While the Virginia Cavaliers are going to enjoy their national championship, the sports world is always quick to think about what's next. We're already looking ahead to the 2019-20 men's college basketball season.
Let's be clear: This is an inexact science. Disagreements are inevitable because of all the variables involved. Upcoming NBA draft declarations, transfers, injuries, suspensions and coaching changes will impact the perception of certain teams.
Perhaps it's best to consider the early Top 25 a hype ranking. Besides, sports are all about entertainment. Have some fun!
Bleacher Report's expert crew―David Gardner, David Kenyon, Kerry Miller and Elliott Pohnl―submitted a ballot. A first-place vote counted for 25 points, followed by 24 for second place, etc.
B/R's Super-Early Top 25
1. Michigan State
T-10. Ohio State
14. North Carolina
16. North Carolina State
T-18. Florida State
T-18. Texas Tech
Others receiving votes: Texas, Utah State, Purdue, Cincinnati, Kansas, Saint Mary's
Major Love for the Mitten
One year after Michigan finished as the national runner-up, Michigan State reached the Final Four this season. As of right now, we don't anticipate a big decline for either program.
Michigan State is our super-early No. 1 team, provided Cassius Winston returns to school. Despite an All-American year, the point guard isn't mentioned among the best NBA prospects. Winston is talented enough to turn pro, but his consensus ranking is low.
As long as Winston is back, the Spartans should be stacked. Xavier Tillman is staying, and Nick Ward probably will. Joshua Langford will return from an ankle injury. Aaron Henry will be a sophomore, and MSU has a couple of incoming 4-star recruits.
The reigning Big Ten champions will be prepared to face a challenging test from Zavier Simpson and Michigan.
Charles Matthews may be the only departure for the Wolverines unless Ignas Brazdeikis or Jordan Poole―who could declare for the NBA draft but decide against hiring an agent―leaves early. Jon Teske and Isaiah Livers should return too.
Super-Early Teams to Watch
Hey, the Pac-12 may be functional again!
B/R's experts anticipate a resurgence from Arizona and USC, which finished a combined 16-20 in league play and 33-32 overall this season. However, both schools are poised to welcome top-four recruiting classes over the summer.
While USC checked in at No. 12, Arizona shared the 10th spot with Ohio State. Chris Holtmann oversaw a 20-win campaign in his first season with the Buckeyes and has three top-50 prospects coming to Columbus.
Excellent recruiting is a key for Louisville's ranking too. The Cardinals might lose leading scorer Jordan Nwora to the NBA but otherwise return a majority of their production and boast five top-100 players in Chris Mack's first full-cycle recruiting class.
One potential sleeper is VCU, which may return its top nine contributors. VCU only had two seniors on the roster, and neither held a significant role. The Rams earned a No. 8 seed in the 2019 tourney and saw Marcus Evans and De'Riante Jenkins land on the All-Atlantic 10 first and third teams, respectively.
We're Doing This Again?
See? Chris Beard can't believe it either.
In just three years, the brilliant head coach turned a Texas Tech program that hadn't posted a winning Big 12 record since 2006-07 into a national runner-up. The Red Raiders put together this unexpected run after losing an All-American guard, a first-round NBA draft pick and four important seniors.
They'll face something similar this summer.
Star guard Jarrett Culver is a top NBA prospect, while Matt Mooney, Tariq Owens, Norense Odiase and Brandone Francis are seniors. Texas Tech's second-highest returning scorer will be Kyler Edwards, who managed 5.3 points per game this season.
As of right now, Texas Tech (unsurprisingly) doesn't have any grad transfers committed. That's probably going to change, and the arrivals figure to demand a tweak to the rankings.
But the Red Raiders barely grabbed a Top 20 spot here.
Check back in March 2020, when we'll either be proud of ourselves for accurately predicting a decline or wondering why anyone foolishly bothered to doubt Beard.