Though we just put the cap on the 2016-17 season with the North Carolina Tar Heels claiming their sixth national championship, 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. Here's an early look at next season's college basketball landscape with our Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings:
25) South Carolina Gamecocks
Losing Sindarius Thornwell is as big of a blow as anyone will suffer this offseason. We saw in the NCAA Tournament just how much Thornwell meant to the Gamecocks team and to the program. However, all is not lost. That defense will still be deadly, and P.J. Dozier is ready to step up and fill that lead role (averaged 20.8 ppg in games without Thornwell this past season).
24) Northwestern Wildcats
The Wildcats were a great story, making the tournament for the first time in program history. Next year, expectations will be higher as they return all of their top five scorers. How will they handle that?
23) Butler Bulldogs
Butler will be solid one 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.
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22) Miami Hurricanes
The Canes should return six players from their eight-man rotation, and while losing Davon Reed hurts, Bruce Brown appears ready to have a bigger role in the offense. Incoming five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker will give them a real high-quality player.
21) Alabama Crimson Tide
You're going to be hearing a lot about a probable breakout season from Alabama next year, so go ahead and get used to it. Five-star guards Collin Sexton and John Petty - headliners of the No. 4 recruiting class in the country - are the biggest reason why, and Sexton has all the makings of a star. Considering the Tide also return six of their top seven scorers, and you have a team that will be very, very dangerous.
20) Saint Mary's Gaels
Saint Mary's proved they weren't a fluke this past year, and they only lose two rotation players from that team. They've become a program that just keeps re-loading and will be ranked throughout the season again.
19) Minnesota Golden Gophers
Richard Pitino's squad had a breakout year and won 24 games and made the NCAA tournament after winning just eight games in the 2015-16 season. With only one senior leaving the team, Minnesota will be one of the top teams in the Big Ten.
18) UCLA Bruins
This spot is far from secure for UCLA - we really have no idea what to expect from them. Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton are all gone, and the Bruins are relying on the No. 2 recruiting class to replace them. Their performance next year will tell us how much of this year's success was Lonzo Ball and how much was actually Steve Alford.
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17) Xavier Musketeers
I'm going to assume - for now - that Trevon Bluiett will be back since he's not guaranteed to be a first-round pick. If that happens, Xavier is going to be very good again next year. J.P. Macura will definitely be back as well, and Quentin Goodin seems primed for a breakout year after filling in for Edmond Sumner and playing very well in the tournament. Four four-star prospects will add needed depth, too.
16) Maryland Terrapins
Melo Trimble's decision to go to the NBA was curious, but Maryland returns everyone else from their rotation. They will be one of the top teams in the Big Ten again.
15) 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 needed offensive weapon. They'll be at the top of the AAC again.
14) Villanova Wildcats
It's not going to be easy to replace Josh Hart (who may be the best player in Villanova history) and Kris Jenkins. However, guard Phil Booth is back after missing all of last season due to injury and big man Omari Spellman will make his debut after being academically ineligible. Good years from those two, along with projected breakout years from Jalen Brunson and Donte DiVincenzo, may lead Villanova to a fifth-straight Big East title.
13) West Virginia Mountaineers
Four key players won't be back for the Mountaineers next year, headlined by big man Nathan Adrian and point guard Tarik Phillip, but WVU does return their three best players in Jevon Carter, Esa Ahmad and Daxter Miles. Look for freshman forward Derek Culver (No. 70 overall prospect) to make an instant impact as well.
12) Virginia Cavaliers
London Perrantes is graduating while Marial Shayok and Darius Thompson are both transferring, all of whom played big roles for the Cavaliers this year. UVA does return six other players who saw significant playing time and head coach Tony Bennett will have Virginia among the best teams in the country again next year. Freshmen Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome are ready to assume bigger roles with the team and should flourish.
11) Duke Blue Devils
Duke got lucky Marques Bolden decided not to transfer, or else the Blue Devils would have been in deep trouble. Bolden and incoming freshman Wendell Carter (No. 4 overall prospect) will be Duke's only big men, and assuming both Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard return (though at least one of them is expected to leave), the rest of the rotation will consist of five shooting guards. They are still in the mix for five-star prospects Trevon Duval and Kevin Knox, but this will be a short rotation full of holes.
10) Florida Gators
Florida remains a program on the rise under head coach Mike White, and KeVaughn Allen will go into next season as perhaps the preseason favorite to win SEC Player of the Year. With a top 10 recruiting class joining a group returning five of their top eight scorers, the Gators will be looking to improve on this year's Elite 8 finish.
9) Oregon Ducks
Oregon's place on this list is entirely contingent on who stays and who goes pro. Dillon Brooks, Tyler Dorsey and Jordan Bell all have serious decisions to make about their futures. However, with none of them projected to go in the first round, I'm assuming they'll all return until they say otherwise. And, if all of them are back, they will be one of the best teams in the country again.
8) Michigan State Spartans
This past season was disappointing for Michigan State because of their struggles with all of their talented freshmen. Miles Bridges is expected to enter the NBA Draft, but the good news is that the rest of those talented freshmen will be back - and they won't be freshmen anymore. Tom Izzo's squad returns everyone else other than Eron Harris and Alvin Harris.
7) Gonzaga Bulldogs
The national runner-up will be very, very good against next year. Przemek Karnowski and both Jordan Matthews definitely gone, and all focus in Spokane is on the future of Zach Collins. Some are projecting the former McDonald's All-American to be a lottery pick, but he's not even projected to be drafted in DraftExpress' latest mock draft. Even if he leaves, Nigel Williams-Goss Johnathan Williams and Josh Perkins form a very good core. Collins returns and the Zags could creep into the top five.
6) North Carolina Tar Heels
The champs will be very good again next year, but they will have a very different look. Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks are both gone, leaving Tony Bradley and Luke Maye as their only proven big men. Justin Jackson is also likely headed to the NBA, but Joel Berry is expected to be back to lead the Heels. In total, they return six of their top nine scorers.
5) Wichita State Shockers
Wichita went 31-5 this past year and literally have everyone back from their 10-man rotation. All 10 guys. They are going to be at the top of polls all season long.
4) Louisville Cardinals
Mangok Mathiang is Louisville's only certain impactful departure, and Rick Pitino is bringing in the nation's No. 7 recruiting class. If Donovan Mitchell returns, Louisville may jump to the top of the rankings. He's expected to leave, but the Cardinals still have so much talent returning, headlined by Quinten Snider, Deng Adel, Anas Mahmoud and V.J. King.
3) Kentucky Wildcats
Yes, the Wildcats will have to replace Malik Monk, De'Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo, but no one does that better than Kentucky. The nation's top recruiting class consists of five five-star prospects, all of whom rank in the top 24 nationally and will form a majority of UK's starting lineup. With Isaiah Briscoe, Wenyen Gabriel and Isaac Humphries also returning, Kentucky will have a deep team next year.
2) Kansas Jayhawks
Usually, when you lose the National Player of the Year (Frank Mason), a top five pick (Josh Jackson) and your only big man that saw minutes this past season (Landen Lucas), there is cause for concern. However, the Jayhawks are primed to be one of the best teams in the country again. Devonte' Graham, Svi Mykhailuk, Lagerald Vick, Carlton Bragg and Udoka Azubuike all return, and will be 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.
1) Arizona Wildcats
Lauri Markkanen and Kadeem Allen are gone, but everyone else is expected to return from this year's 32-win team, including star guards Allonzo Trier, Rawle Alkins and Kobi Simmons. They also add the nation's top recruit in DeAndre Ayton in a top-three recruiting class. This will be the most talented team Sean Miller has ever had at Arizona.