Michigan, Texas on rise in Way-Too-Early Top 25 college basketball rankings for 2021-22

The unpredictability and tumult in college basketball over the past six months didn’t end when the buzzer sounded on Baylor’s blowout win over Gonzaga in the national championship game on April 5. It simply gave way to the wildest offseason we’ve ever seen, with names entering the transfer portal at an unprecedented rate. More seniors than expected are taking advantage of the NCAA rule giving them an extra year of eligibility and dozens of players are entering the NBA draft with the withdrawal deadline still months away.

Needless to say, there have been some major changes in the Way-Too-Early Top 25 and that’s unlikely to stop before rosters are mostly settled in the middle of the summer.

There were four unranked teams in our first edition of the rankings on the night of the title game that garnered a spot this time around. Texas was the biggest riser. The Longhorns have completely rebuilt their roster via the transfer portal, landing four of ESPN’s top 25 transfers. Auburn, Loyola Chicago and Mississippi State all moved up into the Next in Line category, with the two SEC programs making big moves in the portal and Loyola Chicago getting four seniors back for an additional year.

Arizona and West Virginia both dropped out. The Wildcats saw Sean Miller get fired, Tommy Lloyd get hired and point guard James Akinjo enter the transfer portal. They’re heavily in the mix for five-star point guard TyTy Washington, though, so they might not be down for long. West Virginia just has a lot of personnel questions right now. Miles McBride and Derek Culver entered the draft, and Emmitt Matthews had already entered the portal.

Previous: 1

There are still some moving parts with Mark Few’s program, but one of the big remaining questions was answered earlier this month when top-ranked prospect Chet Holmgren picked the Zags. One of the favorites to be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NBA draft, Holmgren is a tremendously unique prospect who will add a completely different dimension to the Bulldogs next season. Assuming Drew Timme returns up front, he and Holmgren will form arguably the best frontcourt duo in the country, with Timme the Wooden Award favorite and Holmgren the potential No. 1 draft pick. Andrew Nembhard will be back on the perimeter, while talented five-star guard Hunter Sallis is entering the fold. One of the questions comes on the wings, where we assume Corey Kispert and Joel Ayayi are going to the NBA. Dominick Harris and Julian Strawther were both ESPN 100 prospects in the 2020 class, but Few is also still pursuing more guards from the transfer portal. I don’t think this roster is set quite yet.

Projected starting lineup:

Andrew Nembhard (9.1 PPG)

Hunter Sallis (No. 14 in ESPN 100)

Dominick Harris (3.1 PPG)

Drew Timme (19.0 PPG)

Chet Holmgren (No. 1 in ESPN 100)

Previous: 7

Villanova didn’t have much action in the portal, but the Wildcats had as good a month as any team in the country thanks to decisions by seniors Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels to return for another season under Jay Wright. Gillespie’s decision wasn’t overly surprising, given how this past season ended for him, but Samuels also coming back means the Wildcats will return four key starters from a team that was ranked inside the top 10 for most of the season until Gillespie’s injury. There’s plenty of perimeter depth, with Brandon Slater, Bryan Antoine and Chris Arcidiacono all seeing key minutes late in the season, so the only question is what happens down low? Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree was injured this past season and it’s unclear if he will return in 2021-22. Eric Dixon had some nice moments in nonconference play and could get first crack at the center position — but ESPN 100 center Nnanna Njoku will be another option for the Wildcats.

Projected starting lineup:

Collin Gillespie (14.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG)

Justin Moore (12.9 PPG)

Caleb Daniels (9.6 PPG)

Jermaine Samuels (12.0 PPG)

Eric Dixon (3.0 PPG)

Previous: 2

This ranking still hinges heavily on what Johnny Juzang decides to do with the NBA draft. He’s declared that he’s testing the waters, but left open the option to return to Westwood for another season. After a tremendous NCAA tournament run, he’s risen all the way to No. 50 in ESPN’s NBA draft rankings. If Juzang and Chris Smithreturn, Mick Cronin will have every key piece back from a team that reached the Final Four. He’s also adding five-star wing Peyton Watson, who could slot into the starting lineup if Juzang ends up staying in the draft, and Rutgers graduate transfer Myles Johnson, one of the best defensive big men in the Big Ten last season. I don’t really see this ranking as putting too much stock in a three-week run; UCLA was 17-5 overall and a Pac-12 title contender before a late-season, four-game losing streak against NCAA tournament teams. They were a very good team for about 90% of the season and I think that will carry over to the next campaign.

Projected starting lineup:

Tyger Campbell (10.2 PPG)

Johnny Juzang (15.5 PPG)

Jaime Jaquez (12.1 PPG)

Chris Smith (12.6 PPG)

Cody Riley (9.8 PPG)

Previous: 4

Ohio State’s late-season struggles — a four-game losing streak to end the regular season and then a shocking first-round upset at the hands of 15-seed Oral Roberts in the NCAA tournament — overshadowed what was a terrific season overall for Chris Holtmann and the Buckeyes. And four starters from that team are expected to be back in Columbus. E.J. Liddell and Duane Washington Jr. are both testing the NBA draft waters, but should return for another season. Liddell could end up as a preseason All-American entering next season. Kyle Young’s decision to return for another season is a huge boost for the frontcourt, and Holtmann will have more depth up front this season with the addition of Indiana transfer Joey Brunk. With C.J. Walker leaving, Ohio State needed point guard help and that will come in the form of Penn State transfer Jamari Wheeler. Wheeler isn’t a big scorer, but he’s a good distributor, can make shots from the perimeter and is one of the better defenders in the league.

Projected starting lineup:

Jamari Wheeler (6.8 PPG at Penn State)

Duane Washington Jr. (16.4 PPG)

Justice Sueing (10.7 PPG)

E.J. Liddell (16.2 PPG)

Kyle Young (8.6 PPG)

Previous: 3

Purdue dropping two spots since the first iteration of the rankings has nothing to do with personnel changes in West Lafayette; Villanova jumped up several spots after two seniors opted to return and the Boilermakers flipped with Ohio State once Kyle Young announced he was playing another season in Columbus. Matt Painter still has a Final Four contender on his hands heading into the summer — assuming Trevion Williams is just testing the NBA draft waters and returns to Purdue for another season. Williams is one of the best big men in the country and will fight for preseason Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Nearly every other key player is expected to return next season, and Painter adds ESPN 100 recruits Trey Kaufman and Caleb Furst. The player to watch will be Jaden Ivey. The freshman guard averaged better than 18 points per game over his final six contests to end the season and could be poised for a huge season in 2021-22.

Projected starting lineup:

Eric Hunter (8.5 PPG)

Brandon Newman (8.0 PPG)

Jaden Ivey (11.1 PPG)

Sasha Stefanovic (9.3 PPG)

Trevion Williams (15.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG)

Previous: 11

My expectations for Baylor rose significantly when the Bears landed a commitment from Arizona transfer James Akinjo, one of the best point guards on the transfer market. Akinjo earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors last season after averaging 15.6 points, 5.4 assists and shooting 40.8% from 3-point range. His addition would allow Adam Flagler to play off the ball and focus on scoring, while incoming freshmen Kendall Brown and Langston Love wouldn’t both immediately be slotted into the starting lineup. While the program is expecting Akinjo to be eligible right away, he will need a waiver in order to suit up in 2021-22. The NCAA’s new one-time transfer waiver only applies to first-time transfers; Akinjo already transferred once, from Georgetown to Arizona, and received a waiver to play right away. One other personnel note: while this ranking is expecting Matthew Mayer to return to Waco, he’s now inside the top 60 of ESPN’s NBA draft rankings, which would give him a shot to get drafted.

Projected starting lineup:

James Akinjo (15.6 PPG at Arizona)

Adam Flagler (9.0 PPG)

Kendall Brown (No. 15 in ESPN 100)

Matthew Mayer (8.2 PPG)

Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (6.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG)

Previous: 8

Alabama is losing three full-time starters from this past season in John Petty, Herb Jones and Jordan Bruner, along with key bench piece and part-time starter Alex Reese — but Nate Oats’ team shouldn’t miss a beat. The Crimson Tide reloaded early in the offseason with commitments from transfers Nimari Burnett (Texas Tech) and Noah Gurley (Furman) and top-35 high school prospect Charles Bediako. They also already had a signature from explosive five-star guard J.D. Davison, one of the best guards entering college basketball next season. Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly, the team’s two scorers, are also expected back. Joshua Primo entered the NBA draft with the option of returning to Tuscaloosa; he’s made it clear he wants to be picked in the first round, but right now he’s ranked No. 38 at ESPN. If Primo goes back, he gives Oats an X-factor on the perimeter. He was the youngest player in college basketball this season and had some big games in conference play and late in the season.

Projected starting lineup:

Jahvon Quinerly (12.9 PPG, 3.2 APG)

J.D. Davison (No. 13 in ESPN 100)

Jaden Shackelford (14.0 PPG)

Joshua Primo (8.1 PPG)

Charles Bediako (No. 33 in ESPN 100)

Previous: 5

The Jayhawks lost five players to the transfer portal since the end of the season, while senior guard Marcus Garrett also announced he would not be returning to Lawrence for another season. But Bill Self will still have a clear-cut top-10 team and Final Four threat if Ochai Agbaji and Jalen Wilson withdraw from the NBA draft and head back to the Jayhawks. That would give Kansas four returning starters from a team that won nine of its final 10 games of the season before getting throttled by USC in the second round of the NCAA tournament. How will Self replace Garrett? The elite defender and do-it-all guard has filled a variety of roles the past few seasons with the Jayhawks, but finding someone to run the show will be at the top of Self’s priority list. They’ve dabbled with a few portal point guards in recent weeks and also landed Drake transfer Joseph Yesufu. Yesufu only started seven games this past season, but he finished the season on a tear, averaging 23.2 points and shooting 46.9% from 3 over the final nine games.

Projected starting lineup:

Joseph Yesufu (12.8 PPG at Drake)

Christian Braun (9.8 PPG)

Ochai Agbaji (14.2 PPG)

Jalen Wilson (12.1 PPG)

David McCormack (13.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG)

Previous: 12

We said in the first edition of the rankings that Arkansas’ projected starting five was as likely to change as dramatically as any in the country. And that’s played out as expected. Eric Musselman went out and landed two impact transfers, Miami’s Chris Lykes and South Dakota’s Stanley Umude — in addition to Pittsburgh’s Au’diese Toney, who had committed to the Razorbacks before the NCAA tournament ended. Lykes is a playmaker at the point guard spot who can get his own shot, while Umude was a three-time All-Summit player and adds versatility to the frontcourt. I would expect all three transfers to start immediately, which means JD Notae, who excelled as the sixth man this past season, could reprise that role in 2021-22. Arkansas’ perimeter group will be loaded, but there will also be plenty of positive buzz for rising sophomore big man Jaylin Williams. He started three of the Razorbacks’ NCAA tournament games, had 10 rebounds and four assists against Texas Tech and eight points against Baylor.

Projected starting lineup:

Chris Lykes (15.5 PPG at Miami)

Davonte Davis (8.5 PPG)

Au’diese Toney (14.4 PPG at Pittsburgh)

Stanley Umude (21.6 PPG at South Dakota)

Jaylin Williams (3.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG)

Previous: 6

I had Maryland sixth coming out of the season, and that was with the expectation Darryl Morsell would not return — so his entering the NBA draft and the transfer portal didn’t change much. Mark Turgeon got his transfer work done early in the offseason, landing Rhode Island guard Fatts Russell and Georgetown big man Qudus Wahab before the season even ended. Russell will slot into the backcourt immediately, giving the Terrapins a high-level playmaker at the point of the attack, while Wahab was developing into one of the best big men in the Big East before he left the Hoyas. Assuming Eric Ayala and Aaron Wiggins withdraw from the NBA draft, Turgeon should have as balanced a starting five as anyone in the country. Their depth took a hit with the transfer of Jairus Hamilton, but Utah transfer Ian Martinez was a highly-regarded point guard coming out of high school and Julian Reese was ranked inside the nation’s top 50 recruits in the 2021 class.

Projected starting lineup:

Fatts Russell (14.7 PPG at Rhode Island)

Eric Ayala (15.1 PPG)

Aaron Wiggins (14.5 PPG)

Donta Scott (11.0 PPG)

Qudus Wahab (12.7 PPG, 8.2 RPG at Georgetown)

Previous: 17

I was probably a little low on Michigan in the first edition of the rankings, but there were real questions about the Wolverines’ backcourt at the time. Now, senior Eli Brooks has announced he’s returning for another season in Ann Arbor, which gives them experience and one of the best defenders in the Big Ten. And it seems that Juwan Howard realizes he needs help at the point guard spot, given the Wolverines’ pursuit of transfers Jalen Pickett, who ultimately went to Penn State, DeVante’ Jones and Sahvir Wheeler. They seem to have the most buzz for Jones entering the Coastal Carolina transfer’s Saturday decision date. They’re loaded up front, assuming Hunter Dickinson returns for his sophomore season. Five-star frontcourt prospectsCaleb Houstan and Moussa Diabatecan start right away, although I think Brandon Johns will also fight for a spot. The return of Brooks and likely addition of a transfer point guard also improves their depth, as Michigan’s inexperienced guards won’t be thrown into the fire too soon.

Projected starting lineup:

Frankie Collins (No. 36 in ESPN 100)

Eli Brooks (9.5 PPG)

Caleb Houstan (No. 7 in ESPN 100)

Brandon Johns (4.9 PPG)

Hunter Dickinson (14.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG)

Previous: 13

This ranking could change in the coming weeks, as Duke is one of the two favorites for uncommitted top-five prospect Patrick Baldwin Jr. If the Blue Devils can convince Baldwin to come to Durham instead of play for his father, Pat, at Milwaukee, they immediately push for a top-five spot nationally. Paolo Banchero is already entering the fold as perhaps the most college-ready player in the class and top-30 perimeter players Trevor Keels and A.J. Griffin will add more scoring pop. We’re expecting Jeremy Roach to take the next step at the point guard spot and Mark Williams has first-round ability down low — and he showed that late in the season when finally given extended time. While landing Marquette transfer Theo John won’t garner too many headlines, he does bring some much-needed toughness, experience and defensive ability. If Baldwin comes, that could give Mike Krzyzewski a fairly ideal eight-man rotation — a group that has ballhandling, shooting, size, experience and versatility.

Projected starting lineup:

Jeremy Roach (8.7 PPG)

Wendell Moore (9.7 PPG)

A.J. Griffin (No. 26 in ESPN 100)

Paolo Banchero (No. 3 in ESPN 100)

Mark Williams (7.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG)

Previous: 10

Top 10 might have been lofty for Virginia Tech entering the offseason, but if potential ACC Player of the Year candidate Keve Aluma withdraws from the NBA draft and returns to Blacksburg, what’s not to like about the Hokies? They were 13-4 with wins over Virginia and Villanova heading down the stretch of the season, then missed 17 days in February due to COVID-19, played two games, missed the rest of the regular season due to COVID and then returned for the ACC and NCAA tournaments. This was a team in line for a top four or five seed for the first two and a half months of the season and will have most of the key pieces back. The backcourt depth chart will undergo some changes, with Wabissa Bede and reserves Jalen Cone and Joseph Bamisile gone, and Wofford transfer Storm Murphy taking over at the point guard spot. But Murphy will provide added shooting and the Hokies also went out and landed 7-foot South Florida transfer Michael Durr, who should help on the interior and provide a contingency plan if Aluma leaves.

Projected starting lineup:

Storm Murphy (17.8 PPG, 4.3 APG)

Tyrece Radford (12.2 PPG)

Nahiem Alleyne (11.1 PPG)

Justyn Mutts (9.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG)

Keve Aluma (15.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG)

Previous: Unranked

The biggest riser since the launch of the rankings earlier this month, Texas has undergone dramatic roster changes. Donovan Williams, Kamaka Hepa, Gerald Liddell and Royce Hamm hit the transfer portal, Matt Coleman and Jericho Sims were seniors and Kai Jones and Greg Brown could both head to the NBA draft. Only Andrew Jones, Courtney Ramey and Jase Febres are expected to be back. But Chris Beard hit the transfer portal in a big way for reinforcements, landing four top-25 transfers: Utah’s Timmy Allen, Creighton’s Christian Bishop, Vanderbilt’s Dylan Disu and Kentucky’s Devin Askew. On top of that, Beard went out and got top-30 prospect Jaylon Tyson, who committed to him at Texas Tech. There’s a ton of talent on this roster, but it will be interesting to see how quickly it all comes together in Austin. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see the Longhorns bring in another player or two from the portal; they continue to pursue guards.

Projected starting lineup:

Devin Askew (6.5 PPG at Kentucky)

Courtney Ramey (12.2 PPG)

Andrew Jones (14.6 PPG)

Timmy Allen (17.2 PPG at Utah)

Christian Bishop (11.0 PPG at Creighton)

Previous: 24

Kelvin Sampson is one of those coaches who we just assume is going to figure things out and win 20-plus games, regardless of personnel. But it’s a lot easier to buy into the Cougars now as opposed to four weeks ago, after getting Fabian White Jr. back for another year and landing a trio of transfers. White brings experience to the interior and he will team up with Reggie Chaney and UConn transfer Josh Carlton — one of the nation’s best offensive rebounders — to comprise a formidable post group. Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark are back on the perimeter, and Houston landed Texas Tech transfer Kyler Edwards, a double-figure scorer for two seasons with the Red Raiders, and Cal State Bakersfield transfer Taze Moore, a first-team All-Big West selection this past season. The Cougars are bidding farewell to plenty of experience in starters Quentin Grimes, DeJon Jarreau, Justin Gorham and Brison Gresham, so there might be some growing pains early.

Projected starting lineup:

Marcus Sasser (13.5 PPG)

Tramon Mark (8.0 PPG)

Kyler Edwards (10.1 PPG at Texas Tech)

Fabian White Jr. (6.3 PPG)

Reggie Chaney (4.6 PPG)

Previous: Next in line

Another big riser from Way-Too-Early Top 25 version 1.0, the Volunteers were close the first time around and then landed Auburn transfer Justin Powell, former Marquette commit and ESPN 100 big man Jonas Aidooandfive-star forward Brandon Huntley-Hatfield. Also, senior John Fulkerson opted to return to Knoxville for another season. Perhaps the biggest reason for optimism, however, comes in the form of elite point guard recruit Kennedy Chandler. The top player at his position in the 2021 class, Chandler will get the keys to the show from day one. Rick Barnes will get to surround him with shooters like Powell, Santiago Vescovi and Victor Bailey Jr. Fulkerson will be the anchor down low, but there will be improved depth with Aidoo and Huntley-Hatfield expected to make early impacts. Huntley-Hatfield, in particular, will be counted on early; he reclassified from 2022 and can create matchup issues. Tennessee was a relative disappointment this past season, especially after its 10-1 start, but I like the way its roster is shaping up.

Projected starting lineup:

Kennedy Chandler (No. 8 in ESPN 100)

Justin Powell (11.7 PPG at Auburn)

Victor Bailey Jr. (10.9 PPG)

Josiah-Jordan James (8.0 PPG)

John Fulkerson (9.5 PPG)

Previous: 9

Leonard Hamilton might lose a few more players than expected this offseason.Scottie Barnes, Raiquan Gray, Balsa Koprivica and Sardaar Calhoun all entered their names into the NBA draft and only Barnes and Gray are projected to be selected. Koprivica’s announcement, however, gave the impression he plans to keep his name in the draft. The Seminoles are on the prowl for replacements, pursuing uncommitted five-star Efton Reid and they have also been linked with Memphis transfer Moussa Cisse. If they can find an impact 5-man, they could rise right back near the top 10. Houston transfer Caleb Mills was one of the most talented players in the AAC and could be poised for a big season on the offensive end, while three top-60 recruits will shore up the perimeter group. Anthony Polite returns as a double-figure scorer up front. Hamilton and Florida State tend to overachieve every season, and 2021-22 will likely bring more of the same — but another piece down low (or the surprise return of Gray) could bring big preseason expectations.

Projected starting lineup:

Caleb Mills (9.8 PPG at Houston)

Jalen Warley (No. 59 in ESPN 100)

Matt Cleveland (No. 28 in ESPN 100)

Anthony Polite (10.1 PPG)

Malik Osborne (5.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG)

Previous: 18

The Tar Heels are a bit of a mystery entering the season. Personnel-wise, they shouldn’t be all that different than the past season. Caleb Love, R.J. Davis and Kerwin Walton all had their moments as freshmen, showing flashes of what’s potentially to come next season. Love will be the key. He was inconsistent, but he was considered an elite point guard coming out of high school and needs to take that next step. Armando Bacot is the last of the four-man post rotation from last season, and he could have more room to operate down low. They also added Oklahoma transfer Brady Manek, a stretch-four who can extend the defense and knock down shots from the perimeter. Starter Leaky Black will also return. The big question is obvious. What will the Tar Heels look like under Hubert Davis? Will Davis continue the two-big lineups used under Roy Williams? Will they rank toward the bottom nationally in 3-point attempt percentage? We won’t have answers to these questions until the season gets underway.

Projected starting lineup:

Caleb Love (10.5 PPG, 3.6 APG)

R.J. Davis (8.4 PPG)

Kerwin Walton (8.2 PPG)

Brady Manek (10.8 PPG at Oklahoma)

Armando Bacot (12.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG)

Previous: 19

Kentucky is used to big changes every spring and only three or four players are still locks to return to the roster next season. But this has felt different to past rebuilding and reloading efforts. John Calipari hit the portal early to land West Virginia transfer Oscar Tshiebwe and Davidson transfer Kellan Grady, both of whom should start immediately. But there’s also been changes on the coaching staff, with Tony Barbee leaving for the head job at Central Michigan and Joel Justus becoming Bobby Hurley’s top assistant at Arizona State. There has been some buzz surrounding Illinois assistants Orlando Antigua and Chin Coleman as possible replacements; what would that mean for Kentucky’s pursuit of Illinois transfer Adam Miller? Devin Askew’s departure means Calipari needs another point guard and he’s been recruiting nearly every available high-level guard. UK is also in the mix for Iowa transfer CJ Fredrick, the best shooter in the portal. Then there’s the players in limbo: Davion Mintz and Isaiah Jackson. Kentucky’s roster is still very much in flux.

Projected starting lineup:

Nolan Hickman (No. 22 in ESPN 100)

Kellan Grady (17.1 PPG at Davidson)

Dontaie Allen (5.4 PPG)

Keion Brooks Jr. (10.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG)

Oscar Tshiebwe (8.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG at West Virginia)

Previous: 15

Five junior starters return for Mark Schmidt, so therefore the Bonnies should open the season as a legitimate top-25 team. St. Bonaventure won both the Atlantic 10 regular season and conference tournament titles this past season, the latter in dominant fashion, and all the key pieces are back. First-team all-conference guard Kyle Lofton leads the way after establishing himself as one of the best playmakers at the mid-major level, while Osun Osunniyi won Defensive Player of the Year honors in the league. Jaren Holmes is another all-conference member back in Olean. One of the issues for Schmidt’s club last season was a lack of depth — they ranked No. 347 nationally in bench minutes, according to KenPom. The Bonnies attempted to address the issue this offseason by adding two high-major transfers: Abdoul Karim Coulibaly (5.2 PPG at Pittsburgh) and Quadry Adams (2.2 PPG at Wake Forest). I’d expect this team to be the clear favorite in what should be a very solid top of the Atlantic 10.

Projected starting lineup:

Kyle Lofton (14.4 PPG, 5.5 APG)

Jaren Holmes (13.8 PPG)

Dominick Welch (11.4 PPG)

Jalen Adaway (12.2 PPG)

Osun Osunniyi (10.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG)

Previous: 20

It’s always hard to project what a Dana Altman-coached roster is going to look like, and this spring is no different. Eugene Omoruyi, Chris Duarte, LJ Figueroa and Amauri Hardy are all seniors, while Chandler Lawson, Aaron Estrada and Jalen Terry all entered the transfer portal. So there’s a lot of room for Altman to play with in terms of reloading for next season. The Ducks already went out and landed Oklahoma transfer De’Vion Harmon, who will provide another playmaker in the backcourt alongside Will Richardson. Eric Williams Jr. is another double-figure scorer on the wing, while the Ducks should have much-improved size on the interior with top-10 prospect Nate Bittle and a healthy N’Faly Dante. Bittle and Dante’s skillset differ enough where they can both be on the floor at the same time, which would create severe matchup issues for opponents. Oregon consistently tweaks and tinkers with its roster until well into the summer, and I think the Ducks will have a few more tricks up their sleeve.

Projected starting lineup:

Will Richardson (11.3 PPG)

De’Vion Harmon (12.9 PPG at Oklahoma)

Eric Williams Jr. (10.0 PPG)

Nate Bittle (No. 9 in ESPN 100)

N’Faly Dante (8.2 PPG)

Previous: Next in line

It felt weird not having Virginia in the top 25 earlier this month, but the Cavaliers landing transfers Armaan Franklin (Indiana) and Jayden Gardner (East Carolina) helps them find their way into the rankings this time around. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still plenty of questions facing the roster. Perhaps the most important one is what happens with Trey Murphy. The former Rice transfer is a projected NBA draft pick and it’s feasible for him to leave Charlottesville for the pros. If that happens, Tony Bennett could be short of weapons this season. Kihei Clark is back at the point guard spot, while Reece Beekman started 20 games as a freshman. Franklin and Gardner are the favorites to lead the team in scoring despite being newcomers; Franklin can really make shots, while Gardner was one of the most productive players in the country the last few seasons. Who replaces Jay Huff inside? 7-footer Francisco Caffaro and 6-foot-11 Kadin Shedrick will need to step up.

Projected starting lineup:

Kihei Clark (9.5 PPG, 4.5 APG)

Reece Beekman (4.7 PPG)

Armaan Franklin (11.4 PPG at Indiana)

Jayden Gardner (18.3 PPG at East Carolina)

Francisco Caffaro (1.2 PPG)

Previous: 22

I’m intrigued to see what starting five Tom Izzo rolls out in East Lansing next season. Tyson Walker is the favorite to run the point with the transfers of Rocket Watts and Foster Loyer, while five-star guard Max Christie is a gifted scorer who will see the floor right away. Up front is anyone’s guess. Gabe Brown has been in the program three years and shot the ball effectively last season, while Malik Hall brings versatility — but saw an inconsistent role during the second half of the season. Joey Hauser started the season on a tear before fading in conference play, and Julius Marble started the final nine games of the season but only played double-figure minutes in five of those games. Given his defensive ability, Marcus Bingham could move into the starting lineup, but he was only selected to start five times. And don’t forget Mady Sissoko, a former ESPN 100 big man who played 25 games as a freshman. Izzo won’t lack for options and depth next season, but will anyone step up as a go-to-guy?

Projected starting lineup:

Tyson Walker (18.8 PPG at Northeastern)

Max Christie (No. 16 in ESPN 100)

Gabe Brown (7.2 PPG)

Malik Hall (5.0 PPG)

Joey Hauser (9.7 PPG)

Previous: 21

If continuity is your thing, Colorado State checks all the boxes. The Rams didn’t have a single senior on this past season’s team, and they haven’t had anyone hit the transfer portal this spring. And if not for Cinderella conference tournament runs by Oregon State and Georgetown, Niko Medved’s team would have been in the NCAA tournament. It shouldn’t come down to the final few spots this time around, though. First-team all-conference forward David Roddy leads the way after tallying 12 double-doubles this past season, while second-team all-conference guard Isaiah Stevens is the headliner in the backcourt. He’s one of the best playmaking guards in the Mountain West. Adam Thistlewood and Kendle Moore bring veteran experience, while New Zealand native James Moors has size and showed flashes during his first year in college basketball. How much Colorado State improves will come down to the Rams’ effort on the defensive end. They had the best offense in the conference, but struggled at the other end of the floor in big games.

Projected starting lineup:

Kendle Moore (10.5 PPG)

Isaiah Stevens (15.3 PPG, 5.4 APG)

Adam Thistlewood (9.1 PPG)

David Roddy (15.9 PPG, 9.4 RPG)

James Moors (5.9 PPG)

Previous: 23

Another team with plenty of continuity from last season, Belmont looked like it was going to be a popular NCAA tournament upset pick for the first three months of the season — before the Bruins lost two in a row to end the regular season and then got blown out in the Ohio Valley title game by Morehead State. It was a difficult end to what was a great season for Casey Alexander and the Bruins; at one point, they won 21 straight games and were 18-0 in conference play. On the bright side, everybody is back besides reserve guard Mitch Listau, who opted to enter the transfer portal. A pair of All-Ohio Valley first-team selections top the roster in Defensive Player of the Year Grayson Murphy and 6-foot-11 center Nick Muszynski, who missed those two late-season losses with an injury. Like Colorado State, Belmont’s improvement will have to come on the defensive end. The Bruins allowed Morehead State to put 1.30 points per possession in the title game and also allowed at least one point per possession in the other three losses. When the offense is struggling, can they beat good teams?

Projected starting lineup:

Grayson Murphy (10.9 PPG)

Luke Smith (12.7 PPG)

Ben Sheppard (10.5 PPG)

Caleb Hollander (9.3 PPG)

Nick Muszynski (15.0 PPG)

Next in line:

Syracuse Orange (previous: No. 14)

Auburn Tigers (previous: Unranked)

Loyola Chicago Ramblers (previous: Unranked)

UConn Huskies (previous: Next in line)

Mississippi State Bulldogs (previous: Unranked)

Dropped out: Arizona Wildcats (No. 16), West Virginia Mountaineers (No. 25)

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