College basketball is about 98 percent set for next season. The NCAA's draft deadline has passed, meaning we know for certain who is staying in college and who is gone for good to the NBA, the D-League or overseas destinies. The only moves left on the table are a few uncommitted prospects, plus grad transfers who are yet to settle on a school. (The Cam Johnson mess is highlighting a need for a change.)
But let's strictly talk in terms of the draft deadline. Almost every team in our offseason ranks was affected, for good or for bad. The reality is, a few teams were neither big winners or losers, but when push comes to shove I've gotta make a call one way or the other. So I've listed more than 40 teams who qualify. There are some teams not listed, like Washington, Wichita State, NC State, Syracuse, Maryland, etc. These teams had players leave or return who were essentially expected to do so. Wichita State got Shaq Morris and Markis McDuffie back next season â but that was always the plan. It would have been a big shock if either of those guys actually wound up leaving.
I know it's hard to keep track of all the players who came and left, but use this as a map for next season. Some of the winners still won't be top-20 teams, while some of the losers certainly qualify as top-10 clubs. With this evaluation, it's purely about who you lost, or kept, and stacking that up against what your prospectus would have been like if the decisions went the opposite way.
We've got a lot of gainers listed here, but Michigan State is a cut above because it has the most well-regarded player all of the guys who opted to come back to school. Miles Bridges likely would have been a top-15 pick, yet he'll be a Sparty sophomore and should almost certainly be a preseason First Team All-American. Michigan State is now a preseason top-three team due to having the best foursome of sophomores in college basketball: Cassius Winston, Josh Langford and Nick Ward will be back in the fold too. After an up-and-down year last season, Michigan State will enter 2017-18 with Final Four goals.
Arizona, on the whole, might have gotten more good news than Michigan State this spring. Allonzo Trier decided not to go to the draft, but beyond that, Rawle Alkins followed suit. He could be a breakout player next season. Plus, five-star prospect Emmanuel Akot reclassifying from 2018 to 2017 moved the Wildcats to No. 1 in our rankings. Sean Miller has infamously never made a Final Four. That has a great chance of no longer being fact come April of 2018.
A totally under the radar team who will be a top-20 club from start to finish next season if nobody gets hurt and Andy Enfield coaches them up right. USC had a number of players test the draft waters, but the Trojans are bringing everybody back. This really could be a No. 3 seed-type team next season. It's been a long time since USC entered a campaign with this much going for it. Returning: Bennie Boatwright, Shaqquan Aaron, Chimezie Metu and Elijah Stewart. That amounts to the second most talented team in the Pac-12 in 2017-18. Do not sleep on this team.
Texas is the only team listed that lost its best player to early entry but still qualifies as a gainer. How? Well, you can't remove Allen's decision from the commitment of Mo Bamba. Bamba is a future top-five pick and probably going to be a much better player for Texas next season than Allen was for Texas this past season. In addition to that, Texas brings back Andrew Jones. The combo guard could have been a second round pick, but instead opts to return and puts Texas in the top five of the Big 12 next season.
Yes, Kansas lost Josh Jackson, who will be a top-five pick, but keeping Devonte' Graham and Svi Mykhailiuk for their senior seasons means we've got the Jayhawks firmly at No. 2 in our rankings. Graham is going to be a preseason All-American, and Mykhailiuk might well, finally, have a breakout season. He should. Kansas is again the best team in the Big 12 and gets Udoka Azuibuike back after season-ending injury. Malik Newman will be eligible to play after sitting out last season, and freshman Billy Preston is going to be an almost immediate factor. Kansas is going heavy on transfers for next season, but Graham and Svi are the big keys.
You could argue Purdue's stock fell because Caleb Swanigan, who would have been the best player returning to college basketball, opted to play another year for Matt Painter. The reality is, even though Swanigan waited until the final day to make his decision, he was expected to go. Purdue got Isaac Haas and Vince Edwards back. Purdue is bringing back six of its seven most important players, two of whom tested the NBA waters. That's a win. Purdue will be one of the four best teams in the Big Ten next season.
Xavier splits NBA Draft decisions, losing Edmond Sumner but keeping Trevon Bluiett. I wrote extensively about what Bluiett coming back means for X and the Big East. I think this one is big, nearly as big as Michigan State keeping Bridges or Arizona keeping Trier. Bluiett is going to battle with Jalen Brunson and Angel Deglado for Big East Player of the Year. And I think he should be considered the favorite. Xavier wins bigly with Bluiett balling out in Cincy next season.
Villanova's stock went up because Mikal Bridges and Jalen Brunson merely opted to stay and not make too much drama out of the situation. In my opinion, both would have been second-round draft picks if they left this season. Instead, they're going to help Villanova to another 25-plus wins next season and might well both play their way into the first round. The more I look at the list of winners, the stronger next season's top 25 looks. This past year was a great one for college basketball, and although next year won't have as many huge-impact freshmen, I think the sport is going to have a lot of good storylines with more teams who are reliable and predictable in their top-level play.
Miami's totally zipping under the radar at this point, and probably will early into next season. But the Hurricanes got a big push in our rankings when Bruce Brown decided to play another year at The U. Miami brings almost everyone back and will be in the mix with Duke, Louisville and UNC to vie for the ACC's regular-season title.
Notre Dame was never in too much danger of losing Bonzie Colson to the NBA Draft, but he did nonetheless have a choice. So in getting Colson back, the Fighting Irish probably have a preseason First Team All-American selection. How many schools can say that? Well, five of course! Point is, the Fighting Irish will again be in that 15-30 space and easily play their way into the NCAAs. Colson is going to be a do-it-all stat stuffer for Mike Brey.
Huge gains for Seton Hall in getting Angel Delgado back. He led the nation in double-doubles last season and will do that again next season. Pairing Delgado with Khadeen Carrington should have Seton Hall as a borderline top-25 team, if not a true top-25 club. The Pirates bring back a lot, but I'd rank Delgado's decision as a top-five one of positive impact in college basketball this offseason. Without him, I'm not sure Seton Hall would have been an NCAA Tournament team. With him, SHU should shake out to be anywhere from a No. 5 to a No. 8 seed.
It's been a while â well more than a month â since Robert Williams made his decision to return to Texas A&M. Because he's coming back, the Aggies should be one of the three best teams in the SEC in 2017-18, right behind Florida and Kentucky. If D.J. Hogg turns into a go-to scorer, the Aggies will have one of their best teams in the past 10 years.
Creighton's a close call, because the Bluejays lost Justin Patton. But as I wrote last month, Marcus Foster is a more important player for the Jays. He's coming back. With Foster returning, Creighton should make the NCAAs for the fifth time in seven seasons under Greg McDermott. I think Foster is going to finish top five in the country in scoring.
Rhode Island is the final team in our Top 25 (and one) for now. The Rams, who won the auto bid in the A10 last season, should be the best team in the league in 2017-18. Dan Hurley has E.C. Matthews back for his senior season. The Rams return enough around him to warrant expectations not just of getting to the NCAAs but winning at least a game there again. Matthews deciding to come back didn't make national headlines but it changed the outlook of the conference.
We're now drifting into the realm where players were expected to return but nonetheless would not have been a total shock to leave. Jalen Adams at UConn is one such player. He's going to be back, and if Connecticut can dodge the slew of injuries it was slammed with last season, then this has to be one of the 40 best teams in college basketball next season. Remember, Terry Larier and Alterique Gilbert were lost for much of last season. Those two and Adams could combine for more than 50 percent of UConn's offense.
Arkansas had Jaylen Branford and Daryl Macon dipping their toes into the draft pool. Both smartly decided to head on back to Fayetteville, putting Arkansas in the top six of the SEC next season (Kentucky, Florida, A&M, Alabama, Vanderbilt and Arkansas is my guess on the six best teams by the end of league play). The Hogs aren't enticing, but they'll be better than you probably think. Remember, this team nearly knocked off North Carolina â¦ then UNC went on to win the title.
With 7-foot-6 Tacko Fall coming back, UCF is going to probably going to make the NCAA Tournament. The American Athletic Conference is really fascinating next season. Wichita State, UConn, Temple, UCF, Cincinnati, SMU. Could be the biggest year in the conference's short history. Fall is a dark horse pick for Third Team All-American.
When I took a look at the winners and losers about a month ago, I had Duke in the winner's spot because it retained Grayson Allen. But at that point it didn't seem likely that Frank Jackson would be a one-and-done player. Well, he is. Jackson is gone, meaning Duke has a really good incoming class (Trevon Duval is going to be borderline great at the point), but losing Jackson is a huge ding. Duke should be pretty good, sure, but losing Jackson on top of Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard and Harry Giles? Sorry, but that's a losing proposition. Duke was a combustible mess at times last season, so a reboot isn't the worst idea, but I thought Jackson was set to be a top-30 player next year. Losing that might prevent Duke from contending for a Final Four.
Kentucky is such a hard call. Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox, and even Bam Adebayo, losing those guys was to be expected. And keeping Hamidou Diallo is huge. So huge that we've put Kentucky No. 5 in our latest rankings. Is that too high? It might be. Ultimately, Kentucky is also losing Isaiah Briscoe and Isaac Humphries, players who could have been emphatically important as juniors. I'm barely listing UK as a "faller" here because John Calipari has never had this much turnover from one year to the next. Maybe it works out. But Kentucky doesn't have reliable shooting and it's going to ask seldom-used sophomore Wenyen Gabriel to be the veteran.
Gonzaga keeps Johnathan Williams III, a nice bit of news, but losing Nigel Williams-Goss and Zach Collins amounts to an undeniable downgrade. GU will drift closer to Saint Mary's next season. Top-25 team? I think so. There's still a lot here. But Gonzaga lost one of the five best players in college basketball in Williams-Goss and lost a top-12 pick in Collins. Coming off a title game appearance and two-loss season, you can't remotely be better for that.
It was great for UNC that Joel Berry II and Theo Pinson opted to come back, but the Tar Heels are worse off for (expectedly) losing Justin Jackson and (somewhat unexpectedly) losing Tony Bradley. UNC was a possible top-five team with Bradley in the mix. Without him, you can easily make the call that the reigning national champions don't belong in the top 10. Berry II, as a byproduct of this, could wind up being a high-usage player and could have a big season that helps his draft stock a year from now.
Oregon is similar to Gonzaga. A team that made the Final Four that is losing major pieces. Jordan Bell, Dillon Brooks and Tyler Dorsey have all left Eugene. The Ducks are in rebuild mode. One of the bigger losers of the early entry process, but undoubtedly a strong recruiting tool for Dana Altman.
Louisville gets a boost with Deng Adel coming back, but Donovan Mitchell could have been one of the three best players in the ACC next season. He's gone to the NBA. Jaylen Johnson as well. Louisville's still going to be fairly good, but when you consider that the Cards were in the mix for the best team in America if everyone came back? Yeah, that puts Rick Pitino's team on this side of aisle.
UCLA's probably going to be one of the 25 best teams in the sport next season, but it's not going to come close to being the top 10-caliber club it was with Lonzo Ball, T.J. Leaf and Ike Anigbogu. Those three are gone for good. Thomas Welsh and Aaron Holiday are coming back, which is pivotal. The Bruins, who were perhaps the third best team in the Pac-12 last year, will probably be in the same spot next year. Only this time, USC sets up to better, while Oregon should slip behind UCLA.
South Carolina's Final Four run, I think, is one of those things that people will remember for a very long time. The play of senior Sindarius Thornwell, the unprecedented nature of the Gamecocks' run, Frank Martin's personality. All of these combine for a memorable piece of March Madness. And I think what comes next will play into that. I don't think South Carolina is going to be a surefire NCAA Tournament team next season because P.J. Dozier is using his chance to go pro early right now. Dozier could have been a potential Third Team All-American. Now the Gamecocks move forward without their two most important players from last season.
Splitting hairs here. John Egbunu is back. Devin Robinson won't be. Florida is going to punch with Kentucky â again â to be the best team in the SEC. Ultimately, Robinson staying would have meant Florida was a top-10 team. He's gone, so it's not. At least not in projections. A "faller" of the draft process, but barely.
I'll preface with this: Florida State now has a top-12 recruiting class after landing McDonald's All-American M.J. Walker. That's big. But the Seminoles will take a massive step back next season because they're losing their three best players, all underclassmen who have signed with agents: Jonathan Isaac, Dwayne Bacon and Xavier Rathan-Mayes. The Noles earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAAs but couldn't reach the Sweet 16.
Wake Forest had one of the best under-the-radar-yet-dominant players last season in John Collins. The kid had to go. He went from three-star prospect to first-round pick in two seasons under Danny Manning's tutelage. But in losing Collins â which will help Manning in recruiting â Wake Forest takes a step back in the short-term.
SMU couldn't get Semi Ojeleye to come back, meaning the Ponies will not be as good next season as they were in 2016-17. Tim Jankovich got this team to 30 wins last season. I think the ceiling is probably 25 or 26 next year. Shake Milton is the important returnee.
Oklahoma State lost a point guard who was quite good in college and will probably grow into an even better player in the NBA. Jawun Evans, you were a two-year joy with the Pokes. A win for Oklahoma State is keeping Jeffrey Carroll, who should be a preseason All-Big 12 choice. Mike Boynton has landed some nice transfers and is working the recruiting trail well right now. Losing Evans is massive, though.
Indiana is starting anew. It's stock fell with draft decisions because OG Anunoby, Thomas Bryant and James Blackmon Jr. are all gone. That's a lot of production out the door. Archie Miller's first year at IU is one with tepid expectations, meaning he's going to likely blow past them. Nevertheless, from a roster standpoint, IU is worse off now than it was on April 1.
Baylor takes a big hit. Jonathan Motley would have been a preseason First Team All-American if he came back. But he's taking advantage of his shot and going pro. Baylor still brings back a lot, but no one on Motley's level. Winning the Big 12 is off the table for Scott Drew, but the Bears will be back in the Big Dance.
Eric Mika, who averaged 20 points and nine rebounds last season, has played his last game for the Cougars. This is a big-time blow for Dave Rose. Mika, I think, would have gone head-to-head with Jock Landale at Saint Mary's next season for WCC POY. Without him back, BYU probably isn't going to make the NCAAs. A massive decision.
We wrap up with Michigan, the team that is the toughest to call a winner or a loser. D.J. Wilson is leaving, and that's going to really hurt. But I think even if Wilson had returned that Moritz Wagner, who is coming back, would have had a better season next year anyway. So the Wolverines are somewhere between 25th and 35th heading into next season. I'm not sure what to expect from this team. The question with Wagner is if his late-season breakout was a flash in the pan or not. I don't think it will prove to be that.