The way-too-early men's college basketball top 25

Krysten Peek
·16-min read

Gonzaga might have gone 31-1 and lost to Baylor in the title game, but Mark Few and staff are already loaded with talent for next year. The Zags will likely lose their starting perimeter players but are gaining a five-star point guard Hunter Salis and are in good shape to land the No. 1 player in the country, Chet Holmgren. The new transfer rule has created new postseason chaos for college basketball with over 1,300 players in the transfer portal. Will bluebloods Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina bounce back next year? What about UCLA adding to the group that made a Final Four run?

Here’s a look at the way-too-early college basketball top 25 rankings for the 2021-22 season.

1. Gonzaga

Leaving: SG Corey Kispert, PG Aaron Cook

Likely gone: PG Jalen Suggs, SG Joel Ayayi

50/50: SG Andrew Nembhard, PF Drew Timme

Coming back: SG Julian Strawther, PG Dominick Harris, SG Martynas Arlauskas, PF Anton Watson, PF Ben Gregg, PF Pavel Zakharov, C Oumar Ballo

Adding: PG Hunter Salis (No. 7), PF Kaden Perry (No. 56)

Head coach Mark Few has done an incredible job building an elite program at Gonzaga. This was the first year Few had a one-and-done prospect in Jalen Suggs and the mix of a superstar talent surrounded by experienced players work. The Zags might be losing perimeter players, but guards Dominick Harris and Julian Strawther were both top-100 recruits in high school. Gonzaga is also the favored school for Holmgren, and possibly North Carolina transfer Walker Kessler.

2. Michigan

Leaving:

 PG Mike Smith, SG Isaiah Livers, SG Eli Brooks, SG Chaundee Brown, C Austin Davis

Likely gone: SF Franz Wagner

Coming back: C Hunter Dickinson, PF Brandon Johns, SG Jace Howard, SG Zeb Jackson, SF Terrance Williams

Adding: SF Caleb Houston (No. 8), PF Moussa Diabate (No. 26), SG Kobe Bufkin (No. 49), PG Frankie Collins (No. 67), SG Isaiah Barnes (No. 102), PF Will Tschetter (No. 133)

Juwan Howard was named Coach of the Year after only two seasons at Michigan. It’s clear his players have bought in early to what he’s trying to build there, and Howard and his staff have done excellent on the recruiting trail too. Michigan has the No. 1 recruiting class coming in next year led by 6-foot-8 wing Caleb Houston.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MARCH 28: Head coach Juwan Howard of the Michigan Wolverines  talks with players during a time out against the Florida State Seminoles in the Sweet Sixteen round of the 2021 NCAA Division I Mens Basketball Tournament held at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 28, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Head coach Juwan Howard of the Michigan Wolverines talks with players (Photo by Jack Dempsey/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

3. Ohio State

Leaving: SG Musa Jallow (transfer), SG CJ Walker, PF Kyle Young, PG Jimmy Sotos

Coming back: PG Duane Washington Jr., PF E.J. Liddell, SF Justice Sueing, SF Justin Ahrens, SF Zed Key, PG Meechie Johnson, SG Eugene Brown III

Adding: SF Malaki Branham (No. 41), PF Kalen Etzler (No. 144)

There is a chance Washington and Liddell could test the waters of the NBA this year but with how deep this draft class is, they’ll probably elect to return for one more season. If they return to Columbus, Ohio State will be one of the most experienced teams in the Big Ten returning a good number of players that won the Big Ten tournament and got a 2-seed in the NCAA men’s tournament.

4. Maryland

Leaving: C Chol Marial (transfer), SG Darryl Morsell, PF Galin Smith

Coming back: SG Aaron Wiggins, PG Eric Ayala, SF Donta Scott, SG Hakim Hart, SF Jairus Hamilton

Adding: PG Fatts Russell (transfer), C Qudus Wahab (transfer), SF Ike Cornish (No. 85), PF Julian Reese (No. 88)

Maryland has one of the most athletic backcourts in the country with Ayala and Wiggins. They lacked size in the lane this past season but will add that with Georgetown transfer Qudua Wahab and incoming freshman Julian Reese.

5. Purdue

Leaving: SF Aaron Wheeler (transfer), C Emmanuel Dowuona (transfer)

Coming back: SG Jaden Ivey, PF Trevion Williams, SG Sasha Stefanovic, C Zach Edey, SG Eric Hunter Jr., SG Brandon Newman, SG Mason Gillis

Adding: PF Trey Kaufman-Renn (No. 30), C Caleb Furst (No. 42)

Ivey scored the most points out of any Big Ten freshmen in the tournament when he had 26 points in a loss to North Texas. All five starters are returning and the Boilermakers are adding two top-50 recruits in Kaufman-Renn and Furst.

6. UCLA

Leaving: SF Chris Smith, PF Jalen Hill

Might leave: SG Johnny Juzang

Coming back: SG Jaime Jaquez, PG Tyger Campbell, SG Jules Bernard, PF Cody Riley, SG David Singleton, SF Jake Kyman, PF Mac Etienne, SG Jaylen Clark

Adding: SF Peyton Watson (No. 14), SG Will McClendon (No. 38)

Juzang might get the itch to leave college early after his performance in the NCAA men’s tournament, but he would be better off returning and getting stronger, working on his handle a little more next season and building on what the team did this year. Mick Cronin and staff landed the highest recruit since taking the job at UCLA in 6-foot-9 wing Watson. He’ll most likely only be in Westwood for one year so this could be the year UCLA runs the Pac-12 from start to finish.

7. Florida State

Leaving: SG Nathanael Jack (transfer), SG MJ Walker, SG RayQuan Evans

Likely gone: SF Scottie Barnes, PF RaiQuan Gray

Coming back: PG Anthony Polite, C Balsa Koprivica, SF Malik Osborne, SG Sardaar Calhoun

Adding: Caleb Mills (transfer), SF Matthew Cleveland (No. 23), PG Jalen Warley (No. 27), C John Butler (No. 59), C Naheem McLeod

Leonard Hamilton and his staff have done a great job at reloading talent every season in the last four years. This season is no different as they lose a potential lottery pick in Barnes and gain five-star wing Matthew Cleveland. The Seminoles have the best home record out of any Power 5 conference since 2018 (43-2) and with Polite and Koprivica returning, look for FSU to build on that record.

8. Baylor

Leaving: SG MaCio Teague, PF Mark Vital

Likely gone: SG Davion Mitchell, PG Jared Butler

Coming back: SG Adam Flagler, SF Matthew Mayer, PF Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua

Adding: Dain Dainja (redshirt), SF Kendall Brown (No. 16), SG Langston Love (No. 53), PF Jeremy Sochan

Baylor won its first national championship in school history and there are three key players returning next year that were instrumental in the historic run this past season. Yes, the Bears will lose the dominating backcourt of Teague, Mitchell and Butler, but Baylor has some talent coming in next season led by five-star recruit Kendall Brown.

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - APRIL 05: Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua #23 of the Baylor Bears plays in the confetti after his team's win against the Gonzaga Bulldogs in the National Championship game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium on April 05, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)
Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua #23 of the Baylor Bears (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

9. Alabama

Leaving: SG John Petty, SF Herbert Jones, C Jordan Bruner, PF Alex Reese

Coming back: SG Jaden Shackelford, PG Jahvon Quinerly, SG Josh Primo, SG Keon Ellis, PF Juwan Gary

Adding: PG JD Davison (No. 13), C Charles Bediako (No. 29), SF Jusaun Holt (No. 87), PF Langston Wilson

If Quinerly and Shackelford continue to play as well as they did at the end of the season, Alabama will be the team to beat in the SEC next year. Nate Oats has proven he can get it done on the recruiting trail too, bringing in one of the most exciting players in the open court (Davison) and some much needed defensive presence in Bediako.

10. Kansas

Leaving: SG Marcus Garrett, PF Mitch Lightfoot, SG Tyon Grant-Foster (transfer), SF Tristan Enaruna (transfer)

Might leave: SG Ochai Agbaji

Coming back: C David McCormack, SF Jalen Wilson, SG Christian Braun, SG Bryce Thompson, PG Dajuan Harris Jr.

Adding: PF Cam Martin (transfer), PF K.J. Adams (No. 21), PF Zach Clemence (No. 35) , PG Bobby Pettiford (No. 115), PF Sydney Curry

Bill Self signed a lifetime contract at Kansas and will need this group to turn things around after an embarrassing exit in the men’s tournament. The Jayhawks are returning most of the team and will get Thompson back next year after sitting out with an injury. Look for Pettiford to see early minutes at the point guard position next season.

11. Duke

Leaving: PF Jaemyn Brakefield (transfer), PG Jordan Goldwire, SF Jalen Johnson

Likely gone: PF Matthew Hurt

Coming back: SG Wendell Moore, PG Jeremy Roach, SG DJ Steward, C Mark Williams, SF Joey Baker, PF Henry Coleman III

Adding: PF Paolo Banchero (No. 3), SF A.J. Griffin (No. 6), SG Trevor Keels (No. 20)

Duke is looking to bounce back after one of the worst seasons in recent memory. The good news is that the team isn’t losing much. The even better news is who is coming in next year. Banchero is a 6-foot-10 versatile power forward who can bang down low and also step outside and knock down shots in a pick-and-pop situation. Adding five-stars Griffin and Keels isn’t a bad thing either, as Duke will have a nice balance of returning players and new talent coming in next season.

12. Villanova

Leaving: SF Cole Swider (transfer), SF Jermaine Samuels, PF Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree

Likely gone: PF Jeremiah Robinson-Earl

Coming back: PG Collin Gillespie, SG Justin Moore, SG Caleb Daniels, SF Brandon Slater, PF Eric Dixon, SG Bryan Antoine, PG Chris Arcidiacono, PF Trey Patterson

Adding: SF Jordan Longino (No. 40), C Nnanna Njoku (No. 74), PG Angelo Brizzi (No. 125)

All eyes will be on if Gillespie elects to return next year after suffering an MCL tear late in the season. Villanova will be vulnerable down low with everything running through Robinson-Earl late in the season, but Jay Wright does a great job every year at getting the most out of his players and Dixon could be the one to fill that void in the post next season.

13. Michigan State

Leaving: PG Rocket Watts (transfer), SG Josh Langford

Likely gone: SF Aaron Henry

Coming back: SF Joey Hauser, PF Gabe Brown, SF Malik Hall, SG Foster Loyer, PF Marcus Bingham Jr., PG A.J. Hoggard

Adding: PG Tyson Walker (transfer), SG Max Christie (No. 22), PG Jaden Akins (No. 47), SF Pierre Brooks (No. 68)

Tom Izzo is getting a decent amount of talent back next year with Houser, Brown and Hall. Incoming freshman Max Christie might add the star power they need to get back to the top of the Big Ten.

14. Arkansas

Leaving: SG Desi Sills (transfer), PF Justin Smith, SG Jalen Tate, SF Vance Jackson

Likely gone: SG Moses Moody

Coming back: SG JD Notae, SG Davonte Davis, C Connor Vanover, PF Jaylin Williams

Adding: SG Au’Diese Toney (transfer), SF Kamani Johnson (transfer), SG Chance Moore (No. 113), PF Akol Mawein

It might look like the Razorbacks are losing a lot in potential lottery pick Moses Moody and three seniors, but don’t underestimate Eric Musselman in recruiting transfers from other schools. Arkansas will reload and be just as athletic and full of shooters as it was last season.

15. Syracuse

Leaving: SF Kadary Richmond (transfer), PF Robert Braswell (transfer), PF John Bol Ajak (transfer), PF Marek Dolezaj, C Bourama Sidibe

Coming back: SG Buddy Boeheim, SF Quincy Guerrier, SG Alan Griffin, SG Joseph Girard, PF Woody Newton, C Jesse Edwards, C Frank Anselem

Adding: SF Cole Swider (transfer), SG Symir Torrence (transfer), SF Benny Williams (No. 15)

Buddy Boeheim has shown the nation how well he can shoot and head coach Jim Boeheim will continue to wreak havoc on teams with the zone defense. The Orange also added five-star Williams and key transfers in Swider (Villanova) and Torrence (Marquette). There’s no way Syracuse finishes 8th in the ACC again next year.

Syracuse's Buddy Boeheim (35) and Marek Dolezaj (21) in action during the second half of a second-round game against West Virginia in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Sunday, March 21, 2021, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Syracuse's Buddy Boeheim (35) and Marek Dolezaj (21) (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

16. Houston

Leaving: SG Caleb Mills (transfer), PG DeJon Jarreau, PF Justin Gorham, SF Fabian White, PF Brison Gresham

Likely gone: SG Quentin Grimes

Coming back: SG Marcus Sasser, PG Tramon Mark, SG Cameron Tyson, PF Reggie Chaney

Adding: C Josh Carlton (transfer), C Ja’Vier Francis (No. 110), SF Ramon Walker, PF Robbie Armbrester

Houston lost a chunk of the core talent that made a Final Four run but still have value in Sasser on the perimeter and Chaney down low. Even with the loss of Grimes (most likely to the draft) and Jarreau, the Cougars will still be the team to beat in the AAC.

17. Oregon

Leaving: SG Addison Patterson (transfer), SF Chandler Lawson (transfer), PG Will Johnson (transfer), SF Chris Duarte, SF LJ Figueroa, PF Eugene Omoruyi

Coming back: PG Will Richardson, PF Eric Williams Jr., C N’Faly Dante, SG Aaron Estrada, SG Jalen Terry (Fr.), PF Franck Kepnang

Adding: C Nathan Bittle (No. 18)

Oregon went 11-1 when Richardson returned to the team this year after a thumb injury kept him sidelined for two months. He is the floor general this team needs and will pair nicely in the pick-and-roll with five-star Bittle coming in next year.

18. Kentucky

Leaving: Devin Askew (transfer) Cam’Ron Fletcher (transfer), SG B.J. Boston, SG Terrence Clarke, C Olivier Sarr

Likely gone: C Isaiah Jackson

Coming back: PG Davion Mintz, SF Keion Brooks, SG Dontaie Allen, PF Jacob Toppin, PF Lance Ware

Adding: C Oscar Tshiebwe (transfer), PG Kellan Grady (transfer), C Daimion Collins (No. 10), SF Bryce Hopkins (No. 28), PG Nolan Hickman (No. 39)

Big Blue Nation wants to forget last season ever happened and wipe the slate clean. That’s exactly what’s happening with star freshmen Boston, Clarke and Jackson all likely leaving for the NBA and point guard Askew and forward Fletcher transferring. That’s almost the entire recruiting class from last year. Kentucky will get some rim protection from West Virginia transfer Tshiebwe and freshman Collins next season and hopefully Allen or Hopkins can provide some outside shooting for the Wildcats.

19. Arizona

Leaving: PG Jemarl Baker Jr. (transfer), SG Terrell Brown Jr. (transfer); PF Ira Lee (transfer)

Coming back: PG James Akinjo, PF Azuolas Tubelis, SG Bennedict Mathurin, PF Jordan Brown, SG Kerr Kriisa, C Christian Koloko, SF Dalen Terry

Adding: SG Shane Nowell (No. 86), SG Shane Dezonie (No. 81), PG K.J. Simpson (No. 89)

Arizona has a veteran point guard returning in Akinjo, and look for sophomore Mathurin to have a breakout year next season. The 6-foot-7 shooting guard averaged 18.8 points and shot 41% from 3-point range in just 25 minutes per game as a freshman. He’ll likely be the No. 1 option in the offense next season.

20. West Virginia

Leaving: SF Emmitt Matthews Jr. (transfer), PG Jordan McCabe (transfer), SG Taz Sherman, SF Gabe Osabuohien

Likely gone: PG Miles McBride

Coming back: PF Derek Culver, SG Sean McNeil, SF Jalen Bridges, PF Isaiah Cottrell, PG Kedrian Johnson

Adding: PF Dimon Carrigan (transfer), PG Seth Wilson, SG Kobe Johnson

There’s a lot to like about the young players coming back to West Virginia next year. Both Bridges and Cottrell were highly rated recruits in high school and will enter next season with confidence after getting one year under their belt. Losing McBride to the NBA will hurt but there’s still time to pick up an experienced player in the transfer market.

21. North Carolina

Leaving: C Walker Kessler (transfer), PF Sterling Manley (transfer), PF Garrison Brooks, SG Andrew Platek

Likely gone: C Day’Ron Sharpe

Coming back: PF Armando Bacot, PG Caleb Love, PG RJ Davis, SG Kerwin Walton, SF Leaky Black, SG Anthony Harris, SG Puff Johnson

Adding: SG D’Marco Dunn (No. 55), SF Dontrez Styles (No. 69)

New head coach Hubert Davis will do everything he can to keep more players from entering the transfer portal. North Carolina needs to pick up some help in the post before the season next year but the backcourt looks solid with both Love and Davis returning for their sophomore season.

CHAPEL HILL, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 24: Caleb Love #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels moves the ball against the Marquette Golden Eagles during their game at the Dean Smith Center on February 24, 2021 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Marquette won 83-70. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Caleb Love #2 of the North Carolina Tar Heels (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

22. Connecticut

Leaving: SG Brendan Adams (transfer), PF Josh Carlton (transfer), C Javonte Brown (transfer), SF Isaiah Whaley, PF Tyler Polley

Likely gone: PG James Bouknight

Coming back: SG R.J. Cole, SG Tyrese Martin, PF Adama Sanogo, PG Jalen Gaffney, SG Andre Jackson, PF Akok Akok, SF Richie Springs

Adding: SG Jordan Hawkins (No. 45), PG Rahsool Diggins (No. 46), C Samson Johnson (No. 77)

The Huskies lost their best player in Bouknight but have one of the best and most balanced recruiting classes coming in with three top-80 players. Villanova will still run the Big East, but this UConn team has all the talent to be a close second next season.

23. Belmont

Leaving: PG Mitch Listau (transfer)

Coming back: C Nick Muszynski, PG Luke Smith, SG JaCobi Wood, PG Grayson Murphy, SG Ben Sheppard, SF Caleb Hollander, C Even Brauns, SG EJ Bellinger, SG Tate Pierson, PF Frank Jakubicek

Adding: SG Will Richard

Head coach Casey Alexander is returning all five starters that went 26-4 last season. Five players averaged double-digit points and were led by center Muszynski who finished the season averaging 15 points per game. There’s a lot of experience on this team with five incoming seniors that play a lot of minutes.

24. Tennessee

Leaving: PF John Fulkerson, SF Yves Pons, SF E.J. Anosike

Likely gone: PG Keon Johnson, SG Jaden Springer

Coming back: SG Victor Bailey Jr., PG Josiah-Jordan James, SG Davonte Gaines, PF Olivier Nkamhoua, C Uros Plavsic, PG Santiago Vescovi

Adding: Justin Powell (transfer) PG Kennedy Chandler (No. 11), SG Jahmai Mashack (No. 52)

The Vols lost two great freshman guards to the NBA draft in Johnson and Springer but turned around and gained a deadly backcourt duo in Chandler and Mashack. Chandler is one of the best point guards in high school basketball and Mashack is the real sleeper on this team. He’s a tough defender who also has great length and control off his jump shot.

25. Virginia

Leaving: PG Casey Morsell (transfer), SF Justin McKoy (transfer), SG Jabri Abdur-Rahim (transfer), SF Sam Hauser, PF Jay Huff, SG Tomas Woldetensae

Coming back: SF Trey Murphy, PG Kihei Clark, PG Reece Beekman, SG Kody Stattmann, PF Kadin Shedrick, C Francisco Caffaro, SG Carson McCorkle

Adding: SG Taine Murray

This is a very underwhelming returning roster but never underestimate what Tony Bennett can add to this team in the offseason. Virginia won the championship three years ago and it doesn’t take much for Bennett to get back to the defensive powerhouse they have been over the years. 6-foot-9 wing Trey Murphy is due for a breakout year and he could very well be the leader this young Virginia team needs to stay inside the top 25 next season.

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