Very early college basketball rankings for 2024-25

He plays

The men's college basketball season just concluded with Connecticut cutting down the nets once again. But there's little time to bask in the success of winning a national championship because it's already time to look ahead to how the 2024-25 season will play out and who the contenders will be to reach the Final Four in San Antonio.

Admittedly, next season is difficult to predict in the age of the transfer portal and the coaching cycle is still turning with big jobs opening up. It's also not clear which players will elect to return for a fifth season using their COVID-19 waiver or who will enter the NBA draft.

For the purposes of this exercise, we have assumed that most players will return unless they are projected as a potential top pick in the draft. But there are a lot of moving parts and none of these classifications are set in stone. Here nothing goes.

1. The Duke (27-9)

A six-member recruiting class led by Cooper Flagg, Khaman Malloach, Isaiah Evans and Kwon Knoebel will make Duke one of the deepest and most dangerous teams in the country. He will also be one of the youngest. Coach John Scheer will have to push all the right buttons and find the best rotation for a team that on paper looks very capable of winning a national title. The Blue Devils will lose several key players to the NBA, but they could return guard Tyrese Proctor and forward Mark Mitchell.

2. Alabama (25-12)

Bringing back backup guard Mark Sears would make Alabama an SEC favorite and a contender to get back to the Final Four. Another player who has a decision to make is forward Grant Nelson, who has put himself on the map during the tournament. Nate Oats has three top recruits joining the mix and has already added one potential impact transfer in former Pepperdine guard Houston Mallett, who is a projected player.

3. Iowa State (29-8)

The arrow points to the program arriving under coach TJ Otzelberger. Iowa State will have a great backcourt led by Keshawn Gilbert, Tammin Lipsey, and Curtis Jones. But the Hurricanes have some holes to fill in the frontcourt. ISU will rely on freshman JT Rock and Charlotte Dishon Jackson while looking for more production from returnees Milan Momcilovic and Demarion Watson.

4. Kansas (23-11)

Things will improve after an uncharacteristic down season for Bill Self's program, though the Jayhawks' chances of climbing back to the top of the Big 12 depend largely on whether center Hunter Dickinson opts to return for his final year of eligibility and Johnny Furphy sticks around for his sophomore year. If so, KU will have a more experienced roster bolstered by the additions of transfers Riley Cowgill (Florida) and Zeke Mayo (South Dakota State).

5. Connecticut (37-3)

The Huskies are ready to rebuild. There are significant losses in the backcourt (Cam Spencer, Tristen Newton, Hassan Diarra) along with the potential departure of freshman Stephon Cassel and center Donovan Clingan in the NBA draft. Look for UConn to be active in the portal and build around expected returnees Alex Karaban and Samson Johnson. Given the past two seasons, trusting Dan Hurley to solve this problem is a wise expectation.

See also  NBA Playoffs - Expert Picks for Each Series from Round One

6. North Carolina (29-8)

First, UNC is awaiting decisions from RJ Davis and Harrison Ingram: Davis has likely accomplished enough to head to the NBA, though Ingram could use another year as a focal point for the Tar Heels to hone his skills. Hubert Davis is sure to bring back guard Elliott Cado while working on getting reserves like guard Seth Trimble ready for a bigger role. UNC has some major recruits arriving on campus but they will definitely be active in the portal.

7. Creighton (25-10)

Baylor Sherman has passed away after two great years with the program. Creighton could return two fifth-year seniors in Ryan Kalkbrenner and Steven Ashworth, with Ashworth almost certainly likely to return and Kalkbrenner still weighing his options. If Kalkbrenner returns, the Blue Jays can build around one of the best big men in the country. Greg McDermott also has a top 20 recruiting class on the way. If goaltender Trey Alexander can be convinced to return, Creighton will be a title contender.

8. Tennessee (27-9)

Tennessee is losing three key pieces in Dalton Knecht, Josiah-Jordan James and Santiago Vescovi. Rick Barnes will have to return to the transfer portal to find some scoring on the wing to replace Kencht. (Good luck with that.) But the Volunteers will be a veteran team that will likely be led by four seniors in Zakkai Ziegler, Jonas Edu, Jahmai Machak and Jordan Gainey. This is a solid starting point for a team good enough to win another SEC regular season title.

9. Purdue (34-5)

It would be hard to imagine the Boilermakers without Zach Eddy in the middle. However, those returning next season will be familiar. Fletcher Loyer and Braden Smith will return for a third year as starters. Mason Gillis — the team's top 3-point player — could stay and join returnees Trey Kaufman-Renn, Myles Colvin and Camden Heide who are poised for bigger roles. Canon Catchings leads a large recruitment category in both quality and quantity.

10. Brigham Young (23-11)

The Cougars have settled into the Big 12 comfortably in their first season and appear well-equipped to handle increased competition with the arrival of four teams from the Pac-12. How good they are depends on the standing of leading scorer Jackson Robinson (14.2 ppg). His return with Fousseyni Traore and Trevin Knell along with key players will make Mark Pope's team one of the best teams in the toughest conferences in the country.

11. Baylor (24-11)

Jacoby Walter and Yves Messi are expected to enter the NBA Draft, but reversing either or both would make this ranking too low. However, the Bears will once again be talented and among the best in the Big 12. Langston Love and Jayden Nunn will make up an excellent backcourt. Jalen Bridges could be a key piece in the frontcourt if he stays. Freshmen VJ Edgecombe and Rob Wright will make a big impact.

See also  Jeff Passan Says Las Vegas Athletics Move Failure Would Surprise No One - NBC Sports Bay Area and California

12. Houston (32-5)

How the Cougars will progress without Jamaal Shedd is concerning. Having LJ Cryer stay for another season will make the transition smoother as will a strong guard group with Emanuel Sharp. J'Wan Roberts is another player who could return to shore up the frontcourt with Ja'Vier Francis.

13. Clemson (24-12)

Repeat the Tigers' trip to the Elite Eight will be a challenge, but a number of key players could return if they choose to use their extra year. This group includes standout mailman P.J. Hall, as well as guard Chase Hunter and reserve forward Jack Clark. Joseph Girard III is gone, but Ian Sheffelin, who was voted the ACC Player of the Year in 2023-24, is also set to return.

14. Gonzaga (27-8)

Antwon Watson's career at his hometown school is over, but the Bulldogs shouldn't slide too far. Forward Graham Icke should return, along with the backcourt tandem of Ryan Nembhard and Nolan Hickman. Pepperdine's upcoming move for Michael Ajayi could provide another scoring option from the wing. With eight consecutive Sweet 16 appearances, it's not hard to assume that Mark Few will be there next year.

15. Kentucky (23-10)

Who will be hired to replace John Calipari? Will the new hire be able to sustain another great hiring class? Will expected returnees like DJ Wagner follow Calipari to Arkansas or hang around? And with as many as four players up for grabs in the NBA Draft, could this list be completely different next season? The Wildcats will be talented but there are a lot of question marks.

16. Church of St. Mary (26-8)

The Gaels retain most of the core group that swept the WCC regular season and tournament titles with center Mitchell Sachsen deciding to return. Aidan Mahaney should also return along with Augustus Marchioulinis and Joshua Jefferson, giving St Mary's an excellent chance of dancing for the fourth year in a row and possibly winning the league again.

17. UCLA (16-17)

The Bruins suffered a setback with a losing record in a rebuilding year after championship success. They are ready to return next season. Mick Cronin has already landed guards Skye Clark (Louisville) and Coby Johnson (USC) in the portal to go with a core group of four scorers led by Dylan Andrews and Adam Bona. UCLA will have to adjust to the Big Ten schedule but looks to be well-equipped to take on the challenge.

18. Marquette (27-10)

The Golden Eagles could return every major contributor due to the coronavirus eligibility year, but All-America point guard Tyler Kulek and forward Owusu Igodaro are likely to take it to the next level. Shaka Smart will have a good core if Cam Jones and David Joplin return, but adding size on offense will be a priority.

19. Illinois (29-9)

This ranking is based on the expectation that Brad Underwood will stabilize the transfer portal again and bring in key pieces because losing Terrence Shannon and possibly Markus Domasek and Coleman Hawkins is a major setback. Ty Rodgers and Luke Goode have been key contributors this season and freshmen Dra Gibbs Lawhorn and Amani Hansberry should take a big leap forward. Underwood has already added Mercer's Jake Davis as he pursues others. The biggest push could come from big man Maurice Johnson, one of the best recruiters in the country.

See also  Source: 49 players sign QB Kurt Benkert for team practice, promoting Marlon Mac

20. Arizona (27-9)

After another disappointment in the tournament, the Wildcats should have another strong regular season. How good it will be depends on what Caleb Love decides about his future with Omar Ballou in the portal. Jaden Bradley and Kellan Boswell should make up a solid backcourt and there is incoming talent with top recruits Carter Bryant and Jamari Phillips. There will be an adjustment in the Big 12 that may take some time.

21. Wisconsin (22-14)

Forward Tyler Wahl is gone and player AJ Storr is entering the portal, so coach Greg Gard has some holes to fill. But Chucky Hepburn should return for a starting spot with John Blackwell and Max Klesmet joining him in the backcourt. There is returning size in the frontcourt — particularly leading rebounder Steven Kroll — to make this team finish in the top half of the Big Ten.

22. Indiana State (32-7)

The Sycamores could return the entire starting lineup that made it to the NIT title game, but all of those players have decisions to make now that coach Josh Schertz has left for St. Louis. But if Robbie Avila, Ryan Conwell and the rest of the starters stick around, Missouri Valley could be there for Drake as well under new management.

23. Auburn (27-8)

The Tigers will need some retooling with Johnny Brohm potentially entering the NBA draft. That would leave guard Chad Baker-Mazzara (10.0 ppg) as the only remaining scorer. Aden Holloway and Trey Donaldson are also mainstays in the backcourt, and top recruit Tahad Pettiford brings more talent to the group. The concern is how Bruce Pearl handles the front yard. Gateway may be the best option.

24. Boise State (22-11)

Boise is the favorite to top the Mountain West and possibly win a championship game under longtime coach Leon Rice. Chibuzo Agbo and Tyson Degenhart may test the draft and the gate but are expected to return. There's also a key piece up the middle in big man Omar Stanley. Boise State is looking to get more improvement from junior guard Rudy Anderson III, who finished his sophomore season strong.

25. Rutgers (15-17)

A transitional season under coach Steve Pikiell will result in a nice jump up the Big Ten standings. To start, Rutgers will bring in two high-impact true freshmen in Dylan Harper and Ace Bailey, who will join a backcourt that has already added veteran scorer in Eastern Michigan transfer Tyson Acuff. Harper and Bailey are the stars of a recruiting class that ranks in the top five nationally and will give Rutgers a tremendous influx of talent and athleticism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *