The dust has just settled on the 2018-2019 season, but it is never to early to look ahead to next season. What makes things complicated in predicting the future is now players can sign agents and still return to school if they are an NBA Draft prospect. There will be some speculation in these rankings, but these teams will be the ones to watch out for next season.
25. Houston Cougars
Corey Davis Jr. is graduating, but Armoni Brooks should be able to take a step forward next season to take over the scoring load. After putting two good teams together in a row, Kelvin Sampson deserves some benefit of the doubt on what he can do at Houston.
24. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes won a tournament game this season, but lost to Houston in the second round. The Wesson twins could be back next year and if they both are, they should be able to do some damage in the Big Ten. Point guard C.J. Jackson will be gone, but the Buckeyes have the 12th best-recruiting class coming in (all recruiting rankings are via 247.com).
23. Memphis Tigers
Penny Hardaway won 22 games in his first season as head coach at Memphis. Now he gets the 12th-ranked recruiting class to join him, which includes the top-ranked recruit in the country James Wiseman. Pair him with some other young players that Hardaway recruited from Memphis over the last two seasons and the Tigers should be an NCAA Tournament team.
22. St. Mary’s Gaels
The Gaels will lose center Jordan Hunter to graduation, but should get everyone else back for another year. They’ll return their leader in points, assists, rebounds and steals, who are all different players. Jordan Ford took a big step forward this season and could do so again next season from his guard spot.
21. Utah State Aggies
Sam Merrill should be coming back for his senior year, which makes Utah State a threat to win the MWC. The junior scored 20.9 points per game this season and will have all the same key players flanking him besides Quinn Taylor, who graduates.
20. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Some rankings may leave Chris Beard’s team off, as he is set to lose a lot of players, but he retooled the team this year and did pretty well. Jarrett Culver is likely gone to the NBA Draft, while Matt Mooney, Tariq Owens, Norense Odiase and Brandone Francis all graduate. They do have Davide Morretti and Kyler Edwards returning, who will have to lead the team. In addition, the Red Raiders have the 14th best-recruiting class coming in next season.
19. Villanova Wildcats
Eric Paschall and Phil Booth graduating will greatly hurt Villanova. Jahvon Quinerly is also transferring after not playing much. Jay Wright will have to break in the third-best recruiting class in the country, but if he does they can compete for another Big East Championship.
18. Arizona Wildcats
This ranking is completely speculative. Sean Miller has been subpoenaed for the FBI investigation into college basketball. They also missed the NCAA Tournament this season. The good news for Arizona is that they are bringing in best-recruiting class in the country. The Wildcats will be a team to keep tabs on for the next couple of months to see if they lose their coach or some of these recruits.
17. Louisville Cardinals
Chris Mack did a fantastic job in his first season at Louisville. They didn’t have a lot of talent leftover and still got a No. 7 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Jordan Nwora will have a decision to make about his NBA future, but they will have some returning talent to pair with the eighth best-recruiting class in the country.
16. Seton Hall Pirates
Seton Hall is a solid program year in and year out thanks to Kevin Willard. Star guard Myles Powell has declared for the NBA Draft, but may opt to return to school. Michael Nzei is graduating, but the Pirates had a young team this year and could grow a lot this offseason.
15. Maryland Terrapins
Bruno Fernando is likely headed to the NBA, but freshman Jalen Smith has said that he plans on returning for his sophomore season. Pairing him with Anthony Cowan, who averaged 16 points per game this season, for another year should bring about a good year for the Terrapins.
14. Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Bulldogs are another team that will have to wait on NBA decisions. Rui Hachimura is likely going pro and Brandon Clarke and Killian Tillie may just join him. Regardless of who comes back next year, Gonzaga always finds a way to be good. They have the fifth-ranked recruiting class in the nation and Zach Norvell will likely be back.
13. UNC Tar Heels
Coby White, Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams are all going to be gone next season. Leaky Black, Garrison Brooks, Brandon Robinson and Seventh Woods will be back and all will need to take a big step forward.
12. LSU Tigers
LSU also has to wait and see how the FBI investigation goes. They will lose Naz Reid, but Tremont Waters, Javonte Smart and Skylar Mays should all return to school. That is if the FBI/NCAA doesn’t come down hard on them. Waters is a star and his return can help the Tigers in a tough SEC.
11. Kansas Jayhawks
It was a down year in Lawrence, but Kansas will be back next season. Their leading scorer Dedric Lawson may go pro, but the core of their roster will likely be back. Devon Dotson and Quentin Grimes will be a good backcourt tandem for the future, as they were just freshmen this season.
10. Purdue Boilermakers
Carsen Edwards has declared for the draft after a great NCAA Tournament. He may choose to return to Purdue though, as he isn’t projected to be a lottery pick. Nojel Eastern and Matt Haarms will have to take over leadership roles if Edwards leaves, but will complement him again if he returns to school.
9. Auburn Tigers
Losing Bryce Brown will be tough to deal with, but Auburn returns a lot of their team that made it to the Final Four this season. Jared Harper will be back to be the point guard again, but for this team to be at its best, Chuma Okeke will have to recover from his ACL injury as fast as possible.
8. Oregon Ducks
Expectations were high this season with Bol Bol coming to Eugene. With him out, the Ducks struggled, but they banded together to make the Sweet 16. Payton Pritchard will be back to lead Oregon and will have Louis King to help add a scoring punch, who averaged 13 points per game this season, even if Paul White will be gone next season.
7. Tennessee Volunteers
Admiral Schofield graduating will be tough, but Grant Williams and Jordan Bone should be back in school next season. With their best player and a good point guard back, Tennessee should compete in the SEC. Rick Barnes will also be back next season, after entertaining an offer from UCLA.
6. Marquette Golden Eagles
Markus Howard scored 25 points per game this season and will be back with most of the important players for the Golden Eagles. The Hauser brothers can stretch the floor, while Theo John does the dirty work for the team. With those type of players back, Marquette should compete for a national title, even if this season didn’t end well.
5. Duke Blue Devils
A lot of Duke’s stars will be in the NBA next season. Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish will all probably be lottery picks. Tre Jones has decided to come back so the point guard position is figured out. He’ll have to team up with the 10th ranked recruiting class and try to find success.
4. Michigan Wolverines
Charles Matthews is graduating, while Ignas Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole could leave for the NBA. They may not be lottery picks, meaning there is a good possibility they are back next season. With point guard Zavier Simpson and some other key players coming back for sure Michigan will be competing for a National Championship.
3. Michigan State Spartans
This ranking all hinges on Cassius Winston’s decision on his NBA future. If he’s back to play point guard for the Spartans they have a chance at a National Championship. If he doesn’t, they will fall down these rankings. With Winston, Aaron Henry, Nick Ward and Josh Langford, who returns from injury, the Spartans will be one of the best teams in the country.
2. Kentucky Wildcats
Another good recruiting class is going to Lexington. This year they have the second-best class in the country. Pair that with some solid returning starters and the Wildcats will be dreaming of cutting down the nets in April. Reid Travis is graduating, while P.J. Washington, Keldon Johnson and Tyler Herro have NBA decisions to make. Every player they get back drastically increases their chances of winning in March Madness.
1. Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia won the National Championship and can get right back next season. De’Andre Hunter should be in the NBA next season and big man Jack Salt is graduating, but guards Ty Jerome and Kyle Guy will be back to lead the team again (neither are projected lottery picks, but could choose to go to the NBA anyways). Jerome led the team in assists, while Guy was the leading scorer this season. With them and much of the core returning, Virginia will challenge for another National Championship.
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