It has been less than a month since the 2018-19 college basketball season ended. It feels longer than that, given all the changes since the night of April 8 when Virginia took down Texas Tech. Two hundred thirty-three early-entry prospects declared for the 2019 NBA draft, and the NCAA transfer portal now includes more than 800 Division I players.
There are still questions to be answered. Ten ESPN 100 prospects remain uncommitted; dozens of impact graduate transfers have yet to pick a school; and the early-entry list features plenty of players deciding whether to return to school.
But we do have more information than we did back in early April, so here’s the updated Way-Too-Early Preseason Top 25:
1. Michigan State Spartans
When Cassius Winston announced he was returning, the Spartans cemented their spot as the early favorite to be ranked as the preseason No. 1 team in the country. They lose Matt McQuaid and Kenny Goins, and Nick Ward appears unlikely to return. Everyone else is expected back in East Lansing, however, and Winston could open as preseason player of the year. Joshua Langford should return at full health, and Rocket Watts Jr. will be an impact freshman. Keep an eye on rising sophomore Marcus Bingham Jr., a potential breakout player up front. With Ward and Goins gone, Xavier Tillman could become one of the most productive players in the Big Ten.
2. Duke Blue Devils
No more Zion Williamson, no more RJ Barrett, no more Cam Reddish. But the Blue Devils have improved as much as any team in the country since our original rankings, with the addition of top-10 recruit Matthew Hurt and top-30 guard Cassius Stanley. Tre Jones also decided to come back, and it’s expected that at least one of Javin DeLaurier and Marques Bolden will return down low. Hurt should complement fellow top-10 recruit Vernon Carey Jr. very well on the inside, and five-star wing Wendell Moore brings scoring and toughness to the wing. Things will look very different for Mike Krzyzewski’s team next season, but there’s still plenty of talent.
3. Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky is bidding farewell to four starters, with PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro all leaving early for the NBA, and Reid Travis graduating. EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards are also exploring their NBA draft options. But the Wildcats bring back Ashton Hagans, one of the elite defensive guards in the country. Five-stars Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney could start right away, and Bucknell graduate transfer Nate Sestina should provide a different dimension in the frontcourt. UK is also considered the favorite for uncommitted five-star recruit Johnny Juzang.
4. Villanova Wildcats
After a subpar start to the Wildcats’ season, Jay Wright somehow guided them to an outright Big East regular-season title. And despite losing seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall, expect the Wildcats to be better next season. Wright brings in one of the best recruiting classes in the country, led by five-star prospects Bryan Antoine and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl. Antoine will immediately be a go-to scorer on the perimeter, and Robinson-Earl is going to make an impact up front. Collin Gillespie, Saddiq Bey and Jermaine Samuels are all back in the starting lineup, too.
5. Michigan Wolverines
Michigan could end up losing its top three scorers from last season, with redshirt junior Charles Matthews and sophomore wing Jordan Poole definitely off to the NBA, and freshman Ignas Brazdeikis weighing his options. If Brazdeikis leaves, there could be some questions about the Wolverines’ offense. Zavier Simpson and Jon Teske both return to the starting lineup, and Isaiah Livers has the look of a potential breakout player. As in the past two seasons, this team should be one of the best defensive teams in the country — led by Simpson and Teske.
6. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Mark Few and Gonzaga are going to have another 30-win season. That’s just the way it goes. They do have a few more questions than usual, though. Potential first-rounders Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura are gone, and point guard Josh Perkins is graduating. Though the Zags have options for the frontcourt, Few will need to find someone to replace Perkins at point guard. Elsewhere, the roster is solid. Starter Corey Kispert is back, and Zach Norvell Jr. and Killian Tillie probably will return. Filip Petrusev could be poised for a breakout season, and Few brings in a loaded recruiting class.
7. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes have overachieved in back-to-back seasons, going to the second round of the NCAA tournament in each of Chris Holtmann’s two seasons in Columbus. Next season, though, they will enter with some expectations. Ohio State does lose C.J. Jackson (31 starts) and Keyshawn Woods (15 starts), but replaces them with five-star point guard D.J. Carton and four-star forwards Alonzo Gaffney and E.J. Liddell. Kaleb Wesson is an anchor inside, and starters Andre Wesson and Luther Muhammad are also back. Holtmann also adds depth with Florida State transfer CJ Walker now eligible.
8. Louisville Cardinals
The one big question Chris Mack and the Cardinals had entering the offseason concerned the point guard spot. They solved that pretty quickly with the addition of Saint Joseph’s graduate transfer Lamarr “Fresh” Kimble. Now that that’s sorted out, the Cardinals will hope Jordan Nwora and Steven Enoch return to school next season. Mack brings back most of the rest of the rotation — and welcomes one of the elite recruiting classes in the country. McDonald’s All American Samuell Williamson is the most college-ready of the group.
9. Maryland Terrapins
With Anthony Cowan Jr. and Jalen “Stix” Smith expected to return to College Park, Mark Turgeon will have one of the best inside-outside duos in the country. The Terrapins lost Bruno Fernando on Wednesday, as he elected to remain in the NBA draft. Cowan is one of the better point guards in the country, and Smith could be a first-rounder after next season if he keeps improving. Darryl Morsell, Eric Ayala and potential breakout Aaron Wiggins are also back on the perimeter. Turgeon brings in some reinforcements up front, most notably ESPN 100 center Makhi Mitchell.
10. Kansas Jayhawks
For the first time in 15 seasons, the team Bill Self is coaching is not the defending Big 12 regular-season champion. Can the Jayhawks start a new streak next season? There are still a lot of questions to be answered in Lawrence. Lagerald Vick is gone; Charlie Moore is gone; Dedric and K.J. Lawson are gone. But the Jayhawks received a big boost when Udoka Azubuike decided to return to school for his senior season. Quentin Grimes‘ decision is the next one to watch, as most expect Devon Dotson to return to school. Keep an eye on top-five recruit RJ Hampton, who recently reclassified to 2019 and is a major target for the Jayhawks.
11. Seton Hall Pirates
Kevin Willard decided to stay at Seton Hall after some initial flirtations with Virginia Tech, and now the Pirates have to hope Myles Powell returns to school, too. Assuming Powell does, Seton Hall brings back everyone except Michael Nzei. Powell is one of the elite scorers in the country, and Quincy McKnight developed into a lockdown defender late in the season. Willard will hope to get more out of Taurean Thompson, but he also adds four-star forward Tyrese Samuel and shot-blocking big man Ike Obiagu.
12. North Carolina Tar Heels
The Tar Heels have been a 1-seed in the NCAA tournament in three of the past four seasons, slotting in as a 2-seed in the other year. Heading into the offseason, it was tough to even think about Roy Williams getting back near the top of the rankings again next season — as Carolina is losing its top five players. But the Tar Heels went out and landed No. 1 guard Cole Anthony, ESPN 100 guard Anthony Harris and sought-after Charleston Southern graduate transfer Christian Keeling in a matter of days. Big man Garrison Brooks is the lone returning starter, and five-star Armando Bacot is an impact player up front.
13. Arizona Wildcats
Talent-wise, there are very few teams that will be able to match up man-for-man with Sean Miller’s Wildcats. They are going to rely heavily on the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. The headliners are elite guards Josh Green and Nico Mannion, who played together on the AAU circuit and will both start immediately next season in Tucson. Freshman Brandon Williams, one of the bright spots for Miller this season, is the top returnee on the perimeter. The Wildcats also added UC Irvine transfer Max Hazzard for some shooting pop. Getting back to the NCAA tournament seems like a sure thing.
14. Virginia Cavaliers
This feels awfully low for the defending champions, but on paper, the Cavaliers aren’t loaded with talent. Kihei Clark and Mamadi Diakite will both be back, but Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy and De’Andre Hunter are all on their way out. Tony Bennett will count on a breakout season from Jay Huff, and more will be required of former Alabama transfer Braxton Key. Bennett will need to work his magic if Virginia is to get back to its lofty heights of the past several seasons — but if anyone can do it, it’s Bennett.
15. Oregon Ducks
It’s still tough to get a read on Dana Altman and the Ducks, given that they underachieved for the first two-thirds of the season and then got hot and made a run to the Sweet 16 — and have a roster in flux. Ehab Amin and Paul White are out of eligibility, and Louis King seems very likely to stay in the NBA draft. Victor Bailey Jr. and Miles Norris left via transfer. Altman will hope Kenny Wooten and Payton Pritchard return to Eugene, as he will have a talented unit if they’re both back. Top juco prospect Chris Duarte, breakout candidate Will Richardson and five-star forward C.J. Walker could round out the lineup — and Oregon is always busy in the transfer market.
16. Texas Tech Red Raiders
What Chris Beard has done the past two seasons in Lubbock is unbelievable, and maybe we should stop doubting him just because he faces another Red Raiders rebuild. He does have his work cut out for him. Brandone Francis, Matt Mooney, Tariq Owens and Norense Odiase are all seniors, and Jarrett Culver is a top-10 pick. Beard is bringing in a very strong recruiting class, led by ESPN 100 prospects Jahmius Ramsey and Terrence Shannon, and returnees Deshawn Corprew and Kyler Edwards should make an impact alongside returning starter Davide Moretti. The Red Raiders are also looking to add multiple players this month.
17. Washington Huskies
Forty-eight wins in two seasons for Mike Hopkins at Washington, and he might have his best team yet next season. There are some significant losses — namely Matisse Thybulle, Noah Dickerson and David Crisp — but there’s also an influx of talent heading to Seattle. It starts with elite recruit Isaiah Stewart, perhaps the most college-ready of any high school recruit in the country. Kentucky transfer Quade Green will slot in at point guard. The X factor will be unsigned top-10 prospect Jaden McDaniels. If he stays home and plays for Washington, the clear favorite right now, look out. Leading scorer Jaylen Nowell‘s NBA draft decision also looms.
18. Memphis Tigers
Memphis moved up a few spots from the initial early rankings, and the Tigers could move up even more based on a few remaining decisions. They’re in the mix for uncommitted five-stars RJ Hampton, Precious Achiuwa and Trendon Watford, as well as ESPN 100 guard Lester Quinones and a number of transfers. This is on top of the highly touted recruiting class Penny Hardaway is bringing in, led by No. 1 prospect James Wiseman and five-star forward D.J. Jeffries. We’re expecting Hardaway to land at least one or two of his final targets, making a top-20 ranking very realistic.
19. Houston Cougars
At this point, we should give Kelvin Sampson the benefit of the doubt and assume he is going to figure it out. After 60 wins in two seasons, he deserves that kind of credit. There are some key losses: top scorer Corey Davis Jr. and fellow starters Galen Robinson and Breaon Brady. But Dejon Jarreau and Nate Hinton, who both came off the bench last season, might be the two most talented players on the team and should feature in bigger roles. Perimeter shooter Armoni Brooks is also back. Towson transfer Justin Gorham should help up front.
20. Utah State Aggies
Craig Smith did one of the best coaching jobs in America this season, taking a team projected to finish ninth in the Mountain West and guiding it to a share of the conference title and a berth in the NCAA tournament. Smith might have to develop some complementary options next season, but he brings back one of the better inside-outside duos in the country in guard Sam Merrill (20.9 PPG) and center Neemias Queta (11.8 PPG, 8.9 RPG). Queta did enter his name into the NBA draft, though, meaning Smith will have some sleepless nights this month.
21. Saint Mary’s Gaels
Randy Bennett’s team snuck into the NCAA tournament with a West Coast Conference tournament title, but the Gaels shouldn’t have as much trouble next season. Jordan Hunter is the lone senior, meaning big-time scorer Jordan Ford and inside-outside threat Malik Fitts will be back to lead the way. Jock Perry is a player to watch in the paint, and former Seattle transfer Aaron Menzies should help, assuming he gets another year of eligibility. With Gonzaga needing to rebuild its lineup early on, Saint Mary’s should give the Zags a tougher run than last season.
22. Baylor Bears
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Scott Drew did a tremendous job last season, winning 20 games and beating Syracuse in the first round of the NCAA tournament. And while he does lose Makai Mason and King McClure, Drew now gets sit-out transfers Davion Mitchell (Auburn) and Macio Teague (UNC Asheville), both of whom could push for starting jobs immediately. More importantly, starting forward Tristan Clark should be healthy after missing the last 20 games of the season; he was the team’s second-leading scorer and top rebounder. Double-figure scorers Jared Butler and Mario Kegler are also back.
23. Florida Gators
Even though they arrived on campus at different times, it felt as if the core of KeVaughn Allen, Jalen Hudson, Kevarrius Hayes and Keith Stone was in Gainesville forever. Those players are all gone now, though, along with a couple of transfers. How will Mike White replace them? He has one of the better recruiting classes in the country, led by five-star wing Scottie Lewis, McDonald’s All American point guard Tre Mann and top-50 big Omar Payne. Freshmen Andrew Nembhard, Keyontae Johnson and Noah Locke lead a young group of returnees.
24. Creighton Bluejays
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After starting the season 13-13, Creighton won its last five games of the regular season to put itself in the bubble mix before falling just short. The Bluejays should get back to the NCAA tournament next season, though. All five starters are back for Greg McDermott, led by Ty-Shon Alexander and Martin Krampelj. Former Southeast Missouri State transfer Denzel Mahoney should provide some pop off the bench after averaging 19.3 points in 2017-18. McDermott has won at least 20 games in eight of his nine seasons at Creighton, and the Bluejays should hit that mark again next season.
25. Tennessee Volunteers
Because Tennessee has won 57 games and earned a top-three seed in the NCAA tournament in each of the past two seasons, the Volunteers get a spot here — for now. Admiral Schofield and Kyle Alexander are gone, and Grant Williams and Jordan Bone have to decide whether to leave for the NBA. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see one stay and one go. If Williams comes back, he could be preseason player of the year and will form a strong returning trio with Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden. Five-star recruit Josiah James also enters the fold. This ranking could significantly rise before the next update, or it could fall off the map.
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