Bleacher Report's Way-Too-Early 2022-23 College Basketball Top 25

Joel Reuter@JoelReuterBRFeatured ColumnistApril 6, 2022

Bleacher Report's Way-Too-Early 2022-23 College Basketball Top 25

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    Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

    The confetti only recently stopped falling on the Kansas Jayhawks' thrilling comeback win over the North Carolina Tar Heels in the NCAA tournament title game, but it's never too soon to start looking ahead to the next men's college basketball season.

    A ton will change in the weeks and months ahead, from NBA draft decisions to the ever-looming transfer portal to what's left of the 2022 recruiting class.

    In other words, the title of this article is "Way-Too-Early Rankings" for a reason, but it's nonetheless a fun exercise to get the discussion rolling on next year's college basketball slate.

    Ahead you'll find our initial top-25 rankings for next season, with teams ranked based on expected returning talent, incoming recruiting class, and history of success securing top-tier talent by way of the transfer portal.
    Let the debate begin!

Nos. 25-21

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    Zach Edey
    Zach EdeyAndy Manis/Associated Press

    25. Texas Longhorns

    The Longhorns are expected to lose a ton of talent to graduation, but Christian Bishop is expected back after averaging 7.0 points and 5.6 rebounds in his first season with the Longhorns. He'll be joined by dynamic freshmen Dillon Mitchell (5-star, No. 14 overall) and point guard Arterio Morris (5-star, No. 19 overall) who should make an immediate impact, and Chris Beard knows his way around the transfer portal.


    24. Purdue Boilermakers

    Replacing presumptive lottery pick Jaden Ivey and big man Trevion Williams won't be easy, but the Boilermakers have talent up front with 7'4" Zach Edey (14.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG), 6'10" Caleb Furst (4.1 PPG, 3.2 RPG) and 6'6" Mason Gillis (6.4 PPG, 4.8 RPG) all expected back. Incoming freshman guard Fletcher Loyer (4-star, No. 84 overall) will be a major X-factor.


    23. Xavier Musketeers

    Leading scorer Jack Nunge (13.4 PPG, 7.4 RPG) and fellow starters Colby Jones (11.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG) and Zach Freemantle (10.4 PPG, 5.8 RPG) will all be back for the NIT champions. Losing Dwon Odom to the transfer portal is less-than-ideal for their point guard outlook, but freshman Kam Craft (4-star, No. 84 overall) should be a day one starter at the off-guard spot.


    22. Auburn Tigers

    The Tigers have a lot of production to replace with Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler both headed for the NBA draft, but the guard duo of K.D. Johnson (12.3 PPG), Wendell Green Jr. (12.0 PPG, 5.1 APG) will be back. Bounce-back candidate Allen Flanigan (14.3 PPG in 2020-21 season) is a big X-factor, and 6'10" center Yohan Traore (5-star, No. 15 overall) should make an immediate impact.


    21. TCU Horned Frogs

    The Horned Frogs had just one senior in their nine-man rotation this past season, and while leading scorer Mike Miles is heading for the NBA draft and guard Francisco Farabello has entered the transfer portal, they are still expected to return a sizable chunk of their roster. This team beat Kansas and Texas Tech down the stretch before blowing out Seton Hall in the opening round of the NCAA tournament and forcing No. 1 seed Arizona to overtime in the second round.

Nos. 20-16

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    David Roddy
    David RoddyAAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images/Getty Images

    20. Colorado State Rams

    Slotting the Rams at No. 20 hinges entirely on Mountain West Player of the Year David Roddy (19.2 PPG, 7.5 RPG) returning. The 6'5" guard is testing the NBA draft waters, and he is slotted at No. 38 overall in the latest mock draft from B/R's Jonathan Wasserman. Guard Isiah Stevens (14.7 PPG) is also expected back along with several others from a team that won 25 games and finished No. 24 in the final AP poll.


    19. Villanova Wildcats

    This is going to be a less experienced Wildcats team with Big East Player of the Year Collin Gillespie and several others set to depart. However, Justin Moore (if healthy) and Eric Dixon should be back, and they have a strong recruiting class coming in with Cam Whitmore (5-star, No. 20 overall) and Mark Armstrong (4-star, No. 45 overall) both expected to contribute right away.


    18. Oregon Ducks

    The Ducks missed the 2022 NCAA tournament, and leading scorers Will Richardson and Jacob Young were both seniors. However, De'Vion Harmon (10.8 PPG), Quincy Guerrier (10.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG) and N'Faly Dante (8.1 PPG, 6.3 RPG) are all expected back, and there are a pair of elite incoming freshmen in 7'0" center Kel'el Ware (5-star, No. 10 overall) and point guard Dior Johnson (5-star, No. 23 overall).


    17. Indiana Hoosiers

    The Hoosiers are another team whose ranking is contingent on a player's pro decision. Junior forward Trayce Jackson-Davis is projected to go No. 46 overall by Wasserman, but he could potentially play his way into the first round if he returns to school and develops an outside game. Getting him back along with Race Thompson (11.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG) and top recruits Jalen Hood-Schifino (5-star, No. 21 overall) and Kaleb Banks (4-star, No. 74 overall) would make the Hoosiers contenders in the Big Ten.


    16. Dayton Flyers

    All five starters are expected to return for a Dayton team that was the first team on the wrong side of the NCAA tournament bubble. They beat Kansas, Miami and Virginia Tech in non-conference action  last season, and standout freshmen DaRon Holmes II (12.8 PPG, 6.1 RPG) and Malachi Smith (9.3 PPG, 5.3 APG) both offer significant upside going forward.

Nos. 15-11

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    Kofi Cockburn
    Kofi CockburnAdam Hunger/Associated Press

    15. Illinois Fighting Illini

    All-American big man Kofi Cockburn is not expected to be drafted in the NBA, and he stands to earn a bundle through NIL deals as one of the faces of college basketball, so the possibility remains that he'll return for his senior season. With Andre Curbelo in the transfer portal and Trent Frazier, Alonzo Plummer, Jacob Grandison and Da'Monte Williams all graduating, this is going to be a very different looking Illinois team one way or another. If Cockburn comes back, reeling in transfers and remaining recruits becomes a much easier task.


    14. Alabama Crimson Tide

    The Crimson Tide have the No. 3 recruiting class in the nation right now, with Brandon Miller (5-star, No. 11 overall), Jaden Bradley (5-star, No. 17 overall), Rylan Griffen (4-star, No. 49 overall) and Noah Clowney (4-star, No. 58 overall) all ranked among the top 60 players in their class. Could guard Jahvon Quinerly (13.8 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 4.2 APG) return after suffering a torn ACL during March Madness?


    13. Tennessee Volunteers

    One-and-done freshman Kennedy Chandler is a big loss for the Volunteers, but Santiago Vescovi (13.3 PPG), Josiah-Jordan James (10.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG), Olivier Nkamhoua (8.6 PPG, 5.6 RPG) and fellow freshman Zakai Ziegler (8.8 PPG) are all expected back, though Vescovi is testing the draft waters. They also have a trio of returning freshmenBrandon Huntley-Hatfield, Jonas Aidoo and Jahmai Mashackwho were top 100 recruits last year and have the talent to emerge in an expanded role.


    12. Michigan Wolverines

    Will Hunter Dickinson be back for his junior season? The 7'1" center capped off a solid sophomore year with a strong NCAA tournament showing, finishing the year at 18.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game while showcasing more of an outside game with 21 three-pointers after he shot 0-for-4 from deep as a freshman. If he comes back, he'll join Caleb Houstan (10.1 PPG), Moussa Diabate (9.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG) and Frankie Collins (2.8 PPG, 1.4 APG) who all saw significant action as freshmen, along with a trio of top-100 recruits.


    11. Baylor Bears

    Adam Flagler (13.8 PPG, 38.7 3PT%), LJ Cryer (13.5 PPG, 46.8 3PT%) and Flo Thamba (6.2 PPG, 5.6 RPG) give coach Bryce Drew a solid core to build around as he looks to restock the Baylor rotation. Incoming freshman Keyonte George (5-star, No. 3 overall) has the potential to be one of college basketball's top newcomers next season, and he'll be the key to the Bears maintaining their recent run of success.

Nos. 10-6

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    Drew Timme
    Drew TimmeEzra Shaw/Getty Images

    10. Arizona Wildcats

    If anyone from the trio of Bennedict Mathurin, Christian Koloko and Dalen Terry return next seasonMathurin looks like the only lock to be selected in the first round of the NBA draft—the Wildcats have a chance to climb even higher in these rankings. As it stands, they'll welcome back Azuolas Tubelis (13.9 PPG), Kerr Kriisa (9.7 PPG, 4.7 APG), Pelle Larsson (7.2 PPG) and Oumar Ballo (6.8 PPG, 4.4 RPG) who are all capable of taking another step forward.


    9. Creighton Bluejays

    The Bluejays return four starters from a team that won 23 games and gave eventual champion Kansas a scare in the second round of the NCAA tournament. Arthur Kaluma (10.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG), Ryan Nembhard (11.3 PPG, 4.4 APG) and Trey Alexander (7.4 PPG, 3.7 RPG) all impressed as freshman, while big man Ryan Kalkbrenner (13.1 PPG, 7.7 RPG, 2.6 BPG) will be back healthy after a knee injury sidelined him for the Kansas game.


    8. Gonzaga Bulldogs

    Star forward Drew Timme is projected to go No. 58 overall in Wasserman's mock draft. He doesn't have a jumper and he's a below-average athlete, so there's not much he can do to improve his draft stock, but returning for another year is still very much on the table. Regardless, it will be up to 2021 5-star recruits Nolan Hickman (5.1 PPG) and Hunter Sallis (4.3 PPG) to step up after both averaged fewer than 20 minutes per game as freshmen. If Timme leaves, expect Mark Few to have his pick of the transfer portal bigs.


    7. North Carolina Tar Heels

    Armando Bacot, Caleb Love and R.J. Davis are all absent from Wasserman's mock draft, which was published before the start of the Final Four. If all three return, the Tar Heels are going to be a serious threat to return to the national title game, but that's a big if given the exposure those three received during March Madness. Throw in top recruits Seth Trimble (4-star, No. 32 overall) and Jalen Washington (4-star, No. 41 overall) and the upside here is huge, but this is one of the more fluid rankings on the list.


    6. Duke Blue Devils

    With Paolo Banchero, A.J. Griffin, Mark Williams, Wendell Moore and Trevor Keels all expected to bolt for the NBA draft, the only returning rotation piece for Duke will be Jeremy Roach (8.6 PPG). Luckily, new head coach Jon Scheyer will welcome aboard the nation's top recruiting class, led by Dereck Lively II (5-star, No. 1 overall), Kyle Filipowski (5-star, No. 3 overall), Dariq Whitehead (5-star, No. 5 overall) and Mark Mitchell (5-star, No. 13 overall). How quickly will they jell?

Nos. 5-1

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    5. Kansas Jayhawks

    The expectation is that Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun and David McCormack have all played their final game for the Jayhawks, but there's still a solid core in place and a dynamic recruiting class that includes three 5-star recruits ready to make their mark. Jalen Wilson (11.1 PPG, 7.4 RPG) and Dejuan Harris Jr. (Big 12 All-Defense) return from the starting lineup, and Drake transfer Joseph Yesufu could step into a bigger role after playing just 9.3 minutes per game.


    4. Kentucky Wildcats

    Chris Livingston (5-star, No. 7 overall) and Carson Wallace (5-star, No. 8 overall) are the latest pair of hot-shot recruits set to suit up for the Wildcats, and they'll likely join returnees Keion Brooks (10.8 PPG) and Sahvir Wheeler (10.1 PPG, 6.9 APG) in the starting lineup, provided Brooks opts to return after entering the draft without hiring an agent. This team immediately jumps to No. 1 if National Player of the Year Oscar Tshiebwe decides to return for his senior year. Wasserman currently has him just outside the first round at No. 33 overall, so the feedback he receives in the draft process will be big.


    3. Houston Cougars

    Kelvin Sampson has taken Houston to the Elite Eight twice and the Final Four once in the last three NCAA tournaments, and with Marcus Sasser (17.7 PPG), Jamal Shead (10.0 PPG, 5.8 APG) and Tramon Mark (10.1 PPG) all expected to return, more success awaits next season. As for newcomers, Jarace Walker (5-star, No. 9 overall) might be the biggest recruit in school history, and Terrance Arceneaux (4-star, No. 40 overall) should also contribute immediately.


    2. Arkansas Razorbacks

    Eric Musselman built Nevada into a winner thanks to his ability to mine the transfer portal, but it's the nation's No. 2 recruiting class that has helped vault Arkansas into top-five conversation heading into next season. Nick Smith (5-star, No. 6 overall), Jordan Walsh (5-star, No. 18 overall) and Anthony Black (5-star, No. 22 overall) headline a six-player class that also include three 4-star recruits, and Musselman has also reeled in 5-star transfer Trevon Brazile from Missouri. If one or both of Au'Diese Toney or Jaylin Williams decide to return, this team could be a juggernaut.


    1. UCLA Bruins

    Shiny new 5-star recruits are nice, but there's no substitute for experience. At the moment, Jaime Jaquez Jr. (No. 53 overall) and Johnny Juzang (No. 58 overall) are both fringe second-round picks in Wasserman's mock draft. If they both return along with point guard Tyger Campbell and 2021 5-star recruit Peyton Watson, the Bruins would be a top-10 team without any incoming freshman. It just so happens they also have Amari Bailey (5-star, No. 2 overall), Adem Bona (5-star, No. 16 overall) and Dylan Andrews (4-star, No. 39 overall) joining the roster. Things could change if one or more of their core pieces leave, but for now, this is the team to beat.


    All stats courtesy of Sports Reference, while recruiting information comes via 247Sports.