The Tar Heels’ ranking is based on North Carolina returning every rotation player except for Brady Manek – among them All-American Armando Bacot and NCAA Tournament star Caleb Love, neither of whom is a projected first-round pick. As long as things go that way, Hubert Davis will have a roster good enough to make back-to-back Final Fours.
The Wildcats’ ranking is based on CBS Sports National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe returning to school alongside fellow starters Sahvir Wheeler and Keion Brooks, the latter of whom has declared for the NBA Draft but is maintaining his college eligibility. The loss of Shaedon Sharpe was a blow to the roster — but an expected one considering he’s a projected top-10 pick.
The Bears’ ranking is based on LJ Cryer, Adam Flagler and Matthew Mayer returning to school while Kendall Brown and Jeremy Sohan enter the NBA Draft. The addition of 5-star guard Keyonte George should give Baylor one of the sport’s best backcourts and a chance to win a third straight Big 12 title.
The Cougars’ ranking is based on Houston returning a core featuring both players it lost to injury in December (Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark) plus Jamal Shead. That’s three double-digit scorers Kelvin Sampson should have to pair with Jarace Walker, a 5-star freshman who is among the reasons Houston will once again be the favorite in the AAC.
The Razorbacks’ ranking is based on Arkansas returning three of the top five scorers from a team that advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year – among them Jaylin Williams and Davonte Davis. Eric Musselman will add three 5-star prospects to that core and have a group good enough to get Arkansas back to the Final Four for the first time since 1995.
The Bulldogs’ ranking is based on Gonzaga returning five of the top eight scorers from a team that finished first at KenPom – among them All-American Drew Timme. That would provide Mark Few with a strong veteran core that will surely be supported, as always, by additions from the transfer portal.
The Bruins’ ranking is based on Jaime Jaquez, Jules Bernard and Tyger Campbell providing Mick Cronin with a veteran core to pair with a top-10 recruiting class highlighted by five-star prospects Amari Bailey and Adem Bona. If things break that way, UCLA should have a real chance to make the Final Four for the second time in three years.
The Jayhawks’ ranking is based on Kansas losing Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun and David McCormack even though each has eligibility remaining, which seems to be what most are expecting. But Bill Self should still have a core of Jalen Wilson, Dajuan Harris and Joseph Yusefu to combine with a top-five recruiting class highlighted by 5-star prospects Gradey Dick, MJ Rice and Ernest Udeh.
The Blue Devils’ ranking is based on Duke losing five players early to the NBA Draft – namely Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, Mark Williams, Wendell Moore and Trevor Keels. But first-year coach Jon Scheyer has set himself up for success by securing the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class, one that includes 5-star prospects Dereck Lively, Kyle Filiiipowski, Dariq Whitehead and Mark Mitchell.
The Horned Frogs’ ranking is based on TCU returning the top six scorers from a team that played in the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament – among them double-digit scorers Mike Miles Jr., Damian Baugh and Emmanuel Miller. That experienced core should have Jamie Dixon’s team competing for what could be TCU’s first Big 12 title.
The Volunteers’ ranking is based on Tennessee returning four of its top five scorers – among them Santiago Vescovi and Josiah-Jordan James. Tennessee will miss one-and-done point guard Kennedy Chandler but should still be a factor near the top of the SEC.
The Wildcats’ ranking is based on Arizona returning every relevant player from its Pac-12 championship team except for Bennedict Mathurin, Christian Koloko and Justin Kier. A core of Azuolas Tubelis, Kerr Kriisa and Dalen Terry should keep the Wildcats a part of the national conversation.
The Wolverines’ ranking is based on a returning core of Hunter Dickinson, Caleb Houstan and Moussa Diabate, each of whom is a nice college player but nothing resembling a sure-fire first-round pick. For that reason, I’ll assume for now that they’re all back at Michigan, which could then be the favorite in the Big Ten.
The Tigers’ ranking is based on Auburn losing Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler to the NBA Draft but otherwise returning the top scorers from a team that earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That core could be joined by a top-15 recruiting class highlighted by Yohan Traore, a 5-star center who should help offset the loss of Kessler.
The Bluejays’ ranking is based on Creighton returning five of the top seven scorers from a team that advanced to the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament. Assuming that happens, Greg McDermott will have a roster good enough to win the Big East for the second time in school history.
The Wildcats’ ranking is based on Villanova returning six of the top nine scorers from its Final Four team – among them Brandon Slater and Caleb Daniels, both of whom have an extra year of eligibility remaining and could be persuaded to return in part because of an Achilles injury that will likely sideline Justin Moore for the season. Whether new coach Kyle Neptune will actually hold the roster and recruiting class together after Jay Wright’s retirement is unclear, but the assumption is that he will until something happens that suggests he won’t.
The Hoosiers’ ranking is based on Indiana returning the top three scorers from a team that made the NCAA Tournament – among them Trayce Jackson-Davis, who could be a candidate for Big Ten Player of the Year. Indiana’s recruiting class is ranked fifth nationally and highlighted by 5-star prospects Jalen Hood-Schifino and Malik Reneau.
The Aggies’ ranking is based on Texas A&M returning every relevant player — besides Quenton Jackson — who helped the Aggies make the championship game of the NIT. Buzz Williams made the NCAA Tournament in Year 4 at both Marquette and Virginia Tech and should do the same at Texas A&M.
The Spartans’ ranking is based on Michigan State returning six of the top nine scorers from a team that advanced to the Round of 32 of the NCAA Tournament – among them Max Christie, who has declared for the NBA Draft but could return to school considering he’s not a projected first-round pick. If Christie is back, the hope would be that he takes a sophomore-year leap similar to the one Purdue’s Jaden Ivey and Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis made this season.
The Rams’ ranking is based on Colorado State’s top four scorers returning – among them Mountain West Conference Play of the Year David Roddy, who has declared for the NBA Draft but could return to school considering there’s no guarantee he’d be selected. With Roddy back, the Rams would be considered the preseason favorite in the MWC.
The Crimson Tide’s ranking is based on Alabama returning four of its top eight scorers from an NCAA Tournament team – among them Noah Gurley and Charles Bediako. Nate Oats should combine that core with a top-five recruiting class featuring two 5-star prospects.
The Boilermakers’ ranking is based on Purdue returning three of the top seven scorers from a team that made the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament – among them All-American candidate Zach Edey. Admittedly, that’s not a lot — but Matt Painter deserves the benefit of the doubt based on the consistency with which he runs his program.
The Flyers’ ranking is based on Dayton returning the top eight scorers from a team that just missed the NCAA Tournament – among them double-digit scorers Daron Holmes and Toumani Camara. If Anthony Grant can keep his talented freshmen out of the transfer portal, the Flyers’ future is bright in the Atlantic 10.
The Ducks’ ranking is based on Oregon returning three of its top six scorers – among them double-digit scorers De’Vion Harmon and Quincy Guerrier. A recruiting class featuring 5-star prospects Kel’el Ware and Dior Johnson, plus JUCO All-American Tyrone Williams and Colorado transfer Keeshawn Barthelemy, should allow Dana Altman to have a nice bounce-back season and possibly compete for what would be a third Pac-12 title in a four-year span.
The Cavaliers’ ranking is based on Virginia returning all five starters from a team that beat Duke and Miami last season. Tony Bennett is adding a top-15 recruiting class that should have his program in the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time in a nine-tournament span.
The Cowboys’ ranking is based on Oklahoma State returning three of the top four scorers from a team that finished 34th at KenPom despite having its postseason hopes ripped away in the preseason. If Isaac Likekele decides to use his extra year of eligibility, OSU could start the season even higher.
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