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Shortly after Memphis won the NIT and finished 31st at KenPom, four of the top nine players, including two starters, entered the transfer portal, at which point fans started asking an obvious question: Can Penny Hardaway replace what he just lost with newcomers who can keep the Tigers nationally relevant in the 2021-22 season?

The answer is a resounding YES.

Literally no program has overhauled and upgraded its roster so dramatically this offseason — especially in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Memphis secured a commitment from five-star center Jalen Duren — which was enough to launch the Tigers into the CBS Sports Top 25 And 1. That development was followed by even bigger news that came Wednesday — when Emoni Bates, another five-star prospect, announced his decision to also play for Memphis.

"I will be taking my talents to Memphis," Bates said on Instagram Live.

Emoni Bates is going to Memphis. What does it mean? Listen and subscribe below to the latest episode of Eye on College Basketball.

So now the Tigers are really loaded.

They're returning the the top three players in minutes-per-game from last season's team (Landers Nolley, Lester Quinones, DeAndre Williams) and adding two consensus top-five prospects who project as future lottery picks (Bates, Duren), a transfer from Miami some also project as a future first-round pick (Earl Timberlake), a transfer from Oregon who just helped the Ducks win back-to-back outright Pac-12 titles (Chandler Lawson), and another freshman wing who was a consensus top-50 prospect in the Class of 2021 (Josh Minott). That blend of talent and experience is why Memphis has moved up to No. 7 in Version 24.0 of the 2021-22 CBS Sports Preseason Top 25 And 1. 

Is success guaranteed?

Of course not.

Duke and Kentucky were both preseason top-10 teams with heralded recruiting classes last season; neither made the NCAA Tournament. So things are always at risk of going sideways. But, that acknowledged, it's hard to imagine a roster this talented and experienced being anything other than really, really good. And my prediction is that this will clearly be Hardaway's best team to date and, perhaps, one of the greatest teams in the history of the school.

Top 25 And 1 rankings

Biggest Movers
10 Memphis
1 Duke
Rk
Teams
 
Chg
Rcrd
1 Gonzaga The Zags are expected to bring back Drew Timme and Andrew Nembhard, both of whom started for a team that finished 31-1. They'll combine with a star-studded recruiting class - highlighted by five-star prospects Chet Holmgren and Hunter Sallis - and allow Gonzaga to enter the season as the favorite to win the national title. -- 31-1
2 UCLA Every player who helped the Bruins make the Final Four is returning - among them NCAA Tournament star Johnny Juzang. UCLA will add five-star prospect Peyton Watson and Rutgers transfer Myles Johnson to that core and have all of the pieces necessary to compete for the national title. -- 22-10
3 Texas Chris Beard has used the transfer portal to add five players who averaged double-figures in points last season -- namely Marcus Carr (Minnesota), Tre Mitchell (UMass), Timmy Allen (Utah), Christian Bishop (Creighton) and Dylan Disu (Vanderbilt). As a result, he appears to have enough experienced talent to compete for a national championship in his first year at Texas. -- 19-8
4 Kansas The Jayhawks are expected to return four of the top five scorers from a team that beat Baylor in February and finished second in the Big 12. The addition of high-level transfers Remy Martin (Arizona State) and Joseph Yesefu (Drake) should make Kansas the favorite to win what would be the 20th conference championship of Bill Self's career. -- 21-9
5 Villanova The return of Collin Gillispie and Jermaine Samuels means the Wildcats will return four of the top five scorers from a team that won the Big East title by multiple games. So Jay Wright will have the pieces necessary to compete for his third national championship. -- 18-7
6 Michigan The return of Hunter Dickinson and Eli Brooks provides Juwan Howard with high-level experienced pieces to pair with the nation's second-ranked recruiting class that features five-star prospect Caleb Houstan, five-star prospect Moussa Diabate and reigning Sun Belt Player of the Year DeVante' Jones. The Wolverines should be the favorite to win what would be a second straight Big Ten title. -- 23-5
7 Memphis The return of DeAndre Williams, Landers Nolley and Lester Quinones provides Penny Hardaway with an experienced core that led the Tigers to 2021 NIT championship. They'll be joined by the top-ranked recruiting class in the country - one highlighted by five-star freshmen Emoni Bates and Jalen Duren, both of whom project as future lottery picks capable of helping Memphis pursue a Final Four. 10 20-8
8 Duke Duke is the only program 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 NBA Draft picks. So even with Matthew Hurt and DJ Steward both leaving school early, Mike Krzyzewski should have enough talent to take the Blue Devils back to the top of the sport. 1 13-11
9 Baylor The Bears are losing Davion Mitchell and Jared Butler to the NBA Draft. But with a returning core of Adam Flagler, Matthew Mayer and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua, and a top-10 recruiting class highlighted by five-star wing Kendall Brown and Arizona transfer James Akinjo, Scott Drew has the pieces to make another run at a national title. 1 28-2
10 Arkansas The Razorbacks are losing a lot - including projected first-round pick Moses Moody. But JD Notae is returning as a double-digit scorer, and Eric Musselman is adding at least four other experienced double-digit scorers via the transfer market, most notably Chris Lykes (Miami) and Au'Diese Toney (Pitt). 1 25-7
11 Purdue The Boilermakers are returning the top eight scorers 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 while setting himself up to be a possible First Team All-American next season. 1 18-10
12 Alabama Alabama is losing three of the top five scorers from a team that won the SEC regular-season title and SEC Tournament - most notably Herb Jones and John Petty Jr. But the enrollment of a top-10 recruiting class highlighted by five-star point guard JD Davison, four-star big Charles Bediako, and transfers Nimari Burnett (Texas Tech) and Noah Gurley (Furman) should give Nate Oats a chance to compete for back-to-back conference championships. 1 26-7
13 Houston As long as Kelvin Sampson remains the coach, Houston will likely be a mainstay in the Top 25 And 1. The early loss of Quentin Grimes hurts, but probably not too much with Marcus Sasser and Tramon Mark set to return and be joined by Texas Tech transfer Kyler Edwards. 1 28-4
14 Kentucky John Calipari has solved Kentucky's point guard problems by enrolling five-star prospect TyTy Washington and Georgia transfer Sahvir Wheeler. Combine that with the return of Davion Mintz and Keion Brooks, and the additions of transfers Kellan Grady (Davidson), Oscar Tshiebwe (West Virginia) and CJ Frederick (Iowa), and the Wildcats look like a team set to have the biggest year-over-year turnaround in the sport. 1 9-16
15 N. Carolina The return of Armando Bacot and Caleb Love will give Hubert Davis a chance to keep the Tar Heels nationally relevant in his first season after replacing Roy Williams. They'll be joined by a couple of proven transfers - namely forwards Brady Manek (Oklahoma) and Dawson Garcia (Marquette) - who will make UNC's frontcourt one of the sport's best. 1 18-11
16 Oregon Dana Altman has been among the best at reloading his roster each offseason via the transfer market -- and now he's doing it again. The additions of Oklahoma transfer De'Vion Harmon, Syracuse transfer Quincy Guerrier and Rutgers transfer Jacob Young to an experienced core of Will Richardson, Eric Williams and N'Faly Dante should make the Ducks the biggest threat to UCLA in the Pac-12. 1 21-7
17 Illinois The return of Kofi Cockburn allows Illinois to return four of its top six scorers from a team that earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. So even with the massive loss of Ayo Dosunmu to the NBA Draft, Brad Underwood's team shouldn't slip too much in the Big Ten standings. 1 24-7
18 Ohio St. Duane Washington's decision to remain in the NBA Draft (despite the possibility that he'll go unselected) is an obvious blow to Ohio State's roster. But Chris Holtmann is still returning six of the top eight scorers from a team that earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and the addition of Louisiana transfer Cedric Russell will provide the Buckeyes with another proven shooter. -- 21-10
19 Florida St. The Seminoles should be good again despite losing four of their top five scorers - among them projected lottery pick Scottie Barnes. A veteran core of Anthony Polite and Malik Osborne will be joined by a top-five recruiting class highlighted by former Houston standout Caleb Mills and five-star wing Matthew Cleveland. -- 18-7
20 Tennessee John Fulkerson's decision to return for another season means Tennessee is bringing back five of the top eight scorers from a team that earned a No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That experienced core will pair nicely with a recruiting class highlighted by one of the best point guards 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). -- 18-9
21 Maryland Mark Turgeon has used the transfer market to add a quality guard (Fatts Russell) and big (Qudus Wahab). That should help offset the losses of Aaron Wiggins and Darryl Morsell and get the Terrapins to the Big Dance for the sixth time in a span of seven NCAA Tournaments. -- 17-14
22 Auburn Auburn's frontcourt of Jabari Smith and Walker Kessler might end up being the best frontcourt in the SEC. That's two bigs who were five-star prospects in high school joining a roster returning two double-digit scorers, most notably Allen Flanigan, who averaged 14.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.9 assists last season. -- 13-14
23 Connecticut Dan Hurley has rebuilt UConn to the point where it should be a consistent challenger to Villanova in the Big East. Even the early loss of James Bouknight, a projected first-round NBA Draft pick, shouldn't change that - especially with Tyler Polley set to return for a fifth season. -- 15-8
24 Michigan St. Aaron Henry is following 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. -- 15-13
25 St. Bona. 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. -- 16-5
26 Virginia Trey Murphy left school early for the NBA Draft, which means Virginia is losing 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, and the addition of East Carolina transfer Jayden Gardner could be a big boost. -- 18-7

Roster breakdowns

1. Gonzaga

Coach: Mark Few | 2020-21 record: 31-1

2. UCLA

Coach: Mick Cronin | 2020-21 record: 22-10

3. Texas

Coach: Chris Beard | 2020-21 record: 19-8

4. Kansas

Coach: Bill Self | 2020-21 record: 21-9

5. Villanova

Coach: Jay Wright | 2020-21 record: 18-7

6. Michigan

Coach: Juwan Howard | 2020-21 record: 23-5

7. Memphis

Coach: Penny Hardaway | 2020-21 record: 20-8

  • Notable players gone: DJ Jeffries, Boogie Ellis, Moussa Cisse, Damion Baugh
  • Notable players returning: DeAndre Williams, Landers Nolley, Lester Quinones, Alex Lomax, Malcolm Dandridge, Jayden Hardaway
  • Expected additions: Emoni Bates, Jalen Duren, Earl Timberlake, Chandler Lawson, Josh Minott, Johnathan Lawson, Tyler Harris, Sam Onu, John Camden

8. Duke

Coach: Mike Krzyzewski | 2020-21 record: 13-11

9. Baylor

Coach: Scott Drew | 2020-21 record: 28-2

10. Arkansas

Coach: Eric Musselman | 2020-21 record: 25-7

11. Purdue

Coach: Matt Painter | 2020-21 record: 18-10

12. Alabama

Coach: Nate Oats | 2020-21 record: 26-7

  • Notable players gone: John Petty, Herb Jones, Joshua Primo, Jordan Bruner, Alex Reese
  • Notable players returning: Jaden Shackelford, Jahvon Quinerly, Keon Ellis, Juwan Gary, James Rojas, Darius Miles, Keon Ambrose-Hylton
  • Newcomers: Noah Gurley, JD Davison, Charles Bediako, Jusaun Holt, Nimari Burnett, Alex Tchikou

13. Houston

Coach: Kelvin Sampson | 2020-21 record: 28-4

14. Kentucky

Coach: John Calipari | 2020-21 record: 9-16

  • Notable players gone: Brandon Boston, Olivier Sarr, Terrence Clarke, Isaiah Jackson, Devin Askew, Cam'Ron Fletcher
  • Notable players returning: Davion Mintz, Keion Brooks, Dontaie Allen, Jacob Toppin, Lance Ware
  • Newcomers: TyTy Washington, Kellan Grady, Oscar Tshiebwe, Sahvir Wheeler, C.J. Frederick, Daimion Collins, Bryce Hopkins

15. North Carolina

Coach: Hubert Davis | 2020-21 record: 18-11

16. Oregon

Coach: Dana Altman | 2020-21 record: 21-7

17. Illinois

Coach: Brad Underwood   | 2020-21 record: 24-7

  • Notable players gone: Ayo Dosunmu, Adam Miller, Giorgi Bezhanishvili
  • Notable players returning: Kofi Cockburn, Trent Frazier, Andre Curbelo, Da'Monte Williams, Jacob Grandison, Coleman Hawkins, Benjamin Bosmans-Verdonk, Austin Hutcherson
  • Newcomers: Omar Payne, Alfonso Plummer, Luke Goode, Ramses Melendeez, Brandin Podziemski


18. Ohio State

Coach: Chris Holtmann | 2020-21 record: 21-10

19. Florida State

Coach: Leonard Hamilton | 2020-21 record: 18-7

20. Tennessee

Coach: Rick Barnes | 2020-21 record: 18-9

21. Maryland

Coach: Mark Turgeon | 2020-21 record: 17-14

22. Auburn

Coach: Bruce Pearl | 2020-21 record: 13-14

23. UConn

Coach: Dan Hurley | 2020-21 record: 15-8

24. Michigan State

Coach: Tom Izzo | 2020-21 record: 15-13

25. St. Bonaventure

Coach: Mark Schmidt | 2020-21 record: 16-5

26. Virginia

Coach: Tony Bennett | 2020-21 record: 18-17