We're still a few months away from the start of the college basketball season, but with several teams together on foreign trips and practices opening in just over a month, it's a good time to take another look ahead to the season.
Marvin Bagley III's decision to reclassify to the 2017 class and commitment to Duke has offered the most significant change to the rankings, turning the Blue Devils from the No. 11 team in my last rankings into the No. 1 team. Several other factors have also altered these rankings, which we will touch on below.
25) Butler Bulldogs
Butler will be solid once again next season with three of their top six scorers returning, including Kelan Martin (16.0 ppg). Three four-star prospects will join the mix as well.
24) Missouri Tigers
I have not been as high on Mizzou as many others, but they have the talent to deserve a preseason top 25 ranking following the reclassification of Jontay Porter, Michael Porter Jr.'s brother. Jontay was a top 10 recruit in the 2018 class, and he now joins a loaded recruiting class (Jeremiah Tilmon, Blake Harris, C.J. Roberts) that ranks No. 4 in the country, according to 247sports.
However, those freshmen will be relied on to carry virtually all of the load. The Tigers have won just 27 games over the last three years combined, showcasing the level of talent Missouri has around them. Cuonzo Martin also has a history of underachieving as a head coach, especially during his tenure at Cal.
There are reasons to doubt this group. There is also talent to believe in. Mizzou will be one of the most interesting teams to watch this season.
23) Texas Longhorns
This is roughly where Texas started the season last year - and it didn't go well for them. Now, in the third year of the Shaka Smart era, the Longhorns needs to win. Mo Bamba, the No. 3 recruit in the country, is replacing Jarrett Allen, and Andrew Jones is back after withdrawing from the draft. This will the most talented team Smart has ever had - and he needs to produce if he wants to keep his job.
22) Northwestern Wildcats
Northwestern returns all of the top five scorers from last year's team that made the first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history. The journey to college basketball relevancy is complete. Now, they need to learn how to deal with expectations.
21) UCLA Bruins
UCLA is perhaps the biggest wild card on this list. Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf, Bryce Alford, Ike Anigbogu and Isaac Hamilton are all gone, and the Bruins are relying on the No. 4 recruiting class to replace them. Their performance next year will tell us how much of last year's success was Lonzo Ball and how much was actually Steve Alford.
20) Purdue Boilermakers
Losing Caleb Swanigan will certainly affect the Boilermakers. However, they won't look much different with just Swanigan and backup point guard Spike Albrecht being the only rotation players they lose from last year's team. That experience will come in handy this year.
19) Alabama Crimson Tide
Avery Johnson now has NBA talent to go with the experienced players on Alabama's roster, and the result is sky-high expectations in Tusacloosa. Five-star guards Collin Sexton and John Petty - headliners of the No. 6 recruiting class in the country - are the biggest reason for those expectations - and the Tide also return six of their top seven scorers. Mizzou may be stealing the headlines in the SEC, but Alabama is the up-and-coming team to watch out for.
18) Maryland Terrapins
Much like Purdue, the Terps lost their best and most notable player in Melo Trimble, but Maryland returns everyone else from last year's rotation. Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter will be the core of this season's team and all three will be among the best players in the Big Ten.
17) Xavier Musketeers
Trevon Bluiett decided to return after Xavier's tournament run, meaning the Musketeers are going to be very, very good again next year. Quentin Goodin seems primed for a breakout year now that he is taking over the starting point guard role on a full-time basis. A top 15 recruiting class will add needed depth, too.
16) Seton Hall Pirates
Angel Delgado's return (15.2 ppg, 13.1 rpg last season) put Seton Hall back in the national conversation. They now have all four leading scorers back from last year's team and an impact freshman in Myles Cale. Seton Hall may very well be Villanova's biggest challenger in the Big East.
15) Minnesota Golden Gophers
Richard Pitino's squad had a breakout year, winning 24 games and making the NCAA tournament after winning just eight games in the 2015-16 season. All but one player from that team return in 2017-18, making the Gophers a dark horse pick in the Big Ten.
14) West Virginia Mountaineers
This West Virginia team might be the best Bob Huggins has had in Morgantown with Jevon Carter, Esa Ahmad and Daxter Miles all returning. They were poised to be a top 10 team, but Ahmad is facing a lengthy suspension that could keep him out for half the season. Expect freshman forward Derek Culver (No. 70 overall prospect) to play a big role for the Mountaineers during that suspension.
13) Cincinnati Bearcats
Troy Caupain is gone for Cincinnati, and it'll be hard for the Bearcats to replace their leader. However, they do get four of their other top five scorers back, and Sacred Heart transfer Cane Broome (23.1 ppg and Northeast Conference Player of the Year in 2015-16) should give them a desperately needed offensive weapon. This group will be very, very good again - although they aren't the favorites in the AAC.
12) Miami Hurricanes
The reason for optimism in Coral Gables - Miami returns six of their top eight scorers from last season and welcome five-star shooting guard and projected lottery pick Lonnie Walker. The bad news? Walker suffered a torn meniscus in July. He should be back for the start of the start of the season but should be limited early. Assuming he returns to form, this team will be scary.
11) North Carolina Tar Heels
The champs will remain among the top teams in the country next year, but they will have a very different look. Luke Maye as their only proven big man, meaning the Heels will have to revert to a much more perimeter-oriented attack. They return five of their top nine scorers and Joel Berry is one of the favorites to win National Player of the Year.
10) USC Trojans
USC doesn't lose any key players from last year's team that made a small tournament run, and they only got stronger thanks to the arrivals of Duke transfer Derryck Thornton and four-star shooting guard Charles O'Bannon Jr. They'll be the biggest threat to Arizona in the Pac-12.
9) Florida Gators
Florida remains a program on the rise under head coach Mike White, and KeVaughn Allen is the preseason favorite to win SEC Player of the Year. Five of their top eight scorers return from last year's Elite 8 team and are joined by another quality recruiting class. This year, the Gators have Final Four aspirations.
8) Villanova Wildcats
The best era of Villanova basketball isn't over despite the departures of Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins. Phil Booth is back after missing all of last season due to injury and star 2016 recruit Omari Spellman will make his debut after being academically ineligible last year. Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo are also poised for breakout seasons, setting the Wildcats up for a fifth straight Big East title.
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7) Louisville Cardinals
This is the most experienced team Rick Pitino has had at Louisville since they won the national championship in 2013. Quinten Snider, Deng Adel, Anas Mahmoud and V.J. King all return and are capable of being first-team All-ACC selections. Don't be shocked if they win the conference for the first time.
6) Wichita State Shockers
I really love this Wichita team. They went 31-5 this past year and literally have everyone back from their 10-man rotation. All 10 guys. Star point guard Landry Shamet suffered a stress fracture that could cause him to miss some time, but he said he'll miss "very little" of the season, if any at all. They are going to be at the top of polls all season long and are the favorite to win the AAC in their first year in the conference.
5) Kentucky Wildcats
You expected Kentucky to take a step back? The nation's top recruiting class consists of seven five-star prospects plus Hamidou Diallo (who enrolled in January and decided to return to UK after testing draft waters), six of whom rank in the top 30 nationally and will form a majority of UK's starting lineup. Joined by Wenyen Gabriel, the Wildcats will again have one of the most athletic and versatile teams in the country. Experience and perimeter shooting are obvious questions surrounding this team they'll have to address.
4) Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas is another team that loses a lot of production (Frank Mason III, Josh Jackson, Landen Lucas), but the Jayhawks are primed to be one of the best teams in the country again. Devonte' Graham, Svi Mykhailuk, Lagerald Vick and Udoka Azubuike all return, joined by five-star forward Billy Preston and former five-star recruit and Mississippi State transfer Malik Newman. Kansas will be deep and talented again - and could be even better if they land and get a waiver for Mitchell Robinson.
3) Michigan State Spartans
This past season was disappointing for Michigan State because of their struggles with all of their talented freshmen. The good news? That entire group went back, including Miles Bridges (preseason favorite for National Player of the Year) - and they won't be freshmen anymore.
UNLV transfer Ben Carter will finally be able to contribute, and their frontcourt will be improved thanked to a healthy Gavin Schilling, five-star freshman Jaren Jackson and four-star Xavier Tillman. Tom Izzo could lead this group to the national championship.
2) Arizona Wildcats
When Rawle Alkins withdrew from the NBA Draft and five-star commit Emmanuel Akot reclassified to the 2017 class, the Wildcats emerged as one of a handful of national championship favorites. Pac-12 Player of the Year favorite Allonzo Trier leads this extremely talented group, who added the nation's No. 2 recruit in DeAndre Ayton in a top-three recruiting class. The fact that a projected top four pick is the final aspect mentioned tells you how good Arizona is going to be.
1) Duke Blue Devils
I was very down on Duke's chances in 2017-18 before Bagley's commitment, but now, they are clearly the No. 1 team in the country. He fills their huge need for versatility on the wing and is the perfect big for Duke's projected three-man backcourt of Grayson Allen and five-star recruits Gary Trent Jr. and Trevon Duval. Adding the projected No. 1 pick to an already talented roster makes the Blue Devils the team to beat.