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Way-Too-Early College Basketball Top 25 for 2020-21

Collin Gillespie & Villanova, No. 3
The sudden and shocking cancellation of the 2020 NCAA Tournament left us without a satisfying conclusion to an exciting college basketball season, leaving the sport in a state of limbo at the moment. It seems like the smart decision considering the gravity of our current situation, but is a tough pill to swallow for college basketball fans. The only thing left to do now is look ahead towards next fall, for the tip-off of the 2020-21 season. The NBA Draft's current questions and its status make it difficult to project a Top 25 for next year, but I decided to take a shot all the same.

1. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Gonzaga's 31-2 team this past season was one of the best in school history, and they were likely a Final Four-caliber team. The Bulldogs will certainly lose Killian Tillie and Ryan Woolridge to graduation, but the rest of the 2019-20 squad could remain mostly intact. Corey Kispert and Filip Petrusev are two of the most underrated players in the entire country and while they could consider the NBA, I think both will return to guide Mark Few's unit. Also likely to return is steady guard Joel Ayayi, and Few brings in a stacked recruiting class, headlined by Jalen Suggs. It's not often a Gonzaga team has this much pure talent, and they could bring home the first National Title in school history.

2. Baylor Bears
After spending a major chunk of the season ranked No. 1, Baylor has the luxury of having few NBA prospects on their current roster. The only player likely to leave is big man Freddie Gillespie, whose departure could easily be filled by forward Tristian Clark. Beyond that, nearly every big name should be back, including Jared Butler, MaCio Teague and Davion Mitchell. There are also reinforcements on the way, as Scott Drew landed a Top 20 class and Presbyterian transfer Adam Flagler (15.9 PPG).

3. Villanova Wildcats
Jay Wright's Villanova program remains one of college basketball's most consistent programs, and they have National Title potential next season. Point guard Collin Gillespie will be back to run the show, essentially operating as an extension of Wright on the court. He will likely be joined by leading scorer Saddiq Bey, who may still test the NBA waters, as well as Justin Moore, Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Jermaine Samuels. The two guys to watch will be Tulane transfer Caleb Daniels and Bryan Antoine. Daniels put up big numbers with the Green Wave but will have to adjust to the Big East, while Antoine is a former five-star recruit who suffered through injuries in '19-'20.

4. Kentucky Wildcats
Unsurprisingly, Kentucky's hopes for next season hinge on a number of NBA Draft decisions including Tyrese Maxey, Immanuel Quickley and Nick Richards. There's a very good chance that entire trio goes pro, but John Calipari reloads as well as anyone. Point guard Ashton Hagans doesn't seem like an NBA guy and having him back in the fold could help the youngsters on this roster continue to grow. Calipari also brings in a loaded recruiting class (surprise, surprise) that includes an absolute stud in B.J. Boston.

5. Creighton Bluejays
The Big East was an absolute slugfest in '19-'20 and it should be very fun to watch next year. While Villanova enters the year as the prohibitive favorite, Creighton should be breathing down their necks at the top. Lead guard Ty-Shon Alexander is another guy that could test the NBA waters, but every other piece should return to the fold for coach Greg McDermott. That includes guard Marcus Zegarowski and Davion Mintz, who missed most of this past season but was a key cog on the Bluejays the previous two seasons.

6. Virginia Cavaliers
Virginia will enjoy another off-season as the National Champions and while this past season's team struggled early on, they really got it going down the stretch. It's hard to imagine any big name on this current roster leaving early to the NBA, with the only notable name moving on is senior Mamadi Diakite. In the frontcourt, rock-solid Jay Huff and Marquette transfer Sam Hauser will lead the way, while guard Kihei Clark started to really emerge at the end of 2020. He could be among the ACC's best entering next season.

7. Duke Blue Devils
You can't have a preseason Top 10 without the Duke Blue Devils, but this team is going to undergo a stark transition over the coming months. Guard Tre Jones has already announced he is going pro, and fellow stars Vernon Carey and Cassius Stanley are sure to join him. Coach K will also lose some important bench pieces as Jack White and Javin DeLaurier are graduating, and Alex O'Connell appears set to transfer. However, former five-star recruit Matthew Hurt is expected to stay and could be in store for a breakout campaign as he is joined by a host of dynamic newcomers. Wing Jalen Johnson could be one of the most explosive scorers in the sport from the moment he first arrives.

8. Iowa Hawkeyes
Luka Garza & Iowa, No. 8
Luka Garza just put together a National Player of the Year-level season, but isn't considered a big-name NBA Draft prospect. If he were to return, the Hawkeyes immediately become a legitimate Final Four contender. He isn't the only piece set to return either; Fran McCaffrey will bring back a very strong supporting cast that should include Joe Wieskamp & Jordan Bohannon. Fran's two sons, Connor and Patrick, are also intriguing talents.

9. Kansas Jayhawks
This could be another blue blood that has some reloading to do, but it's hard not to trust what Bill Self has built in Lawrence. Udoka Azuikbe is graduating, as is Isaiah Moss, while star guard Devon Dotson looks like he is going to be off to the NBA. That is three major contributors gone, but there are still some key holdovers. Marcus Garrett and Ochai Agbaji are going to be back as returning starters, and big man David McCormack should also return. Expect big things from sophomore Christian Braun, who showed flashes as a freshman this past season but should excel with a major increase in minutes.

10. Florida State Seminoles
Florida State was the best team in the ACC this past season, but they will undergo an interesting off-season. Devin Vassell and Patrick Williams are both pro prospects, but there remains a chance they could also return to Tallahassee. If that's the case, FSU likely rises back up to ACC favorite but either way, they'll be tough. M.J. Walker and Raiquan Gray are sure to be back, while newcomer Scottie Barnes is one of the best recruits in school history.

11. Michigan State Spartans
Cassius Winston may be gone after four legendary seasons in East Lansing, but don't expect the Spartans to fall off too much. Sophomore Rocket Watts looked like his heir apparent as a back-up in '19-'20 and is a legit breakout candidate, who should have a terrific supporting cast. It's likely at least one of Xavier Tillman, Aaron Henry and Josh Langford should return. Langford in particular could have special reasons to come back, considering he missed the entirety of 2019-20, but could be one of the best scorers in the Big Ten when healthy. Tom Izzo also landed one of the Hauser brothers in Joey, who has proven himself as a capable contributor in big-time college basketball.

12. Wisconsin Badgers
After starting off their Big Ten season 6-6, Wisconsin won eight straight to claim a share of the Big Ten Title. That should provide them the momentum they need to have a breakthrough 2020-21 season, assuming all their likely returnees come back. Brad Davison is back to run the show, while the Badgers should also bring back their top two bigs, Nathan Reuvers and Ohio State transfer Micah Potter. Greg Gard also continues to recruit quality talent across the Midwest, landing a class that includes Top 100 prospect Ben Carlson.

13. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Texas Tech took an expected step back in '19-'20, but Chris Beard has still shown that this program has staying power. They could be particularly dangerous this next winter, especially if guard Jahmi'us Ramsey returns. Ramsey has NBA talent but still has some significant gaps in his game that would be helped by returning for one more year. No matter what happens with Ramsey, TTU will feature an experienced core that includes Davide Moretti, Kyler Edwards and Terrence Shannon. That's certainly enough to challenge Baylor & Kansas for Big 12 supremacy.

14. San Diego State Aztecs
The Aztecs were a great story this past season, lasting nearly the entire regular season as an undefeated team. There was some worry a big-time program could try and poach head coach Brian Dutcher, but he remains in San Diego, and should have a veteran team on his hands in 2020-21. Forward Matt Mitchell and a healthy Nathan Mensah at center are a strong starting point, but guard Malachi Flynn is the real X-factor. He was an All-American this past season but has an NBA future. Perhaps not getting a chance to prove himself in the NCAA Tournament this year could serve as extra motivation to come back.

15. UNC Tar Heels
While a lot of teams across the country were disappointed at the sudden end of '19-'20, UNC was thrilled to end a disastrous year on Chapel Hill. It's hard to imagine them having a worse season this upcoming winter, even with Cole Anthony set to take the expected NBA jump. Armando Bacot and Garrison Brooks could form one of the nation's best frontcourts, and the talent UNC brings in rivals past Roy Williams' classes. Five-star Caleb Love could immediately take over for Anthony in the backcourt, while Day'Ron Sharpe provides help up front.

16. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes will be without point guard D.J. Carton next season after his recent decision to transfer, and Kaleb Wesson looks like he'll be going pro. However, beyond that Chris Holtmann's team appears pretty loaded. They'll return a quality core of Luther Muhammed, C.J. Walker, Duane Washington, and glue guy Kyle Young. Holtmann also got a huge win this past weekend when Harvard grad transfer Seth Towns announced he was heading to Columbus. Towns is among the top grad transfers on the market, and should start right away.

17. Oregon Ducks
Dana Altman has built a consistent winner on the West Coast in Oregon, and they could be good enough to challenge for the Pac-12 crown next year. Payton Pritchard is a major loss, but outside of him, the Ducks return most of their talent. That includes guards Will Richardson & Chris Duarte, who both could be heading for breakout years. Newcomers such as Jalen Terry and Rutgers transfer Eugene Omoruyi should also provide a spark in Eugene.

18. UCLA Bruins
After a disastrous start to the 2019-20 campaign, UCLA was looking like an NCAA Tournament team down the stretch. The team should continue to mold into a Mick Cronin team, playing hard and physical. Cronin should bring back two crucial pieces in forward Chris Smith, their leading scorer this past season, as well as guard Tyger Campbell. Five-star point guard Daishen Nix is also slated to arrive in Westwood over the summer and while he'll need time to adjust, he has star potential.

19. Tennessee Volunteers
Tennessee took a major step back in '19-'20, but that was to be expected considering the losses on Rocky Top. In response, Rick Barnes hit the recruiting trail hard, landing a Top 5 Class for the 2020 cycle. That class includes five-stars Kedon Johnson & Jaden Springer, two guys who have the talent to lead a contender. Add to that the likely return of up to four starters, and the Volunteers should be right back in the SEC Title mix next winter.

20. Michigan Wolverines
Even though the Wolverines were awfully inconsistent in Juwan Howard's first season at the helm, he proved he could coach and just importantly, recruit. Michigan has the No. 4 Class in 2020, spearheaded by Isaiah Todd and Hunter Dickinson. Those two should join a core that includes Isaiah Livers, Eli Brooks and Franz Wagner. Losing Zavier Simpson is a massive loss, but Michigan should have enough talent to overcome it.

21. Houston Cougars
Kelvin Sampson has built Houston into the American Athletic's top program, and the Cougars could be sneaky this winter. DeJon Jarreau and former Kansas transfer Quentin Grimes will likely test the NBA waters, but one could assume at least one of the pair will return to UH. If that is indeed the case, they will lead a team that should also include Nate Hinton and underrated Caleb Mills. Don't be surprised if Houston is also involved in the grad transfer market, as Sampson has been active in finding ways to get talent to the program.

22. Illinois Fighting Illini
It's clearly going to be another crazy year in the Big Ten in 2020-21 but Brad Underwood has a program on the rise in Champaign. Sure, the Illini will lose their dynamic scorer Ayo Dosunmu more than likely, but there will still be a lot to work with. Kofi Cockburn had the looks of a future star as a freshman, and he'll only get better with more experience under his belt. Also likely returning is guard Trent Frazier and forward Giorgi Bezhanishvilli.

23. West Virginia Mountaineers
Just this week, West Virginia that Derek Culver and Oscar Tshiebwe would be returning to Morgantown for the '20-'21 season, a huge win for Bob Huggins. The two big men will form a potent combo on the low block, something that has been lacking at times these last few seasons for the Mountaineers. Beyond those two, plenty of talent from a very young team is set to return, and WVU is high on incoming freshman Isaiah Cottrell.

24. LSU Tigers
Kentucky should enter next season as the SEC favorite once again, but Tennessee and LSU both should offer plenty of resistance. Will Wade continues to bring impressive talent into Baton Rouge, including a Top 10 recruiting class. That class may have to contribute more than usual, as a host of NBA Draft decisions await the Tigers. Javonte Smart, Trendon Watford and Emmitt Williams all could go pro. However, if two of them stay or even all three, this ranking is way, way too low.

25. Florida Gators
There were lofty expectations this past season for Florida, but they were never consistent enough to be considered a serious contender in the SEC. The good news is that coach Michael White has a good crop of talent definitely returning, namely Andrew Nembhard and Noah Locke. They will also bring in top JUCO recruit Osayi Osifo, who could be a crucial prize. UF will also wait on the Draft decisions of Scottie Lewis & Keyontae Johnson, who could really bolster their chances of contention next winter.

Just Missed the Cut
Oklahoma State Cowboys
Arizona State Sun Devils
Arkansas Razorbacks
Texas Longhorns
Memphis Tigers
Colorado Buffaloes
Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Dayton Flyers
Seton Hall Pirates
Butler Bulldogs

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