Though we just put the cap on the 2017-18 season with the Villanova Wildcats claiming their second national title in three years, there's plenty of reasons to be excited for next year thanks to an excellent freshman class and numerous big names that are expected to return to school.
There's a familiar name at the top of these rankings thanks to Duke's incoming recruiting class, which is the No. 1 recruiting class in the country yet again. They became the first school ever to land the top three overall recruits in the country in R.J. Barrett, Cameron Reddish, and Zion Williamson (along with the top-rated point guard in Tre Jones) - and it's why they are No. 1. They're going to be the biggest story in college basketball next season one way or the other.
Of course, Duke has been the preseason No. 1 team each of the last two years and wasn't able to fulfill that ranking. So, which teams are also looking ahead to big years in 2019? Here's an early look at next season's college basketball landscape with our Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings:
25) West Virginia Mountaineers
Yes, West Virginia loses a program-defining player in Jevon Carter and another four-year player in Daxter Miles, but everyone else is back from this year's team - including perhaps the best shot blocker in the country in Sagaba Konate.
24) Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech's place on this list is completely contingent upon Zhaire Smith returning to school. He'll be a lottery pick in the 2019 draft should he come back to school, though he's projected to be picked anywhere from the lottery to the middle of the second round in this year's draft.
As of now, we'll operate on the premise that Smith is returning. He and Jarrett Culver will lead a Red Raiders team without Keenan Evans, and while they likely won't repeat their Elite Eight run, those two will keep the program relevant nationally.
23) Mississippi State Bulldogs
Mississippi State? Really? The Bulldogs don't lose any significant pieces from a team that went 25-12 and they have a top 10 recruiting class coming in. Expect brothers Quinndary and Nick Weatherspoon to be All-SEC performers.
22) Louisville Cardinals
Louisville fans should be ready for a bounce-back year in new head coach Chris Mack's first season. Quentin Snider and Anas Mahmoud are the only players that depart from last year's team and Mack should get the most out of a very talented roster. Expect big years from V.J. King and Deng Adel.
21) Loyola-Chicago Ramblers
You thought you were done with the Ramblers?!? As the great Lee Corso would say, not so fast my friend. Starters Donte Ingram and Ben Richardson - along with sixth man Aundre Jackson - won't be back but Clayton Kuster, Marques Townes, and Cameron Krutwig are more than capable of carrying this team.
Look for them to follow the Wichita State path as they will enter 2018-19 as the heavy favorites to repeat as Missouri Valley champs.
20) UCLA Bruins
UCLA will be without their two best players from this year's team next season with senior Thomas Welsh graduation and Aaron Holiday declaring for the NBA Draft, yet this is a talented young team that welcomes another top-five recruiting class headlined by five-star center Moses Brown and four other top 72 commits.
Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands figure to be their best players. Will someone step up as a leader?
19) Kansas State Wildcats
K-State's Elite Eight run was a major surprise in the NCAA Tournament, but they won't be able to sneak up on anyone next season. The Wildcats return all of their rotation players and Dean Wade, their leading scorer who missed almost all of the tournament due to a foot injury, will be healthy. If any team is going to end KU's streak atop the Big 12 next season, it will be their in-state rival.
18) Maryland Terrapins
Maryland would've been a top-10 team had versatile forward Justin Jackson not left for the NBA, but they'll still be one of the better teams in the Big Ten without him. Anthony Cowan, Kevin Huerter, and Bruno Fernando, their three leading scorers from last season, all figure to be back and will be joined by top-40 recruits Jalen Smith and Aaron Wiggins. Can head coach Mark Turgeon finally get the most out of this talented group?
17) LSU Tigers
This LSU team has some similarities to the one that fell short of lofty expectations in the 2015-16 season (though there's no Ben Simmons on next year's team). Tremont Waters was one of the best players you didn't hear about this season during his excellent freshman campaign, averaging 15.9 points and 6.0 assists per game.
He'll be the key player for head coach Will Wade's squad, and they'll be bolstered by a top-five recruiting class headlined by five-star forwards Naz Reid and Emmitt Williams. Expect a breakout season for the Tigers - one that will actually come to fruition - thanks to Wade's ability to maximize the talent he now has.
16) Virginia Tech Hokies
Will Virginia Tech be a consistent top-10 team? Probably not. However, seven of the Hokies’ top eight scorers will be back, including four double-digit scorers. Look for point guard Justin Robinson to be an All-ACC player.
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15) Florida State Seminoles
FSU's Elite Eight run caught almost everyone off guard but raises expectations for next season with seven of their top 10 players returning from that team. Expect the Seminoles to use their depth and size to be one of the country's best defensive teams in 2018-19 - but they need Terance Mann (12.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg) to become a more consistent offensive threat.
14) Florida Gators
Florida will have to replace starting point guard Chris Chiozza but five-star point guard Andrew Nembhard is expected to take over the reins. As long as Jalen Hudson comes back as expected, Egor Koulechov will be the only other departure. Head coach Mike White is counting on KeVaughn Allen and Keith Stone to become more consistent high-level contributors.
13) Michigan State Spartans
Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson are both gone, but barring something unforeseen, everyone else will be back for the Spartans. That means their very good junior core of Cassius Winston, Joshua Langford, and Nick Ward will be carrying them. An incoming class consisting of five four-star recruits will give them depth.
12) Michigan Wolverines
Moe Wagner is likely gone after his performance in this year's tournament and both Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Duncan Robinson are out of eligibility. However, the Wolverines should return everyone else. Zavier Simpson, Jordan Poole, and Charles Matthews will make up one of the best backcourts in the country as John Beilein's squad will be one of the very best in the country again.
11) Oregon Ducks
The Ducks did miss out on the NCAA Tournament this past season but that shouldn't be the case next year. Three of their top five scorers from last year's team return in Payton Pritchard, Troy Brown, and Paul White, and they will welcome the additions of five-stars Bol Bol and Louis King - the headliners of the nation's No. 2 recruiting class. Oregon will be the team to beat in the Pac-12.
10) Villanova Wildcats
We can go ahead and say that both Mikal Bridges (a projected lottery pick) and Jalen Brunson (a projected first-round pick) won't return for their senior seasons, but everyone else figures to be back. Donte DiVincenzo will have no problem stepping into a starting role and three top-50 freshmen, headlined by five-star point guard Jahvon Quinerly, will give Jay Wright's squad even more depth.
Obviously, losing Bridges and Brunson knock the Wildcats down a peg or two - but they'll be the heavy favorites to win the Big East again.
9) Nevada Wolf Pack
Nevada returns all of their major contributors from this season's Sweet 16 run, setting themselves up for another season of success in the Mountain West. They'll also add needed depth with four quality transfers in Tre'Shawn Thurman, Nise Zouzoua, Corey Henson, and Jazz Johnson. Caleb Martin (18.9 ppg, 5.4 rpg) will be a legitimate All-American candidate.
8) Auburn Tigers
Expectations will be raised for Auburn next season as every single rotation player returns from their 26-8 team that made the second round of the NCAA Tournament. They'll also get forward Danjel Purifoy back after he missed all of this past season due to eligibility concerns stemming from the FBI investigation. They will be one of the three favorites in the SEC.
7) Tennessee Volunteers
Tennessee is another one of those SEC favorites as they also figure to get everyone back from last year's team, including SEC Player of the Year Grant Williams. While Rick Barnes' squad won't sneak up on anyone this year, they have the depth and defense to be a top 10/15 team all season long. If someone (likely Williams) steps up as a go-to offensive option for this group, they'll be really dangerous.
6) Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Zags will have to replace some major contributors in Silas Melson and Johnathan Williams but everyone else returns. I expect underclassmen Zach Norvell Jr. and Rui Hachimura will develop into stars next season (along with continued quality play from Killian Tillie) but Gonzaga will go as far as point guard Josh Perkins takes them in his senior season.
5) Kentucky Wildcats
As usual, Kentucky's ranking could change a lot between now and later additions depending on which prospects stay and who enters the NBA Draft, but assuming they only lose their three top-40 players (Kevin Knox, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Hamidou Diallo), the Wildcats will have some talented experience to go with the country's No. 6 recruiting class.
Five-star freshmen Keldon Johnson and Immanuel Quickley could be UK's starting backcourt.
4) North Carolina Tar Heels
Losing a program icon like Joel Berry is going to hurt UNC, but first-team All-ACC performer Luke Maye returns along with fellow starters Cam Johnson and Kenny Williams. Incoming freshman Nassir Little, a top 10 recruit, has the makings of a superstar and should be a lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft.
The development of Seventh Woods, who will take over as the starting point guard for Berry, will be the determining factor for this team's success.
3) Virginia Cavaliers
Yes, you may feel that Virginia is an overrated program that can't win in March given the way their season just finished up, yet the Cavaliers return five of their top eight scorers from this past year's 31-3 team - including their three best players in Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, and DeAndre Hunter.
They'll be doubted all season until they prove themselves next March but they're a group that will likely stay at the top of the polls all season long.
2) Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas will enter next season with expectations of returning to the Final Four. It'll be tough for the Jayhawks to replace Devonte' Graham's leadership/playmaking and Svi Mykhailiuk's shooting, but as long as Malik Newman returns (which has become a big if), Kansas will be fine - especially with five-star guards Quentin Grimes and Devon Dotson entering the fold.
Silvio De Sousa will also be better in his second year and should give significant help to Udoka Azubuike in the frontcourt. McDonald's All-American big man David McCormack will help in that regard, too.
1) Duke Blue Devils
There's a great chance that the Blue Devils start the 2018-19 season ranked No. 1 for the third consecutive year despite losing players like Marvin Bagley, Wendell Carter, and Grayson Allen. Why? That recruiting class has a chance to become one of the iconic groups in college basketball. That's how much talent they have. Duke will be really young again, but they will have the talent to be truly elite.