Preseason NCAA Basketball Rankings 2017-18: Super-Early Top 25 Experts' Poll
The confetti hasn't even been swept from the floor in Phoenix, but it's already time to start thinking about who will vie for the 2018 men's basketball national championship in San Antonio.
The only prediction guaranteed to come true in this super-early look at next year's Top 25 is that in two months' time, we'll look back on this and have a good, hearty laugh.
That's because in addition to the annual "will he or won't he?" guessing game involving dozens of NBA draft decisions and the ceaseless supply of transfer news, there are also six 5-star recruits who have not yet chosen a school: Mohamed Bamba (No. 2 on Scout), Trevon Duval (No. 3), Kevin Knox (No. 7), Brandon McCoy (No. 8), Brian Bowen (No. 19) and M.J. Walker (No. 23).
Last year, the late-signing 5-star guys made Kansas a title contender (Josh Jackson), made Texas a team that should've been better than it was (Jarrett Allen) and gave Duke another stud to put on its bench (Marques Bolden). With twice as many potential one-and-done stars still available this spring, expect a lot of national-hierarchy-altering news to drop over the course of the next six weeks.
In this Top 25, we make no assumptions about where those six players will sign, but we do offer our best guess at which players will jump to the NBA. Those potential first-round picks are listed under "noteworthy departures" with an asterisk. Needless to say, if and when we're wrong and a guy returns for another year, expectations for his team will increase.
Here is what Kerry Miller, C.J. Moore and Brian Pedersen think the Top 25 should look like when college basketball resumes in November.
25. Wake Forest Demon Deacons
Noteworthy Departures: Austin Arians
Noteworthy Arrivals: Chaundee Brown (4-star SG)
Projected Starting Five: Bryant Crawford, Mitchell Wilbekin, Keyshawn Woods, Konstantinos Mitoglou, John Collins
Why They're Here: There were a ton of viable options for this 25th spot. Despite losing three starters, Michigan should be in good shape with the addition of Kentucky transfer Charles Matthews. Both TCU and Georgia Tech look solid after reaching the NIT championship game. And if USC can convince Chimezie Metu and Bennie Boatwright to turn down the NBA draft, the Trojans could win the Pac-12.
But in case John Collins sticks around for one more year, we had to go with the Demon Deacons. Hopefully they'll at least pretend to play a little defense in 2017-18, but they could be headed for one heck of an eight-man rotation.
Will Change If... Collins goes pro. Between Konstantinos Mitoglou and Doral Moore, Wake Forest at least has a contingency plan in place if Collins leaves them high and dry. But losing that big man would leave the Deacs with little choice but to employ a full-time four-guard lineup, which might get eaten alive in the ACC.
24. Indiana Hoosiers
Noteworthy Departures: Thomas Bryant*, OG Anunoby*
Noteworthy Arrivals: Justin Smith (4-star SF), Collin Hartman (returning from injury), Head coach Archie Miller
Projected Starting Five: Josh Newkirk, Robert Johnson, James Blackmon Jr., Juwan Morgan, De'Ron Davis
Why They're Here: After a disappointing final three months to the 2016-17 season, Indiana finally cut ties with head coach Tom Crean and made a home run hire in Archie Miller. Based on what he has done with Dayton over the past six years, he should have the Hoosiers back on the right track in no time.
That's especially true if everyone stays. It might seem silly to want everyone back from a team that went 18-16, but this is a roster that won games against Kansas and North Carolina before injuries and terrible point guard play derailed its season.
Will Change If... Thomas Bryant or OG Anunoby returns. There has been plenty of news in the past three weeks about Indiana's coaching situation, but it has been mostly quiet on the draft-declaration front. We're assuming that Bryant and Anunoby will at least "test the waters" without hiring an agent, as James Blackmon Jr. has already declared he'll do, but what happens from there is anyone's guess.
Though it was Anunoby's projected breakout season that had everyone excited about Indiana this past offseason, Bryant's return would make a bigger positive impact for the Hoosiers. Maybe De'Ron Davis is ready for a full-time job as the team's primary big man, but one more year of seasoning as the backup to Bryant would make the Hoosiers a Final Four threat.
23. Virginia Cavaliers
Noteworthy Departures: London Perrantes, Marial Shayok, Darius Thompson
Noteworthy Arrivals: Jay Huff (redshirt freshman), De'Andre Hunter (redshirt freshman)
Projected Starting Five: Ty Jerome, Kyle Guy, Devon Hall, Isaiah Wilkins, Jack Salt
Why They're Here: Virginia was looking like a Top 10 team before both Marial Shayok and Darius Thompson announced their intentions to transfer. At this point, Devon Hall is the highest-scoring returning player for the Cavaliers, and he only averaged 8.4 points per game. Even after accounting for this team's snail-like pace of play, that still isn't impressive.
But the Cavaliers still have Isaiah Wilkins, who has quietly been one of the best defenders in the country. Hall, Wilkins and the sharp-shooting Kyle Guy make for one heck of a core to build around. If either of the redshirt freshmen hits the ground running or if Mamadi Diakite or Jack Salt takes a huge step forward, UVA will be in business.
Will Change If... They lose any other transfers. When we first started compiling the roster data two weeks ago, both Shayok and Thompson were projected starters. The Cavaliers might be able to get by without those two guards, but they cannot afford to be on the wrong end of any other surprises.
22. Nevada Wolf Pack
Noteworthy Departures: Marcus Marshall, D.J. Fenner
Noteworthy Arrivals: Kendall Stephens (Purdue transfer), Caleb Martin (NC State transfer), Cody Martin (NC State transfer), Hallice Cooke (Iowa State transfer)
Projected Starting Five: Lindsey Drew, Stephens, Caleb Martin, Jordan Caroline, Cameron Oliver
Why They're Here: Once a lock to send at least three teams to the NCAA tournament on an annual basis, the Mountain West Conference has become a joke of a one-bid league in recent years. But Nevada is doing everything in its power to change that. Gonzaga got to the 2017 Final Four thanks in large part to three transfers from major-conference programs, and the Wolf Pack have taken that one step further by adding four such players to next year's roster.
Despite losing Marcus Marshall (19.7 ppg) and D.J. Fenner (13.7 ppg) as graduates, Nevada should be even better than the version that went 28-7 and earned a No. 12 seed this year.
Will Change If... Cameron Oliver declares for the draft. There is not a player on this roster taller than 6'8", but Oliver has been a wrecking ball at center for the past two years. As a sophomore, he averaged 16.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game while shooting better than 38 percent from three-point range. He is for Nevada what Chris Boucher was for Oregon.
But if he declares, this roster basically becomes Jordan Caroline and a bunch of guys hoping to find a new beginning at a mid-major program.
21. Florida Gators
Noteworthy Departures: Kasey Hill, Canyon Barry, Justin Leon
Noteworthy Arrivals: Jalen Hudson (Virginia Tech transfer)
Projected Starting Five: Chris Chiozza, KeVaughn Allen, Devin Robinson, Kevarrius Hayes, John Egbunu
Why They're Here: Following a somewhat surprising run to the Elite Eight, Florida might be back to its position as one of the annual contenders in the SEC. The Gators will lose Kasey Hill, but that just means Chris Chiozza gets to be a starter again. And while we'll all miss Canyon Barry's free-throw shooting, the addition of Jalen Hudson should be enough to withstand the loss of the Gators' sixth man.
Where things could get interesting in a good way is in the frontcourt. Kevarrius Hayes and John Egbunu have never started together, but that duo could make Florida the nation's premier interior defense with will-be sophomores Keith Stone and Gorjok Gak providing a change of pace off the bench.
Will Change If... Devin Robinson goes pro. He has already declared for the draft without an agent, as he did last year. If he keeps his toe in the pool this time around, it would mean the Gators will lose four of their six leading scorers without bringing in much of anything other than Hudson to replace them.
Unless KeVaughn Allen is ready to become a Malik Monk-level scorer, that would be a major problem.
20. Texas A&M Aggies
Noteworthy Departures: JC Hampton
Projected Starting Five: Caldwell, Admon Gilder, DJ Hogg, Robert Williams, Tyler Davis
Why They're Here: UCLA went from 15-17 last year to 31-5 this year, and Texas A&M appears to be the top candidate to replicate that turnaround. The Aggies went 16-15 with one of the youngest rosters in the nation. They only had two seniors and one junior, and they should be well-equipped to replace both of the graduates.
The big key for Texas A&M was finding out early that Robert Williams is returning for another season. The big man likely would have been a lottery pick, but he is instead returning to give the Aggies possibly the best frontcourt in the nation. If JJ Caldwell or one of the two incoming point guards can run the show well enough that Admon Gilder and DJ Hogg can play off the ball, Texas A&M will win a ton of games.
Will Change If... Any of the top-five guys leaves. The biggest reason for buying stock in the Aggies is their continuity. All five of last year's leading scorers should return alongside a redshirt freshman point guard, who likely would have been a starter this season if he hadn't been ruled ineligible by the NCAA.
19. Oregon Ducks
Noteworthy Departures: Chris Boucher, Dylan Ennis, Dillon Brooks*, Jordan Bell*
Noteworthy Arrivals: Troy Brown (5-star SF), Paul White (Georgetown transfer), M.J. Cage (redshirt freshman)
Projected Starting Five: Payton Pritchard, Tyler Dorsey, Brown, White, Kavell Bigby-Williams
Why They're Here: We won't have a firm grasp on Oregon's national standing until after Dillon Brooks, Jordan Bell and Tyler Dorsey come to a decision about the NBA draft. If all three come back, Oregon might be the preseason No. 1. If all three leave, the Ducks likely won't be ranked.
But this team is loaded with options beyond those three stars. Both Payton Pritchard and Casey Benson will be back, Kavell Bigby-Williams should be headed for a breakout year as a starter and former Hoya Paul White could immediately become a featured piece in Oregon. Factor in redshirt freshman M.J. Cage and one of the better incoming recruiting classes in the country, and the Ducks ought to remain one of the best teams on the West Coast.
Will Change If... They get Brandon McCoy. If Bell does jump to the NBA, Oregon could use another big man. The Ducks have already signed one 5-star (Brown) and two 4-star players, but not one of them is taller than 6'6".
Alternatively, Oregon's ranking will change if Brooks or Bell returns or Dorsey goes pro. Aside from Arizona, Duke and Kentucky, no roster is more up in the air right now.
18. Saint Mary's Gaels
Noteworthy Departures: Joe Rahon, Dane Pineau
Noteworthy Arrivals: None
Projected Starting Five: Emmett Naar, Calvin Hermanson, Tanner Krebs, Evan Fitzner, Jock Landale
Why They're Here: Losing Joe Rahon is going to hurt. He led the Gaels in minutes, assists and steals as a senior. Dane Pineau is a huge loss, as well. The sixth man led the team in both steal percentage and block percentage and was a critical part of the frontcourt rotation.
But Saint Mary's still has one more year of Jock Landale, Emmett Naar and Calvin Hermanson, which is a strong tripod to build around. And head coach Randy Bennett always seems to find at least one diamond in the rough—usually from Australia. Aussies like Naar, Kyle Clark and Tanner Krebs were great in their first season at Saint Mary's, and 7'1" redshirt freshman Jock Perry could keep that trend going.
Will Change If... Landale declares for the NBA draft. DraftExpress only has Landale ranked as the 40th-best junior in this year's class, so we're not talking about a guy destined to be a first-round pick—even though he finished at No. 2 in the KenPom Player of the Year standings. Still, there's no telling when a player might decide to move on.
17. Baylor Bears
Noteworthy Departures: Ish Wainright, Al Freeman, Johnathan Motley*
Noteworthy Arrivals: Tyson Jolly (redshirt freshman), Mark Vital (redshirt freshman), Tristan Clark (4-star PF)
Projected Starting Five: Manu Lecomte, King McClure, Jake Lindsey, Terry Maston, Jo Lual-Acuil Jr.
Why They're Here: Baylor lost three starters from last year's team, entered the 2016-17 season without a single vote in the preseason AP poll and climbed to No. 1 in less than two months' time.
Could the Bears repeat that journey?
If Johnathan Motley declares for the draft, they'll again lose three of their most important pieces. However, it's hard not to like the collection of players who'll return. In addition to the projected starting five and the two redshirt freshmen listed above, Baylor is getting back Nuni Omot and Wendell Mitchell and is adding a 4-star freshman (Tristan Clark) who could make an immediate impact in the frontcourt.
Will Change If... Motley returns. Ish Wainright and Al Freeman were key assets on this year's team, but they're replaceable. However, Motley could drastically alter expectations for Baylor if he comes back.
Even in a conference loaded with studs like Frank Mason III, Josh Jackson, Jawun Evans and Monte Morris, Motley was regarded as the Big 12 MVP by KenPom.
16. UCLA Bruins
Noteworthy Departures: Bryce Alford, Isaac Hamilton, Lonzo Ball, TJ Leaf
Projected Starting Five: Hands, Aaron Holiday, Wilkes, Ike Anigbogu, Thomas Welsh
Why They're Here: UCLA had one of the best six-man rotations in recent memory with the entire sextet averaging better than 10 points per game over the course of the season. Losing four of those six players is going to be a significant challenge, but the Bruins should still have enough pieces to be one of the top teams in the Pac-12 for a second straight year.
Incoming freshmen Kris Wilkes and Jaylen Hands won't be quite as incredible as TJ Leaf and Lonzo Ball were, but factor in Cody Riley, and UCLA has three of the 30 top recruits in the country. Coupled with the return of Prince Ali and the continued emergence of GG Goloman and Ike Anigbogu, the Bruins will have an eight-man rotation capable of doing serious damage.
Will Change If... They sign M.J. Walker. Ball, Leaf, Bryce Alford and Isaac Hamilton accounted for more than eight made three-pointers per game. Even if Thomas Welsh extends his game to the three-point arc and Ali comes back better than ever from distance, the offense still won't be anywhere near as good from downtown.
But adding Walker might change that. He's one of the top shooting guards in this year's class and could keep UCLA from completely changing what it wants to do on offense.
15. Miami Hurricanes
Noteworthy Departures: Davon Reed, Kamari Murphy
Noteworthy Arrivals: Lonnie Walker (5-star SG)
Projected Starting Five: Ja'Quan Newton, Dejan Vasiljevic, Bruce Brown, Anthony Lawrence, Dewan Huell
Why They're Here: Miami will lose a pair of starters; yet, it'll bring back about as much talent as any team in the ACC. Its primary eight-man rotation included three freshmen and two sophomores, each of which figures to be even better in 2017-18.
The big key for the Hurricanes is that they added yet another top-notch recruit. From 2010 to 2015, they didn't sign a single top-50 guy. However, Lonnie Walker (No. 22 in 2017) joins Bruce Brown (No. 28 in 2016) and Dewan Huell (No. 29 in 2016) on the growing list of top-30 players Jim Larranaga has signed in recent years. They should be in the hunt for the ACC title.
Will Change If... They lose any more transfers. James Palmer left the team last summer. The year before that, Omar Sherman, Deandre Burnett and Manu Lecomte all flew the coop. And James Kelly left after the 2013-14 season to go average 20.1 points per game for Marshall.
Larranaga has added more than his fair share of key transfers—Angel Rodriguez, Sheldon McClellan and Kamari Murphy, to name a few—but he has also lost at least one noteworthy player after each of the past four seasons. And this rotation might not be deep enough to stomach an expected loss.
14. Minnesota Golden Gophers
Noteworthy Departures: Akeem Springs
Noteworthy Arrivals: Davonte Fitzgerald (Texas A&M transfer)
Projected Starting Five: Nate Mason, Dupree McBrayer, Jordan Murphy, Amir Coffey, Reggie Lynch
Why They're Here: Despite getting bounced by Middle Tennessee in the first round of the NCAA tournament, Minnesota was the biggest surprise success story of the 2016-17 season. The Golden Gophers went from 8-23 to 24-10 while finishing above .500 in Big Ten play for the first time since 2005.
Six of their primary seven guys should be back for another season, including shot-blocking phenom Reggie Lynch. The Illinois State transfer made Minnesota an elite defense just one year after it struggled to keep any opponent from scoring.
Will Change If... Isaiah Washington becomes a can't-miss star. Minnesota doesn't often get top-100 recruits, but both Amir Coffey and Eric Curry lived up to the hype this past season. If Scout's No. 64 overall player (Washington) stirs up some buzz as an immediate-impact player, it'll give the Golden Gophers just enough to profile as a possible Big Ten champ.
Alternatively, Minnesota could drop out of the Top 25 picture altogether by losing a key transfer. This team has no backcourt depth and doesn't have any obvious candidates for a breakout season. Losing one guy to the transfer market could be disastrous.
13. Cincinnati Bearcats
Noteworthy Departures: Troy Caupain, Kevin Johnson
Noteworthy Arrivals: Cane Broome (Sacred Heart transfer)
Projected Starting Five: Jacob Evans, Broome, Jarron Cumberland, Gary Clark, Kyle Washington
Why They're Here: Cincinnati has found it impossible to recruit scorers, so it has instead started taking them from other teams. The Bearcats added NC State's Kyle Washington for this past season, and he almost led them in scoring. Don't be surprised if Cane Broome does the same thing two years after averaging 23.1 points per game at Sacred Heart.
In addition to those scorers, Cincinnati won 30 games this year and remains one of the best defensive units in the country. And with SMU potentially losing four starters, the AAC should be Cincinnati's to lose.
Will Change If... Something unexpected happens. Cincinnati isn't in the running for any of the remaining recruiting prizes, and it doesn't have anyone likely to declare for the NBA draft. But a lot can happen during college basketball's seven-month offseason. As long as the Bearcats remain in this form, though, this could be the year they get back to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1996.
12. Michigan State Spartans
Noteworthy Departures: Eron Harris, Alvin Ellis III, Miles Bridges*
Noteworthy Arrivals: Jaren Jackson (5-star PF), Gavin Schilling (returning from injury), Ben Carter (UNLV transfer returning from injury)
Projected Starting Five: Cassius Winston, Matt McQuaid, Joshua Langford, Schilling, Nick Ward
Why They're Here: This was a rebuilding year for Michigan State. What was already supposed to be a younger-than-usual team turned into one of the least experienced rosters in the country when Gavin Schilling and Ben Carter were lost to injury. But because of those injuries, the stud freshmen got a lot of playing time and should be well-equipped to lead this team as sophomores.
Frontcourt depth was MSU's biggest weakness in 2016-17, but it's going to be one heck of a strength next year. Nick Ward might become the most dominant big man in the country, and he'll be surrounded by Schilling, Carter and highly touted freshman Jaren Jackson. If Joshua Langford and Matt McQuaid are able to shine as go-to scorers in the backcourt, look out.
Will Change If... Miles Bridges returns. This has long been presumed to be an open-and-shut case. Bridges is a fringe top-10 pick, likely to go in the lottery. There's always one guy who turns down that opportunity to spend another year in college, but Texas A&M's Robert Williams has already volunteered as tribute for that role.
Yet, according to a report from Brendan Quinn of Mlive.com, Bridges is torn on whether to go. If he does come back and the Spartans can avoid the type of October injuries that derailed them this year, every single preseason Top 25 ballot ought to have Michigan State in the Top Five.
11. Purdue Boilermakers
Noteworthy Departures: Caleb Swanigan*
Noteworthy Arrivals: None
Projected Starting Five: Carsen Edwards, P.J. Thompson, Dakota Mathias, Vincent Edwards, Isaac Haas
Why They're Here: Purdue was the cream of the crop in the Big Ten, and it only figures to lose one player from that team. Granted, Caleb Swanigan's 28 double-doubles won't be easily replaced. However, the Boilermakers still have Isaac Haas and Vincent Edwards down low, and they're adding a 7'1" freshman in Matt Haarms.
But while "Biggie" stole all the headlines and accolades, Purdue was more than just its power forward. In fact, this was one of the best three-point shooting and passing teams in the country. With sharp shooters like Dakota Mathias, P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline still on the roster, the Boilermakers will put a lot of points on the board for a third straight season.
Will Change If... Swanigan returns for another year. There might not be a more important decision to monitor in the next few weeks than what Swanigan chooses to do about the NBA draft. He'll almost certainly declare for the draft without initially hiring an agent, and he would probably be a late-first-round pick if he remains in the pool.
If he comes back, though, he would be a lock to be a preseason first-team All-American and would vault Purdue into the preseason Top 10—if not the Top Five.
10. Arizona Wildcats
Noteworthy Departures: Kadeem Allen, Lauri Markkanen, Kobi Simmons*
Projected Starting Five: Parker Jackson-Cartwright, Rawle Alkins, Allonzo Trier, Ayton, Dusan Ristic
Why They're Here: Arizona has won at least 32 games in three of the last four years. And in most of those seasons, the Wildcats were recovering from even more attrition than this. Some of the fans in Tucson may have turned on him, but Sean Miller remains one of the best recruiters and coaches in the business, and he'll have Arizona ready for another strong campaign.
There are a lot of question marks regarding draft decisions, though. Lauri Markkanen is definitely gone, but Kobi Simmons, Rawle Alkins and Allonzo Trier all appear to be on the fence. As long as two of the three return, the Wildcats will still have a solid starting five with guys like Keanu Pinder, Chance Comanche, Dylan Smith and Talbott Denny available for quality depth.
Will Change If... They land another 5-star recruit. Trevon Duval, Brandon McCoy and Brian Bowen are all strongly considering Arizona and would make a huge splash by signing there. Adding McCoy would make for quite the embarrassment of riches in the frontcourt, but a small forward like Bowen could be the perfect fit on a roster that mostly consists of big men and slashing guards.
Additionally, Arizona's preseason ranking will be swayed by what Trier, Alkins and Simmons decide. If all three return and the Wildcats sign one of those three 5-star recruits, they could be the preseason No. 1 team for the first time since 2003.
9. West Virginia Mountaineers
Noteworthy Departures: Nathan Adrian, Tarik Phillip, Teyvon Myers, Brandon Watkins
Noteworthy Arrivals: None
Projected Starting Five: Jevon Carter, Daxter Miles Jr., Lamont West, Esa Ahmad, Elijah Macon
Why They're Here: We are officially done doubting West Virginia. After the Mountaineers lost Jaysean Paige, Devin Williams and Jonathan Holton, this past season should have been a challenge for them. Instead, they had one of their best seasons ever, including wins over AP No. 1 Baylor, No. 2 Kansas and No. 6 Virginia.
Nathan Adrian and Tarik Phillip ranked in the top four on the team in minutes, points, assists and steals, but they'll find a way to remain great without those two leaders. Look for Sagaba Konate and James Bolden to blossom as sophomores and keep Press Virginia firing on all cylinders.
Will Change If... Kansas loses Svi Mykhailiuk and Devonte' Graham to the NBA draft. Based on the amount of attrition elsewhere in the Big 12, it's looking like Kansas and West Virginia will be the clear favorites of the conference heading into next season. And if the Jayhawks lose their entire starting five, it might put the Mountaineers in the driver's seat to end KU's 13-year run atop the Big 12 standings.
8. Kansas Jayhawks
Noteworthy Departures: Frank Mason III, Landen Lucas, Josh Jackson*, Devonte' Graham*, Svi Mykhailiuk*
Noteworthy Arrivals: Malik Newman (Mississippi State transfer), Billy Preston (5-star PF)
Projected Starting Five: Newman, Lagerald Vick, Marcus Garrett, Preston, Udoka Azubuike
Why They're Here: Kansas has finished no worse than 16th in the AP Top 25 in 17 consecutive years, and you have to go back to 1989 to find the last time the Jayhawks lost more than 10 games in a season. The players come and go, but this program just keeps winning games and Big 12 titles.
Even if the Jayhawks lose their entire starting five, they'll be in good shape. Lagerald Vick has been patiently waiting for his chance to become a star, and former 5-star point guard Malik Newman should thrive after a disappointing freshman season at Mississippi State.
Will Change If... Devonte' Graham returns or they land Trevon Duval or M.J. Walker. With Udoka Azubuike, Billy Preston, Carlton Bragg Jr. and Dwight Coleby, Kansas should get back to its roots with a dominant frontcourt that beats the opposition into submission with two-pointers and blocked shots. But it's looking like the backcourt could be a problem if it's just Newman, Vick and 4-star small forward Marcus Garrett.
Duval, Walker or Graham could change that. Graham would be the best option of the bunch, if only because of the senior leadership and the fact that he's intimately familiar with the way things are done in Lawrence. But either Duval or Walker could be a game-changer who bumps Kansas into the Top Five—similar to when the Jayhawks skyrocketed to the top of the preseason polls after signing Jackson last April.
7. North Carolina Tar Heels
Noteworthy Departures: Kennedy Meeks, Isaiah Hicks, Nate Britt, Justin Jackson*
Noteworthy Arrivals: Jalek Felton (5-star PG)
Projected Starting Five: Joel Berry II, Kenny Williams, Theo Pinson, Luke Maye, Tony Bradley
Why They're Here: Prior to Luke Maye's breakout in the second weekend of the tournament, there were legitimate concerns about North Carolina's frontcourt situation for next season after Isaiah Hicks and Kennedy Meeks both graduate.
Now that Maye looks like a viable starter at power forward, though, there's a chance the Tar Heels return to a third consecutive Final Four. If nothing else, they're going to have one of the best, deepest backcourts in the nation. If they don't transfer somewhere that has more playing time to offer, both Seventh Woods and Brandon Robinson ought to be significant contributors as sophomores off the bench with Jalek Felton (nephew of former Tar Heel, Raymond Felton) getting just enough experience to become a star in 2018-19.
Will Change If... Bradley declares for the draft. Joel Berry II is also a candidate to jump to the NBA, but given the litany of guards on this roster, North Carolina might be able to handle that loss.
But losing Bradley would be catastrophic. Should that happen, Maye (6'8") would be the tallest Tar Heel with any experience. They do have two centers (Brandon Huffman and Sterling Manley) signed in this year's recruiting class, but neither figures to be an immediate-impact guy.
6. Wichita State Shockers
Noteworthy Departures: None
Noteworthy Arrivals: None
Projected Starting Five: Landry Shamet, Conner Frankamp, Zach Brown, Markus McDuffie, Shaquille Morris
Why They're Here: Every other team that finished the regular season in the AP Top 25 is going to lose at least one starter, and the vast majority of them are losing multiple key contributors to either graduation, the NBA draft or the transfer market.
But not Wichita State. As was the case for Saint Mary's and Wisconsin last year, this NCAA tournament bubble team returns everyone worth mentioning and will enter the following season as one of the legitimate candidates to win it all. The Shockers are going to be loaded with veteran experience, likely rolling with a primary nine-man rotation consisting of seven seniors, one junior and one sophomore (Landry Shamet) who played nothing like a freshman in this year's dance.
Will Change If... Players opt for the graduate-transfer route. Gregg Marshall has done a great job of keeping players at Wichita State in this era of rampant transferring. However, with seven soon-to-be seniors on the roster, there's always the chance that someone graduates early to explore college basketball's version of free agency.
Losing one bench guy wouldn't be the end of the world, but quality depth was Wichita State's biggest strength this season. If multiple seniors go elsewhere, it would become a bit tougher to put the Shockers in the Top 10.
5. Louisville Cardinals
Noteworthy Departures: Mangok Mathiang, Tony Hicks, David Levitch, Donovan Mitchell*
Noteworthy Arrivals: Malik Williams (5-star PF), Dwayne Sutton (UNC-Asheville transfer)
Projected Starting Five: Quentin Snider, Deng Adel, Ray Spalding, Jaylen Johnson, Anas Mahmoud
Why They're Here: The amount of talented depth on this roster is just plain silly. Even if Donovan Mitchell goes pro, it'll be tough for the Cardinals to find adequate playing time for everyone.
Their 2016 5-star addition (V.J. King) is still unlikely to be a starter, and there's almost no chance this year's stud freshman (Malik Williams) has a starting job in that frontcourt. Dwayne Sutton averaged 12.0 points and 7.7 rebounds per game as a freshman at UNC-Asheville last season, and he'll probably rank eighth in minutes played at Louisville.
Will Change If... Mitchell comes back. Deng Adel, Jaylen Johnson and Ray Spalding are all fringe candidates to declare for the draft, but the big one is Mitchell, as DraftExpress has him projected as the No. 21 overall pick.
Louisville was at its best this season when he was hitting triples, though it's possible his departure would open the door for Adel or King to thrive as the team's go-to scorer. The Cardinals look strong with Mitchell out of the picture, but they would likely be the preseason favorite to win the ACC if he returns for one more year.
4. Duke Blue Devils
Noteworthy Departures: Amile Jefferson, Matt Jones, Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Luke Kennard*, Grayson Allen*
Projected Starting Five: Frank Jackson, Trent, Alex O'Connell, Marques Bolden, Carter
Why They're Here: Seven Blue Devils played at least six minutes in each of their NCAA tournament games, but six of those guys are unlikely to be on the roster next season. Maybe Luke Kennard or Grayson Allen will surprise us by coming back. Perhaps Frank Jackson will surprise us by going pro. Either way, Duke is not going to look much like the team we spent the past 12 months discussing ad nauseam.
But when has that mattered? Duke has been a preseason Top 10 team in nine straight years and hasn't opened a season outside the Top 13 of the AP poll since 1995. The Blue Devils have already signed two studs and are among the favorites for three other top 10 recruits. Unless some nightmare scenario occurs where Mike Krzyzewski misses out on all three of those targets and loses Jackson, Kennard and Allen to the NBA, Duke will be back in the Top 10 once again.
Will Change If... They sign Trevon Duval and/or Kevin Knox. Mohamed Bamba would be a nice addition, but the Blue Devils already have Marques Bolden, Wendell Carter, Javin DeLaurier, Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. They don't necessarily need another big man.
But they're looking thin in the backcourt with Jackson, Gary Trent and Alex O'Connell the only guards projected to be on the roster at this point. Duval is the big fish they're hoping to catch, considering point guard play was their biggest weakness this season. Getting a wing-forward as talented as Knox, though, would be one heck of a silver medal. Landing both might propel Duke to No. 1.
3. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Noteworthy Departures: Przemek Karnowski, Jordan Mathews
Noteworthy Arrivals: Corey Kispert (4-star SF), Jacob Larsen (redshirt freshman), Zach Norvell Jr. (redshirt freshman)
Projected Starting Five: Nigel Williams-Goss, Josh Perkins, Silas Melson, Johnathan Williams III, Zach Collins
Why They're Here: Now that the Zags have been to one Final Four, how about another? They're losing lovable big man Przemek Karnowski and primary shooting guard Jordan Mathews, but this "mid-major" sure does have a lot of options for replacing them.
Zach Collins is already better than Karnowski, so he should slide effortlessly into the role of starting center while fellow will-be sophomore Killian Tillie gets bumped up to sixth man. And as far as Gonzaga's perimeter game is concerned, seven of the players in the primary eight-man rotation shot better than 36 percent from three-point range this season, including the three returning big men.
Factor in Rui Hachimura as a potential breakout guy, and Gonzaga should be a Top 10 team again, even if none of the "noteworthy arrivals" provides any value.
Will Change If... Collins or Nigel Williams-Goss goes pro. Josh Perkins was Gonzaga's point guard before this season and could move back into that role, but he isn't nearly the multi-faceted weapon that Williams-Goss is. And Tillie should be a crucial starter by the end of his college career, but he's not quite ready to be the type of dominant post presence that Collins is.
Even if both guys bolt, Gonzaga would likely still be a preseason Top 25 team. There just wouldn't be many whispers about the Bulldogs' competing for the title again.
2. Villanova Wildcats
Noteworthy Departures: Josh Hart, Kris Jenkins, Darryl Reynolds
Noteworthy Arrivals: Omari Spellman (redshirt freshman)
Projected Starting Five: Jalen Brunson, Phil Booth, Donte DiVincenzo, Mikal Bridges, Spellman
Why They're Here: Villanova has been either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in four consecutive NCAA tournaments, losing five or fewer games in each of those seasons. Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins were huge pieces of that puzzle who will be missed, but this roster is still loaded with quality players.
Redshirt freshman Omari Spellman will be a major addition to the frontcourt, and it became readily apparent in Villanova's two NCAA tournament games that Donte DiVincenzo is ready to be a star for the next few years. It's not a particularly deep roster, but the Wildcats ought to ride a strong seven-man rotation to a fifth straight Big East title.
Will Change If... Jalen Brunson goes pro. Guys from Villanova don't leave early for the NBA draft. Kyle Lowry and Maalik Wayns were the exceptions to that rule, but Brunson is the exception to Villanova's usual recruiting approach.
According to Scout, Brunson was the first 5-star player the Wildcats signed since 2009. Given the deep crop of point guards in this year's draft class, it seems like a safe assumption he'll stay, but look for him to at least test the waters.
Phil Booth only played in three games in 2016-17 due to a knee injury, but he could be the starting point guard if he heals up over the summer. It wouldn't be the same, though. Brunson's ability to get to the rim before either finishing through contact or finding an open man was perhaps the biggest contributing factor to Villanova's success this season. Moving on without him would be a problem.
1. Kentucky Wildcats
Noteworthy Departures: Malik Monk*, De'Aaron Fox, Bam Adebayo*, Derek Willis, Dominique Hawkins, Mychal Mulder
Projected Starting Five: Isaiah Briscoe, Diallo, Vanderbilt, Wenyen Gabriel, Isaac Humphries
Why They're Here: It might be another month or two before we know what Kentucky's roster will look like in November, but the Wildcats are a mortal lock to open the season ranked in the Top Five.
Even if everyone from this year's team leaves for one reason or another, John Calipari has already signed five 5-star recruits and is in the running for two more. The Wildcats have been ranked in the top three of the preseason AP poll in six consecutive years and should stretch that streak to seven.
Will Change If... They get Mohamed Bamba or Kevin Knox. Kentucky would maybe drop a spot or two if Isaiah Briscoe, Wenyen Gabriel and/or Isaac Humphries leaves, but there are already viable incoming replacements for each of them.
The more likely move is that the Wildcats become the unanimous preseason No. 1 team by signing one of the other 5-star recruits they're chasing. They already have the best crop of freshmen by a country mile, but one more could really push them over the top.