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Early top 25 rankings for the 2024-25 CBB season

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With another season - and another UConn title - in the books, it's never too early to look at what lies ahead for next year.

The transfer portal and coaching changes make things somewhat cloudy, rendering teams like Kentucky, Arkansas, and Michigan impossible to rank. But there's still value in assessing what's in front of us, especially since we correctly predicted the Huskies remaining on top at this time last year.

1. Houston

The Cougars will return at least eight of their 10 rotation players from this season's No. 1 seeded squad. One of the two not returning is Big 12 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Jamal Shead, which is massive because Houston struggled in its Sweet 16 loss to Duke when he went down with an injury. That said, this veteran group - led by head coach Kelvin Sampson - is in the midst of a dominant run, buoyed by outstanding defense and rebounding. Assuming the team will add another guard to make up for Shead's departure, the Houston rocketship should continue to soar.

2. Duke

Jon Scheyer and Co. already had the country's top recruiting class for next season, and then the No. 1 international prospect, 7-foot-1 center Khaman Maluach, joined the fold. Generational prospect Cooper Flagg had one of the best high school careers in the modern era, and he could very well continue his winning ways in Durham. But most of the Blue Devils' top prospects play in the frontcourt, and the team will likely need at least one of Jeremy Roach and Caleb Foster to return at guard. Otherwise, they'll have to hit the portal for backcourt help.

3. Gonzaga

It's pretty stunning that Gonzaga made a Sweet 16 run, considering the preseason injury to projected starter Steele Venters led to a seven-man rotation for a large portion of the season. That only lifts the Bulldogs' expectations for this season, as Venters is returning and All-WCC performer Michael Ajayi bounced over from Pepperdine. Senior leader Anton Watson will be tough to replace, but Ben Gregg's improvement in the latter half of the year sets him up for a major role increase.

4. UConn

It would be easy to discount the reigning national champions next season with four of their five starters jumping ship, but UConn's dominant tournament run this year came after it lost three starters from its title in 2023. As long as Danny Hurley and his coaching staff reside in Storrs, the Huskies must be given the benefit of the doubt. UConn's lengthy March has the team slightly behind the 8-ball in the transfer portal, and the Huskies will need lots of help with a roster currently filled with holes. But if Alex Karaban can blossom into a full-fledged superstar, it may not matter who they pick up.

5. Purdue

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Many people felt that this year's Purdue squad was all Zach Edey - and the Player of the Year scoring 62% of the team's points in its title game loss didn't shine a great light on the supporting cast. But Braden Smith was one of the five best point guards in the nation, and Fletcher Loyer turned himself into a 44% 3-point shooter. Beyond their rising junior backcourt, Trey Kaufman-Renn, Myles Colvin, and especially the high-flying Camden Heide all have breakout potential. Combine that with a top-15 recruiting class, and Purdue should be just fine without Edey.

6. Kansas

Things start to get a lot dicier outside the top five. Kansas has already found success in the portal, should return the steady duo of Dajuan Harris and KJ Adams, and will always be a top-tier team under Bill Self. But Hunter Dickinson's status for next season remains a question, and the team has yet to make a real dent in fixing its severe shooting issues from this disappointing campaign. If Dickinson returns and the Jayhawks add snipers, this ranking could prove low.

7. Alabama

Assuming point guard Mark Sears bounces to the NBA after a strong March, next year's Alabama team will be a lot more forward-heavy. Derrion Reid and Aiden Sherrell, two versatile five-star forward prospects coming to Tuscaloosa, are highlights. Jarin Stevenson and Sam Walters showed promise as freshmen, and the Crimson Tide may even get Sweet 16 hero Grant Nelson back for a fifth year. They'll have some solid guards but no true point option. A transfer lead guard could push this team to another Final Four.

8. Iowa State

Expectations were tempered for Iowa State this season after the program lost four of last year's starters. But after earning a No. 2 seed and a Sweet 16 berth, it's clear that T.J. Otzelberger's elite pressure defense is here to stay. The backcourt of Tamin Lipsey, Keshon Gilbert, and Curtis Jones is the clear strength here, and the growth of freshman Milan Momcilovic and a transfer-laden big man rotation is the ceiling-raiser.

9. Marquette

Marquette got a pleasant surprise when Kam Jones announced he'd return for his graduate season next year. With leading passer Tyler Kolek and leading rebounder Oso Ighodaro headed to the NBA, the Golden Eagles are now Jones' team. A defensive-minded supporting cast and a tantalizing stretch big man in Ben Gold could keep the momentum going for Shaka Smart and Co., especially if they can reel in an impact transfer at the point.

10. Arizona

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The Wildcats are slated to lose some key pieces from this season, but that's not always a bad thing. Reserve guards Jaden Bradley and KJ Lewis often looked like two of the best players on Arizona's roster and will be given a chance to succeed as lead options. After splitting time with Oumar Ballo, the 7-foot-2 Motiejus Krivas will be the full-time center and projects as a much better offensive player. Plus, the program is bringing in the No. 2 recruiting class in the country, led by Carter Bryant.

11. North Carolina

One of the biggest decisions remaining ahead of next year is whether RJ Davis returns for a fifth season after being named the nation's best shooting guard. If so, his elite scoring alongside rising sophomore point guard Elliot Cadeau and the incoming McDonald's All-American wing duo of Ian Jackson and Drake Powell make the Tar Heels a top-25 team. North Carolina would have to do some serious portal work if he decides to leave, but the program was quite successful in that regard last year.

12. Baylor

Baylor's backcourt will once again be its strength next year, with Jayden Nunn and Langston Love pairing up with five-star freshmen VJ Edgecombe and Rob Wright. The wings and bigs are a lot more up in the air, but after a couple of down seasons on the defensive end, expect Scott Drew to shore up that side of the ball in the transfer portal. Scoring certainly won't be an issue for this squad.

13. Texas A&M

Wade Taylor IV will remain Texas A&M's best player, assuming he returns for his senior season. But Manny Obaseki's superstar rise - exhibited down the stretch this year - gives the Aggies an additional crutch to lean on through the uncertainty of roster construction in 2024. Add in Andersson Garcia, Solomon Washington, Jace Carter, and Henry Coleman, and Texas A&M has one of the oldest, most proven returning cores in the country.

14. UCLA

Mick Cronin and Co. are well on their way to bouncing back from an awful 2023-24 campaign. Sebastian Mack and Dylan Andrews showed flashes in the backcourt this season but should be way more consistent as sophomores. Plus, the Bruins already added two impact players, Kobe Johnson and Skyy Clark, from the transfer portal. If Cronin can get at least one of Aday Mara and Berke Buyuktuncel (the international big-man duo) to stay, watch out.

15. BYU

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BYU is set to bring back nearly its entire roster from an extremely successful season while adding the top recruit in program history, guard Collin Chandler. The Cougars would be well-served to add a more versatile piece to their roster, as the one-sided 3-point attack did them in during a surprising Round of 64 loss to Duquesne. But even if not, the firepower from beyond the arc will keep BYU in the mix.

16. Michigan State

This year's Michigan State squad was a cautionary tale in "running it back," returning four starters and falling well short of expectations. Whether guards AJ Hoggard and Jaden Akins return for another season or not, the next iteration of this team will be very different. The quartet of rising sophomores' growth will be huge, as well as another strong recruiting class led by Jase Richardson, son of Spartans legend Jason Richardson.

17. Auburn

All-SEC big man Johni Broome is one of the biggest swing pieces remaining ahead of next season. If he's back and Auburn can rebuild the point guard position in the portal, 17 will be way too low for the Tigers. On the flip side, if he leaves and the lead guard remains dicey, Auburn could fall out of the NCAA Tournament entirely.

18. New Mexico

The Lobos, who barely made the Big Dance, will lose two of their best players, but their departures pave the way for a youth movement in Albuquerque. Rising junior Donovan Dent has star written all over him, as does Mountain West Freshman of the Year JT Toppin. With Nelly Junior Joseph and Tru Washington providing complimentary scoring, this team should be better than last year's.

19. Saint Mary's

Saint Mary's will have the veteran core of Aidan Mahaney, Augustas Marciulionis, and Mitchell Saxen back next year, but desperately need size and shooting elsewhere. A transfer or two would help, but the Gaels could also depend on their best recruiting class ever, led by four-star forward Zion Sensley. With a stifling defensive scheme in place, the offense only needs to be above average.

20. Cincinnati

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After finishing the year strong, the point guard duo of Day Day Thomas and Jizzle James, alongside scoring wing Dan Skillings Jr. and top-tier shot blocker Aziz Bandaogo, is a fantastic start for Cincinnati's roster next season. With some shooters and a jump from the younger players on the team, the Bearcats are in business in their second Big 12 season.

21. Miami

A 15-17 campaign was a complete disappointment for Miami after back-to-back NCAA Tournament runs to the Elite Eight and Final Four. After being undersized and struggling defensively, the Hurricanes made much-needed adjustments by adding 6-foot-8 Brandon Johnson and 6-foot-10 Lynn Kidd to the frontcourt via the transfer portal. If McDonald's All-American dunk contest champion Jalil Bethea hits, Miami is due for a major bounce-back effort.

22. Xavier

Xavier was dealt a big blow before the season even began, with both starting big men Jerome Hunter and Zach Freemantle out for the entire year. The pair is ready to return and will be joined by steady senior point guard Dayvion McKnight and do-it-all wing Desmond Claude. With big second-season leaps from Trey Green and Dailyn Swain, the Musketeers could knock at the top of the Big East.

23. Ohio State

A solid spurt as Ohio State's interim head coach landed Jake Diebler the permanent gig, though there are still some question marks around him. But a starting backcourt of Bruce Thornton and South Carolina retread transfer Meechie Johnson, along with burgeoning big man Felix Okpara, is a great place to begin his tenure.

24. Boise State

Retaining four of five starters and adding a sharpshooter in the transfer portal is one heck of a way to start the offseason after a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Boise State needs to shore up its bench but will be on the short list of Mountain West contenders next season.

25. Notre Dame

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Probably the hottest take on this list, 13-20 Notre Dame is set for a major retool next season under an excellent head coach in Micah Shrewsberry. Assuming point guard Markus Burton doesn't bolt to the NBA, his explosive skill set as a sophomore alongside sharpshooting backcourt mate (and the coach's son) Braeden Shrewsberry is a great nucleus. Add in solid returning rotation players, a highly touted recruiting class, and the expectation of a transfer or two, and the Fighting Irish may look unrecognizable next year.

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