The CAA has long been known as the “Cinderella” league, but for the seventh straight year the Colonial Athletic Association is the odds on favorite to finish in the top ten in the final NCAA Basketball Poll of the season. The CAA has been consistently ranked in the top five nationally for much of the past decade. After a decade of back-to-back national championship appearances and a record three straight final four appearances, the CAA has been the most successful league in college basketball.
The 2020-21 college basketball season is a long ways off, but the Way-Too-Early Top 25 rankings, which have been updated from their 2018-19 form, are already out. The Kansas Jayhawks, Kentucky Wildcats and Florida State Seminoles lead the way, with Ohio State, Michigan, UCLA, Texas A&M and many other familiar names coming in behind them. What will the basketball landscape look like in just five years?After two months since the season ended, we can all breathe a sigh of relief….. for now. In recent weeks, hundreds of players have transferred to other schools, a dozen ESPN 100 prospects have committed and the list of players participating in the NBA Draft is longer than usual. But after this weekend’s draft deadline, we at least have a rough idea of what the teams will look like for the 2021-22 basketball season. 2 Connected Of course, this feeling won’t last forever. Then there’s the early release deadline in early July, 10 days after the NBA Draft Combine. Up to 7 years old. In July, the Too Early Top 25 prediction will continue to change, perhaps dramatically. Since the last version of the rankings, at 29. In April, Kentucky experienced the largest increase. The Wildcats added two transfers and a five-star defenseman to bolster a team that should be much more balanced and versatile than last season. It’s also hard to imagine John Calipari (or Mike Krzyzewski, for that matter) having two consecutive losing seasons. Kansas moved into the top five with Arizona State transfer Remy Martin, while Michigan and Oregon also moved up in the rankings. Auburn was the only newcomer to the list. On the other hand, Belmont is the only team that has dropped down the rankings to make way for Auburn. Syracuse is no longer in the lineup after Quincy Guerrier entered the transfer portal. Previous : 1 Drew Timm’s announcement that he is returning to Spokane for his junior season instead of entering the NBA draft has Gonzaga confirmed as my first preseason team unless something shocking happens. The Bulldogs went there shortly after the season, awaiting Timm’s return. That’s where they stayed in the second version of the rankings after No. 1 prospect Chet Holmgren went to Gonzaga. Since then, Mark Few has recruited five-star point guard Nolan Hickman (a former Kentucky player) and Rasir Bolton of Iowa State (a Big 12 Conference guard). The Timm decision reinforced this assessment. He enters the season as the favorite to win the Wooden Award after being an All-American in 2020-21. The most important thing for the Zags will be how he does with Holmgren, who could be the favorite to be the first pick in next year’s NBA draft. The perimeter should be dynamic and creative, with playmakers in every corner. Estimated starting grid: Nolan Hickman (#22 on ESPN 100) Andrew Nembhard (9.1 PPG) Hunter Sallis (#14 on ESPN 100) Chet Holmgren (#1 on ESPN 100) Drew Timm (19.0 PPG) Previous : 2 After several years in which Villanova has benefited from the return of players like Omari Spellman and Jeremiah Robinson-Earle, the Wildcats could return this season to the more defense-oriented units of recent years. They’re strong on the perimeter. Collin Gillespie and Jermaine Samuels decided to take advantage of an extra year of playing eligibility by announcing they wanted to play another season under Jay Wright. Justin Moore and Caleb Daniels also return, while Brandon Slater, Brian Antoine, Chris Arcidiacono, Trey Patterson and four-star recruits Jordan Longino and Angelo Brizzi will provide plenty of depth on the outside edge. What happens up front will be key for Villanova. Robinson-Earl and Cole Swider are out and Damir Cosby-Roundtree is injured. That leaves Eric Dixon and Nnanna Njoku as the top two options at a lower level. Dixon played in 21 games as a rookie and showed some good touches late in the season; Njoku is an ESPN 100 prospect. Estimated starting grid: Collin Gillespie (14.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG) Justin Moore (12.9 PPG) Caleb Daniels (9.6 PPG) Jermaine Samuels (12.0 PPG) Eric Dixon (3.0 PPG) Previous : 3 UCLA still has a few things on the line, as the Bruins will have to wait until the retirement date to find out if Johnny Juzang returns to Westwood, and senior Chris Smith surprisingly did not make the preliminary senior list sent to teams late last month. If both return, the Bruins are certainly a contender for the national title. If they both leave, the odds are significantly reduced. If Yuzang returns and Smith leaves, which is probably the most likely scenario, this team is still good enough to return to the Final Four. In this scenario, all five regular players would return to the team, as would Peyton Watson, who could be selected in the top 10 of the draft, and Miles Johnson, a Rutgers alum, who was selected to the Big Ten defensive team. I also don’t think UCLA caught lightning in a bottle in their national semifinal performance. Sure, the Bruins had some luck, but this is a team that was 17-5 overall and 13-3 in the Pac-12 before facing some adversity. Some may be surprised to learn that UCLA finished the season ranked 11th in adjusted efficiency on offense according to KenPom and 46th in defensive efficiency. Cronin’s defense ranked in the top 30 in the last nine years in Cincinnati. So things should improve as he brings in his players. Estimated starting grid: Tyger Campbell (10.2 PPG) Johnny Juzang (15.5 PPG) Jaime Jaquez Jr. (12.1 PPG) Chris Smith (12.6 PPG) Cody Riley (9.8 PPG) Jalen Wilson and David McCormack, along with a number of key newcomers, make up a promising Kansas team. AP Photo/Eric Gay Previous : 8 With the departure of Marcus Garrett, Kansas was only missing a point guard at the point guard position next season. Bill Self knew it, too. First, Self brought in a solid transfer in Joseph Yesufu from Drake, who can run the show and brings speed and athletic ability. But the reason the Jayhawks are higher in the rankings is the transfer of Remy Martin from Arizona State. Martin is probably the best transfer in the game, he’s finished first on the All-Pac-12 team twice and has scored over 19 points in each of the last two seasons. He’s a top player who will add an extra dimension to an attack that was a bit stunted last season. The big question for Kansas will be the status of Ochai Agbaji. Agbaji signed up for the NBA Draft and could potentially choose to keep his name in the player pool. Kansas also added Iowa State veteran Jalen Coleman-Lands as a reserve, just in case. An extension of the Big 12 title series could be in the works. Estimated starting grid: Remy Martin (19.1 PPG at Arizona State) Christian Brown (9.8 PPG) Ochai Agbaji (14.2 PPG) Jalen Wilson (12.1 PPG) David McCormack (13.4 PPG, 6.1 RPG) Previous : 4 So far the season has been positive for the Bucs, who have had no unexpected departures and have added a few proven transfers to bolster the rotation. E.J. Liddell and Dwayne Washington Jr. are both expected to go to the NBA Draft, but may stay in Columbus for another season. If Liddell returns, he could be a preseason All-American and a contender for Big Ten Player of the Year honors. Kyle Young’s decision to take an extra year in the NCAA was important because he brings physicality, stamina and frontcourt experience. Chris Holtmann has also made two important additions to the transfer portal: Jamari Wheeler (Penn State) and Joey Brank (Indiana). Wheeler will have an immediate impact on the defense. The top-35 ranked rookie Malarkey Branham will provide extra points on the outside and be a solid backup plan if Washington keeps his name in the draft. I also expect an increase in the power of the big man Zed Kee. Estimated starting grid: Jamari Wheeler (6.8 PPG at Penn State) Dwayne Washington Jr. (16.4 PPG) Justice Swing (10.7 PPG) E.J. Liddell (16.2 PPG) Kyle Young (8.6 PPG) Previous : 5 Jaden Ivey could be the easiest runner next season. The sophomore was one of the Big Ten’s best defenders during the second half of the season, playing in the final 12 games of the season for the Boilermakers. In that span, he averaged 14.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.4 assists. Ivey finished his first season of college basketball with 26 points and four three-pointers in an NCAA Tournament loss against North Texas. If he can maintain this pace next season, Ivey will form an elite tandem with Trevion Williams, assuming of course that he returns to West Lafayette. Williams is suspended from the NBA draft, but is expected to return. He will be one of the best frontcourt players in the country. Matt Painter returns his top eight scorers from last season and adds two ESPN 100 prospects. Purdue has experience, continuity, great depth and a true leader in Williams. The Boilermakers are a legitimate threat to win the league. Estimated starting grid: Eric Hunter Jr. (8.5 PPG) Jayden Ivey (11.1 PPG) Sasha Stefanovich (9.3 PPG) Mason Gillis (5.2 PPG) Trevion Williams (15.5 PPG, 9.1 RPG) Previous : 6 Last month, eyebrows were raised when Mark Vitale’s name did not appear on the preliminary list of senior players for the NBA Draft. Unfortunately, hopes were not realized when Vital was added a few days later. But he wasn’t expected to return to Waco, so Scott Drew prepared for life without him, Jared Butler, Davion Mitchell and Macio Teague. Drew will only have one starter, big man Flo Tamba, but bench players Matthew Meyer, Adam Flagler and Jonathan Tchamva Tchachua will make the team. Still, he’s attracting plenty of reinforcements, including Arizona’s James Akinjo, provided he gets permission from the NCAA to play immediately. Without Akinjo, these rankings will drop a few places. Five-star striker Kendall Brown could be vying for a place in the starting line-up, as could top-30 aspirant Langston Love. Without an elite backcourt with Butler and Mitchell, there will be some growing pains, but Baylor won’t fall too far behind. Estimated starting grid: James Akinjo (15.6 PPG at Arizona) Adam Flagler (9.0 PPG) Kendall Brown (#15 in ESPN 100) Matthew Meyer (8.2 PPG) Jonathan Tchamva Tchachua (6.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG) Previous : 11 Michigan steadily climbs in each edition of the Top 25. The Wolverines entered the offseason with major problems on the defensive line and were prepared to rely heavily on unproven rookies or returners. But Juwan Howard got big news when senior guard Eli Brooks decided to return for another year, giving the Wolverines an experienced, high-level guard who can shoot 3-pointers. And for the point guard position, Howard brought in one of the best transfers in the country, Big South Player of the Year Devante Jones. Jones averaged over 19 points for Coastal Carolina and was a very good playmaker and defender. With Jones and Brooks on the defensive line, all eyes are now on Hunter Dickinson. The sophomore announced last week that he wants to enroll in the NBA draft while still being eligible for college. Dickinson would return to Ann Arbor for another season, but now we have to wait and see. Estimated starting grid: DeVante Jones (19.3 PPG at Coastal Carolina) Eli Brooks (9.5 PPG) Caleb Hostan (#7 in ESPN 100) Brandon Jones Jr. (4.9 PPG) Hunter Dickinson (14.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG) Previous : 19 During the offseason, it became clear that John Calipari was going to make some big changes to the program. When the dust had probably settled, the training and staffing were completely overhauled. Brandon Boston Jr, Olivier Sarr, Isaiah Jackson and Devin Askew are out. Three more transfers and a five-star prospect have arrived. Two assistant coaches are gone, replaced by two Illinois assistants. But the team as a whole is in much better shape than last season. A year ago, the team lacked shots and good playmakers; that problem has been solved. Sahvir Wheeler led the SEC in assists at Georgia, and Tayti Washington was one of the top playmakers at the high school level. Kellan Grady made at least 50 three-pointers in his four seasons at Davidson, and Iowa transfer C.J. Fredrick was arguably the best pure shooter in the gate, making over 46 percent of his three-point attempts. Next season the squad needs to be more balanced, have more depth – and more experience. The return of Davion Mintz could further improve these rankings. Estimated starting grid: Sahvir Wheeler (14.0 PPG, 7.4 APG at Georgia) Tighty Washington (No. 12 in ESPN 100) Kellan Grady (17.1 PPG at Davidson) Keion Brooks Jr. (10.3 PPG, 6.8 RPG) Oscar Tshibwe (8.5 PPG, 7.8 RPG at West Virginia). Previous : 7 Alabama makes the top 10 in the preseason a few months after winning the SEC title? Basketball school! Nate Oates has set Tuscaloosa on fire, and this spring has reflected that momentum. The Crimson Tide signed two transfers: Nimari Burnett, a former five-star player who left Texas Tech midway through the season, and Noah Gourley, a second-team All-Conference player at Furman. They also added a top personality in Charles Bediaco, a top 35 recruit. Four players who started at least nine games are gone, and Jaden Shackleford and Joshua Primo will test the NBA draft waters. Primo is more famous in the NBA right now, as he was the youngest player in college basketball last season and is in the top 40 of ESPN’s rankings. Either way, Nate Oates will have an excellent offensive backcourt with Jahvon Quinerly and five-star recruit J.D. Davison. Davison will be one of the most explosive players in the country next season and will excel in Alabama’s fast-paced system. Estimated starting grid: Jahvon Quinerly (12.9 PPG, 3.2 APG) J.D. Davison (#13 in ESPN 100) Jaden Shackelford (14.0 PPG) Joshua Primo (8.1 PPG) Charles Bediako (#33 in ESPN 100) Previous : 9 A new year, a new stream of transfers for Eric Musselman. The Razorbacks will welcome five transfers to the team, including three players who will be immediate starters: Chris Lykes (Miami), Stanley Umude (South Dakota) and Au’diez Toney (Pittsburgh). The program is optimistic about the transfer of Jackson Robinson from Texas A&M, who was a former top-100 aspirant but played little as a recruit for the Aggies. Don’t forget Kamani Johnson, who scored twice as many points in Little Rock and should bring a physical element to the game. That five, along with rookie Chance Moore (ESPN 100), will join a group of returning players that includes two starters and sixth man extraordinaire J.D. Note. Devo Davis and Jaylin Williams are names to keep an eye on. Davis made a name for himself in the NCAA Tournament with his defensive prowess and four double-digit goals in a row, while Williams started the final three games of the tournament and proved to be a perimeter scorer and rebounder. Estimated starting grid: Chris Lykes (15.5 PPG at Miami) Devo Davis (8.5 PPG) Au’diez Toney (14.4 PPG at Pittsburgh) Stanley Umude (21.6 PPG at South Dakota) Jaylin Williams (3.7 PPG, 4.7 RPG) Previous : 10 The Terrapins have dropped six places since the first ranking, but that’s not their fault. They made the transfers earlier than most teams in the country, bringing in two high quality transfers that should be in the starting lineup immediately. Former Rhode Island defender Futts Russell was one of the best defenders in the country at best, but he struggled last season, while Georgetown transfer Kudus Wahab was one of the best bigs in the gate, with a double-double in the Big East every night. Those two, along with a trio of returning starters – Eric Ayala, Aaron Wiggins and Donta Scott – will form a formidable starting five. Mark Turgeon will have to look for depth in the squad after several players came through the transfer gate, but Hakeem Hart started 18 games last season and Julian Reese was a top 50 acquisition. Also keep an eye on Ian Martinez; he was a popular recruit when he was in high school and played an important role for Utah late in the season as a rookie. Estimated starting grid: Fatts Russell (14.7 PPG at Rhode Island) Eric Ayala (15.1 PPG) Aaron Wiggins (14.5 PPG) Donta Scott (11.0 PPG) Kudus Wahab (12.7 PPG, 8.2 RPG at Georgetown) Previous : 12 Not much has changed on the Duke team since the end of the season, other than a few transfers of rotation players. Of course, it’s not exactly what the Blue Devils were hoping for, considering they were considered one of two contenders for top player Patrick Baldwin Jr. Although there were false rumors that he might transfer to Duke, Baldwin has long been expected to play for his father in Milwaukee, and that’s where he moved last month. Without Baldwin, the Blue Devils are still in the top 15. Next season, Mike Krzyzewski will bring top talent as usual, but he will have a more experienced team than we are used to in Durham – especially after the addition of Marquette alum Theo John to the team. Jeremy Roach should get better at point guard after a year, and Mark Williams should be able to break through in his second season as a fullback. The main newcomer, of course, is Paolo Banchero, perhaps the most college-ready recruit in this class and a potential number one. Estimated starting grid: Jeremy Roach (8.7 PPG) Wendell Moore (9.7 PPG) AJ Griffin (#26 on ESPN 100) Paolo Banchero (#3 on ESPN 100) Mark Williams (7.1 PPG, 4.5 RPG) Previous : 14 After replacing Shaka Smart in Austin, Chris Beard dove headfirst into the transfer portal and has four top-30 transfers in the country: Timmy Allen (Utah), Christian Bishop (Creighton), Dylan Disu (Vanderbilt) and Devin Askew (Kentucky). I expect at least three of those four to be starters, and although Askew is the lowest-rated of the quartet, he could be the most important next season. In high school, Askew was a five-star prospect, but as a freshman at Kentucky, he struggled with shooting and stealing the ball. Courtney Ramey and Allen are skilled playmakers, but they are best when they can play off the ball, which means the ball will end up in Askew’s hands often and early. If Askew can take care of the ball, be competitive on both sides of the ball and get the ball in the right places, Texas will have plenty of weapons on offense. And while Byrd still needs some time to absorb his defensive philosophy, his teams have ranked in the top 20 in the country in that area for four consecutive seasons. Estimated starting grid: Devin Askew (6.5 PPG at Kentucky) Courtney Ramey (12.2 PPG) Andrew Jones (14.6 PPG) Timmy Allen (17.2 PPG at Utah) Christian Bishop (11.0 PPG at Creighton) Previous : 21 Can Dana Altman’s Oregon team really be determined? The Ducks will likely spend the rest of the summer adjusting their lineup, scouring the market for possible upgrades or late emerging foreign prospects. Since the last roster update, they transferred Quincy Guerrier, a Canadian forward the Ducks had been looking for since high school, to Syracuse. Warrior will have an immediate impact on Altman’s frontcourt as he replaces a similar type of hitter, Eugene Omorui. The arrival of Warrior also gives Altman more options up front. The return of N’Fali Dante, who played six games before his injury, and Frank Kepnang, who shined late in the season, along with top-10 aspirant Nate Bittle, give Oregon several options for the rest of the season. Oregon also remains one of the contenders for Rutgers transfer Jacob Young, the younger brother of former Ducks star Joseph. Young averaged 14.1 points for the Scarlet Knights last season and could serve as a shooter and veteran on the perimeter. Estimated starting grid: Will Richardson (11.3 PPG) De’Vion Harmon (12.9 PPG at Oklahoma) Eric Williams Jr. (10.0 PPG) Quincy Guerrier (13.7 PPG at Syracuse) Nate Battle (#9 in ESPN 100). Previous : 13 I had to tone it down after I named Virginia Tech the tenth ranked team in the country on postseason day. I still have a lot of appreciation for the Hokies team, although the fact that Michael Durr, a transfer from South Florida, decided to go to Indiana takes away a potential backup plan if Kiv Aluma keeps his name in the NBA draft. And that ranking depends almost entirely on whether Aluma returns to Blacksburg for his senior season. Aluma will be a preseason candidate for ACC Player of the Year when he returns to school, which is to be expected since he’s not in ESPN’s top 100. Aluma will be one of four returning starters. Storm Murphy, a Southern Conference defender who played under Mike Young early in his career, now replaces the departed Wabiss Bede. It will give a significant advantage in shooting and scoring the point of attack. Remember, this team was 14-4 with wins over Villanova and Virginia before COVID-19 ruined the season. Estimated starting grid: Storm Murphy (17.8 PPG, 4.3 APG at Wofford) Tyrese Radford (12.2 PPG) Naheem Alleyne (11.1 PPG) Justin Matts (9.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG) Kiv Aluma (15.2 PPG, 7.9 RPG) Previous : 15 After reaching the Final Four, Houston’s luck continued in the offseason, as the Cougars experienced a postseason spring that was as good as could be expected. They lost four players, Quentin Grimes, DeJohn Jarreau, Justin Gorham and Brison Gresham, who played at least 19 games last season, but all four were expected to return, and Fabian White Jr. who averaged 9.3 points and 5.5 rebounds in two seasons but played in only 13 games last season, decided to return for another season. They were also aggressive in the transfer portal, snatching up Kyler Edwards, who immediately began playing at Texas Tech, as well as Taze Moore (Bakersfield) and Josh Carlton (UConn). Carlton should fit in perfectly with Calvin Sampson; he was one of the best offensive rebounders in the country last season. And Marcus Sasser and aspiring Traymond Mark will play in the backline. Mark started just four games last season, but averaged 17 points in them. Estimated starting grid: Marcus Sasser (13.5 PPG) Tramon Mark (8.0 PPG) Kyler Edwards (10.1 PPG at Texas Tech) Fabian White (6.3 PPG) Reggie Cheney (4.6 PPG) Previous : 16 Rick Barnes, one of many SEC teams upgrading their rosters this spring, will lose three players whose names could be called on NBA Draft night – but his team could improve next season as well. The Volunteers looked like a potential Final Four team for the first five to six weeks of the season, starting the season 10-1, but went just 8-8 the rest of the season and lost to Oregon State by 14 points in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The biggest improvements should come from the point guard position, where five-star recruit Kennedy Chandler will be given the keys to the offense from day one. He was the country’s best point guard in the class of 2021. Rick Barnes was also trying to solve another problem with his arrival. Justin Powell, who hit 44.2% three-pointers at Auburn, should help solve Tennessee’s problems with shooting from the perimeter. With four players starting at least 12 games, the Volunteers have plenty of experience and versatility in the rotation. Estimated starting grid: Kennedy Chandler (#8 in ESPN 100) Justin Powell (11.7 PPG at Auburn) Victor Bailey Jr. (10.9 PPG) Josiah-Jordan James (8.0 PPG) John Fulkerson (9.5 PPG) Previous : 17 Leonard Hamilton will have to make a big call on recruits after the NBA draft and the transfer window hit the Seminoles hard. Scotty Barnes, a potential lottery player, was expected, but Rayquan Gray and Balza Koprivica also opted for the draft. Sardar Calhoun and Nathanael Jack transferred and top scorer M.J. Walker was a senior and will not return. Fortunately, Florida State attracts a lot of rookies and transfers – and it wouldn’t be surprising if at least three of them start the game early. Matt Cleveland was a top-30 recruit and has steadily improved his game throughout his high school career, while John Butler and Jalen Worley were in the top 60. Houston transfer Caleb Mills was named AAC Player of the Year after a strong first season and should lead the Seminoles in scoring. Cam’Ron Fletcher struggled at Kentucky, but will find his role in Tallahassee and Naheem McLeod, a transfer student, will provide size. Anthony Polite is the best returner. Estimated starting grid: Caleb Mills (9.8 PPG at Houston) Jalen Worley (#59 in ESPN 100) Matt Cleveland (#28 in ESPN 100) Anthony Polit (10.1 PPG) Malik Osborne (5.9 PPG, 4.5 RPG) Previous : 18 The Tar Heels will play a major role next season when legendary coach Roy Williams retires and former assistant Hubert Davis takes his place. The staff will dictate this to some extent, but it seems Davis already wants a slightly different system and style than the two major schemes Williams has used over the years. The departure of Harrison Brooks, Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler gave Davis a boost, but instead of looking for a true post player to assist Armando Bacott, he went for Oklahoma transfer Brady Manek. Manek is certainly not the Carolina big man of the prototype; he’s a stretch-4 who has made more than five three-point attempts per game over the past two seasons. The key to success on the outskirts lies with the rookies, especially Caleb Love. In his first season in Chapel Hill, Love showed real flashes of his five-star talent, but he didn’t do it consistently. If he can limit his mistakes, improve his decision making and his three-point shooting, Carolina will be much better. Estimated starting grid: Caleb Love (10.5 PPG, 3.6 APG) R.J. Davis (8.4 PPG) Kerwin Walton (8.2 PPG) Brady Manek (10.8 PPG at Oklahoma) Armando Bacot (12.3 PPG, 7.8 RPG) Previous : Next in line Auburn has replenished its squad more effectively than any other team in the country this spring, despite the departure of star guard Sharif Cooper and recruit J.T. Thor to the NBA draft and the transfer of young prospect Justin Powell. Bruce Pearl brought in five transfers and also brought in freshman Jabari Smith. The most notable transfer is that of former North Carolina standout Walker Kessler, a five-star recruit who failed to find a stable role in Chapel Hill as a freshman. Kessler and Smith should form one of the most talented duos in the country, who will also be joined by point guard Allen Flanigan and double-figure scorer Jaylin Williams. The backcourt got a big boost last month when Georgia transfer K.J. Johnson committed to Auburn; Johnson is a dynamic scorer who can make three-point shots. Aside from how quickly the rookies get into shape, the most important factor will be the play of the point guard. Johnson is better as a pure scorer, but Pearl also brought in transfer Wendell Green Jr. (Eastern Kentucky), Zep Jasper (Charleston) and Desi Sills (Arkansas). (Eastern Kentucky), Zep Jasper (Charleston) and Desi Sills (Arkansas). Estimated starting grid: Wendell Green (15.8 PPG, 5.0 APG at Eastern Kentucky) K.J. Johnson (13.5 PPG at Georgia) Allen Flanigan (14.3 PPG) Jabari Smith (#5 in ESPN 100) Walker Kessler (4.4 PPG at North Carolina) Previous : 20 It’s hard to judge how good the Bonnies were last season, as they played just two non-conference games – against Akron and Hofstra – before being defeated by LSU in the first round of the NCAA tournament. But they won the Atlantic 10 regular season title and qualified for the conference tournament in convincing fashion. Mark Schmidt brings back all five regular players, led by first-team all-conference defenseman Kyle Lofton, and adds two Power 5 transfers to bring depth to the lineup: Abdul Karim Coulibaly (Pittsburgh) and Quadri Adams (Wake Forest). The biggest problem with St. Louis’ five defeats is the lack of a good record. Bonaventure last season was the offense. In none of the five losses did the Bonnies score points per ball possession. In those games, they shot 41.3% from two-point range and 25.8% from three-point range. For a team that led the A-10 in offensive efficiency and three-point shooting, this is a steep drop. More depth and the addition of more weapons should help with consistency in this part of the field. Estimated starting grid: Kyle Lofton (14.4 PPG, 5.5 APG) Jaren Holmes (13.8 PPG) Dominic Welch (11.4 PPG) Jalen Adaway (12.2 PPG) Osun Osunniyi (10.7 PPG, 9.4 RPG) Previous : 22 As mentioned in last week’s rankings, this is more of a bet on Tony Bennett than anything else. On paper, the Cavaliers are probably not a top-25 team. But they added two influential transfers: Jayden Gardner, who played a lot at East Carolina, and Armaan Franklin, a talented double-digit scorer from Indiana. Kihei Clark was a key two-way player during his time in Charlottesville, while Reece Beekman started 20 games as a rookie. But that’s it. One of the most interesting acquisitions of the past month is Igor Milicic, a native of Poland who is considered one of the best foreign players to come to college basketball next season. The player to keep an eye on for the Cavaliers this season is Trey Murphy III. Murphy reported for the NBA draft in the spring, but retained his college eligibility. I think he’ll keep his name in the draft, considering he’s 42nd on ESPN’s NBA rankings, but bringing him back would move Virginia up a few spots. He is an elite gunslinger with the size to run a revolutionary campaign. Estimated starting grid: Kihei Clark (9.5 PPG, 4.5 APG) Reece Beekman (4.7 PPG) Armaan Franklin (11.4 PPG at Indiana) Jayden Gardner (18.3 PPG at East Carolina) Francisco Caffaro (1.2 PPG) Previous : 23 The Spartans have never ranked lower than sixth in the Big Ten in offensive efficiency since 2011, until last year when they were 13th, just ahead of Nebraska. They came away with a lot and were one of the worst shooting teams in the league, both from inside and behind the arc. And top scorer Aaron Henry, the team’s only double-digit scorer last season, has left for the NBA. So how is Tom Izzo going to fix it? The Spartans may have 10 or 11 players next season, but the key will be finding a more consistent and effective defensive game. Michigan State comes in with two players who can start immediately on the defensive line: five-star recruit Max Christie and Tyson Walker, a transfer from Northeastern University. Christie has good length and can shoot from the perimeter, and Walker was a First Team All-Conference player and the CAA Defensive Player of the Year averaging 18.8 points, 4.8 assists and 2.4 steals last season. These two will be the vanguard of what should be an up-and-down season in East Lansing. Estimated starting grid: Tyson Walker (18.8 PPG at Northeastern) Max Christie (#16 in ESPN 100) Gabe Brown (7.2 PPG) Malik Hall (5.0 PPG) Joey Hauser (9.7 PPG) Previous : 24 Colorado State maintains its place in the top 25, ahead of Belmont, Mississippi State and many other schools. David Roddy and Isaiah Stevens, who were selected to the all-conference teams, lead the starting five on a team that could have reached the NCAA Tournament had it not been eliminated by Oregon State and Georgetown. Nico Medved has helped the Rams grow in each of his three seasons in Fort Collins, going from seven wins in the Mountain West in 2018-19 to 11 in 2019-20 and 14 last season. Colorado State should come back next season and reach the NCAA tournament. But there should be some improvements, especially on defense. In six of the Rams’ eight defeats, they allowed more than one point per possession, and in the seventh, they allowed 0.99 points per possession. (The eighth was a 53-33 loss against St. Mary’s that all sports should forget). San Diego State scored 78 points, Utah State 83, Boise State 85 and Nevada 85. Had Colorado State won any of those four games, the Rams could have heard their name called on Sunday. Estimated starting grid: Kendle Moore (10.5 PPG) Isaiah Stevens (15.3 PPG, 5.4 APG) Adam Thistlewood (9.1 PPG) David Roddy (15.9 PPG, 9.4 RPG) James Morse (5.9 PPG) Next in line: Belmont Bruins (previously: #25) Mississippi State Bulldogs (previously: next ranked) UConn Huskies (previously: next ranked) West Virginia Mountaineers (previously: unranked) Xavier Musketeers (previously: unranked) Withdrawn: Belmont (25)