It's literally never been more difficult than it is right now to try to project how college basketball will look next season because of the expected addition of a one-time transfer waiver that'll allow players to leave one school and play at another immediately.
The transfer portal is on fire.
Many relevant names will be on new teams soon enough -- and most of the biggest decisions haven't been made yet. In other words, countless rosters remain very much a work in progress. But the 2020-21 college basketball season is over, which means the first CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 And 1 for the 2021-22 season must publish.
So here we are.
UCLA will start at No. 1 based on the assumption that every meaningful piece that helped the Bruins make the Final Four, and finish 13th at KenPom, will return to campus. Obviously, Johnny Juzang has a decision to make about the NBA Draft. But if he comes back, and picks up right where he left off, UCLA -- which is adding five-star prospect Peyton Watson -- should have a real chance to return to the Final Four.
Please note that I'm operating under the assumption most meaningful seniors will not return for another season even though the NCAA is allowing it, and that most projected first-round and second-round NBA Draft picks will enter (and remain in) the NBA Draft. As always, some players will make decisions in the coming weeks and months that run counter to that assumption. As always, when that happens, I'll adjust the Top 25 And 1 accordingly.
2021-22 Early Top 25 And 1 preseason rankings
|Every meaningful player who helped the Bruins make the Final Four is currently projected back on campus - among them NCAA Tournament star Johnny Juzang. UCLA will add five-star prospect Peyton Watson and should have all of the pieces necessary to win a national title.||NR||22-10|
|Jalen Suggs and Joel Ayayi are probably both entering the NBA Draft, but Gonzaga is expected to add two five-star prospects in Chet Holmgren and Hunter Sallis, the former of whom is the consensus No. 1 player in the Class of 2021. Combine them with a possible core of Drew Timme, Andrew Nembhard and Anton Watson, and the Zags should be a Final Four contender again.||1||31-1|
|The Crimson Tide should return four of the top seven scorers from a team that won the SEC regular-season title and SEC Tournament - most notably Jaden Shackelford and Jahvon Quinerly. The expected additions of five-star point guard JD Davison and four-star big Charles Bediako would give Nate Oats a chance at back-to-back conference championships.||2||26-7|
|The Blue Devils are the only team expected to add three five-star prospects from the Class of 2021 - among them Paolo Banchero and AJ Griffin, both of whom project as one-and-done top 10 picks. So even if Matthew Hurt joins DJ Steward in the 2021 NBA Draft, Mike Krzyzewski will have enough talent to take Duke back to the top of the sport.||NR||13-11|
|The Bears are expected to lose Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler to the NBA Draft. But if Baylor keeps a core of Adam Flagler, Matthew Mayer and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, and enrolls a top-five recruiting class highlighted by five-star wing Kendall Brown, Scott Drew will have enough to make a run at another national title.||2||28-2|
|The projection here is that Ohio State will return the top three scorers - Duane Washington Jr., E.J. Liddell and Justice Sueing - from a team that earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Malaki Branham, a consensus top-30 prospect, is the best incoming recruit.||--||21-10|
|The Seminoles should be really good again despite the likely losses of MJ Walker, RaiQuan Gray and Scottie Barnes thanks to the expected return of proven pieces like Anthony Polite, Balsa Koprivica and Malik Osborne. Florida State will add the nation's second-ranked recruiting class to that core, as well as former Houston standout Caleb Mills.||7||18-7|
|This ranking is tied to the idea that Franz Wagner will enter the NBA Draft while Hunter Dickinson returns for his sophomore season at Michigan, where he'll likely be the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year. The 7-foot-1 center would be the perfect experienced piece to pair with the nation's top-ranked recruiting class.||4||23-5|
|The Boilermakers have no seniors and zero obvious NBA prospects, meaning everybody who matters should return from a team that received a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament. The star is Trevion Williams, who averaged 15.5 points and 9.1 rebounds as a junior.||8||18-10|
|Even if Ochai Agbaji moves on, Kansas should still return four starters from a team that went 9-2 in its final 11 games and advanced in the NCAA Tournament. A top-10 recruiting class will help the Jayhawks compete for the Big 12 title.||2||21-9|
|There is a real belief in basketball circles that Collin Gillispie is seriously considering returning for one more season at Villanova. Assuming he does, the Wildcats will again be the favorite in the Big East even with the expected departure of Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.||7||18-7|
|As long as Kelvin Sampson remains the coach, Houston will likely be a mainstay in the Top 25 And 1. The expected loss of Quentin Grimes will hurt, but probably not too much.||4||28-4|
|Mark Turgeon has used the transfer market to add a quality guard (Fatts Russell) and big (Qudus Wahab). That should be enough to offset the loss of Darryl Morsell and get the Terrapins to the Big Dance for the sixth time in a span of seven NCAA Tournaments.||NR||17-14|
|The expected return of Keion Brooks, Dontaie Allen and Jacob Toppin gives John Calipari a core of three players who averaged at least 14 minutes per game this season. He'll fill out the roster with a top-five recruiting class and at least two impactful transfers - namely Kellan Grady (Davidson) and Oscar Tshiebwe (West Virginia).||NR||9-16|
|North Carolina's decision to promote Hubert Davis suggests the school should be able to keep Armando Bacot, Caleb Love and much of the rotation on campus. That's why Year 1 of the post-Roy Williams era should be successful.||NR||18-11|
|The Razorbacks are likely losing a lot - including projected first-round pick Moses Moody. But JD Notae should return as a double-digit scorer, and Eric Musselman is already reloading, most recently with Au'Diese Toney, a transfer from Pitt who averaged 14.4 points and 5.9 rebounds this season.||7||25-7|
|Dan Hurley has rebuilt UConn to the point where it can be a consistent challenger to Villanova in the Big East. Even the expected loss of James Bouknight shouldn't change that.||4||15-8|
|Aaron Henry is expected to follow Joshua Langford and Rocket Watts out the door. But the arrival of five-star guard Max Christie and Northeastern transfer Tyson Walker should have Tom Izzo in his 24th straight NCAA Tournament.||NR||15-13|
|All five starters from a team that won the Atlantic 10 regular-season title and Atlantic 10 Tournament are expected back - most notably Kyle Lofton, who averaged 14.4 points and 5.5 assists as a junior. Wake Forest transfer Quadry Adams will provide depth.||5||16-5|
|The Vols will likely lose five-star freshmen Jaden Springer and Keon Johnson. But if the other non-seniors return, Tennessee will have five of its top eight back to pair with the best point guard in the Class of 2021 (Kennedy Chandler) and another newcomer who just averaged 11.7 points while shooting 44.2% from 3-point range at Auburn (Justin Powell).||NR||18-9|
|Most of the pieces that helped Arizona finish in the top 30 at KenPom are expected back. As long as James Akinjo withdraws from the NBA Draft, the Wildcats should return to the NCAA Tournament (provided they're eligible for the NCAA Tournament).||NR||17-9|
|Andy Enfield should have the Trojans back in the NCAA Tournament - as long as Isaiah Mobley doesn't join his brother, Evan Mobley, in the NBA Draft. A top-15 recruiting class highlighted by Reese Dixon-Waters will help offset the departures.||1||25-8|
|Trey Murphy is expected to enter the NBA Draft, which means Virginia will likely lose its top three scorers. But Kihei Clark will provide Tony Bennett with an experienced point guard capable of keeping the Cavaliers near the top of the ACC.||7||18-7|
|Dana Altman is among the best at reloading his roster each offseason via the transfer market. So it's safe to assume he'll find enough good pieces to supplement a core of Will Richardson and Eric Williams, both of whom averaged double-figures this season.||NR||21-7|
|Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Coburn are projected departures, which means the Illini are expected to lose their top three scorers. But Brad Underwood still has enough in the program to keep Illinois relevant.||23||24-7|
|The Orange have three players in the transfer portal - among them Kadary Richmond, a talented freshman guard with size. But the top three scorers from a Sweet 16 team should be back, including Buddy Boeheim, who averaged 22.3 points in the NCAA Tournament.||NR||18-10|