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2022-2023 NCAA Men’s Basketball: Top-60 teams preseason rankings, No. 1-30

SB Nation logo SB Nation 8/12/2022 Sam Tyler - TillTheBitterEnd
© Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

This 2022-2023 college basketball season, will be an interesting one: for the first time in decades, Mike Krzyzewski will not coach at Duke and, with Roy Williams and Jay Wright both retiring recently, Tom Izzo, John Calipari, Mark Few and Bill Self stand atop the coaching landscape in college basketball.

While Self, Calipari, and Few (as well as Kelvin Sampson, Scott Drew, Hubert Davis, and Mick Cronin) appear to have the best rosters on paper, Tom Izzo stands above them all in terms of his ability to maximize talent, historically, and appears to be in a great position to lead this season’s Spartans on a historic run.

If you missed Part One, No. 31-60, then read here.

Without further ado...

Here are the current depth charts and rankings of the top-60 NCAA men’s basketball teams for the 2022-2023 season:

(Disclaimer: I have no ability to predict the future regarding roster developments and may have completely forgotten, omitted, or mis-depth-charted various players due to signings, transfers, or NBA decisions I have not accounted for. Please DO let me know about factual or obvious omissions and errors both with regard to individual players and to teams.)

I view this as a fun collective exercise: please offer your thoughts and critiques and don’t be surprised if I change my rankings and depth charts based on your excellent input!

Following each team, I provide my thoughts, questions and comments on that particular school.

Part Two: No. 1-30

1. North Carolina

1 - RJ Davis, Seth Trimble

2 - Caleb Love, Dontrez Styles, D’Marco Dunn

3 - Leaky Black, Puff Johnson, Tyler Nickel

4 - Pete Nance, Jalen Washington

5 - Armando Bacot, Justin McKoy, Will Shaver

The Tar Heels went to the championship game last season and return almost their entire lineup. Nance and Washington will actually be an upgrade over Brady Manek at the forward, I predict, and if this group stays healthy, North Carolina should be the favorite to win the ACC and the national title. The potential weakness is three-point shooting. Nance will have to maintain his efficiency and dramatically increase his volume from long range, and Washington will have to come in and shoot well from deep right away because none of the other returners were “great” shooters last season — Davis and Love were both good, however, and if they take another step on that front then this team appears pretty complete.

2. Houston

1 - Jamal Shead, Mylik Wilson, Emanuel Sharp

2 - Marcus Sasser, Terrence Arcenaux

3 - Tramon Mark, Ramon Walker Jr.

4 - Jarace Walker, Ja’Vier Francis, Kiyron Powell

5 - J’Wan Roberts, Reggie Chaney

If Houston can stay healthy, it has everything needed to win a title. The Cougars defend superbly, return a ton of veteran talents in the front-court and back-court, and add in a five-star recruit in Jarace Walker, who will have the luxury of picking and choosing his moments. Shead, Sasser and Mark should pour in close to 40 points per game, and Walker, Arcenaux and Wilson should provide a ton of scoring punch against certain matchups. Lock to win the American Athletic Conference, and a potential Final Four team.

3. Duke

1 - Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor, Jaylen Blakes

2 - Dariq Whitehead, Jaden Schutt

3 - Mark Mitchell, Jacob Grandison

4 - Kyle Filipowski

5 - Derek Lively, Ryan Young, Christian Reeves

Another year, another Duke team with overwhelming future NBA talent. Lively, Filipowski, Mitchell, Whitehead, Proctor and Schutt could all eventually play in the NBA. Whitehead and Lively are the presumptive lottery players, and both are great prospects — Lively is huge and a great defender, and Whitehead is a tough shot creator and maker with great positional size. Mitchell will have a ton of defensive responsibility on the wing, while Schutt (whose game I love — evokes Tyler Herro) and Grandison will have a lot of shots on the weak-side of plays.

Young is an ideal third big — a steady scorer to pace bench units and a veteran. Proctor is the mystery man with tons of potential. If he is all that he’s hyped to be, then Duke may become the favorite by mid-season. Finally, Roach should be a solid steadying presence at the point; he is not really a scorer, but he can really defend and will not mind being more of a facilitator (despite that role being somewhat ill-suited to a player who only averaged three assists per game last season).

4. Gonzaga

1 - Rasir Bolton, Dominik Harris

2 - Malachi Smith, Nolan Hickman

3 - Julian Strawther, Hunter Sallis, Marytnas Arlauskas

4 - Anton Watson, Kaden Perry, Braden Huff

5 - Drew Timme, Efton Reed

With Chet Holmgren and Andrew Nembhard gone, Gonzaga will rely even more heavily on Timme, Watson and Strawther. Smith (the transfer from Chattanooga, who is a very good scorer), Bolton, Harris, Hickman and Sallis should form a great back-court, but how exactly that group shakes out remains unclear to me at this point. Maybe Hickman, Harris or Smith take the reins at point guard from Bolton, pushing him off-ball, but, right now, none of them are natural creators. Does this team have enough shooting? I’m guessing the Bulldogs do, if Smith, Bolton and Strawther can all hit, but that is about it. Huff may work his way into the rotation (passing Perry or Reed) if he can consistently defend and hit three-pointers. Still a lock to win the West Coast Conference, and a great bet to make a deep run.

5. Baylor

1 - Keyonte George, Dantwan Grimes

2 - LJ Cryer, Dale Bonner

3 - Adam Flagler, Langston Love

4 - Jalen Bridges, Caleb Lohner, Jordan Turner

5 - Flo Thamba, Jonathan Tchamwa-Tchatchoua, Zach Loveday, Josh Ojianwuna

While Baylor loses a ton from last season, and will have to wait for Tchamwa-Tchatchoua to fully recover from his knee injury (he may not be fully back until February), this team still has enough to vie for the Big 12 title and to make a deep run in March. The key here is George, who should be a top-five pick in next summer’s NBA Draft, and has the scoring, off-the-dribble-jump-shooting and the killer instinct to lead this team in every game. Fortunately for head coach Scott Drew, Cryer, Flagler, Bridges and Love should form a terrific perimeter group around George. When the front-court is fully healthy, this team will be fully loaded.

6. Kentucky

1 - Sahvir Wheeler

2 - Cason Wallace, C.J. Fredrick

3 - Chris Livingston, Antonio Reeves, Adou Thiero

4 - Daimion Collins, Jacob Toppin

5 - Oscar Tshiebwe, Lance Ware

Calipari has a team that should win the SEC and make a deep run in March. Wheeler, Tshiebwe and Fredrick are a great trio of veterans, while Wallace and Livingston are a perfect pair of complementary high-caliber freshmen. Wallace, in particular, is a two-way menace and should end up as Kentucky’s most important player. Livingston’s fit is a bit curious given his paint-oriented game — in any ordinary season, this would not be an issue, but...then there’s Tshiebwe. The big man should be an All-American on both ends of the season’s voting, and will, yet again, prove to be one of the more dominant rebounders and physical forces in college basketball since Tyler Hansbrough.

Collins and Thiero are the X-factors for the Wildcats. Collins was poor last season, but appears to have improved a TON this off-season. This roster will need Fredrick, Reeves, Wheeler and Wallace to all hit consistently from three-point range; if there is a potential flaw that could crop up for this team, then it would have to be shooting — still, this is the SEC favorite.

7. Kansas

1 - Dajuan Harris, Bobby Pettiford, Joseph Yesufu

2 - Kevin McCullar, Kyle Cuffe Jr.

3 - Gradey Dick, Marquise Rice

4 - Jalen Wilson, KJ Adams

5 - Ernest Udeh, Zach Clemence, Zuby Ejiofor

This Kansas team should be terrific. Despite losing so much talent from the Jayhawks’ NCAA title-winning season last year, all of the pieces fit perfectly here. Harris reprises his role as the defense-first-second-and-third point guard, McCullar (Texas Tech transfer) should fit perfectly as a defender, capable scorer and good passer, Dick and Udeh will be superb in their roles as a heady, sweet-shooting small forward and defensive-minded big man, respectively, and Wilson gets to play the role of steady veteran who paces the team through scoring lulls. This team will go as far as the bench guys, however, so Self has got to figure out which of these guys he trusts, as soon as possible. My bets are on Adams, Clemence and Rice. If Baylor falters, Kansas will be there to take home the Big 12 title.

8. UCLA

1 - Tyger Campbell, Dylan Andrews

2 - Amari Bailey, David Singleton

3 - Jaylen Clark, Will McClendon

4 - Jaime Jaquez, Abramo Canka

5 - Mac Etienne, Adem Bona, Kenneth Nwuba

If this team wins the Pac-12, then it will likely be thanks to the veteran savvy and scoring acumen of Campbell, Singleton, Clark and Jaquez. If the Bruins get to a Final Four or beyond, it will be because Bailey, Bona and Etienne take off. Those three have a ton of NBA potential — Bailey, particularly, is a terrific athlete with positional size and a terrific handle. The two bigs are guys I like, but am not certain will have good enough seasons to really take on some of the front-courts ahead of them late in March — we will see once the season gets going. Singleton, Clark and McClendon pack a major scoring punch so the droughts that hurt the Bruins last season, at times, should lessen. This team should comfortably win the Pac-12.

9. Creighton

1 - Ryan Nembhard, Shereef Mitchell, Ben Shtolzberg

2 - Trey Alexander, Francisco Farabello, John Chrisofilis

3 - Baylor Scheierman, Rati Adronikashvili

4 - Arthur Kaluma, Mason Miller, Jasen Green

5 - Ryan Kalkbrenner, Fredrick King

Creighton finished last season at No. 50 in Kenpom’s ratings, so why are the Bluejays so high in my preseason rankings (despite they’re returning most of their team)? They only lost to Kansas, the national champions, by seven points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament despite missing their starting point guard (Nembhard) and their starting center (Kalkbrenner), both of whom were crucial players for Creighton last season. With those two back in the fold, Kaluma back (possibly Creighton’s best player and a high-level athlete), as well as last year’s key bench guard in Alexander slotting into a starting role, this team returns a ton of quality. Add in the sharp-shooting Scheierman, Miller the marksman and Farabello — a solid fourth guard — and this team should have all of the ingredients to take the Big East crown, and possibly more, in March.

10. Arkansas

1 - Anthony Black, Davonte Davis, Derrian Ford

2 - Nick Smith, Joseph Pinion

3 - Trevon Brazile, Ricky Council IV, Barry Dunning

4 - Jordan Walsh, Jalen Graham, Kamani Johnson

5 - Makhi Mitchell, Makhel Mitchell

Arkansas will have one of the more fun and exciting teams in the nation next year, with the only real question mark being the major gamble being placed on the Mitchell twins (who have bounced around more times than a pin-ball). Both are big kids with talent, but both are...mercurial, shall we say? The story of this team, however, is Black, Smith and Walsh — all three will be one-and-done NBA players, and all three will likely go in the first round. Davis should be a solid contributor off the bench, but Brazile and Council (two guys who may play their way onto NBA radars this season) should complete possibly the most dynamic set of wing-forwards in the nation. Graham (Arizona State transfer) and the returning Johnson (a beast of rebounder) cement the front-court. Appointment viewing, and a strong contender for a Final Four in my view.

11. Tennessee

1 - Zakai Ziegler, BJ Edwards

2 - Santiago Vescovi, DJ Jefferson

3 - Josiah-Jordan James, Jahmai Mashack

4 - Julian Phillips, Olivier Nkamhoua

5 - Uros Plavsic, Jonas Aidoo

Similar to Kansas — if Kentucky falters in the SEC (and the Wildcats very well might), then Tennessee and Arkansas will be right there to pick up the scraps — though Arkansas has a dramatically higher ceiling. Ziegler is a lightning-quick “problem,” Vescovi, James, Nkamhoua and Plavsic are great vets that will give the team backbone, and Phillips is the ceiling-raising freshman who should end up in the first round of the NBA Draft. Back-court depth is the concern here.

12. San Diego State

1 - Lamont Butler, Darrion Trammell

2 - Adam Seiko, Myles Byrd

3 - Matt Bradley, Micah Parrish

4 - Keshad Johnson, Aguek Arop, Elijah Saunders

5 - Nathan Mensah, Jaedon Ledee, Demarshay Johnson Jr.

The only reason I do not have the Aztecs higher is because they return basically their entire team — which is great because SDSU finished No. 25 in Kenpom’s ratings last season, and had the second-best defense in the entire nation, but less good because the Aztecs also had the No. 167-rated offensive efficiency in the nation, according to Kenpom. This team should remain elite defensively, and will continue to rely on Bradley to dominate the offense. The big key is whether Butler and Seiko can dramatically increase the volume of their three-point shooting (both had solid percentages). If this team can find more perimeter shot-making, then an entirely new horizon opens up for this squad comprised of six seniors, four juniors, and a couple of young guys. Mountain West Conference co-favorite.

13. Texas

1 - Tyrese Hunter, Rowan Brumbaugh

2 - Marcus Carr, Arterio Morris, Avery Benson

3 - Timmy Allen, Sir’Jabari Rice

4 - Dillon Mitchell, Brock Cunningham, Alex Anamekwe

5 - Christian Bishop, Dylan Disu

Texas returns its core from last season’s strong team, and adds in a few talented newcomers in the transfer, Hunter, and the freshmen — Mitchell, Morris and Brumbaugh. But the sticking point remains Chris Beard’s refusal to play a faster pace. Despite the Longhorns’ terrific efficiency on both ends, Texas allows teams to hang around by limiting possessions in games, and when it needs to make a comeback (like in Texas’ second round loss to Purdue in the tournament), often finds itself ill-equipped to change pace (despite the fit of the team’s personnel to a faster tempo).

This is all on Beard. He has to let go of the reins a bit to play more open at times. In terms of personnel, Hunter and Carr are volume scorers who both want the ball in their hands, and Morris is a similar-style player as well. Allen and Mitchell should get more possessions than I fear they will, and Beard never really used Bishop to the extent that he should have last season. Texas should finish in the top-four of the Big 12, but this is a group that could fade if the lead-guards play selfishly.

14. Indiana

1 - Xavier Johnson, Jalen Hood-Schifino

2 - Tamar Bates, Trey Galloway, Anthony Leal

3 - Miller Kopp, Malik Reneau, CJ Gunn

4 - Race Thompson, Jordan Geronimo

5 - Trayce Jackson-Davis, Logan Duncomb

Indiana returns almost everyone from last season, and adds two highly-rated freshmen additions in Reneau and Hood-Schifino. This is good: Indiana has lots of continuity and experience. This is also bad: Indiana finished at No. 48 in Kenpom’s ratings last season, and the offensive identity of the team remains almost entirely unchanged. Jackson-Davis remains an NBA player, and will be a front-runner for Big Ten Player of the Year, while Thompson, Geronimo, Kopp, Bates, Galloway and Johnson remain who they always have been, which is part of the problem.

The Hoosiers took almost no three-point shots last year (No. 321 in the nation in three-point attempt rate), and did not hit them when they did (No. 200 in three-point percentage). IU also lost the team’s best-percentage and highest-volume three-point shooter (Parker Stewart), and will rely on Johnson and Kopp to dramatically increase their three-point volume, while maintaining their percentages, and Hood-Schifino to hit a ton of threes as well. This is a recipe for frustration. Big Ten favorite, but don’t be surprised by a fade here.

15. Auburn

1 - Wendell Green, Tre Donaldson

2 - K.D. Johnson, Zep Jasper

3 - Allen Flanigan, Chance Westry, Chris Moore

4 - Yohan Traore, Jaylin Williams

5 - Johni Broome, Dylan Cardwell, Babatunde Akingbola

Yes, Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler departed for the NBA. Yes, Green, Johnson and Jasper occasionally shot Auburn out of games last season or were simply too undisciplined to capitalize on the rest of Auburn’s talent. But this season will be different. Broome, Traore and Jaylin Williams (with Cardwell as the fourth big) should form a nice front-court trio: Broome is a paint-scorer with touch and footwork, Traore is a solid freshman stretch-forward who has taken rapid strides in the last few years toward five-star status, and Williams as the mobile forward. The keys to this team may just be Flanigan (now a full year-and-a-half removed from his Achilles injury) and Westry, a savvy and versatile freshman wing — both have been good on Auburn’s European trip this summer. If this team can hit enough shots and defend well in the front-court, then it may outplay this ranking.

16. TCU

1 - Mike Miles, Shahada Wells, PJ Haggerty

2 - Damian Baugh, Rondell Walker

3 - Charles O’Bannon, Micah Peavy, Tyler Lundblade

4 - Emmanuel Miller, JaKobe Coles

5 - Eddie Lampkin, Xavier Cork, Souleymane Doumbia

TCU returns everyone (except for Francisco Farabello, who transferred to Creighton), and added in a few peripheral pieces. Head coach Jamie Dixon (who Pittsburgh has never recovered from firing) will be looking to his stars — Miles and O’Bannon — to lead the progression of a team that defends (No. 15 in Kenpom’s ratings) and crashes the glass (No. 1 in offensive rebounding rate) as the Horned Frogs seek to improve on their final rating of No. 26 and an overtime loss to Creighton in last season’s NCAA Tournament. If Baylor, Kansas and Texas should finish in the top-three of the Big 12, then TCU should lock up the fourth spot.

17. Alabama

1 - Mark Sears, Jahvon Quinerly

2 - Jaden Bradley, Nimari Burnett, Rylan Griffen

3 - Brandon Miller, Dominik Welch

4 - Noah Gurley, Darius Miles

5 - Charles Bediako, Nick Pringle, Noah Clowney

This Alabama team could go one of two directions: if Sears, Bradley, Miller, Burnett and Quinerly all come together, mesh and share the ball, and play as a unit, then this team should ride its collective talent to a great season. But if that group fractures (particularly Quinerly, Bradley and Burnett, who are all recovering from knee injuries, all want the ball and all want to prove they’re NBA prospects), then the solid and steady front-court will have no way to capitalize on the team’s foundation. Second-tier SEC team, for now.

18. Arizona

1 - Kerr Kriisa, Kylan Boswell

2 - Courtney Ramey, Adama Bal, Shane Nowell

3 - Pelle Larsson, Cedric Henderson Jr.

4 - Ažuolas Tubelis, Henri Veesaar, Filip Borovicanin, Tautvilas Tubelis

5 - Oumar Ballo, Dylan Anderson

I don’t love this Arizona team, but it has a lot going for it: Kriisa, Larson, Tubelis and Ballo all return to comfortable roles (with bigger responsibilities for each), and Ramey (the Texas transfer) should fit perfectly in the back-court. The keys for the team will be the other newcomers: Veesar, the mysterious Estonian big man with a sweet stroke, Henderson, the transfer from Campbell who is expected to provide key veteran minutes on the wing, and Boswell, the five-star freshman who will likely play the sixth-man role to perfection. If all three “hit,” then UCLA will find itself in a dog-fight for the Pac-12 title, and the Wildcats may play into April.

19. Villanova

1 - Mark Armstrong, Jordan Longino, Angelo Brizzi

2 - Caleb Daniels, Chris Arcidiacono

3 - Brandon Slater, Brenden Hausen

4 - Cam Whitmore

5 - Eric Dixon, Trey Patterson, Nnanna Njoku

Villanova would be higher for me if Wright was still at the helm, and if Justin Moore had not torn his Achilles in Villanova’s penultimate game of the season last year. With Moore on the shelf, Villanova will rely on a new coach, Kyle Neptune, to get something out of a cadre of unproven guards (Armstrong, Longino, Arcidiacono and Brizzi), and to somehow keep Daniels, Slater and, the freshman and future lottery pick, Whitmore, on the court for 40 minutes every game. Dixon and Patterson have to take huge steps forward, and if they do, then this team may have enough to challenge Creighton for the league title. I just don’t see Villanova making a deep March run with a freshman point guard, even if Armstrong is a quality player.

20. Illinois

1 - Skyy Clark, Jayden Epps

2 - Terrence Shannon, Ramses Melendez, Sencire Harris

3 - Luke Goode, Ty Rodgers

4 - Matthew Mayer, Zacharie Perrin

5 - Coleman Hawkins, Dain Dainja, Brandon Lieb

I want to have Illinois in the top-15 like some others do, but I am just skeptical that it will all come-together for the Illini. Hawkins is the only high-minute returner, and this team will rely on two freshman lead-guards (both with NBA aspirations) to feed veteran wings with their own NBA resumes to burnish. This team will also run the risk of playing some really offense-defense lineups with only Shannon being the best option at his position and a two-way player. Every other spot will likely have to choose offense or defense (unless Clark can really defend much-older point guards as a freshman); that and the lack of continuity are a recipe for disaster.

But I think it can work: Shannon has to play like an NBA player, Mayer has to hit shots like he did two years ago at Baylor, Goode has to defend well enough to stay on the court to hit shots, and intriguing freshmen Rodgers and Perrin have to contribute right away. Most of all, Clark and Epps have to find a real rhythm and cohesion with all of these new faces in what could become a transactional and mediocre season if this group cannot mesh and find a way to build trust. Big Ten chase-group, for now.

21. Michigan State

1 - AJ Hoggard, Tre Holloman

2 - Tyson Walker, Jaden Akins, Keon Coleman

3 - Malik Hall, Pierre Brooks II

4 - Joey Hauser, Jason Whitens

5 - Jaxon Kohler, Mady Sissoko, Carson Cooper

“Why is Michigan State ranked ahead of other Big Ten teams?!” Simple: terrific guard play, plenty of returning minutes and points, and more minutes, possessions and shots for players who were highly efficient in roles they were clearly capable of expanding. Hoggard should be an all-league player, Hall, Walker Hauser and Akins may be as well, and if Michigan State can sort out the center position, then this team should be really good. Starting three seniors and at least one junior makes this team plenty experienced, and I am confident that the Kohler-Sissoko-Cooper-Hauser group (if Cooper doesn’t redshirt) will be more than capable of holding their own at the center — that is all that group needs to do. Because the back-court and forward-group should be scintillating.

This team will defend well on the perimeter, and should be one of the best passing teams in the country. Holloman, Walker, Akins, Hall, Brooks, Hauser and Kohler should all rain three-pointers on teams, and if the center gets sorted out on defense and on the glass, if Hoggard takes another step forward, and if Holloman, Akins, Brooks and Sissoko step into the spotlight, then this team could win the Big Ten, or a part of it — the ceiling is easily as high as Indiana’s and Illinois’. Big Ten chase-group, for now.

22. Texas A&M

1 - Wade Taylor, KK Robinson, Jordan Williams

2 - Tyrece Radford, Andre Gordon, Erik Pratt

3 - Manny Obaseki, Dexter Dennis, Solomon Washington

4 - Henry Coleman, Hayden Hefner, Andersson Garcia

5 - Julius Marble, Ethan Henderson, Javonte Brown

The Aggies lost the NIT final after a real nadir in mid-season (when they lost a staggering eight games in a row), and return most of the key players from a team that ended up at No. 33 in Kenpom’s final ratings (with the No. 30 defense, and No. 66 offense). While Texas A&M currently has 16 players listed on various sites’ rosters (no official roster has been released), I have constructed the depth chart as I am guessing it will shake out. Taylor, Radford, Obaseki, Coleman, Henderson, Hefner, Gordon and Brown all return, and Buzz Williams has added in high-level transfers Marble (from MSU), Robinson and Dennis.

23. Purdue

1 - David Jenkins Jr., Braden Smith

2 - Brandon Newman, Fletcher Loyer

3 - Ethan Morton, Brian Waddell, Camden Heide

4 - Mason Gillis, Trey Kaufman

5 - Zach Edey, Caleb Furst, William Berg

Edey is the toughest individual matchup in the entire nation. He will likely be an All-American and totally dominant. But somehow, Painter has contrived to have a solid team without an actual point guard other than three-star freshman Braden Smith. As crazy as it may seem, this is the reality. Jenkins will, presumably, get the first shot at those minutes, but the much-traveled, under-sized shooting-guard basically tanked Utah’s last season because he was the only “point-guard” on the Utes’ roster, and was pigeon-holed into a role he just doesn’t fit: he just...is not a point guard. He is a great shooter and scorer, but he has a career assist rate of nine percent, which is, for comparison’s sake, a shade higher than Max Christie’s mark last season (Jenkins is really a shooting-guard).

That MAJOR problem aside, this team has size, brawn and plenty of moxie. Does it have enough shooting? Gillis, Furst and Morton will have to maintain their efficiency while dramatically increasing their volume for that answer to be “yes” (Loyer should help with this, as well as the aforementioned Jenkins). Edey may be enough on his own to win most games. Big Ten chase-group, for now.

24. Texas Tech

1 - De’Vion Harmon, Richard Isaacs

2 - Kerwin Walton, Clarence Nadolny, Lamar Washington

3 - Elijah Fisher, Jaylon Tyson, D’maurian Williams

4 - Kevin Obanor, Robert Jennings, KJ Allen

5 - Fardaws Aimaq, Daniel Batcho

I cannot shake my skepticism of Harmon, Walton and Fisher as a trio that will be relied upon to carry the load on both ends for Mark Adams. Fisher, the outstanding Canadian freshman, is the best of the three, but because he will rely on the not-always-effective-as-a-point-guard Harmon to get him the ball, he will likely ebb and flow. Adams produces good teams, however, and refuses to rely too much on any one or two players (hence why talented players keep transferring — Adams’ always-deep rotation does not afford any player big minutes), and did not seem to mind working with a cobbled-together group last season.

The fact remains, however, that this team only returns about 16 points per game, and needs Harmon and Walton (two only moderately efficient transfers who could not lock down starring roles at Oregon and North Carolina, respectively) to produce a ton in the back-court, while Aimaq must also produce instantly at the center position. It will work, but I don’t see it working as well as it often does at Texas Tech this season. Second-tier Big 12 team.

25. USC

1 - Boogie Ellis, Malik Thomas

2 - Reese Dixon-Waters, Kobe Johnson, Oziyah Sellers

3 - Drew Peterson, Tre White

4 - Kijani Wright, Harrison Hornery

5 - Vincent Iwuchukwu, Joshua Morgan

With Ellis, Dixon-Waters, Peterson and Morgan all returning, this team has the veteran core to match its star-studded freshman class. The headliners are Wright and Iwuchukwu — two five-star bigs that should be fun to watch — but White is just as important because he has a level of athleticism that none of the other wings can boast. I do not think this team challenges for a league title, but I could see a second-weekend run in the tournament: this team has shooting (in Ellis, Dixon-Waters and Peterson), size and length (Peterson, Wright, Iwuchukwu and Morgan), and it has a veteran lead-guard in Ellis (even if he is not much of a creator).

26. Oregon

1 - Keeshawn Barthelemy, Brennan Rigsby

2 - Will Richardson, Jermaine Couisinard, Tyrone Williams

3 - Quincy Guerrier, Rivaldo Soares, Ethan Butler

4 - Kel’el Ware, Lok Wur

5 - N’Faly Dante, Nathan Bittle

After completely collapsing last season, Oregon appears primed to surge back into competent territory. Barthelemy and Couisinard were brought in from Colorado and South Carolina, respectively, to sort out the point guard position, and with Richardson and Guerrier returning, the wings should be solid. Ware, Dante and Bittle form the tallest and longest front-court in the nation (all of them at or near 7-feet-tall, and all with plus-wingspans). If those bigs and Dana Altman can figure out how to defend (expect a LOT of 2-3 zone; maybe some 3-2 match-up zone), then this team should be competitive in every game.

27. Miami (FL.)

1 - Nijel Pack, Bensley Joseph

2 - Isaiah Wong, Harlond Beverly

3 - Jordan Miller, Wooga Poplar, Christian Watson

4 - Norchad Omier, AJ Casey, Danilo Jovanovich

5 - Anthony Walker, Favour Aire

This team should be a lot of fun — Pack and Wong will form one of the better guard-tandems in the nation, and Joseph, Beverly and Miller should round out the back-court nicely. The question is the front-court. Omier is a high-level defender, Casey is a highly-rated freshman, as is Aire, but Walker is the only returner to this group, and he was only a bit-part player last season. This team will be small, but dynamic. I do not think the Hurricanes can get much higher than this unless they get some favorable matchups in the tournament. Second-tier ACC team.

28. Wyoming

1 - Ethan Anderson, Noah Reynolds

2 - Hunter Maldonado, Xavier DuSell, Kenny Foster

3 - Brendan Wenzel, Jake Kyman

4 - Jeremiah Oden, Max Agbonkpolo

5 - Graham Ike, Hunter Thompson

A very solid Wyoming team from last season (Maldonado was a star, the Cowboys lost a tight one to Indiana in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, and they return seven players) adds in two USC transfers in Anderson and Agbokpolo, and the UCLA transfer Kyman, in an effort to bolster the talent-level and size of a team that just was a bit too small and that relied too much on Maldonado. This team could easily rise into the top-20 if everything works well. But there is a reason these three transferred from their respective schools — none of them have had star-turns in three years in the Pac-12 — and Wyoming will need the lower-level, increased confidence and productive supporting cast to boost the production and efficiency of all three for these additions to pay off when it matters: in March. Mountain West Conference co-favorites with San Diego State.

29. Virginia

1 - Kihei Clark

2 - Reece Beekman, Taine Murray, Isaac McKneely

3 - Armaan Franklin, Ben Vander Plas, Leon Bond III

4 - Jayden Gardner, Isaac Traudt, Ryan Dunn

5 - Francisco Caffaro, Kadin Shedrick

This is almost certainly too high for this Viginia team, but I like the talent level on UVA more than I have the last couple of years. Clark, Beekman, Franklin and Traudt are talents. Gardner, Caffaro, Shedrick and Vander Plas should do good work in the front-court, but the team may hinge on what it can get out of Murray and McKneely — two reserve shooting guards who will have to hit at a high rate due to Tony Bennett’s insistence on playing at a snail’s pace and keeping lesser teams in games by limiting possessions. Second-tier ACC team.

30. Virginia Tech

1 - Sean Pedulla, Rodney Rice

2 - Hunter Cattoor, MJ Collins

3 - Darrius Maddox, Darren Buchanan

4 - Justyn Mutts, Mylyljael Poteat, John Camden

5 - Grant Basile, Lynn Kidd, Patrick Wessler

Pedulla, Cattoor and Maddox can all shoot the leather off the ball, and each will probably take about 200 three-point shots next season. Mutts is a great forward, and Basile and Poteat should do well enough at solidifying the paint and the glass. Rice and Collins need to contribute right away, and if they do, then this squad will shock some teams in the ACC. That being said, the Hokies play too slow a pace, lack athletes and simply do not have enough proven size to be a national threat. Second-tier ACC team.

Conference standings predictions:

Big Ten: Indiana, Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue, Michigan, Iowa, Ohio State, Rutgers, the rest in some order (six to eight teams in the tourney; eight in the top-60)

Big 12: Baylor, Kansas, Texas, TCU, Texas Tech, OSU, Oklahoma, Iowa State, the rest in some order (six to seven teams in the tourney; eight in the top-60)

ACC: UNC, Duke, Miami, UVA, Va. Tech, FSU, Notre Dame, Syracuse, NC State, the rest in some order (seven to eight teams in the tourney; nine in the top-60)

SEC: Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama, Texas A&M, Florida, (six to seven teams in the tourney; seven in the top-60)

Pac-12: UCLA, Arizona, USC, Oregon, Arizona State, Stanford the rest in some order (four to five teams in the tourney; six in the top-60)

Big East: Creighton, Villanova, Xavier, UConn, Seton Hall, Providence, the rest in some order (four to six teams in tourney; six in the top-60)

Others notables: Houston, Gonzaga, San Diego State, Wyoming, Dayton, Memphis, Saint Louis, UAB, Cincinnati, Saint Mary’s, Tulane, Middle Tennessee, New Mexico, VCU, Furman, Loyola Chicago

Go Green!

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