staying in.
Only now, finally, mercifully, we have hit May 29th. The pre-draft portion of this process is complete and we now know who actually is coming back to college and staying in the draft.
And with that, we have a much clearer picture of what next year of college basketball will look like.
Here was my initial “Way Too Early Top 25” from back after the day ended. And below, is my updated list post NBA Draft deadline.
1) Michigan State Spartans
Key Returnees: Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford, Aaron Henry, Gabe Brown, Foster Loyer, Kyle Ahrens, Xavier Tillman
Key Departures: Nick Ward, Matt McQuaid, Kenny Goins
Key Additions: Malik Hall, Rocket Watts
Michigan State was No. 1 the day the season ended, they are No. 1 today, and will be No. 1 the day the season opens, as – unlike virtually everyone else in college basketball – their roster looks largely the way we expected it to in early April.
The Spartans do lose big man Nick Ward and versatile do-everything former walk-on Kenny Goins, but return every other substantial piece from last year’s Final Four squad. That includes All-American point guard Cassius Winston, and key reserves Xavier Tillman and Aaron Henry, who both picked up experience in the absence of injured players last year. Speaking of which, Joshua Langford should be back after missing most of last season with injury, and the Spartans will also add a few big-time freshmen as well.
It’s only May, but Michigan State will be the team to beat next March.
2) Kentucky Wildcats
Key Returnees: Ashton Hagans, E.J. Montgomery, Nick Richards, Immanuel Quickley
Key Departures: PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson, Tyler Herro, Reid Travis, Jemarl Baker
Key Additions: Tyrese Maxey, Kalil Whitney, Keion Brooks, Dontaie Allen, Johnny Juzang, Nate Sestina (transfer)
It took until right around 6 p.m. ET, but Kentucky got the news they’d been waiting six weeks for, as EJ Montgomery will return to Lexington for his sophomore season. Yes, he needs to make a leap from role player to the star he is capable of being, but if he puts in the work, there’s no reason he can’t be the best big man in the SEC next season.
Just like that, the Wildcats went from “good team” to “national title contender,” as Montgomery was the missing puzzle piece, the glue that holds it all together. With him back, Kentucky now has a steady point guard in Ashton Hagans, backcourt scoring in Immanuel Quickley and Tyrese Maxey, shooting with the addition of Johnny Juzang, Kahlil Whitney on the wing, and shot blocking with Nick Richards.
Ultimately, there are no obvious weaknesses with these Wildcats, and they should once again be in the national title picture.
3) Duke Blue Devils
Key Returnees: Tre Jones, Alex O’Connell, Javin DeLaurier, Joey Baker, Jack White
Key Departures: Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, Cam Reddish, Marques Bolden
Key Additions: Vernon Carey, Wendell Moore, Matthew Hurt, Cassius Stanley
The return of Tre Jones is a total game-changer for me, as he is the steady point guard that this team needs to keep all the young guys in line. This particular Duke freshman class is solid, if not spectacular, as there is no Zion Williamson walking in that door (heck, I don’t even think there’s a Cam Reddish). However there are a lot of interesting pieces, with Wendell Moore and Cassius Stanley on the wing, and Matthew Hurt and Vernon Carey down low.
Like Kentucky however, the key is that in addition to the freshmen, there are multiple freshmen who have been there before. Beyond Jones, Javin DeLaurier down low, and Alex O’Connell on the wing.
4) Louisville Cardinals
Key Returnees: Jordan Nwora, Dwayne Sutton, Steven Enoch, Malik Williams, Ryan McMahon, Darius Perry
Key Departures: Christen Cunningham, Khwan Fore, Akoy Agau, V.J. King
Key Additions: Samuell Williamson, Aiden Igiehon, David Johnson, Jaelyn Withers, Josh Nickelberry, Lamarr Kimble (grad transfer)
Like his cross-state rival John Calipari, Chris Mack got huge news on deadline day when Jordan Nwora elected to return, and thanks to freshman Samuell Williamson and grad transfer Lamarr Kimble, there will be more scoring punch around Nwora (who averaged 19 points per game in 2019) than there was a year ago. Beyond those three, Mack has an awesome blend of battle-tested vets (Dwayne Sutton, Steven Enoch) and freshmen ready to step up, most notably big guy Aiden Igiehon.
It’s only year two of the Chris Mack era, but the Cards are already a threat to make a run to Atlanta next April.
5) Maryland Terrapins
Key Returnees: Anthony Cowan, Jalen Smith, Darryl Morsell, Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins, Serrel Smith, Ricky Lindo
Key Departures: Bruno Fernando
Key Additions: Makhi Mitchell, Makhei Mitchell
For those of you who might not follow the college basketball landscape closely, this may seem a bit high for the Maryland Terrapins. But make no mistake, this is a team with the talent to cut down the nets next April (now, whether you believe Mark Turgeon is the guy to get them there is another story altogether).
The big news came on Wednesday when soon-to-be senior Anthony Cowan removed his name from the draft, and the Terps – like Kentucky and Duke above – have a veteran point guard to lead their team. He will be surrounded by a superb group of sophomores on the wing (Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins and Daryl Morsell) and while Bruno Fernando is gone, the Terps do return Jalen Smith down low after he averaged 11 and 7 last season.
Again, the talent is there in College Park. Now it’s up to Mark Turgeon to help it reach its potential.
6) Kansas Jayhawks
Key Returnees: Devon Dotson, Quentin Grimes, Silvio De Sousa, Udoka Azibuke, Ochai Agbaji, Marcus Garrett, David McCormack, Mitch Lightfoot
Key Departures: Dedric Lawson, Quentin Grimes, LaGerald Vick, K.J. Lawson, Charlie Moore
Key Additions:Tristan Enaruna
It was a weird deadline day at Kansas, where Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes both announced they were withdrawing from the draft… only for Grimes to transfer. If we’re being perfectly honest, that’s how the tea leaves had been reading for a while, so it’s not a huge surprise. Not to mention that the X-factor here was Dotson, who – like EJ Montgomery at Kentucky and Jordan Nwora at Louisville – is the piece that brings the whole team together.
The 6’3 point guard averaged 12 points and just under four assists last game, and will be joined in the backcourt by Marcus Garrett and Ochai Agbaji. Up front, Kansas brings back the tandem they thought they’d have last season, before an injury took out Udoka Azibuke and Silvio de Sousa was lost to a season-long suspension.
The Jayhawks won’t be as deep as they’ve traditionally been, especially in the backcourt. But after a one-year dip, they should once again be favorites in the Big 12.
7) Texas Tech Red Raiders
Key Returnees: Davide Moretti, Kyler Edwards, DeShawn Coprew
Key Departures: Jarrett Culver, Matt Mooney, Tariq Owens, Norense Odiase, Brandone Francis, Khavon Moore
Key Additions: Kevin McCullar, Jahmius Ramsey, Terrence Shannon, Andrei Savrasov, Chris Clarke (grad transfer), TJ Holyfield (grad transfer)
In a weird way, this feels a little high for Chris Beard’s club after they lost four starters off this year’s Final Four team. At the time, it’s kind of a testament to Chris Beard that I’m really not that worried – remember, they lost five of their top six scorers after last season.
Yes, Chris Beard is that good, and no one is better at piecing together a roster late in April and May, and making it work the following February and March than he is. Last year he picked up Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens as grad transfers in the spring, and this year he’s added former Virginia Tech forward Chris Clarke, to go along with TJ Holyfield from Stephen F. Austin. That’s in addition to returnees Davide Moretti, Kyler Edwards and DeShawn Coprew, and the best recruiting class the school has ever brought in. That group is highlighted by four-star Jahmius Ramsey.
Maybe this is too high for Texas Tech. But Beard’s short track record in college hoops says that he’ll have his team in position to get a Top 3 seed by Selection Sunday.
8) LSU Tigers
Key Returnees: Javonte Smart, Skylar Mays, Emmitt Williams, Marlon Taylor, Darius Days
Key Departures: Tremont Waters, Naz Reid, Kavell Bigby-Williams
Key Additions: Trendon Watford, Aundre Hyatt, Courtese Cooper, Charles Manning
The bad boys of college basketball are back, baby! That’s right, after an off-season where we were certain that Will Wade would eventually be fired at LSU and the core of his SEC title winning team would depart, the exact opposite happened. Wade somehow survived and now, a bunch of his players who were expected to leave have returned with him. That includes Skylar Mays and Javonte Smart, who both averaged double-figures last season, and Emmitt Williams who could be a breakout star nationally down low. Trendon Watford is a stud in the frontcourt, and after redshirting last year, Aundre Hyatt and Courtese Cooper will add depth.
Love or hate LSU (and unless you’re an LSU fan I’m guessing you don’t love them) but this team is back, and nearly as good as last season. There is no reason to think that they can’t once again compete for an SEC title.
9) Villanova Wildcats
Key Returnees: Jermaine Samuels, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree, Collin Gillespie, Cole Swider, Saddiq Bey, Brandon Slater
Key Departures: Eric Paschall, Phil Booth, Joe Cremo, Jahvon Quinerly
Key Additions: Bryan Antoine, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Justin Moore
While “Trust the Process” is a phrase most closely affiliated with the Philadelphia 76ers, it feels just as applicable with Villanova. Trust the process. Jay Wright will figure it out.
The Wildcats certainly lost some key pieces (including leading scorers Eric Paschall and Phil Booth), but also return a whole lot of intriguing pieces and highly-touted freshmen. The breakout star could be Jermaine Samuels (who scored double-figures in the Wildcats’ final four games) or Saddiq Bey who was a surprise freshman last season. It could also be Cole Swider, a former Top 50 recruit.
What will be interesting, is to see what happens with a highly-touted freshman class that includes McDonald’s All-Americans Bryan Antoine and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. After struggling to acclimate former freshman stud Jahvon Quinerly last season (who has since transferred) will Wright have more success with this year’s class?
10) Memphis Tigers
Key Returnees: Tyler Harris, Isaiah Maurice, Alex Lomax
Key Departures: Jeremiah Martin, Kyvon Davenport, Kareem Brewton, Raynere Thornton, Mike Parks, Antwann Jones
Key Additions: James Wiseman, Precious Achiuwa, Boogie Ellis, D.J. Jeffries, Malcolm Dandridge, Damion Baugh
I actually had Memphis a bit higher than this (No. 7) until the decision late Wednesday night by graduate transfer Rayjon Tucker to leave his name in the draft. With him out of the fold, basically every key player on Memphis’ roster next year will be freshmen and sophomores.
Which of course leads to the question I know you’re going to ask next: “Yeah, but can Penny coach?” I personally believe he’ll figure it out, but none of us will know until he’s in the middle of the fire next year. But the bottom-line is that right now we can only go on the information we have, and that information is, “Even without Rayjon Tucker, this team is loaded.” You don’t need me to tell you, but in total, they have six Top 100 recruits, which two McDonald’s All-Americans and four Top 50 players. James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa could all end as All-Conference type performers.
There are plenty of questions – of all of which I’ve written about here – but again, I can only rank teams based on what we know this second. And right now we know that Memphis is one of the most talented teams in college basketball. We’ll find out whether Penny can coach soon enough.
11) Seton Hall Pirates
Key Returnees: Myles Powell, Myles Cale, Quincy McKnight, Sandro Mamukelashvili, Taruean Thompson
Key Departures: Michael Nzei
Key Additions: Tyrese Samuel
Myles Powell returns, and just like that, Seton Hall is an absolute threat to make the Final Four. It sounds crazy, but 1) Powell is that good and 2) The core around him is that good too.
First off let’s start with Powell, because a legitimate case could be made that he was as important as any player who elected return to college on Wednesday. Without him, I’m not even sure the Pirates are an NCAA Tournament team. But with him they can play with anybody, as now the Pirates welcome back eight of their top nine scorers.
At this point, it isn’t about whether Seton Hall can make their fifth straight NCAA Tournament or not. It’s how far they can go once they get there.
12) Arizona Wildcats
Key Returnees: Brandon Williams, Dylan Smith, Chase Jeter, Ira Lee, Alex Barcello
Key Departures: Brandon Randolph, Ryan Luther, Justin Coleman,
Key Additions: Nico Mannion, Josh Green, Zeke Njadi, Terry Armstrong, Max Hazzard (grad transfer)
Like Will Wade, a month ago we weren’t even sure if Sean Miller would be able to keep his job at Arizona until the start of the 2019-2020 season. And like Will Wade he not only survived but is somehow thriving. And after a year spent in the middle of the Pac-12 standings, he once again has the league’s best team.
Brandon Williams and Chase Jeter are both back after averaging double-figures a season ago, but the story here is really the freshmen. Nico Mannion and Josh Green are both McDonald’s All-Americans, and both Arizona natives (even if Green was originally born in Australia) who have decided that they want to be part of the process of restoring this proud program. Fellow freshmen Zeke Njadi and Terry Armstrong, along vets Ira Lee, Alex Barcello and Dylan Smith.
Again, this is the best team in the Pac-12 entering the 2019-2020 season. The only question is whether they’re good enough to get Miller to his first Final Four.
13) Xavier Musketeers
Key Returnees: Naji Marshall, Paul Scruggs, Tyrique Jones, Quentin Goodin
Key Departures: Kyle Castlin, Ryan Welage, Zach Hankins
Key Additions: KyKy Tandy, Dahmir Bishop
Two years ago I was higher than most on Xavier entering the season, and they ended up with the school’s first ever No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Two years later I’m higher than most on them, and I’m curious to see if they can have similar success.
That’s because, after Xavier’s top four scorers – Marshall, Scruggs, Jones and Goodin – all declared for the NBA Draft this spring, all four are back, giving the Musketeers the best blend of experience and star power in the entire Big East. Let’s also not forget that they added a solid recruiting class (headlined by KyKy Tandy) and that this was a team finished the season red-hot in 2019, winning six of their final seven regular season games.
Just how good of a coach is Travis Steele? We’ll find out this season.
14) North Carolina Tar Heels
Key Returnees: Brandon Robinson, Sterling Manley, Garrison Brooks, Brandon Huffman
Key Departures: Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, Kenny Williams, Coby White, Nassir Little, Seventh Woods
Key Additions: Cole Anthony, Armando Bacot, Anthony Harris, Jeremiah Francis, Justin Pierce (grad transfer), Christian Keeling (grad transfer)
Ranking North Carolina this high, is solely because I think Cole Anthony can have a Trae Young-type impact on college basketball next season. I’m not saying he’ll lead the country in scoring and assists like Young (he won’t). But the ball will be in his hands, everything will revolve around him, and North Carolina will go as he does.
And boy will they need him to go, since the Tar Heels lost their top five scorers off last year’s Sweet 16 squad. To Roy Williams’ credit though he reloaded, not only with Anthony and fellow freshmen Armando Bacot and Anthony Harris, but also grad transfers Christian Keeling and Justin Pierce. Keeling could be especially effective after averaging just under 18 points per game at Charleston Southern last season.
15) Ohio State Buckeyes
Key Returnees: Kaleb Wesson, Andre Wesson, Luther Muhammad, Duane Washington, Justin Ahrens, Kyle Young
Key Departures: C.J. Jackson, Keyshawn Woods
Key Additions: D.J. Carton, Alonzo Gaffney, EJ Liddell, CJ Walker (transfer)
Full-disclosure: I’m higher on Ohio State than most. They got their most important piece of news this week when leading returning scorer Kaleb Wesson announced he’d return to school, but what I’m really excited about is to see is whether or not sophomore guards Luther Muhammad and Duane Washington are ready to break out. Short answer: Yes, I think they are.
Add those guys in with Andre Wesson, a loaded freshman class, and Florida State transfer CJ Walker, and the Buckeyes are one of the more sneaky-interesting teams in college hoops entering next season.
16) Virginia Cavaliers
Key Returnees: Mamadi Diakite, Jay Huff, Kihei Clark, Braxton Key
Key Departures: Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, DeAndre Hunter, Jack Salt
Key Additions: Kadin Shedrick, Casey Morsell
So it took me until about midway through this past season, but I finally got over my long-running disdain of Tony Bennett and will readily admit the guy is a stud. I love all things Virginia. Still, even despite my love of the Hoos, it’d be disingenuous to put them any higher on this list. Frankly, this might be too high as is.
Overall, Virginia loses their top three players, with only forward Mamadi Diakite, undersized guard Kihei Clark and wing Braxton Key back after playing serious minutes. Guys will step up for Virginia because they always do, but just how highly can you actually rank these guys?
Fringe Top 15 feels about right to me, but if there was ever such a thing as a “rebuilding year” for MY Hoos, this is it.
17) Auburn Tigers
Key Returnees: Samir Doughty, Austin Wiley, Danjel Purifoy, Anfernee McLemore, J’Von McCormick
Key Departures: Jared Harper, Chuma Okeke, Bryce Brown, Horace Spencer, Malik Dunbar
Key Additions: Isaac Okoro, Tyrell Jones, Jaylin Williams
Auburn is a tough team to figure out, in the sense that they lose the star pieces of last year’s Final Four team, but also bring back virtually every key role player who helped the Tigers get to Minneapolis. Plus, there appear to be adequate replacements in place and a strong freshman class coming in.
So while Jared Harper, Chuma Okeke, Bryce Brown and Horace Spencer are gone, Samir Doughty, Austin Wiley, Anfernee McLemore and Danjel Purifoy return, after serving as valuable role players the last couple years. At point guard, J’Von McCormack came on strong in the NCAA Tournament and should help replace the loss of Harper. A strong recruiting class is highlighted by Okoro, a Top 50 prospect.
In the end, this is a good team. The question is, can anyone evolve into an All-SEC type player? Bruce Pearl’s club will need someone to, to reach their potential.
18) Florida Gators
Key Returnees: Andrew Nembhard, Noah Locke, Keyontae Johnson
Key Departures: KeyVaughn Allen, Kevarrius Hayes, Jalen Hudson, Keith Stone (transfer)
Key Additions: Scottie Lewis, Tre Mann, Omar Payne
It took a little bit longer than expected to get sophomore guard Andrew Nembhard back into the fold, but with him, the Gators now have a deep and loaded backcourt that can match up with anyone in the country. Scottie Lewis is a two-way stud who might end up as the best freshman in the SEC this season, Tre Mann is an incoming McDonald’s All-American and Noah Locke will provide plenty of three-point shooting going forward.
The one missing piece is a dominant low-post threat. With the news that Kerry Blackshear Jr. will return to college basketball this season, could he fill that void in Gainesville?
19) Gonzaga Bulldogs
Key Returnees: Corey Kispert, Filip Petrusov, Killian Tillie
Key Departures: Josh Perkins, Geno Crandall, Brandon Clarke, Rui Hachimura, Zach Norvell
Key Additions: Drew Timme, Anton Watson, Pavel Zakharov, Oumar Ballo, Admon Gilder (grad transfer)
After losing Rui Hachimura and Brandon Clarke (who will both be first round NBA Draft picks) among many others, this won’t be a vintage Zags team. But there is still more than enough here to compete for another WCC title and high seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Had Killian Tillie not gotten hurt last season he likely would have ended up as a first round pick, but now he is back, and assuming he can stay healthy will be one of the best players in college basketball next year. He’ll be helped in the front court by former Top 50 recruit Filip Petrusov and Corey Kispert will be back to add scoring on the wing. Former Texas A&M star Admon Gilder arrived as a graduate transfer this spring.
Really though the excitement comes from the highest-ranked recruiting class in school history. It might not be this year, but look out for Drew Timme and Anton Watson to develop into the next wave of Gonzaga stars.
20) Utah State Aggies
Key Returnees: Sam Merrill, Neemis Queta, Diogo Brita, Brock Miller, Abel Porter
Key Departures: Quinn Taylor, Dwayne Brown Jr.
Key Additions: N/A
Freshman star Neemis Queta declared for the NBA Draft before ultimately removing it, and now the Aggies have entrenched themselves as the team to beat in the Mountain West. The reigning regular season co-champ and tournament champ brings back basically every key guy, including league Player of the Year Sam Merrill, and Queta who averaged 12 and 9 as a freshman a year ago.
Craig Smith did one of the most impressive coaching jobs in college basketball last year. And he has a team capable of making even bigger noise in 2019-2020.
21) Creighton BlueJays
Key Returnees: Ty-Shon Alexander, Mitch Ballock, Marcus Zegarowski, Davion Mintz, Damien Jefferson, Christian Bishop
Key Departures: Martin Krampelj, Kaleb Joseph, Connor Cashaw, Samson Froling
The BlueJays got some bad news at the deadline with Martin Krampelj’s decision to remain in the draft. Considering he was a 24-year-old junior last year that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise, but still. Losing a guy that averaged 13 points and seven rebounds last year hurts. Especially when he is by far your best low-post threat.
But while Krampelj’s decision hurts, the BlueJays do still return six of their top seven scorers, and have the versatility and athleticism in the backcourt to play with anyone. Leading scorer Ty-Shon Alexander is back, after averaging 16 a game last year, as is fellow double-figure scorer Mitch Ballock. The key could be the development of guard Marcus Zegarowski, who played well last year, despite an injured hand. It will be interesting to see what kind of leap if fully healthy in 2019-2020.
22) Baylor Bears
Key Returnees: Tristan Clark, Mario Kegler, Jared Butler, Devonte Bandoo, Mark Vital
Key Departures: Makai Mason, King McClure, Jake Lindsey
Key Additions: Macio Teague (transfer), Davion Mitchell (transfer)
The Bears are quietly one of the most underrated teams in college basketball entering the 2019-2020 season. They finished a respectable fourth in the Big 12, this despite losing star Tristan Clark midway through the year, and Clark is expected to be back in time to start the season. Add him with a pair of other double-figure scorers, Mario Kegler and Jared Butler, and two big-time transfers (Macio Teague and Davion Mitchell), and the Bears have a core that is capable of competing for a Big 12 regular season title.
23) NC State Wolf Pack
Key Returnees: Markell Johnson, C.J. Bryce, Braxton Beverly, Devon Daniels, DJ Funderburk, Jericole Hellems
Key Departures: Torrin Dorn, Wyatt Walker
Key Additions: N/A
So I’ll be the first to admit that at various points last season, I got a little crazy overhyping NC State. Listen, we all have a weak spot. And mine is apparently Kevin Keatts.
Still, after barely missing the NCAA Tournament, just about the entire NC State roster returns. Torrin Dorn will be gone, but overall, the Wolfpack should return six of their top seven scorers overall, including Markell Johnson, who averaged just under 13 points per game last season. C.J. Bryce, Braxton Beverly and Devon Daniels can all get buckets. Losing fifth-year high school star Jalen Lecque to the NBA Draft doesn’t help, but considering he never got to campus it doesn’t hurt so bad either.
Regardless, this Wolfpack squad will be similar to last season’s, full of playmaking guards and not much size. But after being on the fringe of the NCAA Tournament conversation in 2019, they could break out in a big way in 2020.
24) Georgetown Hoyas
Key Returnees: James Akinjo, Mac McClung, Josh LeBlanc, Jamorko Pickett
Key Departures: Jesse Govan, Trey Mourning, Kaleb Johnson
Key Additions: Omer Yurtseven (transfer), Qudus Wahab
Maybe I’m just out of my mind on this one, but I really like what Patrick Ewing has coming back in Year 3 at Georgetown. Remember, this is a team that was on the fringe of the NCAA Tournament conversation for most of February and early March, and now returns most of its key pieces.
Yes, leading scorer Jesse Govan (17 points per game) is gone, but James Akinjo, Mac McClung and Josh LeBlanc all played major roles as freshmen, and should make a sizeable leap as sophomores. Akinjo was one of the most pleasant surprises in college hoops after averaging 13 and five assists this past season. NC State transfer Omer Yurtseven and four-star recruit Qudus Wahab add size down low.
Call me crazy, but I’m buying high on the Hoyas.
25) Washington Huskies
Key Returnees: Naz Carter, Hamier Wright, Elijah Hardy, Sam Timmins, Bryan Penn-Johnson, Jamal Bey
Key Departures: Jaylen Nowell, Noah Dickerson, David Crisp, Matisse Thybulle
Key Additions: Quade Green (mid-year transfer), Jaden McDaniels, Isaiah Stewart
This is going to sound like an insult, so please forgive me U-Dub fans. But when a school like Washington loses its top four scorers (included Jaylen Nowell early to the NBA Draft) they should have no business in a preseason Top 25 list like this. That also makes this a testament to what Mike Hopkins has done in just a few short years in Seattle.
The Huskies will welcome in two of the most highly-coveted freshmen in all of college basketball in Isaiah Stewart and Jaden McDaniels, with Stewart specifically a player who might be the most “college-ready” of any freshman in the class. They will also add former Kentucky point guard Quade Green in the middle of the year, to go along with returnees Naz Carter, Hamier Wright, Elijah Hardy and others. Also, keep an eye on Bryan Penn-Johnson, a former top ranked recruit who missed most of last season with injury.
Call me crazy, but I’m willing to bet big on Hopkins and these Huskies.