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College basketball rankings: Big Ten, Big East headline way-too-early top 25 3.0
College Basketball

College basketball rankings: Big Ten, Big East headline way-too-early top 25 3.0

Updated May. 21, 2024 1:34 p.m. ET

While a few big names are still on the market in the transfer portal and some key NBA Draft decisions loom with the May 29 deadline in place for anyone wishing to come back to college basketball, it's a good time to reset our way-too-early rankings for the 2024-25 season. Kansas and back-to-back reigning national champion UConn headline the rankings, but we do have some new teams added to the top 25, as St. John's, Texas A&M and Providence enter the fold. 

The Big Ten and Big East are both filled with depth, with each conference leading the way with six teams apiece.

For the new-look, 18-team Big Ten, the additions of UCLA, USC, Oregon and Washington are a major net positive for this conference. Mick Cronin is not going to have two down years in a row, and he's made quality transfer portal additions with Kobe Johnson, Tyler Bilodeau, Eric Dailey Jr., Skyy Clark and others. 

USC hiring Eric Musselman automatically makes the Trojans more relevant and more of a threat to do serious damage in March, and I love the trajectory of Oregon heading into this year and think they are one of America's most underrated teams entering the season. Lead guard Jackson Shelstad can be one of the best sophomores in America after averaging 12.8 points and 2.8 assists per game as a freshman, and Keeshawn Barthelemy and Villanova transfer TJ Bamba on the perimeter should allow for the Ducks to be potent. 


And let's not forget about Washington, a program that has only been to the NCAA Tournament once since 2011 but hired one of the rising coaching stars in the country in Danny Sprinkle, who has won everywhere he's been. Last week, the Huskies added one of the best transfers in the portal with Mountain West Player of the Year Great Osobor (17.7 PPG, 9.0 RPG and 2.8 APG) announcing he was following Sprinkle from Utah State and receiving a big payday to do so. 

While I don't see the Huskies as a top 25 team, the four additions will bring a new dimension and added depth to the Big Ten. 

Outside the four newcomers, Purdue is a top-ten team in my book, with Braden Smith and Fletcher Loyer leading the way. Indiana is the biggest transfer portal winner in the country, with Oumar Ballo coming from Arizona, a bucket-getter in Myles Rice, who powered Washington State out of the darkness and to the NCAA Tournament this past season, and a couple of additional guards in Kanaan Carlyle and Luke Goode. Mike Woodson has made some big splashes. 

I love the potential of Ohio State with Bruce Thornton, the return of Meechie Johnson, San Diego State transfer Micah Parrish on the perimeter, and Kentucky transfer Aaron Bradshaw entering the fold. Then there's Maryland, who should have a really tough frontcourt with Julian Reese and five-star freshman Derik Queen charging the Terrapins inside. 

Rutgers is on the radar as one of the sport's most compelling teams because the Scarlet Knights have the No. 2 and No. 3-ranked freshmen in the country coming to Piscataway with Dylan Harper and Ace Bailey. I expect Jeremiah Williams to be a big key for the Scarlet Knights after he showed some great signs in his 12 games played this past season, while Jamichael Davis should make a sophomore leap. More than anything, the fact that we're talking about multiple five-star freshmen and Rutgers men's basketball is quite the unique storyline that I'll be monitoring closely in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, the Big East has seen programs make strides this offseason. There was no doubt UConn would be able to keep accelerating, with the Huskies picking up Aidan Mahaney from Saint Mary's, Tarris Reed from Michigan and five-star freshman Liam McNeeley. 

Marquette is in my top 15 because the Golden Eagles, who are coming off the program's first Sweet 16 appearance in 11 years, pride themselves on roster continuity in a world of transfer portal chaos. Kam Jones headlines a strong returning core as Shaka Smart enters his fourth season at the helm, having done a remarkable job in Milwaukee.

Creighton is a steady bet to stay in the rankings with Ryan Kalkbrenner and Steven Ashworth returning and marquee transfer Pop Isaacs heading to Omaha.

Rick Pitino picked up arguably the top all-around transfer in the portal with former Seton Hall guard Kadary Richmond, who makes the Big East-shaking move from South Orange to Queens, where he will suit up for St. John's next season. The 6-foot-6 guard will be in the Big East Player of the Year mix, averaging 15.7 points, 7.0 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game this past season. With another versatile guard in Deivon Smith in the fold, a rising sophomore in Simeon Wilcher who should make a leap, intriguing big men options in Zuby Eljiofor and USC transfer Vince Iwuchukwu, along with another transfer in Aaron Scott, the Johnnies have the options to be a top-25 caliber team. 

I also like the makeup of Xavier and Providence, with the Musketeers having Zach Freemantle and Jerome Hunter back in the mix after both starting frontcourt players missed this past season. Look for Dayvion McKnightt to be one of the Big East's best guards, while Dante Maddox and Ryan Conwell were added from the transfer portal to fill out the perimeter. 

As for the Friars, they round out the rankings because I like their transfer portal haul of Bensley Joseph, Jabri Abdur-Rahim, Wesley Cardet Jr. and big man Christ Essandoko. The thought is that Bryce Hopkins can come back from injury, and if fully healthy, he'll be one of the best players in the Big East.

With that said, here's my updated top 25:

1. Kansas Jayhawks

Hunter Dickinson's return to the Jayhawks is the cherry on top of what has been a massive couple of weeks for Bill Self and Kansas. With Dajuan Harris and KJ Adams back, talented guards AJ Storr, Rylan Griffen and Zeke Mayo coming in, and a hungry group looking to avenge last year's first weekend tournament exit, Kansas is stacked. 

2. UConn Huskies

This is contingent on Alex Karaban, whose NBA Draft decision is the biggest on the radar. Karaban could be a back-end first-round pick or an early second-rounder. If he comes back to Storrs, he would be the focal point of a program trying to do something we have not seen since the days of John Wooden and UCLA. Neither choice would be a bad one, but I believe the stretch forward ends up returning. 

3. Houston Cougars

Over the last three seasons, Kelvin Sampson has a record of 97-15. Yes, the Cougars are one of college basketball's most consistent programs, with a clear identity of defense and toughness. Adding Milos Uzan from Oklahoma and pairing him with LJ Cryer and Emanuel Sharp on the perimeter means Houston will have one of America's top backcourts. The Cougars have continuity in the frontcourt as well, with Ja'Vier Francis and J'Wan Roberts returning. 

4. North Carolina Tar Heels

The Tar Heels could very well have the preseason national player of the year in RJ Davis, who returns to Chapel Hill after averaging 21.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game this past season. He'll be accompanied by Elliot Cadeau, who should make a leap, along with five-star freshman Ian Jackson on the perimeter. 

5. Iowa State Cyclones

What a job T.J. Otzelberger has done in Ames as the Cyclones come off a Sweet 16 trip with great roster continuity in place in a world where there isn't a ton of it. Tamin Lipsey, Keshon Gilbert, Milan Momcilovic and Curtis Jones are all back and projected to start, while Saint Mary's transfer Josh Jefferson highlights a nice set of portal adds. 

6. Alabama Crimson Tide

I don't feel good about putting the Crimson Tide at No. 6 because, well, I feel like they could end up being the best team in the country when it's all said and done. But that's also the beauty of college basketball, which looks as though it's got rich parity at the top heading into next year. The big decision to come for Alabama: All-American guard Mark Sears.

7. Baylor Bears

Scott Drew's acquisition of Miami transfer Norchad Omier (17.0 PPG and 10.0 RPG) is huge for the Bears' upside in the upcoming season, while the backcourt will be fascinating to watch with Duke transfer Jeremy Roach, five-star freshman V.J. Edgecombe and Jayden Nunn. Langston Love is also back in Waco, and Baylor should be in a loaded Big 12 title race. It will be college basketball's top league once again. 

8. Gonzaga Bulldogs

Graham Ike. Ryan Nembhard. Nolan Hickman. Ben Gregg. All four are back for Mark Few's Zags, who are coming off a ninth consecutive Sweet 16 appearance. With Steele Venters, impact transfers Khalif Battle and Michael Ajayi, and a nice core of returners, including Dusty Stromer, Gonzaga is a top-10 team. 

9. Duke Blue Devils

The Cooper Flagg show takes center stage in Durham this upcoming year, with the 6-9 freshman phenom possessing the traits to be the No. 1 pick in the 2025 NBA Draft. His length, rim protection, awareness and aggressive ability to attack the basket make him intriguing. But Flagg isn't the question mark for Duke. Will Tyrese Proctor and Caleb Foster be able to charge the backcourt? That's my big question. 

10. Purdue Boilermakers

Matt Painter is investing in bringing in a marquee freshman class that ranks 22nd in America, but the Boilermakers' head coach has not taken in a single transfer. Loyer, Smith, Myles Colvin, Caleb Furst and Trey Kaufman-Renn are all back, and sophomore Cam Heide is one of the biggest candidates in the country to have a breakout campaign. The Boilermakers are still the Big Ten frontrunner following a run to the national championship game, the program's first appearance on that stage since 1969. 

11. Arizona Wildcats
12. Auburn Tigers
13. Marquette Golden Eagles
14. Florida Gators
15. Indiana Hoosiers
16. Tennessee Volunteers
17. UCLA Bruins
18. Creighton Bluejays
19. St. John's Red Storm
20. Maryland Terrapins 
21. Ohio State Buckeyes
22. Texas A&M Aggies
23. Xavier Musketeers
24. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
25. Providence Friars

First Five Out:

Arkansas Razorbacks
Oregon Ducks
Cincinnati Bearcats
Texas Longhorns
Michigan State Spartans

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as lead host on the BIG EAST Digital Network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.

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