The summer’s official top-25 college basketball ranking for the 2019-2020 season

1140881640.jpg.0 - The summer’s official top-25 college basketball ranking for the 2019-2020 season

Two months have passed since our last early top 25, and a significant amount has changed.

There are still a few major additions and subtractions that need to be made (Kerry Blackshear, you’re back on the clock), but for the most part, we now know what the rosters for the 2019-20 college basketball season are going to look like.

Armed with that knowledge, it’s time to re-evaluate the super early top 25 posted on the night of Virginia’s national title game win over Texas Tech. The changes, like the amount of defections to the NBA, are significant.

1. Michigan State Spartans

2018-19 Record: 32-7

2018-19 Finish: Final Four

Reigning Big Ten Player of the Year (and likely preseason national Player of the Year) Cassius Winston is back, which means Tom Izzo returns his top four scorers from a team that came two wins away from a national championship. Included in that group is junior guard Joshua Langford, who missed all but 13 games this season because of a stress injury in his left foot. Gifted forward Aaron Henry showed glimpses of his potential late in the season, and has the potential to be a star as a sophomore. Izzo will also bring in a top 25 recruiting class headlined by 4-star point guard Rocket Watts.

2. Duke Blue Devils

2018-19 Record: 32-6

2018-19 Finish: Elite Eight

The big three are gone, but point guard Tre Jones will be back in Durham for his sophomore season. Some mixture from the group of Alex O’Connell, Jack White, Javin DeLaurier, Jordan Goldwire and Joey Baker will have to step up and flourish in expanded roles. Another elite recruiting class headlined by 5-star big man Vernon Carey will also help to make life after Zion more than tolerable for the Cameron Crazies.

3. Kentucky Wildcats

2018-19 Record: 30-7

2018-19 Finish: Elite Eight

Per usual, Kentucky is dealing with a decent amount of attrition from last year’s squad, which includes the loss of the team’s top four scorers from 2018-19. Even so, starting point guard Ashton Hagans is back, as is the frontcourt duo of EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards. With the annual top five recruiting class headed to Lexington, the Cats figure to once again be right in the thick of the national title hunt.

4. Villanova Wildcats

2018-19 Record: 26-10

2018-19 Finish: Second Round

Leading scorers Phil Booth and Eric Paschall are gone, but there’s still reason to believe Villanova will be better in 2019-20 than they were this past season. Collin Gillespie, Sadiq Bey, Jermaine Samuels and Dhamir Cosby-Rountree should all take steps forward. Jay Wright will also welcome a top five recruiting class headlined by two five-star players — Jeremiah Robinson-Earl and Bryan Antoine — who should be good enough to start from day one.

5 Kansas Jayhawks

2018-19 Record: 26-10

2018-19 Finish: Second Round

They occupied just about everyone’s top spot in these rankings a year ago and wound up having a season that didn’t come close to meeting those expectations. Now, this figures to be an extremely interesting offseason for a Kansas program that’s in something of a weird place. Even so, with Devon Dotson and Udoka Azubuike back, it seems more likely than not that the Jayhawks will return to form as a Final Four threat.

6. Louisville Cardinals

2018-19 Record: 20-14

2018-19 Finish: First Round

Chris Mack’s first season at Louisville was a success in the eyes of most. Year two figures to be even better thanks in large part to the last-minute decision of Jordan Nwora, the ACC’s Most Improved Player for 2018-19, to return for his junior season. Mack brings back all but one of his top eight scorers from last season, and also welcomes in a top 10 recruiting class headlined by 5-star McDonald’s All-American Samuell Williamson.

7. Texas Tech Red Raiders

2018-19 Record: 31-7

2018-19 Finish: National Runners-Up

As long as Chris Beard is back in Lubbock, a preseason top 10 spot feels justified. Beard loses four starters from his national runner-up team, including star Jarrett Culver. He’s countered that by bringing in a strong recruiting class and landing some key transfers, including Virginia Tech’s Chris Clarke and Stephen F. Austin’s T.J. Holyfield, who should be able to start from day one.

8. Virginia Cavaliers

2018-19 Record: 35-3

2018-19 Finish: National Champions

The reigning national champs lose their three leading scorers, but return key contributors Braxton Key, Mamadi Diakite, Jay Huff and Kihei Clark. We’ve certainly seen Tony Bennett do more with less.

9. Maryland Terrapins

2018-19 Record: 23-11

2018-19 Finish: Second Round

Maryland came just seconds away from crashing the Sweet 16 last season. The return of both Anthony Cowan and Jalen Smith should give the Terps ample opportunity to get that bad taste out of their mouth next March.

10. Memphis Tigers

2018-19 Record: 22-14

2018-19 Finish: NIT Second Round

There’s no question that Penny Hardaway can generate headlines and piece together elite recruiting classes, but the jury’s still out on him as one of the next big-time coaches in college basketball. We’ll be much closer to a verdict after next season when Penny has had a chance to coach a talented roster led by the nation’s No. 1 freshman, James Wiseman.

11. North Carolina Tar Heels

2018-19 Record: 29-7

2018-19 Finish: Sweet 16

For the first time since 2011, the highest-rated freshman in the ACC won’t be playing for Duke. Cole Anthony will be down the road in Chapel Hill, hopefully keeping the Tar Heels back in their usual spot near the top of the conference standings. Even with Anthony and a pair of top-tier grad transfers joining the fold, it seems impossible for UNC not to take a step back after losing Luke Maye, Cam Johnson, Kenny Williams, Coby White and Nas Little.

12. Seton Hall Pirates

2018-19 Record: 20-14

2018-19 Finish: First Round

Head coach Kevin Willard turned down Virginia Tech, and then two months later star guard Myles Powell turned down the NBA. Now, Willard should have a team fully capable of making Seton Hall’s first appearance in the Sweet 16 since 2000.

13. Gonzaga Bulldogs

2018-19 Record: 33-4

2018-19 Finish: Elite Eight

The somewhat surprising defection of Zach Norvell was a blow, but Killian Tillie’s decision to stick in Spokane for another year should keep Gonzaga near or inside the top 10 in most preseason rankings. A top 10 recruiting class and the addition of grad transfer Admon Gilder (Texas A&M) cushions the blow of the Zags losing their top four scorers from a season ago.

14. Arizona Wildcats

2018-19 Record: 17-15

2018-19 Finish: No Postseason

Brandon Randolph staying in the draft was a blow, but with Brandon Williams and Chase Jeter back, and with one of the nation’s top-ranked recruiting classes on its way to Tucson, it’s looking like last season’s disaster may wind up being an isolated incident.

15. Tennessee Volunteers

2018-19 Record: 31-6

2018-19 Finish: Sweet 16

Few teams were hit harder by the stay or go decisions of the last two months than Tennessee. The Vols lose their top three scorers from last year’s 31-win team, but Lamonte Turner and Jordan Bowden are back to form what should be one of the best backcourts in the country.

16. VCU Rams

2018-19 Record: 25-8

2018-19 Finish: First Round

The Rams return their six leading scorers from a team that was a single digit seed in the 2019 NCAA tournament. Mike Rhoades’ squad figures to be the class of the Atlantic 10 for a second straight year.

17. LSU Tigers

2018-19 Record: 28-7

2018-19 Finish: Sweet 16

Maybe the most intriguing team in these rankings. With Javonte Smart and Skylar Mays back and five-star freshman Trendon Watford joining the fold, the Tigers undoubtedly have top 20 talent. The issue is going to be how well the players are able to block out the noise that will constantly follow the program and newly re-instated head coach Will Wade.

18. Iowa Hawkeyes

2018-19 Record: 23-12

2018-19 Finish: Second Round

Tyler Cook staying in the draft keeps this from being a top 15 team, but Jordan Bohannon and Luka Garza should both be among the biggest stars in the Big 10 this season.

19. Purdue Boilermakers

2018-19 Record: 26-10

2018-19 Finish: Elite Eight

Matt Painter loses two senior starters as well as star junior Carsen Edwards, who’s off to the NBA. Nojel Eastern, Matt Haarms, Trevion Williams and Aaron Wheeler might not form a nucleus strong enough to get back to a regional final, but it’s certainly a nucleus strong enough to once again finish near the top of the Big Ten standings.

20. Saint Mary’s

2018-19 Record: 22-12

2018-19 Finish: First Round

The Gaels only got into the Big Dance because they stunned Gonzaga to win the WCC tournament. Their inclusion in the 2020 field of 68 shouldn’t be laced with nearly as much drama.

21. Utah State Aggies

2018-19 Record: 28-7

2018-19 Finish: First Round

Utah State returns its top four scorers from a 28-win team that captured a share of the Mountain West’s regular season title and won the league tournament. Sam Merrill has the potential to be one of the sport’s biggest stars in 2019-20.

22. Ohio State Buckeyes

2018-19 Record: 20-15

2018-19 Finish: Second Round

Kaleb Wesson coming back solidifies the Buckeyes as a preseason top 25 team. If the big man can get more help from his backcourt this season, they should be a lock for a single digit seed in the NCAA tournament.

23. Washington Huskies

2018-19 Record: 27-9

2018-19 Finish: Second Round

Jaylen Nowell staying in the draft hurts, but Mike Hopkins has two of the best freshmen in the country in Isaiah Steward and Jaden McDaniels. The addition of Kentucky transfer Quade Green also looms large.

24. Florida Gators

2018-19 Record: 20-16

2018-19 Finish: Second Round

Andrew Nembhard, Keyontae Johnson, Noah Locke and a loaded incoming freshman class make for a dangerous core. The Gators won’t get a significant amount of preseason national love, but don’t be shocked if they’re in the thick of the SEC title race come February.

25. Marquette Golden Eagles

2018-19 Record: 24-10

2018-19 Finish: First Round

The return of reigning Big East Player of the Year and likely preseason All-American Markus Howard was enormous, but the loss of the Hauser brothers takes the Golden Eagles from inside the top 10 to the brink of falling out of the top 25.

The Next 10:

26. Auburn

27. Houston

28. Cincinnati

29. Xavier

30. Davidson

31. Creighton

32. Colorado

33. Mississippi State

34. Baylor

35. Michigan

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