[caption id="attachment_343694" align="aligncenter" width="1024"] Jamie Squire | Getty Images
It wasn't all that long ago that college basketball was basically a six month sport. You had Midnight Madness in late October (back in the good old days, when it actually took place at midnight), then you played a bunch of games, crowned a champion in early April and... then basically sat around waiting for any morsel of news all spring, summer and early fall before Midnight Madness rolled around again.
Yeah, safe to say, the times they have changed.
Between high school reclassifications, the transfer portal and NBA Draft deadline, college basketball news has slowly leaked throughout the spring and into the summer, and this year, a perfect confluence of events has made the news cycle blow up in a way it never has before. The one-time transfer rule added extra urgency to following the portal, and with the NCAA giving players an extra year of eligibility, it added dozens of talented seniors to the portal who wouldn't have been eligible to return to college otherwise. The NBA pushing back its draft deadline all the way until July 7th (which coincided with the deadline of July 1 to transfer for immediate eligibility) added not only a bunch of returnees in the last week, but also a new group of talented players to the portal as well.
But with the draft deadline behind us, the dust has mostly settled and we have a pretty good picture of what the college hoops scene will look like next year. Yes, a few marquee players (Kofi Cockburn, Marcus Carr) could still shake that up, and when they make their decisions we'll adjust accordingly.
Still, with the deadline behind us, here is our post NBA Draft deadline Top 25 for college hoops in 2021-2022.
This is the third version of our Top 25, starting with our "Way Too Early Top 25
" the day the season ended and updated it after transfer portal activity
died down in late May. For fun, I have added the team's original ranking coming out of the season to show you just how much has changed in the last few months:
1. UCLA Bruins
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 2
Johnny Juzang, Tyger Campbell, Cody Riley, Jaime Jacquez, Jules Bernard, David Singleton, Jake Kyman, Jaylen Clark, Mac Etienne
Peyton Watson, Will McClendon, Myles Johnson (transfer)
Chris Smith, Jalen Hill
With Johnny Juzang back, UCLA is officially my No. 1 team in the country. And to be blunt, I don't think there is really even a debate here. For the Bruins, they return every single player who played in the NCAA Tournament during their Final Four run, with their only real "loss" from last season being Chris Smith, who got hurt in January and didn't play the final few months of the season.
In addition to return an entire Final Four team intact, the Bruins also added five-star, McDonald's All-American Peyton Watson and Myles Johnson, a transfer center who started on Rutgers' NCAA Tournament team last year.
And for those who say "Dude, you're overreacting to one good run in the NCAA Tournament last year" well, I'd disagree. One, UCLA was the preseason Pac-12 favorite last year, was 12-2 prior to a season-ending injury to then leading scorer Chris Smith and even when they "struggled" down the stretch losing four straight to end the regular season, three of those losses came to teams that ended up in the Sweet 16 (Oregon, USC and Oregon State).
Point being, this team was really good, lost a star, lost to a bunch of good teams, and then found a new star on the way to the Final Four.
The Bruins are my No. 1 team entering next year.
2. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 2
Andrew Nembhard, Drew Timme, Anton Watson, Julian Strawther, Dominick Harris, Ben Gregg
Chet Holmgren, Hunter Sallis, Nolan Hickman, Kaden Perry, Rasir Bolton (transfer)
Jalen Suggs, Corey Kispert, Joel Ayayi, Aaron Cook (transfer), Oumar Ballo (transfer)
On the one hand, yes, Gonzaga lost a crap ton of talent off a team that won 30 games and was the second best team in college basketball last season. On the other hand, they add an awful lot, have some back-ups ready to step up and brought in a loaded freshman class.
It all starts with the vets, as Drew Timme (who averaged 19 points and seven rebounds) is back and should be in the running for preseason National Player of the Year, as well as Andrew Nembhard who averaged nine points and 4.5 assists for last year's NCAA runner's up. The Bulldogs also bring in a loaded freshman class that includes the best player in high school basketball (Chet Holmgren) and two Top 20 guards (Hunter Sallis and Nolan Hickman). Rasir Bolton, who averaged 15 points a game at Iowa State arrived via the portal.
One thing that has me especially intrigued though is that there are really three players (Julian Strawther, Dominick Harris and Ben Gregg) who are former Top 100 recruits who didn't see much time last year, who simply couldn't get on the floor last year because the Zags starters were so talented. These are the exact kind of guys who have grown, developed and thrived in the Zags' system through the years.
You can quibble with the fact that the Zags have yet to win a title under Mark Few, but they basically have a roster at this point that goes eight or nine deep, all with former Top 100 recruits, many of which have proven themselves at the college level.
This team will again be in the hunt in 2021-2022.
3. Villanova Wildcats
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking:
Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels, Justin Moore, Caleb Daniels, Brandon Slater, Eric Dixon, Bryan Antoine
Trey Patterson, Jordan Longino, Nnanna Njoku, Angelo Brizzi
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Cole Swider (transfer)
When I did my initial “Too Early Top 25” one thing I tried to do was avoid speculating which seniors would take an extra year of eligibility and which would go pro. Obviously it was going to be a unique decision for everyone, and it was impossible to speculate which 22, 23 and 24-year-old guys would want to play another year of college hoops and which wouldn’t.
I bring this up to say, there was no bigger winner in the “seniors deciding to take an extra year category” than Villanova, which had two starters – Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels – elect to return to school. And with it, the Wildcats now return seven of nine players who played significant minutes last year, to a squad that was in the top five for most of the season before Gillespie got hurt and struggled down the stretch.
Replacing Jeremiah Robinson-Earl down low (who elected to go pro) won’t be easy. But this team is simply too deep and balanced to fall much further than this spot here.
4. Kansas Jayhawks
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking:
Ochai Agbaji, David McCormack, Jalen Wilson, Christian Braun, Mitch Lightfoot
Zach Clemence, Bobby Pettiford, KJ Adams, Remy Martin (transfer), Cam Martin (transfer), Joseph Yesufu (transfer)
Marcus Garrett, Bryce Thompson (transfer)
Shout out to Bill Self!! Just when you kind of looked at the Jayhawks roster a few months back and said “Meh, how good are they?” – boom, they got arguably the best player in the transfer portal Remy Martin to commit to the school. Martin is a two-time All-Pac 12 point guard who averaged 19 points per game each of the last two years and adds immediate scoring pop to the Jayhawks’ backcourt. Yes, he plays a little bit out of control at times. But I believe we'll see the best version of him under Self, who - for all my criticism of him - is a hell of a coach.
Martin's arrival is buoyed by the fact that two of Kansas' top three scorers (Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson) tested the NBA Draft but withdrew the last few days, meaning that basically everyone of importance from last season is back. And for all the angst about last year not being a “vintage” Kansas team, they still finished second in a loaded Big 12, and ended up with a No. 3 seed come tournament time.
This squad is the exact type of team Bill Self has thrived with in the past, filled with older, college players who know his system. And at least for right now (depending on what Texas does the rest of the summer) the favorite to win another Big 12 title.
5. Purdue Boilermakers
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 4
Jaden Ivey, Trevion Williams, Sasha Stefanovic, Zach Edey, Eric Hunter Jr., Brandon Newman
Trey Kaufmann, Caleb Furst
Aaron Wheeler (transfer)
This is another team that returns essentially everyone off of a squad that quietly finished fourth in the Big Ten and earned a No. 4 seed in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Trevion Williams is a double-double machine down low, Jaden Ivey was spectacular as a freshman and the Boilermakers also add two Top 50 recruits. Ivey also had an especially strong summer playing for the Team USA U-19 squad overseas.
Admittedly, I know it’s not sexy to talk about teams that return intact and don’t sign big-time recruits or high-school players. But there’s also something to be said for a team that has played together, knows each other, and where the coaching staff won’t have to spend all summer figuring out what their players can and cannot do. The Boilermakers’ season-long ceiling might not be as high as others on this. But they’ll be good from Day 1.
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 18
Keion Brooks, Davion Mintz, Jacob Toppin, Dontaie Allen, Lance Ware
TyTy Washington, Daimion Collins, Bryce Hopkins, Oscar Tshiebwe (transfer), Kellan Grady (transfer), CJ Fredrick (transfer), Sahvir Wheeler (transfer)
Olivier Sarr, BJ Boston, Terrence Clarke, Isaiah Jackson, Devin Askew (transfer)
What's that we hear? The faint sound of Eminem's "Guess Who's Back?" coming from the Kentucky basketball offices in the distance? Ok, yes, that's a bad joke (and one that our under 25 crowd is probably confused by) - but no program has done a complete 360 like Kentucky has over the off-season. After last year's disastrous 9-16 campaign John Calipari confidently said "enjoy your time now. Next year’s going to come soon enough."
And as the kid's say, no lies have been told.
The Wildcats have completely revamped their roster, adding four marquee transfers (West Virginia big man Oscar Tshiebwe, Davidson guard Kellan Grady, Iowa guard CJ Fredrick and Georgia All-SEC guard Sahvir Wheeler), a five-star combo (TyTy Washington) and if that weren't enough, got two marquee players, with real SEC experience back in the last six weeks. Leading scorer Davion Mintz pulled his name out of the draft, with Keion Brooks (who quietly averaged 10 and seven) returning around Memorial Day.
Add in a few other returnees and some freshman, and Kentucky now has one of the deepest, most versatile groups in the country, one with experience, that can play big or small, fast or slow, with plenty of size and shooting. Oh, and they might not be done yet with both top high school prospect Jalen Duren considering a reclassification to Kentucky, and bruising Illinois All-American Kofi Cockburn considering a transfer as well.
Even without either, the Wildcats still have about as much upside as anyone in college hoops over the next six months. And could still get better between now and the start of the fall semester.
7. Texas Longhorns
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: N/A
Andrew Jones, Brock Cunningham, Courtney Ramey
Timmy Allen (transfer), Christian Bishop (transfer), Dylan Disu (transfer), Devin Askew (transfer), Tre Mitchell (transfer) Jaylon Tyson
Matt Coleman, Kai Jones, Greg Brown, Jericho Sims
I've said all off-season that Chris Beard is building college basketball's next great super power in Austin, and he has basically spent the whole summer proving me right. He wouldn't have left Texas Tech unless Texas was fully investing into his basketball program, and after hiring quite possibly the highest-paid staff in college basketball (including two head coaches who left their jobs to become assistant coaches) Beard then proceeded to clean up in the transfer portal.
The latest addition was Tre Mitchell, a 6'9 forward who averaged 18.8 points and 7.2 rebounds at UMass last year. He joins an All-Pac 12 guard (Utah's Timmy Allen), the SEC's leading rebounder (Dylan Disu from Vanderbilt), a starter on a Sweet 16 team (Christian Bishop of Creighton) and Devin Askew from Kentucky. On top of that, the Longhorns have three key returnees off a team that won the Big 12 Tournament title last year. That includes Andrew Jones and Courtney Ramey, who both averaged double-figures a season ago.
Put a different way, think about it like this: In five seasons at Texas Tech (including one where there was no NCAA Tournament because of Covid) Beard made two Elite Eight's, a Final Four and title game.
And the 2021-2022 Texas Longhorns will be significantly more talented than any team he has coached at the college level. Oh, and they might not be done yet, as the Longhorns are still very much in the mix for All-Big Ten transfer Marcus Carr.
8. Duke Blue Devils
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 5
Jeremy Roach, Wendell Moore, Mark Williams, Joey Baker
Paolo Banchero, AJ Griffin, Trevor Keels, Theo John (transfer)
Matthew Hurt, Jalen Johnson, DJ Steward, Jordan Goldwire (transfer), Jaemyn Brakefield (transfer), Henry Coleman (transfer)
It’s funny because most off-seasons I’m accused of being a “Duke hater” yet this year, I believe they’re actually being underrated in a lot of the other “Too Early” Top 25’s.
As far as I’m concerned, Paolo Banchero is the most college-ready freshman entering the sport this year, and AJ Griffin isn’t far behind. Trevor Keels is a third marquee freshman and I like the veterans coming back too. Jeremy Roach found his groove late and Wendell Moore is wayyyyy too talented to not eventually become an impact player at the college level.
The Coach K farewell tour is going to be exhausting. But this team is going to be damn good.
9. Michigan Wolverines
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 15
Hunter Dickinson, Eli Brooks, Brandon Johns Jr., Terrence Williams, Zeb Jackson, Jace Howard
Caleb Houstan, Moussa Diabite, Kobe Bufkin, Frankie Collins, Isaiah Barnes, Devante’ Jones (transfer)
Isaiah Livers, Chaundee Brown, Mike Smith, Austin Davis, Franz Wagner
I had Michigan slotted in the mid-teens coming out of the season, under the assumption that there was no way that freshman All-American Hunter Dickinson returned for a second year of college hoops. Only he is back, and the Wolverines are good enough to claim a second straight Big Ten regular season title.
Dickinson averaged 14 and seven last season and should be a preseason first team All-American. He'll be re-joined by guard Eli Brooks (9.5 points, 39.6 percent three-point shooting) and wing Brandon Johns. They will also be joined by the No. 1 high school class in the country, one that includes wing Caleb Houstan, a McDonald’s All-American and legitimate one-and-done talent. And the Wolverines also added point guard Devante’ Jones via the transfer portal.
With that, I have two minor concerns for Michigan: One, their ability to space the floor with three-point shooting last year was what made Dickinson so effective down low. With Isaiah Livers, Chaundee Brown and Mike Smith all gone (after all shot 40+ percent from three) it could make life a bit tougher for Dickinson. Two, it will be an adjustment to go from a bunch of veteran, experienced upperclassmen to a bunch of inexperienced freshmen.
Still, those concerns are so big I dropped the Wolverines all the way down to... No. 9 in my polls. In Juwan Howard I trust, and this team will once again be loaded.
10. Arkansas Razorbacks
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 19
Davonte Davis, Jaylin Williams, JD Notae, Conor Vanover, KK Robinson
Chance Moore, Kimani Johnson (transfer), Au’Diese Toney (transfer), Chris Lykes (transfer), Stanley Umude (transfer), Jaxson Robinson (transfer)
Moses Moody, Justin Smith, Jalen Tate, Vance Jackson, Desi Sills (transfer), Ethan Henderson (transfer)
It’s an annual right of passage that Eric Musselman will bring in talented newcomers wherever he’s coaching, but in a new twist, the Razorbacks will return a bunch of talent from last season as well. Davonte Davis hit one of the most iconic shots in school history to send the Hogs to the Elite Eight, Jaylin Williams evolved into a do-everything big man by the end of the year and JD Notae is a scorer off the bench who was actually leading Arkansas in scoring in their Elite Eight loss to Baylor before fouling out. Oh and KK Robinson is a former Top 50 recruit who missed most of last season with injury.
But more than just the talent returning, there are the transfers, and Arkansas has again restocked. Chris Lykes and Au’Diese Toney both averaged 15+ points per game last season in the ACC (at Miami and Pitt respectively) and Stanley Umude is a switchable wing who averaged 20 points per game at South Dakota. Jaxson Robinson is a developmental wing who is a formerly highly-rated recruit. Trey Wade will be a key off the bench as well.
Oh, and with the recent portal activity in the lead-up to July 1, Arkansas might not be done filling out its roster either (they have one scholarship left). This is another team that won't be afraid to add a piece over the course of the summer if they believe he is the right fit.
11. Baylor Bears
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 12
Adam Flagler, Matthew Mayer, Flo Thamba, Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, LJ Cryer, Dain Dainja, Zach Loveday, Jordan Turner
Kendall Brown, Langston Love, Jeremy Sochin, James Akinjo (transfer)
Jared Butler, MaCio Teague, Davion Mitchell, Mark Vital
The reigning national champions are a tough team to peg, but even with the loss of four starters (including two potential first round picks in Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler) it’s hard to drop them too low.
Scoring guard Adam Flagler will be back and after testing the draft waters, Matt Mayer will return as well. They’ll be joined by two key bigs off of last year’s title team (Flo Thamba and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua). Maybe most importantly, while Scott Drew didn’t wade deep into the portal waters, he got one of the best players available: Arizona point guard James Akinjo, who was first team All-Pac 12 last season. He should immediately plug into the point guard spot and help Flagler, Mayer and others get going offensively.
Add a few marquee freshmen (notably wing Kendall Brown) and a couple other other players stepping into bigger roles (most notably guard LJ Cryer) and the Bears shouldn’t drop too far, even with all the talent that left Waco this off-season.
12. Oregon Ducks
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: N/A
Will Richardson, Eric Williams, N’Faly Dante, Franck Kepnang
Nathan Bittle, De’Vion Harmon (transfer), Quincy Guerrier (transfer), Jacob Young (Rutgers), Rivaldo Soares (transfer)
Chris Duarte, Amauri Hardy, LJ Figueroa, Eugene Omoruyi, Chandler Lawson (transfer), Jalen Terry (transfer), Aaron Estrada (transfer)
While guys like Eric Musselman, Chris Beard and John Calipari are lauded for their ability to put together rosters on the fly in the summer and have success come the winter, Dana Altman deserves the same credit. Every off-season there is major turnover in Eugene. And every year Altman figures it out and keeps the Ducks rolling.
This year the big additions were guard De’Vion Harmon, who averaged 13 points per game last year at Oklahoma and Syracuse forward Quincy Guerrier, who averaged 14 and eight helping the Orange to the Sweet 16. Oh and since our last update just a few weeks ago, they also added Jacob Young who was the starting point guard on Rutgers' NCAA Tournament team a season ago.
They’ll be joined by returnees Will Richardson, Eric Williams and Franck Kepnang, alongside McDonald’s All-American Nathan Bittle.
[caption id="attachment_259616" align="aligncenter" width="1502"] (Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports)
13. Houston Cougars
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 15
Marcus Sasser, Tramon Mark, Reggie Chaney, Fabian White
Ja’Vier Francis, Ramon Walker, Robbie Armbrester, Josh Carlton (transfer), Kyler Edwards (transfer)
DeJon Jerreau, Justin Gorham, Brison Gresham, Quentin Grimes. Cameron Tyson (transfer)
In a normal off-season, I look at Houston’s roster and think to myself “I don’t care how good Kelvin Sampson is. I just don’t see all that much with this team.” Then a few weeks into the season Sampson and Houston are beating people’s brains in and I sit there and think to myself “Why didn’t I believe in these guys?”
Well, I’m not making the same mistake this year. One, because I’m done doubting Sampson. And two, because I like the talent on this roster.
Second-leading scorer Marcus Sasser is back, and Texas Tech transfer Kyler Edwards should add immediate scoring pop down low. A healthy Fabian White, Reggie Chaney and UConn transfer Josh Carlton will give the Cougars their typical toughness and physicality down low.
14. Tennessee Volunteers
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 23
John Fulkerson, Josiah Jordan-James, Santiago Vescovi, VJ Bailey, Olivier Nkamhoua, Uros Plavsic
Kennedy Chandler, Brandon Huntley-Hatfield, Jonas Aidoo, Jahmai Mashack, Justin Powell (transfer)
Yves Pons, Jaden Springer, Keon Johnson, EJ Aniosike (transfer), Corey Walker (transfer)
Clearly things didn’t go as planned last year in Knoxville last season, where the Vols started as the preseason SEC favorites and ended with a first round NCAA Tournament loss to Oregon State. Yet after a few subtle changes and additions these last few months, you could argue the 2021-2022 Vols should be more balanced than last year’s bunch.
Last year’s team lacked a true play-maker at guard and this year’s squad might have two, with freshman Kennedy Chandler joined by Auburn transfer Justin Powell. Josiah Jordan-James emerged as a leader late in the season and should be helped by the return of John Fulkerson for (yet) another season of college hoops.
Santiago Vescovi adds shooting in the backcourt with VJ Bailey, and freshmen Brandon Huntley-Hatfield and Jonas Aidoo provide depth in the frontcourt.
15. UConn Huskies
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 16
RJ Cole, Tyrese Martin, Adama Sanogo, Jalen Gaffney, Andre Jackson, Akok Akok, Isaiah Whaley, Tyler Polley
Rashool Diggins, Jordan Hawkins, Samson Johnson
James Bouknight, Josh Carlton (transfer), Brendan Adams (transfer)
UConn might have had the most "un-college basketball in 2021" off-season of anyone in the sport. They didn't add a single player via the transfer portal and the only players they lost were a potential lottery pick that everyone knew was leaving months before the season ended (James Bouknight) and a pair of end-of-the-bench grad transfers who weren't expected to play much this season and left for bigger roles (Josh Carlton, Brendan Adams).
Wait, are you allowed to have such a quiet, boring off-season in college hoops these days?
All joking aside, the bulk of the Huskies' NCAA Tournament team is back this season, including RJ Cole, Tyrese Martin and Adama Sanogo. The Huskies also got a big boost when wings Isaiah Whaley and Tyler Polley both decided to use their extra year of eligibility to return to Storrs.
Akok Akok could also be an x-factor as he continues to recover from major injury two seasons ago.
[caption id="attachment_333267" align="aligncenter" width="2560"] Photo by Rodger Champion
16. Alabama Crimson Tide
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 7
Jahvon Quinerly, Keon Ellis, Juwan Gary, James Rojas, Darius Miles, Keon Ambrose-Hylton, Alex Tchikou
JD Davison, Charles Bediako, Jusuan Holt, Nimari Burnett (transfer), Noah Gurley (transfer)
John Petty, Herbert Jones, Jaden Shackleford, Joshua Primo, Alex Reese
Last year was a dream season for the Crimson Tide, and while it's hard to call the off-season a "nightmare" things certainly haven't gone to plan. James Rojas suffered a torn ACL and probably won't play next season, Joshua Primo entered and stayed in the draft (which was kind of expected) and in a move that was surprising to basically everyone, leading scorer Jaden Shackelford announced this week that he will transfer. Oh, and that's on top of SEC Player of the Year Herbert Jones and John Petty both graduating and going pro.
Still, you can't feel too bad for Alabama - when you consider that their top three guards are all former McDonald's All-Americans. Point guard Jahvon Quinerly is back and played his best basketball late in the season, and Nimari Burnett is a once-hyped transfer from Texas Tech. JD Davison is a hyper-explosive former Alabama Mr. Basketball, and the frontcourt added Furman transfer Noah Gurley and five-star freshman Charles Bediako.
In some ways the off-season attrition may have helped thin the bench and streamline the rotation. Either way, if Nate Oats is coaching, I'm bought in. And I trust the Tide will figure things out.
17. North Carolina Tar Heels
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 17
Caleb Love, Armando Bacot, RJ Davis, Kerwin Walton, Leaky Black, Anthony Harris, Puff Johnson
Dontrez Styles, D’Marco Dunn, Brady Manek (transfer), Justin McKoy (transfer)
DayRon Sharpe, Walker Kessler (transfer). Garrison Brooks (transfer)
When I did the first edition of the “Way Too Early Top 25” shortly after the season ended, Hubert Davis had just been named the new head coach at UNC, and no one was quite sure what to expect. Fast forward a few months, and while Davis has yet to coach a game, I like what he's done with the squad.
Mainly, he was able to retain most of the guys he should’ve off last year’s team. Leading scorer and rebounder Armando Bacot is set to return alongside point guard Caleb Love and shooters RJ Davis and Kerwin Walton. To his credit, Davis has put his own stamp on the program as well, getting away from the two low-post big man system Roy Williams ran by bringing in Oklahoma forward Brady Manek, who should be able to stretch the floor.
That small change should hopefully help give Love more space to create and lead to (in theory) more open jumpers for Davis and others. Oh, and Davis might not be done yet, as North Carolina is a finalist for former McDonald's All-American Dawson Garcia, who announced recently he's considering a transfer from Marquette.
18. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 20
Avery Anderson, Kalib Boone, Isaac Likekele, Matthew Alexander-Moncrieffe, Keylan Boone, Rondel Walker, Bryce Williams, Bernard Kouma
Bryce Thompson (transfer), Tyreek Smith (transfer), Woody Newton (transfer)
Cade Cunningham, Ferron Flavors Jr. (transfer)
To be blunt, I am stunned more people aren’t as excited about Oklahoma State heading into next year as I am.
Yes, they lose the presumptive No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham, but literally return everyone else off a team that was probably one of the 10 best in the country by the end of the season (remember the Cowboys beat Oklahoma twice, West Virginia twice and Baylor in the final two weeks of the season). And it’s not like they’re replacing Cunningham with an unknown, but instead the opposite as Isaac Likelele will take over the reigns of the offense. He was one of the best guards in the Big 12 two years ago before taking a back seat to Cunningham last year. The Pokes also plugged holes in the portal, adding three-point shooting via former McDonald’s All-American Bryce Thompson, as well as Woody Newton (Syracuse) and Tyreek Smith (Texas Tech) as well.
You want to look smart in your college basketball circles this off-season, start hyping up Oklahoma State. They're wayyyyy better than people realize.
19. Maryland Terrapins
Post Transfer Portal Ranking: No. 14
Eric Ayala, Donta Scott, Hakim Hart
Fatts Russell (transfer), Qudus Wahab (transfer)
Daryl Morsell, Aaron Wiggins, Jarius Hamilton (transfer)
The Terps were hit with a pretty tough blow at the draft deadline, as wing Aaron Wiggins (14.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg) decided to stay in the NBA Draft. While it wasn't totally surprising, there is simply no way to replace a 6'6 two-way wing who could score, shoot and was a solid elite defender this late in the summer.
The Terps still have talent, and it wasn't all bad news this spring. Leading scorer Eric Ayala also tested the waters and decided to return, and two marquee transfers arrived in College Park as well (Rhode Island guard Fatts Russell and Georgetown center Qudus Wahab). Donta Scott was also a solid stretch big man last year both led the team in rebounding and shot over 40 percent from three.
Still, the loss of Wiggins stings, as does the loss of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Darryl Morsell, who decided to use his extra season of eligibility at Marquette. The Terps will still be solid (they are ranked in my Top 20 after all). But boy oh boy, what could've been.
20. Florida State Seminoles
Post Transfer Portal Ranking: No. 22
Anthony Polite, Malik Osbourne, Wyatt Wilkes
Matthew Cleveland, Jalen Warley, John Butler, Naheem McCloud, Caleb Mills (transfer), Cam’Ron Fletcher (transfer)
MJ Walker, RayQuan Evans, Scottie Barnes, RaiQuan Gray, Balsa Koprivica, Sadaar Calhoun (transfer)
This is another ranking that is based basically entirely on my belief in the head coach, and why wouldn’t we believe in Leonard Hamilton at this point? Over the last four seasons he’s made three Sweet 16’s and an Elite Eight. The only season he didn’t make the Sweet 16 was the lost 2020 year where no NCAA Tournament was played – and Florida State won the regular season ACC title that season. Few programs have been as successful as the Seminoles the last half-decade.
So yeah, even though there aren’t a ton of marquee returnees on this roster, in Hamilton we trust. The Seminoles will welcome in a loaded freshman class, as well as transfer Caleb Mills, who led Hosuton in scoring two seasons ago. We’ll also see whether Kentucky transfer Cam Fletcher can find a role here, after a tumultuous season in Lexington.
21. Virginia Cavaliers
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 6
Kiehi Clark, Reece Beekman, Kadin Shedrick, Francisco Farabello
Taine Murray, Armaan Franklin (transfer), Jayden Gardner (transfer)
Trey Murphy, Sam Hauser, Jay Huff, Tomas Woldetensae, Jabri Abdur-Rahim (transfer), Casey Morsell (transfer)
College basketball is a wild sport sometimes. A year ago, Trey Murphy signed with the school as a transfer from Rice and at the time, the Hoos expected to redshirt him during the 2021-2022 season. Then the NCAA gave out a blanket waiver to all transfers, he played, completely blew up, NBA scouts fell in love and now he is off to the draft.
And with that decision, I'll be honest: There isn't a ton to get excited about here. The team's top three scorers are gone, as were two highly-recruited players who were expected to step into bigger roles next season (Jabri Abdur-Rahim and Casey Morsell). While Virginia did sign some transfers, it will be interesting to see how quickly they can get acclimated to a notoriously tough Virginia system.
So yeah, those are my concerns. Then again, in the last eight years, the Hoos have finished either first or second in the ACC seven times. So I mean, how low can I really drop them?
22. Saint Bonaventure Bonnies
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 23
Kyle Lofton, Jaren Holmes, Jalen Adaway, Dominick Welch, Osun Osunniyi, Anthony Roberts, Alejandro Vasquez
This one is pretty easy: Saint Bonaventure won the A-10 regular season title and the A-10 tournament title, earned a No. 9 seed in the NCAA Tournament and started five juniors who will all be back next season.
Sometimes, you really don’t need to overthink things.
[caption id="attachment_338427" align="aligncenter" width="2478"]
LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY - FEBRUARY 13: Bruce Pearl the head coach of the Auburn Tigers gives instructions to his team against the Kentucky Wildcats at Rupp Arena on February 13, 2021 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)[/caption]
23. Auburn Tigers
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: N/A
Allen Flanigan, Jaylin Williams, Devan Cambridge, Dylan Cardwell, Chris Moore, Tyrell Jones
Jabari Smith, Walker Kessler (transfer), KD Johnson (transfer), Desi Sills (transfer), Wendell Green (transfer), Zep Jasper (transfer)
Sharife Cooper, Javon Franklin, Jamal Johnson, Justin Powell (transfer)
Auburn has made big moves since the end of the season, as few schools have completely revamped their rosters quite like the Tigers this summer. And it’s because few teams embraced the transfer portal quite like Bruce Pearl’s squad.
The Tigers signed five different players in the portal, headlined by former McDonald’s All-American and Top 15 recruit Walker Kessler. He’ll joined a loaded frontcourt with McDonald’s All-American Jabari Smith and the Tigers’ second-leading returning scorer Jaylin Williams. The backcourt is loaded with transfer talent as well, with KD Johnson (who averaged 14 per game at Georgia last year) picking up some of the offensive scoring slack, alongside Wendell Green, who was one of the best freshmen in mid-major basketball last year, averaging 14 and five assists at Eastern Kentucky.
Desi Sills provided energy off the bench at Arkansas and should do the same on the Plains.
24. Colorado State Rams
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 25
David Rody, Isaiah Stevens, Kendle Moore, Adam Thislewood, John Tonje, James Moore, Dischon Thomas
Another one that really doesn’t need all that much over-thinking. Colorado State was in position to make the NCAA Tournament last year, and when Oregon State and Georgetown won their conference tournaments, Louisville and the Rams were the first two teams left out. Had there not been stunners in the Big East and Pac-12 Tournaments, the Rams would’ve gotten an at-large bid.
Well that team literally returns everyone of consequence next season, and should battle it out with Nevada at the top of the Mountain West.
25. Ohio State Buckeyes
Post NCAA Tournament Ranking: No. 3
EJ Liddell, Zeb Key, Justice Sueing, Justin Ahrens, Zed Key, Meechie Johnson Jr., Eugene Brown III
Malachi Branham, Joey Brunk (transfer), Jamari Wheeler (transfer)
CJ Washington, Kyle Young, Seth Towns, Duane Washington, Mussa Jallow (transfer)
The Buckeyes had basically been in my post-2020-2021 Top 10 all spring long, right up until the last week, when leading scorer Duane Washington decided to stay in the NBA Draft. Washington is projected as no better than a fringe second round pick, which is why many speculated he'd be back. But while his NBA ceiling isn't high, he is a really good college player. And there is no way to replace him this late in the process.
And if we're being perfectly honest, I almost dropped Ohio State out of the Top 25 all together. Still, they do have some nice returning pieces (including big man EJ Liddell and wing Justice Sueing) and added a legit five-star wing in Malachi Branham.
Plus, at the end of the day, I just trust Chris Holtmann. The Buckeyes will look different without Washington. But I suspect Holtmann will figure out a way to keep them in the top four or five of the Big Ten all season.
29. Michigan State
For more on Thursday's NBA Draft deadline, make sure to listen to the latest episode of the Aaron Torres Podcast. Download here or listen below