An Underage Sports Journal For Students of the Game

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JAltman15

JAltman15

My Way-Too-Early College Basketball Top 25

Baylor beating Gonzaga marked the conclusion of one of the wildest March Madness tournaments in a while. The third to last team in the tournament lost four straight going into the Big Dance and was down 14 points in the first half of their game. If you haven’t guessed already, that team was UCLA and made it to the final four. A team picked last in their conference preseason’s poll was a five seed in their conference tournament, not even close to the bubble. They then beat tournament teams like UCLA, Oregon, and Colorado in their conference tournament and made it to the elite eight.

Such a crazy season has made for an even crazier offseason. The list of players with their names in the transfer portal is approaching 1300, with big-name players like Marcus Carr and Walker Kessler looking for a new home. This has made my rankings very hard to predict, but I am going off of what the team currently has, if I think a player entering the draft will withdraw, or I think a player will enter his name into the NBA draft in the future.

1.Gonzaga
If there was ever a call for Gonzaga to join a new conference, now it is louder than ever. They were clearly underprepared to go against a stout defense in Baylor, and I think they could benefit from a few extra big games. I think Drew Timme returns with some unfinished business. Five-star Hunter Sallis should make an immediate impact, and it seems like fellow five-star Chet Holmgren might join him. Andrew Nembhard and Anton Watson will have to make considerable leaps if Gonzaga wants to contend for another championship.

Predicted starting lineup –
Andrew Nembhard (9.2 ppg, 4.4 apg)
Hunter Sallis (Five-star freshman)
Dominick Harris (3.0 ppg, 7.1 mpg)
Anton Watson (6.9 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
Drew Timme (19.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg)

2.Alabama
Alabama was one of the teams to fall to UCLA on their historic run. Herb Jones and John Petty are likely gone, but Nate Oats has done a fantastic job replacing them with five-star JD Davidson, four-star Charles Bediako, and Texas Tech transfer Nimari Burnett. It should be another national championship-contending season for Alabama.

Predicted starting lineup –
Jahvon Quinery (12.9 ppg, 3.2 apg)
JD Davidson (Five-star freshman)
Jordan Shackelford (14.0 ppg 3.8 rpg)
Josh Primo (8.1 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Charles Bediako (Four-star freshman)

3.Maryland
Maryland is a team that I have seen way too many sleep on in their preseason rankings. The only two things missing from their team last year were a rim protector and a point guard. Mark Turgeon went to the portal and got exactly that in Fatts Russell and Qudus Wahab. With everyone not named Darryl Morsell back next year, Maryland should contend for a Big Ten championship.

Predicted starting lineup –
Fatts Russell (14.7 ppg, 4.5 apg at Rhode Island)
Eric Ayala (15.1 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
Aaron Wiggins (14.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
Donta Scott (11.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
Qudus Wahab (12.7 ppg, 8.2 rpg)

4.Kansas
Last season was a little underwhelming for Kansas’ standards. Luckily, they should have mostly everyone back. Joseph Yesufu will join the team as a key contributor from Drake. He will help a lot with guard depth. With a core of Ochai Agbaji, Christian Braun, Jalen Wilson, and David McCormack, this team should be considered the favorite to win the Big 12.

Predicted starting lineup –
Joseph Yesufu (12.8 ppg, 1.1 spg at Drake)
Christian Braun (9.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
Ochai Agbaji (14.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
Jalen Wilson (11.8 ppg 7.9 rpg)
David McCormack (13.4 ppg, 6.1 rpg)

5.Arkansas

The transfer king, Eric Musselman has struck again with the additions of Chris Lykes from Miami, Au’diese Toney from Pittsburgh, Stanley Umude from South Dakota, and Kamani Johnson from Little Rock. These players should give a huge boost to a loaded Arkansas team with some solid pieces, including Davonte Davis and JD Notae.

Predicted starting lineup –
Chris Lykes (15.4 ppg, 2.4 apg in 2019 at Miami (Fl))
Davonte Davis (8.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
JD Notae (12.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
Stanley Umude (21.5 ppg 7.0 rpg at South Dakota)
Jaylin Williams (3.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg)

6.UCLA
Mick Cronin has done a tremendous job with this team over the past season, and he could get everyone back from this team. While I do think Johnny Juzang goes pro, Five-star Peyton Watson should slide right in. Tyger Campbell, Jaime Jacquez, and Cody Riley should be big contributors next year for a team that should stay at the top.

Predicted starting lineup –
Tyger Campbell (10.4 ppg 5.4 apg)
Peyton Watson (Five-star freshman)
Jules Bernard (10.3 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
Jaime Jacquez (12.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
Cody Riley (10.0 ppg, 5.4 rpg)

7.Purdue
Getting upset by North Texas was probably not the way Purdue fans wanted their season to end. Freshman Jaden Ivey was the lone bright spot on that team in the tough loss. He returns along with everyone else on a deep team that will give opposing teams headaches with their size and toughness.

Predicted starting lineup –
Jaden Ivey (11.1 ppg 3.3 rpg)
Eric Hunter Jr. (8.5 ppg, 2.8 apg)
Sasha Stefanovic (9.3 ppg 2.6 rpg)
Mason Gillis (5.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg)
Trevion Williams (15.5 ppg, 9.1 rpg)

8.Ohio State
This is a difficult team to predict because we don’t know what is going to happen with Duane Washington and EJ Liddell. I think EJ leaves and Duane comes back to try to avenge the loss in March. Penn State transfer Jamari Wheeler needs to replace CJ Walker’s production as a distributor for Ohio State to return to the Big Ten championship

Predicted starting lineup –
Duane Washington (16.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Justin Ahrens (5.7 ppg, 18.2 mpg)
Justice Sueing (10.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg)
Seth Towns (3.8 ppg, 10.9 mpg)
Zed Key (5.2 ppg, 11.7 mpg)

9.Villanova
Jermaine Samuels and Collin Gillespie announcing their returns are huge for Villanova. Justin Moore, Collin Gillespie, and Caleb Daniels should form one of the most lethal backcourts in the country. Outside of their big four, huge questions arise about depth, specifically in the frontcourt with the most unproven talent.

Predicted starting lineup –
Collin Gillespie (14.0 ppg, 4.6 apg)
Justin Moore (12.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg)
Caleb Daniels (9.6 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
Jermaine Samuels (12.0 ppg 6.4 rpg)
Eric Dixon (3.0 PPG, 8.0 mpg)

10.Florida State
This is a team that is going to have a ton of roster turnover. Caleb Mills will be an immediate impact add from Houston. Anthony Polite and Balsa Koprivica should form a big three with Mills. Five-star Matthew Cleveland is coming in and should help as well for a team that got bounced by Michigan in the NCAA Tournament.

Predicted starting lineup –
Caleb Mills (13.2 ppg, 2.6 rpg in 2019 at Houston)
Sardaar Calhoun (5.3 ppg, 14.3 mpg)
Matthew Cleveland (Five-star freshman)
Anthony Polite (10.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
Balsa Koprivica (9.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg)

11.Duke
This year should be the return of the blue blood. Duke is included in this with Jeremy Roach, Wendell Moore, and Mark Williams coming back. 5-star freshmen AJ Griffin and Paolo Banchero should contribute as well. They have a slight depth issue with Jordan Goldwire, Jaemyn Brakefield, and Patrick Tape transferring but Duke should be back.

Predicted starting lineup –
Jeremy Roach (8.7 ppg, 2.8 apg)
Wendell Moore (9.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
AJ Griffin (Five-star freshman)
Paolo Banchero (Five-star freshman)
Mark Williams (7.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg)

12.Syracuse
Syracuse showed a lot of potential over the tournament. They retain their core of Buddy Boeheim, Joe Girard, and Quincy Guerrier, and add Villanova transfer, Cole Swider. Buddy Boeheim is a lights-out shooter and the Syracuse zone should give teams big problems the entire season. The only question mark is their ability to rebound but this team has crazy potential.

Predicted starting lineup –
Buddy Boeheim (17.8 ppg, 3.1 3pg)
Joe Girard III (9.8 ppg, 3.5 apg)
Cole Swider (5.7 ppg, 18.9 mpg at Villanova)
Quincy Guerrier (13.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg)
Jesse Edwards (1.9 ppg, 8.9 mpg)

13.Baylor
Plenty is gone from the national championship-winning team. No Butler, no Teague, no Mitchell, and no Vital. Three key bench players are coming back that are expected to make a huge leap forward in Adam Flagler, Matthew Mayer, and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua. Add in five-star Kendall Brown and four stars Langston Love and Jeremy Sochan, this team could contend again.

Predicted starting lineup –
Adam Flagler (9.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
Kendall Brown (Five-star freshman)
Matthew Mayer (8.1 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (6.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
Flo Thamba (3.6 ppg 4.0 rpg)

14.Virginia
Tony Bennett has done a nice job rebuilding so far with the additions of Armaan Franklin and James Gardner from the transfer portal. Only three rotational players return from last season’s team in Kihei Clark, Reece Beekman, and Trey Murphy. Depth could be an issue, but I would expect Virginia to add more transfers.

Predicted starting lineup –
Kihei Clark (9.5 ppg, 4.5 apg)
Reece Beekman (4.7 ppg, 3.0 apg)
Armaan Franklin (11.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg at Indiana)
Trey Murphy (11.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
James Gardner (18.3 ppg, 8.3 rpg at East Carolina)

15.Virginia Tech
While this team was very close to not making the tournament, they return 6 of the 8 players that played against Florida. They also got a huge add via the transfer portal in Wofford transfer Storm Murphy. Keve Aluma, Tyrece Radford, Nahiem Alleyne, and Justin Mutts are all coming back as being the top four scorers on last year’s team. This could be a dark-horse championship contender.

Predicted starting lineup –
Storm Murphy (17.8 ppg. 4.3 apg at Wofford)
Tyrese Radford (12.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
Nahiem Alleyne (11.1 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
Justin Mutts (9.5 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
Keve Aluma (15.2 ppg, 7.9 rpg)

16.Michigan
There will be a ton of question marks surrounding this team, but we know for sure that Juwan Howard was brought the number one recruiting class in the country to Ann Arbor. With so many players leaving, these players will be thrust into game action immediately. Brandon Johns and Hunter Dickinson are the only rotational players to return for a team with a lot of question marks.

Predicted starting lineup –
Frankie Collins (Four-star freshman)
Zeb Jackson (1.0 ppg, 5.2 mpg)
Caleb Houstan (Five-star freshman)
Brandon Johns Jr. (4.9 ppg, 12.9 mpg)
Hunter Dickinson (14.1 ppg, 7.4 rpg)

17.Michigan State
This ranking would skyrocket into the top five with the announcement of Emoni Bates’ reclassification. After a disappointing season, with everyone back except for Josh Langford, Aaron Henry, and Rocket Watts, the focus this offseason is development. Tyson Walker is a fantastic two-way transfer and Max Christie should start immediately.

Predicted starting lineup –
Tyson Walker (18.8 ppg, 4.8 apg at Northeastern)
Max Christie (Five-star freshman)
Gabe Brown (7.2 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
Joey Hauser (9.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
Marcus Bingham (3.5 ppg, 11.5 mpg)

18.Kentucky
Kentucky has reloaded with a bang from last year. Davion Mintz and Keion Brooks return to a team getting one five-star and two four-star commits. Kellan Grady and Oscar Tshiebwe are both huge adds from the transfer portal. Kentucky is looking at Rocket Watts as a transfer which would be a big get after a disappointing season.

Predicted starting lineup –
Davion Mintz (11.5 ppg, 3.1 apg)
Kellan Grady (17.1 ppg, 4.6 rpg at Davidson)
Keion Brooks (10.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg)
Daimion Collins (Five-star freshman)
Oscar Tshiebwe (8.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg at West Virginia)

19.Illinois
Trent Frazier announcing his return is big news for Illinois. He is joined in the backcourt by Big Ten Sixth Man of the Year Winner Andre Curbelo. Jacob Grandison was a starter over the last half of the season and showed flashes of brilliance. Austin Hutcherson sat out last year but has looked really good in practice. Guard depth is an issue, but I don’t think Brad Underwood is done in the portal yet.

Predicted starting lineup –
Andre Curbelo (9.1 ppg, 4.2 apg)
Trent Frazier (10.2 ppg, 2.7 apg)
Austin Hutcherson (20.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg in 2019 at Wesleyan University)
Jacob Grandison (4.6 ppg, 15.2 mpg)
Omar Payne (3.8 ppg, 15.7 mpg at Florida)

20.Saint Bonaventure
This team was a nine seed in the past tournament and returns their entire starting lineup. This team could be the next 2020 Dayton with Obi Toppin or 2018 Xavier with Trevon Bluiett. This team has the potential to go undefeated but will need to get through a tough conference schedule first.

Predicted starting lineup –
Kyle Lofton (14.4 ppg, 5.5 apg)
Jaren Holmes (13.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
Dominick Welch (11.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
Jalen Adaway (12.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
Osun Osunniyi (10.7 ppg, 9.4 rpg)

21.North Carolina
As one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the country, North Carolina disappointed lots of fans in the tournament. Their top two scorers, Caleb Love and Armondo Bacot, should be back for a team looking to improve from last year. Virginia transfer Justin McKoy will add some much-needed frontcourt depth off the bench in relief of Armondo Bacot.

Predicted starting lineup –
Caleb Love (10.5 ppg, 3.6 apg)
RJ Davis (8.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
Kerwin Walton (8.2 ppg, 2.0 3pg)
Leaky Black (5.6 ppg. 4.9 rpg)
Armondo Bacot (12.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg)

22.Xavier
After what seemed to be a bit of a down year, Xavier got the news that everyone would be back. Even better, Jack Nunge announced his transfer to Xavier. While he might not play right away while getting better from a torn ACL, this team certainly can run the table in the Big East Tournament and maybe pick up a few wins in March Madness.

Predicted starting lineup –
Paul Scruggs (14.0 ppg, 5.7 apg)
Nate Johnson (11.4 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
Colby Jones (7.7 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
Zach Freemantle (16.1 ppg, 8.9 rpg)
Jack Nunge (7.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg at Iowa)

23.Oregon
Oregon surprised many by getting to the Sweet 16 in this year’s tournament. This year is all about reloading from last season. They have a couple of good returning pieces in Will Richardson, Eric Williams, and N’Faly Dante. Five-star Nathan Bittle has some filling out to do, but some scouts are calling him a unicorn. This will be a team to watch in the Pac-12.

Predicted starting lineup –
Will Richardson (11.3 ppg, 3.9 apg)
Aaron Estrada (3.1 ppg, 12.4 mpg)
Eric Williams (10.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
Nathan Bittle (Five-star freshman)
N’Faly Dante (8.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg)

24.Houston
With the core of the final four team looking like it’s about to be completely decimated, Houston might have to dip into the transfer portal for players. If not, Marcus Sasser will be the main focal point on offense. The development of Tramon Mark, Jamal Shead, and Reggie Chaney will be the biggest factors of how well this team performs.

Predicted starting lineup –
Marcus Sasser (13.7 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
Tramon Mark (7.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg)
Jamal Shead (3.3 ppg, 9.8 mpg)
Reggie Chaney (4.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
Josh Carlton (3.5 ppg, 11.3 mpg at UCONN)

25.Auburn
Auburn has reloaded from a not-so-stellar team last year. They got a commitment from one of the best transfers on the market in Walker Kessler. The starting point guard is a toss-up between two transfers in Wendell Green and Zep Jasper. Allen Flanigan and Devan Cambridge should be nice pieces on a team looking to compete in the SEC.

Predicted starting lineup –
Wendell Green (15.8 ppg, 5.0 apg at Eastern Kentucky)
Devan Cambridge (8.9 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
Allen Flanigan (14.3 ppg, 5.5 rpg)
Jabari Smith (Five-star freshman)
Walker Kessler (4.4 ppg, 8.8 mpg at North Carolina)

 

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