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2019-20 college basketball rankings: Michigan State is No. 1 in our never-too-early Top 25 And 1 for next season

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With Virginia’s 85-77 victory over Texas Tech in the NCAA Tournament championship game, the 2018-19 college basketball season was completed. So now it’s time to look ahead to the 2019-20 season. And, if these projections prove correct, some familiar faces could be back in the Final Four because I really do think Michigan State and Virginia should be good enough to make back-to-back Final Fours.

They’re No. 1 and No. 2 in the Top 25 And 1.

And before you scream “but it’s too early to rank teams for next season because we aren’t even sure who’s coming and going,” understand that I did this exact exercise on the night of the 2018 title game, and 14 of the 16 schools that ultimately made the Sweet 16 of the 2019 NCAA Tournament were in my initial Top 25 And 1. So, at least last year, these rankings were a nice preview of the season to come.

As always, I’ve communicated with industry sources in an attempt to make educated-guesses about which players will ultimately enter, and remain in, the 2019 NBA Draft. But, to be clear, I do not expect every educated-guess to be correct because there are surprises every year. So each time somebody makes a decision that runs counter to what’s projected here, I’ll update and adjust these rankings accordingly. That’s a promise. And another thing worth noting is that I assigned every uncommitted top-100 prospect to the school most likely to enroll him, according to 247Sports‘ Crystal Ball projections. So that’s why Cole Anthony is on North Carolina’s roster, why Matthew Hurt is on Duke’s roster, why Trendon Watford is on Memphis‘ roster, so on and so forth.

Top 25 And 1 

Top 25 And 1 analysis

Biggest Movers
 
1

Michigan St.

This ranking is obviously reliant on Cassius Winston, a CBS Sports First Team All-American, returning. If he does, Michigan State should bring back the top four scorers from a 32-win team that won the Big Ten regular-season title, the Big Ten Tournament title and advanced to the Final Four.32-7
2

Virginia

The Cavaliers will, at worst, return three starters from a team that won the national championship. So going back-to-back, like Florida once did under Billy Donovan, is a realistic goal.35-3
3

Duke

Duke got huge news when Tre Jones, surprisingly, announced he’s returning to college for his sophomore season. That development will allow Boogie Ellis to mostly play off the ball and make shots like the elite shotmaker he projects to be at the Division I level.32-6
4

Kentucky

Ashton Hagans announcing he’ll return to Kentucky for his sophomore season qualified as a big development for the Wildcats. He’ll be a key piece on what should be the SEC’s best team.30-7
5

Michigan

Michigan could’ve, in theory, returned its entire roster – but Charles Matthews and Ignas Brazdeikis are both entering (and almost certainly staying in) the NBA Draft. Regardless, John Beilein will have enough back from a 30-win team to maybe win 30 games again.30-7
6

Louisville

Jordan Nwora has declared for the NBA Draft but left open the option of returning to Louisville. If he does, he’ll be the leading returning scorer for a program set to enroll a top-10 recruiting class – not to mention graduate transfer Lamarr Kimble, who averaged 15.6 points per game at Saint Joseph’s this season.20-14
7

Marquette

The Golden Eagles are expected to return the top seven scorers from a 24-win team. But, it should be noted, Marquette closed this season by losing six of its last seven games.24-10
8

Maryland

The expected loss of Bruno Fernando should mostly be offset by the return of Jalen Smith. The Terrapins will be talented and experienced and a real threat to Michigan State and Michigan at the top of the Big Ten.23-11
9

N. Carolina

The loss of Coby White after one season stings a little considering he didn’t project as a one-and-done prospect coming out of high school. But Cole Anthony, if he enrolls as expected, should fill any hole North Carolina might otherwise have at point guard.29-7
10

Kansas

The Jayhawks aren’t enrolling the type of recruiting class they typically enroll. But Kansas is returning enough to enter the season as the Big 12 favorite.26-10
11

Gonzaga

The Zags still need to find a point guard via the transfer market. But, one way or another, Mark Few, thanks in part to a top-five recruiting class, will keep the Zags on the national radar.33-4
12

Seton Hall

Kevin Willard spoke with Virginia Tech about its opening but ultimately remained at Seton Hall. He has a roster good enough to take the Pirates to the NCAA Tournament for the fifth straight year.20-14
13

Villanova

In a bit of a twist, Villanova will not be the favorite to win the Big East. But the Wildcats, thanks to a top-five recruiting class, should still operate near the top of the sport.26-10
14

Auburn

Jared Harper’s decision to withdraw from school and enter the NBA Draft means Auburn is losing its top two scorers from a Final Four team. Bryce Brown, whose eligibility is exhausted, combined with Harper this season to average 31.2 points and 7.7 assists that must now be replaced.130-10
15

Oregon

Louis King’s decision to enter and remain in the NBA Draft was a blow to Oregon. But four of the top six scorers are still expected back — and they’ll pair with a top-15 recruiting class that should make the Ducks the Pac-12 favorites.125-13
16

Arizona

Sean Miller, even with the cloud of another federal trial hanging over the program, has secured the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class. Arizona will not miss the NCAA Tournament two straight years.17-15
17

Iowa

Tyler Cook is determined to remain in the NBA Draft, which isn’t ideal for Iowa. But the Hawkeyes are still returning four of their top-five scorers – most notably Luka Garza.23-12
18

Houston

Houston reaching a deal on a contract extension for Kelvin Sampson was a massive development for the AAC program. The Cougars will be capable of winning back-to-back league titles.33-4
19

Purdue

The loss of Carsen Edwards is obviously a big deal. But Matt Painter has proven capable of running a competent program even when he loses key pieces.26-10
20

Memphis

Penny Hardaway’s top-10 recruiting class, highlighted by five-star big James Wiseman, should have Memphis back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014. Tyler Harris and Alex Lomax will provide adequate experience in the backcourt.22-14
21

VCU

Every relevant piece from a VCU team that won the Atlantic 10 by two games should be back. That includes four players who averaged double-digits in points this season.25-8
22

Tennessee

If Grant Williams and/or Jordan Bone return, Tennessee will be significantly higher in the Top 25 And 1. But if they both remain in the NBA Draft, as expected, the Vols will have to replace the top three scorers from a team that lost in the Sweet 16.31-6
23

Texas Tech

The Red Raiders are expected to lose four of their top five scorers – most notably Jarrett Culver early to the NBA Draft. But, remember, they lost five of their top seven scorers from last season’s team, and that didn’t stop Chris Beard from getting Texas Tech to this season’s national title game.31-7
24

Baylor

The Bears are losing Makai Mason and King McClure. But they’ll get Tristan Clark back and likely make the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in a seven-year span.20-14
25

Creighton

The Bluejays are returning all five starters from a team that closed the season by winning seven of their final nine games. That should be enough to help Creighton advance in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014.20-15
26

Ohio St.

Five of the top seven scorers from a team that spent part of last season ranked are expected back – including Kaleb Wesson, who averaged 14.6 points and 6.9 rebounds as a sophomore. Those returnees, combined with a top-15 recruiting class, should have Chris Holtmann in the NCAA Tournament for the sixth straight year.20-15
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