North Carolina may have claimed the national title Monday night, but the Tar Heels don’t every crack the top five in SI’s Way-Too-Early Top 25. Here’s a first look at the rankings for the 2017–18 college basketball season:
Sophomore guard Allonzo Trier and 6’5” freshman Rawle Alkins should return and join the nation’s top freshman, 6’11” center DeAndre Ayton.
UK is in great shape to land 6’11” center Mohamad Bamba, who alongside 6’8” forward P.J. Washington and 6’11” forward Nick Richards would form another stellar recruiting class.
The Cardinals will probably lose 6’3” sophomore Donovan Mitchell to the draft, but three other starters, including point guard Quentin Snyder, will be back.
4Duke Blue Devils
The Blue Devils are hoping Grayson Allen returns to team up in the backcourt with rising star Frank Jackson, a 6’3” freshman.
Three seniors are leaving, but 6’2” sophomore Jalen Brunson is back. So is stud freshman forward Omari Spellman, who was ineligible this season.
The Zags could reach consecutive Final Fours featuring Zach Collins, a 7’0” freshman who came off the bench this season.
7North Carolina Tar Heels
Freshman forward Tony Bradley’s return, Luke Maye’s breakout and the arrival of 6’3” freshman Jalek Felton will make the Heels tough to beat—again.
8Michigan State Spartans
Tom Izzo shored up his size issues by signing two big recruits, 6’11” Jaren Jackson and 6’9” Xavier Tillman. If 6’8” freshman Nick Ward bypasses the NBA draft, that would give the Spartans an imposing, albeit young, frontcourt.
9Wichita State Shockers
The Shockers went 31–5 and pushed Kentucky to the brink without a single senior in their rotation.
10Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Gophers lose just one senior starter from a squad that closed hard and finished fourth in the Big Ten.
Frank Mason and Josh Jackson aren’t coming back, but there is plenty of perimeter talent remaining in Lawrence, especially with the addition of Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman. Bill Self really needs a big win in the spring signing period.
12Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Bonzi Colson could be the ACC’s preseason player of the year, and tough-as-nails point guard Matt Farrell will be back for his senior season. Mike Brey expects incoming guard D.J. Harvey, a DeMatha grad, to play heavy minutes.
Unlike last year, Andy Enfield is not losing underclassmen to the NBA. He is also adding Derryck Thornton, a 6’1” transfer from Duke, and Charles O’Bannon Jr., a top 50 recruit with UCLA bloodlines.
The Bearcats will lose senior point guard Troy Caupain, but their top three scorers will return. Freshman guard Jarron Cumberland is an NBA prospect who is bound for a breakout sophomore season.
15West Virginia Mountaineers
The Mountaineers are only losing two senior starters. The team’s top scorers, Jevon Carter and Esa Amad, will be back.
16South Carolina Gamecocks
It will be easier for the Gamecocks to avoid a Final Four hangover if sophomore guard P.J. Dozier returns. Freshman guard Rakym Felder showed his considerable potential during the tournament as well.
Leading scorer Kelan Martin will be back for his senior year, and freshman Kamar Baldwin is well on his way to being one of the best players this program has produced.
The Cavaliers are losing senior point guard London Perrantes and three transfers, but freshmen guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy have the ability to be dynamic scorers.
Replacing Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf, Isaac Hamilton and Bryce Alford won’t be easy, but 6’1” sophomore Aaron Holiday will shine as a starter again, and Steve Alford has another top-flight recruiting class headlined by 6’7” forward Kris Wilkes.
20Saint Mary's Gaels
Only two of the Gaels’ top eight scorers were seniors this season. If 6’11” junior Jock Landale returns, he will garner All-America acclaim.
The Gators are only losing two starters, but they need to hope that 6’8” junior forward Devin Robinson, who is entering the NBA draft but not hiring an agent, returns for his senior year.
With seven of their top eight scorers returning, the Wildcats are ready to prove that this season was no fluke.
Another year of improvement by sophomore forwards Moritz Wagner and D.J. Wilson should help overcome the departures of senior guards Derrick Walton and Zak Irvin.
24TCU Horned Frogs
The Horned Frogs ended their season by winning the NIT, and their top six scorers will return for Jamie Dixon’s second season.
Junior point guard Edmond Sumner has entered the NBA draft and will sign with an agent, but 6’6” junior Trevon Blueitt could be the Big East preseason player of the year. Incoming 6’3” guard Paul Scruggs should have an immediate impact, too.