- North Carolina
- Wichita State
- San Diego State
- Notre Dame
- Michigan State
- Florida State
- Texas A&M
- Rhode Island
- Old Dominion
For the blue bloods, my eye test evaluation of offseason YouTube videos pins Skal Labissiere atop any of the Duke recruits.
Keeping in the ACC, I think the Louisville “scandal” won’t go away anytime soon. That won’t set a team back as much as losing Montrezl Harrell, Chris Jones, Terry Rozier and Wayne Blackshear. Meanwhile, Florida State returns a scary amount of its signature size. Not to mention, Xavier Rathan-Mayes could lead the nation in scoring here in his sophomore season. Notre Dame is also a better team than Louisville when I account for the talent, especially in the post, that it returns.
Don’t discount my entire list because I have Wichita State number three. Hear me out. Ron Baker foregoes the NBA to pursue a championship in his senior season. Running mate and fellow senior guard Fred Van Vleet makes Wichita State the best backcourt in the nation (and they may have been that last season). The Shockers also quietly add Kansas transfer Connor Frankamp, whose range can pose matchup nightmares if the Shockers choose to go three-guard-lineup. The big fella, Shaquille Morris, made strides last season as being a reliable post option.
Speaking of so-called “Mid-Majors,” Gonzaga stands firm in the top five because of the girth it returns. The Bulldogs return Wiltjer, Sabonis and Karnowski down low. Gonzaga also makes my top five of under-appreciated seasons from last year. See the full list as part of my YouTube playlist previewing each team:
In the SEC, all the ink will be about LSU and whether its diaper dandies can out-match Kentucky. However, I am focusing on the most underrated point guard in the nation, Alex Caruso. Texas A&M returns scoring punch with Danuel House and I think it has enough dogs to scrap ahead of the Auburns and LSU’s in the league. (Let’s not discount that Florida will need at least a year adjustment minus Billy Donovan).
Yes, Arizona is left out of my top 25. TJ McConnell was the quarterback of this team for two years. That said, I will give new starting point guard Justin Simon all of the credit in the world if he can lead the Wildcats to a top 25 position.
I think AP voters might make the mistake of leaving Georgetown out of the top 25. We could be looking at the nation’s leading scorer in D’Vauntes Smith-Riviera and a surrounding cast worthy enough for that vote. Plus, the Hoyas had a trip to Italy this offseason. How could they not play well with an offseason Tuscan diet?
Oklahoma’s collapse last season still bothers me. The Sooners led by 10 for majority of the first half against Michigan State, but really struggled to score the ball late. However, I can’t deny a backcourt of Buddy Hield and Isaiah Cousins from my top 20. The Big 12’s disappearance from March Madness, in fact, still irks me. But I cannot keep veterans Perry Ellis and Frank Mason Jr. from the top 5 with KU, nor can I keep Baylor from the top 25 with Taurean Prince peaking late last season.
Outside: Utah and Xavier drop from my top 25 for the same reason: they each lose their floor general point guards (Delon Wright, Dee Davis respectively).
For the same reason, Northern Iowa won’t be making my top 25. Losing a leader like Seth Tuttle, I need to wait-and-see whether the Panthers can regroup. Plus, Louisville shellacked them in the tournament and that image is still in my mind.
Rhode Island cracks my top 25 as they showed flashes last season. E. C. Mattthews, the junior from Detroit, averaged 17 points per game last season. The Rams return a nucleus from last season and plays in a wide-open A-10 (with Shaaka leaving VCU). Look out for George Washington in this conference as well!
Old Dominion leap-frogs conference mate UAB to finish my top 25. Senior Trey Freeman is one of my favorite combo guards in the nation. He is silky smooth with his handle and jump shot. Watch for UAB and its returning roster of the squad that shocked Iowa State in the tourney last season.