The college basketball season has just ended, which means it is time to look ahead to next season. Who are the teams that will be looking to cut down the nets in the 2019 NCAA Tournament?
25. Loyola-Chicago Ramblers
The Ramblers do lose Ben Richardson, Donte Ingram and Aundre Jackson, but return a lot of key players. This includes their two leading scorers, Clayton Custer and Marques Townes. Custer won MWC Player of the Year and will be a frontrunner to win the award again next season. The Ramblers have also been able to keep their head coach Porter Moser for the time being, who should keep the ball rolling.
24. Clemson Tigers
Clemson outdid expectations this year to earn a five seed in the NCAA Tournament. Mark Donnal, Gabe DeVoe and Donte Grantham are headed out the door, but they were successful after Grantham went down with an injury. Marcquise Reed, Shelton Mitchell and Elijah Thomas will lead the team next season as seniors. Reed led the team in scoring and looks like he could break out next season.
23. Cincinnati Bearcats
Gary Clark and Kyle Washington are lost to graduation, but to add insult to injury Jacob Evans has declared for the draft and doesn’t plan on returning. The Bearcats still have talent and should be the favorites to win the AAC again. The backcourt play will be great with Jarron Cumberland, Justin Jenifer and Cane Broome returning. Cincinnati will have to find productive frontcourt players to really be a threat to great teams, but they are solid as is.
22. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame seems to lose about two or three key players a year and do fine anyways. This year’s departing class will be a little harder to replace though, as the Fighting Irish lose point guard Matt Farrell and star Bonzie Colson. They do however have T.J. Gibbs, Rex Pflueger and Martinas Geben returning, along with a solid recruiting class, which should help them compete in the ACC.
21. TCU Horned Frogs
The guard play should be good for the Horned Frogs next season as Alex Robinson and Jaylen Fisher return. Their two leading scorers, Kenrich Williams and Vladimir Brodziansky, are both graduating and other players will need to step up to help make Jaime Dixon’s third year at TCU successful.
20. UCLA Bruins
Thomas Welsh graduates and Aaron Holiday has declared for the NBA draft. They do have a good incoming recruiting class, ranked third in the country by 247 sports, and some returning talent on the roster to work with. Holiday should be the only player who keeps his name in the NBA Draft, meaning Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands will be returning leaders.
19. LSU Tigers
Will Wade did an admirable job in his first season as LSU’s head coach. It was a program that wasn’t in the best shape and they finished with 18 wins. Tremont Waters and Skylar Myers will make the backcourt really good and they have the fourth best recruiting class (247sports). With two five-star big men coming in, they have a chance to compete again in the SEC.
18. Maryland Tigers
Maryland didn’t have their best season in 2017-2018 but have their top five leading scorers returning. This team will be headlined by Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter and Bruno Fernando. Assuming they all return to school, Maryland can make some noise.
17. Mississippi State Bulldogs
The Bulldogs had a nice run in the NIT and will return all key players from the team. To go with that, they have the ninth-best recruiting class, which should help push them into the NCAA Tournament. Ben Howland has plenty of experience of winning at UCLA and now has the players to do so at Mississippi State.
16. Florida State Seminoles
Leonard Hamilton led the Seminoles on a dream run to the Elite Eight. They used their length and athleticism well and created havoc. Phil Cofer and Braian Angola are moving on, but their best player, Terance Mann returns. With a lot of key players and length returning, the Seminoles should have a better regular season than this past season.
15. Virginia Tech Hokies
Justin Bibbs is gone, but the rest of the notable Hokies will return. Virginia Tech had a really good offense and should be able to fill the void left by Bibbs. Justin Robinson and Kerry Blackshear Jr. will be senior leaders who will be able to lead the team to a lot of wins after being two of the three top leading scorers from last season.
14. Kansas State Wildcats
Kansas State surprised some by making the NCAA Tournament, then surprised everyone by making the Elite Eight. They don’t lose any key players either, which should lead them to compete in the Big 12, although it will be tough to beat out their in-state rival. Dean Wade and Barry Brown will be starring in the conference next season.
13. Oregon Ducks
Troy Brown is reportedly leaving for the NBA Draft. He could still return, but they will lose MiKyle McIntosh to graduation. Other than that the Ducks should return everyone from a 23 win team. They have the second-best recruiting class in the country, which includes a unique talent in Bol Bol, son of Manute Bol. Payton Pritchard took a huge step from year one to year two and should take another step forward in year three.
12. Tennessee Volunteers
The Volunteers had a young team this year and will return everyone. Rick Barnes has done a fantastic job early in his tenure at Tennessee. Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield will lead the team again with their great physical play. They are not expected to add anything special in the recruiting class because they aren’t losing anyone.
11. Michigan State Spartans
A lot has to be figured out with the situation at Michigan State, but as of now, they look like a good team heading into next season. Jaren Jackson and Miles Bridges are going to the NBA. Gavin Schilling and “Tum Tum” Nairn will graduate, but a lot of talent should be returning to East Lansing. Cassius Winston, Matt McQuaid, Nick Ward and Joshua Langford should all be returning to school and will work with the 11th best recruiting class.
10. Nevada Wolfpack
Nevada has five of their six key players who could potentially be coming back for next season. Caleb and Cody Martin could leave for the NBA, but the smart decision would be to come back to school. With those two, head coach Eric Musselman and Jordan Caroline returning and teaming up with some new recruits should make the team even better next season.
9. Auburn Tigers
The FBI investigation could have derailed Auburn’s season, but they outdid expectations. They return all key players and should have Danjel Purifoy and Austin Wiley returning at some point next season. If the FBI investigation doesn’t progress too much further Auburn is a contender to cut down the nets at the end of the season. Mustapha Heron and Bryce Brown will create a great backcourt.
*Heron has since declared for the NBA Draft and hired an agent.
8. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Johnathan Williams and Silas Melson are both graduating. If Killian Tillie returns, Gonzaga is in store for another successful season. Four of their top five leading scorers would return and Mark Few can get another top seed. Making the Final Four isn’t out of the picture again for Gonzaga.
7. North Carolina Tar Heels
Losing Joel Berry and Theo Pinson is going to be tough to deal with early in the season, but UNC has a lot of returning talent. Luke Maye, Cameron Johnson and Kenny Williams all averaged double figures and will have a chance to be leaders of the team next season. The Tar Heels will also have two five star recruits coming in with Nassir Little and Coby White.
6. Michigan Wolverines
This ranking depends on Moritz Wagner coming back to school. He isn’t projected to be a lottery pick and could go back to school as he loves playing for Coach Beilein. With Wagner, Charles Matthews and Zavier Simpson back, they have the necessary pieces to be good again. Jordan Poole will take on a bigger role and the 16th best recruiting class is coming in.
5. Virginia Cavaliers
The sting of being the first one seed to lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament will be there for a while, but they only lost three games all season. Isaiah Wilkins and Devon Hall leaving will hurt, but Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, De’Andre Hunter should be able to lead Virginia to success.
4. Villanova Wildcats
Villanova is now a perennial contender and will be back next year. Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges will likely be in the NBA next season, but there is so much talent returning outside of them. Phil Booth, Donte DiVincenzo, Eric Paschall and Omari Spellman will be stars next season. They also have the 12th best-recruiting class in the country including a five-star point guard in Jahvon Quinerly, who should be able to take over point guard duties from Brunson.
3. Kentucky Wildcats
The majority of Kentucky’s team should be back next season after securing a five seed and reaching the Sweet 16. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Kevin Knox should probably go to the NBA but are reportedly torn on what to do. Even if they leave, the Wildcats will have a great team next season. They have the sixth-best recruiting class in the country to pair with the vast returning talent.
2. Duke Blue Devils
While most, if not all, their starters leaving, Duke will have a lot to replace. Fortunately, they have the top three recruits in the class coming in. All three were highly coveted and hyped. R.J. Barrett, Zion Williamson and Cameron Reddish will have NBA scouts going to Cameron Indoor Stadium often. Five-star Tre Jones was also signed to play point guard. Marques Bolden, Javin DeLaurier and Alex O’Connell are the leading returning players and need to grow up fast.
1. Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas will feel some growing pains while trying to replace Devonte’ Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk. If Malik Newman, Udoka Azabuike and/or Lagerald Vick decide to go pro, Kansas will fall down these rankings a bit. Assuming they all return, Kansas should be one of the best teams in the country. They have those key players returning and the fifth-best recruiting class. To add to it, they have the Lawson twins, who were highly productive at Memphis, transferring in.