College Basketball’s Way-Too-Early 2020-21 Rankings
With about six months from the start of the 2020-21 college basketball season, it’s never too early to try to predict how next year will pan out. The upcoming season could potentially be just as exciting as this past season, albeit with a classic NCAA Tournament to complete the year, as the 2020 recruiting class is one of the most talented in recent memory. Many of these high school talents have committed to play at “Power 5” schools that aren’t the typical blue bloods, making for many sleeper teams we could see explode in March. With that being said, here is our “way too early” top-25 poll for the 2020-21 college basketball season.
1) Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky is coming into next year with the number one ranked recruiting class in the country. These signings include three five-stars in Devin Askew, Terrence Clarke, and Brandon Boston. Although star guards Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey have declared for the NBA draft, these spots can be easily filled by these incoming freshman, as well as Creighton transfer point guard Davion Mintz. Also expect Nick Richards and Immanuel Quickley to return to school.
2) Creighton Bluejays
Creighton was as hot as any team in the country to close out this past season. Winning 11 out of their final 13 games and earning the Big East regular season title, the Bluejays looked like a possible Final Four contender. With all five starters expected to return, Greg McDermott’s squad has only gotten better with the addition of Duke transfer guard Alex O’Connell, as he should be able to bring some firepower to their offense and a strong defensive presence.
3) Baylor Bears
Although Baylor closed out the season fairly sour, losing three of its final five games of the regular season, they were still expected to make runs in the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments. With no significant contributors expected to leave, they add Presbyterian transfer guard Adam Flagler, as well as the 16th ranked recruiting class in the country.
4) Villanova Wildcats
Experience is going to play a huge factor for the Wildcats next year. They are expected to bring back four out of five starters next year, plus Bryan Antoine who sat out most of his freshman campaign due to a shoulder injury. With the addition of Tulane transfer guard Caleb Daniels, Villanova could exhibit a scary backcourt. This is assuming they lose Saddiq Bey to the draft, but they could be a potential number one ranked team if he decides to return.
5) Gonzaga Bulldogs
The Zags were on their road to another No. 1 seed in the Tournament, as that seems to be their consistent plan of attack in the last five or so years. They will lose Killian Tillie and Ryan Woolridge, but are bringing in freshman five-star combo guard Jalen Suggs, one of the most explosive players in the Class of 2020. He will bring to Mark Few’s offense similar to what Cole Anthony brought to North Carolina last year. I also expect Filip Petrusev to return to school next year, which will be huge for the Bulldogs.
6) North Carolina Tar Heels
The Heels are coming off one of their worst seasons in recent memory. Finishing 6-14 in ACC play, they finished dead last in the conference. Most of this is due to Cole Anthony being out for a good amount of the season with a knee injury. Although Anthony is likely headed to the NBA, five star Caleb Love should be able to come in and replace him. Carolina sits with the third ranked 2020 recruiting class, including five stars Day’Ron Sharpe and Walker Kessler in addition to Love. With Garrison Brooks likely returning to school, Roy Williams looks to set up a redemption season for the Tar Heels.
7) Duke Blue Devils
Coach K had a much different team than he was used to this past year. He is used to starting four or five freshmen and bringing only two or three guys off the bench. However, his squad was much deeper as there was really no consistent second scorer behind Tre Jones. The Blue Devils have lost Tre Jones, Vernon Carey, and Cassius Stanley to the NBA Draft, but sit with the second ranked recruiting class in the country. The incoming freshmen will include three five stars in Jalen Johnson, DJ Steward, and Jeremy Roach. They also landed Columbia grad transfer big man Patrick Tape, who should be able to replace Carey at the center position and bring much needed experience to a young team.
8) Virginia Cavaliers
Tony Bennett’s team could be a sneaky contender next year. Although they lose Mamadi Diakite and Braxton Key, they should be able to replace them rather easily. The Cavaliers landed five star Jabri Abdur-Rahim, who brings to Charlottesville exactly what they need: a natural scorer. With UVA already earning the title of one of the best defensive teams in the country, a forward who can play as a wing like Abdur-Rahim could boost the Hoos to that next level.
9) Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas is taking a massive blow this offseason, as they will lose Udoka Azubuike and possibly Devon Dotson. They are, however, bringing back two starters in Ochai Agbaji and Marcus Garrett. Incoming five star Bryce Thompson should be able to take over for Dotson if he leaves, but losing Azubuike is near impossible to replace as he was one of the most unstoppable forces in all of college basketball. Bill Self will probably have to change the Jayhawks’ game plan, as a lot of it has revolved around getting Azubuike the ball in the paint over the last few years.
10) Texas Tech Red Raiders
With Jahmi’us Ramsey likely headed to the NBA Draft, Chris Beard is still bringing back two key perimeter vets in Davide Moretti and Kyler Edwards. They are also bringing in five star Nimari Burnett to further strengthen the Red Raiders’ perimeter presence as well as UNLV transfer big man Joel Ntambwe. Texas Tech is also bringing in four stars Micah Peavy and Chibuzo Abgo Jr. as they sit with the 11th ranked recruiting class in the country.
11) Tennessee Volunteers
The Vols probably could not have asked for a much better offseason. With four starters returning, all except Jordan Bowden, they also landed Sacred Heart transfer small forward EJ Anosike for depth. They sit with the fourth ranked recruiting class in the country. Headlined by five star guards Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson, Tennessee looks like another sneaky team we could see make a run in March 2021.
12) Michigan State Spartans
This offseason could be a stressful one for Tom Izzo. He will already lose four-year point guard legend Cassius Winston, along with possibly Aaron Henry and Xavier Tillman. I do expect Henry to stay, but not Tillman. They have pieces to replace Winston in Rocket Watts and AJ Hoggard, and hopefully Josh Langford can finally return to play healthy. MSU landed top 35 prospect big man Mady Sissoko and former Marquette transfer Joey Hauser is now eligible for play.
13) Florida Gators
Florida is coming into this season as one of the most underrated teams in the country. After being one of the biggest disappointments in college basketball last year, I expect a huge bounce-back season for Dean Wade’s squad. Scottie Lewis has already announced his return for a sophomore campaign, and I expect Treshaun Mann to return as well. That gives the Gators an extremely talented backcourt with experience. They are bringing in top 50 prospect small forward Samson Ruzhentsev and top-10 junior college prospect power forward Osayi Osifo to help replace Kerry Blackshear’s presence down low.
14) Wisconsin Badgers
Wisco was red hot towards the second half of the season, as they were a mere afterthought for the first few months. They managed to finish third in the Big Ten regular season rankings and a possible top-five seed in the tournament. All five starters are fully expected to return, all seniors. The Badgers could be another team to look out for as they are one of the more experienced squads in the entire country. They are bringing in four star power forward Ben Carlson to add depth down low as well.
15) Michigan Wolverines
Juwan Howard is coming into his second season as Michigan’s head coach after overachieving in his first, leading the Wolverines to a national rank of fourth at one point in the season. They will lose Jon Teske and Zavier Simpson, but are bringing back its other three starters. Michigan currently sits with the fourth ranked recruiting class, headlined by five star power forward Isaiah Todd, who is an athletic freak down low. They are also the expected landing spot for a top-10 prospect in two guard Josh Christopher.
16) Arkansas Razorbacks
With Mason Jones and Isaiah Joe both likely returning next year, the Razorbacks could have one of the scarier backcourts in the entire SEC. They also add four stars Moses Moody and KK Robinson as well as Jacksonville transfer JD Notae and Cal transfer Connor Vanover.
17) West Virginia Mountaineers
West Virginia could be yet another team not on many fans’ radars but come in hot next season. They will lose only one starter and are bringing in four star big man Isaiah Cottrell. Who knows, maybe the mystery that is Jordan McCabe will finally break out and show the talent he portrayed in high school to help out the Mountaineers.
18) Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Rutgers might be back for the first time in decades. With an at-large bid, this year would have been the first time Rutgers would have made the NCAA Tournament since 1976. With Geo Baker returning to school, they landed four star center Cliff Omoruyi to take some pressure off Baker in the paint. Steve Pikiell resurrected the Scarlet Knights last year, and with a better team, they might just surprise some people next year as well.
19) Seton Hall Pirates
Seton Hall could easily be a top-10 team next year if all their pieces come together. Landing top-five transfer Kamar Aiken from Harvard was massive for the Pirates to help replace what Myles Powell and Quincy McKnight will leave behind. Many role players from this past year could be set into big roles such as Shavar Reynolds and Myles Cale. I also expect Sandro Mamukelashvili to break out.
20) LSU Tigers
I am ranking the Tigers this high under the assumption they do not lose more than one or two guys from last year, Emmitt Williams being the most likely. If Will Wade can keep Williams along with Javonte Smart, that could be a serious boost. They are bringing in five star point guard Cameron Thomas along with transfers Shareef O’neal from UCLA and Josh LeBlanc from Georgetown, who can both bring strong interior presences.
21) Houston Cougars
Quentin Grimes is the key for Houston’s success next year. If he eventually decides to declare for the NBA Draft, this likely knocks the Cougars out of the top-25. However, if he does stay, I can see Houston creeping into the top-15 and maybe even the top-10 if Grimes can continue his play as of late last year. It does not seem like they will lose any more contributors besides DeJon Jarreau, which is unlikely. They are also bringing in four star point guard Tramon Mark.
22) Auburn Tigers
Auburn could be an exciting team to look out for next year. They lost a gem in Isaac Okoro, who was one of the best defenders in the country, but sit with the eighth ranked recruiting class in the country. This includes five star point guard Sharife Cooper and four star power forward JT Thor. The Tigers could also shoot up the rankings as they are currently the favorites to land ESPN’s No. 1 prospect Jalen Green, who has yet to commit.
23) UCLA Bruins
Aside from Chris Smith, it does not look to be like UCLA will lose any more serious contributors. They are bringing in five star point guard Daishen Nix as well as Kentucky transfer forward Johnny Juzang who will both probably start for the Bruins. The Bruins might not be the most exciting team, but could be consistent in the poll all year long.
24) Oregon Ducks
Oregon will lose Payton Pritchard, a first team All-American, but are bringing in four star point guard Jalen Terry to hopefully take his place. Dana Altman’s bench could see extended roles this year and transfers Eugene Omoruyi and Eric Williams are now eligible. Oregon is also bringing back at least two of its starters to go along with it.
25) Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Cowboys could have one of the best backcourts in the Big 12 next year with vet Isaac Likekele and incoming top-three ESPN prospect Cade Cunningham. They are not expected to lose any significant starters and could be a quiet team to keep on your radar heading into next season.